Daredevil 1

Alternating Currents: Daredevil 1, Drew and Patrick

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Daredevil 1, originally released December 2nd, 2015.

You might know me as Matt Murdock, defence attorney, here to help. That guy’s gone.

Matt Murdock, Daredevil 1

Drew: We’re living in the age of the comics auteur. We may not have yet settled exactly who the auteur is in a work that is written, drawn, colored, lettered, and edited by five (or more) different people, but so long as they work together in largely uninterrupted runs, we don’t really need to. That is to say, we may not be able to assign auteurship to one individual on, say, Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s run on Daredevil, but we can appreciate that they brought a distinct set of sensibilities to the character that are unique to their collaboration. On the whole, I think this is a good thing — it allows creators to play to their own strengths and follow their own interests — but it makes the prospect of following a beloved run particularly daunting. What works for one creative team might not work for another, which means that anything from costumes and character designs to theme and overall tone might be subject to change. Indeed, with the freedom (and perhaps pressure) for each team to bring their own take on the character, those changes are unavoidable. Daredevil 1 features plenty of changes from its previous volume, but writer Charles Soule and artist Ron Garney quickly set about showing why those changes are going to work.

Seriously, though, this Matt Murdock is miles from where we last saw him, both literally and figuratively: he’s back in New York, he’s somehow magicked the genie of his secret identity back into the bottle, he’s working as an Assistant District Attorney, he’s alienated from Foggy, and is working with a new vigilante with battery-powered invisibility. All of these are accepted norms by the time the issue opens, so there’s little explanation as to how any of that came to pass, but it’s to the series’ benefit — this represents a clean break from Matt’s San Francisco adventures, and offers some intriguing mysteries about his new status quo. Actually, the changes are so accepted within the reality of the story that I almost regret bringing up the previous volume at all, but I think it can be instructive in revealing what makes this one work.

One of the most striking changes is the look of this series. Garney’s absorbing inks create a decidedly moodier Daredevil, aided in no small part by his black costume (with shocking red accents). Colorist Matt Milla accentuates this moodiness with his muted color palette, limiting himself to one or two key colors in each scene. It couldn’t really be more different from Samnee and his colorists’ (both Javier Rodriguez and Matt Wilson’s) bright, full-color approach — this Daredevil simply lives in a darker, murkier world.

That darkness is reflected in the writing. If Waid’s Daredevil was at least in part a celebration of what Matt can “see” with his other senses, Soule’s seems more interested in what he can see because he’s blind. Those may not sound like different things, but Matt’s perception of Blindspot offers a perfect example.

Blindspot

He’s invisible to everyone but the blind man. That he actually may represent a blindspot for Matt is an interesting thought (that I’ll get to in a moment), but here, he reveals Matt’s strength over everyone else.

Soule puts an even finer point on that in Matt’s pep-talk to Bobby Li, the State’s Witness Daredevil is protecting at the start of the issue. Matt suggests that his blindness taught him fear — that, if he let it, his blindness could drive him to a life of seclusion. We know things are a bit more complicated than he lets on, but the sentiment still rings true: he doesn’t know what’s coming, but that doesn’t stop him from barreling ahead, anyway.

Of course, what he doesn’t see coming might not be ahead of him at all. The final page of the issue reveals that Blindspot is also the right-hand-man of the crime boss Matt is hoping to (eventually) indict, but this might be another case of something being more complicated than it seems. If the henchmen know the man standing next to their boss is the same guy who beat them up earlier in the issue, they don’t let on, so his apparent double-agency my actually be by Matt’s design. There’s another wrinkle here, in that Blindspot may not know that Matt Murdock is Daredevil — they never address each other by name or see each other without their masks — which may put Matt at risk even if Blindspot is ultimately on Daredevil’s side.

So, anything could happen? One of the most exciting things about a new run is that the rules of the narrative have also changed. We don’t know enough about Blindspot’s relationship to Daredevil to not be surprised by whatever happens. It’s a strong opening for what promises to be a strong take on the character, twisting things just enough to keep me guessing. Patrick, I know you loved the previous volume just as much as I did, so I’m wondering how all of these changes are settling in for you. Which changes do you like, and what are you sorry to see go?

