The premiere of Marvel’s acclaimed series Daredevil is this Friday, April 10th, on Netflix. If you’re as excited as we are, you’re probably scrambling for things to do to hold you over until the weekend. Stress not, dear reader. We’ve compiled a list of 5 Daredevil books you’ll want to check out that’ll make the wait slightly more bearable. (Listed in alphabetical order.)
After completing his character-defining run, Miller returned to Daredevil a few years later with this masterful story arc. Unquestionably one of the best comic book stories ever written, Daredevil: Born Again belongs on the same shelf as Miller’s own The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s Watchmen. It really is that good.
What’s it about? Well, Matt Murdock’s old girlfriend Karen Page decides to sell Matt’s secret identity for a shot of heroin. Pretty lighthearted stuff, right? This information climbs the ranks, making its way to the desk of Daredevil’s mortal enemy Wilson Fisk a.k.a. the Kingpin. Kingpin delights in systematically destroying Murdock’s life piece by piece, breaking Murdock down to a shell of his former self. In the midst of all this madness, Murdock battles with depression, paranoia, and insanity, unable to differentiate between friend and foe.
Born Again sees Murdock hit rock bottom, burrow even deeper, and then watches him struggle to regain his sanity, his reputation, and his life. It is a tale of salvation and redemption and confirms Daredevil is one of the most complex and fascinating superheroes out there. If you only read one Daredevil story in your entire life, make it this one.
When it comes to modern comic book writers (and even modern writers in general), few come close to the prestige of Brian Michael Bendis. He is an incredible storyteller – practically everything he touches, from Spider-Man to Guardians of the Galaxy, turns to gold.
Bendis’ reputation precedes him and his five year run on Daredevil (2001-2006) might be the best thing he’s ever done, which is saying quite a lot. Throughout the course of his 55 issues, Bendis took the series into what is arguably its most compelling territory, even managing to surpass Frank Miller’s magnificent work on the series in the 80’s. Maleev’s artwork is some of the finest I’ve ever seen in a comic book series, somehow managing to be both realistic and totally surreal. It makes for one of the most captivating reading experiences in the medium.
If you’ve just completed Frank Miller’s Daredevil run and don’t know where to turn, Bendis and Maleev are your guys.
(Also worth checking out is Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark’s continuation of the series after Bendis/Maleev’s departure. It’s not quite as compelling, but still good readin’s.)
It’s easy to understand why some folks have a hard time getting into the exploits of Matt Murdock. The character has a reputation for being darker and more intense than your average mainstream comic book fare, and sometimes the solemn mood makes for a depressing reading experience. If the grit of Frank Miller and Brian Michael Bendis is a bit too daunting for you, might I recommend giving Daredevil: Yellow a shot. It’s arguably the most ‘user-friendly’ stand-alone story on this list. But despite its more light-hearted nature, it still stands as one of the best Daredevil tales and should not be overlooked by more hardcore fans.
Daredevil: Yellow is a unique take on Daredevil’s origin story, as viewed through the lens of writer/artist duo Jeff Loeb and Tim Sale. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with their work, you need to check out Batman: The Long Halloween and Superman: For All Seasons. Both are arguably the finest stories ever told for their respective characters and the creative duo brings the same level of quality and charm to this tale, which follows Daredevil through his earliest crime-fighting days as well as his first romance. What’s most impressive about Loeb and Sale’s work here is how it manages to honor the character’s 1960’s roots with clever nods to the character’s earliest stories, all the while while spinning the well-worn tale in a way that feels fresh and exciting. Another solid entry point into the world of Daredevil.
Man, Frank Miller is all over this list, huh? And rightfully so. His contribution to the character cannot be overstated. Without him, there’s a strong chance Daredevil would have faded into obscurity and disappeared from the annals entirely. In Miller’s hands, however, the Man Without Fear became one of the most fascinating and compelling comic book characters of all time and his popularity soared. During his years on the project, Miller contributed a countless amount of incredible stories and introduced us to the one and only Elektra Natchios, mega-babe assassin. His entire run can be found in this three-volume collection and should be read by anyone who considers themselves a fan of comics.
What you may not realize is that Miller actually got his career start as an inker for the series before taking over writing duties. The series’ sales were so bad that the previous writer was fired and the lead editor took a chance on Miller, who single-handedly turned Daredevil into the dark, compelling, and all-around badass hero we know him as today. What’s really amazing about this first volume is just how drastic the change in quality is from Miller’s predecessor Roger McKenzie. Be warned: the majority of the first volume is written by McKenzie, and his contributions are mediocre at best. Miller officially takes over writing duties in issue #168.
Judging from the black, slapdash costume that’s been so prominent in all the ads, Netflix’s Daredevil series appears to be taking a decent amount of inspiration from this graphic novel. Frank Miller returned to the character of Daredevil a few years after his seminal ‘Born Again’ storyline to retell the origin story of Daredevil in a fashion similar to his Batman: Year One story. While not as strong as Batman: Year One or even Daredevil: Born Again, The Man Without Fear is a solid reworking of Daredevil’s origin. Miller fleshes out the tale, giving it both depth and weight.
Agree? Disagree? Are there any Daredevil stories we missed? Let us know in the comments below!