Daredevil ½ & 1-8
Script: Kevin Smith
Art: Joe Quesada
A Little Background: The reason I read Daredevil is because he is completely different from all of the other superheroes out there. The primary differences are defined by these two facts: He is not defined by what he does, but rather, what he cannot do. And he is not a character who goes from triumph to triumph, but rather from tragedy to tragedy. He is blind and his life sucks, and that makes him a super-angry ultraviolent narcissistic hypocrite, which is thoroughly entertaining to read monthly. Especially when it’s done with such grace as it was by Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada, both at their respective primes. They brought back a might-as-well-have-been dead character and sparked interest for the first time in over a decade.
The Plot: In this story, we start off seeing Matt Murdock’s longtime love, Karen Page, leaving him to find herself after she is diagnosed with HIV. His partner and best friend, Foggy Nelson, is wanted for the murder of his lover. And just when he thought his luck couldn’t be any worse, Daredevil is suddenly faced with caring for an infant left in his care by a young streetwalker who found out his secret identity and said that he would “know what to do.” Oh, and there’s the little fact that mysterious stranger, Nicholas Macabes, reveals that said baby is the Anti-Christ, which sort of conflicts a smidge with Daredevil’s Catholic upbringing. Did I mention the fact that he’s also one of the very few heroes (or villains, for that matter) who actively practices, battles, and lives his life based on his faith? Naturally, Macabes is not who he seems, but the twist at the end of the story (and boy is it a doozy) is just one of many reasons why this is such a fast yet memorable read.
Why It Worked: The script, the art, and the scope of this story was and is simply something that had not been done for this character before. This story is awesome because it is action-packed, star-studded, and the art and script are amazing. It might actually be the only Marvel comic storyline that I have ever read that I would argue is actually, dare I say it, perfect. Teaming up with ex-girlfriend Black Widow, on-again off-again best friend Spider-Man, Sorcerer Supreme and equally arrogant ally Dr. Strange, and a host of other Marvel A-listers to do battle with Mephisto, Bullseye, and the formerly never-taken-serious villainous mastermind revealed at the end, this story quite literally has it all. It also features one of the very few deaths I’ve seen in a comic in my lifetime that actually still matters. Before the climax, Bullseye kills Karen after killing a whole group of nuns, naturally, and steals the baby, just for shits and giggles. This was the last time the character was written well. Marvel should have considered retiring him permanently, because Smith and Quesada really knew how to do Bullseye justice, the first (and last) time since Frank Miller’s legendary run in the eighties. Not to mention the fact that Mysterio (yes, the bowl-headed foolish Spider-Man foe) ends up not only being a manipulative and vindictive bastard of a child-stealing, girlfriend-manipulating, innocents-murdering fiend, but also a true force to be reckoned with. His closing monologue before he offs himself still sends chills down my spine every time I read it. And yes, I sometimes read it aloud.
It’s that good.
What Made It Different: In straight and simple terms, this is a comic book superhero whodunit with a twist. It created something special at Marvel, the Marvel Knights imprint, making it okay to be different, okay to be creative, and okay to take risks. It had an impact. Deaths mattered. And this is the one comic that I give people who don’t read comics. Why? Because it’s great for comic fans who love the twist at the end, yes, but it’s even better when the unfamiliar reader goes “Huh?” when they’re reading it and then immediately yells “Oh! Cool!” when it is explained. It’s essentially a user-friendly, fan-friendly, summer blockbuster with an Academy Award winning grandeur. And for the character, though often times there have been hints that it is indeed possible, has not been duplicated since.
Further Reading: Daredevil: Yellow by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale & Spider-Man & Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do 1-6 by Kevin Smith and Terry Dodson
So here’s your chance, Marvel. You’ve got me reading through my old back issue collection. You’ve got me interested again. Now take what you used to do, put a spin on it, and send it back to all of your lapsed readers and make them care again. Just like Kevin Smith did for me and the character of Daredevil, help Make Mine Marvel… again.