Thursday, 21 July 2011

Daredevil #1 review

Look Ma, no ninjas!

Matt Murdock's back in New York City, fighting villains in court and on the street. In this debut issue's opening salvo he saves the day when a surprise supervillain crashes a Mafia wedding, finds that it's not easy being an attorney when your secret identity's a bust and is attacked by someone who knows that when you're facing a guy with radar sense, firing glorified confetti at them is the way to go.

There's more, of course - law partner pal Foggy Nelson's unstinting support, new Assistant DA Kirstin McDuffie's strong suggestion Matt goes back to private practice and an unexpected kiss (click to enlarge). While this is a brighter take on the Man Without Fear, Matt's troubles of the last decade aren't swept under the carpet; they're front and centre as the motivation for his upbeat attitude.
Whatever the reason, I'm thrilled to see the return of the swashbuckling Daredevil, a hero we've not seen since the Marvel Knights run began several years ago. Matt's perkiness may mildly alarm Foggy after his bout of madness in the Shadowlands storyline, but it actually brings Matt back to what he once was - a serious hero with a playful way about him.

He also has a bad case of the hormones. Lordy, is Matt down with the ladies, driven near-mad with desire by the smallest sniff of a sexy scent. Again, it's the man grabbing at life, and it's refreshing. The grim Marvel Universe needs a few characters who can smile as they save lives, and if Matt's going to fill one of those slots for awhile, wonderful.

The villain of the piece is Spot, a Spider-Man foe whose seeming silliness is a declaration that this latest Daredevil series won't have angst as the default setting. Spot is actually a bit of a player, his teleportation powers and willingness to kill making him a challenge for Daredevil's radar and heightened senses.

Writer Mark Waid finds a pleasing balance between the opposing forces within Matt - beleaguered battler and nice guy who wants to let life in. And he does a brilliant job of demonstrating how the radar sense works. The background characters have their own voices and parts to play, while the cliffhanger is another reason to come back next time.

The story looks wonderful thanks to artists Paulo Rivera and Joe Rivera (are they perhaps related?). The layouts sing with action and emotion while the pages are finished with a tender precision. The Riveras bring Waid's fresh look at radar sense to life, while the hero in movement is classic Daredevil. And teamed with colourist Javier Rodriguez, they create a gorgeous New York, standing proudly in the morning sun.

There's more love for the Big Apple in a back-up story - this book is $3.99 and worth every penny - by Waid and Marcos Martin. It focuses on Matt's relationship with Foggy, who can rightly claim to be Matt's personal superhero. The latter is having a marvellous time explaining why he loves New York, and what it means to experience the city via radar sense, but Foggy has other things on his mind. He's concerned that the super-happy Matt is in denial. Matt, well, hopefully you'll buy the issue to find out ...

And to gasp, just a little, at Martin's layouts and finishes. From the hell that a noisy eater represents to a person with heightened senses to Matt showing that he's a regular Quicksilver when it comes to learning a musical instrument, it's pitch perfect, boundary-breaking comic art. The eye-popping highlight is a spread showing the friends walking the streets, appearing at various points in the massive panel, with cut-ins making it apparent what's catching Matt's attention. It's an awesome piece, a thematic companion to one Martin drew for Amazing Spider-Man #655 and a distillation of the teamwork that's gone into this strip. Waid's script is a gift to Martin, who executes it superbly. Colourist Mutsa Vicente makes the insets glow while Joe Caramagna (who also letters the first story) ensures the busy balloons work with the art.
If Marvel produces a 2011 end of year collection, like DC's old Best Of .. digests (and both companies may take that as a hint!) this story would be straight in there. It's a stylish reminder of who Matt is, what he can do and why he needs Foggy.

The issue also features a smartly executed opening page by Fred Van Lente, Martin and letterer Nate Piekos laying out the Daredevil story and a fabulously friendly lettercol feature tipping the hat to recently departed artistic legend Gene Colan.

Then there's Rivera's brilliantly conceived cover, as perfect a summary of Daredevil's uniqueness as you could wish for.

It all makes for a lovingly produced package reintroducing Matt as Daredevil, one honouring the past while looking to the future. With Waid, Rivera, Martin and co sticking around, this looks set to be a classic run.

7 comments:

  1. It's a beautiful comic in every sense. Just great. I'll have a hard time gushing enough over this one but I WILL try.

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  2. Great comic. Imagine, a hero not being crushed emotionally and psychologically!

    I loved Bendis and Brubaker's stuff. But it'll be nice to see Matt happy as Daredevil.

    And the art is unreal!

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  3. So, why does no one go bat shit crazy when Marvel releases a #1 issue of their comics. I know there have been several relaunches of their characters with no where near the amount of animosity that DC is getting.

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  4. I loved it too. For me, Daredevil is at his best when writers and artists know how to write his powers, and Waid and company surely do. We get a real sense of what it would be like to be Daredevil and perceive the world as he does. Without that, he's really just Spider-Man with even worse luck.

    And I think Waid gets out of the "dark years" pretty effectively too, justifying his take while taking nothing away from what was done before. It's a master class in how to relaunch a character (/blatant Flushpoint sarcasm)

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  5. This was an amazing issue. I had planned to wait for the trade, and simply *couldn't*. It's SO good.

    One quibble -- you say Matt's a prosecutor, Mart. He's a defense attorney.

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  6. J_Smitty, I shall watch for that deserved gush!

    Anj, isn't it amazing? I wonder if we'll ever see Marcos' take on Supergirl.

    Micahman, people do, it depends where you look.

    Nowt wrong with blatant sarcasm, Siskoid, especially when wedded to smart comments.

    Rob, thanks, I've tweaked.

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  7. You're very right. It's a great book, and more importantly fun. All the other approaches I've seen, where writers have tried to escape the shadow of Miller, have tried to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Waid quite rightly gets Matt to acknowledge he's had enough of the madness which has always accompanied that dark tone. Having Rivera and Martin on board though must make his life so much easier. The art is sublime.

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