Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Character Issues: Daredevil

Blind to good Daredevil stories? Let me show you the way!

With the success of the Netflix series of the same name, it's quite safe to say that the blind defender of Hell's Kitchen has returned with a vengence, at least in the mainstream public eye. Despite the horrible sin against the character that was the Ben Affleck led movie, Daredevil has been one of the more consistently well-written superheroes in Marvel's repertoire, enjoying runs from numerous superstar creators and artists, with very few and far between bumps in the road in his long-spanning comic career. For those interested in learning more about the character and/or looking for good stories with him, I've created this list consisting of my recommended reading on the character.

Frank Miller's run   Daredevil # 158-191

Though the man has become a massive horribly offensive joke these days, it's hard to deny the excellence of Frank Miller's time with Daredevil as a writer. He was the artist on the book for the first nine or so issues, but once he takes over as writer and ditches the traditional serialized approach in favor of longer story arcs the book really comes into it's own with an epic grudge match between Daredevil and the Kingpin, cemented their status as arch-rivals destined to clash for eternity with their respective friends and loved ones falling into the crossfire. We also see DD's deadly first encounter with the mystical murderous ninja death cult known as the Hand, the entrance of DD's grouchy mentor Stick, and the much remembered tragic romance of Matt Murdock, and Elektra Natchios. The run is collected across three trade paperbacks titled Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller Vols 1-3

Darevil: Born Again   Daredevil #226-233

If you thought Frank Miller's first run on Daredevil brought a touch of darkness to Matt's life, you haven't seen anything yet as Miller returns to the book to torment old hornhead yet again. Murdock has hit the absolute rock bottom when the worst thing possible for a superhero occurs, his identity is sold out by one of his closest loved ones, and works it's way along the back alley channels to the man whom rules over all crime, Wilson Fisk: The Kingpin. Crushed financially, physically, and mentally and betrayed by practically all of his friends, Matt must fight to stay sane and not give Fisk his greatest desire in years, and this may mean DD will have to look heavenward for answers. This series has been collected in trades bearing the same name and are easily findable online or in comic stores.

Ann Nocenti's run   Daredevil #253-273

I must confess, I find Ann Nocenti's work to be quite bad most of the time, however boy does she really bring some A game with her run on Daredevil. After rebuilding and redevoting his life to a new free law clinic alongside Karen Page, things are finally looking up for Matt...well we can't have that now can we? Enter Typhoid, a new female vigilante with her eyes on cleaning up Hell's Kitchen with her own brand of lethal justice, to impress the Kingpin of course. Armed with psychic powers, pyrokinesis, and a deft machete wielding hand she's out to break the one thing in Matt that Fisk couldn't last time, his heart. 

I won't lie, not all is great in this run. Immediately after the Typhoid arc, there are two tie-in issues to the Inferno event (X-Men vs Teh Satan!) which was going on in the late eighties, and they are more along the lines of the work from Ann Nocenti I'm used to (chaotic, incomprehendible and flat out DUMB), but once you get the past those, we get a few decent road-trip issues that include the creation of Mephisto's son Blackheart, whom DD must team up with Spider-Man to face in a rather entertaining issue. Best way to read this run in it's entirety is with two trades, Daredevil Epic Collection: A Touch of Typhoid, and Daredevil: Lone Stranger.

Daredevil: Guardian Devil  Daredevil Vol 2 # 1-8

I've gone on record saying that I really don't like this book (see my review) but I've found that quite a lot of people really REALLY like this one and credit it for being the book that made them Daredevil fans, so I feel like I'd be doing a disservice to people looking into reading Daredevil by not including this one since they might also wind up liking it as well, and as much as I don't like Kevin Smith's writing (at all) I do really like Joe Quesada's artwork. I've already summed up this book's plot in my review, but just to follow formula, Daredevil comes into possession of a child seemingly born to a virgin and said to be both the reborn savior, and newborn destroyer. Split between both, DD must seek out the truth before succumbing the madness as a shadowy figure watches over the events. It's collected in a trade of the same name, and easily found in most bookstores.

Marvel Knights: Daredevil   Daredevil Vol 2 #16-19 #26-50 #66-81

Yet another example of a writer that I'm not normally fond of knocking it out of the park on this title, Brian Michael Bendis comes along and shows a remarkable talent for not just writing Daredevil excellently, but his supporting cast as well. In fact, the first arc follows not Daredevil, but his reporter friend Ben Urich as he searches for answers to help a traumatized child begin healing in a surreal psycho-thriller unlike anything I've seen before in mainstream comics. When we rejoin Matt we see that he has found love again in the fellow sight-impaired Mila Donovan, but their relationship seems to escalate a little too quickly which, along with the return of many villains long thought gone, proves to be stressful not just for Matt, but for Foggy and the others at the now rebuilt Nelson & Murdock as well. Tempers flare, rationality is lost, and with the media also catching on to Matt's secret, the status quo in Hell's Kitchen will never be the same again. Collected across three trade paperbacks titled Daredevil: Ultimate Collection Vols 1-3 by Bendis and Maleev, this run is quite lengthy, but immensely satisfying and entertaining, especially for those who loved the Netflix series.

Ed Brubaker's run  Daredevil Vol 2 #82-119

You know me, if he's had a run on the character I can't resist the urge to break out the prayer rug, face towards the North, and chant Ed Brubaker's name several hundred times in worship to this all-powerful god of comic book writing, and his run on DD is no exception to his astoundingly good track record. Imprisoned as a result of the fall-out of previous events and the Civil War crossover, Matt's world gets a bit darker as both him and the Kingpin scheme and plot against each other in the dank, violent cells and corridors of Ryker's Island, not knowing that they are both pawns in a game being played by a familiar face from the past. This run is also collected in three Ultimate Collections, but isn't quite as thick as Bendis' run.

Daredevil: End of Days   miniseries

Like Miller before him, Bendis returns to Daredevil to write an amazing story about Daredevil getting life ruined...well in this case, ENDED! Matt is dead, killed in a final clash against Bullesye to the shock and horror of many witnesses. Before the killing blow, Matt utters one final word, "Mapone" which leads a soon-to-be out of work Ben Urich to research Matt's final secret, and put his friend to rest; along the way he meets both friends and foes of the late Daredevil, all of which seem to be concealing something major about the superhero's life that Ben must discover before he finds himself joining Matt. It's collected in a trade bearing the same name, and is an excellent non-canon ending to the story of Daredevil ala The Dark Knight Returns.

Mark Waid's run  Daredevil Vol 3 1-36 All New Daredevil #1-18

Yet another of my favorite writers joins the group with this particular run, and he attempts to do what no other writers has dared to do...make Daredevil fun and light-hearted! And Waid succeeds in his endeavor with flying colors as we see a return to the silliness and weirdness of the Silver Age, mixed with some modern topics and issues as Daredevil battles classic villains such as The Spot, HYDRA, and even Fox News' favorite comic characters, The Serpent Society. It recently ended, but it's a good run for anyone unfamiliar with the character to start with, and is collected in a few trade paperback collection as well as larger hardcover editions as well.

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