After thirty-six stunning issues Mark Waid, Paolo Rivera, Javier Rodriguez and Chris Samnee’s Daredevil volume 3 ended last week in order to make room for Mark Waid, Javier Rodriguez and Chris Samnee’s Daredevil volume 4.
Wait, that’s weird. Hold on, let me go make a few phone calls. I need to be sure about this.
Okay, yeah, you read that right: Daredevil, with its creative team intact, is being rebooted. I noted it in my Singles Going Steady review, but that doesn’t make this weird trend any crazier than it is. We’re about to see it in books like Hulk, X-Factor, Amazing Spider-Man (well, that one’s a bit different) and Captain Marvel. But enough about Daredevil volume 4. This brief break gives us a chance to take a look back at what is possibly the best DD run since Brubaker walked away
For the sake of this over-analysis, I’ve chosen five lessons that Marvel, and the superhero industry in general, has and will learn from this brilliant run. It should go without saying, but SPOILERS! The twists and intricacies of this series are too good to let yourself be ruined by reading this piece. The first two thirds are currently available in oversized hardcover format, with the final book to follow in July. You owe it to yourself to read this run.
Now, without further ado, five lessons we can learn from Waid and Co.’s DD vol. 3.
1. Complete And Believable Tonal Shift
Since Frank Miller took the book on in the eighties, it feels almost like writers are afraid to stray from that ultra-grim tone. Brian Bendis and Ed Brubaker, writers back-to-back on the title in the early 2000’s, perfected this. Since then, though, the book had trouble finding an audience. In the fall of 2010, Daredevil was even replaced in his own book by the Black Panther. That strange but fun experiment, after tying into not one, not two, but three different events (Shadowlands, Fear Itself, and Spider-Island), ended a year and a half later without finding an audience. The book was in trouble.
It was during this Black Panther ‘Man Without Fear’ run that the original Man Without Fear made his reappearance. At first blush, Daredevil #1 is not a Daredevil comic book. The first page is, above all else, glowing with color. Javier Rodriguez would go on to make this a trademark of the book, the strange irony of Matt Murdock’s colorful, beautiful city which he cannot see.
2. The Obligatory Crossover Happens, and It Is Not Dumb
One of the biggest problems Marvel’s B-tier books is that they relentlessly tie into whatever Marvel’s got going on. Mighty Avengers didn’t have an issue without obnoxious cover framing until issue six. Carol Danvers’ second year as Captain Marvel featured two cross-overs basically back to back. That’s insane. It’s a reality of comics publishing; trying to get people to pick up books they wouldn’t dare buy because they’re slightly related to the big event.
Daredevil, luckily, dodged these things with the exception of The Omega Effect. Omega Effect, organically spreading from Daredevil to the pages of Greg Rucka's Punisher and the anthology Avenging Spider-Man, was three issues long. That's it. If you wanted the "full story" of Daredevil, you had to buy two books you should have been picking up anyway.
3. Art, And Consistency
Mike Allred. Kano. Marcos Martin. Khoi Pham. When one of Big Red’s regular artists had to step out, one of these current-or-future superstars stepped in. It’s worth noting that the two artists who worked on the book the most, Paolo Rivera and Chris Samnee, never really required a guest to come in. Hell, Mike Allred’s appearance came from a friendly proposition.
This really speaks to a big problem in most other comics: consistency.
Avengers and Superior Spider-Man, arguably the biggest books from Marvel, usually ship twice a month. As a result, not one artist can crank out as many issues as needed. As a result, the books feature a rotating assortment of artists. Spidey’s got a regular crew– Ryan Stegman, Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Humberto Ramos take turns on three-part stories– but Avengers really is all over the place. All quality, I suppose, but the change in art can be dizzying.
As a result, the narrative becomes slightly difficult to follow. Daredevil doesn't kowtow to a crazy schedule, and its bright, beautiful linework shows it.
4. One-and-Done Done Right
Daredevil #30 is possibly my favorite single issue in the entire series. In it, the Silver Surfer comes to New York. He flies around for a bunch, and Dare
devil teams up with him to solve some cool crime.
The story, which is as super-fun and energetic as you could imagine, doesn’t last six issues. It lasts twenty-four pages. Many modern comics have succumbed to the six-to-a-story, decompressed style Brian Bendis brought to the scene. Books like Daredevil and its direct influence and pretender to the throne Hawkeye have brought about a new kind of comic revolution: a series of done-in-one stories which, eventually, connect together to form that sweet-spot story arc for the collection. It makes what would otherwise be a totally fine comic book stand out.
5. It Ended
All griping about Marvel’s numbering system aside, you’ve got to hand it to Daredevil Vol.3: it’s a got a beginning, middle, and an end which has a hook for the next big chapter of the life of its main characters. Storylines come and go, and by the end of it, you’re ready for more. This has always been a main tenet of serialized fiction, but very rarely does a book nail the ending like this.
In a lot of ways, this looks to be the model for superhero comics– especially Marvel comics, anyway– going forward: the book that only runs, say, thirty-six issues before ending, and immediately starting over. Maybe, if they want, the creative team could keep going. But the story at hand is at an end.
So these things have already been synthesized a bit, I think, by Marvel– see the success of books like Hawkeye and, to a slightly lesser extent, The Superior Foes of Spider-Man— but I’d really love other publishers to stand up and take notice. You know who you are.