Daredevil: Volume 1 by Mark Waid, Paolo Manuel Rivera, and Marcos Martin
I was about twelve when I was exposed to the film version of Daredevil. It came out in 2003, so I must have been about thirteen. We watched it because my dad has the kind of open mind when it comes to films that a director wishes ey could buy. It didn’t make too much of an impression, beyond cementing my brother’s resemblance to Ben Affleck for the family, and that’s been my major impression of Daredevil ever since. Given my previous antipathy towards Marvel, I saw no need to correct it, but something moved me to pick up this while picking over the graphic novels at the library. I’m quite glad I did.
Daredevil: Volume 1 collects the first six issues of the latest relaunch. The last few years have been rough on Matt Murdock, New York lawyer by day and blind superhero Daredevil by night. Along with all the personal trauma, his secret identity has been blown, and he now has to coach his clients on how to represent themselves in court instead of doing it himself. And what cases they are—being a vigilante can really come in handy, especially when what looks like a simple discrimination case might actually involve the most powerful terrorist organizations on earth…
The cover of Daredevil: Volume 1 highlights this trade’s greatest strength: the depiction of Matt Murdock as a blind superhero. Now, as I mentioned above, I am wildly unfamiliar with Daredevil in general, let alone in comics canon. (His Wikipedia page does tell me Frank Miller is the creator of his modern skill set.) But, while his other senses are heightened and he’s developed a radar sense (inspired by the “proximity sense” of martial artists), Matt struggles and works around his disability like any other blind person. In the last few issues, Daredevil protects a young blind man. When he’s trying to get the kid to remember something, he does an exercise specifically suited to jog the memory of the blind. What’s particularly inventive here is the fact that Daredevil is pitted against enemy after enemy that can exploit his limitations—his hypersensitivity to sound, for instance—and he has to get creative about that. In a world where some superheroes have powers that make their lives easier, Daredevil stands out, because being a superhero is just as difficult (and just as rewarding) as his day job. It’s not harped on, nor is it ignored; it hits just the right balance.
As does the art. It’s a bit ironic, rendering the world of a blind person visually, but Waid’s scenarios and Rivera and Martin’s art are just stunning. Daredevil’s radar sense is rendered in pink and black; items that he notices are highlighted in panel; sound effects are particularly important and cleverly used. There’s an occasionally picked up motif of the obscured eyes of the cover, but it’s not pulled through as much as I would like. For instance, two panels next to each other follow the noise in the wake of a speedboat, bleeding into each other as Daredevil makes to follow it. The narration (from Daredevil himself) lays this out in a way that doesn’t feel too obvious or clunky; it’s engaging and cheeky. The linework is also very classic and lantern-jawed, with the coloring feeling very sixties. Or at least, when we meet the lackeys for the terrorist organizations, a little Venture Brothers. (There just must be something about color-coded scuba suits.)
Matt himself (I always think of capes as their first names in my head) is fun to spend time with; cheeky (he denies his superhero identity to the assistant D. A. just to wind her up), smart, and truly brave. In an interview collected here, Mark Waid references an old tag line for Daredevil: “if he could see half the things he’s facing, he’d be scared to death”. New York is Matt’s city, and he does what he can to defend it by day and by night. There’s a few pages dealing with an average night, where he wishes he was several men, but, being only one, he has to do what he can. He has an unerring sense of justice, along with his swashbuckling derring-do, and that makes him quite engaging. Side characters are perfectly fine, such as Foggy, Matt’s law partner, and the aforementioned assistant D. A., but Daredevil rightfully walks away with his own show. The tone, too, is perfect, incorporating both Matt’s charm and humor as well as his darker moments. I might actually pick up the next volume of this; it would be the first second trade volume I’ve ever read.
Bottom line: Here Comes Daredevil’s first six issues, collected here, are a delight, particularly in its depiction of Matt Murdock as a blind superhero, in both the writing and the wonderful art. Well worth a read.
I rented this book from the public library.