Graphic Novel Review: Daredevil: Volume One
Collecting: Daredevil #1-13
Original Release Date: 2011-2012
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Mark Waid (Indestructible Hulk, Kingdom Come)
Artist: Paolo Rivera for issues #1-3 (Marvel’s Mythos) and Marcos Martin for issues #4-6 (Batgirl: Year One, )
SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):
Storyline – 7
Art – 9
Captivity and Length – 9
Identity – 9
Use of Medium – 10
Depth – 7
Fluidity – 10
Intrigue/Originality – 8
The Little Things – 10
Overall awesomeness – 8
In the heyday of Marvel Comics, comic books were just plain fun to read. Fans were immersed in new, fun subject content. It was less about making money and more about sharing fantastical ideas with the rest of the world. After a long stagnancy in the market due to super-saturation of content, Marvel looked to renew interest and create a buzz by rebranding itself with Marvel: NOW! However, the reason for a Daredevil reboot was under quite different circumstances. Coming almost a year earlier, the Daredevil reboot shows our hero coming out of retirement. We start off with Daredevil about to crash a wedding of a crime lord’s younger daughter, who is in danger of being kidnapped by The Spot, one of Marvel’s more obscure villains. The rest of the story is riddled with undistinguished bad guys and it’s not really quite clear who he’s fighting until several issues in. It’s an interesting choice, but they’re really just there to serve the purpose of Daredevil’s comeback.
Where Daredevil succeeds is in its consistency in writing and detail. While not the most mind-blowing series debut, Daredevil: Volume One is humorous and filled with action and reflection. Mark Waid does a phenomenal job of keeping readers engaged with clever dialogue and suspenseful action scenes that have you always worried just who is going to make it out alive. Another great choice that Waid made is to focus more on Matt Murdock, the person. Murdock has been “outed” as The Daredevil multiple times throughout the writing history, and Waid deals with it in brilliantly original manner by making it a running joke throughout the book. When you think about it, how could it not be? A blind lawyer is the masked superhero, Daredevil. It’d be like saying Christopher Reeves really was Superman (RIP Christopher Reeves). Murdock definitely shines through as a lawyer, although his outed identity has made it increasingly difficult to use his skills in the courtroom. Without giving away too much detail, Volume One has Murdock spending just as much time in a suit as in one suit as another and it definitely pays off.
Of course, there are plenty of moments in the book that remind you that this is Daredevil. You’ll frequently see Murdock jump off of buildings, save children from fires, and take on hoards of bad guys without flinching. One of my favorite scenes is a confrontation that he has with Captain America. Not only does Murdock hold his own against the Super Soldier, but he schools him in the process, taking a ride on his shield to show Rogers just how bad-ass he can be. It doesn’t even take three issues for readers to understand just what kind of man Matt Murdock is, making hardcore fans and newbies alike fall right into the story without trying to figure out who they’re reading about.
What really sets Daredevil apart from other books is it’s particular detail to everything. The manner in which his super-skills (I call them skills, not powers, because I consider him a human still, as opposed to characters like Captain America who have been genetically altered and are less “human;” it’s definitely a compliment to Daredevil) are portrayed on page is unlike I’ve ever seen. Not even the great Ben Affleck could depict super-sight as well as Rivera and Martin do. Murdock constantly comments on the things people eat, smell and sound like, using it to help his career as both a lawyer and a masked vigilante. One of the coolest things I’ve seen in comics, though, is how everything he hears is a resounding onomatopoeia. It’s detail like that found in the picture below that makes you really understand the sensory overload Daredevil has to go through constantly.
While seasoned fans will appreciate the continuity of all the events that had Murdock disappearing at the end of “Shadowland” and poising a comeback in 2011’s Daredevil: Rebirth. the events of Volume One can, at times, be lost on the casual reader. While Waid does try to bring readers up to speed with short back-stories and off-hand insight, it doesn’t quite feel like a fresh start. It’s going to be a struggle with any character that’s been written for almost fifty years, but Waid does a pretty good job of keeping the focus off the big villains and plot twists, and instead focuses on immersing the reader in character insight and building the foundation of a more enveloped story to come. It’s a thoroughly entertaining book and I would recommend it to anybody who isn’t afraid to jump into the deep end with a character they might not know to well.
General Reception: Daredevil is regarded as one of the most consistently good books Marvel has in their line-up. Along with Hawkeye, Daredevil does a very good job of balancing super-hero time with secret identity depth. It’s a unique quality seldom found in superhero books and it does the subject matter justice.
Related Books: If you like Daredevil, a great place to start is Daredevil: Yellow by Jeph Loeb and Daredevil: Visionaries by Frank Miller
More by the writer: Mark Waid has been around for a while and done some great work, but it wasn’t recently with Marvel that he’s gotten the proper respect he deserves. And now he’s pumping out great issue after issue with Daredevil (one of the few series that was not canceled with the Marvel NOW! reboot), and Indestructible Hulk. For some of his back-catalog, he and Alex Ross wrote the legendary Kingdom Come, an epic tale about DC’s heroes coming out of retirement to put the new generation of super-heroes in their place. He also had his hand in pretty much anything with the Flash’s name on it during the 1990’s and wrote the DC series 52, specializing in obscure characters and their emergence after the Trinity (Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman) disappeared. The list goes on from there, but it needs to be said that this guy is a comic book legend and his whole catalog is worth exploring.
More by the artist:
Paolo Rivera actually won an Eisner Award for his work on issue #7 in Daredevil and has done covers for over twenty different Marvel titles in the past five years. His most accomplished work was the Marvel Mythos six-issue mini-series, in which Rivera hand-painted the entire run. Mythos is considered a great starting point for its subjects (which include Hulk, Ghost Rider, Spiderman, X-Men, Captain America and the Fantastic Four), and are no doubt a must-have for any new fans searching for origin stories.
Marcos Martin gained a lot of popularity for the beautiful art in the Batgirl: Year One story, using a dark and edgy style that portrayed Batgirl as a capable character and no longer Jim Gordon’s daughter. Martin also drew for Doctor Strange: The Oath, in which he has to solve the mystery of his own murder from beyond the grave. Pretty heavy stuff. On the creative side, Martin also helped create Breach, a Dr. Manhattan/Captain Atom ripoff that was canceled after eleven issues… so there’s that.
*Screenshots taken directly from comic book using Comixology app. Credit to Marvel Comics for the images.
Written by Sherif Elkhatib