Daredevil is a character who has had a tumultuous time over the years. Frank Miller revived him, and then later Marvel Knights saved him. It’s a character who didn’t always sell well –maybe that’s because writers didn’t know how to tackle him. In Marvel Comics’ latest trade paperback (volume 19), Daredevil is no longer Matt Murdock, but Jack Batlin — and he’s a bit nuts.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Dark times for Daredevil – and Elektra! When DD heads underground, he gets drawn into an ordeal involving Bushwacker, the Devourer and…Deathlok? But as things get explosive, is the biggest menace the underground King – or the rising Kingpin? Out of costume, it’s Matt Murdock no more – now he’s Jack Batlin, street hustler! But when a Kruel menace targets Matt’s friends, “Jack’s” old life quickly comes back to haunt him! It’s time for the ‘Devil to do a little soul-searching, before his identity crisis pushes him over the edge! Will Nick Fury and the Punisher play a part in the return of the “real” Daredevil? Plus: DD’s former flame, the assassin Elektra, stars in her own epic tale of darkness and deception – taking on the Hand and the sinister Snakeroot!
Why does this matter?
This collection contains stories about Daredevil fighting evil in the sewers, a quick mini series focused on Elektra, and an interesting one shot written by Warren Ellis. It’s an interesting time for the character as he’s a bit unhinged and tied closely to the criminal underground.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Daredevil is an angry sort of hero in this collection. He’s willing to break arms for information while also battling his internal struggle with being Jack Batlin. His new identity was revealed before this collection, but you get a good sense of why he had to do it on an emotional level here. He’s a street hustler now, but is consistently thinking like a lawyer, which is an interesting dual personality element of the series.
These stories originally came out between 1994 and 1995 so they have a certain style that seems old now, but it’s fun to see a more blunt style. Ellis’s story is quite good and has strongly written captions to get into Murdock’s head. You can almost see how Ellis wanted to get rid of Jack Batlin, although it’s near the end of the collection so it’s uncertain if they change the character back anytime soon. This is a time when the character was dark and edgy simply to be dark and edgy. A good example of this is in the last chapter, which focuses on Daredevil attempting to protect Nick Fury, who is a target of Punisher. These characters go in and out of being good guys but they’re decidedly not here.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The character writing of Daredevil leaves a lot to be desired. He’s rather flat as the angry character who wants answers yesterday. He seems to grit his teeth in nearly every page and his character is downright insane at times too. There isn’t much explanation as to why he has to keep living this street grifter lifestyle and he barely does anything criminal beyond beat people up. There are moments where there’s a chance of character development, but the series tends to shift away to action at these moments. Kingpin is rather flat too and that makes him uninteresting. If a villain snivels and does things simply to be evil, it’s hard to care.
It’s also very ’90s in how it approaches cameos. Deathlock, for instance, inexplicably shows up and the reason why is passable at best. The costume seems to be a big selling point, which is even made fun of at one point, further proving they were going for a tone but weren’t grounding it in any kind of interesting reality.
It’s also worth noting the cover is very misleading since the yellow Daredevil character doesn’t show up till the very end. He kicks off what looks like an interesting storyline, but alas you’ll need to read volume 20 to see it.
Is it good?
This is an okay collection that focuses on a time where Daredevil was basically a crazy person living in the streets. That’s actually quite a cool idea, especially ditching the Matt Murdock personality, but it’s not tied to anything real. That leaves you with a book that’s more interesting because it’s a spotlight on a time in comics when writing focused on going for a certain tone, not necessarily because it’s all that great.