April 11, 2012

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Daredevil 10.1

Written by Mark Waid
Illustrated by Khoi Pham
Marvel

It's a day in the life of Matt Murdock, as he uses his Daredevil persona to stop a pyrotechnic killer and then his civilian identity as a lawyer to possibly free him from a unique prison cell!  Learn all you can about the Man Without Fear in this this .1 issue that sets the stage for yet another crisis in Daredevil's career!

Here Comes Daredevil to day and date digital!  (Yeah, I know it's been digital for the past couple of issues.)  This is the first Marvel comic I've wanted to read as it comes out for almost four years now, and I was happy to learn recently that it had been added to the digital roster.  Everything I'd heard about this comic was positive, and while I'd thumbed paper issues a bit, I had no idea just how good this series was until I read this issue.

Let's start with that amazing cover by Marcos Martin.  This is an introductory point, and Martin turns the cover into a recap of Daredevil's abilities, using an eye-catching illustration for each of his enhanced senses.  I especially love the use of a kiss for taste and a punch for touch.

Moving inside the comic, Martin has a cameo appearance as artist as Fred Van Lente takes us through the origin of Daredevil, just in case we need it it.  Yet this isn't a simple recap page--it's made visually interesting by having a splash of Daredevil falling through New York City while narrative boxes are mixed with thumbnails of icons that represent important parts of Matt Murdock's life--his father's boxing fist, the runaway truck, radar in action, and even the scales of justice.  Now that's the way to catch a reader up!

Mark Waid's main story is no less clever it its design to tell a solid story, give new readers to the title an idea of his take on Daredevil's powers, and get everyone ready for the big event about to happen in the comic itself.  Showing his skills as a writer, Waid sends Matt Murdock to prison to interview the villain who tried to kill him the night before, which gives us a mixed narrative that moves seamlessly from past to present and cleverly has the villain (Pyromania) telling us what happened--while Pham's visuals give us the real story.

It's a neat narrative trick that can fail miserably if the writer isn't skilled enough to make it work and the artist can't handle the story structure.  Here, however, Waid and Pham work in perfect harmony with each other.  It's been a long time since I read a comic with Pham's visuals, at least that I can remember, and his art here is much improved from what I remember.  Though his body shapes are all a bit same-y for my taste, Pham makes great use of different camera angles to make the story visually appealing and show just how off-balance Murdoch is by the devices used to keep Pyromania from using his powers.  The battle scenes really sing, with Pham not afraid to have Daredevil leaping outside the panel, making the action feel extremely fluid and mobile.  I also like the choices Waid/Pham make in terms of what to focus on, such as when Daredevil uses his hypersensitive nose to find a way to defeat Pyromania.  They guide the reader to what is important on the page, even if that isn't necessarily the human figures.

Best of all, at no time do I feel that the characters are posing for the reader, my biggest pet peeve in a superhero comic.  They are supposed to act like their world is real, and no one stops to pose in real life unless they know there's a camera around.  It kills the moment and wastes space.

Waid's story leaves no room for wasting space.  From the opening pages we learn that the whole Matt Murdock is Daredevil "rumor" still exists and how he's handling it.  (Best of all, as the comic moves on, we find out that starting the story this way isn't even an infodump.)  From there, Waid shows the reader how Daredevil's powers work, both by the events in the prison cell and his battle with Pyromania.  It could have been a perfectly good throwaway story, but Waid, who is a master of making the simple actually very complex, links the attack by Pyromania to the upcoming storyline, which allows him to transition into the crossover event with Spider-Man and the Punisher in a wonderful, pithy sequence that plays on the ineptitude of the Marvel crime syndicates and has my favorite line of the book:  "Dear God, will you just MAKE A PLAN ALREADY?", which is said as Daredevil explodes out of a panel towards the reader/villains.

And if that's not enough, Waid links all of this up to the wider Marvel world, discussing why Daredevil wants to keep powerful information to himself and not give it to others as well as how the media can be more useful than a whole horde of superheroes.

Keep in mind, all of this is done within twenty pages.

Daredevil dominated the Eisner nominations that came out recently, and with this issue, it's easy to see why.  I'm so excited about how good this book is, I'm even willing to deal with coming in right at a crossover.  You might want to wait until after to start regularly, but definitely get this book, either off the shelf or digitally.  I thought Irredeemable was good, but if anything, this is better.