‘Daredevil’ #1 Returns Matt Murdock to the Grit of Hell’s Kitchen [Review]
This week saw the release of Daredevil #1, one of the latest launches in Marvel’s All New, All Different lineup. Given the critical success of the previous volume, which featured a “lighter” take on Matt Murdock by Mark Waid, Chris Samnee, Javier Rodriguez, Joe Caramagna, et al, the new series, written by Charles Soule, with art by Ron Garney and Matt Milla, and letters by Clayton Cowles, came with high expectations.
Immediately, Daredevil #1 establishes its difference from the previous series. Whereas that series was visually based around Samnee's clean, clear lines and Rodriguez and Wilson's bright, varied colours, Garney and Milla’s art is immediately striking for how different it is. Garney’s art uses jagged and heavy line work that’s visibly more aggressive than the previous series.
Emphasizing this difference are Milla’s colours, which use a palette rooted in single spot colours dominating scenes. Daredevil-related scenes are, unsurprisingly, coloured in shades of red, simultaneously pairing with the confident ownership of Murdock’s narration --- this is his life, his city, his book --- as well as setting an ominous, bloody mood. A scene with Foggy Nelson is given a mournful blue, and scenes of Matt’s new career as an Assistant District Attorney are given a drab brown. Popping against all this are solid swathes of Matt’s costume and, occasionally, blood. Taken together, it’s one of the most visually distinctive books in the All New, All Different line-up.
If the look and feel is reminiscent of anything in the immediate past, it’s the Daredevil television series on Netflix --- likely not a coincidence. Just as that series portrayed a dark, gritty version of Hell’s Kitchen, Soule, Garney and Milla present a grittier Daredevil, with deep blacks, grimaces, and vicious fights with a group called the Church of the Tenfinger. The look of the book will also be familiar to fans of runs by creators like Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker and Alex Maleev.
These fans will recognize the tone of the book, too; a serious, drier Matt Murdock who’s cold to Foggy and isn’t above using his double life to threaten an informant. It’s a bit of a shock coming after the Waid/Samnee/Rodriguez run, but the art is top-notch and Soule, a practising lawyer, is certainly familiar enough with the legal milieu to project the book’s confidence.
If there’s an area where the book slips, it’s in how jarring the plot changes in the eight-month gap leading up to the new status quo are. Matt and Foggy bicker over something Matt did to make people forget his secret identity, and any signifiers from the previous series, like Matt’s girlfriend Kirsten McDuffie, are absent and unmentioned. There's no explanation of Matt's new role as an ADA or of his new apprentice, Blindspot, and while that's likely a deliberate decision to form a clean start, it means the reader has to take a lot on faith. We know Matt and Blindspot are fighting the Tenfingers, and that Matt and Foggy don’t get along, but little else.
Daredevil #1 is a visually striking book that confidently accomplishes the tough goal of distinguishing itself from an award-winning predecessor. Matt Murdock has a new fight; hopefully the why is coming.
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