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Frank Miller is, of course, something of a comics legend and his reinvention of Daredevil is, alongside Dark Knight Returns, one of his most important pieces of work. The latter is a graphic novel, telling a contained Batman story with a unique concept. Miller's Daredevil, on the other hand, is a long run on a comic that just got better as Miller took over writing duties (as such, you can skim over the first 10 issues or so), tweaked the central concept of the comic and sloly learned what would and would not work. This volume collects everything on Miller's main run (he returned for ore later) and its quite a hefty, involved, but not complicated read. One storyline seamlessly integrates and then flows into the next and it becomes rather difficult to put down.
Why is this such a great comics run? Firstly, Millers artwork is so fluid and dynamic. He doesn't just draw the action, he brings it to life dynamically - its not even like watching a movie, its better. I've still yet to see comic artwork that matches Miller's for pacing and movement across the page...and it adds to the thrill of the story exponentially. Secondly, Daredevil as a character faced a whole load of stock villains and baddies prior to Miller's run....Miller stripped the story of those, added ninja's elektra and gang warfare, changing the tone to a hardbolied one that has pretty much stuck ever since. His storywriting is as fluid as his art and the two just go together perfectly.
This is a whopping volume at a whopping cost - but if you're interested in these its the only way to buy it. Once you get started, you'll race through to the end, run out and buy Miller's Daredevil Companion
Daredevil is a Marvel superhero who's been around since the 1960s. Marvel's earliest characters are generally characterised by angst. The reason they managed to be more successful than their rivals DC at the time was because their superheroes had personal problems. DC's characters were all squeaky clean with no doubts at all about their vocations. Typically, if a bizarre accident involving lightning and some chemicals gave a DC character the ability to run very fast, his first thought would be something like "Oh, great, what a stroke of luck. Now I can use my new found abilities to fight the scourge of crime." By contrast, Marvel's characters had problems. Some hated being superheroes at all (The Hulk, The Thing), and most others had some kind of problem hounding them (Spider-Man was consumed by guilt, the X-men were persecuted because they were mutants, Iron Man had a serious heart condition etc.). In creating Daredevil, Marvel probably took this about as far as it could go. Daredevil, a lawyer called Matt Murdock, is blind. An act of childhood heroism that somehow involved him being doused in radioactive waste gave him hugely enhanced extra senses, but without the ability to see. For some reason he chose to dress up in a nice red costume and fight crime. He was basically Marvel's version of Batman - a guy who dressed up in a costume to fight crime, with no actual powers apart from his supersenses, just very good at fighting. And, like Batman, he tended to stay away from the gaudy supervillains and fight more ordinary looking criminals. Since the series has been going for thirty-odd years, I haven't read that many of the total number of Daredevil stories. There have been a few times when the character has been well written, though, and these are now available as graphic novel collections (or will be very soon), so those are the ones that I'll be giving my opinion of here. In the early Eightie
s the artwork on the series was taken over by Frank Miller. He pretty soon graduated to writing and drawing, and finally to just writing. His art style wasn't like anything that had been seen in superhero comics before - he was influenced by Japanese Manga artwork, and managed to fuse that with the more traditional US superhero art style as pioneered by people like Jack Kirby. Miller's art on Daredevil isn't anything like as interesting as it was to become in Ronin, The Dark Knight Returns or Sin City, but you can definitely see the roots of his later, more stylised work in these early issues. It wasn't just the art that made his early work on Daredevil stand out from the crowd. The stories Miller told were fairly revolutionary for their day. Daredevil starts fighting drug dealers, for instance. Organised crime, as personified by the Kingpin, a big fat bald mob leader, becomes halfway convincing for the first time in Marvel's history. One story even deals with rape, albeit very obliquely. This attempt to introduce something resembling realism into a superhero comic was a new idea at the time. Miller's Daredevil stories are amongst the first of a trend that was to influence superhero comics throughout most of the Eighties and early Nineties (and is still fairly widespread today). There were a few other firsts, as well. Miller looked at Daredevil's origin story and decided it was lacking. He introduced the idea that Daredevil received ninja training as a young man (Miller loves ninjas - check out the later Sin City stories and Elektra Assassin if you don't believe me.) This allows Miller to introduce a character named Stick, a grumpy old blind man who happens to be the most advanced martial artist on the planet. This is the first example I'm aware of of what became a popular phenomenon in superhero comics - changing people's origins to make them more interesting. It isn't as extreme a revision as Alan Moore
