Another nice thing about the popularity of Marvel in the mainstream media these days is all the nice reprints that come out of it. Finally they released new copies of the Frank Miller Daredevil omnibuses so I could get them without paying $300 each like an asshole.
Anyway, Frank Miller’s Daredevil still holds up very well even after all these years and despite how apparently psychotic he has become. It perfectly captures the grim and grimy side of the 80s and was amazingly dark and deep for a superhero comic in that day and age. Miller’s run would go on to become the example that almost all future Daredevil runs would look to follow, setting up what would become the standard pattern of Daredevil’s life where the cost of defeating his vicious enemies would usually be the complete destruction of his personal life and sanity. People always call Spider-Man “the hard luck hero”, but man, Daredevil is the king of having his life absolutely ripped to fucking pieces. He always comes back for more though, which is part of what makes him so great a character. That and ninjas. Everyone loves ninjas.
Ann Nocenti picked up right where Miller left off and did a hell of a job at it too. Naturally, Daredevil finds his life and sanity destroyed once again, by the newly introduced Typhoid Mary, and is forced to endure some very bizarre, and oddly thoughtful adventures to regain them. Daredevil finds himself up against unexpected villains like Mephisto and Ultron and oddly enough, deals with a lot of serious issues like environmentalism, feminism, animal rights, and nucleomituphobia. Not the kind of issues you typically expect to see in a superhero book, but they were explored in interesting and thoughtful ways that don’t come off as too preachy. Some classic John Romita Jr. art really brought it all together too.
Fast forward a decade or so, past the dark ages of the 90s like usual, to Bendis’ run. This was some of Bendis’ best work, back when he was still pretty new to comics and wasn’t trying to write 7 books at once. Bendis approached Daredevil in a way that felt more like a television drama than a superhero book, with Matt Murdock seeing a lot more exposure than Daredevil, but it definitely worked. Looking back, this run had a feel much like the current show does. Aside from the usual Kingpin shenanigans and having his life destroyed yet again, the run primarily deals with how Daredevil and everyone around him come to terms with his identity being publicly exposed, with no magic or mindwiping solution to the situation in sight (not until many years and several different creative teams later at least…).
Brubaker’s run picks up directly where Bendis left off and adds a bit more action to the book again, but also a bit of a darker tone. Once again Daredevil faces off against some old enemies, like that pesky Kingpin again, and some new ones, and manages to fuck up his life in the process, because…it’s Daredevil. I suppose this would begin to sound repetitive to an outsider at this point, but Brubaker is sure talented enough to put a new spin on the cycle of Daredevil’s life and turn it into something new, fascinating, and memorable.
…and then there’s Diggle’s run. It picks up exactly where Brubaker left off, with Daredevil in the tricky position of being the new leader of The Hand. It starts off well enough, but becomes a bit of a mess when the story gets turned into the Shadowland mini-event. It’s a great plot, in theory, but it gets so bogged down with extra guest stars that don’t seem to serve any real purpose other than to set up pointless tie-ins, that it doesn’t really live up to the potential Diggle had previously built up. The Daredevil: Reborn mini series that follows is just plain bad too. Overall, it’s far from the worst Daredevil run, but it’s nothing particularly memorable or worth time unless you really, really want to see how the “Daredevil running The Hand” plot gets wrapped up. Best to just move on to…
…Waid’s Daredevil run, which took an oddly lighthearted and colorful approach to the character. This run treated Daredevil more like a typical brightly colored tight wearing crimefighter, something he hasn’t been portrayed as since well…I don’t know, longer than I’ve been alive. The new approach worked surprisingly well though. Waid turned out another impressive bunch of stories and the art was consistently great throughout the whole run.
Daredevil has since been flung back into the grimdarkness though. His brighter look and attitude, new girlfriend, and public identity have all been One More Day-ed away to bring him back to something more resembling his gritty Miller-esque roots in order for him to be more in sync with the current television show. The new series by Charles Soule has been good so far, but I can’t help but feel a little bad that everything Waid did with the character was so quickly, magically wiped out between pages. Oh well. I’ll get over it.