The Devil’s Double – Reviewing Daredevil #1 from 1964 and 2022

Hey Big Comic Book readers, Laurence here, and I’m thrilled to announce the creation of a new column called The Devil’s Double.

My plan is to review Daredevil both past and present stories simultaneously starting with Stan Lee’s issue #1 (1964) and Chip Zdarsky’s issue #1 (2022).

I’ve been a fan of the horn-headed hero for a long time, and these recurring reviews will allow me to get to know the character beyond his depiction in film and television as well as grow and expand my knowledge and comic collection beyond Frank Miller’s “Daredevil: The Man Without Fear.”

Traumatic origin stories are commonplace in the comic book world, and Daredevil’s is no exception. The original story sees Matt Murdock lose his sight due to a chemical accident. The radioactive chemicals may have blinded him, but they have also heighted his remaining senses at the same time. His father, a boxer known as Battling Jack Murdock, is killed after refusing to take a dive in his latest bout. Years later, Matt takes matters into his own hands. Clad in a yellow costume, armed with his Billy club, and trusting in his super heighted senses, Daredevil patrols the streets to bring his father’s murderer to justice.

Lee’s first issue of Daredevil feels surprisingly modern despite the dated fashion, expressions, and overall aesthetic of the time period. Although much of the story and artwork is very straightforward, it’s still rather compelling.

I didn’t realize how much time this issue spans. The depictions of Daredevil in film and television have Matt lose his sight as a young boy. Here, he doesn’t lose it until he’s almost done with high school. This seems crueler since Matt gave up his childhood in favor of his schooling only to lose his sight as he’s getting ready to go to college. Matt also starts his training before he loses his sight. Stick – Matt and Elektra’s blind mentor – is nowhere to be found in this story. However, Lee does introduce both Matt’s best friend Foggy and love interest Karen Page.

The origin of his moniker was another interesting tidbit to learn about. I assumed he was called Daredevil because of his reckless aerobatics. As it turns out, the children (high schoolers?) teased Matt for always prioritizing his studies over playing with the other kids. One says, “… Be sure you don’t tire yourself out turning all those heavy pages in your school book!”

Bill Everett’s art clearly depicts the action in each scene. I really appreciate that there weren’t any panels where I found myself scratching my head wondering what on earth is going on. The bright backgrounds, as minimal as they, allow the characters to stand out, which gives the panels a sense of kinetic energy even when the scene is somewhat mundane. That said, the action here can be a little over the top at times, such as Daredevil getting pushed out a window, then using the curved handle of his cane to catch himself on a flagpole, and then launching himself back in through the window he was originally pushed out of.

The climax of the story takes place in the subway station, and it’s refreshing to see Matt essentially take off the costume to follow the bad guys through the streets of New York City. In today’s comics he’d be far more likely to descend upon them from the rooftops. Similarly, I’m excited to see the evolution of Daredevil’s costume, abilities, and tactics. Matt’s radar sense is very basic here. He can locate people, places, and objects and it’s depicted with a ping, but they have yet to introduce the idea that Daredevil’s radar is like a bat’s echolocation.

The biggest shock in this book is the meaning behind Daredevil’s costume. Matt promised his dad that he wouldn’t solve his problems with violence, so in addition to concealing his identity from the public, the costume protects his conscience. Daredevil’s Billy club has also come a long way. Matt modified his walking cane with a hinge to fit into his leg holster, which is vastly different from his nunchaku-like night sticks.

Rating: 4.5/5.

Zdarsky’s renumbered first issue similarly establishes the status quo. It references several events that I assume were either in Zdarsky’s original run, the Devil’s Reign crossover, or various other auxiliary books such as Daredevil: Woman Without Fear or Punisher (2022). However, these references don’t really come up naturally and are so convoluted that it would give Days of Our Lives a run for its money.

Zdarsky’s story is a day in the life of Daredevil stitched together by various brief encounters. These vignettes are interrupted with messy plot threads, which is a departure from Stan Lee’s first issue which tells a complete stand-alone story fully establishing a hero fit for countless adventures. This story forces several plot points that I’m sure will get unpacked over time. I’m all for serialized storytelling, but the dangling narratives here are used one too many times for my tastes.

The story revolves around Daredevil’s last night in New York City. He spends the evening teaming up with Spider-Man taking down gangs and thugs. As the sun comes up, Matt realizes that he wants to set the record straight with his ex-girlfriend Kristen. On the way to the train station, Daredevil is sidetracked by an armed gunman. The confrontation takes just enough time for Daredevil to miss his train. After a brief encounter with an old friend, events go from bad to worse.

Right off the bat, Zdarsky’s issue tortures our protagonist. At times the story feels a little too contrived, characters are revealed not to be who they say they are, characters have faked their deaths, and Purple Children have caused people to forget Matt Murdock was Daredevil’s secret identity. This book is advertised as a jumping on point for new readers, although it’s safe to say that some may find a few of these continuity hurdles tough to clear.

Rating: 3.5/5.

Lawr_avThe writer of this piece is: Laurence Almalvez
Laurence tweets from @IL1511

1 Comment on The Devil’s Double – Reviewing Daredevil #1 from 1964 and 2022

  1. My favorite DD run was Mark Waid’s. Couldn’t get enough of that book. It had the dark gravity of DD’s modern world, as well as Stan’s adventurous spirit.

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