Top 5 Daredevil Runs of All-Time
March 17th, 2016 | by Sam McCoy
Season 2 of Netflix’s Daredevil is upon us (see the brand new trailer here). Daredevil has had a number of excellent and groundbreaking runs. If you’re new to the world of Daredevil and are curious about what to read, here are the top recommendations from ComiConverse Contributor Sam McCoy.
The Top 5
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No. 5: Kevin Smith – Daredevil Vol. 2 #1-8, Daredevil/Bullseye: The Target #1
Notable Arcs: Guardian Devil
By far the shortest on this list, this is the run that made me a Daredevil fan. Before, my experience with Daredevil was limited to when when he guested in other hero’s books. This run also has a story that is accessible to first time readers. The highlight of this story is the issue featuring Bullseye and Daredevil fighting in church. This is the sequence that made Bullseye one of my favorite villains, and confirmed my appreciation for Daredevil.
In the history of Marvel, this is an important book as, due to its great success, the Marvel Knights imprint’s Joe Quesada (also the artist for Smith’s run), was put in place as Editor in Chief of Marvel. Under Quesada’s time as Editor in Chief, Marvel came back from Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and began its dominant reign atop the charts in comics and eventually leading to its reign at the top of the box office.
No. 4: Ed Brubaker – Daredevil Vol. 2 #82-119, Vol. 1 #500, Daredevil: Blood of the Tarantula (one-shot)
Notable Arcs: Lady Bullseye, Return of the King
I fully my hopes for this run were probably too high when it was announced that Ed Brubaker was taking over for Brian Michael Bendis on Daredevil. Taking over a great run is always a challenge but Brubaker’s then-current run on Captain America and his Gotham Central with Greg Rucka are two of my three favourite comic series of all-time. Add to that his artist on Daredevil was his old Gotham Central collaborator Michael Lark, this was sure to be a strong series. I wasn’t blow away immediately. The story was a slow build that never quite lived up to my expectations, but did win me over. By the end of the run, this ended up being one of the best books Marvel put out at that time, only topped by Brubaker’s Captain America.
No. 3: Brian Michael Bendis – Daredevil Vol. 2 #16-19, 26-50, 56-8, What If… Karen Page had Lived?, Daredevil: Ninja #1-3, Elektra Vol. 2 #1-6, Daredevil: End of Days #1-8 (with David Mack)
Notable Arcs: Hardcore, Underboss, Murdock Papers, End of Days (co-wrote with David Mack)
Brian Michael Bendis had a hard task following the Kevin Smith and David Mack mini-runs that made Daredevil as critically acclaimed as it was popular. Bendis put together an exceptional run with a tightly plotted tale. Only the second to last story, Decalogue, shows any dip in quality, and it seemed out of place in the run. Part of what made this run fun was that it overlapped occasionally with Alias or another book that Bendis was writing. Sometimes there would even be continuations of scenes that were happening in the other book.
While Bendis’ run was impressive, I think my favorite of his Daredevil work comes in the miniseries he co-wrote with David Mack, Daredevil: End of Days. This book serves in many ways as the final Daredevil story and the end of his run on the character. The book does tell the story of Matt Murdock, but the real story is that of Ben Urich. The use of Ben Urich reminds me a lot of how Jim Gordon was really the main character in Frank Miller’s seminal Batman: Year One storyline.
I would be remiss not to mention that most of Bendis’ run was drawn by artist Alex Maleev. This was a great match as Maleev’s style of drawing meshed well with Bendis’ writing. The duo would go on to do a variety of other books including Moon Knight, Spider-Woman, Halo: Uprising, Scarlet and a few Avengers titles.
