Matt Murdock is “The Man Without Fear.” At least, that’s how he thinks of himself. But can anyone ever truly be without fear? Can we ever truly escape something that’s baked deep into the most primal corners of our lizard brains? That seems to be the question at the core of Man Without Fear #1.
This issue kicks off a new five-part follow up to the Death of Daredevil event late last year. Matt Murdock lies comatose, just barely alive, with this first issue playing out largely in his head. While Foggy watches over Matt’s body, there’s a battle on within Matt’s mind between himself and personifications of pain and fear. And, it seems Daredevil needs to learn more something about his relationship to these two forces before returning to the land of the living.
Man Without Fear #1 provides a story that is less action and more allegory. We see Daredevil wrestle with his demons—literally—in the form of a skeletal, corpselike Fear and a skinless, sinewy Pain. One promises to keep Matt safe, the other offers to help him. It’s unclear at first just what either really wants, though.
Jed MacKay offers us an interesting dive into what makes Daredevil tick. Is the man without fear really fearless? And what does it mean to be without fear?
Man Without Fear #1 reads like a proverb. Matt takes on Fear and Pain like a Buddhist monk confronting Mara, forcing him to grapple with these two forces. “Hell is not other people, Daredevil,” Fear tells Matt. “Hell was inside of us all along.” Only by coming to terms with this, can he really move forward.
Matt seems to realize something about his relationship to these two dominating sensations by the book’s end. It’s not clear yet, though, how that epiphany will impact the character moving forward. I’m definitely interested to see where MacKay takes us next.
“That electric stink of blood. That sound of bone grinding on bone. Oh lord, it doesn’t have any skin,” Murdock chillingly describes the visage of Pain. And the inks provided by artist Danilo Beyruth don’t disappoint in bringing such a horrifying creature to life.
Beyruth’s artwork brings a bit of an indie comic aesthetic to Man Without Fear #1. Most of the backgrounds are left to shadows or black voids, lending the book a stark and minimal look that fit the tone of the story well. That said, the minimal settings and designs focus our attention instead on the characters, and the artist doesn’t shy away from the grotesque when needed. The designs of Pain and Fear are eye-catching in the same way as Clive Barker’s Cenobites.
In terms of layout, Man Without Fear #1 is segmented neatly into symmetrical panels. Each panel hits the story beats effectively, though, so it never feels choppy, even when switching between settings.
The colors by Andres Mossa adhere pretty tightly to a black and red scheme. Green and tan hues break it up, but the muted tone used throughout keeps things coherent. It’s downplayed, but it works well with the linework, and helps provide a sort of dreamlike haze to everything.
Man Without Fear #1 is a great choice for longtime fans and for new readers alike. MacKay offers us a probing exploration of Daredevil as a character, backed by excellent artwork. I’d recommend it.