Originally written for RhymesWithGeek.com
Marvel and Netflix have produced a hell of a show with Daredevil (see what I did there?). Almost universally praised for its stunning fight choreography, engaging cast and near perfect balance of gritty drama and comic book action, in my opinion Marvel’s Daredevil sets the bar high for superhero TV.
Whether you’re a seasoned comic book reader, or if this show’s substantial quantity of awesome has introduced you into the world of sequential super-heroics, with 50+ years of history under his belt, it can be a little confusing diving into the world of The Man Without Fear.
Never fear: Rhymes With Geek is here! While this is by no means a definitive list of old Hornhead’s adventures, what you’ll find below is a great collection of comics for those of you (read: all of you) who loved Netflix’s inaugural foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and are clamoring for more.
Daredevil: Born Again
“And I — I have shown him… that a man without hope is a man without fear.” The definitive Daredevil tale! Karen Page, Matt Murdock’s former lover, has traded away the Man Without Fear’s secret identity for a drug fix. Now, Daredevil must find strength as the Kingpin of Crime wastes no time taking him down as low as a human can get.
It says it right there: the definitive Daredevil tale. Frank Miller’s whole run (more on that shortly) redefined not only the character but to some extent the entire medium. Miller’s successful work on Daredevil directly led to his seminal work over at DC with Batman: Year One (like Born Again, this was with artist David Mazzucchelli) and The Dark Knight Returns (with Klaus Janson). It’s influence was definitely felt in the show, so Born Again rightfully earns its place on this list.
If you love Born again then it’s worth reading Frank Miller’s run with artist Klaus Janson (the team from Dark Knight Returns). Pretty much everything that comes after is influenced by these stories.
The Bendis Era
Daredevil Volume 2 #16-81
During a character-defining run, Brian Michael Bendis crafted a pulp-fiction narrative that exploited DD’s rich tapestry of characters and psychodrama, and resolved them in a nuanced, modern approach. Witness the Kingpin’s downfall and see how a down-on-his-luck FBI agent can change Matt’s life forever.
Certainly as influential on the series as Frank Miller’s run, arguably more so (Miller’s influence will become more prominent in series two, should it be developed), Bendis’ work on The Man Without Fear is by far my personal favorite. That may be classed as heresy by those who praise Miller’s work, but this run, when read as one long narrative, is an epic superhero/crime saga that is damn near perfect. The Netflix series would not be the show it is without this run, and I can think of no better set of comics for a fan of the show to dive into. If you love one, it’s a safe bet you’ll love the other.
You’ll notice that Bendis’ run with Alex Maleev starts at issue 16. Interestingly the series was kicked off by none other than writer/director/actor/Batman enthusiast Kevin Smith, who penned #1-8, now collected as Guardian Devil. It’s got some great moments and a crazy new status quo for a long-time Spider-Man foe, so if you’re interested check it out.
The Brubaker Era
Daredevil Volume 2 #82-119, #500
Daredevil: The Devil, Inside and Out Vol. 1
Daredevil: The Devil, Inside and Out Vol. 2
Daredevil: Hell To Pay Vol. 1
Daredevil: Hell To Pay Vol. 2
Daredevil: Cruel and Unusual
Daredevil: Lady Bullseye
Daredevil: Return of the King
For the past few years, Matt Murdock’s life has been teetering on the edge of destruction. Now, pushed beyond the limit, Matt finds himself behind the eight ball, with no clear way out, the people he calls friends slowly deserting him, and enemies all around. The question is, when his back is against the wall, just how far will Daredevil go to get back what is his?
If you thought the Netflix show was dark, boy; you ain’t seen nothing yet. Following directly on from Brian Bendis, this run by Ed Brubaker took Matt Murdock right to the edge and slowly pushed him over. Taken to his absolute limit, Daredevil’s life is painfully torn apart piece by piece, stripping the titular hero of everything that makes him who he is. What’s left? Well you’ll just have to read!
Seriously though, while this run isn’t as seminal as the others on this list (and directly leads to the single worst Daredevil story ever, but more on that in a moment) Ed Brubaker (writer of the Captain America: The Winter Soldier comic run) is still a great fit for the noirish world that Matt Murdock is steeped in. Similarly, artist Michael Lark continues the grim and gritty tone set so effortlessly by Alex Maleev previously.
If you enjoyed the Bendis era (and want to see Daredevil pushed to the brink) then this run is worth your time.
Yeeeshk. Ok, so the Devil’s Hand isn’t so bad in itself but Shadowland is, in my opinion, a terrible story. Continuing on from Brubaker’s run, Shadowland takes the premise of a good man pushed past his breaking point to its logical conclusion, and while that’s an interesting concept it’s just poorly executed. And this was technically a Marvel event. There were spin-offs and tie-ins and everything, but…no. Just no. An interesting way to end an entire era of Daredevil (one that arguably started way back with Frank Miller), but entirely skippable.
The Waid Era
Daredevil Volume 3 #1-36, Volume 4 #1-ongoing
Having turned his world upside over the past several years, Matt Murdock realizes that justice may not be blind to his past and villains may not be the only ones looking for answers. If Matt Murdock could see what he was up against he’d be terrified.
Like a breath of fresh air (after the gloom of Shadowland), in comes Mark Waid. Taking a vast departure in tone from both the Netflix show and the 30-odd years that preceded it, this All-New creative team is a true tour-de-force. Mark Waid is still currently working on Daredevil so it’s too early to say for certain, but I foresee this being just as seminal, just as character-defining a run as Miller or Bendis. In a lot of ways, it already surpasses them. Injecting the superheroic fun back into Matt Murdock’s life and not leaning so much on the crime/noir tropes that came before, writer Waid (one of my absolute favorite writers) has managed to find a perfect balance of action, adventure and drama. Joined by a plethora of talented artists (Paolo Rivera, Chris Samnee, Javier Rodriguez to name a few), this run is colorful, original, and fun.
Mark Waid has proven that grim and gritty is just one interpretation of Daredevil, and gleefully delights in presenting another take. Don’t get me wrong though; there’s still heartbreaking drama and poignant moments, sometimes brutal in their execution. This is a book with weight and substance, while never losing that spirit of adventure.
After all that, you still want more?!?! I don’t blame you. As I said above, this is by no means a definitive list, just a great place to start if you love the Netflix show. With that in mind, here are some more great collections to sink your teeth into.
Daredevil Masterworks Volume 1 (Daredevil Volume 1 #1-11) – taking you right back to 1964, this is where it all began.
Daredevil: Yellow – Jeph Loeb retells the origin story
Daredevil: The Man Without Fear – another take on Murdock’s formative years, this time from Frank Miller
Daredevil: End of Days – From origins to endings, a look into the future to see how it all ends for Matt Murdock, by returning Daredevil creators Brian Bendis, David Mack, Alex Maleev, Klaus Janson and Bill Sienkiewicz.