Fresh Meat: Daredevil by Mark Waid, Volume 1

Daredevil written by Mark Waid, Volume 1, art by Paolo Manuel Rivera and Marcos Martin
Daredevil written by Mark Waid, Volume 1, art by Paolo Manuel Rivera and Marcos Martin
For years, crime fiction writers have used first-person narrators to describe the world around them. Hard boiled P.I.s would tell you what a seedy bar smelled like or what kind of body a suspicious dame had.

But what sort of insights into the world of crime would a blind narrator provide? How would he describe a lavish mob wedding? Or an impending assault by a group of heavily armed gunmen? In the upcoming Daredevil, Volume 1—a graphic novel collecting issues 1-6 from 2011—writer Mark Waid and artists Paolo Manuel Rivera and Marcos Martin answer those questions and more as they reintroduce Marvel Comic’s titular blind superhero.

Daredevil may be blind, but he’s got powers that let him make the most of the visual medium of comics. That’s because the freak accident that blinded Daredevil as a child heightened his other senses to superhuman levels. It also endowed him with a radar sense that allows him to piece together a limited visual representation of the world.

Daredevil: A courtyard filled with tuxedos, gowns, and folding chairs that creak like wooden ships.
Daredevil: A courtyard filled with tuxedos, gowns, and folding chairs that creak like wooden ships.

In the first couple of pages, these abilities are demonstrated as Daredevil infiltrates a mob wedding to try and foil a suspected hit. Later, readers take a walk with Daredevil and his best friend, Foggy Nelson, through the streets of New York, and we see how he perceives the city. These are just some of the breathtaking and visually exciting ways in which Waid and his artists bring Daredevil’s world to life.

Super senses are just one part of Daredevil’s unique perspective, though. He’s also unique among Marvel Comics crimefighters, because he battles injustice on the streets and in court under his civilian identity as attorney Matt Murdock. Unfortunately, word of Matt’s activities as Daredevil has leaked out. There’s no concrete proof, but that doesn’t stop rival attorneys from complicating his legal cases by accusing him of being a costumed vigilante.

Matt’s legal problems come early on, but in the latter half of the story, he comes up with a unique and innovative solution to his problem that still allows him to lend his legal expertise to people in need.

In the second story, Matt Murdock’s activities on the streets and in the courtroom collide as he takes on a client who has been marked for death by a shady investment firm. Daredevil investigates and uncovers a conspiracy involving the investment firm, a small corrupt European country, and several of the world’s top terrorist and criminal organizations. It involves real-world laws and illicit high finance. The way Waid weaves these ideas together makes perfect sense and gives you insight into how the Marvel Universe’s high-tech terrorist armies manage the money they use to buy things like energy weapons and killer robots.

Daredevil Volume 1 by Mark Waid: Flags of Convenience

Another thing that might make some readers wary is the fact that Daredevil is a character created in 1964, so he has quite a bit of backstory. You don’t need to know any of it though to pick up and enjoy this graphic novel though. In the first few pages, you know who the character is, what he can do, and what makes him tick. Some of his recent adventures do come into play in one of the stories in the book, but not in a way that requires new readers to do homework. All the backstory is laid out for readers in a fun and easy-to-understand way that only adds to the story.

Now courtroom drama, fast-paced action, and intriguing characters is a pretty potent combination. But in fact, the issues of “Daredevil” that this volume collects had some of last year’s most highly acclaimed art, too. (Comic Book Resources named Daredevil #1 in its top 100 comics of 2011.) Even with all that going for it, I imagine there may be some readers reluctant to try it. If it’s because you think the adventures of a superhero aren’t really crime fiction, you should think again. Daredevil is one of Marvel Comics’ premier street-level vigilantes. Sure, there are some fantastic elements to his adventures, but more often than not, he’s battling some type of crime on the mean streets of New York or injustice in one of the city’s courtrooms.

Those of you that pick up Daredevil, Vol. 1, will be treated to a  beautifully illustrated tale that combines the best elements of superhero stories, pulp crime tales, and courtroom dramas.

All images used with permission of Marvel Comics.

Dave Richards covers all things Marvel Comics for the Eisner Award-winning website Comic Book Resources and his book reviews and other musings can be found at his blog Pop Culture Vulture.

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