Patrick: I get that it’s like Charles Soule 101, but I had totally forgotten that dude is a lawyer, and is able to bring a level of realism to Matt’s day job that Waid and Samnee could only ever approximate, Hollywood-style. Not that they shied away from the court-room antics, but… well… are you guys watching The Grinder? It’s a great new sitcom on Fox about a retired television star that used to head up a massively successful legal drama. The show is amazingly sharp, and has a lot of teeth when it comes to criticizing the quality of narratives we accept on TV. We see episodes of the show-within-a-show, and the titular Grinder is always able to win a case through sheer theatrics. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that style of legal storytelling, it’s simply inauthentic. Soule’s experience working in law offices takes such inauthenticity off the table. That naturally makes for a much more grounded, dare I say “realistic,” representation of how a superhero may ply his trade as an attorney.

That simple shift, from Public Defender to New York City Prosecutor, informs everything else about the tone of the series. Drew pointed out the Soule and Garney’s new approach to expressing what Matt senses, and how there’s a stronger emphasis on his limitations. It seems as though he’s also maybe more focused on negative details. When he hears Eileen King approaching his shitty new office, he identifies the worn click from an old pair of heels, almost making a snarky little judgement about the wearer before he identifies her to us. Matt’s got a lot of little negative thoughts like that — he bemoans the lack of solid surfaces on the bottom of the east river when he’s trying to get his underwater sonar to work. Actually, it’s weird how much the character himself seems hellbent on reclaiming the past. Both in the river and later with Foggy, it’s like he’s actively trying to shake off the persona he’s carried forward the last five years.

And in my mind, that actually aligns this new version of Matt with the old one pretty well. Remember that early in Waid’s run, Matt’s change in attitude was intentional, almost put-upon by the character himself. Daredevil is a self-made man in every sense, including his ability to determine his own attitude and the tone of his own stories.

That tone is amazing, by the way. Somehow Garney achieves a hardboiled look without sacrificing warmth. I keep coming back to that scene in the river, because it’s so distinctive, and places the reader in Matt’s mostly-blind perspective. The pages are dark, the panels irregular, and the shapes that do come through aren’t very informative. We’re left with almost an impressionistic view of Daredevil.

daredevil under water

There’s a real danger that these sorts of pages can come off feeling too design-y — especially with that Sin City-esque single splash of color that Drew referred to earlier. I’m struggling to identify what the quality is that keeps it from feeling too distant and cool, but I’m not sure I can put my finger on it. Perhaps its the newsprint effect that aggressively shades everything, granting the characters a real sense of shape that isn’t present in Miller’s work?

But if I had to narrow it down to one thing I’m most excited for? How about the simple, terrifying image of a man with ten fingers on each hand. Dear god, that’s a scary motherfucking villain. Point of clarification: does he just have that many fingers or has he been collecting them from his acolytes and attaching them to his hands?

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?

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17 comments on “Daredevil 1

  1. The art in this is truly amazing. Daredevil has managed to get some great art teams over the years.

    The writing? Honestly, it isn’t the comparison to Waid I’d be focusing on, but Bendis. Heavy emphasis on noir storytelling with fantastic art that serves to emphasize that very tone? That is the Bendis version through and through, and the fact that Soule is beginning by removing Bendis’ biggest contribution to Daredevil, the reveal of his identity, makes the comparison more meaningful (I really wish that they didn’t get rid of this, I always thought the forced unmasking and the implications was a fantastic choice for Daredevil, both in the traditional noir styling and Waid’s version).

    Now, Murdock’s role as a Defense Attorney has always been an important part of the mythos, especially after Frank Miller’s reinvention. It is for the same reason why Bruce Wayne is a major philanthropist. Because it helps orientate their moralities away from beating up poor people and more towards actually helping people. That’s why I was hesitant about the idea of Matt Murdock being a district Attorney. Now he is all about beating up poor people, first as Daredevil, then as Assistant District Attorney. Having the two of them work so closely (Matt Murdock actually threatened to remove his aid) feels like it is falling into the same trap that the Daredevil TV show did, and treating Daredevil’s status as a superhero as almost a blank cheque to not care about morality.

