Review: Daredevil Black & White #1 (7.5/10)

Cover of Daredevil: Black and White #1, by David Aja

Sorry for the delay guys! I posted a review of Shadowland #2 and Shadowland: Bullseye #1 for The Weekly Crisis on Thursday, but didn’t have the chance to catch up here until now. I will probably forgo reviewing the Bullseye one-shot here though, since I didn’t think particularly highly of it (I have a generous rating system, but it wouldn’t score more than 3.5/10). Shadowland #2, however, will get its own longer review here tomorrow.

For now, let’s look at something completely unrelated to Shadowland, a three-story issue in black and white set outside of regular continuity. The first story, by Peter Milligan, with art by Jason Latour, is called Second Sight and sees Matt facing the chance of regaining his sight. The second story – Secrets and Lies – is a Kingpin-centric story by Rick Spears, with art by Mick Bertilorenzi. Game Room, by Ann Nocenti is a short story illustrated by David Aja, and doesn’t adhere to the traditional comic book format.

The first and last of these were the most compelling to me. Secrets and Lies is also an interesting tale, but is first and foremost a character study of Wilson Fisk. As such, it’s quite good, but I will always be partial to stories focusing on Daredevil. I will looks briefly at each of these stories below. There will be spoilers for Second Sight (it’s hard to discuss it otherwise), so skip that section if you haven’t read the issue yet.

Second Sight

On the one hand, Matt having his sight back, or the chance to at least consider it, is hardly new. In fact, Karen Page started nagging him about eye surgery before Daredevil was even ten issues old, and Matt has, in fact, had his sight restored at least three times that I can think of off the top of my head.

On the other hand, Second Sight approaches the topic from what feels like a slightly new angle. First of all, this time it’s Matt himself who actually seeks out an eye surgeon, as he puts it “more out of curiosity than hope.” As I’ve mentioned in the past, the idea that Matt might occasionally miss his sight or even consider his blindness to be a nuisance is one that most writers stay away from. Not so in this case.

Panel from Second Sight, by Peter Milligan and Jason Latour

Naturally, this story isn’t what it seems. Matt never goes through with the surgery and his experiences of seeing again are all a dream. He decides that the risk that having his sight back might lessen his abilities as a superhero is too great. I can’t say that this makes a hundred percent sense to me (why wouldn’t he just blind himself temporarily by wearing a mask with opaque lenses while in costume?), but we all knew that the scenes of a sighted Daredevil would have to be a Bobby in the shower moment. Yes, that’s a Dallas reference for those too young to remember that scene. 😉

Still, this story does dare go as far as to consider both the emotional and social implications that having his vision restored might have for Matt, and for that I give it two thumbs up. The art is also quite nice and has a very retro feel to it (the absolutely ancient cane might have been unintentionally retro, however), and I like that the black and white theme is put to good use within the context of the story. The scenes in which Matt can see use a lot of negative white space and bright grays which really enhances the story.

Secrets and Lies

This story features Daredevil/Matt Murdock in only a minor role and entirely from the perspective of Wilson Fisk who is giving a lecture on truths and deception to one of his hired men. It’s hard to say much about this particular story without getting too heavily into the details, but suffice it to say that we learn a lot about how the Kingpin does business and how he moves people around like pieces on a chess board. There are some aspects of the story that remind the reader of Born Again, but it feels more like an homage than anything too derivative.
Panel from Secrets and Lies, by Rick Spears and Mick Bertilorenzi

The art here stays firmly in the blacks and whites and comes across as nice and crisp with a surprising amount of detail. As a whole, this story feels like the least interesting one to me, but not because it’s weak, but because I would have preferred an examination of Matt Murdock (yes, I’ve been experiencing some classic Matt Murdock abstinence for the last few months…) to spending this much time with the Kingpin.

Game Room

I’ve made no secret of not exactly being a big Ann Nocenti fan. I firmly stand by my previous opinion of her run on Daredevil as being annoyingly pretentious, as well as featuring an incarnation of Matt Murdock that I found to be overly arrogant and downright unlikeable. Interestingly, I’ve found her handling of Daredevil in both this story as well as the one she did in Daredevil #500 to be much more appealing. She excels in all the areas where I found her biggest weaknesses to lie in the past.

Game Room is an illustrated short story and doesn’t follow the typical graphic novel format. The downside to this is that we don’t get to see much of David Aja’s beautiful artwork (though he makes up for this somewhat by being the man responsible for the gorgeous cover). The upside is that telling the story in a way that doesn’t rely heavily on pictures makes it easier to get into Matt’s head and view the world through his unique perspective.

As stories go, this doesn’t introduce any particularly earth-shattering elements, but is a simple crime story with a heavy focus on portraying the people involved and the environments they move in. The richness comes not from the plot, but from the vivid descriptions that Nocenti gives us which makes reading this story a nearly visceral experience. I really like what she manages to achieve here, and find myself being a bigger fan of her work than I’ve ever been in the past.

Panel from Game Room, by Ann Nocenti and David Aja

Okay, will be back tomorrow with a review of Shadowland #2. If you’ve read the issue reviewed here, please let the rest of us know what you thought in the comments!

Christine Hanefalk

Christine Hanefalk

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Christine is a die-hard Daredevil fan who launched The Other Murdock Papers in 2007 to share her passion for Matt Murdock and his friends with other fans.

4 comments

  1. I really enjoyed the book, great to see some different styles employed on DD and the Wilson Fisk story was great. Also, I would fight* several angry men to own that cover.

    *At Street Fighter… or something.

  2. I’m not sure how often you venture out of DD territory (I know you do read other stuff from time to time), but have you checked the recent Punisher MAX series at all? I was wondering because it features Fisk and Bullseye prominently, characters so important in the DD mythos, and if you had any thoughts on that particular take.

  3. I realy enjoyed the art in DD Black & White. I’ve picked up quite a few books from the Marvel Essentials series so I enjoy black and white art. The stories were ok, but nothing special or memorable. I feel like the stories were just rehashes that didn’t really add anything we didn’t already know. I’m only referring to the 1st two stories. I haven’t read the Nocenti one yet. I’m also not a big fan of her work for precisely the reasons stated above. It seems like every other DD reader loved her run so I’m happy I’m not the only one that didn’t care for it. Anyway, I haven’t been in any hurry to read Nocenti’s story but I think I will now. I haven’t read her story in #500 either so I may give that a try too.

  4. I thought this was a so-so issue with a BEAUTIFUL cover! However, I would lose to Ian because I suck at Street Fighter and all other fighting games. I love me some Peter Milligan as I’m really enjoying his HELLBLAZER run, but the DD tale didn’t do anything for me but annoy me at the beginning when the eye doctor first called him Mr. Murdoch. The Nocenti story…I didn’t even read. Too many words. Wasn’t in the mood for a pulp story in the middle of reading all of my comics.

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