Looking Back: Kevin Smith's "Guardian Devil" (Blog post)

#1 Edited by Reignmaker (2234 posts) - - Show Bio

Background

The year was 1998. My favorite professional athlete, Shawn Kemp, had parted ways with my city to go play for a lesser team for more money. Bill Clinton denied that he had "sexual relations" with a former White House intern. I was just beginning to learn how disappointing real-life heroes could be. On a lighter note, I was playing a lot of Starcraft.

During that time, Wizard magazine (anyone remember that mag?) had a feature it ran every month where it laid out the "must-reads" every month. Beginning in November and well into the next year, there was a lot of good things being said about this book Daredevil and its writer Kevin Smith. At the time I had a limited budget so I kept primarily to DC, but the Guardian Devil story arc has long since been on my list of things to read. Almost 15 years later, I finally got around to it.

I still consider myself a relative newcomer to the Daredevil. Previous to this, I've read Daredevil: Yellow, Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller #2 - Volume 2, Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller #3 - Volume 3, Born Again, and Daredevil: The Man Without Fear. Guardian Devil is just the start of my goal to read the entire second volume, which includes the Bendis and Brubaker runs.

Premise

I'm going to be honest, I didn't fully enjoy Frank Miller's stuff prior to Guardian Devil. Mainly because it came across as pretty dated by the time I read it. I have no doubt that there's some interesting stories that are essential reading to any hardcore DD fan, but I just don't feel like it's aged that well compared to some other stuff put out by the same writer.

The reason I mention Miller, is because Kevin Smith's Guardian Devil is closely tied to a lot of the plot threads already developed by Miller. Much of Guardian Devil's punch loses its impact if the reader is unfamiliar with the characters and some of the back-story involved. In this sense, I didn't feel it was a true reboot even though the issues were renumbered to start with #1 again.

Guardian Devil is similar to Born Again in that Matt Murdock is suffering from a very pointed, personal attack from an external tormentor. The story has some dark, religious overtones which are prevalent throughout the story. To begin with, he's given the charge to take care of a baby who's presented to him as the Savior of the world. Once the action gets going, it rarely slows down and the momentum carries the story all the way to the final issue, which is devoted to the aftermath. Many quintessential DD characters make an appearance in Guardian Devil: Karen Page, Foggy Nelson, Black Widow, Bullseye, Kingpin, and even Sister Maggie Murdock.

Good

Some people feel like Joe Quesada's art is a mixed bag, but I actually quite enjoyed it. It definitely has a cartoony feel to it and at times character expressions are little off-putting, but overall I think his art on this book was solid and at times beautiful to look at. While not quite on the same level as a Greg Capullo, the art reminded me of him because of the "dark meets cartoony" feel.

Some long-time fans of DD have told me that Kevin Smith's writing wasn't always true to the characters. Based on what I've read so far, I can't say that I saw anything here that was jarring. He does use a lot of talking bubbles, but unlike other older books it doesn't feel that the dialogue is out of place here. The beginning of the story is just aces - very compelling stuff. Smith may have been somewhat new to mainstream comics when he wrote this, but I feel that he ought to be commended for what he accomplished with this story - an entertaining tale that establishes the status quo for years to come.

Black Widow plays more of a supporting role in this story, but I have to say that Smith's treatment of Natasha has very much increased my interest in the character. She's given a lot of good speaking lines in this story and I'm interested to see how her character is utilized for the rest of the volume.

Ok, I need to address what happens with Mysterio. I know a lot of people weren't pleased with the way this story was wrapped up, and I have to agree that much of it felt tacked on. Not to mention almost the entirety of issue #7 is listening to Mysterio connect the mile-wide plot threads together. At first when I read this, my thought was "What a copout! He's not even a Daredevil villain! How could all this life-altering stuff that has happened to DD be the result of this simpleton?"

On further reflection however, I've come to realize that Mysterio's motivations are actually pretty realistic. In a world where we've seen multiple social misfits shoot up schools and movie theaters in an effort to be noticed, Mysterio's thinking makes much more sense. It's often the sad and pathetic who bring about the most pain to those around them, and sometimes it's for something as simple as recognition.