    I just compare this to Bendis, who had Matt Murdock defend high profile cases and help others, even as he tried to deal with the immediate aftermath of his identity being revealed. THere was a real sense that despite the horrible world Daredevil lived in, that he was a true hero in Bendis’ Daredevil. I don’t think there is here.

    Blindspot is an amazing idea, though. Invisible sidekick to go with the man who can ‘see’ invisible people.

    • Damn, Bendis and Maleev’s Daredevil was compulsive reading. Just read the entire first omnibus, and remembered that I need to purchase the second and third omnibuses soon. Wish Bendis could replace Guardians of the Galaxy with something like that again. Perfect world? Give him Detective Comics, to do Daredevil/Alias style stories all about exploring Gotham from a real street level. But he’ll never leave Marvel.

      The hard thing about comparing Bendis to Soule is that Soule is just starting his run. I mean, I have no idea what Tenfingers is going to be like, but having read Silke’s entire story, I am familiar exactly with the fascinatingly subversive way that Silke’s villainy manifests. Though it wasn’t really possible for Soule to give Tenfingers an introduction as good as Silke’s (quite simply, you can’t introduce your first villain leaving the Kingpin for dead unless you really have a plan with the Kingpin), it would have been nice to have Tenfingers be something else than just a generic crime lord. Make him a villain who in interesting for a reason outside his choice of assassin.

      But the real important thing here is the character himself. Soule’s Daredevil in the first issue is more heroic than Bendis’, as Soule’s save the life and beats up thugs, while Bendis’ is punching a man and threatening to kill him. Though to be fair, that is a Daredevil who is chasing an assassin who launched a terrorist attack that hurt Foggy and killed many others, after making clear that the attack was done to target Matt Murdock. We can cut him some slack. THe more interesting thing is looking at Matt Murdock the lawyer, as both make a strong emphasis of the legal elements. Because, honestly, it is the big thing that makes Daredevil, Daredevil.

      If we look at only first issues, to be fair to Soule, Bendis begins with the end of a major case. THe important plot point is that as they leave, they get attacked by an assassin, but Bendis makes a point to begin with Murdock’s closing arguments, and in doing so, defines his take on Daredevil. He positions Matt as a character of principle, as the defender of the little guy. And the fact that it is a big case is also important. Matt isn’t doing tiny things, he is taking on big bad guys and winning. So even as Bendis placed Matt is a dark noir world, it was a world where Matt was a hero first and foremost.

      Soule has gone another route, with him as a prosecutor. Now, while Soule, just like Bendis, opens the comic with an act of protecting the weak, he protects the weak as Daredevil. As Matt, he is blackmailing a man into doing what he wants with the threat of his life, and I don’t think I appreciate that. Is there really a reason for Daredevil not to be a hero? Ever other Daredevil comic I have read truly approached Daredevil as a man without fear. A man who never compromises, no matter how hard it got. Even when it was hard not to compromise.

      Having Matt compromise like this, having him fall into grey instead of constantly fighting to stay in the light, feels like falling into the boring cliche. The idea of Marvel returning to this sort of noir is something that really appeals to me, but I don’t think Soule has it right

  2. So am I allowed to admit that this is a really well written comic with great art that I enjoyed and look forward to reading more of, but also admit that I really, really miss the tone, status quo, and supporting cast of the Waid/Samnee run? I miss the Foggy friendship and I miss Kirsten and I’m sad that everything Matt fought so hard for at the end of that run has been completely undone. Because that’s my exact feelings about this issue.

    Also, Drew, are we sure that’s Blindspot standing with Ten-Fingers on that final page? I didn’t think so until I read your piece. We never see Blindspot out of costume, and the only part of Blindspot we can actually see, his hair, looks nothing like Ten-Fingers’ assistant.

