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The Devil You Know – Defining takes on #Daredevil with Frank Miller, Brian Micheal Bendis and Mark Waid

Depending on which side of the coast you dwell on, be it straight from the heart of Hell’s Kitchen on the east or to the glitz of LA with the west, there will be another season of Daredevil about to be unleashed upon us, exclusive to Netflix.

It marked a change in focus for Marvel. It dropped the kid friendly formula that is starting to show it’s weariness for something with more gritty, more impact and honestly, more heart.

While most villains tend to get disposed into a grave at the end of each Marvel flick, aside from the audience friendly trickster Loki, the Kingpin has been locked away for the time being, so who will menace the devil in red? With guns blazing, a man wearing vengeance on his chest in the symbol of a white skull, he’s out to punish those who have wronged him – Frank Castle is gonna throw down with Matt Murdock as the second season ponders on the subject of responsibility and where does violence lead us.

There’s three core runs that I feel really define what Daredevil/Matt Murdock are defined as a character, each having a certain tone and story revelations that steer the character into new grounds – three people have made their mark on this Marvel character so here’s a brief break down of each.

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Frank Miller’s Born Again really starts the ball rolling. Each arc always ties back to the secret identity and Matt living two lives – one as a lawyer for the people by day, vigilante by night.

It was the first take on what would happen if his enemies knew his secret and how do you build yourself back up from when you’ve hit the bottom? As the secret life of Matt Murdock is revealed by a close friend, Karen Page. Once this info finds it’s way into the hands of The Kingpin, the destruction of Matt Murdock’s life begins.

From getting barred from being an attorney to having his apartment burnt down, Murdock finds himself broke and freezing cold in an abandoned apartment room with only Karen there to keep him going forward.

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It also gives a major push for Nuke, the pill popping military guy that showed up in Jessica Jones’ series. While both Matt and Karen manage to recover, rebuilding their trust and their former lives, what Born Again really highlights is the determination that Matt has to climb back up from being in the dirt and to keep fighting against all odds.

This carries over to another similar style of run as history repeats itself as once again, the secret is out about Matt Murdock being Daredevil but this time it’s Brian Micheal Bendis is at the helm.

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I’ll be honest, that while I enjoyed his part in building up Ultimate line up with Ultimate Spiderman, he is one of those writers that falls back on very certain traits, most of them more commonly found in his recent runs on Guardians of the Galaxy and Miles’ Spiderman ongoing, I can over look it when it comes to Daredevil. It’s pretty common that he tends to do dialog in short phrases such as one word answers (Yeah or nah) and gets repetitive with rewording phrases (“Daredevil? As in the devil of Hell’s Kitchen?” “Yeah, Daredevil.”) but surprisingly, it’s the least common occurring in this run despite it lasting nearly four years.

In my opinion, his run does a bit of a retread, it’s important to keep in mind that a majority of comic fans that start reading comics in the past five years or so, there’s a invisible sense of a cut off. Personally, I doubt anyone would read any run prior to where Marvel established the reshuffling of stepping out from the 90’s headspace.

The mark of this I felt was with Avengers Dissembled. It cut ties with old members of the Avengers and established a status quo that is mostly present in both comics and MCU. What does this have to do with Daredevil though? Well, Born Again was done back in 1986 and some fans would feel that the art style/tone doesn’t match up to today’s standards.

While the focus of Bendis’ run does touch on Kingpin learning Matt Murdock is Daredevil, there’s a slight twist as it’s no longer just a personal takedown but instead, he reveals it to the public in a mirrored outcome to how his own criminal legacy was revealed to the public in the conclusion of Born Again.

It actually expands more about Kingpin having to rebuild his reputation while still causing chaos in Matt Murdock’s life as Typhoid Mary is really used to her full potential, striking at Daredevil in ways that other foes couldn’t by lulling him into a false sense of security, given how her shifting personalities work. While Matt has faced her before, we start to learn more about how she became defined by her struggle to control her personalities and how they drive her to lash out in violent ways.

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If the Netflix series was going to directly adapt a run, it’d most likely be this one as it essential created sub line for Marvel Knights but also gave us something familiar but new at the same time.

Lastly, Mark Waid’s recent two runs felt like a throwback to Joe Kelly’s more light hearted take on the character. While both Miller and Bendis take Daredevil to some dark places, Waid’s run is a bit more optimistic as Matt tries a different approach to being outed as Daredevil.

This is Matt in the spirit of enjoying of being a hero as most of Waid’s material has an uplifting feel to it. The more memorable parts of this run really focus on Matt’s career as he tries to repair his trust with Foggy as we learn that the funeral for his friend wasn’t what it seemed to be and he even starts dating again, a budding relationship with Kirsten McDuffie. There’s also a throwback to when Matt was in San Fran with Black Widow teaming up as Matt/Kirsten relocate to LA at the end of the first run by Waid, it just feels very light compared to the previous run.

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Notable mention goes out to Ed Brubaker’s run as he takes over the reigns for Bendis, establishing what happens when Matt Murdock willingly gives himself up after being revealed to be Daredevil as he forms a fragile alliance with a former sworn enemy, The Kingpin.

Also Shadowlands is an interesting take on Daredevil as well, redefining him from his heroic roots to take on a more lethal position as he takes over Hell’s Kitchen, claiming to be the new Kingpin as right at the start of the series, he takes out a major villain with no mercy. It’s also one of the few times that Daredevil was the focus on a Marvel Event as many allies and enemies of the scarlet superhero were given one shots or mini runs to tell their perspective of the battle for Hell’s Kitchen unfolded.

The second season of Daredevil promises some interesting stuff and perhaps as the series progresses, we’ll see more influence from these recommended runs rub off on future seasons as the second season premieres on Netflix on March 18th.

 

 

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