Or – “Shadowland #6 Of 5?”

So I didn’t get to review the last issue of Shadowland (didn’t even get to read it, actually, we sold out at the store) but I was under the impression from scuttlebutt around the store that it featured the death of Matt Murdock, Daredevil.  So, naturally, one month later, it’s time for a new Daredevil book!  Would that real life mortality was so easily handled…

Daredevil Reborn #1
Written by Andy Diggle
Art by Davide Gianfelice
Colors by Matt Hollingsworth
Letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover by Jock
Published by Marvel Comics
$3.99

Previously, on Daredevil – Reborn:  Matt Murdock’s life has been a difficult one.  As a child, he was blinded while saving the life of a complete stranger.  His father died while he was still young.  He has had approximately fifty-seven fiancees, all of which have met unpleasant ends (the worst was Myrtle, who was decapitated while riding The Mixer at the local carnival.  They found her head over by the snow cone concession…) and his only living ex is a 71-year-old Russian girl in a leather catsuit who is now dating a cyborg assassin.  (The Black Widow’s birthdate, by the way, is canonical, thanks to that Jim Lee X-Men issue.)  During the mess known as Shadowland, Matt was even possessed by a demonic presence, leading him to unprecedented actions before he was forced to commit suicide to save the world from his own evil, known in the Marvel U. as “pulling a Jeannie.”  Now, cleansed of evil, his old life behind him, Matthew Michael Murdock is searching for purpose, trying to once again become the man without fear…

We open in the middle of the New Mexico badlands, with Matt Murdock channelling Forrest Gump and walking across the country after the sounds and stench of the bus proved to be too much for his superhuman senses.  He comes upon a remote diner, and anyone who has ever seen a cowboy movie or watched an episode of Bill Bixby’s ‘Incredible Hulk’ knows whats coming next.  The waitress is surly, the streets are empty, and there’s even a little blind boy sitting in the parking lot flipping a coin.  Of course, the locals arrive to figure out what the stranger is all about.  I’m unfamiliar with the art of Davide Gianfelice, but it reminds me of a weird melange of Peter Chung and Barry Windsor Smith, and as strange as the combination might sound, it works most of the time.  Matt gets accosted, channels his inner Chang Kwai Caine, and gets sort of saved by the local sherriff, who then tells him to get the hell out of town.  It’s all very ominous and a little surreal, and the setup is vaguely shopworn, but it is interesting to see Matt out of  his element.

The moments that really crystallize the book for me come as he tries to leave, only to realize that something about the whole setup smells funny.  This being Daredevil, though, we’re speaking literally instead of metaphorically, which I kind of like.  The other moment that defines the book comes when the redneck sherriff runs a picture of Matt that he snapped with  his cell phone through the computer database and finds out who he is, his history, and even the fact that he is suspected to be the vigilante Daredevil.  Taking the wind out of the classic ‘First Blood’ scenario oddly doesn’t damage it’s impact, though, as Matt starts investigating a strange quarry, finds a mess of corpses, and has a run-in with the law, ending with the sherriff’s lackeys thinking they’ve run him down.  The last page is pretty awesome as well, with Daredevil silhouetted against a New Mexico moon as it becomes clear that $#!+ is seriously on…

I was pleasantly surprised by this issue, going in with limited expectations as I did.  Apparently, Matt’s suicide at the end of ‘Shadowland’ was more metaphorical than physical, which negates my major complaint about temporary deaths.  The story here, thankfully, doesn’t worship at the altar of Frank Miller with nary a ninja in sight, and even a nice use of the tropes of ‘mysterious drifter’ and ‘strange little town.’  Andy Diggle gets inside the head of the bruised ‘Devil in ways that are both insightful and deft, avoiding the melodrama and getting into the kind of internal discussion one can actually see a real grown-up having with himself.  All in all, it’s a well-done book with a character that I don’t have a lot of attachment to showing why he’s interesting.  Daredevil – Reborn #1 earns an impressive 4 out of 5 stars overall, looking and reading smoothly and hopefully leading the character into territory that isn’t all about Bullseye, Elektra, Kingpin and the dead girlfriend of the week.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  How often do you find yourself enjoying a story with a character you can take or leave?  Which ones?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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6 Comments

  1. faralar
    January 12, 2011 at 7:04 pm — Reply

    What’s with the “worshiping at the altar of frank miller” coment, those are some of the best dardevil stories written.

    • January 12, 2011 at 8:29 pm — Reply

      What’s with the “worshiping at the altar of frank miller” coment, those are some of the best dardevil stories written.

      I completely agree. And they’ve been endlessly referenced and revisited and rewritten and pastiched in the years since. Daredevil under Miller was ground-breaking and exciting, which is why it’s so disappointing when Marvel repeatedly goes back to that particular well.

      Of course, the same is true of Jim Shooter’s Legion of Super-Heroes, Mark Gruenwald’s Squadron Supreme, Grant Morrison’s Justice League, Doug Moench’s Batman and dozens of others, so it’s a common enough complaint…

  2. Luis Dantas
    January 12, 2011 at 8:03 pm — Reply

    Fairly often. Batman is such a character for me. In fact, so is Daredevil.

  3. Fletch
    January 12, 2011 at 8:44 pm — Reply

    I liked it! After the crud that was Shadowland (boy, am I glad that’s over), I didn’t think I’d be interested in DD for a while, but a new writer/artist broom sweeps clean.

  4. Ray
    January 12, 2011 at 10:37 pm — Reply

    I totally agree about the frank Miller comment. I loved the Ann Nocenti DD. It went in crazy directions. Miller’s stories are the best, but but they are tired now.

  5. Antonio Sanciolo
    January 13, 2011 at 12:54 am — Reply

    always happened to me with 70s era marvel characters that re-emerged in the mid-late 90s; a la shang chi, iron fist and luke cage (pre-Bendis).

    Pretty much any of the Charlton characters consumed by DC offer enjoyable stories despite the characters being so archetypical or just seemingly bland eg. Peacekeeper.

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