As Marvel celebrate their 80th year, I wanted to take a look back at my comparatively humble 7 years experiencing this glorious universe. I wasn’t entirely sure which avenue I wanted to follow first, as I have a number of these planned, but a series of fortunate coincidences (If you believe in such things) placed one topic of discussion at the top of the list: Daredevil.
If we are going to get technical, Daredevil’s escapades weren’t the first I had the pleasure of reading. As I
slowly eased threw myself into the Marvel Universe, I picked up a trade or two collecting some of the major events that had rocked the Marvel Universe. Even then, my first comic book experience was with a rather peculiar issue of Iron Man (I honestly can’t tell you what issue number it was because it didn’t have one and the book itself was notably smaller than your average comic). However, on what I think was the 4th of June 2014 (I vaguely remember picking up #61 then going back the next day to find #62; That was a good 24 hours), I met Daredevil.
Now, I ought to add that this was at a time where the Netflix show was only really a rumour. I had a rather rudimentary grasp of his character and was admittedly more drawn to Spider-man’s (The Superior version at the time) presence on the cover than the other guy in a red suit. However, what I found was truly something else.
The issues in question were Daredevil #22 and #23, reprinted in The Mighty World of Marvel #61 (The latter worthy of an entirely separate post). I have to be honest, it’s been just under 5 years since I’ve read the stories so I can’t truly remember the ins and outs of the plot. However, it did officially launch me head first into the rich tapestry of the Marvel Universe in a way that words can’t truly capture.
Sure, I can’t remember the exact details but I can remember vividly how they made me feel. There I was, at the age of 14, with no idea what Daredevil had been through for the past 50 years of his existence but I instantly found a sense of belonging in the pages of that comic.
Matt Murdock offers a rather unique perspective as a blind superhero. Sure he has enhanced senses but they proved relatively problematic at times. Regardless, he still donned his awesome costume and helped make sure Hell’s Kitchen was at least a little safer every day. Not only that, as Matt Murdock he helped bring justice through his job as a lawyer. I felt an instant connection with the character despite the numerable differences between us. How can this be, I hear you ask? Mark Waid & Chris Samnee
Now I’ve said it before but its always worth saying again, Waid and Samnee are my absolute favourite creative duo (To hell with nostalgia, they are a fantastic pair whose combined work never ceases to entertain and excite), did such an excellent job making Daredevil feel as impressive as the likes of Thor, Captain America and Iron Man all the while keeping him grounded in a way that made him feel relatable. Sure he teamed up with the likes of the Silver Surfer and The Legion of Monsters but he still found time to deal with the small time criminals troubling the streets he called home. The pair brought a wonderful balance to the character, so much so that it broke my heart to hear that The Mighty World of Marvel would no longer be reprinting his stories after #30.
In their defence, they did go on to introduce to Ms Marvel (Need I say more?) as well as the fantastic Silver Surfer run by Dan Slott (An absolute treat, I assure you (Albeit an absolutely devastating emotional road trip)). But the lack of Matt and Foggy every month did leave a cavernous hole in my heart. I did give Soule’s take on the character a trial run but, personally, it didn’t quite capture the spark I found with Waid and Samnee’s stellar run. As a result, Daredevil and I went our separate ways.
Fast forward to the 6th of February 2019, 55 years and a day after the release of Daredevil #1 back in 1964 (Shoutout to my friend Francis for letting me know). On the new releases shelf in my local Forbidden Planet were a number of copies of Daredevil #1 (Or #613 if you’re a fan of the legacy numbering). After 2 and a half years away from the character’s title, I was keen to give it another shot under a new creative team (I did also pick up the last issue of Soule’s run; I appreciate how weird this may seem but (A) it was in a £2 mix and match bag with 3 other comics so a good bargain, (B) I was hoping to glean a little context from it and (C) Noto’s cover is sublime).