    • You have a point that it may not be Blindspot, but I read the comic in the same way as Drew. The story is structured in a way that, despite the art’s stylization making it hard, is meant to make you infer that it is Blindspot. They mention that he comes from Chinatown, they intentionally cast doubts about whether you can trust him, then they dedicate a last page to revealing a generic crime lord and his enforcer, and they focus more on his enforcer. All things suggest that the enforcer is Blindspot. Even as someone who didn’t care for the issue and think it is falling into the same traps as the Daredevil TV show, Soule is too good of a writer for it not to be Blindspot

      I remember seeing people complain about Waid’s run early on, because they missed the pulpy noir of Daredevil, and would rather get a story like Waid and Samnee’s from another hero. And that’s the thing. As much as we love to talk about following creators not characters, we do fall in love with the characters and the tone, and see the character go through a massive change like that can be hard

      As much as I love creators doing stuff like that, that’s the problem with doing something like what Waid did. When you deviate from the status quo like that, eventually someone will come back and ‘correct’ it. Daredevil will always be this, even if, for a couple of years, it wasn’t. Daredevil can’t escape Frank Miller

      Honestly, this is the biggest case where the 8 month timeskip actually as a really serious impact. Other comics, even as they introduce new, sometimes radically new, status quos, feel like natural developments. This doesn’t. There is a massive story missing. And while I am sure Soule is going to explain that story at some point, it feels like it would be better to show us the big Daredevil epic we missed, instead of just alluding to wiping everyone’s minds (especially as at the moment, it just feels like Soule has created a massive get out of jail free card for his comic, which just isn’t good storytelling). What we have is a massive disconnect in a way that we don’t for anyone else. This is not a natural progression from Waid’s work

    • Decided to do a quick check to see if I could confirm, and Blindspot’s real name is Sam. Therefore, Blindspot is certainly the enforcer. Did the All-New All-Different Marvel .1 issue or whatever it was called gave us his name in the Daredevil section? If so, that would have made things more clear. If not, I personally thought the comic did a good job of pulling that twist, even without knowing his real name. Though naturally you disagree

    • It’s not his face that gave him away, the distinctive face on his shirt. We see it in the last panel from the opening scene (as Matt swings away), and it’s obviously the same shirt in that final page reveal.

        • It is funny how I manage to see all the subtle machinations behind the scenes that build up to the twist to the point that the last page reveal can’t be anyone but Blindspot, but miss all the obvious stuff. I feel really stupid

        • I think that’s why that face-on-the-shirt exists at all. Garney’s got a great gift for cool noir storytelling, but I don’t think there’s enough unique personality in any of the faces he draws for the audience to make the connection between Blindspot at the beginning and Blindspot at the end without the very obvious cue of that shirt.

  3. I really didn’t enjoy this, and that’s again due to missing the optimism of the Waid/Rivera/Samnee and friends era. Whilst their Daredevil strived to pull himself out of the darkness and despair, that wasn’t to say there wasn’t still darkness in the world or that Matt didn’t struggle for his mental wellbeing (see his depression post-Purple Man encounter). Soule’s DD and Murdock seem incredibly militant and belligerent; I agree with above where making him an attorney now sees him aggressive on both sides of justice.

    Waid’s Murdock was smart, charming and a little overconfident, but that made him an exciting yet flawed character. The dialogue in this new issue was so flat and generic. Soule also seemed to choose the option of violence where it wasn’t necessary: when DD saved the drowning kid, and could have disappeared, but decided on some brutal retribution because beating up people is… fun? It felt very right-wing, when our current political climate is lurching towards aggressive action. Hopefully Soule writes reflectively on this in further issues.

    The art was stylishly noir, with cool inks and popping reds, but I’m not attracted by grittiness when it tries too hard (see Zack Snyder’s DC movies). The tone ends up coming off as too serious which undermines dialogue and ideas that are a little more… comic booky. See: calling your sidekick “Blindspot” and all the corny lines surrounding that; having a yellow peril villain named Tenfingers. Though I did like the Daredevil Netflix show, despite its gritty crime underworld tropes, this issue ultimately tries too hard to capture the audience who watched that show. It’s a shame as I loved Soule’s She-Hulk run!

    • I’m totally with you about preferring the Waid / Samnee run – that’s generally the tone I want from my comics. However, I think it’s important to note that Marvel is giving us an awful lot of that tone elsewhere these days. In fact, “breathlessly optimistic” has sort of replaced “brooding” as the default state for their heroes. There are a few exceptions (like Karnak), but by and large, we’re mostly getting brighter re-vamps in Marvel comics now-a-days.

