Review: Daredevil #1 – Charles Soule Has Some Work To Do

DAREDEVIL (2015) #1
Published: December 02, 2015
Rating: Rated T+
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Ron Garney

Back in black and on his home turf, Daredevil begins again in New York City as a new enemy emerges. Meanwhile his alter ego, Matt Murdock, is on a new side of the law in the District Attorney’s office. Fighting crime in the shadows, prosecuting bad guys in the light, it’s a whole new chapter for our man without fear—including the arrival of the devil’s advocate. Welcome to Hell, Blindspot.

Daredevil has had a new slew of popularity thanks to his excellent new Netflix series. Like most comic book superheroes, the comics will make changes to the character to make him more like their current media adaptation. And now Daredevil’s outing in the “Post Secret Wars” Marvel Universe (which is ironic, because Secret Wars is STILL not over) has made its debut. It’s a darker, grittier, “noir” soft reboot of The Man Without Fear that’s more akin to the Netflix Series than his last series. However, how does the new book hold up? Is it a good step for the character’s evolution? Or has Daredevil taken a blind leap back?

I’d like to make a few disclaimers about this review, as I’d like to reveal any and all biases I may have before I get into the actual review.

First, Daredevil is my favorite Marvel character of all time. Quite possibly my favorite comic book character ever. So, I hold his comics to a higher standard than I do with most other comics. This is just how I am, and how I treat the character. I imagine that most superhero fans have that one character that they are the most anxious about, and have the most love (and criticisms) towards.

Second, I have not read the new Secret Wars crossover event, and I absolutely refuse to read it. I know people have said that it’s pretty good, but it doesn’t interest me at all. So, if there’s any specific information revealed in Secret Wars about Daredevil or the new universe Marvel created, then I don’t know what it is.

Third and last disclaimer. I was a HUGE fan of Mark Waid’s previous ongoing series, and will be referring to that as this new series is supposedly a continuation of that Daredevil. So there will be a lot of spoilers ahead. With all that being said, let’s take a look at Daredevil #1 written by Charles Soule and drawn by Ron Garney and Matt Milla.


Spoilers Ahead

The first thing to note about the book is the artwork. While I’m not a huge fan of Daredevil’s new black and red costume (what is with the spikes on his emblem?) and a lot of the characters look the same in their facial features, Ron Garney, and Matt Milla’s art is fantastic. It’s a nice change of pace from most of Marvel’s current cartoonish style (which isn’t bad by any means) by creating a grainy muted look. It looks like how an old pulp, noir story should look. The backgrounds are specific and unique, there’s a great use of negative space in certain scenes, and the color red is highlighted to give an artistic pop to the dreary atmosphere the book creates.

However, my praise for the book begins and ends with the art.

The story is cluttered, confusing, and raises so many questions. This where I have to go back to the Mark Waid run of Daredevil, because there’re a lot of inconsistencies with the current story. At the end of Mark Waid’s run, Matt Murdock revealed his identity to the world, and even wrote an autobiography detailing his life as a costumed vigilante. He embraced both sides of his identity and worked hard to beat his depression. Foggy Nelson beat cancer, and strengthened his friendship with Matt Murdock even further. He even had a fun, intelligent, and hilarious new girlfriend Kristen McDuffie, who won the “I dated Daredevil and didn’t go insane or die” award.

So. In this new book, Daredevil has his secret identity again, Kristen McDuffie is gone, and Foggy Nelson is at odds with Murdock. Now if this were a new universe with new rules (à la DC’s “New 52”), I wouldn’t have any questions, because hey it’s a new universe. But, this book has a scene with Foggy and Daredevil talking about how Daredevil somehow got his secret identity back.

Foggy is not happy.

So, what the hell happened?

Did Daredevil make some deal with Mephisto? Did something happen in Secret Wars? Did the editors get drunk and stop caring about established continuity? Charles Soule never gives us a straight answer (possibly because Marvel’s editors haven’t figured out the story yet), and I wouldn’t harp on this so much if Marvel’s editorial didn’t constantly mention that everything that has happened after Secret Wars is not a reboot. So since this a continuation of Matt Murdock’s story, then it seems like it would be wise to give long reading fans some information that fill in the gaps.

I don’t mean to add fire to the ever-burning “Marvel vs. DC” fire, but DC did something similar and a lot better with one of their crossover events. After the book Infinite Crisis ended, all the current issues jumped one year in the respective DC timeline. However, they showed what happened in that year with the excellent 52, which not only filled in all the gaps, but told a fantastic story that focused on most of DC’s smaller characters. Perhaps Marvel should have done something similar with Secret Wars.

But, admittedly everything written about the continuity is just coming one bitter fan. And established continuity isn’t always the deciding factor with a comic in most cases. Hell, I would be disappointed if Charles Soule didn’t try his own unique story with the character. That’s exactly what Mark Waid did. (Although he did take the established continuity into account, I digress).

So, instead let’s look at this book as a potential jumping off point for new readers. Perhaps readers who were huge fans of the show Daredevil. This book still doesn’t work as it creates an unlikeable Matt Murdock who is no longer a defense attorney, but an assistant district attorney. His outlook seems colder and uninterested in the lives of those who may be affected by crime. And as mentioned before, Daredevil’s friendship with Foggy Nelson is nonexistent. It’s a complete contrast to what’s been set up in the show, and the only real connection at this point is that the artists smartly designed Matt Murdock to look like Charlie Cox.

Also, I just can’t help, but think his design is really boring.

There’s also a new vigilante named Blindspot, who has like three lines of dialogue altogether and the ability to turn invisible and is being trained by Daredevil. A new generic Asian themed gang, and a big reveal at the end that Blindspot has something to do with the villains, we’re not sure who he is as a character, so it doesn’t really have any weight behind it. And while the story may move on, it doesn’t really feel like it’s going anywhere at this moment. There’s not much else to say about this comic, because it just doesn’t feel like it’s doing anything different or evolving the character of Daredevil. And if the point of this book is to introduce Blindspot (which would be awesome to introduce a new Asian superhero into the market) then it failed at that too, because Blindspot was blander than the color of my living room in this book. Diversity and representation are important guys, so don’t half-ass it!

It feels like Charles Soule is trying to go back to the grim and gritty style Daredevil is known for, but it feels like something is holding him back from making this his own work. Maybe it’s because of the continuity earlier, or the Secret Wars mumbo jumbo, or that everything that’s supposed to be unique about the book just come off as generic and uninteresting. The new vigilante is dull and underused, the villains have no weight behind their threats or actions, and the conflict between Daredevil and Matt just feels random. While this could have been a unique story that brought in new readers, it just feels off-putting as it references past stories without giving enough details, changes the public consciousness of the character, and reimagines him as an unlikeable, boring, vigilante with nothing new for him.

Overall, this comic has great art, but not a great plot to work with and definitely needs some changes to keep new readers.

Nick Enquist
Nick Enquist
Nick Enquist writes opinion pieces and reviews of comic books, movies, and TV shows for Monkeys Fighting Robots.