I've apologised for this before but I am acutely aware this blog o'mine has a heavy DC bias when it comes to the Big Two. This was mainly due to the UK writers and artists I loved when they wrote for 2000AD in the mid-to-late eighties being head hunted by DC editor Karen Berger and the more "grown up" takes they had on various DC properties resulting in the creation of the mature reader orientated Vertigo imprint which of course appealed to someone coming to superheroes in her mid-teens rather than as a kid. Because I had been drawn into that universe already I picked up a wider love of the DCU overall which has resulted in me jumping into it again on my return to comics a few years ago. Now, I have started reading a lot more Marvel recently (Garth Ennis's Punisher MAX, Grant Morrison's New X-Men, Brian K.Vaughan's Runaways, Brian Michael Bendis's Daredevil, David Lapham's Deadpool MAX etc), because Marvel have been putting out some really big omnibus volumes of popular runs of various series but I haven't figured out the best way of tackling them yet for this blog. Now Garth Ennis has made me love The Punisher, and having read Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev's Daredevil run as well as Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's extraordinary Daredevil: Born Again they have made me love that character as well. A few years ago like many other Marvel properties, Daredevil was restarted at number one under the "Marvel NOW" imprint and veteran writer Mark Waid teaming up with artist Chris Samnee gave us their take on Matt Murdock aka Daredevil, a lawyer blinded in a childhood accident involving radioactive waste but who developed super senses to compensate and now fights crime in the area of New York called "Hell's Kitchen".
Of course this leads us straight into the first change this series has in store for fans, he's based in San Francisco now. Which automatically has my interest because New York has been so integral to his character for a long time. So seeing him adapt to an unfamiliar setting should be very interesting. And don't worry, his reason for being outside of his New York comfort zone is elaborated upon in the following chapters, this book contains the first five issues drawn by Chris Samnee and the done-in-one prequel "Road Warrior" drawn by Peter Krause.
|Matt Murdock, official investigator now.|
The expert turns out to be Matt Murdock using his supersenses to check the dropped doll and panicked recording of the abducted girl out this is our first notification that his secret life as Daredevil is now known. He has a breakthrough in that he detects the very faintest trace of radioactive waste on the ransom note as well as hearing noises in the background of the recording that indicate a bowling alley is nearby. The radioactivity most likely comes from a naval base in the city, so it's time for Daredevil to check out if there are any bolwing alley's close by.
We then get an introduction to Daredevil. When he was a kid he saved a man from being hit by a truck, but was hit in the face himself by a loose radioactive waste canister. He was rendered blind, but all his other senses became superhuman, giving him sight in the form a radar sense.
Matt: "I grew up using those gifts to become a lawyer by day... and a crimebuster by night. All to help balance the scales in an unjust world. My name is Matt Murdock... and that's my mission".
He quickly finds the girl and scoops her up, but is chased by the costumed abductors. As they race across San Francisco he notes that although he isn't a stranger to 'Frisco, really needs to reacclimate himself to the city now he is based there.
|Daredevil finds Chealsea.|
He takes out one pursuer, but still has another on his tail. He manages to set the girl, who we find out is called Chelsea down on a window ledge and reassures her she'll be OK. he says he likes her watch. She says it's not a watch, it's a bracelet.
Matt: "Wait, what? Then where's the ticking coming... from? Oh dear Lord, it's coming from HER."
Gently he pinches Chelsea's neck and renders her unconcious, then he yells at Kirsten to direct him to the nearest hospital, and it must be a tall one. He thinks that the bomb is likely a "microdevice" that was fed to Chelsea while in captivity.
He says that's why he's being chased but not caught, he's "being played." The kidnappers wanted her handed over to the police, "they want to set her off where she can do most damage!" Kirsten asks why he is going to a hospital, because there are plenty of crowds there.
|Daredevil gets Chelsea to safety.|
We then jump to "three days later" and the start of a running joke involving the signage on Kirsten and Matt's law practice. This time Matt's name is in teeny tiny writing. The mayor has come to give thanks, her name is Charlotte Hastert. Matt introduces her to Kirsten, who helped get them their office here in San Francisco. Kirsten is thankful and comments drily:
Kirsten: "Strange how so few landlords want to rent to a super hero who got his office blown up every six months even before his identity went public."
Charlotte tells them Chelsea is fine and the bomb was removed safely. The captured henchman has given nothing up though, he didn't even know what the ransome was for. Charlotte mentions she thought Matt had a different law partner back in New York. matt looks pained and says "Foggy... his name was Foggy Nelson" as we see an urn. But the final panel of this first chapter is Foggy, very much alive watching them as he repeats the word "was" to himself.
|Max Coleridge, not a well man.|
We then cut to Matt Murdock having a meal in with Mayor Charlotte and his law partner Kirsten. As they eat, Charlotte says that she fears that an old enemy of Daredevil's is in town, "the Kingpin of Crime... Leland Owlsley" This just elicits laughter from Matt who says he was worried she'd say Wilson Fisk, the real Kingpin of Crime. He says Owlsley is "manageable" and that he needs a new project.