later achieved with Swamp Thing, but unlike many that were to follow, at least the Daredevil one made sense. Miller also introduced the character of Elektra. A sexy female ninja who'd apparently had an affair with a younger Daredevil, she quickly became a favourite character with fans. Miller then committed the ultimate sin in the eyes of these fans - he killed her. And she didn't just die in an explosion or some other typically contrived superhero way. She was beaten by a villain, who rammed one of her own swords through her chest in a surprisingly graphic sequence the time. Miller obviously likes the character, as he's written two other graphic novels about her. She was eventually resurrected by Marvel - at time of writing, a new series of her adventures is imminent. But, at the time, her death carried a real emotional punch - it was too much for some fans. Legend has it that Miller received death threats after killing her off. In spite of the fact that they're ground-breaking and of enormous importance in the development of mainstream comics, Miller's Daredevil stories haven't really aged well. The last story he wrote (about The Kingpin destroying Daredevil's life as Matt Murdock before allowing the character to redeem himself and ultimately win through) is excellent - for once we're shown that heroism doesn't just mean beating up lots of thugs, but can be found by facing one's own inner demons, and the denouement of the story is particularly satisfying. But the earlier stuff doesn't really stand up too well. Part of the problem is that Miller wasn't often allowed to say what he wanted to - comics were far more strictly censored in those days, (Miller's work on Daredevil is part of what forced the censorship to relax). But Miller wanted Daredevil to kill someone at some point - an action that would have been entirely consistent with the characters and situation involved, and which wo
uld have worked on a number of levels beyond simple shock value. Miller wasn't allowed to have Daredevil kill anyone, but that just goes to show that people are better off working on their own characters rather than franchises owned by large companies. On the whole, unless you're interested in the development of comics as an art form, there's no real reason to check out Miller's earliest Daredevil stories. His entire run on the comic is collected in three graphic novels (not all have been released yet) - the third one will definitely be worth getting hold of, but the others are not essential. Miller also wrote an excellent mini-series, The Man Without Fear, which is an extended version of the origin of the character. Since then, I've generally stayed away from the series. However, recently there have been a few stories that I've checked out. The series was stopped, and then relaunched (from issue one) under the "Marvel Knights" imprint (more adult-themed versions of some of Marvel's characters). The writer on the first eight issues was Kevin Smith, of Clerks and Mall Rats fame. I got that story out of curiosity, and it isn't bad. The artwork by Joe Queseda is excellent, and there's a pleasing attempt to stay away from the usual rigid panels on the pages. The story is also fairly compelling. It actually ends up being a replay of Miller's last story, where a mysterious enemy is plaguing Daredevil through his Matt Murdock identity, although Smith also cleverly weaves in a lot of religious themes (Daredevil is apparently a Catholic). There are some criticisms, though. Firstly Smith is an incredibly wordy writer. Not that words are a bad thing, of course, but this is a comic, and I sometimes wish he'd written a little less and shown a little more. Also, the story is a bit too mired in old continuity for my liking. I vaguely remember the various characters who make cameos in the story from m
y childhood comics, but I think that Smith (a fanboy if there ever was one) relies a little too heavily on them. The revelation of the final villain, for instance, would have had a bit more weight if I'd known who he was (although the character is used well). Well, I suppose that's my fault for not having read any Marvel comics for about ten years. Smith also ladles on the suffering and angst a bit strong (I'm afraid some of the stuff about Daredevil's girlfriend just made me giggle - it followed too much other hardship for me to take seriously). But on the whole this is an entertaining story, and I'm sure long-term fans of the comic would love it. Again, it's available as a graphic novel. I'm currently buying Daredevil again, as it's being written by Brian Michael Bendis, an extremely good writer who's obviously been heavily influenced by Miller, but manages to make you not notice too much. He writes the best dialogue in comics, and, while his Daredevil stuff so far isn't his best work, it's certainly good enough to keep me buying it (Bendis will also be writing the new Elektra series). So anyway, that's Daredevil. Frank Miller's later stuff is truly fantastic, but it's more the historical importance of his work on the title that makes it interesting. I'd suggest reading his Batman graphic novels instead, and Sin City, and Elektra Assassin, and Give Me Liberty, but if you do enjoy those then you should look into Daredevil as well. Sorry, this opinion is far too long. I got a bit carried away.
