It’s been over four years since Mark Waid came onboard as the writer of Daredevil, with the launch of volume 3. Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martín were his first partners in crime, with Martín supplying the artwork for the second arc (and one story in issue #1), while Rivera put his distinctive mark on the first and third arcs, including the stellar stand-alone Christmas issue, Daredevil #7. After the Omega Effect arc – a Daredevil/Punisher/Avenging Spider-Man crossover with art by Marco Checchetto – Chris Samnee came onboard. His first issue, Daredevil #12 (vol 3), is another one of my all time favorites, and Samnee would go on to outdo himself with almost every issue for the next three years. In addition to an already great roster, we had Javier Rodríguez, the colorist for most of volume 3 and much of volume 4, occasionally stepping in as the penciller – and doing a fantastic job of it – making sure that Daredevil kept looking consistently amazing.
Of course, I also want to mention Peter Krause’s artwork on the Road Warrior digital comic, Matt Wilson’s excellent work as the colorist of the tail end of volume 4 (he opened with a big splash of purple, my favorite color…), and the always excellent Joe Caramagna whose letters made me take note of this craft in ways I hadn’t previously. Last, but certainly not least, we have the editorial team and the guest artists I didn’t get to already, but for fear of missing anyone, I’ll just extend a big, collective “thank you” to everyone who contributed to the success of the last four years.
This era of Daredevil has been unique in many ways, and as much as I’m looking forward to seeing what Charles Soule and Ron Garney have in store for us in a new Daredevil #1 later this year, I suspect I will always look back on these past few years with a huge sense of nostalgia. The Other Murdock Papers has been up and running for almost eight years, and volumes 3 and 4 have covered more than half of that timespan. I don’t know if I’d been as inspired to keep blogging if there hadn’t consistently been so much great new material to talk about.
I’m also grateful that I’ve been able to meet Mark Waid, Chris Samnee, and Paolo Rivera in person. I have nothing but great things to say about these guys, and how generous they’ve been with their time at conventions and in conversations online. (And the fact that I actually had a cameo appearance in an issue still inspires awe among my friends who don’t even read comics. It definitely ranks among the coolest things that has ever happened to me. Is that sad? Naw, I think it’s awesome.) 😉
I initially figured I would write one post listing all the things that I’ve enjoyed about this run, but I quickly realized that would take much more than just one post if I wanted it to be exhaustive. So for the next couple of weeks, I’d like to return to each of the points below so I can delve into them a little deeper. Because there’s so much to say that doing it all at once would be overwhelming, and you guys would have to wait even longer for this already overdue back-from-hiatus post. What I will do is list each thing I wanted to get back to, and maybe you guys would even like to weigh in with your own examples in the comments.
I know, a discussion of the artwork alone could easily cover several posts, and if you’re itching to read something that has me gushing about the brilliance of Paolo Rivera and Chris Samnee, there are several older posts I could refer you to. I’ll put a list of recommended reading at the end of the post.
In essence, though, what has really made the artwork stand out to me, in particularly during Samnee’s tenure, has been the complete merging of words and pictures. Of course, this is the kind of experience that comics, at its best, should always deliver, but few do it as smoothly and beautifully as we’ve seen over the last few years. Pick almost any Daredevil comic from this run, and you’d fairly easily be able to understand the story, including at least the gist of individual conversations, without even reading the words. It’s been visual story-telling at its finest, and has kept me coming back to reread every issue, just to enjoy all the little details.
This is probably be the most controversial item on this list, as I know people disagree about what constitutes the perfect tone for this character. I know many people first started reading Daredevil with volume 3, and for them, this is “their” Daredevil. Many other fans view the Bendis run, for instance, as the quintessential Daredevil. Some of those fans have enjoyed the last few years as much as I have, and some have not. That’s fine. As a Daredevil completist, I don’t consider the tone of this run as extreme in any way. It’s had its lighter moments – much needed considering the dark era that preceded it – and it’s dealt with serious topics as well. True, the events of Daredevil #14 (vol 4) were too whimsical for me personally, and aside from several great moments (which I may return to), this final story arc has not been my cup of tea. However, this in no way lessens my profound enthusiasm for the vast majority of the issues that came before, and I feel that the tone has mostly been spot on. There are many different ways to write this character and still remain true to the core of who he is, and this creative team has done a better job of exploring Matt Murdock and his friends than most.
Perfect pacing and thrilling twists
Over the last four years, buying an issue of Daredevil has almost guaranteed the reader good value for their hard-earned money. This is probably not the most exciting way to talk about a work of art, but with the relatively high cost of comics for the few minutes it takes to read each issue, it’s always appreciated when every single read is a satisfying read. While still mostly conforming to the modern format of stories that span several issue, each issue has stood well on its own.
I’ve already mentioned the quality of the artwork, but here I also want to point out Mark Waid’s incredible talent for plotting a story and getting the pacing of it just right. He’s never been afraid to let a quiet moment take the time it needs, at the same time making sure that no single page is wasted. This makes the big reveals feel all the more gratifying, and the twists so much more shocking. See the panel above. ‘Nuff said.
The big issues
I mentioned this briefly while talking about tone, but I think it needs its own heading (and subsequent post). This creative team is not the first to bring up Matt’s fragile mental health, but perhaps the first to attempt to explore it this fully. The examination of Daredevil’s depression has moved so many readers, including yours truly, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually saved lives. Add to that the story which dealt with Sister Maggie’s tragic reasons for leaving Matt as a baby, Foggy’s cancer and many other themes with real-world implications, and there’s been plenty of reason to stay invested in these stories.
Nods to continuity
It’s always great when you can tell that the creative team are true fans of the character they’re working on, and can use the treasure trove that is fifty years of comic book history to ground the characters in that history and make nods to the greater Marvel Universe. On the other hand, you always want to make sure the stories don’t put up unnecessary barriers for new readers. Daredevil has struck the perfect balance, with plenty of nods to Daredevil history for the longtime fan to enjoy that don’t exclude newcomers. This run has also seen the use of old villains which have been dusted off and made more interesting, and threatening, in the process.
Matt Murdock, the blind guy
This last item is probably not a surprise coming from me, but I know I’m far from the only one who has appreciated a serious and insightful handling of this topic. Mark Waid pretty much proves the observation I made long before 2011 that the creators who pay the most attention to properly exploring Daredevil’s senses tend to be the same ones who know how to handle the limitations of those senses. Really trying to get into Matt Murdock’s head will usually lead to insight into both of these inter-related domains, and I know Waid has spent a lot of time thinking about these issues.
The way of visually depicting Matt’s radar sense during this run, introduced by Paolo Rivera, has also gone a long way to establish a new standard that works really well, and helps the reader better understand the difference between Matt Murdock’s “view” of the world, and the norm. I really hope that the incoming creative team will draw inspiration from these guys when it comes to this aspect of the character.
That’s it for now! As I mentioned, I will return to a deeper discussion of each of the items on the list, but please feel free to speak you mind on anything and everything related to the last four years in the comment section.
Thank you for reading and thank you to the Daredevil creative team for a spectacular four years!