I like to make the occasional joke about Frank Miller, as I am known to do about anyone who seems to be taking seriously their own bullshit, but the fact of the matter is that the man is one the most lauded comic creators of the 1980s for a reason. Just look at the resume: The Dark Knight Returns. Batman: Year One. Ronin. the Wolverine miniseries with Chris Claremont.
And then there’s Daredevil. Say what you want about Miller’s 21st century penchant for drawing two detailed red dirigibles crashing into each other and then sketching a woman’s nose and eyes above them, but Frank Miller changed the face of Daredevil from a second-tier Spider-Man knockoff into a classic of noir storytelling, which cast a long shadow over the way the character was written and drawn for 25 years.
So when I heard that Mark Waid was going to take over the character with a renumbered #1 issue (But Marvel doesn’t do reboots! Also, their poop smells like ROSES!) and make the character lighter and less tortured, I considered dropping my subscription… but considering I was already considering dropping the book thanks to the disappointing Shadowland event (Daredevil’s a ninja! A possessed ninja! Who raises the dead! Hey, where you going?), I decided to give it a day in court (Lawyer pun not intended).
And I’m glad I did, because it turns out that Waid’s Daredevil is one hell of a book. And issue #4 is the best one yet.
First of all, take a look at that Muntsa Vicente cover. That is some Goddamned clever art. Sure, you can argue that a cover that tells you nothing about the story is a piss-poor way to sell a comic book, but this week’s Avengers cover shows Hawkeye ready to lay into Spider-Woman, which is NOWHERE in the story, meaning that a generation of Marvel fanboys went to bed blueballed last night. Sure, the DC Drones looking for that kind of “read” at least had Catwoman, but that’s another wretched tale for later. But I digress.
Marcos Martin’s internal pencils are just as good. They have a simple, nearly cartoony line to them, and are very reminiscent to me of David Mazzucchelli’s work in Miller’s classic Born Again storyline. And if you’re gonna relaunch Daredevil in a new direction, Marvel could have made a worse choice than hiring an artist that ties at least the look to it’s 80’s-on noir roots.
And then there’s the writing. Waid seems to have taken all the events of the last 25 years that have conspired to beat Daredevil down – including the semi-public reveal that Matt Murdock is Daredevil – and made the decision that a man who was blinded as a child, and who then overcame that disability to become a superhero, wouldn’t buckle and break because of those events, but would rather roll with the Goddamned punches.
Which is an obvious character beat if you think about the character’s origins for more than ten seconds, but after 25 years of Daredevil facing adversity by fucking the wrong woman, resorting to unnecessary violence and / or wearing stupid fucking body armor, it took Waid SHOWING me the character in that manner to make it not only make sense, but that it can be interesting.
If Miller’s Matt Murdock had his identity revealed and lost his ability to practice law, he would disintegrate for a while into a depression (See the aforementioned Born Again). WAID’S Murdock takes almost the same scenario – the minute Murdock goes into court, the opposition objects to his presence as an officer of the court because he is a vigilante in devil jammies – and has Matt roll with it, making a simple career modification that still maintains the character’s roots as a lawyer. It’s clever, it works, and it makes total sense based on Daredevil’s entire history.
Plus, Waid is clearly trying to write just flat-out fun comics. The issue starts with Daredevil fighting lions, for Christ’s sake… and it ends with a clever cliffhanger that would only work for a blind character, and I’m surprised I haven’t see in a Daredevil comic before.
Check this one out. Otherwise the unexpected adversity will make me homeless and want to beat a fat man with a stick.