Daredevil: The Man Without Fear Review and Story Recap By Deffinition
Daredevil: The Man Without Fear Is renowned as one of the best Marvel Graphic Novels out there…..and I’ve never read it. Aware of how prominent the reputation that precedes is, I’ve decided to pick up the book and see if it still remains relevant or if age has lessened its effect.
Frank Miller’s legendary run revitalised the character in several ways and I have seen a lot of fans put this up there with his work on Batman. However, if you’ve seen my reviews on books like Holy Terror and The Dark Knight Strikes Again, then you know I have mixed feelings towards the writer/artist.
Putting my prejudices to one side I will try and review this graphic novel as if it just come out yesterday and all of the esteem surrounding it doesn’t exist. Putting the lawyer on trial, let’s find out if Daredevil: Man Without Fear wins the case or is sent to the docks (I don’t really know if that metaphor works…look I’m a comic critic, not a lawyer).
We open on a young Matt Murdock, villainous and a miscreant teenager, he seems a far cry from the man that would become The Devil Of Hell’s Kitchen. Matt’s life is changed when he is blinded by a radioactive chemical spill and whilst he loses his sight, his other senses are improved astronomically. Frank Miller plays to his strengths in the opening and whilst the dialogue is simplistic, it’s fraught with emotion. Not being a New Yorker I found it slightly difficult to connect with the aesthetic from the off, however, through the turmoil that the character faces I slowly began to gravitate towards him.
When Matt’s Father is murdered by a Gangster, the young boy makes a pledge to get revenge on the criminals that took his Father’s life and we see a transformative process in which the vandal becomes a saviour.
It’s the classic Superhero archetype origin and because of it, I found the opening quite repetitive. If you have any inkling of Daredevils inception then this opening will most likely drag for you too and whilst it isn’t Miller’s fault that his work has been adapted umpteen times, it doesn’t mean that the book’s opening will be entertaining for new readers.
“Whoever that woman is, she enjoyed every second of it”
The book picks up upon the introduction of Elektra. Bringing vibrancy and dynamism she elevates the storyline on every panel that she graces. Antagonising Matt, she playfully taunts the young vigilante and the chemistry that is captured between the two instantly cements them as one of comics classic couples.
Whilst Miller has been criticised in the past for depicting females as one-dimensional prostitutes (and he even has Matt murder one by accident in the intro) it’s refreshing to see that he handles Elektra’s characterisation fittingly well. She lives Life on the edge, a true Daredevil, she and Matt learn they have more in common than hobbies and the two seem like a match made in heaven. It’s a joy to watch the two traverse New York, chasing danger, and Readers will fall head over heels with Elektra and her femme fatale attitude. She instantly makes the book ten times more interesting to read and is a credit to Frank Miller.
The Kingpin Of Crime
As the years pass, Crime in New York changes. Selling anything to anyone who will buy (including children) The Kingpin rules with an iron fist. Racketeering in drugs, child trafficking, prostitution and murder, he is like nothing that Matt has faced before and the vigilante must become something terrible in order to take him down.
After one of Matt’s wards is kidnapped and escorted to a warehouse where they will be trafficked, Matt dons his father’s old costume and becomes The Daredevil. In a fashion you’d expect, Daredevil beats the criminals, saves the girl and wins the day.
Whilst, on the whole, this is an enjoyable, if not cliched, finale, I had problems with how nonchalantly that Matt murders the mobsters. Leaving some to drown, stabbing others and flinging bullets back at their heads, he seems amiss to the fact he is as bad as the criminals he takes down. I wrestled with myself over whether I should be ok with this aesthetic or not and honestly after much pondering, it doesn’t sit well with me. Daredevil should be an example, a vigilante that sits on a pedestal, but in this book he can’t be. People of the city and police would surely view him as a problem and at points, he has characteristics with The Punisher, which doesn’t fit my personification of a hero.
I’m sure that many fans will be more accepting of this motif than I but it slightly dampened the book for me and left me wondering if Matt had really grown that much from when he was a boy. He is a lawyer that protects the righteous whilst breaking one Of our most sacred laws and this walking contradiction made me gravitate away from the character, even if he does look brilliant leaping into the night on the final panel.
By today’s standards, Daredevil: The Man Without Fear is slightly mundane. Most of the plot points you will have seen a dozen times in film and television and I believe that they have been done better in their modern incarnations. When the side characters are more interesting than the protagonist, there is a problem and Matt seems like one of the least interesting aspects of his own origin story.
Whilst I had issues with this book, that doesn’t mean that it’s terrible. There is still a lot to enjoy here for hardcore fans. However, for people less engrossed in The Devil Of Hells Kitchen, I don’t believe there is much to warrant a visit. Whilst I know the series improves massively with ‘Born Again,’ this entry can be skipped completely.
That’s why it gets a…