Review of Daredevil: Reborn #1 (9.0/10)

I’m generally a “glass half full” kind of person and that extends to comics as well. I try to approach a new story with the expectation that I’ll enjoy it and I choose to put a higher emphasis on the positives than the negatives. Even though Shadowland left me cold, I had been eagerly looking forward to Daredevil: Reborn for months, sensing that it had the potential to be a very good story. I had high expectations going in, and I’m happy to say that my expectations were met, and even surpassed.

While Reborn is presented as Matt’s road to redemption in the aftermath of Shadowland, it is also disconnected from the controversial storyline in ways that should appeal both to people who enjoyed Shadowland – and who are looking for answers to the question of what happens next – and to people who, like me, have been yearning for a change of pace and a different, more grounded tone.

Introductory panel from Daredevil Reborn #1

After months of seeing Matt Murdock play the role of supporting character in his own book (and in his own body), it is incredibly rewarding to see an issue that not only centers on Matt, but works in large part because Andy Diggle does an amazing job of channeling our main character. I guess this shouldn’t come as a shock when Diggle’s been the main writer on the book for over a year, but after Daredevil took over the Hand, it seems as if circumstances have conspired to keep readers from really being able to connect with Matt Murdock – the man, as opposed to the increasingly disillusioned vigilante – and the lack of internal monologue has shielded us from his thoughts.

Following Matt as he emerges from the desert of New Mexico and wanders into a hostile town represents a complete one-eighty in this regard. Not only is the internal monologue back (and well written), the setting helps strip Matt Murdock down to the core of what he represents. There is no costume, the terrain is inhospitable and the townspeople he comes into contact with are terrifyingly sinister, with the exception of a young blind boy whom Matt decides to play mentor to.

Matt talks to a young blind boy, panel from Daredevil: Reborn #1

This particular scene is really quite sweet without being sappy and it feels genuine and very much in character. It also further brings home the point that it’s not the costume that makes the hero, in this case it’s not even the heightened senses. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of being a role model. Naturally, it also serves as a reminder to the reader of Daredevil’s unlikely beginnings and adds to the feeling that this story is very much about bringing the character back to basics.

The rest of the issue reads a bit like a Western horror story, with Matt making the acquaintance of some very violent locals and an obviously corrupt police force. It is clear that everyone but the young boy is eager to see Matt get on his way and leave town for good. If it weren’t for his acute sense of smell (and I give extra points here for good use of Matt’s heightened senses), they would have been successful in that attempt. Instead, Matt makes a shocking discovery that gives us a nice cliff-hanger for next issue.

Matt gets punched in the face, panel from Daredevil: Reborn #1

Davide Gianfelice’s art provides a bit of contrast to the detailed and murky realism of other recent Daredevil artists. It really is quite nice though and the more streamlined visuals even fit thematically with story being told. There is no unnecessary clutter and the action scenes are really strong. Matt Hollingsworth is back on coloring duty and the palette is a radical and welcome change from the gloom and doom of Hells’s Kitchen.

I know that comic book fans are good at holding a grudge, and that there are one or two of you out there who have sworn off Daredevil after Shadowland. If that’s the case, then there isn’t really much I can say except that any Daredevil fan who decides to forgo this mini-series is absolutely missing out on a great story. I enjoyed this issue tremendously and am very much looking forward to next month. If Daredevil: Reborn #1 is anything to go by, this is shaping up to be a great ride!

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.

12 comments

  1. Although I thoroughly disliked Shadowland, I wouldn’t go as far as holding a grudge against Diggle because of it. He had a vision for what Shadowland should be, I had another, so I can’t hold that against him. Would be silly to hold a grudge 🙂

    And I am rewarded, as you, for reading Reborn. It really has started out great, I love the art, I love the background of the story, the kid scene was just a bit too much, but nothing that would ruin the whole thing, far from it, it makes sense in the context of the story and as a whole in the redeeming Daredevil (or Matt Murdock) thing. I’m looking forward to the next ish.

  2. This was definitely a welcome change after Shadowland, and I appreciated the focus on Matt and his inner monologue (loved the scene with the blind boy). The art felt off to me and wasn’t to my tastes. The setup seems a little clichéd, but I hope Diggle does good things with it.

  3. I was at my friends comic store today, and we discussed DD: Reborn in length. I did not buy the issue. I will buy the trade, and have already told my friend to order it for me. He feels pretty much the same way about Shadowland as I do. We both agreed that this was a definite step up. I still have a couple of problems. While I welcome the return of Matt’s internal monologue, it wasn’t used nearly enough. There are only 4 issues for Diggle to “tell the story he wanted to tell about Matt Murdock” and this issue was good, great even, compared to recent stuff, but it took about 3 minutes to read and except for the first page I didn’t feel like we really got into Matt again. I hope the next 3 issues are a little more dense with Matt’s perspective. Once I get the trade of this, I am still done with Daredevil and Marvel, short of them somehow getting Frank MIller back to relaunch DD. I’ve seen Daredevil get “Reborn” now many, many times over the years and have no faith whatsoever that Marvel will change that formula. DD will remain my favorite character, but I have a rich collection of stories to choose from without buying more and more of the same thing retold by lesser writers.

