Daredevil. The blind man who is lawyer by day and vigilante by night. Daredevil is one of my favorite Marvel characters simply because his television series on Netflix was one of the best Marvel comics adaptations ever (so, naturally, cancelled). He's a dark and gritty character, a lot like Batman, who is constantly questioning his choices but still fanatically devoting himself to this life. Unfortunately, while his television series is brilliant, his original comic series was not. His concept was cool for Stan Lee but very rarely did the stories rise up to stand above others or give fans a reason to buy the comic. Some were dull, others a little too unbelievable, and others just badly written. Personally, I think it was because the character came off as a showy swashbuckler, another version of Spider-Man, stuck in a soap opera with his love Karen and his partner Foggy. There wasn't even much legal drama going on, or if there was, not well. I know that famed comics writer Frank Miller revitalized this character, making him one of the greatest ever, but that's still far away. Until then, Daredevil is stuck in stories he doesn't belong in. Miller set the tone that Matt Murdock must always suffer in one way or another, constantly fighting his inner demons while he fights the criminals and be brought down to his lowest to do it. That's what the TV show did and what this comics here should have done. Despite all that, there are a few good comics from his original run that fans can enjoy:
7. Daredevil Vol 1. 47: Brother, Take My Hand
In a story that Stan Lee declared as a favorite in his career, Matt Murdock steps up to defend a recently blinded Vietnam veteran returning home from a frameup. He does his best to both get him his job back and help him realize that just because he's blind now doesn't mean his life is over. It's easy to see why Stan Lee loved writing this one and while it's certainly not his best, it still stands as a good story.
6. Daredevil Vol 1. 1: The Origin of Daredevil
The very first issue of Daredevil that tells the story of how he lost his sight, became a lawyer, lost his father, and became a hero. Everything is set up here beautifully, showing exactly what kind of story Stan Lee wants to tell here and introducing readers to the next great Marvel hero. While things kind of went downhill from here, this issue still stands out as one of the better origin stories.
5. Daredevil Vol 1. 16-19: Masked Marauder
This story juggles a lot of different threads, with the introduction of two Daredevil villains: Masked Marauder and Gladiator, as well as featuring Spider-Man. The two heroes first come to blows after a misunderstanding before working together, helping set up one of the greatest friendships in Marvel history. But also thanks to that misunderstanding, Foggy Nelson (Matt's partner) is accused of being Daredevil and he decides to go along with it to impress his crush which then leads to the whole criminal underworld gunning for him. Like I said, Stan Lee juggles a lot of different story threads and manages to tie them up in a consistently fun and entertaining way, showing off why he is such a good storyteller.
4. Daredevil Vol 1. 37-38, Fantastic Four Vol 1. 73: The Living Prison
Doctor Doom. He makes his presence known in whatever story he's in, instantly elevating it. Here, he captures Daredevil and switches bodies with him, trapping Matt in the good doctor's body while Doom is free to attack the Fantastic Four when they least expect it. While this story had a fun premise, it didn't fully live up to it. Still, the body switching was amazingly fun and Doctor Doom still manages to prove why he is the greatest Marvel villain of all.
3. Daredevil Vol 1. 52: Night of the Panther
One of Roy Thomas's first stories on the comic, Night of the Panther plays out like a detective noir story, Barry Smith's art being a true highlight here and elevating the issue. Black Panther is called upon to save Daredevil while Daredevil tries to save Karen and find his enemy Starr Saxon who has figured out his secret identity. Smith's artwork is flying off the pages and Thomas's writing keeps the reader thrilled right to the end. It's too bad that Thomas's work went downhill from here, but at least we have this one good story.
2. Daredevil Vol 1. 44-46: I, Murderer
The introduction to one of Daredevil's greatest enemies, the Jester. Kind of like the Joker, except a little less crazy, the Jester uses deadly toys and gimmicks to commit crimes and here, he makes his presence known in a big way, framing Daredevil for his own murder and turning the city against him. On the run with everyone hunting him down, Daredevil has to constantly keep moving in order to find the Jester and clear his name. One of Stan Lee's last storylines on the title and he goes all out in making it as entertaining as possible, keeping readers guessing at what will happen with non-stop suspense and extending it to make it that much more enjoyable.
1. Daredevil Vol 1. 7: Sub-Mariner
If you were to read only one Daredevil comic from this era, it should be this one. For one, it introduces readers to Daredevil's iconic red costume. And for another, it presents them with his greatest battle against the formidable Sub-Mariner. During that time, the Sub-Mariner was appearing in almost every single superhero comic as an antagonist, almost like each one had to fight him as a rite of passage and most stories suffered because of it. Not this one. Starting out with Namor attempting to legally proclaim Atlantis a sovereign nation, things quickly deteriorate and soldiers attack intending to arrest or kill the Sub-mariner. Here, Daredevil stands no chance of beating the Sub-Mariner and yet he fights anyway to save lives as he knows Namor will just tear the army to shreds. And no matter what, he just keeps fighting, even after Namor continually beats him, he just fights on until finally he collapses, pleading with Namor to spare the soldiers. And out of respect for the man who refused to quit, Namor grants his request and avoids the soldiers, returning to the sea. Legal drama, epic action, and the nobility of heroes. This story has it all, showing off how powerful Daredevil is not just in fighting but with his words as well and how even Namor, often treated as the villain, still is a noble and honorable man.
And that's Daredevil. Unfortunately, most of his other comics of this time were bland, mediocre, boring, or just plain bad and thus, skippable. And the 1970s don't seem to be much of an improvment so far. Oh well. Next up: Nick Fury.