PENCILER: Wellington Alves
INKER: Nelson Pereira
COLORIST: Bruno Hang
LETTERER: VC's Clayton Cowles
SYNOPSIS: "Meet Matt Murdock, one of New York's finest attorneys by day and swashbuckling crime-fighter Daredevil by night! Discover the dark secrets behind his first days in the costume, as the without sight became the Man Without Fear--and on of the greatest heroes in comics history. Daredevil faces off against the Owl, Purple Man and Mr. Fear for the first time--but it's not what you remember!" (from the back cover)
This doesn't match up with Netflix at all! Eh? This came out like three years before the Netflix series and was intended to be a re-imagining of Matt Murdock's origin? Well, obviously.
OK, so it's time to admit something. Be ready for a shocker. I have never really followed Daredevil all that closely. I mean, yes, obviously I knew who Daredevil was. I had picked up occasional issues. I had seen the movie and watched the Netflix series. I was familiar with the origin, the abilities, his overall existence in the Marvel Universe, some of the major storylines (Elektra, Fall From Grace, etc), even his Catholicism. I just never enjoyed him enough to put out the effort to follow his adventures more than the fringes of where he popped up in other things or the glean a little snippet of new story from what was discussed in Previews or online.
Even with only that small amount of Daredevil knowledge floating around in my head, this story was a breath of fresh air. It takes up in Matt Murdock's early days as Daredevil, when the Marvel age of heroes was still young. Daredevil has yet to become much of a name anybody recognizes. When characters do encounter him, he is generally compared to a certain wall-crawling figure who takes on great responsibility with his great powers. The Fantastic Four drop by, several of the X-Men's foes and the Avengers show up as wax dummies. This is Marvel in its heyday.
Matt's origin is, more or less, summed up in a single page. Four simple panels are all it takes to relate most of what is needed to tell. No real focus on his powers, no long drawn-out exposition. And this is exactly where this story shines brighter than most movie versions of a superhero origin. Make the origin short to allow room for more story.
There is certainly more than enough story to be had, too. From quick battles with gangsters to larger stories featuring Purple Man and Mr. Fear to the overall story unfolding in the background, Anthony Johnston packs these pages full. It is wonderful to get an introduction to some of these villains, although longtime fans may not like the take given here. I am honestly unsure of any difference between the way they are given here and classic versions as I have never read any other appearance, but they come across as well-written. Purple Man I didn't quite enjoy (I don't think I'm supposed to), but he fits so well you can't help but enjoy the story. Mr. Fear, while coming across as a Marvel version of Batman villain Scarecrow, is an interesting character and helps us to understand how Daredevil eventually becomes "the Man Without Fear."
The true story gem is all the stuff that unfolds outside of the fights with supervillains. Law practice and politicians and a parish, oh my! I won't ruin any major reveals, but let's just say that Foggy and Karen are almost as fun here as they are in the Netflix series, and Father Mullen is much more interesting than he initially seems.
The art is simply beautiful to behold. No disrespect to Bill Everett's original work, but Wellington Alves does an amazing job. Everybody looks distinct, Karen (to borrow a phrase from the Irredeemable Shagg) is "smokin' hot," and the action scenes play out just like a scene from the big budget movies.
I came into this story not knowing what to expect. I figured possibly reading 30 pages of how Matt grew up without parents, possibly how he spent time with the Chaste or even how he spent time with Elektra in college. Instead I got none of that. It was much more akin to a slimmed-down version of Batman: Year One. Daredevil mainstays Kingpin, Ben Urich, Bullseye and Elektra don't appear as part of the main story. It is, afterall, the story of Matt, Foggy and Karen in their earliest days. This is a story that everybody even remotely interested in Daredevil should read. Stalwart fans of old hornhead might find something new to enjoy and those (like me) who never took a solid interest before might find a new shiny gem of a tale.
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