Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist(s): Chris Samnee, Peter Krause
Release Date: 28th October 2014
Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s multi award-winning Daredevil run completely revitalised a character who was in danger in becoming bogged down in a deluge of ultra-serious, angst-ridden storylines. Bringing a refreshing sense of fun to the character while still managing to provide the necessary emotional punch that makes him so utterly compelling, they put forth one of the most refreshing takes on the ‘Man Without Fear’ in recent years, with one of the most consistently impressive runs in the character’s storied history.
This ‘re-launch’ (in issue number only, as pretty much the entire creative team remains on board) sees Matt Murdock – in the wake of outing himself as Daredevil and being disbarred from practising law in New York – moving to San Francisco to begin a new life, and a new practice, with new partner Kirsten McDuffie. This fresh start isn’t without its complications however, mainly in the form of long-time nemesis The Owl who isn’t best pleased at DD moving into his newly established ‘turf’. Adding to the intrigue is the (re)introduction of enigmatic super-powered vigilante The Shroud, a broken man in the wake of Civil War’s Superhero Registration Act with a mysterious agenda of his own.
Readers picking this volume up out of curiosity following the success of the Netflix-exclusive Daredevil series are likely to be more than a little shocked by the upbeat, swashbuckling ethos of the book. This isn’t the brutal, street-level crime noir that has typified the Man Without Fear over the last couple of decades, but rather more of a call-back to the exciting, dynamic early years of the character. Writer Mark Waid has an absolute blast with the change in surroundings, playing the ‘fish out of water’ card sparingly to help keep DD off-balance in the unfamiliar city. As with the previous run, Waid manages to tailor situations and obstacles perfectly to Daredevil’s abilities, introducing several creative applications for his radar sense and providing a wonderful contrast with The Shroud’s own unique power set.
Chris Samnee’s artwork is filled with its usual vibrant energy and strikingly creative panel layouts, even if some of his action scenes don’t flow quite as smoothly as they usually do. He still manages to include several of his typically fantastic ‘Samnee moments’ along the way however, from dynamic, fist-pumping splash pages to subtle facial expressions that tell more of a story than a dozen highly-detailed panels ever could. While several other talented artists have certainly put forth their own stunning, iconic versions of Daredevil over the years, Samnee’s stripped-down, ultra-expressive ‘Man Without Fear’ definitely merits inclusion in any discussion about the “best version of DD ever”.
However, as exciting as the story is, and as intriguing a character/villain/ally as ‘The Shroud’ undoubtedly is, this volume represents an ever-so-slight dip in quality that would, on other titles, largely go unnoticed. Unfortunately however, Waid and Samnee have set the bar so incredibly high with their Eisner Award winning series that even the slightest deviation from the excellence we’ve come to expect sticks out like a sore thumb. Maybe it’s the absence of the banter and drama between Foggy and Matt – a relationship that really carried the bulk of the previous run – or maybe it’s just a case of a title struggling against its own impossibly high standards. Either way, it should be stressed that this is still an extremely enjoyable read, just perhaps not quite as jaw-dropping as I’d come to expect from this particular creative team.
In addition to the first five-issue arc of the new series, this volume also includes ‘The Death of Foggy Nelson’, a somewhat ludicrous yet wonderfully heart-warming single issue that sees Foggy save New York from almost certain destruction. This stand-alone issue serves as the undisputed high point of the volume, and a perfect microcosm of just what made Waid and Samnee’s run so damn appealing – exciting, creatively structured action with a real sense of heart at its core. Wonderful stuff. We are also treated the previously digital-only short story ‘Daredevil: Road Warrior’, also written by Waid, which deals with Matt and Kirsten’s journey across the country from New York to San Fransisco, complete with the to-be-expected detours, a strong moral message, and some truly impressive artwork from frequent Waid collaborator Peter Krause.
Overall, while it may not deliver quite the same high standard as the bulk of Waid and Samnee’s award-dominating run on the title, this ‘reboot’ is still light years ahead of most of the other comics on the shelves right now, and shows that there’s a lot more to offer from quote-unquote ‘superhero stories’ than dry, humourless action and drama. Highly recommended for Daredevil fans, and for those who want a little break from today’s increasingly serious comic output.
You can purchase Daredevil vol. 1: Devil at Bay TP from Turnaround Publisher Services (who generously provided the review copy of this title) via their official website.