'Daredevil' #1 Review: Matt Murdock's Body Is His Biggest Enemy Yet

Daredevil #1 refocuses the character in an interesting and unique way, turning the character's stubborn resolve and pain tolerance against him.

Last year, Charles Soule hit Daredevil with a truck, literally. Soule ended his multi-year run on Daredevil with Matt Murdock fighting for his life on the operating table after he pushed a small child out of the way of a moving truck. After the five-issue Man Without Fear miniseries showed Murdock in recovery, Chip Zdarsky and Marco Checchetto move Daredevil into a unique chapter of the Man Without Fear's life.

It's a tradition of sorts for Daredevil creators to find new ways to make Matt Murdock's life hell, usually by pushing him to a mental breaking point. Every Daredevil arc seems like an exercise in making Daredevil snap and then leaving the next creative team to clean up the mess. Whether he's going to prison, or watching his lovers die, or getting possessed by a demon, or watching his arch-nemesis become mayor, every notable Daredevil run seems to delight in finding new ways of making Murdock miserable. At some point, being a Daredevil fan feels a bit like watching misery porn, which was why Mark Waid and Chris Samnee's run was such a breath of fresh year.

However, almost all of the tragedy and obstacles Murdock has had to overcome over the years has come from external forces tugging at his mental resolve. That's why Daredevil #1 actually feels unique, because it focuses exclusively on the physical toll Murdock's body has taken over the years. It's clear from the first few pages that Murdock hasn't fully recovered from getting hit by a truck, making his body the first real "enemy" for Murdock to overcome. There's no supervillains in Daredevil #1, save for a last page appearance by Kingpin, who has nothing to do with the events of the first issue, only Murdock's stubbornness and the possibility that all the beatdowns Murdock has suffered over the years have finally taken their toll.

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Checchetto's artwork is very clean and dynamic, and he's a good fit for Daredevil in general. The main story doesn't feature some of the more innovative panel and design work that Samnee and others brought in their runs, but Checchetto brings a nice style to what seems like a very grounded, realistic Daredevil story. I wasn't always a huge fan of Checchetto's style on Star Wars or even Old Man Hawkeye, but this is some of his strongest work to date. One criticism here is the overuse of digital shadowing effects by colorist Sunny Gho. It seems very obvious which shadows were drawn by Checchetto and which were added in coloring, and it just comes across as overdone at times.

The strongest part of the issue is a four-page comic written and drawn by Zdarsky himself. While Zdarsky works primarily as a writer for Marvel, he's a brilliant artist, especially when it comes to layouts. Zdarsky's "Sense of Self" presents the same story in two side-by-side perspectives, one from a typical comics perspective and one drawn entirely in Daredevil's "radar sense." Those four pages are some of the more innovative comics work we've seen out of Marvel over the last few years, and it's a reminder about just how talented and versatile Zdarsky is.

Speaking of versatility, it's surprising how earnest his first issue of Daredevil is. I'm used to thinking of Zdarsky as a humor-driven creator -- reading the madcap Sex Criminals since the beginning will do that to you -- but this comic is a "street level" noir-inspired comic with not a single gag or pun in sight. It's a testament to Zdarsky's range that he's capable of both elaborate penis jokes and serious and thoughtful superhero stories that don't rely on low-level sarcasm or quips to demonstrate a character's personality.

This is a strong debut for Zdarsky and Checchetto, and I'm curious about how Daredevil's story will continue in future months. I'd love to see a story that focuses on tormenting Daredevil in different ways, and it looks like the new creative team will deliver just that.

Published by Marvel Comics

On February 6, 2019

Written by Chip Zdarsky

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Art by Marco Checchetto

Letters by Clayton Cowles