The official Netflix Daredevil trailer has hit the Internet and excited us all. If you are like me you’re now craving a hit of Daredevil action but do not want to wait another few weeks. Luckily for us, there are a number of fantastic Daredevil stories waiting for you in comics. These are stories from renowned writers and incredible artists that are not just entertaining in their own right but have all formed part of the foundation for the Netflix series. These are the ten best Daredevil stories, and they will slake your thirst for “Man Without Fear” action.
Miller had already blown our minds in his first Daredevil run in which he introduced and killed in the most tragic way Elektra (it was almost a Greek tragedy) & reframed Daredevil as a noir thriller. So when he and Mazzuchelli teamed for the first time (they later did the seminal Batman:Year One together) it was clear something great would happen. And happen it did! In Born Again Matt Murdock is put through the wringer by the Kingpin of Crime, Wilson Fisk. Matt’s ex-girlfriend Karen Page has hit an all-time low and to fund her heroine habit has sold one thing of value she had: Daredevil’s secret identity. Wilson Fisk uses this information to get revenge in the harshest way possible on the hero which has so bedevilled him throughout the years.
Born Again has become the archetypal Daredevil story, in which our hero has his life destroyed and must rebuild it from scratch, all the while battling his arch enemy and proving his worth as a hero ( Brian Michael Bendis’ run is a extended musing on this theme). The influence of this story can be seen in a number of places, including Batman:Knightfall and The Death of Superman.
Another story which has been told many times (Bendis does it well, too)but this is my favourite. In this story we meet a young Wilson Fisk and watch as he harnesses a natural viciousness to make it to the top of the underworld heap to be crowned Kingpin of Crime. In a parallel story set in the present we watch as Daredevil exploits this viciousness as a weakness to bring Wilson to justice. At times it appears that Matt is merely getting his revenge on Kingpin for his Born Again plot, and the tension between vengeance and justice follows through to the climax.
I have mentioned above that Bendis did some great versions of classic Daredevil stories, but this story is his best and most emotionally affecting. Newspaper reporter Ben Urich (introduced in the Frank Miller stories) is interviewing the autistic son of the loser villain Leap-Frog and sees through his eyes a battle between the hero and villain. The perceptions of the child (often depicted through his drawings) lending a new lens through which the colourful battles between costumed gymnasts can be viewed. This will have you in tears !
This is another story which sees Wilson Fisk using an assassin to kill Daredevil (yeah, he does that a lot!). This time however, he trains a young deaf woman and primes her by “revealing” Daredevil as being the man who murdered her father. Admittedly, this story’s focus is the assassin Echo, but it is a beautifully painted – yes PAINTED – musing on how someone can turn a disability into an advantage. As as such, Echo’ journey is very much an echo of Matt Murdock’s. Read this story to not only see whether she succeeds in her journey – if not her mission – and in the later issues for the best rendition of Wolverine you will ever see. Seriously, it is pure genius, but also such a simple concept you will be shocked you have not seen it a million times before.
So far all of these stories have shown Daredevil as a grim and gritty urban crusader, delving in a noir-tinged world of hopelessness. This has bee the most common oeuvre for Daredevil since the Frank Miller days, and yet this is not how Daredevil started.
The Daredevil we first see in these classic tales from Lee and Everrett is a fun-loving swashbuckler, revelling in his powers and enjoying his role as the city’s protector. His blindness is not just a convenient way to differentiate Matt Murdock from Marvel’s other city-swinging, wise cracking superhero but also a way to show Matt’s determination. He is a man who is not limited by his weaknesses, he is a man who uses his strengths to thrive. Check out the first twenty or so issues for great action and humour in the Merry Marvel Manner!
This is my all-time favourite run on Daredevil! Waid takes Daredevil back to his roots as a swashbuckling hero without ignoring the angst Matt has been through. In fact, he embraces the angst by having Matt talk candidly about suffering from clinical depression. By having Matt acknowledge this Mark Waid adds another layer to Matt’s personality and makes his triumphs seem even more miraculous as there is a constant threat to his (mental) health. Along with with art which depicts Matt’s radar sense and natural gymnastics in an innovative and stunning way. To me this is the crescendo of all Daredevil stories leading to this point: Mark WAID’S Daredevil is not a broken man struggling to rebuild his life, he is a triumphant man loving the life he has created.
Subtle plug time: BUY THIS SERIES NOW ! It is available in trade paperback and monthly issues at your local comic shop now.
This is the first and in my opinion best of the Loeb and Sale “colours” series of stories featuring the origin of Marvel characters (it also includes Spider-Man Blue and Hulk Gray, both worth a read). Yellow gives us the early years of Daredevil’s career, through the framing device of letters Matt is writing to Karen. It features the villains The Owl and Purple Man, though is as much a love story between Matt and Karen Page (with Foggy Nelson forming the third corner of a love triangle as he vies with Matt for Karen’s affections). Tim Sale’s artwork takes this story beyond cool into a realm of lyricism where words and pictures perfectly mesh to tell a familiar tale in a magnificent way.
Just as he reinterpreted The urban avenger Batman’s origins in the Year One, so too does Frank Miller expand the origin of Daredevil. Beginning with a young Matt Murdock running from bullies (who taunt him with the nickname “Daredevil”) into the safety of his boxer father’s arms and ending with an amazing panel of the gymnastic Daredevil from John Romita Jr. – yep, it was his dad who drew the early stories – the story takes us through the big moments of Daredevil’s origin. From the radioactive chemicals blinding Matt as he saves an old man, to his training with the ninja guru Stick and the meeting of Matt Murdock and soon to be lover/antagonist Elektra the story illuminates these important moments and argues strongly for Matt having a singular personality trait which makes him a hero – an indomitable spirit.
After the events of Born Again and Elektra’s failure to kill Daredevil, Kingpin decides to try again with another female assassin. This time he decides Typhoid Mary has the necessary skills and charms to succeed where Elektra failed. The house ad shown above sums up the story perfectly (and was a such a favourite image I photocopied it and hung it on my bedroom wall). Mary must win the love of Matt Murdock then kill him while his guard is down. What makes the story cool is Mary herself. She has Dissociative Identity Disorder (multiple personalities) and switches between the innocent Mary – the perfect damsel in distress – and the psychotic Typhoid who along with incredible martial skills has the ability to “cloud men’s minds”. Along with great twists and turns there are some clever psychological moments (which is seen throughout Nocenti’s stories) and art which is gritty when portraying Hell’s Kitchen and dreamlike in the fight and psychological sequences.
This is the ultimate examination of Daredevil’s influence on those who know him, from his closest friends to the regular citizens of Hell’s Kitchen. In this story we follow Ben Urich as he tries to make sense of a dying Daredevil’s last words by interviewing the women he once loved. This allows us to see what happened to Black Widow, Elektra and others when they retired from the hero game (it is worth the price of admission to see Elektra as a “soccer mom”). It is a great Citizen Kane type take which gives an insight into Matt’s mind by seeing how his actions have influenced others and is a decent mystery to boot. The art is also beyond brilliant, with the three artists (all Daredevil stalwarts) at the top of their game.
So there they are, ten Daredevil stories to read while you wait for the Netflix show to start and ones you will want to reread again and again.
Do YOU have a favourite Daredevil story ? If so I would like to hear what it is so leave a comment below.
GS Blogger: Brett Harris