In recent months, Marvel has mostly sworn off limited series featuring established characters, but Daredevil has bucked that trend -- first with the critically-acclaimed "End of Days" and now with unrelated anthology series "Dark Nights." Issue #1 (of 8) is the start of a three-parter written and drawn by Lee Weeks, and if it's any indication of how the series will progress, it looks like Marvel has another winner.
Daredevil is a character almost unique at Marvel in that the tone of his stories covers a huge range, from light to dark, serious to ridiculous, without any version feeling inherently wrong. There are only a few characters who can support this kind of shift, and it's no surprise that this has given multiple creators like Kevin Smith, Mark Waid, Frank Miller and Brian Bendis the chance to do character-defining work. An anthology series makes perfect sense, especially because the current series is so steeped in Waid's creative sensibilities that to interrupt it would be a kind of sacrilege.
Weeks' story seems a little back towards the Frank Miller end of the spectrum, presenting a vulnerable and human version of the character whose senses make him feel under siege by the world around him - not just by super-villains and bad guys, but by the ordinary people he encounters, who don't realise the effect they have on him.
As good as the writing is, it's Weeks' art which really sells the story. Weeks is a very visual storyteller whose ideas translate fantastically onto the page, whether it's the ambiance of snow-covered streets or the fluid, weighty action scenes. The world looks grimy, yet ethereal. It's clear that the artists have a rock-solid grip on the character.
There really is almost nothing negative to say about this book. At a stretch, you might be concerned with the relative ease at which Daredevil is defeated, but given that he's a character with only super-senses and enhanced reflexes, it's not hard to believe that he can be overpowered if taken unaware. The argument exists that "Dark Nights" doesn't exactly forge new territory for the character, but when the main series takes such a different approach, there's plenty of room for this interpretation as well.
The only real shame is that Weeks' story is only three issues long -- but if the quality control currently being applied to the character is maintained throughout "Daredevil: Dark Nights," there will be more stories that are just as good, which is no bad thing. The first issue is not so much an unexpected hit, but definitely a pleasant one.