I won’t comment too much on issue #612 because I hadn’t really been following Soule’s run (I had picked up a couple of this issues here and there but not a substantial number). However, it was a surprisingly good issue to read on its own, the last few pages proving particularly poignant. If you were looking to get into Soule’s run on the character, it appeared to have some pretty intriguing arcs (Mayor Fisk in particular striking me as having a lot of promise) and issues I did read were enjoyable enough. I would recommend starting at the beginning of his run or, better still, going back a couple of volumes to the start of Waid & Samnee’s run which, admittedly, I have yet to do, but the large chunk I did read was, for the lack of a better word, perfect.
That brings use to #613. I went into this fairly unaware of what Matt had been through for the past few years but I was aware that he’d been through a bit of a rough patch as of late (Covered in the Man Without Fear limited series which I have yet to read). In summary, Matt’s a little beaten and bruised to say the least but desperate to get back in the game. However, that is naturally proving to be rather challenging after weeks of rather intense physical therapy. To top it off, his friends are no where to be seen (That bit is really confusing me), Kingpin is still the Mayor of New York and he appears to be having some rather wild flashbacks. All in all, a pretty busy first issue.
When I first heard that Chip Zdarsky was taking over writing duties on Daredevil, I was warily curious to say the least. Though my experience with him is rather limited, namely the first few issues of Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-man, he always struck as more of a comedic writer which Daredevil isn’t, at least not in the same way as Spider-man. However, what he’s delivered in this first issue proves that he appears to have excellent range. He focuses particularly on Matt’s faith, which took me a little by surprise to be honest. Whilst I am a confirmed Catholic I have found myself somewhat adrift and confused with it all over the past year or so. This issue got my mind contemplating the problems I have with my faith in a way that I found rather remarkable. This aspect alone has me intrigued enough to see where Zdarsky is going to take it as I don’t remember it being touched on that heavily in the Waid/ Samnee run (Though, again, it’s been a while).
In addition, whilst I’m not always a huge fan of bringing a character back to square one, the recent reboot of the Amazing Spider-man coming to mind (Though that was, much like my love of Waid and Samnee’s work, due to Slott’s brilliant stint with the character) such that I wasn’t too keen on the effective reset, having been away from Daredevil for such a long duration I found myself rather engaged with this darker take on the character, particularly his rather weakened position. It offers a lot of room for Zdarsky to shape the character as he sees fit and he seems to have some pretty heavy stuff in store for Mr Murdock.
Alongside this fascinating plot was equally impressive art. Now I was a little more familiar with Marco Checchetto’s work as a result of the Captain Phasma mini-series but I think this is my first time seeing Sunny Gho in action. Checchetto does a fantastic job capturing the emotions of characters with a wonderful subtly and Gho’s alternation between a light palette for the marginally more upbeat flashbacks and dark palette for the grittier present does a superb job encapsulating the feel of this new run; a much more intense reflection on how Matt’s faith influences his actions and how desperate he is to recover from his injuries. I’m not an authority on art so take that last paragraph with a pinch of salt but it did help bring the story alive which is always a good thing.
This was also one of the few occasions where I fairly actively sought out a variant cover. The Tedesco cover is impressive in its own right but I just wasn’t a huge fan of the style. I opted for the Dell’Otto variant in part because it was one of the few that I particularly liked but also in that it still managed to capture the more mature approach this run appears to be going for (A theme that ultimately dissuaded me from choosing the Young Variant, as much as I love them (I managed to get my hands on the Darth Vader #1 variant from 2015 for 50p, a definite highlight of January)).
If you are looking to get in to Daredevil as a comic, this feels fairly similar in tone to the Netflix show (From the little I’ve seen of it) whilst still managing to successfully do its own thing. 1 issue isn’t a lot to go on but, if it helps, I’m definitely looking to pick up #2.
So, Daredevil. As my first proper comic book superhero, he will always hold a special place in my heart both for the unique nature of his character and for introducing me to the Mighty World of the Marvel Universe.
If you have any thoughts or questions please feel free to leave them in the comments! I would also be incredibly interested to hear where your comic book collecting days started off or which characters you’d be interested to read!