Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Daredevil: Yellow

Some of you may well be familiar with the Marvel Comics hero Daredevil, at least from the movie with Ben Affleck (which I have yet to see--the casting of Jennifer Garner as Elektra discourages me from seeing it...). Daredevil is lawyer Matt Murdock. Blinded as a child by radioactive material, he develops heightened senses and a "radar sense" that compensate for his lack of sight. When his father, boxer "Battling Jack Murdock," is killed for not throwing a fight, he becomes the costumed crimefighter Daredevil.

For many the comic book Daredevil was at its best during Frank Miller's run. Miller gave Daredevil a noir feel and placed the Man Without Fear against organised crime rather than the usual costumed villains. Miller's work was widely acclaimed and brought Daredevil to new heights of popularity. But while I am a huge fan of Frank Miller (I love both The Dark Knight Returns and Sin City), I always preferred Daredevil in its early days. In the comic books from the Silver Age Daredevil was much more a blind swashbuckler and he battled such costumed villains as Mysterio and The Owl. In many respects I found the comic book much more interesting at that time.

It should be no surprise, then, that I would like Daredevil: Yellow. Daredevil: Yellow was a six issue miniseries published in 2001. It was collected into a trade paperback in 2002 (okay, so it took me a while to get around to reading it--I am way behind on my comic books). A retelling of Daredevil's origin and his early days as a superhero, Daredevil: Yellow was written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Tim Sale, the same team behind Batman: the Long Halloween.

Daredevil: Yellow captures the feel of the Silver Age Daredevil comics quite well. Everything is there. The self doubts that usually plagued Marvel superheros of the era (Spider-Man wasn't the only one who was a bit neurotic), a guest appearance by the Fantastic Four, and the battles with supervillains. Indeed, among the highlights are fights with Electro (usually a Spider-Man villain), Killgrave the Purple Man, and The Owl (Daredevil's archnemesis in the early years). There are even the touches of humour that often permeated the works of Stan Lee (even in the midst of fighting supervillains--witness the fight with the Purple Man...).

The one thing that separates Daredevil: Yellow from the original Silver Age comics is that Matt Murdock (and hence Daredevil) is so much more developed as a character. In fact, we learn that the Man Without Fear is not exactly without fear. He has his own share of fears and doubts and concerns. Im effect, he seems much more real than he did in the Silver Age.

Daredevil: Yellow is written as a letter from Matt Murdock to Karen Page, who was long ago killed by the supervillain Bullseye (Marvel Comics seems to have had a habit of killing off the best girlfriends--just look at Gwen Stacy....). It should then be little surprise that much of Daredevil: Yellow focuses on the relationship between Murdock and Page. Sadly, this is also Daredevil: Yellow's greatest weakness. While Matt Murdock, his law partner Foggy Nelson, and his father "Battling Jack" Murdock are fairly well developed characters, Karen Page is sadly underdeveloped. She is beautiful, blonde, sweet, young, and a bit naive, but not much more than that. We don't get any real sense of her inner feelings and she comes off as little more than the token love interest. Granted, that is the way she was written in the early days of Daredevil by Stan Lee, but one would have expected a bit more in character development in a mini-series written in the Naughts.

Regardless, that is the only real shortcoming of Daredevil: Yellow. It is very well written and beautifully illustrated, with a real feel for Silver Age comic books. I would recommend anyone who admires the comic books of the Silver Age or any fan of Daredevil to read Daredevil: Yellow. It is certainly a remarkable piece of work.

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