Forgetting Shadowland Already
Daredevil, the second of Marvel's new Big Shots Initiative, launches with this first issue and differs quite a bit from its preceding Big Shot, Moon Knight. Rather than presenting a new spin on the lead character, Mark Waid takes Daredevil back to basics without ignoring what has happened in recent years. Simply put, Waid just does Daredevil right.
Waid had me less than enthused about his Daredevil relaunch with his talk about getting the character back to his fun, swashbuckling nature. It is not that I think Daredevil should forever be buried in the grim and gritty crime noir atmosphere that characterized Brian Michael Bendis' and Ed Brubaker's excellent runs. Change can often be good. But the idea of shifting far away from that tone left the idea in my head that Daredevil would risk becoming more of a generic superhero, losing a lot of his unique appeal.
This does not happen here. As I said, Waid does Daredevil right. This does not feel like the previous runs by Bendis and Brubaker, but it is distinctly Daredevil. Waid simply reshuffles the characteristics of the character, putting the soul-crushing noir aspect in the back and bringing the lawyer, blind man and adventurer aspects to the forefront. Matt Murdock's career as a lawyer is a major factor in this story, which is refreshing since it feels like we rarely see Matt doing his job. Under Waid and the art team, Matt is also actually blind. That seems like a silly thing to point out, but one of my regular criticisms of Andy Diggle's Daredevil stories was how Matt was not written or drawn as a blind man. In this issue, the writers and artists actually take special care to portray Matt's blindness. It is there in the action scenes and in the internal narration. Matt is not making freaking eye contact with the people he talks to. It's refreshing.
Despite being a new start, there is baggage left over from Daredevil's previous series that Waid has to address, specifically Shadowland and Matt Murdock being outed as Daredevil. Waid tackles these matters in a dismissive fashion, and honestly, it works. Matt's conscious decision to go into denial about the hell his life had gone through even though no one else wishes to do the same does present a compelling new dynamic with Foggy Nelson and other superheroes. Waid's decision to treat Matt's identity as something that has had its fifteen minutes of controversy come and go is also smart, because it's true. Matt Murdock as Daredevil was a hot but ultimately unsubstantiated media story that could only last so long. Matt denied it was true, and Daredevil sightings continued even when he was in prison. The idea that the media would now be over it and that most people either don't care or don't believe it is a simple and believable way to handle the situation. Waid also does not sweep this under the rug, because a lot of this issue deals with people who either still think he's Daredevil or want to exploit the rumor for their own benefit.
Rather than the Hand or the Kingpin, this issue gives us the Spot. It is actually very awesome. The action scene between Daredevil and Spot is very well done, making Spot out to be a very credible and interesting threat. There is an amazing panel by Paolo Rivera showing how Daredevil perceives Spot too that is one of the best parts of the issue.
Daredevil's new swashbuckling, energetic behavior does push the limits at points, but part of that is the fault of just how dark the character has been written lately. Waid could stand to ease back on it a little in future issues, but it is nothing that really takes away from this one and is refreshing in its way.
This is a great new start for Daredevil that really helps you forget how bad his previous series ended with Shadowland. Waid's new direction for the character is definitely different from what we are used to, but it is not a dramatic departure from who Daredevil is. This is exactly what the character needs to get back on track.