Spencer: While we often refer to the articles we write here at Retcon Punch as “reviews”, that isn’t necessarily the most accurate term for them. We aren’t here just to tell you whether an issue is good or bad, or to rate it from one to ten; we like to talk about the book itself, about themes and characterization and the craft that goes into making a book great (or bad, for that matter). In fact, as Patrick recently mentioned, we usually try to avoid broad statements of quality about the books we write. Why am I bringing this up? Well, I wanted to give you guys this context so that you’d realize how significant the following statement actually is: Daredevil 1 may just be a perfect comic book. Or, if it’s not, then it’s certainly a perfect first issue.
Matt Murdock — who recently revealed his identity as Daredevil, got disbarred, and moved to San Francisco — has been called in by the police to help find the Deputy Mayor’s kidnapped daughter. He rescues her, but the kidnappers give chase, leading Matt to realize that a bomb with a remote detonator has been planted within the girl — the kidnappers are trying to get Matt to take her to a crowded place so they can kill as many people as possible. Matt manages to shield the girl from the detonator within an elevator and defeat the kidnappers, but they won’t spill any of the secrets behind their plan. Meanwhile, Matt and Kirsten imply that Foggy Nelson — who, last we had seen him, was combatting cancer — has passed away, except it appears that Foggy is not only alive, but watching their conversation somehow. What’s up with that?!
The first term that comes to mind to describe this issue is “old fashioned”, but I mean that as a compliment. It’s straight-up superheroic fun, a joy to read from beginning to end, a story that not only stands on its own but also works as both a continuation of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s previous run and as a new beginning.
In fact, I think I’m most impressed by how effective of a first issue this is. Here Waid and Samnee seem most concerned with establishing who Matt Murdock is a person — not only by recapping his origin, but by firmly establishing his abilities, limits, strengths, and weaknesses.
In fact, “we’re all limited by our instruments” could be the thesis statement of this issue. In this scene it’s referring to Matt’s heightened senses, which allow him to track down where the kidnappers are holding poor lil’ Chelsea by finding clues that the police just don’t have the ability to find, but the rest of the issue goes on to show that even Matt is limited by his instruments.
Daredevil’s enhanced senses, and especially his radar sense, sometimes make it easy to forget that he’s blind at all, but Waid has never shied away from showing us when Matt is at a disadvantage because of his disability. This panel is my favorite such moment from this issue, where Chelsea is knocked out of Matt’s hands in mid-air and falls through a flock of pigeons, befuddling his radar sense. It’s not just that there are too many birds blocking his view, but there’s so much movement that everything starts to blend together for Matt — although we know there’s only one Chelsea, he can see three or four of her in the crowd. Matt eventually rescues her by zeroing in on the ticking of her watch, but then she reveals that she’s not wearing a watch, just a bracelet; this leads Matt to belatedly realize that there’s a bomb in the poor girl, but he could have figured it out a lot sooner if he’d been able to see what was on her wrist.
There’s also the matter of Matt’s new city.
Waid, Samnee, and colorist Javier Rodriguez beautifully demonstrate on this page why New York was so perfectly suited to Daredevil’s particular abilities. San Francisco, though? Not so much. It’s not just that Matt’s not entirely familiar with the city, it’s also just a very different place (I love that strange bow-and-arrow monument Samnee shows us on page 8; is that a real thing?). Matt’s move from New York to San Francisco isn’t just a change of scenery, but it’s something that’s going to change the very way he fights crime, and Waid and Samnee smartly use it as another way to establish exactly what Daredevil’s capable of.
The fact that this issue is a one-and-done is also to its advantage — I think it’s important to have a complete story in a first issue. The tone of the story is also an effective way of introducing the character: this isn’t the worst Daredevil’s ever faced, but it is a challenge for him. We get to see Daredevil pushed, but we get to see him come up with solutions on the fly and save the day; we see him overwhelmed, but yet a moment later he taunts his opponent by winking at him; we see that he has no fear when it comes to his own life, but will do anything to protect others.
I really don’t know what else I could ask for. Waid, Samnee, and the rest are at the top of their game and have obviously gelled as a team. They’ve given us Matt Murdock in a nutshell, complete with a thrilling, creatively executed one-and-done story that still dangles one of the most compelling cliffhangers I’ve ever seen. If I don’t stop raving about it now I’ll never be able to, so instead I’ll hand things over to Shelby.
Shelby, I went out on a limb and gave some very specific, very high praise to this issue; do you think it was too much, or did you love this one as much as I did? And hey, I didn’t get to say nearly enough about Samnee’s work; anything you’d care to add?
Shelby: I don’t know that I loved it quite as much as you did (if that is possible) but I definitely had a lot of fun with it. I wasn’t reading the previous run of Daredevil, but I’m familiar enough with the character to know who he is and how he operates. For me, this issue was just right as far as introducing the character and situation goes. Spencer, I agree with you completely that a one-off issue is a great way to start a… what do we call it, new run? New title? With Black Widow, for example, Nathan Edmondson gave us a self-contained story in each of the first three issues, establishing a great baseline for the character. Each brief glimpse into Natasha’s life helped us figure out who she was in the context of her book; taking the time to do the character work up front will most likely give us stronger story-telling throughout. Waid finds himself in a slightly different situation; this book is technically a number 1, but it’s obviously a continuation of the last arc. Waid gives us that self-contained story to establish for newcomers who Matt Murdock is, while the cliffhanger with Foggy keeps the old-timers (Patrick and Drew, I’m looking at you) from being bored with the issue.
Though honestly, I don’t know how anyone could be bored with any part of this book. Even without reading the title I’ve always been impressed with the way Samnee handles the visual representation of Matt’s powerset. It’s a tricky concept; when you’re dealing with a character who’s defining attribute is that he can’t see, how do you visually depict that? Spencer posted the best example in the book; not only do we see that pink, radar-like pattern on the girl and the pigeons, we also see how things can go wrong for Matt with the multiple girls and multiple birds. My favorite page, however, has nothing to do with radar and everything to do with being an awesome badass.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would look like to be hit by a blind man punching his way out a window, now you know. I love the way Samnee utilizes the reflection to show the action, not only because it’s just a neat visual trick, but also because it shows us what Matt would see if he could, uh, see. We’re seeing the reflected point of view of the action from a blind man’s perspective; that’s so cool it makes my brain feel a bit melty.
The biggest reason I wasn’t already reading this book was the amount of catch-up I’d have to do, paired with general pull-list-size concerns. We started our coverage with issues 18 and 19, and the thought of reading nearly 20 books to start on top of the rest of the books I was reading was too daunting for me. Now, not only do I have a perfect jumping on point, I realize that I do actually have to go back and read that first run, because clearly I have been missing out. Also, I predict we’ll soon see another addition to Shelby’s List of Comic Book Crushes, ’cause that Matt Murdock is more than a little dreamy.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?