by Andrew Hurst, CMRO Contributing Writer
Daredevil: The Man Without Fear
Written by Frank Miller, Art by John Romita Jr.
Published: October 1993
Once upon a time, origin stories were some of the most interesting superhero comics you could read. I say “once upon a time” because the magic of the origin story has been dulled with an oversaturation of too many different origin interpretations of the same handful of characters, few of which adding any sort of interesting or memorable luster. In 2012, superhero origin comics are a dime a dozen. But in 1993, the secret origin of our favorite characters was still a spectacle. Such a spectacle that Marvel brought together two of the industry’s hottest creators to show the birth of one of their most mysterious characters in the five issue mini-series, Daredevil: The Man Without Fear.
Frank Miller was the obvious choice to tell this story for many reasons. Years prior, Miller penned the origin of the Batman in Batman: Year One (Batman #404-407), which saw huge success, but deeper than that was Miller’s run on Daredevil in the early 1980s which saw a much darker and more unique take on the traditional superhero comics. The grit covered film noir style is a Frank Miller signature, and in Man Without Fear’s first issue it’s easy to recognize Miller as the man behind this book. Man Without Fear #1 paints the underbelly of New York city that young Matt Murdock exists in. Usually I’m annoyed by too much omniscient narration in comics, but Miller’s words so expressively imagines the environments and emotions, at times the issue reads like an old crime novel. The story itself is as familiar a Daredevil origin as we’ve ever known, and even in a comic book with no superheroes and where the action is rather slow paced, it’s incredibly engaging.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am no fan of John Romita Jr. I’ve never cared for his style, and I’ve even dropped books from my pull list just because he was starting on a title. The recent Avengers vs. X-Men #1 is a great example of my frustrations and distaste for Romita’s sloppy work. His art in Man Without Fear, however, shows the absolute best Romita Jr. can produce, and it’s damn good. There’s an attention to detail in Daredevil that we rarely see in his work as of late. The visual story telling is rather simple, but, by 1993 standards, has a modernism to it. It’s a shame we can’t see more work from Romita like this in today’s comics.
Matt Murdock’s Shakespearian origin of revenge and redemption is a story that’s been told and retold many different ways by many different creators, but in the span of a single introductory issue, Frank Miller and John Romita Jr. project the definitive attitude and film-grain ambiance Daredevil’s character craves. Much like most of Miller’s work, Daredevil: Man Without Fear #1 is a must read, especially for readers new to Daredevil. And you’ll want a copy of issue #2 close by, because once you start this particular origin story, you won’t want to stop.