Review: Daredevil The Man Without Fear

Published on August 31st, 2010

Let’s forget that the movie adaptation of The Spirit and Robo Cop 3 ever existed, instead let’s focus on what Frank Miller was good at, writing comic books. In the early nineties Miller along with artist John Romita Jr. wrote what is arguably the best Daredevil story, Man Without Fear. Originally it was intended to be a graphic novel, but instead Marvel decided to release it as a five issue miniseries, it is now available as one trade with the full story.

darebevil_manwithoutfearThe book is a retelling of Daredevil’s origin story. Part one shows Matt Murdock as a young boy with a wild streak. He used to ride around on a skateboard with a ski mask causing trouble, like the time he stole a local police officer’s nightstick. You also see Matt’s father, Jack who is a boxer trying to make his way, but is forced to work for the local Mob as a collector. Jack makes Matt promise that he won’t end up like his father and become something special in memory of his dead mother. Then one day an old blind man is crossing the street and his path goes right in front of a truck carrying some nasty chemicals. Matt pushes the old man out of the way, but the chemicals fall out of the truck and get into Matt’s eyes, causing him to go blind. The little boy gets depressed, but he then meets, Stick, an old blind man who takes Matt under his wing and trains him to use his other senses at super-human levels. Just when things start going well Matt’s father is killed when he refuses to take a dive in a fight. Matt takes matters into his own hands and goes after the men who killed his father. Matt gets his revenge, but in the process indirectly kills an innocent woman by knocking her out a window. This incident causes Stick to abandon Matt and now Matt has lost his entire family.

The story picks up several years later with Matt in law school where he meets his best friend and future law partner, Foggy Nelson. Matt tries to stay away from violence, but he gives in to teach a bully a lesson after picking on his new friend. He gives in to temptation again when he meets Elektra, a woman who shares his enjoyment for leaping around on rooftops after dark. Matt quickly falls for Elektra and they become close until her father is killed by what she claims are the voices in her head. She then leaves Matt and once again he is alone.

Then the story really gets interesting, after graduating law school Matt gets a job and is sent back to New York. There Matt meets a young girl, named Mickey who has been hiding out in the same gym Matt’s father used to train. Matt gets along with the girl and decides to take some time to train her. Matt also reconnects with his old college pal Foggy, and Matt even takes some time to help him out on a case involving a slumlord. Then Mickey is kidnapped by some low level flunkies of The Kingpin, he immediately sets off to rescue her. Matt uses his heightened senses and all his training from Stick to track her down. He ends up fighting his way through dozens of armed men until he finds the man who has Mickey. The two have a stand off and when the kidnapper asks Matt who he is, he uses the name that was used to taunt him as a child, Daredevil. The man shoots at Daredevil but he deflects the bullet and hits the kidnapper in the head. Mickey is returned home and after being fired Matt decides to open his own law practice with Foggy. In the last two pages we finally see Matt in his Daredevil costume that he sowed himself, and has no idea what it actually looks like.

I read this book years ago, but I forgot how good it was. If only the Daredevil movie could have even partially lived up to this. It’s really cool seeing Daredevil as a little kid messing around with cops and then seeing him grow up into the hero we all know. There’s a really cool forward in the beginning of the book from Frank Miller where he talks about how Matt Murdock could have easily grown up to be a criminal, but because of his conscience he is able to take his tragedies and use them to become a better person. The great story is complemented with great art, I’m not always the biggest fan of Romita Jr. but there are some characters that he draws perfectly and Daredevil is definitely one of them. If you’re even a little bit of a Daredevil fan you need to read this book, and it’s available at Amazon in hard back for $18.24 or paperback for $14.39.

Ken Zeider