I also appreciated that an entire issue was devoted to wrapping up the story. Some major stuff happens here, and it's nice to see how all the different characters are affected. The appearance of Spider-Man at the end was also nice to see.

Bad

While entertaining, the story feels kind of out there (even for a comic book). It's going to ask you to suspend your disbelief and it doesn't do a lot to regain it. To some, the ending will feel cheap and tacked-on. Plot-wise, it kind of is.

Longevity

As I briefly mentioned before, many people have criticized Smith's writing for being too heavy-handed in this story. Frankly, I didn't feel that way. I'm also currently revisiting Kurt Busiek's Avengers run. Now THAT series has some serious text bubbles. Combined with Quesada's art, I think there's still a lot to enjoy here for the modern comic book reader. If you're interested in Daredevil, this isn't a terrible place to start, but I'd highly recommend that you read Frank Miller's stuff first since there's several nods to it throughout this. If you don't want to go back that far however, you'll probably still be ok.

I enjoyed Guardian Devil quite a bit and would award it 4 out of 5 stars. -1 for the handling of the overall plot, but it's still a solid entry in Daredevil lore.

#2 Posted by tupiaz (2172 posts) - - Show Bio

I would say you have to read Born Again before you read Guardian Devil if you don't it seems kind of unimportant events. Now I'm big fan of Guardian Devil and I haven't notice any out of character moments. However even though I see the similarities between Born again and Guardian Devil because Daredevil gets a personal attack. However I feel it is more homeage to a lot of DD story (even fucking Nocenti Mephisto story and D. G. Chichester's Daredevil) The ending is homeage to Kraven Last Hunt and nothing like Born Again.

#3 Posted by daredevil21134 (10965 posts) - - Show Bio

@tupiaz: D.G. Chichester is underrated as well

#4 Posted by daredevil21134 (10965 posts) - - Show Bio

@tupiaz: D.G. Chichester is underrated as well

#5 Edited by tupiaz (2172 posts) - - Show Bio

@daredevil21134 said:

@tupiaz: D.G. Chichester is underrated as well

Indeed Fall From Grace was a good story. Unfortunately I haven't read Fall of the Kingpin.

#6 Edited by Gambit1024 (9890 posts) - - Show Bio

I loved Guardian Devil. My first DD story.

#7 Edited by daredevil21134 (10965 posts) - - Show Bio
#8 Posted by tupiaz (2172 posts) - - Show Bio

@gambit1024 said:

I loved Guardian Devil. My first DD story.

It wasn't confusing?

#9 Posted by Gambit1024 (9890 posts) - - Show Bio

@tupiaz said:

@gambit1024 said:

I loved Guardian Devil. My first DD story.

It wasn't confusing?

Nope. I remember it being very straightforward (been a while since I've reread it). I don't quite remember being really impacted on the death of Karen Page personally (as it was my introduction to her), but other than that, I pretty much got it.

#10 Edited by gotwillpower (679 posts) - - Show Bio

Spoilers: On this arc and Born Again

I don't like the art in this story just because of the coloring. Daredevil's red always came off sort of brown. Otherwise, I really liked it. I thought the Bullseye scene was the best part. I can't believe Smith killed Karen though. It's funny, because I read a lot of Daredevil's wiki page after reading Waid's run, and I remember Karen dying. But, I thought it happened in Born Again (I saw a Born Again cover next to the wiki section about her death). So I read Born Again, and I thought she died when Daredevil's building collapsed on her, when the crazy army guy was shooting bazookas. But then I read this, and Karen was there! I realized she hadn't died, and I was really happy! Then she died. I was really sad.

#11 Posted by tupiaz (2172 posts) - - Show Bio

@tupiaz said:

@gambit1024 said:

I loved Guardian Devil. My first DD story.

It wasn't confusing?

Nope. I remember it being very straightforward (been a while since I've reread it). I don't quite remember being really impacted on the death of Karen Page personally (as it was my introduction to her), but other than that, I pretty much got it.

Well then the story have lost a lot of its value.

