Daredevil #1 Is A Great New Chapter But A Not-So-Great Jumping On Point

Daredevil #1
Daredevil #1

Marvel recently relaunched the Daredevil ongoing series with a new #1 issue by Chip Zdarsky, Marco Checchetto, and Matt Wilson. The publisher billed the issue as perfect for newbies and long-time readers alike. Not only was Daredevil #1 going to be both the ideal jumping-on point for an “all-new era” of Daredevil stories, but it would also deliver the thrilling next chapter in Zdarsky and Checchetto’s acclaimed run chronicling the Man Without Fear’s exploits, which is now into its fourth year. Somewhat inevitably, only one of these things turned out to be true.

Yes, Daredevil #1 does a great job of laying the groundwork for the home stretch of the Zdarsky/Checchetto run, but as a gateway for the uninitiated, it’s markedly less successful.

The best new readers get is a brief, one-page recap that barely skims over what happened in the previous volume of Daredevil which was cancelled back in November 2021, and the Devil’s Reign and Elektra: Woman Without Fear series that followed it. Otherwise, they’re dropped straight into the story as though they’re fully up to speed with everything that’s happened in Matt Murdock’s life up till now – and considering that involves magically-manifested siblings and mindwipes, that’s expecting a lot. Admittedly, there’s also a backup story by Zdarsky and artist Rafael DeLatorre that fills in some of the blanks regarding key supporting players Elektra and Stick, yet even this is clearly pitched at the book’s existing audience.

If you happen to belong to that group, Daredevil #1 is quite literally a very different story. Not hindered by constantly second-guessing every other panel, you’re free to absorb Zdarsky’s solid scripting, which is characterised by terrific dialogue, snappy action scenes, and flashes of the scribe’s trademark sense of humour. You’ll also probably find yourself excited rather than bamboozled by Daredevil #1’s stage-setting elements, too, as Zdarsky moves new and existing pieces around the board to set up the current arc’s more supernaturally oriented direction. There’s a master plan at play here and it’s fun watching it continue to unfold, so long as you’ve already done the required reading.

But hey, at least readers old and new can fully appreciate Checchetto and Wilson’s art. Checchetto’s inks bring just the right amount of gritty texture to each panel, and he effortlessly shifts gears from atmospheric dialogue scenes drenched in darkness to bombastic splash pages without missing a beat. His characters can “act” and his action scenes are clearly laid out and intricately choreographed, while Wilson’s carefully chosen palette ties it all together. In short, this is one of the most polished-looking books on the stands.

That’s ultimately what’s so frustrating about Daredevil #1. Taken on its own merits, this is a good comic – a great one even – but only half its intended audience is probably going to feel that way. Daredevil has historically excelled at reinventing itself within the confines of established mainstream continuity in a way that A-list books published by either Marvel or DC can’t. Almost every time, this has provided a great onboarding opportunity for newbies, and the start of the Zdarsky/Checchetto run was such an opportunity. Roughly three-quarters of the way through said run, though? Not so much – nor was it ever going to be.

Which begs the question: why did Marvel decide to slap a #1 on this issue? The obvious reason is that resetting numbering is a great way to drive single issue sales, in part because it entices readers looking to get in on a story on the ground floor. Yet this only really works in the long-term if the issue in question actually is the ground floor, something that certainly isn’t the case with Daredevil #1. This isn’t Zdarsky and Checchetto’s fault, either, since they have little say in how Marvel decides to package and market their work. You could even argue that they’re being set up to fail as much as new readers, simply because there’s really no way they could’ve made their multi-year superhero saga accessible.

But then, Marvel probably isn’t overly fussed since the short-term sales spike of relaunching a title no doubt makes up for the audience attrition that follows. And make no mistake: a sizeable chunk of first-time readers probably won’t come back for Daredevil #2, especially now that Marvel is marketing it as a 650th issue extravaganza. That’s a problem in the long-term, at a time when both Marvel and DC need to supplement their aging fanbases with new blood.

It’s also a real shame in the sense that Daredevil is one of the best-written and illustrated titles on shelves today. More people should be reading it and they could be if Marvel focuses more on getting the first collected volume in as many hands as possible and less on first issue fake-outs. Admittedly, that’s a sizable challenge, especially in an era where the superhero genre loses more and more ground to manga digests and free webcomics. But until Marvel figures out how to do this, even well-produced books like Daredevil #1 will continue to discourage the new readers the publisher so desperately needs to attract.

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