Daredevil by Chip Zdarsky Volume 1 (2020)
Reprints Daredevil #1-10
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Marco Checcetto, Lalit Kumar Sharma, and Jorge Fornes
I can’t say Daredevil has ever been a character I was drawn to reading. I’ve mostly been a DC Comics fan since I was a kid but have certainly read a healthy amount of Marvel Comics in that time too. However, Daredevil just felt like someone I never really clicked with and would instead read X-Men or Spider-Man. Nevertheless, this run by acclaimed writer Chip Zdarsky has garnered much praise, which intrigued me. So, I sat down and read through the run’s first ‘deluxe’ volume.
Matt Murdock (Daredevil) has recovered a near-fatal injury and is working as a parole officer in Hell’s Kitchen. Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin, has won the mayoral race and now rules over New York City with little effective pushback. Murdock keeps his distance from his old foe and is hesitant to don his Daredevil costume again. But of course, it will be inevitable that he becomes Daredevil again, and it’s not clear if he’ll survive it. The NYPD has brought in Detective Cole North from Chicago, and he is focused on taking down all vigilante and superhuman violence in the city. Unfortunately, everything appears to be stacked against Murdock, and then he goes and sleeps with the wife of a mob-connected guy, and things just get worse.
Every Daredevil run is living in the shadow of Frank Miller and Brian Michael Bendis’ classic runs. Admittedly, I have not read those two due to my previously stated lack of enthusiasm over the character, but I would like to someday. Without reading them, I know enough of those stories to see how they continue to shape whoever is writing the title. I did read a bit of Mark Waid’s run, and it was pretty good, and I can see how that also influenced what Zdarsky does here.
One element I like about Daredevil is how he makes Peter Parker’s personal life look downright quaint. Matt Murdock is a tormented character, and writers often push him to the edge both physically and psychologically. Realistically, Murdock should have died many times over at this point, but part of the character is his determined nature to keep crawling back even when driven from being broken to wholly shattered. Zdarsky’s Murdock is plagued by doubts, shown to be something that has been with him for decades as we see flashbacks to childhood confessions to a priest about hating God.
I think the story gets even better in the second half of this volume, where Murdock is wholly divorced from the identity of Daredevil. There is still someone running around the city in the costume, but it’s not him. Instead, Zdarsky takes us back to examining the core of what makes this character tick. He juxtaposes him against the Punisher, who mistakenly thinks the faux-Daredevil is Murdock. The Punisher praises the lawyer for killing instead of leaving the perps around for the cops to pick up. This infuriates Matt, and he lashes out at the vigilante for even thinking they follow the same path.
While Wilson Fisk and the mobster The Owl operate as traditional foes in the background, Zdarsky gives us one of Murdock’s most complicated developments. The hero begins having an affair with a woman married to a member of the Libris crime family. Libris are a new creation for this run, and Zdarsky beautifully delivers a five-page summary of their history in Hell’s Kitchen, an example of perfect, compact worldbuilding. There never needs to be a single sentence of exposition about them after this, as we know all the primary elements that set them apart from the other families. Having Murdock become intimately involved with Mindy, a bookstore owner married into the mob presents a very different sort of conflict than having Daredevil face off physically with one of his classic foes. He’s developed feelings for Mindy, and it will be a hell of a lot harder to just walk away when things get dangerous.
Told in parallel to Matt’s story is Det. North as he butts heads with a profoundly corrupt police department, who aren’t as keen to take down the families still connected to Wilson Fisk. I get the sense that the story is heading to a place where North will be forced to form an alliance with Murdock as they have quickly developed a mutual enemy in Fisk. It will be interesting to see how far North is willing to bend outside the system of law he has pledged himself to. Conversely, Murdock doesn’t seem as keen to be Daredevil anymore, but I can’t see him turning himself in when Fisk is taken down, and North wants to return to arresting vigilantes.
Zdarsky has undoubtedly set up an exciting story here. I know there’s a larger story arc happening now, Devil’s Reign, which is what these issues are building towards. I think the idea of giving Fisk such a level of power that he’s effectively out of Daredevil’s grasp makes for interesting stories. It also helps that it’s not too far from reality, where so many of America’s urban spaces are ruled over by dirty cops and a complicit city hall. I know I will be back for the second volume in a few months, and Zdarsky has certainly piqued my interest in this character.