The second volume of Daredevil continues the trend set when Mark Waid first took over the book and made it his own. Sick of the increasing amount of melodrama and tragedy in the life of lawyer/vigilante Matt Murdock, Waid only agreed to take over writing duties on the title if he was allowed to do the unthinkable: make Marvel Comics’ darkest superhero lighten-up, restoring the swashbuckling Man Without Fear that Stan Lee had envisioned fifty years ago.
The first chapter of this volume, which won the Eisner Award for Best Single Issue Story in 2012, illustrates just how much Waid has done to turn this title around. The usually dour Matt Murdock arrives at his law firm’s holiday party in grand style, wearing plastic devil’s horns and a red sweatshirt that reads “I’M NOT DAREDEVIL” in white print. His regular cane is replaced with an oversized red-and-white-striped candy cane with a bit of mistletoe tied on the handle. Even the cover of this chapter depicts Daredevil making a snow angel on the rooftops upon which he usually lurks menacingly. And all this occurs before the main plot begins, which involves Matt Murdock’s struggle for survival following a bus crash that leaves him and several blind children stranded in the wintery wilderness. Truly, this volume is worth the purchase just for that one story!
Before any long-time Daredevil fans get all huffy about this change in tone, let me reassure you that, while Matt Murdock may be sick of being miserable and the comedy quotient of the book has increased since Waid’s revamp started, the book still contains a good deal of drama. The main portion of the book is devoted to a team-up between Spider-Man, Daredevil, and the semi-reformed burglar turned hero, Black Cat, who must track down the crooks who framed Black Cat for the theft of a highly advanced holographic projector. The final chapters pit Daredevil against a blind supervillain – frequent Fantastic Four foe Mole Man – who has extended his criminal activities to grave-robbing and whose latest caper gives Matt Murdock a personal reason to see justice done.
Most of this collection is ably illustrated by the series’ regular art team of artist Paolo River and inker Joe Rivera. Their style is as fun as Waid’s script, being clearly penciled without seeming overly cartoonish in design. The inks are perfectly appropriate to each panel, with Joe Rivera seeming to know when to make the shadows thick or when to leave just enough light for the color to poke through the darkness. The Spider-Man/Daredevil/Black Cat team-up features artwork by artist Emma Rios and the artist Kano. There is also a brief story illustrated by Khoi Pham. All of it is good, though some of the poses Kano puts Black Cat in make my spine ache in sympathy.
In terms of content, there’s little to make parents or librarians nervous about this series. There are several moments of passionate kissing leading into something more intense between Daredevil and Black Cat, but there’s no nudity. Likewise, while the eventual reasons for Mole Man’s grave robbing are quite disturbing (i.e. finding the one woman who was ever nice to him and saying goodbye), Waid’s script keeps his intentions purely platonic and there’s no hint of anything else happening. The whole scenario is gross enough without THAT implication!