Collecting The Man Without Fear #1-5
The origin of Matthew Murdock AKA Daredevil has been known, but not widely spread. There have been writers that have attempted to tell the tale of the ‘Devil of Hells Kitchen’,— Jeph Loeb and Time Sale’s enigmatic Daredevil:Yellow comes to mind— but there are few prolific creators that match the team of Frank Miller and John Romita Jr. Each with their own plethora of iconic works, they finally teamed up to tell the story of Matt Murdock and how he grew into Daredevil.
Now, I read comics frequently, and this may come as a surprise, but I have never read a Frank Miller book. I’ve seen both parts of The Dark Knight Returns animated feature, as well as Sin City and 300, but this was the first Miller book that I’ve read and, boy, was I satisfied. Miller/Romita Jr.’s The Man Without Fear is a familiar tale, one of a poor boy and his single father struggling to get by in Hell’s Kitchen, an impoverished, crime filled borough of New York City. Matt, the boy who will grow up to be Daredevil, and his father, known as Battlin’ Jack Murdock, is a boxer under the thumb of a criminal known as The Fixer; who exploits Jack’s situation by forcing him to collect for the mob and throw fights, lest the mob harm his son, Matt. Matt Murdock is a bright young boy wanting to follow in the footsteps of his father and become a fighter, and one day he pushes an old blind man out from the path of a large truck, saving his life. After the crash, the toxic waste that the truck was transporting spilled onto the street, right into his eyes, and ironically, Matt is blinded. Jack vows to have his son become a scholar, and refuses to let Matt fall into the life of violence he chose, and thus begins the story of Daredevil.
The art is very utilitarian, rife with dark, muted colours that dance on the edges of the panels. Romita Jr. truly lives up to his father’s (John Romita Sr. another well known penciller) legacy and delivers a pragmatic view of Hell’s Kitchen, while at times it can feel a little dated, ninety percent of the illustration nails the tone, and the book doesn’t suffer for it. There were only a couple of instances where I was taken out of the world and nitpicked some drawings, like how Elektra’s hair seems to be larger than her torso, and sometimes Kingpin’s face is oddly shaped, but once you move past it, it doesn’t detract from the visuals. Another dated technique is the use of the square boxes for narration, you see, current comics use the square boxes for characters inner monologue, and while at times it isn’t clear whether the narrator is Murdock’s inner monologue, it is clear the story is told from Matt’s perspective, first-person or not, the story is told so well, it doesn’t matter.
Throughout the miniseries, Miller deals with Matt’s everyday life, being a blind man, being a lawyer and having a social life. He meets his best friend Foggy, (who he starts a law firm with), he is trained by a mysterious blind man named Stick after the death of his father, and he meets his first true love interest, Elektra, whom he shares his passion of martial arts. There is a looming villainous presence the Kingpin provides, but it is merely touched on, however he’s given an iconic scene wherein he snaps the neck of one of his former associates. The story of how Matt Murdock becomes Daredevil is a thrilling one, full of action, romance, and a touch of solemn wonder. The Man Without Fear is as synonymous with the character of Daredevil as it is with Frank Miller’s work.