One of the most controversial decisions in Daredevil’s history — and often derided as one of the worst — was to change Daredevil’s costume in Dardevil #321, the third issue of the ambitious “Fall From Grace”. Abandoning the now-classic red costume he had worn since Daredevil #7, writer D.G. Chichester and penciler Scott McDaniel designed a new costume that provided armored protection against the heavier hitting bad guys with whom Matt was contending. The result can speak for itself.
Plainly, Matt was getting serious. Then and now, I unapologetically love this costume. I recognize it has flaws, some silly 90s affectations that perhaps haven’t aged well, but, there is a lot to enjoy here.
Color Scheme/Design: First off, the new color scheme is infinitely more interesting than either of Daredevil’s previous two costumes. A costume composed entirely of one color is about as boring as it gets. Even characters who are entirely red like Mephisto, Surtur, or Red Hulk actually have other colors in play at the same time. Traditionally, Daredevil is simply a red body stocking with a tiny blotch of pink at his lower face. By contrast, look at the way the red accents pop against the blue-gray background color on the new costume! I think the designs on the arms are beautiful and intimidating for reasons I can’t explain at all. Even the white/light gray shoulders and wrists add to the overall interesting color dynamic. And menacing red eyes are always a win.
Armor Shape: Second, the rather subtle manner in which Daredevil’s shape is changed makes him a much more physically imposing figure. His chest and shoulders bulge powerfully. I’m not sure if having his billy club on his forearm is more or less convenient than having it on his leg, but I think it’s a better look from a purely aesthetic standpoint. While slightly bulkier, Daredevil’s lines are still lithe and graceful.
Practicality: Third, putting Daredevil in some real armor just makes so much damned sense. After getting his rear kicked a hundred times, you’d think Matt would have had this brainstorm considerably earlier. How many other non-super-powered heroes who routinely fight big bad guys don’t wear armor? Batman and Punisher aren’t that stupid. Admittedly, body armor can limit movement, possibly negating one of Daredevil’s greatest strengths. But, as evidenced by this costume, there is a happy compromise between armor and mobility. Additionally, thanks to the darker color scheme, this costume is considerably more useful in Daredevil’s typical night environment than his bright red one. (Even the disappointing Daredevil film saw the need to darken Matt’s costume to a deep red to make it work at all.)
Logo: Fourth, has Daredevil’s logo ever looked better? The design is basically the same as it has ever been, but now it pops off the costume. If one is going to have a logo, there seems no reason that it should be barely noticeable. This one certainly doesn’t suffer from that problem.
Overall: While very different from the original two costumes, I do not see this costume and wonder who it is: it is obviously still Daredevil. Whatever the essential nature of a Daredevil costume may be, I think the armored Daredevil preserved it. (I suspect this may be the point that I lose everyone on.)
Legs: I’ve got nothing here. I have no idea what’s going on with the spiky things on the outsides of his legs, nor the strange knee pads. This is the only part of the costume that makes me scratch my head a bit. There must be a better option, though I like the intent to break up Daredevil’s monochromatic color scheme.
Sadly, the armored Daredevil costume did not last terribly long (it was shown torn to shreds in Daredevil #345) and has never been seen again. Even Matt’s Shadowland-era costume, which drew comparisons, had little in common with this much busier outfit. Perhaps this costume was doomed by the fact that it simply didn’t seem to look nearly as good when anyone other than Scott McDaniel drew it. Others seem to agree with me on that point, as noted in this snippet from Kuljit Mithra’s truly excellent interview with Chichester, McDaniel, and inker Hector Collazo for the 15th anniversary of “Fall From Grace”.
Mithra: I’ve always felt that no one could really draw DD in his new costume better than Scott [McDaniel]. . . it just looked wrong when others drew it.
Chichester: That was the tragic flaw of the damn thing! Whether it was a nod to the silly biomimetic conceit, or just ’cause he designed it, Scott had the toughness of the thing flow out of the character. It always looked and felt very fluid and organic. Everyone else seemed to interpret it as “armor”, and never bothered to think it through one pencil line further. Then it was stiff and limiting, as if it was affixed outside the man. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had actually gone and drawn rivets on the thing. . . .
McDaniel: Like Dan [Chichester], all I see now are the flaws in my work, so I think it’s overly generous to say I drew the suit better than anyone! But Dan articulated the idea well — the suit was to be a flexible part of the man, not a crusty add-on. As long as DD’s body line was made graceful, the suit worked. Supple, but tough as nails.
Considering how much Scott McDaniel’s style has changed over the last 17+ years, I don’t think even his return to Daredevil would save this costume from the dust bins of history. Alas, alas! There must be someone else out there who loves this thing as I do, right? Right?