  4. I’m still unsure why we couldn’t tell this story inside DD’s regular book, it’s needlessly expensive. I’m still not real thrilled with Diggle and the mess that was Shadowland, but I’m forced to admit I enjoyed this first issue. There are a few cliché’s that have been done before like the “wandering stranger” and the difficult “road to redemption” but I much prefer that to Matt slaying the helpless. Not sure how many people were in that mass grave but if its over 100 (seems to be the magic number) I hope Matt doesn’t put these corrupt folks down like ‘mad dogs’. I’ve followed DD for 30 + years, I’ll follow him to New Mexico as well.

  5. I think the residue of Shadowland is altering perceptions of this book in both directions. I thought it was fine. A 9 seems rather high for a book that has little in the way of memorable, or even surprising, moments. Compared to Shadowland, it shines, but standing on its own, issue #1 doesn’t have tons yet to offer. I expect better things to come, but didn’t many say that about Shadowland #1 too?

    I think Robert rightly notes that this story simply feels a little stale. It isn’t helped by the fact that a step is actually skipped in the “wandering stranger” story. The stranger isn’t attacked until AFTER he puts his nose where it doesn’t belong. These slow-witted (“He’s Daredevil? We can take him no problem!”) New Mexicans (who sound much more like Texans) jumped the gun there. I feel your nefarious plots would stay secret longer if you didn’t intentionally draw attention to your strange community by beating up everyone who wanders through. If I were Matt, I would leave town, summon the state police, and come back to arrest everyone. And there goes your evil plot.

    And Matt is one HELL of a digger. Wow! If I were going to start digging up corpses (and I probably wouldn’t), I think I would stop after I uncovered one dead body. Matt’s a freakin’ archaeologist.

  6. Excerpt from CBR’s T&A column: “Andy Diggle recently said his run on DD would be ending after Reborn, so I’m curious if there’s a new creative team in place for the character?”

    Stephen Wacker: “Andy ends his thrill-a-minute Daredevil run at the end of “DD: Reborn,” so that’s where our focus is now. After that, we plan to work through the long, hot summer figuring whose hands to place Matt Murdock into next. It won’t be an easy act to follow, that’s for sure. And after the outstanding work that Andy and artists Davide Gianfelice are doing right now, there may not even be a need for more Daredevil for a while”.

    1. @Krakkaboom This is enlightening stuff (and in line with what I suspected). Since I had a half-written post saved as a draft regarding Wacker’s statement, I’m going to go ahead and post that so we can move the discussion over there.

  7. @Aaron: Am I being extra nice in my review of Reborn simply because it’s not Shadowland? That’s certainly possible, but I think I would rate it nearly as highly even if it hadn’t followed that event.

    One of the things I found so appealing about the first issue of Reborn was its simplicity. It’s not trying to do too much, it doesn’t feel like it’s going for hype. The strength of the issue for me was in all the little details that I liked, and there were quite a few of those. I also really like the horror story vibe going on. It’s not hard to guess at least some of what’s going on behind the scenes in this town, but the fun of it will be seeing how Matt sort of navigates the maze of the story.

    I actually hope that the mostly good reviews this book has been getting will send a message to Marvel that not every comic book on the shelves (Daredevil in particular) needs to be “earth-shattering” to work.

  8. 9.0 out of ten? You ARE a glass half full kind of person. 😉 It was alright. Not a fan of the art, but that’s because I love the grim and gritty stuff we’ve been getting over the years. And the story just sorta (so far) feels like one of those fill-in arcs books have while they wait on the next team to take over. Actually it feels like Daredevil #219 to me (but decompressed to a 4 issue mini, cause that’s how comics roll nowadays.)

  9. @Nathan: Welcome to the site and thanks for commenting! Yup, I still maintain that this was a very good issue, and it was very “me,” hence the high score. It captured a great vibe and managed to get to the human side of Matt in ways we rarely see, even in the years leading up to Shadowland. As for the similarity to #219, I see what you’re getting at, but I think those similarities are superficial.

    Have we seen Matt Murdock do the lone stranger thing before? Sure, and that can be said for other Marvel characters as well. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done again, especially since it feels, to me anyway, as if the similarities are only on the surface. Also, a great many fans haven’t read Daredevil #219 or the story where Nocenti set Matt trekking across the country.

    The only story I’m tired of is Matt falling deeper and deeper into despair á la Born Again. That theme feels old even when they find what appear to be new ways to deal with it. I’d much rather have a repetition of similar settings with new ways to fill it with meaning than the same old story told in “new” settings. I hope that makes sense. 😉

  10. reborn is a good story; but is redundant….because this “road to redemption” is very similar to Nocenti’s / John Romita Jr story Lone Stranger…
    don’t you think?

  11. I’ve been trying to remember the exact issue of that previous “Daredevil as the mysterious stranger” issue (#219, judging from the other comments), because I kept wanting to mention it after every review that said this story was a “new” direction or method of telling stories for Matt. I’m glad someone else picked up on it and pointed out the similarity.

    I am interested in reading this, though. All the previews seem to show good things ahead.

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