Charlotte says that The Shroud is being a royal pain in the arse. Matt doesn't know who he is, so Kirsten says she'll look him up in the Avenger's files. His story is basically a version of Batman's: parents gunned down by a mugger, threw himself into intense physical and spiritual training, travelled the world and studied martial arts under the "cult of Kali". The only difference he was given actual powers to command shadow and darkness by them, in return they took his eyes.
|Daredevil confronts The Shroud.|
Matt: "Now, we either have common enemies. In which case we ally for greater good... or you come at me again and you'll be in jail in less time than it took to lay you out."
The Shroud calls him an "overpriviledged glory hound" and Daredevil is an inch away from giving him over to the police, but The Shroud says then "four men starve to death", giving Daredevil pause. The Shroud says he can take Daredevil to the "new boss in town" so Daredevil agrees to go with him.
Back in the flat, Charlotte has called the police and tells them to follow Daredevil and The Shroud. As she leaves she mentions she would like to have met Foggy, and that of all the things that could have got him she never would have thought it would be cancer. Left alone, Kirsten logs into the Avenger's files again to check on Leland Owlsley.
|The Shroud shows off his powers.|
We then cut to a park, a frightened man gives a report to a shadowy person up in a tree he addresses as Mr Owlsley, telling them that The Shroud is definitely making a play to "challenge your empire". The four Capos are still missing bu their four leiutenants have been put back on the street with a mark branding them on their faces.
Owlsley says it doesn't make sense, isn't The Shroud a crimefighter? Apparently he came down on the wrong side of the superhero registration act and lost everything dear to him. When the hapless man reports to Owlsley that he knows Daredevil's address, Owlsley rants about who controls the flow of information "who manipulates it? Who decides what's secret and what isn't? WHO?" And he kills his informant. Harsh.
Back in The Shroud's apartment, he and Daredevil have come to blows again. Daredevil wonders what's going on as he thinks The Shroud could kill him easily. He manages to get him in a headlock and pries some answers from him, "you're a resume builder" says The Shroud. He was to beat him up, drop him in front of the Tv studio and this would make The Shroud come off as a credible threat. "The fastest way to get an audience with the Owl".
Daredevil says it wasn't a bad plan as these things go. The Shroud says they can still do it, Daredevil will pretend to be unconcious and the The Shroud will hand deliver him to Owlsley who will open the door and they can double team him. Daredevil is less enamoured of that plan.
|Foggy in disguise.|
Then as she goes to give him a push there he slips his beard off and reveals he's Foggy Nelson underneath much to the annoyance of Kirsten. She hustles Charlotte out of her office then gives Foggy a very loud piece of her mind. "A lot of people went to a lot of trouble to fake your death for a very good reason!" He looks downcast and admits he was going stir crazy.
He defends himself saying he wore a disguise, she says she's seen ventriloquist dummies more convincing. The only people allowed to know he's alive are her, Matt, Doctor Pym (Ant Man) and his oncologist. Before she can chew him out some more, Matt phones and asks her for something.
Later that evening at dusk, Max The Shroud takes him to a well guarded estate. He's tried to break in before and never made it past the dogs. Matt has a different approach. He rocks up to the front gate in his civvies and flashes a subpoena at the guards. They bring him inside for an audience with Owlsley. Matt hands over the subpoena, which actually turns out to be a restaurant order in the envelope. Matt was the misdirection, the Shroud is the main event as he looms up behind Owlsley and puts a shadow knife to his throat.
|The Shroud threatens Owlsley.|
Owlsley says do not call him a liar. Julia is someone Max loved before the "law ripped her from your arms and from your life."
Owlsley: "But I know where she is. Fight me and I will take that knowledge to my grave. Allow me to dispose of my greatest enemy and I will reunite you".
Matt frantically tries to keep to the plan but Max bellows, "Is he lying? Is he?" And matt has to say "no but..." and gets cut off because Max has withdrawn and Owlsley has activated a trapdoor over a burning pit that he drops Matt into.
|Old skool traps are the best.|
He can't find them and we cut to him having a meal with Kirsten who says "so you just took your fake subpoena and went home?" He says it's tempting to leave Owlsley, the "first arch-nemesis Daredevil had" in the hands of The Shroud, but not his call to make and the fact Max is a broken man who might let anything happen to be reunited with Julia means he needs to get a handle on the situation.
