Man without fear, but maybe at long last some hope, or at least a sense of humor.

I've never read much Daredevil. Not out of lack of interest, he's just a character I've never gotten around to reading besides a smattering of the Frank Miller material (Born Again, the Man Without Fear mini-series), Kevin Smith's run, and a few random issues here and there (the Secret Wars 2 tie-in where the Beyonder gives him back his sight, for instance). I've always meant to catch up, especially the rest of Miller's run, and some of the Bendis stuff, but the reviews I've read over time, especially the last few years, just make Daredevil's life (and, subsequently, the book) just seem like the ultimate gauntlet of human misery. I don't need everything to be sunshine and puppy dogs, but I do like at least a little fun in my comics, so I stayed away. Besides, if I wanted to read Daredevil put through his paces, I'd go for the Miller stuff, not the Miller Tribute Bands that followed.

That sounds insulting and unfair to the many creators since Miller's day, who are talented, true, but it's not entirely untrue, either. As with Batman (and Wolverine, even though he just drew that book), a lot of the people who followed Miller didn't seem interested in giving us their version of the character. It never seemed like we'd see Creator X's take on Daredevil (or Batman or Wolvie), but instead Creator X's version of Frank Miller's take on Daredevil. Miller brought Matt Murdock to his lowest point and utterly destroyed his life, and gave us the story his fight back from the edge. And that, of course, is a great story, but it's a story you can only really do once, even in comics. How many lowest points can one man have, even if he's a superhero?

So, long story short - too late - I never could get into Daredevil.

I think Mark Waid is changing that, though. I picked up the first issue based on good word of mouth and a love for a lot of Waid's previous material, and I wasn't disappointed. I think this could be the best thing he's written in a few years. I don't have a lot of previous Daredevil experience to draw back on, obviously, but what he's writing seems true enough to the character to fit in with both his swashbuckling beginnings and the gritty crime drama character he became known as, and take things in a new direction besides. Waid writes Murdock as a man who has survived the worst life can throw at him (which, from what I understand, has involved divorce, imprisonment, having his identity revealed, heading a ninja clan, and demonic possession): "Every time I finally hit bottom," says Murdock, "God would find me a bigger shovel." Now he's trying to rebuild both his life and his law practice, as well as try and convince everyone that he's not really Daredevil (even if he is).

And for once, he's enjoying it all. Which, to me, makes perfect sense. If I made it through all of that and somehow still came out the other side alive and mostly sane, I'd be dancing in the streets. It's not an unusual reaction, I don't think. And it works on both sides of his mask. What better way to prove you're the Man Without Fear than by stealing a kiss from a mob princess while trying to stop a kidnapping at her wedding? It's a great moment, one that occurs early in the issue's first story, and one that won me over immediately.

Lots of great quiet moments here, too, particularly in the issue's back-up story, in which Matt and law partner Foggy Nelson walk the streets of New York City and give us the scoop on Matt's life, his outlook, and his powers. It's exposition without sounding like exposition, and it also gives us a chance to see how Waid interprets Daredevil's powers, and how we can probably expect to see them used. There's a clever bit where Matt tries out the violin for the first time, and the sequence makes such perfect sense that it's a wonder why it took someone nearly 50 years to think of it.

Speaking of Daredevil's powers, artists Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin are the perfect people to depict them. They both have such strong senses of design, anyway, and their depictions of how this blind man interacts with and, in his way, "sees" the world, are just amazing. Look at Rivera's cover above (or any panel he drew in the main story), or this two-page Martin spread from the back-up:
(image via IGN. Click to big it up.)

It's brilliant design, but it's also functional, and it tells the story in a way the words can't. Brilliant.

I initially resisted Daredevil #1 based on my previous limited experience with the character, but Waid, Rivera, and Martin have won me over. I'm in for a while on this, I think, or at least as long as they want to keep putting out a book this good.

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