Although the character of Daredevil has often come with a more brooding nature, this new volume takes a lighter approach. / Image Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Waid has managed to shake off the shadows and focus on the character.

What writer Mark Waid has accomplished with Daredevil is remarkable. Ever since Frank Miller got his hands on ol’ Hornhead back in the eighties, Daredevil has been a comic book informed by its dark nature. Matt Murdock’s life makes for a good Shakespearean tragedy with betrayals, dead girlfriends, revenge and repentance that haunt the blind lawyer daily. Waid has managed to shake the shadows and focus on the character in the center of the story who never breaks. The first large hardcover of Waid’s run, collecting issues 1-10.1 and a crossover issue of Amazing Spider-Man, showcases the beginning of his new take on the man without fear.

Because the graphic novel collects so many issues, there is not one central plot. Being blocked from practicing law, searching in giant caverns deep in the Earth for his father’s stolen coffin, obtaining a hard drive containing the secrets crime syndicates and taking a snowy field trip with kids from a local school for the blind are only a few of the challenges Matt Murdock must overcome in the book.

Although the situations are very different, none of them feel out of place. Waid is writing a character’s story, and Murdock has never been more delightful. He returns to being the swashbuckling Daredevil of his origin years as opposed to the brooding avenger that has sulked since Miller’s run. He quips and patiently fends off reporters, yet manages to show he has not entirely lost the emotional scars gained over the years. These latter moments are never heavy-handed. Daredevil’s fight with the Mole Man among a literal field of giant diamonds is an amalgam of pure superhero comic fun and heartbreaking character development. When is the last time anyone sincerely wrote like that?

It would be remiss not to mention the art. Simply put, Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera deserve special awards for both of their work in the issues. A large reason for the critical success has been the vibrant art. These artists have taken Waid’s lighter-toned scripts to heart and drew gorgeous scenery and expressive characters. They experimented with how to visually represent Daredevil’s “radar sense.” Shadows do not dominate the environment. In fact, Rivera and Martin both like to play with Murdock’s surroundings by integrating his heightened senses directly into the scene. For example, in a splash page small boxes draw attention to acrid car exhaust fumes and the scent of shampoo on a woman passing by.

Waid and his artists work off of each other brilliantly. Seeing how they were toying with Murdock’s perception of the world, Waid was able to throw villains and obstacles at him that were directly related to his unique perspective. These include a snowstorm, a blind Mole Man and a man made of broken soundwaves. If these sound a little ridiculous, it is because they are. Daredevil feels in many ways like a return to the era before Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns darkened superhero comics.

The writing is sharp, the art fantastic.

The darkness has been altered, but the sophistication of the books has remained. Murdock is dealing with real issues. He must process them alongside his job of punching robbers and supervillains. In fact, the two parallel each other. Daredevil often physically acts out Matt Murdock’s emotional dilemmas.

Daredevil Volume One is fun and subtly intelligent, making it different from most superhero comics being released. The writing is sharp and the art is fantastic. Even fill-in issue artists Kano, Khoi Pham and Emma Rios, are great. But Martin and Rivera have become two of the best, and arguably the most innovative Daredevil artists. Waid’s run is still going strong. Hopefully this hardcover collection will be the first of many to come.