Marvel's relaunch of "Daredevil" has been widely successful due to Mark Waid's approach to the Man Without Fear. After establishing the character in his first arc, it seems Waid wants to keep readers guessing how he'll change that approach -- something the writer accomplishes in "Daredevil" #9, shifting the book from a fun-loving romp to a super-espionage action tale with a tense and macabre tangent beneath the surface of the Earth.
The majority of the issue involves Matt Murdock chasing his father's coffin, which has disappeared underground. The creepy journey down deep is excellent storytelling -- every page leading to the creepy reveal of the Mole Man and his warped intentions makes for a "Daredevil" classic. Waid builds up tension well in this issue as Daredevil advances on the Moloids and tries not to let emotions toward his father get the better of his judgment and enhanced senses. The atmosphere is also fantastic -- you can almost hear an old horror movie score play over the Mole Man. The disgusting nature of the villain is captivating in a way that needs no words.
For his part, artist Paolo Rivera delivers non-stop poetry in motion for every stage of this tale. At Rivera's hand, Daredevil becomes a scary gargoyle in the molten underground, stalking and hunting his prey. The fight panels are gracious in an almost silent manner -- the mid-air leaps and double-finger blows look amazing in their construction and subtle brilliance. The dark environment also gives inker Joe Rivera an abundance of space to generate mood and gloom.
This issue reserves a few pages to visit the Black Cat sub-plot in anticipation of the "Omega Effect" mini-crossover coming in March. While there's not much here to work with, Rivera manages to make things look smooth and dangerous. Daredevil and Black Cat still have a seductive energy between them and even an issue after their initial encounter, the pages are still steamed up.
Waid's shorter "Daredevil" tales have been a real treat. Even in a small number of pages, the writer packs in moments of character, working a huge plot into each 20-page chapter. "Daredevil" continues to excite due to its unpredictable nature and the seamless way Waid and Rivera delve into genres to make the entire comic work toward a storytelling goal. "Daredevil" #9 is an excellent example of the potential of this series: horrifying, strange, smart and an experience not to be missed.