Daredevil: Woman Without Fear #1 Review: Devil's Reign's Shining Jewel
The "Devil's Reign" crossover at Marvel Comics is a Daredevil-centric storyline that takes a dash of Civil War, a hint of Man Without Fear, and a smattering of classic characters thrown into the mix to tell the story of a New York City looking to outlaw superheroes under the expressed interest of current mayor Wilson Fisk. Even if you're not following along with this latest arc, Chip Zdarsky and Rafael De Latorre are able to weave a very introspective story that further fleshes out Elektra Natchios and how wearing the mantle of Daredevil has affected her.
One of Zdarsky's excellent talents as a writer, and you can see this in previous works such as Spider-Man: Life Story and Howard The Duck, is his ability to really flesh out a character and dive into their past by exploring their present. With this latest spin-off story, we are able to see Elektra's encounter with the current mayor of New York, while also attempting to navigate her way through her relationship with Matt Murdock, which has changed on a dime numerous times across the decades. Zdarsky crams a lot into this opening issue but it never feels burdensome and is shockingly able to come across as a breezy read while also throwing a lot into the path of this former Hand assassin.
Elektra in the past was oftentimes seen as one-note, being either represented by the iconic moment where she was killed by Bullseye in Daredevil #181 or when she was brought to the dark side by the nefarious ninja organization that trained her, but this new spin-off series capably finds a good balance of what makes her tick while still demonstrating how dangerous she can be. Normally, I'm not one for having "thought bubbles" or characters express exposition, but here, it really works at not only relaying new information about her past, but also shedding an essential take on her doomed romance with Matt Murdock.
The artwork by De Latorre has to also be given credit for the strengths of this issue, with the style working well for quieter dialogue moments as well as the ninja action inherent to a character like Elektra. The new Daredevil's chat with Wilson Fisk at the beginning is appropriately gritty, and helps sell the menace of the Kingpin without him really even uttering a word of dialogue. The art does a lot of legwork that wouldn't necessarily be necessary considering the strength of Zdarsky's writing, but it's a one-two punch that really sells this issue.
Devil's Reign as a concept is one that you think might be a retread, taking an idea from Civil War and presenting it on a somewhat smaller scale, but Zdarsky has an excellent handle on what he's looking to do with it, and the final page of this premiere issue presents Elektra with a challenge that is interesting and in her "weight class." Going into this issue, it's not one that I was honestly expecting much from, being a story of a character who doesn't have her own series within a crossover that may appear redundant, but I was happily surprised in these pages. Also, the issue should definitely receive bonus points for the stunning cover art by Chris Bachalo, who gives us one of the best takes on this new Marvel Knight.
Daredevil: Woman Without Fear works well as a story all its own, so even if you're not a fan of Elektra or Devil's Reign, this opening salvo might change your mind on both fronts. Don't let the banner of this being part of a crossover event stop you from reading one of the best comics of 2022 so far.
Published by Marvel Comics
On January 12, 2022
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Rafael De Latorre
Colors By Federico Blee
Letters By Clayton Cowles
Cover By Chris Bachalo