Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mark Waid's Daredevil

I have been a fan of Daredevil since the 1970s.  Since the character's inception, Daredevil (Matt Murdock, lawyer) has gone through many changes.  He's been carefree and wisecracking, he's been dark and brooding, and he's gone insane.  Of all the superhero characters I can think of, his is the one that has been written with the most depth.  His love of women has led to him being labeled a bit of a womanizer, but as witnessed when the women closest to him die, he has troubles dealing with the losses.  His friends and allies constantly question his mental stability, and his fellow heroes have grown to distrust him.  His civilian identity has been learned by his greatest nemesis, sold out by a female he once loved who got hooked on drugs and turned to porn.  This was his first break with reality.  Decades later, his civilian identity was revealed to the world, and this led to yet another series of downward spirals in Daredevil's life. 

For Daredevil fans, it has been a hell of a ride.  And now the character has come back full circle with writer Mark Waid taking over the title in 2011.  Many fans and critics agree: The title has never been better.

I had to admit I was hesitant to embrace the new old Daredevil.  Gone was the depression and insanity.  Gone was Daredevil tossing villians out third story windows.  Instead, all this was replaced with a hero who cracked jokes and seemed to be having fun with his life.  He was rebuilding.  He was mending bridges.  He was getting to do the things most people would want to do with their lives had they had the chance to do it again.

I started reading the new series, unconvinced I would like it.  Daredevil was deep.  Yes, he started out as a fairly standard hero, but along the way he had grown.  He had a foundation in religion (fairly rare in comics), he had known insanity, he had tortured.  Taking him back to square one seemed not only like a bad idea, but also it felt unrealistic.  I know the idea of having realism in a comic seems ridiculous, but the best stories and characters have a basis in realism, and Waid making the character a blind Spider-Man felt wrong to me.  I read it with an open mind, however, and I was pleased.  Very pleased.

Yes, Daredevil is more upbeat, but the past hasn't been forgotten.  This new variant on Murdock feels real.  It seems like he is trying to make his life better.  He is enjoying every moment, but ... there is something underneath it.  The insanity still comes up when people think of him.  He can't dodge the past with the outing of his civilian identity.  And you get the idea that this could end for him at any moment and in a really big way.  Sure, the original Daredevil is back, but all the stuff that happened between then and now is still there, and that somehow makes this take on the character not only more tenenous, but also more dangerous.  If it all falls apart now, after he's tried to get his life back on track, it could ruin him permanently.  Marvel would not let the character just fade away, but if handled improperly after something like that which could happen, readers would leave.  Waid has advanced the story, advanced the character, and has advanced the readers' expectations of what they can expect in the character.  That's what a good writer does.

Waid won't write this character forever.  I'm a bit behind on the title, so he could even be gone by now.  What I do feel justified in saying, though, is that when he leaves the title, his name will be up there with the other great writers on the series.  Miller.  Bendis.  Brubaker.  Smith.  Diggle.  Waid.  This skeptic has been cured.

1 comment:

  1. This post got me to read your stuff on Kindle. I loved Dead Friend. The other two were a bit dark for me. I'm also a fellow Daredevil fan. Thanks for such a good write up!