Daredevil, aka Matt Murdock, a street level crime fighter who, thanks to the various efforts of writers as talented as Frank Miller, Brian Michael Bendis and Kevin Smith, has been depicted in dark and grim stories that are never anything less than gripping and intense and would be the blueprints from which Steven S DeKnight and Drew Goddard would gain inspiration for the acclaimed and brilliant Netflix television series featuring The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, the one that redeemed the character in live action circles after his movie debut in 2003, via Mark Steven Johnson’s Daredevil, starring Ben Affleck.
In taking over the comic book title in 2011, Mark Waid (writer of the masterpiece that is Superman:Birthright) attempted to bring a little bit of light and hope back to Matt Murdock’s world, albeit while retaining a little slice of angst that goes hand in hand with the character. Suffice to say, this more lighter, funnier and more adventurous take on the character is a delight from beginning to end, with the first volume alone taking in a wedding crash, a Captain America cameo, witty exchanges with Foggy, and dazzling art and colours courtesy of Paolo Rivera, Marcos Martin, Javier Rodriguez and Muntsa Vincente.
Volume One begins with Matt back in New York after years of self-imposed exile, resuming his tenure as a lawyer with frequent partner Foggy, but unable to successfully win cases due to the belief amongst pretty much everyone in New York, including prosecutors, that Murdock is genuinely Daredevil, a fact that Matt is unable to disprove and which is getting all his cases thrown out by judge’s presiding over his cases. Whilst dealing with this, Matt also has to deal with a certain Captain gunning for him, as well as the return of Klaw and his robotic cronies and eventual battle with an all new criminal empire headed up by Hydra, AIM, Angence, Byzantine, Black Spectre and The Secret Empire.
All in all these first six issues are pretty damn impressive. Fun is the word of the day here, with vibrant colours, energetic, engaging action, brilliant dialogue and crisp, clear storytelling, Waid begins his run on Daredevil with the glee of a fan who is getting a chance to play in a massive sandpit with a character he loves, a trait that I adore in Waid’s writing. It’s the same when you read his twelve issue Superman origin tale Birthright; you’re reading a story that is being presented to you by someone who is doing so via a character that he loves and the same feels true here. Like Batman, there is a certain dark, brooding quality that became synonymous with the character through Frank Miller, so the events depicted here could prove to be an eyeful for anyone introduced to him via the wonderful Netflix live action series, but the imagination and sense of genuine glee on display here is so wonderful that it’s hard not go along with it.
The entire opening section involving a wedding of a mob boss’ daughter and Daredevil saving a little girl from The Spot is downright ludicrous and brilliant all at the same time and serves as a calling card for where the series is going. That this whole sequence ends with a Daily Bugle front page of Daredevil kissing the bride is laugh out loud funny and starts the series as it means to go on. Waid isn’t afraid to remind us of the character’s darker past, but in doing so is stating why the character is in such a rush to move on from his darker, previous stories. Matt has had enough of the darkness and simply wants to enjoy himself for a change, as he states to Foggy in the second part of the first issue when both lawyers visit the grave of Matt’s father, whose death of course kick started the journey that would lead to Matt to become the hero he is today.
It goes to show the brilliant flexibility of comic book characters, and in particular Daredevil, that he can go from one dark extreme to another bathed in light. In fact there is a lot of wonderful colours on display here courtesy of Rodriguez and Martin. The series is awash in gorgeously painted daylight and when the story turns to a night-time setting, there is a grace and beauty to the blacks and blues that are equally eye-catching. That a lot of the night-time scenes take in brilliant displayed action sequences like the fight with Captain America (a brilliant cameo if there ever was one), to Matt’s discovery of Klaw (where Waid’s writing fully embraces its more fantastic leanings) to his final fight with Bruiser, where the mixture of Daredevil’s red and Bruiser’s green costumes come together in a wonderful mix of violent fighting and clashing colours, is a joy to look at. You can’t help but just stop and admire the work here before continuing on with the story.
What makes this series all the more joyful to read is Waid’s way with character. The cast in this are a wonderful bunch to spend time with. Matt is a very engaging hero and his attempts at trying to enjoy himself more is well handled. It could become annoying or somewhat cocky (even Foggy is unsure of what to make of it all) but Waid makes us like him and root for the guy, which gets to the heart of why Matt is so likeable. He’s someone we’re genuinely wanting to win. Not just in court cases but in life. The same goes for Foggy, or even their clients at the law firm, such as Mr Jobrani, or Austin, whose cases dominate these first six issues. The way in which Waid allows these supporting characters to get caught up in a natural and organic way to the story’s events and paints them in sympathetic strokes means that when Matt and Foggy win for them in their trials, via teaching them how to be their own lawyers in a brilliant idea that solves the problem with everyone knowing that Matt is Daredevil, it’s punch the air brilliant, as well as engaging and humorously warm and funny.
It brings a wealth of hope to a character who, in his own words, had frequently hit rock bottom only to realise that “God somehow found me a bigger shovel”. If you’re new to Matt in comics, then Mark Waid’s run is a great place to start. It may not have the darkness that many have come to associate with the character through other writers, the TV show, which for many may have been their first taste of the character, or possibly even the Ben Affleck movie from 2003, which itself had some dark turns in its final act (bizarrely accompanied by the music of Evanesence, however), but the likeability and lighter tone makes it an easy way to get in to the character and his corner of stories of this particular comic book world.
The first volume ends with a tantalising lead in for Volume 2 involving a piece of Mr Fantastic’s uniform, complete with downloaded data from every villainous organisation in the Marvel Universe. It’s a crazy idea, of course, but damn is it a good one and like Matt Murdock himself, you’re left smiling at the possibilities of what might come next.