5 Must-Read Daredevil ComicsApril 9, 2015
With the new Daredevil TV show dropping on Netflix this Friday, interest in old Hornhead has arguably never been so great. If you are planning to dip into the comics to supplement the TV show, the good news is that there is an astonishingly large number of fantastic Darevil comics to choose from. I’ve picked out five of the most essential Daredevil stories to read.
Daredevil: The Man Without Fear (Frank Miller/John Romita Jr)
Honestly, the early issues of Daredevil by Stan Lee are a little rough. The definitive origin actually comes from Frank Miller, who clearly has a talent for origin stories for masked vigilantes inspired to fight crime by the bloody murder of one or both parents.
This book charts everything you’d want from a Daredevil origin story, from the accident that blinds Matt Murdock and gives him his powers, to his training by Stick and eventual move into crime fighting.
There are a couple of things in particular that I really love about this book. The entrance of Kingpin is absolutely incredible, immediately making clear that this is a seriously dangerous man who doesn’t think twice about committing the most appalling of crimes.
But the thing that really sticks with me is the way that, in just a couple of panels, Miller and JRjr capture the frankly unhealthy relationship Matt has with his home town. In the story, he has escaped to Boston, kicked the habit of Hell’s Kitchen. But when he is brought home for a case, it’s like an addict falling off the wagon. The city is under his skin, and he cannot escape it. This is really a huge part of the Daredevil character, and I love just how sordid it feels.
Born Again (Frank Miller/David Mazzuchelli)
The Man Without Fear may be the best version of Matt Murdock’s origin story, for my money Born Again is Miller’s best Daredevil work. This may well be because it was the first Daredevil comic I ever read, and it just blew me away.
It’s worth noting just how bleak this comic is for the bulk of the story. Murdock’s life completelycollapses. His ex-girlfriend Karen Page sells his secret identity for a shot of heroin, and this information ends up in the hands of Kingpin, who takes it upon himself to take Murdock down. But he doesn’t do this by setting an assassin on him. No, he breaks him mentally, by freezing his bank accounts, getting his apartment repossessed, destroying his professional reputation.
I’d read stories with superheroes broken physically before, but the level of psychological abuse here was absolutely shocking, as was Matt’s descent into mental illness.
The use of faith is also incredibly striking in this book, and is now perhaps one of the most defining characteristics of Daredevil. As someone from an Irish Catholic background, it’s always been something that I’ve found has made me relate to Matt Murdock, and never more so than in Born Again.
The King of Hell’s Kitchen (Brian Michael Bendis/Alex Maleev)
I have never read finer superhero comics than the Bendis/Maleev run on Daredevil. The writing is terrific with all of Bendis’ usual entertaining quips and one-liners, but also plenty of genuinely moving dialogue. And the art is just sublime. Maleev’s style is scratcy, a little bit dirty, just perfect for the character and the setting. It’s gorgeous.
Honestly, you should probably buy the entire run (it’s handily combined in three ultimate collections), which covers what happens when Daredevil’s secret identity becomes public knowledge.
My favourite arc within the Bendis run though is The King of Hell’s Kitchen, in which Daredevil defeats the Kingpin and essentially takes over Hell’s Kitchen as the new Kingpin. It’s a fantastic story and includes some wonderful cameos from Spider-Man, Luke Cage and Dr Strange.
End of Days (Brian Michael Bendis/David Mack/Klaus Jansen/Bill Sienkiewicz)
End of Days is a Daredevil mini series set in the future, covering the death of Matt Murdock and what happens as a result. In truth it’s as much a Ben Urich story as it is a Daredevil story, as Urich attempts to write the definitive story on the death of his friend the superhero.
This book took years to put together, but it was absolutely worth it, with art by legitimate legends and an incredibly moving story about legacy, love and parenthood. Includes a brilliant running gag about Murdock’s incredibly complicated love life too.
Excitingly it looks like there will be a follow up focused on Punisher, who is a central figure in End of Days. I just hope we don’t have to wait years for this one.
Devil at Bay (Mark Waid/Chris Samnee)
Mark Waid is a genius. Daredevil as a character tends to lend himself to more serious, gritty and grimy stories. There’s a lot of heartbreak and tragedy. But Waid has managed to sculpt stories about Matt Murdock that are not only absolutely true to the character, but are flat out hilarious.
Devil at Bay is the first trade following Matt’s move to the West Coast to set up a new legal practice with his ‘friend’ Kirsten McDuffie. And it is absolutely brilliant. With his identity now public knowledge, and in a new setting, this is a more lighthearted Matt Murdock, taking selfies with fans and fighting crime with a smile and swagger.
Samnee’s art, particularly on facials, is incredibly entertaining, and the bright, vibrant colours are a real contrast to the other Daredevil stories mentioned in this piece. Just great fun.