New To You Comics: A Downward Spiral In ‘Daredevil by Chip Zdarsky’ V1

by Tony Thornley

With the comics industry slowly returning from the pandemic, Brendan Allen and I are taking the opportunity to introduce each other to comics that the other might not have read. I’m more of a capes, laser guns and swords guy, while Brendan loves dark magic, criminals and things that go bump in the night. This time around, we dive deep into a darker tale of one of the Marvel Universe’s most prominent heroes.

Cover by Julian Totino Tedesco

Last year, celebrated creator Chip Zdarsky took an unexpected step in his comics career. Up to that point, he’d been known largely for humorous books with a lot of heart or sci-fi adventure. However, with artist Marco Checchetto, color artist Sunny Gho and letterer Clayton Cowles, he took over Marvel’s most realistic and often darkest title Daredevil. To everyone’s pleasant surprise, it was quickly clear that this would be one of the Man Without Fear’s greatest stories, and a career defining run for each creator involved.

Matt Murdock is still healing from injuries sustained in the last volume of his series. However, when he pushes himself to get back on the streets too soon, it has tragic results. Now the Man Without Fear is New York City’s most wanted murder suspect…

Tony Thornley: So B, I think you told me at one point the only thing you really know about Daredevil is his name and his design. Am I remembering right?

Brendan Allen: Pretty much. I’ve seen a couple episodes of the show, but that’s about it. And, actually, I think I did cover Matthew Rosenberg’s Kingpin run, but Daredevil obviously wasn’t the main focus in that one.

TT: Right, of course. 

So Daredevil is indisputably one of Marvel’s best series. It’s been running over 600 issues at the beginning of this volume, and probably has more great runs than any other title in comics history- Frank Miller, Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr., Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev, Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark, Mark Waid and Chris Samnee just to name a few. So Zdarsky and Checchetto had really big shoes to fill here.

I would say after taking about half the first issue to get their footing, this story just takes off and stays there.

BA: This volume is a great introspective look at the psychology of a vigilante superhero. Dealing with some of the same issues as Batman, with Murdock’s reticence to kill, while simultaneously wanting to violently punish, mixed in with themes of Catholic guilt and bargaining. A little bit Boondock Saints on that end. Yeah, we do bad things, but only to the bad people, see? It’s really God’s work, isn’t it?

TT: Yeah, for sure. And it’s a story that asks questions that no other superhero story is willing to.

BA: The priest is a great counterbalance to Murdock’s faulty reasoning. It’s interesting that Frank Castle actually makes almost identical arguments as the Padre, but for completely opposite reasons. It’s very complex, but legible.

TT: Oh yeah, definitely. Zdarsky is VERY good at character driven stories. His creator owned stuff before his Marvel career gained him that reputation, then he cemented it with runs with the Thing and Spider-Man. But here, he gets into the characters’ heads and keeps us there. And though Matt is the focus of about 75% of the story, we also get a lot with Detective Cole North, a character new to this run. I personally felt like it worked so well for me because of how well he understood his protagonists.

Checchetto really does some stunning stuff here. He conveys a great sense of motion no matter what’s happening. Characters are always dynamic. I also think he has a great grasp of anatomy that not a lot of comics artists have- not in the sense that the characters move like real people (though that’s the case). We see him vary body types, height, stride and body language, stuff like that. Murdock is very different from North, who is very different from the Punisher, and so on. It makes it feel realistic, even as it’s heightened.

BA: Anatomy is one thing. Kinesiology is another. I think too many artists get so caught up in the building blocks of the human body that they neglect the other half of believable physical interaction, movement. The fight scenes work really well, because that’s how human bodies actually move. It’s a tough balance, and Checchetto nails it.

TT: Yeah, definitely. It’s something he does really well the entire run. I think you’d enjoy sitting down with future volumes of this, just to see how Checchetto grows over the course of a couple years.

BA: If I had a complaint, it would be that Kingpin’s size changes dramatically a few times. It even happens once or twice in the same scene, with the same reference points. I realize some of it is forced perspective and angles, but it doesn’t seem like that happens with any of the other characters. 

Now that I’m thinking about it, that came up in the other book, too. Is that a thing? Does Kingpin actually get bigger when he’s pissed, or is there just no agreed upon size for the guy, other than freaking huge?

TT: I love when artists do that with him. I get the complaint, but I think it’s a conscious style choice. Even though it doesn’t make sense at times, having Fisk just physically dominate every scene he’s in is such a nice touch. It makes sure that all eyes are on him when he’s in the room.

You looked him up on a Wiki and found that he’s supposed to be 6’ something and 350 pounds, but he works best for me when he looks 8 feet tall and as broad as a barn.

BA: Yeah. All the stuff I found says he’s supposed to be 6’7” 350 lbs, with 2% body fat. That’s pretty insane, when you consider real life dudes like Mark Henry, who is 6’2, 360, 18% body fat, and not nearly as massive as Fisk. I can’t wrap my head around it. He should weigh as much as a car. He’s enormous, and muscle is way denser than fat. Mutant magic, I guess.

TT: So what did you think- final verdict?

BA: It’s good. I think if I ever went on a capes kick, this would be a good place to start. This is about as grounded as it can be, I think, while staying on genre. And like I said, I really think they did a great job with the ‘superhero’ psychology. Getting inside Murdock’s head. Some interesting points raised, and I wouldn’t mind seeing how this thing pans out.

TT: Awesome, so what’s next?

BA: Let’s do Dark Horse’s Gregory Suicide, by Eric Grissom and William Perkins. It’s a kind of an I, Robot/The Matrix/Enemy of the State/The Conversation sci-fi joint. It’ll do your head in. 

TT: Sounds like fun!

Daredevil By Chip Zdarsky V1: Know Fear is available now in single issues and collected editions from Marvel Comics, both in print and digital editions.

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