      I wonder if that’s another dimension of the “Daredevil” identity for me – that his series subverts my expectations of the genre at the time. I don’t go back further than Waid’s first #1, so I don’t have a connection to the Bendis or Miller or whomever runs that really established the character before.

  4. I’m about to reread the first omnibus of Bendis’ Daredevil (and I may make do a followup comment after the reread, if I have anything interesting to say). But I’ve got a question for everyone.

    When a creator starts their run of a character like Daredevil, how much responsibility do they have to be consistent tonally with what came before, and how much should they strive their own path? Now, many writers manage to do both. Aaron’s Thor is a great example of both. Strives its own both with Jane Foster as Thor and with his own big, distinctly his epic with the War of Realms, while having all the stuff a reader expects a Thor comic to have. But Waid intentionally ignored any responsibility, and did something completely different, with very little of what a Daredevil reader expects. He created a great comic (I will admit I have one very major issue with it that sunk the comic for me, despite the quality of everything else), and created a lot of fans of HIS version of Daredevil. And this has meant Soule has then made his own massive change to return Daredevil back to where he was. So Daredevil disappointed a lot of fans when Waid started for not being what came before, and now has disappointed a lot of newer fans again now for not being Waid’s Daredevil.

    So, how much responsibility does a creator have to be consistent with what came before? What responsibility did Waid have to be consistent with every other comic? What responsibility did Soule have to Waid’s run? To the runs of every other Daredevil writer?

  5. Cool! That’s like me – I only started reading comics three years ago when Waid’s run was on it’s twentysomething issue, so have no context for dark Miller or Bendis/Maleev. I agree that Marvel’s house style has largely moved in the lighter direction (which I too mostly prefer) and for their market they gotta diversify. Though Karnak and Vision have been some standout titles for me from recent Marvel, both featuring departures from each character’s tone/ status quo (but maybe Karnak was always a Rust Cohle figure? I don’t know). This Daredevil just didn’t capture that same level of elegance those titles do.

  6. Anyone else think the whole “Nobody remembers who Daredevil is anymore” thing is way too similar to One More Day/Brand New Day?

    • I certainly disagree with the choice to hide Daredevil’s secret identity again, as I thought Daredevil having to navigate a world where his identity was forcefully outed and lacking the protections that, say, Tony Stark has was a fascinating aspect of Daredevil, whether it was Matt Murdock suing the Daily Globe in the Bendis/Maleev comics, or walking around with a ‘I’m not Daredevil’ shirt in the Waid comics (though I guess it has to happen after Waid’s run, since Waid took the identity thing so far that Matt Murdock got disbarred, which kind of breaks Daredevil).

      But I think that it is unfair to compare it to One More Day. Yeah, by definition, any story point about Daredevil getting people to forget his Secret Identity is going to be comparable to One More Day, just like it is comparable to when the Flash got the help of the Spectre to get everyone to forget he was Wally West. And whatever happens at the end of the Truth story in the Superman comics to return him to his status quo. But that is because all of these retcons exist for the same reason. The writer did something that broke the character (The Flash’s identity being public, the impossibility to reconcile the fact that Spiderman is the archetypal teen hero and an adult with adult responsibilities and Daredevil unable to practice law in New York) and a big giant retcon had to happen.

      What makes this different to One More Day is that One More Day does it in a particularly terrible way. First, it failed to correct the underlying issue, as the problem with Spiderman isn’t that he is married. It is that the writers want to write Teen Spidey even as he is an adult (something that only now has been fixed with Parker Industries). Second, the entire storyline was poorly written and generally offensive, often straight up attacking fans. And thirdly, and most importantly, it does the retcon in a way that involves Spiderman doing the morally reprehensible. The real big problem with One More Day is that the retcon happens because SPiderman makes a deal with the literal Devil,

      Even as I am disappointed that Daredevil’s secret identity has been restored, I think comparing it to One More Day is very unfair

    • Before talking about what I think about this switch, I think i need to know what happened. That seems to be part of the ongoing story: “What did Matt do, and why does Foggy seem upset about it?”

      That alone makes it better than most peoples’ impressions of OMD.

      It could be awful. It could be. Soule trends towards not-awful, but everyone swings and misses at some point. But it’s not OMD yet.

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