Why do I think Mark Waid’s Daredevil is one of the best superhero
comics series being published today? It’s partly, but only partly,
because, for the past 13 years, the character has been brutalized
in most sadistic fashion by a gang of writers and editors behaving
as if Matt Murdock once kicked their mothers. It’s like they all
hated the guy.
I don’t deny there have been some awfully good Daredevil stories in
those 13 years. But the overwhelming theme of the series seemed to
be “let’s pile on Daredevil.” By the end of the pre-Waid issues,
Daredevil wasn’t recognizable. They gave his series and numbering
book to the Black Panther, who’d also been rendered unrecognizable
by the same misguided editorial direction of “we have to break the
characters.” Never let these guys play with your toys.
When I discussed superhero comics yesterday, I wrote: “...the genre
isn’t about nostalgia. It’s about using the superhero as a way to
examine humanity and all the issues humanity faces.”
While it’s true humanity faces darkness on a regular basis, I also
believe that optimism is the core of the superhero genre. It’s a
genre that says good men and women and beings from other planes of
existence can devote their extraordinary abilities to the good of
all. That even those of us without extraordinary abilities can be
inspired to extraordinary acts of courage. It’s a genre that, to
truly resonate, must go forward with an unwavering belief that good
can triumph over evil.
This doesn’t eliminate the possibility of evil sometimes triumphing
over good. This does not eliminate the shades of grey that color
humanity. But the eternal goal, the very essence of the superhero
concept is that the triumph of good over evil is the natural state
of existence, even if the real world seldom lives up to that ideal.
Do readers actually enjoy seeing their favorite superheroes suffer
indignity and loss and sadism month after month? Don’t they yearn
for stories that end, at least occasionally, with a clear win for
those heroes? Don’t they want to feel good at the conclusion of a
superhero story? After decades of despair in superhero comics, is
it not well past due time to reclaim the genre in the name of its
Which brings us back to Mark Waid’s Daredevil...
Waid is one of my favorite comic-book writers. Even so, I wasn’t
sure he or anyone could turn Daredevil into a comic book I’d enjoy
and Matt Murdock into a character I could root for. There was just
so much baggage from the sadists who had been breaking DD over and
over again. How could Waid deal with that in a convincing manner?
It comes down to this. Matt Murdock wants to live. In the second
story of Daredevil #1 [Marvel; $3.99], he explains his optimistic
and even cheerful demeanor to best friend and partner Foggy Nelson:
“I know I’ve been acting a little...uncharacteristically since I
returned, Foggy. But here’s what I need you to appreciate, okay?
It’s been a miserable last few years. And every time I thought I’d
finally hit bottom, God somehow found me a bigger shovel.
“All this pain and all this loss and...and I just can’t bear the
weight of it anymore and stay sane. I know that.
“So this is the way I’ve decided to be. You can say I’m in denial.
You can decide I’m not dealing or that I’m a jerk...that’s up to
you. No offense, but I don’t care. This is how I choose to cope.
Is that acceptable to you?”
Foggy’s not sure. I am.
Many years ago, when both Waid and I were much younger, he asked me
how he should handle editorial demands that the Flash be more grim
and gritty. My advice...let the world around the Flash become more
grim and gritty, but keep the character himself optimistic. Give
the readers someone and something to root for.
The world of Daredevil and Matt Murdock is still a very dark place.
Like the current Marvel Universe. But Matt has chosen to become an
angel of light in that darkness. I find this Matt, this Daredevil,
smiling against all comers and beating them, a far more interesting
character than he had been. And Waid has accomplished this without
ignoring what has gone before.
Much of the world believes Matt Murdock is Daredevil, even if they
can’t actually prove it. This has destroyed Matt’s ability to be
an effective lawyer. So he and Foggy now teach and coach and train
clients to defend themselves. I am in awe of the sheer brilliance
of this development.
The writing and the storytelling in the series - I’ve now read the
first six issues - is of equal luster. Working with artists Paolo
Rivera and Marcos Martin, Waid has found new ways to visualize the
world of Daredevil and Matt Murdock. Their stunning visuals serve
Waid’s stories very well.
Adding to my enjoyment of Daredevil, Waid has introduced intriguing
supporting characters to the series. He’s been tossing a wild mix
of super-villains at Daredevil. He’s emphasized the brotherly love
between Matt and Foggy. He’s made me chuckle with Matt’s nagging
Foggy about the latter’s diet and health, a recurring conversation
that resonates with me because I’ve had those conversations with my
daughter. In case you can’t figure out the obvious, I’m Foggy in
The bottom line...Daredevil is a great comic book. It hasn’t been
this good since Frank Miller at his prime. When the comics awards
come around, Waid, Rivera, and Martin all deserved to be recognized
for what they’re doing on this title.
Daredevil is what superhero comics can and should be.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2012 Tony Isabella