Coming off the back of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s long, dark and critically acclaimed run on Daredevil (no less than number 1 in our list of the top 10 Marvel comics from the last decade or so!), writer Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, Irredeemable, Incorruptible) and artist Paolo Rivera (Mythos) pulled off a feat not unlike Grant Morrison‘s lovingly absurd run on Batman Inc.
This dream team presented a near-enough polar opposite treatment of the character that managed to not only avoid being to the darker material’s detriment, but also emphasise aspects of the character’s past that contemporary spins on him had perhaps forgotten. ‘The Man Without Fear’ log-line dropped in favour of the bombastic ‘Here Comes… Daredevil’, Waid and Rivera spun Matt Murdock’s history of hardship gently on its axis, making him not the hero who must suffer, but the hero who overcomes and bounces back – even the most recent comic-book in this 16-issue run to date features a lovely moment in which Hank Pym finds his ant-helmet tapping into Murdoch’s damaged brain waves (it’s a long story, but it involves Doctor Doom’s nano-bots) and their memories become temporary confused, and confesses that they’ve always underestimated Daredevil.
This pragmatism is linked to his powers, his heightened sense that compensate for his blindness – the physicality of sound, smell, touch and his sonar brilliantly depicted on panel by Rivera’s deft lines. Murdock is always having to fight to push out the overwhelming sensations his powers offer, to overcome his natural disadvantages and the cards constantly stacked against him, and against all odds snatch victory and joy from the jaws of defeat and moments of pleasure from the chaos.
Emphasising the swashbuckling, grinning Daredevil that first leapt onto the page under the watchful gaze of Bill Everett and Stan Lee in 1964 as much as the scowling, tragic antihero of Frank Miller’s groundbreaking, ninja-laden run, Waid and Rivera’s take on Daredevil is a perfectly paced antithesis (alongside Dan Slott’s Spider-Man and Jason Aaron’s Wolverine And The X-Men) not only to the general grimness of modern comics, but also to the demanding month-upon-month mega-arcs.
In 16 issues, Daredevil has sparred with Captain America, teamed up with the Punisher and Spider-Man, escaped from Doctor Doom’s Latveria, led Mega-Crime, Hydra and AIM on a merry dance and traded blows with Mole Man, also finding time to squabble with Foggy Nelson, go on dates, and make light of his outed superhero identity.
None of that’s to say that it ignores the darkness and drama of the earlier run – his troubles are alluded to, Foggy still worries and the exhumation and theft of his father’s remains drive him to a fury, but this is a Daredevil constantly on the move, forever vaulting over rooftops to solve problems feet first, and not clinging to gargoyles with tears streaming down his cheeks – all perfectly captured by the carnival colour palatte and pop-art style of Rivera.
Simultaneously respectful and refreshing, Daredevil impressed Madman, iZombie and X-Statix creator Mike Allred so much, he volunteered to draw an issue. It’s that exciting.
Issues 1-6 (as Daredevil Vol 1) and 7-10 ( as Daredevil Vol 2) of Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera’s Daredevil are both available from from Amazon.co.uk. The title is ongoing, check out all 16 issues so far on Comixology for $1.99 each.