#12 Posted by The_jackolantern (445 posts) - - Show Bio

it was my 2nd DD comic after the 1st volume of waids run and apart from missing how important the death was i really liked it.now ive gotall of waids run in issues and am going back and getting the tpb of the important stuff

#13 Posted by Gambit1024 (9890 posts) - - Show Bio

@tupiaz said:

@gambit1024 said:

@tupiaz said:

@gambit1024 said:

I loved Guardian Devil. My first DD story.

It wasn't confusing?

Nope. I remember it being very straightforward (been a while since I've reread it). I don't quite remember being really impacted on the death of Karen Page personally (as it was my introduction to her), but other than that, I pretty much got it.

Well then the story have lost a lot of its value.

Why

#14 Edited by tupiaz (2172 posts) - - Show Bio

@gambit1024 said:

@tupiaz said:

@gambit1024 said:

@tupiaz said:

@gambit1024 said:

I loved Guardian Devil. My first DD story.

It wasn't confusing?

Nope. I remember it being very straightforward (been a while since I've reread it). I don't quite remember being really impacted on the death of Karen Page personally (as it was my introduction to her), but other than that, I pretty much got it.

Well then the story have lost a lot of its value.

Why

Well this is the Daredevil's pendant to the Spider-man story where Gwen Stacy dies (even though it is a lot less known). If you don't know what Karen Page meant for DD then she just seems kind of irrelevant and just another character that is death.

#15 Posted by Gambit1024 (9890 posts) - - Show Bio

@tupiaz said:

@gambit1024 said:

@tupiaz said:

@gambit1024 said:

@tupiaz said:

@gambit1024 said:

I loved Guardian Devil. My first DD story.

It wasn't confusing?

Nope. I remember it being very straightforward (been a while since I've reread it). I don't quite remember being really impacted on the death of Karen Page personally (as it was my introduction to her), but other than that, I pretty much got it.

Well then the story have lost a lot of its value.

Why

Well this is the Daredevil's pendant to the Spider.man story where Gwen Stacy dies (even though it is a lot less known). If you don't know what Karen Page meant for DD then she just seems kind of irrelevant and just another character that is death.

Keep in mind I read this when I was much younger (11-12), and haven't really read it since. I was only concerned with Daredevil kicking ass.

#16 Posted by Reignmaker (2234 posts) - - Show Bio

@tupiaz said:

@gambit1024 said:

@tupiaz said:

@gambit1024 said:

@tupiaz said:

@gambit1024 said:

I loved Guardian Devil. My first DD story.

It wasn't confusing?

Nope. I remember it being very straightforward (been a while since I've reread it). I don't quite remember being really impacted on the death of Karen Page personally (as it was my introduction to her), but other than that, I pretty much got it.

Well then the story have lost a lot of its value.

Why

Well this is the Daredevil's pendant to the Spider.man story where Gwen Stacy dies (even though it is a lot less known). If you don't know what Karen Page meant for DD then she just seems kind of irrelevant and just another character that is death.

Keep in mind I read this when I was much younger (11-12), and haven't really read it since. I was only concerned with Daredevil kicking ass.

Nothing wrong with that. :)

#17 Posted by tupiaz (2172 posts) - - Show Bio

@tupiaz said:

@gambit1024 said:

@tupiaz said:

@gambit1024 said:

@tupiaz said:

@gambit1024 said:

I loved Guardian Devil. My first DD story.

It wasn't confusing?

Nope. I remember it being very straightforward (been a while since I've reread it). I don't quite remember being really impacted on the death of Karen Page personally (as it was my introduction to her), but other than that, I pretty much got it.

Well then the story have lost a lot of its value.

Why

Well this is the Daredevil's pendant to the Spider.man story where Gwen Stacy dies (even though it is a lot less known). If you don't know what Karen Page meant for DD then she just seems kind of irrelevant and just another character that is death.

Keep in mind I read this when I was much younger (11-12), and haven't really read it since. I was only concerned with Daredevil kicking ass.

Read it again you have probably forgotten a lot of the story and now you know more of the mythos you can appreciate it more.

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