Comic Review – “Essential Daredevil Volume 1”

The latest in the Essential line hit the shelves a few weeks ago. To learn about the early days of everybody’s favourite blind super-hero, read on.

General Information

Title: Essential Daredevil
Credited to: Stan Lee, Wallace Wood, John Romita, Gene Colan, and Friends
Original Publication Date: 2002 reprint of material first published
from 1964-1967
ISBN: 0-7851-0949-8
Cover Price: $14.95 US, $24.00 Can
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Matt Murdock, the blind lawyer, leads a double life as the acrobatic

The Issues

This collects the first 25 issues of Daredevil. The
plotlines are as follows:
Issue 1: Daredevil’s first case and origin, facing the man who killed
his father.
Issue 2: Daredevil fights Elektro.
Issue 3: Daredevil fights the Owl.
Issue 4: The Purple Man appears.
Issue 5: The Mysterious Masked Matador comes to town.
Issue 6: Daredevil fights the Fellowship of Fear.
Issue 7: Daredevil fights the Sub-Mariner.
Issue 8: Stilt Man robs helicopters and tall buildings.
Issue 9: Matt Murdock finds something odd when visiting a doctor who
may restore his vision.
Issues 10 and 11: The Organizer and his Ani-Men try to rig an
Issues 12-14: Daredevil teams up with Ka-Zar.
Issue 15: The Ox escapes from prison.
Issues 16-17: The Masked Marauder pits Spider-Man and Daredevil
against each other.
Issue 18: The Gladiator appears.
Issue 19: The Gladiator and the Masked Marauder combine forces.
Issues 20-21: The Owl returns for vengance.
Issues 22-23: The Gladiator and the Masked Marauder attack Daredevil
with the Tri-Android.
Issue 24: The return of Ka-Zar.
Issue 25: The appearance of the Leap Frog.

High Point

The issue co-scripted by Denny O’Neil. His Daredevil is more like the
character we see today, and less like the wisecracking Spider-Man.

Low Point

The rogues gallery. Stilt Man? Leap Frog? The Owl? Guest stars from all
other Marvel titles? This was not Stan Lee’s best work.

The Scores

The idea of a blind super-hero is very original. I can’t
think of one other example. (You can thank Bill Everett for that
one; his blind daughter was the inspiration.) I don’t think anyone
published similar villains, but that could be because they chose not
to embarrass themselves by printing them. The Gladiator was the only
villain who first appeared here that I’d like to see again. I give it
5 out of 6.

The early artwork was iffy, likely because Bill Everett’s
sudden departure from Marvel left them with no steady artist for a
while. Once Wally Wood took over, things started improving. The John
Romita and Gene Colan work was excellent. (I find this a pleasant
surprise, given my distaste for Gene Colan’s work in Essential
Hulk Vol. 1
.) I give it 4 out of 6.

The stories had their ups and downs. Some of them were quite
good, while others seemed forced. (Really, do you think Spider-Man
would be careless enough to mail Matt a letter saying he’s figured out
his identity rather than telling him in person?) I give it 4 out of 6.

The characterization of Matt, Foggy, and Karen was very
good. The villains and Ka-Zar were amazingly one-dimensional. I give
it 4 out of 6.

The emotional response this generated was moderate. I was
surprised to see Daredevil making all the same wisecracks as
Spider-Man in the Stan Lee issues; I’m used to more recent stuff, with
a dark and brooding Daredevil. I prefer the new stuff, too. The
stories themselves had a few moments of tension in Matt’s private
life, but very little in the actual plots. I give it 3 out of 6.

The flow would be fantastic if Stan Lee hadn’t stuck so many
words on those pages. Most artists draw Daredevil moving the way we’d
expect a trained gymnast and fighter to move. There’s some great
action drawn that would take only a fraction of the time required to
deliver all of that dialogue. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, this was good for the 1960s, but it’s weak today.
There’s a great hero here who’s being held back by his lack of decent
villains. If you’re looking for something to get you ready for the
movie next February, this wouldn’t be it. Look instead for
Daredevil Visionairies: Frank Miller Volume 2, which inspired
the director to write the script. I give it 4 out of 6.

In total, Essential Daredevil Volume 1 receives 28 out of 42.