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10 Best Daredevil Stories
The Man Without Fear's greatest moments.
By Kurt Anthony Krug
February 08, 2011
10 Best Daredevil Stories
© Marvel Comics/Robert Trate
Created by Stan Lee and the late Bill Everett in 1964, Daredevil – the alter-ego of blind attorney Matthew Murdock – was more of a wise-cracking scarlet swashbuckler in the vein of Spider-Man. However, Frank Miller in the 1980s revamped and revitalized ol’ Hornhead, making him a relevant part of the Marvel Universe, not to mention making his bi-monthly series a monthly series – which it’s been ever since.
Miller paved the way for many great creators to chronicle Daredevil. The big Daredevil event called Shadowland recently concluded. In the aftermath, Matt Murdock once again walks the path to redemption in the Daredevil: Reborn mini-series. Here are the Top 10 Daredevil Stories (which in what was a very difficult list to compile):
10) Fall From Grace (Daredevil #319-325)
D.G. Chichester and Scott McDaniel drastically change Daredevil’s status quo. Matt Murdock is outed in the media as being Daredevil (not for the first time), so he goes to drastic lengths to fake Murdock’s death and become the “new” Daredevil – complete with new costume. He also is reunited with Elektra, absent from mainstream Marvel continuity for a decade. Adopting the alias Jack Batlin, he leaves all his loved ones behind. Scott McDaniel’s moody art is phenomenal stuff – some of the best in his career – which complemented the story.
9) Last Rites (Daredevil #298-300)
The Kingpin – Daredevil’s greatest enemy – is broken in this story arc by D.G. Chichester and Lee Weeks as Matt Murdock regains his license to practice law once again. In a role-reversal of Born Again, Kingpin’s criminal empire is toppled and his stoic façade cracks. Daredevil, who is in control of his emotions, beats the tar out of him (with Peter Parker cheering him on in the background) and forgives him for what he’s done because if there’s no forgiveness, the road to justice becomes the road to bitterness.
8) Daredevil #344-350
This story arc written by J.M. DeMatteis (with art by Cary Nord and Ron Wagner) has not been collected in trade (and it should be!) and is one of the most underrated stories in the Daredevil mythos. Matt Murdock has a mental breakdown. A malicious Daredevil gets off on nearly crippling thugs, whereas a Daredevil, clad in his original yellow costume, is also prowling Hell’s Kitchen. Both are Murdock, unbeknownst to himself. His old mentor Stick returns and takes him on a spiritual quest to fix his shattered psyche as DD dons the definitive crimson costume at the end. Yes, Marvel wanted DD’s status quo to be changed back prior to Fall From Grace, which DeMatteis delivers, but it’s done in a very taut, psychologically-compelling thriller.
7) The Devil Inside and Out (Daredevil Vol. 2 #82-87)
There’s a seamless transition between writers as Ed Brubaker takes the baton (or billy club, rather) from Brian Michael Bendis. Imprisoned in Ryker’s Island with plenty of his old enemies that includes the Kingpin and Bullseye, Murdock – again his secret identity made public – fights for his life. He reluctantly teams up with the Punisher, who deliberately gets himself arrested to help him out, turning the tables on the Kingpin and Bullseye. While a few people in power know Murdock and Daredevil are the same person, they keep mum as his secret identity is reestablished – thanks in great measures to Iron Fist posing as DD while Murdock’s in prison. Daredevil is always at his best when he’s in the worst-case scenarios with his back to the wall.
6) Child’s Play (Daredevil #182-184)
Frank Miller reintroduces the Punisher in this storyline, paving the way for the huge character Mr. Castle’d become in the Marvel Universe. In a storyline revolving around drugs – in this case, PCP or angel dust – Daredevil and the Punisher both go after the drug-dealer. However, Daredevil doesn’t approve of the Punisher’s lethal methods and fights him. Interestingly enough, the Punisher doesn’t want to fight Daredevil; he wants to be his ally.
5) The Brian Michael Bendis Era – 2001-2005
Brian Michael Bendis really raised Daredevil to great heights during his acclaimed run on the title. He reestablished the Kingpin as DD’s arch-nemesis, introduced Milla Donovan who’d become DD’s wife, as well as reintroduced and breathed new life into characters popular from the 1970s: Luke Cage, Iron Fist, White Tiger, and Leap Frog. Throw in old girlfriends Black Widow and Elektra, a variety of talented artists (Alex Maleev, David Mack, Terry Dodson), and you have one of the best comics with a hardboiled, pulp noir sensibility and some of the wittiest dialogue around.
4) The Man Without Fear (Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #1-5)
Frank Miller and John Romita, Jr. redid Daredevil’s origin in 1993 with Elektra playing a large role in it. Miller’s writing is sharp and moody. Romita’s noir-esque artwork packs plenty of raw power, which is essential in this story because it doesn’t have many splash pages and Daredevil doesn’t appear in costume until the very end. Miller, who hadn’t done anything Daredevil-related since 1983 at that point, returned to the character that he made so great, which was a treat to fans new and old.
3) Guardian Devil (Daredevil Vol. #1-8)
After flirting with cancellation, Daredevil is relaunched at #1 under the “Marvel Knights” imprint. Clerks writer/director Kevin Smith delivers his best work in comics with Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti on the art. The creative team catapults Daredevil back into the Top 10 as someone out there plays mind games with DD. There’s many religious overtones in this story as Daredevil protects a baby girl believed to be the Second Coming. He also loses yet another woman he loves to Bullseye, is reunited with his mother, and has a touching heart-to-heart talk with Spider-Man (the two characters – at least at this point – are aware of each other’s dual identities). A very powerful tale.
2) The Elektra Saga (Daredevil #168-181)
After drawing the book for 10 issues, Frank Miller became both the writer and artist on Daredevil. He introduced Elektra – Matt Murdock’s college girlfriend – who was now a deadly assassin. Daredevil was torn between his love for Elektra and his sense of duty. In the end, Elektra was brutally murdered by Bullseye. This was during a time when killing a major character was a big deal in the medium. Miller really kicked this book up several notches, introducing his film noir approach to storytelling with his moody artwork and hardboiled dialogue, and introducing dark themes such as Daredevil getting driven to the edge of insanity. By revamping DD as a “grim and gritty” character, Miller forever altered how the character is portrayed, getting him away from the lightheaded scarlet swashbuckler roots introduced by Stan Lee and Bill Everett. What’s more, his groundbreaking work on DD elevated the title’s publication from bi-monthly to monthly.
1) Born Again (Daredevil #227-233)
If there’s any Daredevil story you must read, it’s Born Again. Karen Page, Matt Murdock’s girlfriend who’s become a drug-addicted porn star, sells his identity for a fix. The Kingpin gets wind of this and systematically destroys Murdock’s life: he gets him disbarred, blackballs him in the legal community, freezes his assets, and destroys his house. For an encore, he brutally beats him and dumps him in the river, while he hires a psycho to pose as Daredevil to destroy his reputation. Somehow, Murdock rises above it all, taking back his life and foiling the Kingpin and his latest assassin Nuke. He reunites with Karen Page and forgives her. While he doesn’t become a lawyer again at the end of the story (he eventually does in Daredevil #300), Miller allows him a rare, happy ending as he’s seen walking hand-in-hand with Karen. Powerful, powerful stuff. This is also the story from which many creators in subsequent runs take their cue.