Daredevil is back in New York, and he’s got a new partner in Charles Soule and Ron Garney’s “Daredevil” #1. Matt Murdock is back practicing law, too, although in a way he’s typically not associated with. It’s a return to basics of sorts, albeit with a couple of twists that keep Soule’s take on the Man Without Fear from seeming too derivative, despite a sense of comfortable familiarity. As wonderful as Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s four-year run on the title was, it’s refreshing to seeing Daredevil duke it out with a street gang, although this group of thugs also has a surprising twist, too.
Garney’s cover, beautifully colored by Matt Milla, telegraphs much of the new status quo: Daredevil, now clad in black, stands proud atop a New York building, with a dashing new hero armed with a staff at his side, although at first glance many might think Gambit has returned. Garney gives a better look at Blindspot when he’s introduced within the story, and his demeanor as scripted by Soule immediately dispels any doubt. Blindspot’s appearance is brief, but long enough to sell the idea that Daredevil now has a sidekick. Despite the full reveal, though, Garney still gives Blindspot — and Daredevil himself, for that matter — a shadowy aura that fits with the seeming re-darkening of the title.
Soule establishes that several key events have transpired in between the end of Waid’s tenure and the start of his own; many of these could just be the aftermath of “Secret Wars,” although Soule indicates there were some deliberately unexplained developments that went a long way towards setting up the new status quo. One particular development regarding Daredevil and Matt Murdock is actually shocking, especially with such little explanation thus far. Soule’s Murdock is also a return towards the darker, moodier Murdock seen during the Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev and Ed Brubaker runs going back over a decade. Matt is not only darker, but also colder, at least towards the criminals he faces.
Garney welcomes Matt Murdock back to New York with an appropriately grimy setting, including all the buildings, bridges and lowlifes involved; a dynamic shot of Daredevil diving into the East River against the underbelly of the Manhattan Bridge opens the story and screams loudly that Matt’s not in San Francisco anymore. Milla chooses monochromatic tones that match the mood; crimson shades dominate the outdoor opening sequence, while frosty blues capture the confines of Matt’s apartment, as well as the icy exchange between Matt and Foggy. An underwater rescue is mostly dominated by Garney’s blacks, with the barest hint of red from Milla’s palette.
Soule delivers a shock ending that changes the dynamic of the issue and it’s a bold move, but he might have sprung this trap a little too early; a few more issues’ worth of characterization could have given this surprise a much bigger punch. Nevertheless, “Daredevil” #1 is a nice change of pace with a spiced up been-there-done-that vibe.