Disclaimer: All of the comics reviewed in this column were either comped by the respective creators/companies, or purchased from Dr. Volts Comics in Salt Lake City.
BIFF! BANG!! POW … WOW!!!
DAREDEVIL VOL. 3, #1-33 (monthly comic series, full color, Marvel Comics, $2.99)
WHO’S RESPONSIBLE? Mark Waid (writer); Marcos Martin, Paolo Rivera, Chris Samnee and others (artists); various (letters) and various (colors).
Science fiction’s Schizoid Man is Data, from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” But in comics, the Schizoid Man may be Marvel Comics’ Daredevil.
The costumed alter ego of Matt Murdock, a blind legal eagle and son of a late, would-be boxing great, Daredevil began his comics incarnation as a swashbuckling, somewhat happy-go-lucky Man Without Fear – a radioactive-powered hero who stood up for the Little Guy in pretty much every aspect of his life. And one who did so with style, as well as a continued smile on his face.
Despite excellent art contributions from such industry greats as Bill Everett, Wally Wood and Gene Colan, the early issues of Daredevil were hardly essential reading, though. They were fun diversions at best, which continued until he was finally re-invented by writer-artist Frank Miller. He brought a noirish tone and look to the character, combining that with Japanese cultural “flavorings” (ninjas became commonplace in the book).
The writers that followed Miller, including Kevin Smith, Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker, all played with those same aspects, seemingly neglecting or forgetting the original look and feel on the character and concepts. And it became a drag to read the book. By the time we reached the awful “Shadowland” cross-over event, writer Andy Diggle had turned the now dour and depressed Man Without Fear into a bad guy (though it was ultimately revealed he was “possessed” by an evil ninja spirit).
To be fair to Diggle, his underrated “Daredevil: Reborn” miniseries follow-up cleared the decks and allowed for a newer, fresher take on the characters. Comics veteran Mark Waid took over with a nearly three-year run that’s returned Daredevil to his earlier roots, winning awards and new fans along the way. Deservedly.
What can be said about the art, except that it’s among the best-looking monthly books in the entire industry? Waid has been joined by Eisner Award winners Marcos Martin, Paulo Rivera and Chris Samnee. The latter’s work is a particular favorite for yours truly – Samnee’s inky illustration style is both cartoonish and realistic, and it nicely bridges the different eras of/takes on the character.
Waid’s writing is, always, stellar. But it’s not always goofy or silly, though it does have its share of funny, clever moments. Single issues that featured Matt leading a group of blind students out of a blizzard and another that broached the issue of terminal illness were deadly serious, but they weren’t a chore to read.
Continuity-nut Waid also created a two-year-long story arc that culminated in a unique “battle” between our hero and one of his long-time foes. The way he did so was masterful, with clues sprinkled throughout about the mystery villain’s identity and threats becoming deadlier as the story progressed. But – bringing up the sometimes ponderous “C-word,” continuity, again – it was new-reader friendly at the same time.
While Martin, Rivera and Samnee (and in one issue, Mike Allred) have turned in amazing art, the book has had some artistic inconsistency. Issues drawn by Khoi Pham looked static and ugly, and a recent attempt by newcomer Jason Copland to duplicate Samnee’s style was unsuccessful, despite Samnee doing the art layouts.
Also, a second story arc, which pits Daredevil against a threat that’s infiltrated and subverted New York City’s Justice System, hasn’t really come together. An ill-considered crossover with the Punisher and Spider-Man books also felt out of place, even though it paired Waid with fellow ace comics scribe Greg Rucka.
As enjoyable as Waid’s run on the character has been, it’s coming to an end … or sorts. Issue #36 is a double-sized that brings the third volume to a close. Waid is continuing the story in a Marvel Infinite Comics story line titled “Daredevil: Road Warrior,” but it will be digital-only.
But wait, don’t despair. The series will be relaunched after that story line wraps. The new “Marvel Now!” incarnation will continue the Waid-Samnee partnership, and will start the series anew, with yet another #1 issue. Presumably, it will also make the book even more new-reader-friendly, and bring in an even-bigger audience.
(Don’t blame Waid and Samnee for the confusion. This was clearly Marvel’s decision, to make the book and character part of the publisher’s Marvel Now! Initiative, of which ALL of its characters are part.)
As someone who’s loved and followed the characters almost nonstop – even through “Shadowland” and a couple of other nadirs -- I can say wholeheartedly that this is my favorite take and run on Daredevil. Yes, even more so than the runs by Miller, Bendis or Brubaker. It’s just plain fun to read. Addictively so. And for my money, it’s the best monthly book Marvel is currently producing.
And the news that Waid and Samnee aren’t done with the character is cause for celebration. While the book has garnered a loyal following, it’s still on the troublingly smallish side. Hopefully, the upcoming fourth volume will bring more readers in. By the way, there’s a new television project based on the character in development for Netflix – perhaps that project’s “show runner,” Drew Goddard (“Cabin in the Woods”) can take a few cues from Waid and not just Miller.
Jeff Michael Vice, aka Jerk-bot, can be heard reviewing films, television programs, comics, books, music and other things as part of The Geek Show Podcast (www.thegeekshowpodcast.com), as well as be seen reviewing films as part of Xfinity’s Big Movie Mouth-Off (www.facebook.com/BigMovieMouthOff)