In an abrupt change of direction from the long era of misery, degradation and demonic possession that goes back through Brubaker, Bendis – and almost unbroken all the way to Frank Miller in the early 80s – Mark Waid brings Daredevil back into the sunshine with this new series. For once, starting again at number one seems almost justified. Or maybe they should’ve renumbered from 158 (Miller’s first issue) because this really is a return to the more light-hearted, swashbuckling style of the formative years of the title, when Gene Colan was the first Daredevil artist you could think of.
The new number one opens with a bright, colourful daytime scene in which Daredevil drops in on a mafia wedding at the Cloisters in upper Manhattan. We’re immediately a long way from the darkness of Hell’s Kitchen (although is Hell’s Kitchen really that bad a place these days?). Daredevil shows a breezy show-off athleticism and even flirtatious verve in stealing a kiss from the bride, telling her ’that perfume drives me wild!’
Matt Murdock’s back in New York and making a fresh start. He was outed as Daredevil, but he keeps light-heartedly denying it, making a joke of it in the hope everyone will forget the whole thing in the same way celebrity gossip fades.
Waid invokes that old law that says when superheroes meet they have to fight. Daredevil gets into an inconclusive tussle with Captain America,which seems to be the first step in re-integrating DD back into the Marvel universe – he’s also joining the Avengers – which might be exciting for some, but I expect I’ll drop out as soon as this title gets embroiled in the next mega-crossover.
But at the same time, Waid uses the ongoing Jobrani case to entwine Matt Murdock’s law practice with his superhero life. Murdock backflips off the top of a tall building still wearing his suit and on the way down we see his red-gloved hand toss the now-discarded business attire into a random open window. Transitions between everyday life and superhero adventure happen as suddenly and seamlessly as that. He uses his two guises to tackle the same case from different angles. Murdock and Daredevil inhabit the same locality instead of the superhero adventures happening in their own world.
The artwork by Paolo and Joe Rivera (and in issue 4 by Marcos Martin) is clean, smooth and bright, giving a fresh look and a new approach to depicting DD’s radar sense.
So everything’s fine except there’s nothing very exciting going on, the villains are strictly second rate and the Nelson & Murdock’s law firm seems pretty much how it’s always been. It’s an enjoyable, light, easy read, it looks lovely, but you can’t escape the sense that so far, after 4 issues, that the new team is still all about settling Daredevil down, re-setting the character and his world, reassuring the reader that nothing truly horrible is going to start happening to Matt all over again. That’s nice, but there’s got to be some danger and threat kicking in soon to shove this comic into top gear. There’s a lot of goodwill for this DD reboot, but it can’t remain merely pleasant for too much longer.
A video interview with Mark Waid about healing Daredevil.
And another one at an attorneys’ website that focuses on Matt Murdock’s day job.