Sunday, September 17, 2017

Daredevil by Frank Miller & Klaus Janson vol. 1 review

    Frank Miller's Daredevil is one of the main contributing factors to the creation of the Dark Age of Comics which, hyperbole aside, was an attempt to bottle the lightning created by Miller and Alan Moore across multiple series. Frank Miller, however, took a character who was always just shy of a second-rate Spiderman and turned him into a character who has had a movie as well as television series with multiple spin offs. As a comic book historian as well, it also generated a much more successful franchise by imitation with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles being originally designed as a "homage" with the weirdness turned way up.

    Unfortunately, the first volume of this collection is a complete and utter disaster. This isn't because of Frank Miller but because of the fact, clearly, someone thought they should try and get three volumes out of "Frank Miller's Daredevil" when there really were only two volumes of the series possible. In order to pad the length of the volume, they've included many issues where Frank Miller is the ARTIST rather than writer. No shade thrown on Marv Wolfman, Bill Mantlo, or Roger McKenzie but that's not what people came here to read. It's misleading at best and false advertising at worse.

    In fact, only roughly four issues at the end of the volume are actually "Frank Miller's Daredevil" and you can tell they're the product of an entirely different sort of mind than the other authors. Marv Wolfman may be one of my favorite authors for his Teen Titans work but his Daredevil reads like Nightwing and I can't really tell who was written like who given the dates. Frank Miller's Daredevil is a darker and edgier interpretation of the character from the get-go and all the better for it.

    Really, the first two-thirds of the book work as a kind of interesting "before and after." The first comic in the volume is a team-up with a blinded Spiderman against the Maggia where a genetic costumed evil-doer is planning to take over New York City unless the duo manage to defeat him. There's also a fight against a mentally ill man called the Gladiator and some surprisingly decent Bullseye stories.

    This is, notably, the time period where Matt Murdock is dating the Black Widow and there's a somewhat mystifying decision where Daredevil dumps her for an uninteresting socialite named Heather. Then again, it would be decades before people finally gave Natasha Romanova the respect she deserved. Nowadays, it just looks like Matt really is blind, deaf, and dumb for ending that relationship. Still, the worst issues are at the start of the book and feel like Spiderman comics with none of the Parker angst to get you through the punching garishly dressed villains. Matt doesn't have Peter's humor either.

    As mentioned, the last quarter of the comic is where Frank Miller's Daredevil begins and has some classic issues of the kind we actually want to see. These include the introduction of Elektra Natchios, which still holds up today, and the return of the Kingpin after his "retirement" in the pages of Spiderman. Matt is shown as a flawed hero in these volumes as he's too free with his powers in public as a legal student plus prioritizes getting the Kingpin's files over saving his wife. Matt is unsympathetic and an absolute moralist, which makes him a character who can screw up royally.

    All in all, I don't feel like I can recommend this volume for these four issues despite the fact they're really good and important to the understanding of Daredevil. The other issues, particularly the Bullseye ones, aren't bad, though. Actually, a couple of them are but that's because it's clear they didn't have any idea where they were going with Matt. Hopefully, the real Frank Miller's Daredevil will be on display in volume 2.


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