Kirsten says that Owlsley has been buying up Silicon Valley stocks left right and centre and is now very powerful in the tech sector. But there is a cutting edge fibre optics start-up that refuses to business with him and Matt thinks that means it might be ripe for a break-in by The Shroud. As Kirsten gets in a taxi home she says she'll text him the address.
|Super telepathic wifi!|
Owlsley: "True sight Mr. Coleridge. Utter and total omniscience as illuminating as the light that feeds it."
Then Daredevil drops down and punches him, Max yells at him to stay away and he and Dardevil brawl some more. Matt thinks to himself that Max is either "unspeakably arrogant or deep down he knows he can't..." and his thought trails off. Then he realises:
Matt: "No wonder Max Coleridge resents me so much... I've been saving his life."
Owlsley deliberately does.. something with the prototype that causes electricity to arc around his body. Then we cut to the aftermath. Daredevil and The Shroud are gone, Owlsley is trussed up in the wreckage of the lab, but he now has scary glowing eyes.
|Daredevil lets Max have it.|
The next chapter fills us in on why his former law partner Foggy Nelson had to fake his death and go into hiding. We begin with Hank "Ant Man" Pym inside Foggy Nelson zapping errant "Circulating Tumor Cells". Sadly Foggy has cancer and this is an attempt to limit the damage to his body.
It's more of an attempt to keep Foggy's spirits up but it isn't working and his relationship with Matt is getting strained. They discuss Matt's recent unmasking as Daredevil and how this has painted a huge target on Foggy hence his need to go into hiding. They'll say the cancer took him and he can come with him and Kirsten to San Francisco and keep up his treatment in secret.
Matt says he can come back from the dead at a later date, Foggy notes that's something reserved for super heroes:
Foggy: "They go out with a bang. I'm just a guy. Dying because he lost a fight. Who's even going to notice?"
He ruminates some more as they stand on a bridge looking out over the water, "not everyone gets to go out big" he sighs. Then suddenly the water begins to churn and a huge robot rises up out of the water.
Matt picks up Foggy and makes a run for it as the big green robot comes jumping after them. This makes Matt think it might be an old enemy of his "Leapfrog" now seriously upgraded. The robot catches up with them and grabs Foggy and tucks him into a compartment inside him and leaps off.
|Foggy's hero moment.|
The driver of the robot ejects and tries to run, but Daredevil grabs him. As they struggle, Daredevil realises he reeks of "rising terror". Daredevil ties him up and the man screams, "you've killed us both!". Daredevil realises the robot suit is a timebomb about to go off. Foggy has managed to climb out of where he was being held and Daredevil shouts to him that he has twenty seconds to get inside the robot and leap as high as he can.
So Foggy does so and the robot suit explodes in the sky above. As the bystanders ask him if that was really Foggy, but he takes off and goes some wayaway and finds Foggy in the arms of Hank Pym drifting back down to earth as minute sized beings. They grow back to normal size and Foggy asks what just happened.
Matt: "You just sacrificed your life in front of thousands of onlookers in a blaze of glory my friend".
Just before the robot exploded, Hank Pym shrank him down to subatomic size. So he went out big and small at the same time.
This is getting a little long, as issue #0.1 takes place outside of the main series I'll just give it a quick summation. In it Matt tangles with a rogue android that can take on the identity of anyone, including Matt who has to fight it as a Dardevil copy. He tracks it down to a villain called "The Mad Thinker". Matt suffers a beating at the hands of the Thinker's androids but manages to convince the rogue android that The Mad Thinker is an android and so the rogue android turns on him and beats him unconcious shutting the other self defence androids down, before Matt stops him by convincing him he's not sentient and causing him to shut down in confusion. The story ends with him meeting up with Kirsten for a drive.
Overall this is a really enjoyable start to this take on Daredevil. It's interesting for me, having been reading the much more angsty Bendis/Maleev take on the character to see Matt as a calmer and much more at peace with himself person. It seems that now he doesn't have to maintain a double life and secret identity he's more relaxed and less wound up. Of course this reveal lead to him being disbarred from practicing law in New York, hence his move to San Francisco but that just means we get to learn about his new surroundings as he does. Setting him against The Shroud was an interesting choice, because The Shroud is very much like Matt has been in the past. Driven to the point of madness having lost everything he cares about. Through him we get to see how Matt has dealt with his demons and come out stronger on the other side, rather than do what The Shroud is doing and subconciously look for a way to end it all. His support characters are good as well, with Foggy sidelined, Kirsten makes for a sharp and sarcastic foil for the madness that comes with being around Matt Murdock. Charlotte the Mayor also gives Matt the link to authority he's never had in the past. I absolutely love Chris Samnee's artwork. It has a heavy "blocky" look to it that feels very Jack Kirby, perfectly matching the Silver Age writing style of Mark Waid's script. All-in-all a swaggering, confident start to an acclaimed run.