Daredevil is not exactly at the top of the Marvel pantheon. He’s recognizable, but he’s not the face of the company or generally a member of one of the better-recognized superhero teams. And yet, the character has often had numerous top writers working on his adventures starting with Frank Miller and continuing with the likes of Kevin Smith, Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Waid, Charles Soule. and Ed Brubaker. Why do top writers tend to drift towards the Man Without Fear? I don’t know.
Regardless, I was curious who the current writer was and learned it was Chip Zdarsky. He wrote, among other things, that cool Spider-Man Life Story. I really liked that thing, so why not see what he does with Daredevil with the first volume of his run, subtitled Know Fear?
Due to whatever happened in previous runs, Matt Murdock took some time off from being Daredevil to heal from some injuries. He’s more or less back to his fighting form, so he decides he needs people to know the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen is still alive and active. Wilson “Kingpin” Fisk is the Mayor of New York, and he’s making war on the city’s superhero population as seen in other Marvel titles like Amazing Spider-Man. Of course, Daredevil and the Kingpin have a special animosity for each other, so it makes sense that Matt would be more concerned about it than others.
But then something happens on his first night out on patrol. Matt stops a robbery from some rather mundane crooks, and one of them seems to die as a result of Matt’s actions subduing the gang. Now Matt-as-Daredevil is wanted for murder. He could just stop being Daredevil or he could turn himself in. But this is Matt, he suspects the Kingpin’s involved, and he mostly just thinks the whole thing is a set-up.
Whether it is or it isn’t, the entire city of New York seems to believe he did it. And for someone who is both such a devout Catholic and with such precise senses, the idea of being a murderer, even an accidental one, is abhorrent to Matt on multiple levels. The net result is a Matt Murdock who finds himself obsessively trying to prove he’s been framed even as the NYPD closes in, and he gets the most unwanted help from the Punisher.
Zdarsky seems to get Daredevil and he does dig into an idea that doesn’t come up much with superhero comics: what happens when the hero accidentally kills someone? As much as Matt may not believe it, it is a possibility he just refuses to see. If it is true, as Matt slowly starts to realize is possible, can he forgive himself? Will other heroes understand? Can he even look at himself (metaphorically) in the mirror? Does the Kingpin win this one by doing nothing?
Obviously these are big questions, and Daredevil is a good hero to use to ask those questions given how much justice and morality is at the character’s core. The volume doesn’t quite answer them so much as set them up, and that works out fine. I will have to look further in this series at some point.
9 out of 10 rather awesome descriptions of Spider-Man.