Will the latest relaunch by Marvel Comics of the Man Without Fear prove true the old adage of "Better the devil you know..."?
The answer might well depend on when you were first introduced to Daredevil.
He's alternately been portrayed as a footloose and fancy free swashbuckler as well as a brooding, tortured soul depending on who's writing him at the time. In recent history though, Marvel has demonstrated a fondness for putting DD through the wringer, again and again, with the final "Shadowland" story arc of his previous series having had DD possessed by a literal devil, building a fortress of murder and torture in Hell's Kitchen and taking on friends and foes alike, culminating in his "death". His title was then given to the Black Panther, both literally and figuratively before Daredevil was "reborn" while on walkabout in New Mexico (don't ask), and now we're here.The inaugural story arc of this series takes place after all that grim and gritty business of life, death and rebirth. The essential elements of Daredevil are introduced to the reader on page one in a succinct summary of his origins, and then we cut away to hornhead's new status quo in an excellent example of "show me, don't tell me" storytelling by Mark Waid. I'll admit to being a little skeptical of Waid's choice of the Spot for the inaugural villain of the new series, but it did allow Daredevil to showcase his powers and abilities to good effect for new readers. We then shift gears as Waid shows us that Matt Murdock has a new status quo as well - apparently he can't function effectively as a lawyer anymore due to the outing of his identity as Daredevil by the tabloids (showing that despite DD's new outlook on life, life's still wrestling with the history of the old DD). The story is then cut short, ending with the appearance of a certain red, white and blue shield hurtling towards our hero as he stands on a rooftop with his radar-senses baffled. Apparently DD's old pals might have a few questions of their own for the devil's advocate when it comes to reconciling Daredevil's recent shadowed history with his new happy-go-lucky take on life.
We're then treated to a bonus story by Mark Waid and Marcos Martin which shines the spotlight on Matt Murdock's relationships with Foggy Nelson (his ever loyal sidekick and law firm partner), the city of New York, and his father's memory. This second bite at the big apple is taken, if you will, to show us why and how DD got to this point in his life where he's gone from tortured soul and Byronic hero to devil-may-care man of derring-do. Truth be told, I sort of enjoyed this part of the book more than the first story, even though it focused on Matt Murdock out of costume for the entire story save for the very first page.
So. Is the devil we know better than the one we don't? For this fan, the answer is yes, and I look forward to seeing Daredevil's new superheroic swashbuckling status quo play out in the coming issues of the new series. Though it looks like his friends in the Marvel Universe might be a little less initially forgiving and welcoming, starting with Captain America's visit with hornhead next issue! (I'm sure the fact that Cap has a movie coming out this weekend had absolutely nothing at all to do with his guest appearance next issue. Really.)
RATING: 4 out of 5