Wilson Fisk is the Mayor of New York City. Organized crime is undergoing a boom, and Hell’s Kitchen is overrun with petty crime. Daredevil is dead. Or so everyone believes.
Chip Zdarsky’s Daredevil begins a short while after the events of Charles Soule’s Death of Daredevil and Jed MacKay’s The Man Without Fear. Matthew Murdock has been hit by a truck saving someone, ironically mirroring the injury that cost him his eyesight, and has spent the last while in the hospital, recovering. Daredevil hasn’t been seen in quite some time, and the criminals of Hell’s Kitchen have become bolder and bolder.
The book opens with Matt walking into a bar, where a very noisy party is celebrating. He meets a woman at the counter, who tells him that these are mobsters celebrating that they were able to keep one of their men from going to prison for a crime he committed. Matt, however, doesn’t seem very interested, instead opting to flirt with the woman who gave him this information and going home with her. After Matt sleeps with her, he explains what he’s been up to to both the woman and the reader before she leaves. And Matt is left alone, with both his thoughts and this information about a criminal who belongs in prison, before he suits up as Daredevil for the first time in a while.
Zdarsky’s narration for Matt throughout this first outing as Daredevil is excellent, showing the mindset of a man who has been out of the game for a while and is genuinely enjoying being back in it. Matt mentions wanting to be seen, to get the word out that Daredevil is back — because that thought will make potential criminals hesitate. This outing goes well, with Matt apprehending the mobster who was celebrating, until he tries to stop a robbery. Still shaky and recovering from his injuries, Matt is almost overwhelmed by three robbers, and only barely manages to escape – with severe damage done to the store being robbed. And later that night, on the news, it is revealed that one of the robbers died from his injuries.
The next chapter of the book focuses on how everyone reacts to this news. The Kingpin is quietly excited, as he recognizes this opportunity to turn the world against Daredevil forever. Detective Cole North, a new transfer to the NYPD, dives head-first into the hunt for Daredevil. Foggy Nelson immediately tries to help Matt prove his innocence in the courts. Matt himself is convinced that someone set him up — that he’d never kill someone, this has to have been tampering. But it is quickly revealed beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is not the case. Daredevil has carelessly killed a man, and must now live with the consequences.
As the book progresses, Matt becomes more and more irrational. His decisions become worse and worse, as he gets arrested and later captured by the Punisher, managing to escape both situations by the skin of his teeth. This culminates in a very public fight with an entire gang run by the Owl that requires all of Matt’s friends on the streets of New York to bail him out. Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones all try to stage an intervention and tell Matt that he needs to be able to move past what was really an accident, but Matt turns the tables around on them — they’re all killers, too. The book ends with Spider-Man finally appearing to tell Matt to stop, and that he can’t be Daredevil. Matt agrees.
Zdarsky does an excellent job writing Matt’s state of mind throughout this volume. Matt starts off confident, but is shaken very quickly and becomes more and more irrational and erratic as the story progresses. By the end, he’s mentally broken, arguably worse than any physical injury he’s suffered. It’s almost a tradition for each Daredevil writer to send Matt through the ringer, hurting him even more than he’s been hurt before, and Zdarsky is really getting a head start on this.
The most interesting part of this run so far is Zdarsky’s focus on Matt’s Catholicism as a defining trait of his character. Matt has always been a devout Catholic, but aside from a flavor for more generalized angst, it has rarely, if at all, been explored to the extent that Zdarsky has done in this volume. The issue has several flashbacks to Matt’s confessions growing up. As a child, he confessed to stealing something from a thief in the name of justice, and his priest tells him that his only mistake was getting caught. This is a very clearly formative moment in Matt’s life, that has informed the sense of justice he has today.
The other important flashback is soon after Matt loses his eyesight, where he tries to say that because he does nothing, he doesn’t sin, but the same priest catches him and recognizes that his sin is hating God. This is a very important facet of Matt’s character that fleshes out his relationship with his faith even further. Daredevil has been a devout Catholic for quite some time, and his Catholic guilt has been a definitive character trait, and this detail adds a whole extra level of nuance to his character. Matt has been raised to love God, and truly wants to love God, but cannot help but hate Him. It’s another contradiction inherent to Matt, just like his Devil iconography, and it’s a wonderful little addition to the character.
Marco Checchetto’s art is absolutely incredible throughout this volume. Every page is dripping with a style that perfectly matches Zdarsky’s New York City, and every splash page is drop dead gorgeous. The page where Matt suits up for the first time could very well be its own cover, and the interiors throughout are just perfect. There are a lot of great touches in regards to the paneling — for example, in the fight where Matt accidentally kills a robber, it would be very easy to give the moment where he fatally wounds the man some extra weight, but the entire fight is chaotic and each panel could very well be the one with the killing blow. Each fight scene is laid out in such a way that it’s easy to follow yet perfectly depicts how disorienting and chaotic the experience is for Matt, which works wonders for being able to get into his head.
This volume is an excellent start to Zdarsky’s run on Daredevil, and is incredibly beginner-friendly while also intensely rewarding to longtime fans. Zdarsky provides a very fresh jumping on point with an easily understood backstory, while continuing Matt’s character arc that has been going on for decades. Every character in the book is written incredibly well, and the story is one that fits Daredevil incredibly well, both tonally and as a character arc. Checchetto’s art is gorgeous, and enhances the story immensely. Daredevil has had a incredibly consistent streak of excellent creative teams for decades, and this first volume shows that it is definitely continuing.
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