Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Marco Checchetto and Sunny Gho
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
There’s something about Matt Murdock’s adventures that brings out the best in writers - Frank Miller, Ed Brubaker, Brian Michael Bendis, and Mark Waid just being a few - and clearly that magic touch has extended to Chip Zdarsky, who teams up with Marco Checchetto to deliver an accessible and intelligent debut in Daredevil #1.
Matt Murdock may be back on his feet, but does that mean that Daredevil is truly back in fighting form? That’s the question that Zdarsky seeks to answer in this first issue, but before he can do that, he smartly establishes what kind of person the Man Without Fear is. A man with irresistible magnetism towards the opposite sex? Check. A Catholic who grapples with his faith in God and the law? Check. A vigilante whose body might just fail him when he needs it the most? Big old check. The only element of Matt’s life that Zdarsky doesn’t incorporate is Matt’s life as a lawyer - traditionally the first thing that gets jettisoned in any major run on this series - but I’d argue that Zdarsky’s flashback scenes exploring the overlap between religion and the law more than make up for it.
But it’s these internal conflicts, that dramatic irony, that makes Zdarsky’s Daredevil so appealing - and perhaps so subversive, given that he’s not looking to reinvent the wheel stylistically the way so many other creators have done in the past. Because Matt Murdock is a man of contradictions - he’s the kind of guy who picks up the most beautiful girl at a bar, but not because of her looks. He’s the kind of guy who stops a robbery, only to wind up escalating things far beyond a simple breaking and entering. He’s the kind of guy who quotes scripture in order to justify seeking out violence night after night. How could that guy not be interesting?
Marco Checchetto, meanwhile, draws as impeccably as ever. There’s a real sense of beauty to his linework that makes Daredevil smolder off the page - in fact, one might argue that Matt Murdock winds up stealing the show from his masked alter ego, with small but substantial moments like the shadows from Matt’s windows covering his eyes like a domino mask. Checchetto is also a natural for portraying the kind of fluid combat that an acrobatic ninja like Daredevil would require, the way his hands twist into claws as he goes toe-to-toe with a robber.
That said, there might be two things that hamper the momentum of Checchetto’s artwork just a hair: the first being that while Zdarsky focuses a ton on character, he doesn’t really lean into the unique and interesting visuals that Daredevil’s radar sense provides. The second is Sunny Gho’s colors - all the scenes with Matt are moody and strong, but the moment Daredevil suits up, the colors feel almost a little too traditionally bright and superheroic, giving the action some nice energy but at the cost of the tone and weightiness of the series.
That all said, Zdarsky and Checchetto are walking a tightrope for this new series, and they largely stick the landing - not only do they have the expectations of a Miller, Bendis, Brubaker, or Waid run to live up to, but they also have to incorporate the tone of the recent Netflix series, which might be the most popular version of the Man Without Fear among the general public to date. Those who are looking for an entry point to Daredevil’s adventures will find a lot to love in this jam-packed debut, which goes a long way towards painting a picture of the complex figure Matt Murdock has become over the years. The jury’s still out over whether or not the Man Without Fear’s return will have the legs of this series’ iconic previous runs, but the potential of this debut issue is undeniable.