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In the early days of Marvel Comics’ superhero boon, a time that would eventually come to be known as comic books’ Silver Age, Stan Lee and his stable of artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko were creating characters as an impressive pace. Amazingly, a large chunk of those characters still form the core of Marvel’s superheroes today. Less than two years after creating Spider-Man, Stan Lee teamed with artist Bill Everett to add another high-flying superhero. This hero would be blind, though with heightened senses and a radar sense. Daredevil #1, written by Lee and drawn by Everett and Ditko, came out in April 1964. To celebrate the character’s 50th anniversary, Marvel has released Daredevil #1.50, an extra-sized issue with contributions from a number of current and former Daredevil creators.
Daredevil #1.50 has three separate stories: “The King in Red” by writer Mark Waid and artist Javier Rodriguez, an untitled story by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev, and “The Last Will and Testament of Mike Murdock” by writer/artist Karl Kesel. Each story addresses a different age of Daredevil. The Waid/Rodriguez story flashes forward to – appropriately – Matt Murdock’s 50th birthday, when he is married with a son and has given up being Daredevil. The irony in this story is that the son of the “Man Without Fear” is full of fear, due to inheriting heightened senses. In this story, the daughter of DD foe The Owl tries to bring Matt back by making a large chunk of the population blind.
To readers of Waid’s run on the character, this story is probably the most significant since series editor Ellie Pyle in her introduction teases that the story “includes many clues about where stories Mark is just starting now might end up.” In it, Matt Murdock still lives in San Francisco, where he recently moved in the main series. There are some interesting elements that Waid could play with in his main storyline: Matt has been the mayor of San Francisco and is married, though it’s unclear if it is to current girlfriend Kirsten McDuffie. I have a feeling, though, that Jubula Pride, the daughter of the Owl, being the main villain of this story might be an element that we see soon in Waid’s stories.
Brian Michael Bendis had a very important long run on Daredevil in the early 2000’s, so it’s appropriate that he contributes a story here. His story is interesting but seems rather unconnected to anything else. It is a prose story, with backgrounds drawn by Maleev, from the point of view of a woman Daredevil meets, falls for, and marries. Bendis does well in creating a realistic voice for the character, but since we’ve never before met this woman, it feels a little like a non-continuity story.
The third story, which is set during the bizarre period of Daredevil history when Matt pretended he had a twin brother named Mike Murdock in order to throw people off his Daredevil trail, is probably the weakest of the three. Kesel’s art, though it doesn’t really look like any other Daredevil artist, is solid, but the story is rather slight. “Mike” Murdock makes a recording in which he gives his carefree philosophy of life. Kesel’s tale is fun and light (which is not something you see that often with Daredevil), though there is not that much substance. Still, I give Kesel credit for addressing the “twin” thing. Many comics developed farfetched ways to reveal and un-reveal character identities but most modern writers tend to stay away from the more absurd elements of the character’s history. Kesel doesn’t shy away.
The art through these three stories is pretty excellent, especially by Rodriguez and Maleev. They both have drastically different styles. Rodriguez’s is colorful and poppy, somewhat like current series artist Chris Samnee. Meanwhile, Maleev’s work has a darker and more impressionistic feel. Paolo Rivera adds a great graffiti-inspired cover (where the tags are creators from the Daredevil 50 year history). Marcos Martin added 5 variant covers, one for each decade of the series. Additionally, Samnee and Rodriguez have contributed variant cover.
It might be surprising to many to learn that Daredevil has been around for 50 years. The series has also had many top notch creators through its history, who have contributed many outstanding story arcs. It’s a bit awkward that this anniversary issue comes one issue after the Daredevil title was rebooted. I think Marvel could have done a better job of making the timing work so that the anniversary issue didn’t have to have the weird numbering of #1.50. Although this isn’t a great or essential issue, it’s still great to see the company celebrating the character, who with a popular series and upcoming Netflix television show seems to be doing better than ever.