By: Mark Waid (story), Chris Samnee (art), Javier Rodriguez (colors)

The Story: A tale of two cities and their superhero.

The Review: I won’t say that the last volume of Daredevil really needed a relaunch, but I always felt it, like many critical darlings, deserved far more attention than it got.  In such a case, I can approve of a new #1, even if it’s not strictly necessary.  For good or ill, nothing brings in readers like that big, shiny digit on a cover.  It’s true; I had to go to a completely different store to get this issue because my usual comic book shop had sold out.

Annoying, but encouraging, because I can’t imagine a more deserving series or issue for a sell-out.  An opening is essentially a balancing act between a story’s immediate and long-term needs.  You got to have an immediately arresting plot that also models what the story will look like long-term.  You also need to introduce your audience to your characters without making it feel like a series of introductions.  And somehow, you have to make it all flow together as if this is your fiftieth issue instead of your first.  Writing an opening is an art, and Waid proves that he’s mastered it.

What’s really terrific about this issue is how it simply picks up from where Waid left off in the last volume, yet still makes itself completely accessible to anyone who’s never read Daredevil in their life.  The two pages of Matt Murdock doing his special investigation in the forensics lab is vintage Waid, exposing Matt’s powers with scientific inspiration.  Using his enhanced smell (“Mildew.  Mold. Basidiomycota fungi.  The sort of spores that proliferate primarily at Oceanside.”), hearing (“Empty space, but not cavernous.  More wide than high.”), and touch (I can feel just the tiniest degree of heat…a minute level of residual radioactivity[.]”), Matt deduces the location of the deputy mayor’s kidnapped daughter with Holmes-like speed and confidence.  At the same time, Matt’s down-to-Earth, compassionate personality is fully on display, making him both brilliant and likeable.  By the time Waid gives us a one-page précis of Matt’s complete origin story, newbies are basically on the same page as veterans—the fifth page, to be precise.

From that point on, Waid just plays, sending Matt running across San Francisco, a little girl in his arm and the voice of the harassed Kirsten McDuffie (“I’m not the Pentagon! I have Google Maps!”) in his ear.  This might have turned into a typical chase scene, but Waid enlivens the sequence with plenty of sudden complications (Matt dropping his charge in midair, for example) and the jovial chemistry between Kirsten and Matt.  Kirsten: “Are you sure you used to live here?  Maybe they just told you it was San Francisco…”

“And I have taken a lot of punches to the head since, so cut me some slack and start scoping out Chinatown!

At any rate, Waid has always been brilliant at making even the most ordinary antagonists a challenge, and even more brilliant in finding ways for Matt to overcome them.  The twist of Matt discovering a bomb inside his young charge instantly changes his whole strategy in addition to upping the ante, and his solution is so clever yet simple that you’re torn with admiration and the jealous knowledge that you probably wouldn’t have thought of it yourself.

Having successfully trapped your interest, Waid uses the last couple pages to set up Matt, Kirsten new status quo and introduce a juicy dramatic subplot involving Foggy Nelson.  Both new and old readers will have reason to be taken aback by Matt’s implications that Foggy has passed, only to see Foggy, alive but weary, watching Matt speak of him in the past tense from a glowing screen.  So many intriguing questions, indeed.

At this point, it’s pretty hard to imagine Waid writing Daredevil without Samnee to draw it, which explains their credits as co-storytellers.  It’s Samnee who allows Waid to be as pithy as he is, mapping Matt’s origin story in concentric panels radiating from Matt’s head as if his memories are on display.  Samnee is also an expert in getting the most expression from his deceptively simple linework.  See the way Daredevil tries to bond with his frightened charge, the nervous creases in the brow of his mask, his slightly crooked grin, the way he sheepishly scratches the back of his head.  It’s endearingly genuine, even without him telling the little girl how much he likes her watch.  Kudos also to Rodriguez, who takes advantage of Matt’s fondness for red to make him the center of attention amidst a palette of cool blues, grays, and greens.

Conclusion: A treasure for new and old fans alike, this issue perfectly encapsulates what has made Waid and Samnee’s Daredevil a hidden gem for the last few years.

Grade: A

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – So I missed out on the Daredevil digital series which transitioned us between this and last volume.  Anyone care to fill me in?