De-Saturated Dynamism: Paolo Rivera's Smart, Retro Take on Daredevil

A column article by: Michelle Six

Staring at the overlapping rows of covers at the local comic shop can be a bit like picking a box of cereal. Your eye runs across the repetitive patterns, with familiar design conventions starting to blur together.

In the rows of juicy colors, dynamic battles, and slick gradients, surprisingly, it is Paolo Rivera's four-color, low-saturation, old-school gouache-painted covers that make us stop and stare.

The cover to Daredevil #1 is comic art perfection -- explosive action, accurate anatomy, clean and simple rendering, and dramatic characterization. Daredevil flies over the city, with the motion expressed in the birds'-eye-view perspective and swooping baton ropes. Despite this crazy jump, Daredevil's smirk and casual hand position express Matt Murdock's definitive swag.

Rivera's use of background space is where this image goes from great to magical. His visualization of Daredevil's heightened senses that allow him to "see" is both visually and conceptually strong -- the sounds of the objects literally form their shapes. This clever idea also continually re-engages the viewer with the image, as we keep going back to "read" the background. The simplified color palette and low value contrast allows Rivera to throw out a ton of detail, without it becoming overwhelming.

Paolo Rivera has been a staple Marvel artist since 2002, with notable works being his interiors on Mythos (with writer Paul Jenkins) and his 2009-2011 covers for Amazing Spider-Man. Rivera has also contributed interior art, along with fellow Marvel artist Marcos Martin, to this most recent resurrection of Daredevil (written by Mark Waid).

Although his interior work on Daredevil is laudable, the covers have been back-to-back slam-dunks. His following cover to Daredevil #2 featured a similar sense of explosive action and aerial perspective, penciled with studied precision. Rivera again employed a subdued color palette, with a black-and-white background, to conceptually illustrate Daredevil's blindness. The swinging rope, the rounded title, and Rivera's placement of the buildings, create a rounded frame for the characters' action.

With the cover to Daredevil #7, Rivera takes a different compositional approach. Zooming way out to focus on the snowy skyline gives the image an introspective, rather than explosive, energy, which humorously contrasts to Daredevil's flippant rooftop snow angel. This subtle visual gag is both cool-looking, and character-developing.

The most technically-impressive cover to date is Daredevil #10. Rivera nails a 16th/17th-Century etching style with his precise, dense linework. The result looks like a super-hero version of Dante's Inferno. The repeating lines and spotlighting create a tension that adds to the already creepy image.

Paolo Rivera makes these covers seem effortless, but a glance at his blog reveals that the man does his homework. From process videos to goofy reference photos, Rivera is candid in sharing his behind-the-scenes work.

Rivera's Daredevil covers have been the icing for an already-strong creative team, and will likely set the visual tone for the re-boot of the series for years to come.



Michelle was born in the '80s in a reasonably sized Midwestern town, which she never left. She teaches art and creative technology to kids, who keep her in the know about Top 40 music and the most annoyingly silly YouTube videos. 

A big chunk of her free time is put towards drawing -- in her fantasy world, she will be awesome enough to draw comics as sweet as those she reviews. You can see her artwork on Deviant Art or, if you are a Tumblr fan at

Michelle also likes video games, pets, pizza, music, and ranting.

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