Daredevil

by Stephen Hardman

There have been so many incarnations of Daredevil it would be easy to think the character’s story has been told and there’s nothing new to be said. While he may not have been around for as long as Batman or Superman, like all great fictional creations Daredevil has a fascinating history, a complex personality, and a list of enemies almost as long as the aforementioned superhero stalwarts. This makes him a rich source of story, with new writers able to breathe life into the character. Through comics, film (I’m going to go on record here as not hating the much-maligned 2003 film, but that’s a subject for a different article) and latterly TV, Daredevil has proved to be an enduring and popular character, while never quite hitting the heights of Batman, Spiderman, or the X-Men.

Created by Stan Lee, Bill Everett, and Jack Kirby, Daredevil first appeared in print in early 1964, and the blind lawyer Matt Murdock has been in print on a monthly basis ever since. The first volume of Daredevil ran all the way through to the late 1990s and introduced most of the core supporting cast of characters – both friend and foe – which endure to the present day. Some of these characters have become more than supporting roles and have gone on to feature in other titles and in some cases their own series. Indeed, following on from the success of the Netflix Daredevil series Marvel is currently launching on-going series’ focusing on Kingpin, Bullseye, and Elektra. I will be looking at each of these new series in upcoming reviews so watch this space.

Daredevil has always been somewhat on the fringes of the Marvel mainstream, and that’s partly due to the darkness that seems to surround him. Some writers have taken a more light-hearted angle but predominantly the comic book renderings have been gritty, urban affairs; Daredevil’s relationship with Hell’s Kitchen is similar to Batman’s relationship with Gotham. Writers such as Frank Mackenzie in the Seventies, through Frank Miller in the Eighties and Brian Michael Bendis in the Nineties have brought Daredevil to the comic book page using darker tones and exploring serious themes. The art of Miller, Alex Maleev on Bendis’ run, and Michael Lark on Ed Brubaker’s run has also been vital in creating a certain mythos around the Matt Murdock and Daredevil, emphasising the darkness that surrounds him, and that which exists within him.

Following Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s stunning and near-perfect run in the previous relaunch of the character in 2011 – which took a lighter, but no less-effective approach to the character – the current series (Volume 5) debuted in December 2015. Written by Charles Soule and with art by Ron Garney and Matt Milla the current series has returned partly to the darker tones of Miller and Bendis, but retains some of the lighter elements Waid employed.

I was disappointed when Waid and Samnee called it a day as I felt they had many more stories to tell, but that disappointment was tempered when Charles Soule was announced as the new writer. Already one of Marvel’s top writers over the last few years, Soule was also the writer of one of my favourite recent series She-Hulk. While it only ran for a much too short 12 issues, Soule’s take on She-Hulk was fantastic. Jennifer Walters, She-Hulk’s alter-ego, is an attorney by day and as a fully qualified lawyer himself Soule was perfectly placed to bring a degree of authenticity to the daily life of She-Hulk. As Matt Murdock is also an attorney I was sure that Soule would bring the same level of quality writing to his stint on Daredevil. So far Soule’s take on the title has managed to tread a balance between the dark and light elements of Daredevil’s character superbly.

Ron Garney’s contribution to the current volume of Daredevil continues the tradition of fantastic artists on the title. Garney conveys the violence in Daredevil’s world exceptionally, the fight sequences seen so far have been visually stunning, the action bursting off the page and out of the panels. Matt Milla’s excellent colouring work on the book is also a key part of its success. Just as Chris Samnee and Matt Wilson worked hand in hand to create a uniquely bright Daredevil environment, Garney and Milla work together to create a singular visual identity for this current volume. Milla’s sparing use of colours, often using just black and red with splashes of white, is great, and really works well on this title.

Soule has brought new enemies to the page for Daredevil to face and he’s introduced a major new character to the Daredevil pantheon in Blindspot. Over the course of fifteen issues Soule has slowly introduced Blindspot’s back-story and his relationship to Matt Murdock. Without giving anything away the recent harrowing events of issue 14 are sure to alter the dynamic of that relationship. Mostly though the focus has been on Matt Murdock/Daredevil and his current state of mind. This is where Soule’s excellent handling of character development comes into its own. It seems that the fit between writer and character is a perfect one, and Volume 5 is already shaping up to be a classic run.

Stephen Hardman

Stephen Hardman is a trainee Legal Executive Lawyer who currently resides in Bath, in the UK with his wife and their cat.  Among other things he writes in his spare time. He is currently working on a novel which he hopes to finish soon, and he has written a few short stories as well, though has not had anything published. Yet. Stephen loves reading and is a huge crime fiction fan; George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, and Ken Bruen being particular favourites. He is an editor and contributor at the geek culture website Geeks Unleashed.

His obsession with comic books knows no bounds and he loves sharing news and reviews of all the great comic books and graphic novels being published right now. He also loves listening to music and seeing bands live, and is always seeking out new bands and musicians to obsess about.

You can catch him on Twitter @HardDaysWrite.

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