Out this week is a new edition to Marvel’s new line of smaller-sized graphic novels, Mighty Marvel Masterworks. It’s a reprint of the original tales for main characters like Hulk and Spider-Man, and now it’s Daredevil’s turn. This new edition features a gorgeous new cover by Michael Cho and a table of contents, but the rest is comics you’ve read before!
Collected here is Daredevil #1-11 with Stan Lee and Wallace Wood credited as writers and Wood, Bill Everett, Joe Orlando, and Bob Powell credited as pencilers. Sam Rosen and Art Simek are letterers on this one, which features the origin of Daredevil along with some fun punch-em-up action-focused adventures.
It’s hard to believe these comics were originally published starting in 1964 as they’re incredibly accessible and the art holds up, too. Sure, Stan Lee’s style at the time was to drench each panel in captions, but it gave the books a prose quality that is endearing and colorful. It’s also interesting to see how Daredevil’s powers worked at the start, with little feedback messaging sent his way similar to sonar, while today’s Daredevil can basically see everything to the finest detail.
Likely Lee and Wallace were figuring things out as they went since Daredevil seems to realize he has new abilities as the story pushes forward. One power is the ability to tell if someone is lying from their heartbeat, for instance. He also doesn’t get his classic red costume until issue #7 when he faces off against Namor.
Speaking of villains, there are plenty in this volume. Stilt-Man, Electro, the Purple Man, the Masked Matador, and The Organizer all tangle with Daredevil in this collection. What’s most fascinating is how the creators leaned towards Daredevil not having super strength or any fantastical abilities beyond being agile. That means in most cases Daredevil had to use his cunning and quick thinking to not get pummelled to death by a supervillain like Namor.
Even Stilt-Man, who is a joke in modern comics, gives Daredevil a run for his money. In that issue, Daredevil slips and will surely fall to his death, but instead hangs onto Stilt-Man’s leg fearing the fall might kill him. It’s refreshing to see this take given modern comics have our heroes all dodging bullets with ease.
Speaking of Stilt-Man, he’s deliciously weird and sci-fi in his introduction issue. Customary for the time, many characters speak with bravado that’s over the top and downright funny. Pair that with his weird ability to grow stilts from his legs–including one time when he’s not in his costume but in a common three-piece suit–and you have a recipe for outlandish fun.
Wrapping up the collection is a good whodunnit which requires Matt Murdock to do some investigating in street clothes. It’s a good issue as it shows Daredevil doesn’t need to fight supervillains with his fists every time. It sure does have a Scooby-Doo ending, but that adds to the endearing charm of this old-school comic story.
Mighty Marvel Masterworks: Daredevil Vol. 1: While the City Sleeps is one of the stronger introductions of a superhero Marvel’s ever done making this a fun read for anyone. As always with the Mighty Marvel Masterworks, it’s a tough purchase for many these since they likely already own these stories in another collection, but the smaller size makes these great for kiddos with smaller hands.
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