DAREDEVIL : THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR (1993-1994)

  • Publication date: October 1993 – February 1994
  • Written by: Frank Miller
  • Art by: John Romita

Frank Miller once mentioned in one of his comments about Daredevil – The Man Without Fear that it was a similar concept to Batman – Year One. Now that I have read all the five comics of the series, I couldn’t agree more. Frank Miller is accredited with resurrecting more than one obscure superhero and I believe Daredevil was one of his most popular. In this miniseries, he presents a picture of the “Devil from Hell’s kitchen” that has over the years been used by Hollywood and more recently has been the axiom of the best take on the vigilante that I have seen till date.

Daredevil – The Man without Fear introduces us to a kid Matt Murdock whose father used to be a pro boxer but has over the years hit some bad times. As he grows up in a tough neighborhood, he is eager to matter and prove his worth. Soon he meets with an accident trying to save a man which renders him blind but heightens his other senses. A rugged blind man who introduces himself as stick takes the boy under his wings and teaches him how to control his newfound powers and use them to his advantage.

Matt begins to find his footing under Stick’s guidance but receives a major jolt when his father is murdered by some thugs who were using him as muscle and also to make quick bucks in boxing matches. Matt is crestfallen and he goes after the men who killed his father. In the act of taking revenge, he ends up killing an innocent that, for the first time, makes him take notice of the devil inside him. Stick abandons him branding him not worthy of being who he wanted him to be. Matt retires to a law college, making friends with his to-be associate Foggy Nelson and the feisty Electra before “The Hell’s Kitchen” comes calling for him and he cannot ignore the call.

I just loved this miniseries. Not only does it make complete sense in terms of what unfolds plot-wise, it feels very authentic in the way everything ties up. Not a lot happens through this series even though the series spans a rather long timeline. I just loved the arc of Matt Murdock as he grows through personal tragedy, a great loss and also his own brutish redemption that for a very long time puts him in a self-imposed hibernation. It just felt real and an obvious thing to do for a man who is not bad but has been consumed by revenge. I loved how Miller made his protagonist not come back to Hell’s Kitchen for a rather long time. When he gets a chance to come back, he tries to pass it on but is unable to. Once back, he visits all the places that he grew up in and starts forging a bond with a girl whose plight would go on to make him change his mind about what he wants to do and how he wants to do it.

The introduction of the Kingpin is sensational. He isn’t there for too long but every frame that he is in, he makes an impact that is hard to ignore. The same can be said about the character of Electra. The series makes it a point to give us some ominous signs about which way her character might be headed in the future but here she is truly delightful. Stick is drawn with aplomb and character. He is so authoritative in his portrayal that he feels like almost a real person who might leap off the pages.

That brings me to the artwork of Daredevil. After the hallucinatory visuals of Battle Angel Alita, Daredevil filled my eyes with vivid colors and a starkly different approach to the art. The layout, the panel-to-panel movement and the crisp editing that resembles a well-assembled scene was captivating. The art is fresh and doesn’t exactly follow the copybook style that in so many ways had become the standards of the comic book industry. Some of the pages are so beautifully rendered that they may be saved as wallpapers.

Daredevil’s origin story has been done time and again but none of them has quite reached the pedestal that this iconic story rests itself at. Daredevil Yellow is the next most popular rendering of the story but somehow Miller’s take has had more takers primarily because of its approach to the story, the rendering of the visuals and the overall treatment. This is an un-missable miniseries.

Rating: 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars) 

 

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