Daredevil #1 - 'Man w/o Fear' and 'A Bonus Tale' - Waid, Rivera, Martin & Rodriguez
Story - Daredevil fans can, on the whole, be divided into two distinct groups. The first is the group that worships at the altar of Frank Miller, and loves the character for the darkness, for the noir, and for just how fucked-up Matt Murdock's life is. They love Bendis and Brubaker and what to see Daredevil as the darkest superhero comic on the market. The second group are fans of the Daredevil we had before Miller took over and revolutionised the character, they like a swashbuckling, fun-loving Daredevil, who is literally without fear. These two sides are perpetually at War, for the past 10 years, the dark side has been winning, but now it looks like the forces of swashbuckle are fighting back.
I myself have firmly succumbed to the dark side, so when it was announced that Mark Waid was relaunching Daredevil, and retooling the character to a more light-hearted, old-school style, I was pretty pissed. I felt that Waid was just coming in and wiping away all the development and depth that Bendis and Brubaker (and to a lesser extent Andy Diggle) had given to Matt Murdock. I felt that Daredevil had gone too far towards darkness, and to try and step back was unrealistic and insulting to the fanbase.
Thankfully, it looks like Mark Waid recognised all my complaints, and has crafted a Daredevil that for the first time covers both bases. Could the never-ending war between the forces of light and dark finally be over? Maybe.
Yes, this book is much lighter than the Daredevil we've been used to for the last decade. Matt is fighting crime with a smile on his face, with a reckless abandon. He may be back in the law courts, trying to get his secret identity back. But Waid recognises this is pretty ridiculous. Matt can deny he's Daredevil until he's blue in the face, but everybody still knows it's true. And this attempt to go back to the old days? There's a hint here that Matt may have actually snapped and gone totally mad. This is a coping mechanism, he can't deal with all the people who have died, with his wife who is catatonic, with the fact that he fought his friends, so he's just snapped back. Hell, the other superheroes don't trust him at all, as the last page indicates, Captain America has some problems. And so does Foggy Nelson. In this issue's back-up story, Foggy expresses real doubts about Matt's mental state. Waid knows it's pretty ridiculous to try and put this genie back in the bottle, but does it anyway, and somehow, the balancing act works.
Overall, I really enjoyed this issue, despite my expectations. Yes it was lighter than I like my Daredevil to be, but you can't have black coffee all the time. The fight between DD and the Spot was a lot of fun, and did a great job at setting up what Waid's vision for Matt is. Waid also sets up an interesting mystery with Matt and Foggy's new court case. My one complaint with Bendis and Brubaker's otherwise superlative runs that there wasn't enough hot legal action, so it's good that Waid is getting us back to that. But as I said, all this lightness and return to the old days is undercut with a dark side. In his attempts to be lighter than ever, Matt Murdock may have actually become even darker. This run could finally be a Daredevil for everyone.
Art - The real star of this comic is the artwork, it's just bloody amazing. With Maleev and Lark, Daredevil has had some of the most consistent artists in the industry, and Paolo Rivera is right up there with them. His art is perfectly suited for the tone Waid establishes for the book, and he does some really interesting layouts. I love the two panels on page 2 which place Matt's eyes in the gutters. I also loved the way Rivera illustrated Daredevil's radar sense. And with a back-up story from Marcos Martin, this issue is a real feast for the eyes. Martin's art isn't as experimental as it was in his last few issues of Amazing Spider-Man, but it's still brilliant. The double-page spread of Matt and Foggy walking across the block was beautiful, and had another example of innovative renditions of Matt's super-senses. I think my problems with Waid's take on DD would be a lot bigger if these two fantastic artists weren't involved, they are two of the best in the industry.
Best Line - 'I'm not sure...'