Daredevil has been given a makeover, as of late. A few years back Marvel Comics started an imprint line called 'Marvel Knights', where cutting edge creators would take new looks at existing Marvel characters in miniseries'. Daredevil was the most successful of the Marvel Knights imprint, and as of such has now been brought into Marvel main to continue as an ongoing series. Daredevil is Matthew Murdock, a lawyer in New York City who lost his sight at an early age. The same accident which gave him his blindness also endowed his other four senses with superhuman boosts, creating a superhero in the process. Now, Matt Murdock continues his fight against crime outside the courtroom as the red costumed fighter known as Daredevil. Daredevil is, in a word, astounding. The first eight issues of the new series were written by none other than Kevin Smith, the film-maker of such efforts as 'Chasing Amy' and 'Dogma', to name a few. Smith shows an obvious love for the character and an excellent sense for how to write a good comic book story. Helped along by Joe Quesada on art in those eight issues, he crafted the superb tale of a child which makes Daredevil start questioning his beliefs. Is the child the son of God? The antichrist? Nothing more than a normal kid? As Daredevil tries to save the child's life he has to find out these answers, as well as fighting against one of his most deadly enemies, Bullseye, who can make any implement deadly in his hands. Along the journey Daredevil will lose one his closest friends - The death of whom has so far not been retconned as yet, which has got to be good news (Retcon stands for retro-active continuity - an example would be killing a character and then having them show up in another issue, with no reason for the resurrection. Marvel are infamous for doing this). There are lots of twists and turns in this storyarc, but to be honest it would be unfair to give them away. Res
t assured the story is great, and the art is nothing short of spectacular. The Kevin Smith/Joe Quesada run of Daredevil is now available in a collected edition, entitled 'Daredevil Visionaries - Kevin Smith'. After Smith left, the new storyline started. Daredevil becomes entangled with a deadly woman named Echo, who is in some ways a counterpart to Daredevil, as she is deaf but can copy perfectly any movement she has seen (Which makes her good in boxing matches, ballet... oh, and whupping Daredevil's butt). Daredevil slowly finds himself falling for the femme fatale out of costume, while in costume they are fighting to the death. For the first few issues of this arc, Joe Quesada was once again pencilling, while David Mack provides the story. For those that don't know, David Mack is the creator of the phenomenally successful comic Kabuki, which towards the later issues was painted by Mack, in beautiful colours, a comic so gorgeous that you could cut out any page and use it as a poster on your wall. It's interesting to see David Mack writing Daredevil, and it's even more interesting to see Quesada illustrating Mack's story. Quesada changes his style significantly, possibly at the request of Mack but more likely as a homage to his work. The result is Arty-Daredevil, kind of like Kabuki but at the same time strangely different. The latest storyline in the comics has suffered the same problem as the first eight issues - each issue is chronically late, months behind it's publishing schedule. Any further late and Marvel would be rivalling Joe Madureira's Battle Chasers (Which had more than a year between supposedly monthly issues, recently). With the issues coming out so far apart from each other, I can't help but feel that the story begins to slip as the reader forgets who is who and what has happened. Marvel has attempted to make up for this, with an on-time fill-in issue written by Quesada and
drawn by a new artist. Now that Joe Quesada has become Editor-In-Chief of Marvel, and as such has even less time than before to work on Daredevil, from this month the comic will be written by Bob Gale and illustrated by Mack, which should be a wonder to behold. Despite it's continuing lateness, it really is a crime not to pick up Daredevil when one sees it on the shelf. The expertly-crafted story and eye-popping artwork will have you begging for more.
Frank Miller's spellbinding scripts and pulse-pounding pencils herald one of Daredevil's greatest eras, just in time for the Kingpin and Bullseye's efforts to rob the Man without fear of everything he holds dear! Featuring the first appearances of Elektra, Stick and the Hand! The daring discovery that drew Ben Urich into Daredevil's domain of darkness! Such forgotten-yet-formidable foes as Death-Stalker and the Gladiator! Guest-starring the Hulk, the Avengers, and Power Man and Iron Fist! This work collects Daredevil No.158-191.