Hey gang! If, like me, you’ve immersed yourself in the realm of career building and soul-crushing 9-5 jobs, fear not – Pulp is here to alleviate your mid-week woes! This week, I’m diving back into the noir-driven crimescape that is Hell’s Kitchen, the home of the man without fear: Daredevil. I got my hands on a copy of volume 1 of the newly-minted Chip Zdarsky (Sex Criminals, Howard the Duck) run: Know Fear, and I have to say, after taking a break from newer Marvel titles, I am very impressed.
Daredevil is dead. With his body utterly broken after a near-death experience, Matt Murdock has had to give up his double life. The many years of bruises, beatings and broken bones have finally caught up to him, and even if – if – his body heals, there is no guarantee he’ll even be close to the man he once was. His position is made even more tenuous by the regime of Mayor Wilson Fisk, who has criminalised vigilantes in New York and made Daredevil and his allies fugitives. With the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen gone, the criminal underclass has re-emerged to wreak havoc on New York once again. Matt must come to terms with his new reality – his body has betrayed him, and his greatest enemy is in power, and Daredevil is needed more than ever – but how can the Man Without Fear cope when he’s a shell of the man he once was?
Poor Matt Murdock. My favourite costumed vigilante just can’t catch a break! If there’s one thing Marvel do well, it’s beat poor Daredevil into the dirt time and time again. I’ve been a fan of Chip Zdarsky for a while, but I’ve previously only known him for funnier titles like Howard the Duck, so I was a little concerned that he didn’t have the writing chops to take on a notoriously dark and gloomy title like Daredevil. I was pleasantly surprised to see that he takes on Matt’s special brand of neurosis with aplomb; Matt can be a very difficult character to write, given that he’s a special blend of misery, belligerence and Catholic guilt.
I was also particularly impressed with Marco Checchetto’s (The Punisher) artwork – his designs for Matt, Fisk and newcomer cop Cole North are excellent, and actually remind me of Sean Murphy’s artwork from The Wake in places – it’s detailed, and takes great care with facial expressions. I wish Marvel and DC would keep their volume 1 artists on for longer, though; after volume 1, Checchetto is off the title for another 4 or 5 issues before returning. It’s disappointing to see a title with the potential of Zdarsky’s Daredevil held back by artists that just can’t product the kind of quality seen in the first volume.
Staffing gripes aside, Know Fear is an excellent addition to the Daredevil lineup. It doesn’t add anything particularly new, but it doesn’t need to; Zdarsky is building on the events of Charles Soule’s run in his own way, and exploring Matt’s headspace in the aftermath of his brush with death. I highly recommend it as either a starting point for new readers, or old fans like myself wanting to reconnect with the character.
Written by Alastair McGibbon