Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #1-5
Issue(s): Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #1, Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #2, Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #3, Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #4, Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #5
Review/plot: This fantastic series is an elaboration of Daredevil #1. In an embellishment of this sort, there are bound to be some contradictions, but i do not see anything preventing this from being included in Marvel's continuity. Certainly the various origins of Spider-Woman that have been presented are much more contradictory and every effort has been made to ensure that they are all incorporated into the universe.
The controversy around this series being in continuity stems from the fact that the plot from which this story was developed was originally a movie script that Frank Miller had created. Since it was originally a movie, it did not necessarily strictly adhere to established Marvel history. However, when that project never went through, Miller re-wrote it as a comic book plot for John Romita, Jr, and Ralph Macchio sent it through additional revisions to ensure that it was true to the comics.
The areas that remain the most inconsistent are around the characterization of Elektra. In this series she is violent and seriously unhinged. In other books, including Miller's own work in the main DD series, at this point she was depicted as innocent and not necessarily a master martial artist. The solution to this dilemma is included in this very series. In this story Elektra is plagued by voices in her head. Her father has brought in psychologists to help her, but it is implied that she is fighting off mental domination from The Hand. She would later succumb to this control in Elektra: Assassin. At this point, the shifts in her personality and abilities can easily be explained due to the mental war that is raging in her head.
Here is the basic plot summary. Just know that this entire series is extremely well written and beautifully illustrated. The question of people's sanity or perception of reality comes up several times in different ways, and the theme of keeping emotions under control (too much or too little) is also explored. This was originally intended to be in a graphic novel format, which means that individual issues do not start with a splash page or recaps, which makes for seamless reading.
A young rambunctious Matt Murdock...
...growing up the bored son of a boxer ("Battlin' Jack Murdock), in Hell's Kitchen, is forbidden by fighting back against the bullies who pick on him at school by his father, who wants him to get a good education and get out of poverty. Because he doesn't fight back, the other kids taunt him and mockingly call him 'Daredevil'. His father is forced to become a mob enforcer.
Matt rescues a blind man from being hit by a truck, but gets blinded by the radioactive gunk that the truck was carrying.
The radioactivity also enhances his other senses, to the point where it almost drives him crazy until he learns to suppress it with help from his mother, who has left the family, most likely due to his father's abusive tendencies, and become a nun. Matt is trained to become a ninja by Stick, who is part of a mystical order that will later be called the Chaste.
Matt's father refuses to throw the fight for his mob bosses, and is killed.
Matt hunts down the people who killed his father and violently beats them all, killing some, and also accidentally killing a prostitute. Because of this, Stick abandons him. He and Stone also refer to another potential initiate, Elektra, who they had to reject due to the fact that she is already infected with the dark ways.
Matt goes to Columbia University law school and befriends Franklin "Foggy" Nelson. He has been trying to keep his emotions under control, but he also meets Elektra who wakes up his wild side.
Elektra is hearing voices urging her to kill. She fights the urges, but when she can't give in she goes to the city and attracts criminals, killing them.
She is truly psychopathic, but when she tries to explain that the Matt, he doesn't understand or believe her. Elektra's father is killed (this scene is not shown) and at the funeral afterward, she leaves Matt, saying that she will go to Hell alone.
Meanwhile, the head of the NY mob, who has been refusing to get involved in child pornography and crack cocaine (a little bit of a rip-off of the Godfather?), is killed and replaced by Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin.
Matt graduates law school and gets a job at a large law firm in Boston. He is well on his way to becoming their youngest junior partner. He is sent to New York City on a case. In NYC he wanders the streets and winds up back in Hell's Kitchen where he is attacked by some thugs. Matt has delusions that he is back on the playground, fighting bullies. He does not seem quite right in the head. He starts going back to his father's gym where he meets a runaway girl named Mickey. He trains her in the gym. He also runs into Foggy and helps him with a case representing tenants against a slum lord. Mickey is kidnapped to be used in child pornography. Matt, dressed in black with a mask covering most of his face, hunts down the kidnappers and discovers the pornography ring, which is heavily guarded by the Kingpin's goons.
Matt defeats the goons and rescues the children. Very violently, it's worth noting.
In the fight against the Kingpin's main henchman, a cold killer called Larks, Matt embraces the name Daredevil. After the fight he starts wearing an outfit based on a costume his father wore during a brief period of time when he was a professional wrestler. Matt also quits his job and goes into business in NYC with Foggy.
Quality Rating: A+
Chronological Placement Considerations: See above for the argument that this belongs in continuity at all. Placing this slightly before where DD #1 would be published.
Continuity Implant? Y
Reprinted In: N/A
Yes, this was an excellent story, a prime example of successfully updating for an adult audience. Some of Romita, Jr.'s best work, helped greatly by Williamson. It does contradict the Lee/Everett origin mostly in having him confront the fixer prior to getting the yellow costume, but that's fine... comics should have some latitude in making revisions.
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