Review by Frank Plowright
The publicity preceding the original comics in which these stories appeared made much of Mark Waid’s view of Daredevil considerably diminishing the bleak noir outlook that had sustained Daredevil since the mid-1970s. It’s rather belied by the gruesome occurrences later in the series – a disinterment, a friend presumed to have hanged themselves – but there is a lightness of presentation long absent.
Here, and during the course of the following two volumes, and indeed beyond into the next series, Waid’s primary writing strength is an ability to surprise. The reader is dragged along by the puzzling aspects of his stories, and Waid doesn’t disappoint with the revelations. Being blind, Daredevil is very dependent on his hearing, and Waid is the first to pit him against a stock Marvel villain who can mess with that. Yet, it’s not as obvious as it first seems, and the opening three chapters are an excellent statement of intent.
An equal partner is pencil artist Paolo Rivera, who brings a strong sense of graphic design to his pages, exemplified by the innovative cover to this book. It accompanies the storytelling, though, rather than swamping it, and results in some stunning art. There’s also something endearing about him having his pencils inked, very competently, by his father Joe. A feature in the back of the book details Rivera’s working process.
Waid emphasises that Matt Murdock is blind, and the artists conceived interesting visual ways to display how he perceives the world, using outlines or red on black, and he also sidelines Murdock’s civilian career as a lawyer in an inventive fashion. His alternative supplies an interesting twist on courtroom dramas. As the book progresses, a big picture begins to emerge as Daredevil acquires something that’s considerably prized by many people, most of them far from benign. In particular assorted crime cartels and terrorist organisations want it, and it complicates Daredevil’s life, and this extends into volume two.
There’s also a crossover involving Spider-Man and Black Cat, elements of which make a whole lot more sense here in context than they did when forming part of the Spider-Man collection Flying Blind in isolation. And in so many ways the blind Daredevil pitching up against the almost blind Mole Man is obvious, yet no-one before Waid had considered it. This, though, is the weakest material in the book.
Kano, Koi Pham and Emma Rios also illustrate chapters, none disgracing themselves, but the fill-in artist of choice, is Marcos Martin, sadly not seen after this volume. His thin line and enticing layouts match Rivera and he somehow evokes a nostalgia without ever being less than modern.
This is a big meaty collection of fine material, available as both an oversize hardback and a traditional paperback, but Marvel’s marketing slipped by presenting it with almost the same title as a paperback collection that only encompasses the opening half of this content. People told you good things about Waid’s Daredevil, and they were right.