Sunday, 28 December 2014

Daredevil, Volume 1: Devil at Bay Review (Mark Waid, Chris Samnee)

DC’s New 52 reboot made the company a lot of money in the short term and, a year later, Marvel followed suit with their Marvel NOW! relaunch which also made them a lot of money. Bottom line is: New #1s SELL and it seems both companies these days are scared of titles getting too many issues out, the high numbering sure to scare off prospective new readers. 

So it goes with Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s Daredevil, a title that ran for 7 volumes outside of Marvel NOW! and which has now been relaunched as part of All-New Marvel NOW! back to Volume 1 because 8 volumes? Much too big a number (and maybe their sales were flagging after 30+ issues?) so it’s time for a relaunch, even though it’s the same creative team, same character, same cast and storyline. Though there’s an argument to be made (however flimsy) that Volume 7 ended with the end of one phase of Matt Murdock’s life and the beginning of a new. 

Wha’ happen’? Well, if this is your first Waid/Samnee Daredevil or maybe you gave up on their last run and decided to check back with their latest, here’s a quick recap of how we got here:

Daredevil went up against the Sons of the Serpent who threatened to make his secret identity as blind lawyer Matt Murdock public. Matt preempted their threat and outed himself as Daredevil leading to the Sons’ fall. The ensuing fallout meant that he and Foggy Nelson were barred from practicing law in New York - but not from other states! So they upped stakes and, along with Matt’s on again/off again girlfriend Kirsten McDuffie, headed west to San Francisco to start life afresh! 

Aside from the geographical change, a pretty major lifestyle switch for Foggy, and the fact that Matt’s being bothered by people in public who’re trying to get a selfie with Daredevil out of costume, it’s basically the same upbeat Daredevil that most fans fell for first time round. I want to say it’s a great first (or eighth) volume but the various stories collected here didn’t really do a whole lot for me. 

Matt meets with the Deputy Mayor of San Fran who points out some of the troublemakers in the city that Daredevil could target, including Max Coleridge aka The Shroud (who has VERY Batman-esque origins), and Leland Owlsley aka The Owl. And so Matt gets wrapped up in those two characters’ stories which begets fairly rote stuff with suffering and power-plays dominating their respective lives. 

Part of the problem is Waid’s scripting. He’s good at little scenes here and there like Matt posing for selfies while he and Kirsten go out for coffee, or how Kirsten decides to rename their offices, and of course he’s got Matt’s character down cold by now; but the overall storylines continue to underwhelm. The ones he supplies for this book struggle and fail to live up to some of the highs in previous volumes. I also don’t really like the action in this series - it’s not very exciting, the layouts are at times a tad vexing and everything feels slow despite knowing that what’s happening is supposed to be fast. 

Action is really the only failing I have with regards Samnee’s art which is otherwise as terrific as you’d expect. I love how he works in the San Francisco landscape without going for the obvious landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge or the hills and trams or the harbour, and everything looks absolutely amazing. 

I did like what Waid did with Foggy’s storyline - the poor guy’s undergoing cancer treatment - but if I say anymore then I’m gonna give away what happens. Suffice it to say the flashback issue in NYC that fills in the blanks for the character was easily the best part of the book. 

The volume closes out with the Marvel Infinite Comic, Daredevil: Road Warrior, which sees Waid reunite with longtime collaborator, Peter Krause, who draws a wonderfully classic Daredevil. This story has Matt and co. jump on a plane to San Fran before being diverted to Milwaukee due to weather problems. From there it’s the long road out west with troubles aplenty in the form of the Mad Thinker and a really old Avengers adversary. 

It’s not that Waid’s a bad writer I just think his stories these days are very uninteresting - across all his titles - at least to me. I like Samnee’s art, I like Daredevil, I like this whole setup - I don’t like how Waid’s filling out the comics with these dull, done-in-one/throwaway stories that barely have a pulse. Daredevil, Volume 1: Devil at Bay is a fine start to the ongoing travails of Matt “Magoo” Murdock but I’d have liked it to have been more exciting - maybe when they relaunched, Marvel should’ve gone with a new writer after all?

Daredevil, Volume 1: Devil at Bay


  1. Wow, there must have been a lot happening since Waid's first DD volume: as I remember, that one dealt with the fact that Matt was already outed as Daredevil. That means he's convinced everyone he's not Daredevil, and is about to be outed again?

    1. Aside, they really shouldn't have renumbered this- same creative team, with only a change of location; doesn't make sense.

    2. Yeah the renumbering is pretty pointless! And you're right, the first volume did deal with the aftermath of Matt's being outed as DD - maybe ending that run (sort of - it's still going on!) with that same idea is an intended cute kind of symmetry? He's not about to be outed by the way, he is out - and this time seems to be embracing it!