This review contains mild spoilers. Also, in case you’re a longtime reader who’s wondering about this, I’ve decided to stop numerically grading my comics when doing these reviews. I simply ran out of room in the high range of the scale!
For the last few days, I’ve seen people with early access to this premiere issue of the third volume of Daredevil – such as Marvel staff – praising it on Twitter. All day long today, this has been followed by fan reactions along the same lines, and it’s true – this issue is really something very special. It’s not perfect, mind you (more on that below), but it did manage to meet my very high expectations and get me even more excited for next issue and beyond.
What Mark Waid does here is something only a writer with a clear vision can do: He boldly goes all out in writing Daredevil as he feels the book should be written. In doing so, he manages to tap into the core of who Matt Murdock is while at the same time being refreshingly disrespectful of every rule currently in existence for how the character should be handled. Because there is no doubt about it, the tone of this first issue really is shockingly different from everything we’ve seen in the last ten years.
This issue is divided into two parts. The first, at 20 pages with pencils by Paolo Rivera, is the main event and the first chapter to the story that will continue in the next issue. The second part consists of a 10-page back-up story with art by Marcos Martín whom we won’t meet again until Daredevil #4 when he takes over the art duties for the second arc.
The main story impresses me the most. First of all because it covers so much ground. Friendly to seasoned fans and newbies alike, Waid and Rivera succeed in squeezing in a lot of action, plenty of legal drama, as well as more private moments were we get to spend time alone with Matt and his thoughts. The old conflict stemming from Daredevil’s secret identity being revealed to the world is brought to the surface again and drives much of the issue and supplies the source material for much of the humor which shines through in many of the scenes.
The way Waid takes Daredevil from the action-packed opening sequence with The Spot to the more subtle legal and personal drama and then back into harm’s way is supremely elegant yet seems completely effortless. There is something for everyone to enjoy here and all the pieces of Daredevil’s life fit together in a way that lets us know that Mark Waid truly understands the character and is well equipped to handle all areas of his life. He also gets plenty of help in the elegance department from artist Paolo Rivera. This is a great looking book where the art really adds an extra dimension to the story itself, whether it’s in the form of Rivera’s unique take on the radar semse, the dynamic action sequences or just the way Matt carries himself throughout the issue.
We’re also introduced to a couple of new characters, first and foremost in the form of assistant district attorney Kirsten McDuffie (whom I mistook for Michele Gonzales, though the latter is mentioned as well and it appears that she’ll definitely show up down the line). Whether Stu, the guy who supplies our fearless lawyer with his cup of java before court, will make a return appearance remains to be seen, but I really enjoy Matt’s interactions with these new faces who come fully equipped with their own assumptions about who he really is.
I was surprised by just how little mention there was of the events that saw Matt leave town months ago, though it’s clear that the repercussions of his past actions are about to catch up with him as early as next issue. At the same time, this first issue clearly appears to be more determined to pick up new fans or reach out to those who stopped paying attention years ago than to make sure to that every last dangling plot thread is neatly tucked away. This seems like a wise decision to me, from both a creative and business standpoint.
The back-up story is an off-beat tale which sees Matt drag his skeptical law partner on a trek across town to show his respects for his dead father on his birthday. It is at once moving and whimsical and certainly put a smile on my face.
Clearly aimed in part at educating new readers, this aspect of the story is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. For the most part, it succeeds, but there are a couple of places where I felt the necessary subtlety was lacking and the fourth wall seemed just a little too thin for comfort. We know that Matt and Foggy are having their long conversation for the readers’ benefit, but I would have preferred that this state of affairs had been a little less obvious (see below). As far as the art goes, Martín is clearly a very strong storyteller and his way of portraying the characters moving across the canvas that is New York City really pulled me into the story.
Where most people will read this issue and come away from it feeling that this represents a new and refreshing take on an old character, there is no doubt in my mind that the change in mood will be too jarring for some. There were a couple of instances in the back-up story where it was for me as well. At the same time, Waid’s very firm grasp of the character made me enjoy this issue a great deal, and I’m very excited for the future.
More than anything though, I enjoy the feeling of reading Daredevil and really not knowing – or even being able to guess – what will happen next. This new take on Matt Murdock represents a much-needed shake up that should have both old and new fans nervously biting their nails.
Congratulations to the whole creative team on what is, at the end of the day, a very successful and highly enjoyable start to what I hope will be a long journey!