Let's put this right up front: Daredevil #1 surprised me by how good it was. Was I expecting it to be bad? No, but whenever I pick up a comic starring a character I absolutely love being written by a new creative team, there's always a moment of hesitation. It's a feeling a lot of us probably have; after all, we've seen the top of the mountain, and it was good. I've read Frank Miller and Klaus Janson's work. I devoured Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev's run in the early aughts as it came out. After all of that, there was nowhere left to go, no sense in things getting better. I recall continuing Daredevil after Bendis left the book and was excited to see Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark's work, but after the initial run with Matt, Fisk and Frank Castle in prison, I realized it wasn't going to live up to the comics which came before it, and I dropped the series.
This sort of feeling can transfer across mediums. I recall being very hesitant about watching Netflix's The Punisher because I had already read Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's run under Marvel Knights and Punisher Max. That was as good as it could as it could have possibly gotten, and there was no sense in entertaining the idea of moving the goal post. Now, I'm not going to say the television show was as good as those Ennis books (because it wasn't), but having an upturned nose going in made it easier to overlook elements I may not have been hip to otherwise.
Strangely enough, this didn't come into play when watching Netflix's Daredevil. Perhaps it was a matter of recognizing too many iconic moments for each season and my fascination to see them come to life. But when it comes to new comics featuring Matt Murdock, I've always been hesitant to give them an honest shot.
Daredevil #1 by Chip Zdarsky, Marco Checchetto, and Sonny Gho was no different, and boy, do I feel silly now.
Not only is the series' first issue good, it treats the character of Matt Murdock with respect and a constant urge to kick him while he's down, which exactly how I like my Daredevil. Just when he thinks he's about to rise above it all, something grabs to his red boot and drags him from ascension. This issue picks up shortly after Matt comes out of his recent coma, realizing things didn't go according to plan and Wilson Fisk is still New York City's mayor. Matt is still able to spit game when it comes to picking up beautiful women at the bar, but he doesn't fare so well in his tights.
I've always loved Zdarsky's art, and while a lot of his written work in Howard the Duck and The Spectacular Spider-Man is quite good, he was the last guy I'd suggest write Daredevil. Turns out I was wrong. And let me tell ya, in case you're wondering, this crow tastes delicious. Zdarsky writes Daredevil #1 like he's putting togther a mix tape filled with bangers. He pulls a little from Miller, a smidge from Bendis, a dash from Marv Wolfman, and creates something that is less a new voice and more of a script that represents everything Zdarsky must love about the character. Matt is smooth when he needs to be. He's fearless, but also reckless. He's aggressively Catholic, and his addiction to vigilantism calls his faith into question. Zdarsky does a solid job of balancing these elements, and while they don't necessarily feel fresh, they're executed wonderfully and with a the appropriate amount of grit and humor.
Marco Checchetto and Sunny Gho kill it in the art department. It took a couple pages, but once I saw the Devil of Hell's Kitchen leap off a building in a gorgeous splash page, I knew this book was in good hands. The action flows well, and the way Matt's sixth sense is rendered has a retro look that is absolutely perfect. This book's interiors are undeniably gorgeous, and, of course, Julian Totino Tedesco's cover is absolutely stellar.
Honestly, the only potential negative is that the issue doesn't focus entirely on Matt dusting off the old batons and getting back in the game. But this wouldn't be a Daredevil comic without a shady B-plot and an even more nefarious C-plot running in the background, so it's hard to fault it too much. Overall, this is a comic for longtime fans and newcomers alike, with plenty of nods to the glory days of Daredevil's past to quench hard-line fans' thirst for days of yore. But even with all the familiarity, Daredevil #1 has a new car smell that is undeniably intoxicating.