Comic Review – “Essential Daredevil Vol. 3”

Once again, I’ve been travelleing for work. That means lots of time to read, even though I don’t do a lot of television or movie watching. (That would require touching a hotel room remote control, and I’m not sure I want to do that.) It also means I’m writing this review without the usual templates, so forgive me if the format is off. I’ve started reading Essential Hulk Vol. 3 as well.

Publication Information

Title: Essential Daredevil Vol. 3
Credited to: Stan Lee (editor), Roy Thomas (scripter), Gary Friedrich (scripter), Len Wein (scripter), Gerry Conway (scripter), Gene Colan (pencils), Barry Windsor Smith (pencils), Don Heck (pencils) and Friends
Original Publication Date: A 2005 collection of issues from 1968-1970
Issues included: Daredevil #49-74 and Iron Man 35 and 36.
Cover Price: $16.99 US, $27.25 Canadian (quite the exchange rate, eh?)
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A blind lawyer by day and vigilante by night, Matt Murdock (also known as Daredevil) tries to make the world a better place while dealing with his own love life and identity crisis. At this point in his career, he was still a wisecracker in combat.

High Point

The Karen Page story arc. We’ve got one of Marvel’s first unmaskings here, with a very realistic response to it.

Low Point

Iron Man 35. Don Heck can draw the armour better than anyone else of the era, but storytelling skills in general (and transitions in particular) are pretty weak. When the story can involve two or three changes in location on one page, it just gets confusing. (Parts of that issue didn’t make sense until I read Colan’s recap in the next issue.)

The Scores

The concept of a blind superhero still feels original to me, particularly one whose depth of pain in his private life seems to go beyond the groan-inducing twists at the end of this era’s Spider-Man comics. The unmasking, the identity crisis that lasts longer than one issue, and his pursuit of Karen Page are all unique in flavour to this point in the Marvel history. Daredevil was well on his way to being the very unique superhero he is today in Marvel’s universe. I give it 5 out of 6.

I look at Gene Colan’s art here, and I’m really, really impressed by the quality of the storytelling and the detail in Matt Murdock’s life. (Note that I didn’t say Daredevil’s life; when in uniform, the background details fade, keeping the flair on the hero setting him apart from his surroundings. When the mask comes off, rich detail appears all around, pulling some of the focus off of Matt and just making him a part of the world. Look at the level of detail in some of the courtroom scenes, for example.) The dynamics of the storytelling are also excellent, and they really keep things moving. There’s a lot of material here that stands up very well, even without the original colour. I give it 6 out of 6.

The stories are rife with Daredevil’s greatest problem: really cheesy villains. Of the villains that appear in here, only Gladiator, Stilt-Man and the Jester are still around today, and the first two aren’t even villains anymore. The Jester most recently appeared in one panel on the last page of Civil War #4, and I don’t bank on him surviving that series. If these three are the cream of the crop, you’ve got a decidedly lousy crop. If it weren’t for the quality of handling Matt’s personal life, there’s nothing here that would draw people in. Weak villains lead to weak tension. I give it 4 out of 6.

The characterization is strong for Matt and his supporting cast. Unfortunately, his villains are as flat as they come. I give it 4 out of 6.

The emotional response is another category that is dragged down by a lousy rogues gallery. With villains this bad, there’s just no tension in combat, and all of the suspense comes from Matt’s (thankfully well handled) personal life. I give it 4 out of 6.

The flow is excellent for all but two issues. Those Iron Man crossover issues are just plain weak, and drag down the entire package to a mere 5 out of 6 from the perfect score it would have had.

Overall, it’s still an entertaining collection, and one in which Daredevil is starting to be set apart as a character as well as a comic book. He originally felt like a Spider-Man knock off with a gimmick, but he’s starting to really move away from that here. Spider-Man was the character who managed to eventually date whichever girl he was interested in, and dealt with lots of grudge-holding bank robbers. Daredevil was starting to carve out more political territory, and when he did seem to finally get the girl, he couldn’t manage to hold on to her for long. Once Bullseye and Frank Miller come aboard, we’ll really have a different character on our hands. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Essential Daredevil Vol. 3 receives 33 out of 42.