What is it about Daredevil that brings out the best in (already) excellent writers and artists? Ol’ Hornhead could probably be considered a B or C list character at best by the general public, but from Frank Miller on, his adventures have been some of the most fantastic and innovative comics on the stands. Luckily, that’s continued with the current run on the book by Mark Waid and alternating artists Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin; and if you missed ‘em the first time, the first six issues are now collected in a gorgeous hardcover from Marvel.
Most of you, even if you only vaguely know the character, know his origin: he was blinded in an accident, and though he lost his sight, lawyer Matt Murdock used his other heightened senses to battle crime as the protector of Hell’s Kitchen - Daredevil. The other thing you probably know about him, particularly if you’ve read any books with DD since Frank Miller took him on: he is a pill. If he isn’t having his identity revealed to the world at large during Brian Michael Bendis’ seminal run, he’s having every one of his girlfriends die in his arms (Miller again), or his wife committed to an insane asylum (blame that one on Ed Brubaker). The modus operandi for Daredevil has always been: how can we make this guy’s life worse than it already is?
After hitting far beyond rock bottom by building a ninja dojo in the center of New York, trying to take over the city and kill his friends, and eventually turning out to have been possessed by a demon, Murdock left town. And when he came back, writer Mark Waid took over, and the unthinkable happened: the MO for Daredevil became, “How can we pack as much joy into a comic book as possible?”
The first thing this crack team did was make Matt realize, things were always going to bad... So why not make the best of it? Why not have fun while he’s doing it, and enjoy life? Yes, there’s a poignant sense running through the series that Matt has his smile painted on, and the makeup is just starting to crack. But ninety percent of the time, the comic is glorious, wonderful fun. He wears a sweater to a Holiday party that says, “I’m not Daredevil.” He jumps in the middle of a mob wedding, and kisses the bride like Errol Flynn born again. And he quips! Matt Murdock: making jokes.
The funny part of it is, this isn’t necessarily new to the character... Waid is just harking back to his origins, before Miller took him into the dark recesses of his soul, and pushed Daredevil to his breaking point - and beyond. The genius of the writing is that Waid is able to balance all aspects of the character. This doesn’t feel like a reboot, it feels like a man who had an epiphany, and is trying to turn his life around. Through the first six issues of the series, we see his friends reacting to just that: at first with disbelief, then acceptance, and then even with some joy that their friend Matt seems to be doing okay, for the first time in a very, very long time.
Continuing on the writing side, the other geniusy bit of this series is that after nearly five decades of stories about DD, Waid is STILL finding new ways to explore his powers. He goes up against a villain made out of sound, which for a guy who depends on sound to move around, causes problems. Or he’s caught in a snowstorm, again with his radar sense picking up the individual flakes, instead of a path to safety. Each issue, Waid introduces some new, exciting way for Murdock to run into trouble... And seeing how he gets out of it is only half the fun.
The other aspect of the book I’ve neglected to mention so far, beyond the always reliable writing from Waid is the art. This is, quite simply, the most beautiful comic book currently being published. Easily. Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin provide dynamic movement, innovative panel structure, and a comic that is a visual delight from the first page to last.
Look: I read a lot of comic books every week. They all, at a certain point, end up as a blur. And more than that, as I have so many to get through, I don’t usually pause to read one more than once. Every issue of Daredevil, though? I have to stop. I have to look. I have to chuckle, squeal, and enjoy every single line that these brilliant artists have drawn on the page. I’m not even trying to stop... I just can’t help it, the line-work is that good. This is modern pop art at its finest, and every page of Daredevil belongs in a museum.
I don’t want to oversell the current run of Daredevil, or the hardcover collection... And that’s because I can’t. It’s even better than every ounce of praise I’ve just lumped on it. This is a comic for returning readers and new readers. Young readers, and old readers, men and women, people everywhere... This is the comic that, when you hear someone complain about how there’s nothing new in the industry, or comics aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on, or any of the numerous complaints fans lobby time and again... This is comic you hand to them to shut ‘em up.
Pick up the collection. Get hooked. Pick up the series running right now. You can thank me later.
The Daredevil by Mark Waid Premiere Hardcover is now in stores from Marvel Comics.