Best Shots Review: MAN WITHOUT FEAR #1

Man Without Fear #1
Credit: Danilo Beyruth (Marvel Comics)
Credit: Kyle Hotz (Marvel Comics)

Man Without Fear #1
Written by Jed McKay
Art by Danilo S. Beyruth and Andres Mossa
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Credit: Danilo Beyruth (Marvel Comics)

Spinning out of the events of “The Death of Daredevil,” Man Without Fear #1 looks to be a table-setting piece for the upcoming Chip Zarsky and Marco Checchetto run on a relaunched Daredevil. But despite strong visuals, it’s a seemingly unnecessary rumination on who Matt Murdock is. Writer Jed McKay and artist Danilo Beyruth attempt to mine more story out of Matt’s tortured existence by examining the relationship of pain and fear to survival and friendship. The problem is a lack of forward thrust to the plotting and an inability by the writer to use the space he has to say anything new. There’s a bit of a mishmash in terms of approach as well that doesn’t really draw enough blood from this stone.

Foggy Nelson visits Matt in the hospital where he lies in a coma and keeps his friend company by talking to him about his own feelings about Matt’s superhero alter ego. But McKay only uses that as a way in transitioning eventually inside Matt’s own mind as he does battle with his own personal devils - a skinless Daredevil and his old yellow costume barely hanging over a skeleton together representing his will to survive. So what starts out as heartfelt words from an old friend devolves into a coma-induced nightmare that lacks the heart it might have maintained if we had stuck with with Foggy’s words throughout. McKay does attempt to weave them together but the big line in the book goes to Matt’s own narration and it falls a little flat: “I always ignored fear. Pushed it down. Down deep. But pain... pain I used. Pain kept me going.” It’s not a bad sentiment. It is central to Matt Murdock as a character. But that’s the most obvious of Daredevil observations. After all, Matt’s Catholic guilt and penchant for loss ensures that pain fuels everything he does. McKay doesn’t dig any deeper than stuff that’s been on the page for over 30 years at this point.

Credit: Danilo Beyruth (Marvel Comics)

Danilo S. Beyruth’s art helps elevate a basic script though. His characters are gaunt and scary - recalling Klaus Janson’s best work with the character. But also doing a very good job of subtly evoking different eras of DD as the nightmare switches Matt’s costume multiple times. There’s a real sense of horror from these pages because of the thin linework and the way so many of the backgrounds in the nightmare are black but punctuated by reds.

Kudos to Andres Mossa’s color work for really bringing out the most in the book. The sickly pale palette evokes the hospital setting and the fact that Matt Murdock’s health is failing. And as the script talks about survival, Beyruth’s demonic avatars of survival close in on Matt Murdock allowing Mossa to incorporate more of the bright colors in the hero’s costumes. It’s a subtle bit that helps underline the tone that the script is going for, and it helps the book work a bit better as a whole.

Credit: Danilo Beyruth (Marvel Comics)

Overall, it just feels like Man Without Fear is killing time waiting for the next run with the character to begin. It doubles down on what makes Matt Daredevil and vice versa, but it’s not really doing anything we haven’t seen before. It’s cool to see the character coupled with more horror imagery than we’re used to, but it’s hard to know exactly who this is for. Diehards will feel like this is well-trodden ground at this point, while new readers are forced to make a lot of inferences about recent events to get a handle on the story. Despite going for it visually, Man Without Fear feels woefully indifferent, and that’s probably the worst thing a piece of art can be.

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