Just before transforming Batman, Frank Miller cut his writing teeth on Daredevil, practicing an attitude to superhero comics he would later carry to near perfection in The Dark Knight Returns. Daredevil is similar to the more famous Batman in many ways – his superpowers are more restrained than many of the more way-out costumed heroes, restricted to an enhanced set of senses (making up for the fact that he’s actually blind) and a healthy respect for working out at the gym.
This relative realism, especially when compared to the likes of webs-out-of-his-hands Spider-Man or born-on-another-planet Superman, provide the character with a grounding that lends many of the stories concerning his antics with a certain down to earth flavour. Especially when Frank Miller is at the helm.
Even better, in this story, Daredevil isn’t faced with a ridiculous costumed adversary, but a global mafia style gangster known as the Kingpin. This evil businessman discovers a Daredevil’s greatest secret – the identity of his alter ego, Matt Murdoch. Over a period of months, by bribery and corruption, he squeezes Murdoch’s life to near destruction, removing everything from his bank account to his dignity.
This is a fall and rise story of epic, near biblical proportions, with religious imagery oozing out of every available space. This, along with the tight plotting and no-nonsense (if a little lacking in colour) artwork make for a roller coaster ride of action and emotion.
However, it’s not perfect. We feel the story drifts a little at the end, with Miller unable to avoid bringing a bunch of more two-dimensional costumed heroes in, reminding us that it is, ultimately, just a superhero book. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this, but with Murdoch ditching his costume for the vast majority of the book, the refreshing taste of superheroes that aren’t that super is given an unusually saccharine finish.
Miller fans should certainly indulge, as should anyone with a penchant for costumes, since this is a superior genre piece. However, it isn’t a classic on the scale of The Dark Knight Returns.