No happy ending for this marvel hero.
Writer Charles Soule and artist Phil Noto didn’t make things easy for their successors when they wrapped up the previous volume of Daredevil in December. The series ended not in a moment of triumph for Matt Murdock, but one of crushing despair. Matt thought he had finally defeated Wilson Fisk and exposed the mayor of New York for the criminal he is. Instead, it was all a coma-induced hallucination. Matt’s life is worse than ever as the latest incarnation of Daredevil begins. And as with so many classic Daredevil comics before it, this new book reminds us that Matt Murdock’s suffering is the reader’s joy.
One might expect a more lighthearted take on Daredevil with the comedically inclined Chip Zdarsky taking the reins of the series. This franchise does tend to operate like a pendulum, slowly shifting back and forth between brooding darkness and swashbuckling adventure. But as with The Invaders, Zdarsky is opting for a darker approach to a classic Marvel franchise. It’s just as well, given that few Marvel artists handle brooding darkness as well as Marco Checchetto.
Zdarsky takes an introspective, character-driven approach in this first issue. He writes Matt Murdock as a man recovering from a difficult physical trauma and trying to get back into the saddle sooner than is really wise. Right away, Zdarsky succeeds in providing a nuanced portrait of the Man Without Fear. We get to see Matt’s charming side as he ventures out into Hell’s Kitchen’s night life and woos a new lady. But we also see plenty of that classic, self-loathing Matt. Both the present-day scenes and the flashbacks to Matt’s childhood provide a compelling look at a hero constantly torn between upholding the law and seeking justice.
None of that material is terribly original for a Daredevil comic, but the execution is strong. Zdarsky does carve his own niche, however, when it comes to exploring Matt’s deteriorating physical state. He’s portrayed as a man fighting against too many injuries and too many years of physical and psychological hardship. This isn’t quite The Dark Knight Returns-style Daredevil, but Zdarsky does press the question of whether Matt is simply past his superhero prime. Matt’s struggle to get back into a groove and reestablish himself as Hell’s Kitchen’s defender connects on an emotional level, and it plays directly into a clever, status quo-altering shift for the character in the final pages of this issue. That climax serves as all the mission statement Zdarsky needs.
Checchetto has some experience with Daredevil dating back to the Shadowland days, but it feels only proper he’s being given an opportunity to launch a brand new volume and establish the look and tone of the series himself. Checchetto succeeds in two key area. First, he and colorist Sunny Gho create a powerful sense of mood throughout the first issue. There’s a hazy, dreamlike quality to Matt’s world that makes it both unsettling and oddly inviting. Second, Checchetto’s elegant figures capture the intensity and energy of Daredevil’s world. We can clearly see Daredevil’s athletic grace, as well as those moments where his injuries get the better of him and the hero devolves into battered survivor.
This issue is capped off by a brief story written and drawn by Zdarsky called ‘Sense of Self.” This tale is extremely simple and straightforward, but also a nice palate cleanser following the glum ending of the main tale. Zdarsky’s ability to frame the world from Daredevil’s unique perspective is very much the highlight of this segment.