No. 4: Mark Waid – Daredevil Vol. 3 #1-36, Daredevil: Road Warrior (one-shot in print, #1-4 digitally), Daredevil Vol. 4 #1-18
Notable arcs: The Autobiography of Matt Murdock, The Omega Effect (with Greg Rucka),
Fun. More than any other run on this list I would describe this run as fun. For a comic that has mostly been dark since the early 80’s, this approach to the character was the perfect follow up to the dreadfully disappointing run of Andy Diggle and Shadowland. Waid brought a fresh take to Daredevil and immediately won me over with a wide variety of villains. There are standard Daredevil villains like Kingpin, but there are others like Dr. Doom and Ulysses Klaw. Generally, the story arcs in this run flowed into the next fluidly despite the sometimes vast differences in villains. Often it took an issue or two on to move from one plot point to the next. This gave the comic momentum and even when there was a slower issue the story still felt like it was always moving forward.
One of the great strengths of the run is that Waid was found a series of artists who perfectly conveyed the tone he was writing for the book. Starting with Marcos Martin the book had a variety of short stints from artists Paolo Rivera, Marco Checchetto, Kano Emma, Emma Rios, Khoi Pham and Mike Allred. What took the series from being simply good to becoming one of the best ongoing series being released, was with the addition of Chris Samnee as artist. Waid and Samnee became one of the great creative teams during their tenure on the book and they have continued in both the new Black Widow series and the miniseries Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom. Also of note is that between volumes, Waid wrote a four issue infinity series drawn by Peter Krause and it is one of the best examples of a comic using the digital medium to its full potential. That series was also released later in print, but I highly encourage reading it in the original digital form.
No. 5: Frank Miller – Daredevil Vol. 1 #158-191, 219, 226-233, Daredevil: Love and War, Elektra: Assassin, Daredevil: The Man Without Fear, Elektra Lives Again, Bizarre Adventures #28, What if? #35
Notable Arcs: The Elektra Saga, Born Again, The Man Without Fear, Gang War
There really could be no other run at the top other than Frank Miller’s. Everything that has defined The Man Without Fear for the last 35 years was laid out in this run. Miller establishes the world of Daredevil. Almost everyone afterward has emulated the dark tone set in this book, with the rare exception of Mark Waid’s recent run. The characters he added to the Daredevil’s previous status quo are substantial; placing Kingpin and Bullseye as Daredevil’s primary adversaries, creating the characters of Elektra, Stick, Kirigi and Nuke, and bringing a focus on the Hand are al major Miller contributions.
Of course what is often overlooked these days is that Miller was not the original writer on the book. He took over from Roger McKenzie who was actually the original writer. What is interesting is that as that first year of issues evolve you see the pieces starting to form for what Miller would create later, such as Bullseye becoming a major player.
During his time on this run, Miller began his relationship with inker Klaus Janson. In addition, Miller would have artists John Romita Jr. (on The Man Without Fear), David Mazzucchelli (on Born Again) and Bill Sienkiewicz (on Daredevil: Love and War and Elektra: Assassin). All of these artists gave career defining work while drawing the world of Daredevil with Frank Miller.
This is an important run in the history of comics as it helped kick off much of the great work that would come out in the 80’s. It also helped gave rise to the prominence of Frank Miller. This is quintessential Daredevil, it’s what set the bar for all others to follow.
Daredevil Vol. 1 #236, 238–245, 247–257, 259-291, 500, Daredevil: Black and White #1 (prose with illustrations)
Notable Arcs: Typhoid Mary saga
Definitely up there with Mark Waid as being one of the “lightest” of the books, post Frank Miller. Nocenti’s most well know contribution to the Daredevil universe is that of villain Typhoid Mary. In the course of her four and a half year run Nocenti did a good job on the book.
Daredevil Vol. 1 #20–49, 53–82, 84–100, 110, 112, 116, 124, 153–154, 156–157, 363, 366–368, 370, Annual #1, Vol. 2 #20
While this list will focuses on the writers I think it is proper to also give some credit to some great artists who have left their mark on Daredevil. Obviously, Gene Colan is here here due to the longevity and influence he had on the Daredevil style and designs. Famously Colan, like Jack Kirby, did a lot of the issues on his early Daredevil work using “The Marvel Method.” Among the most important creations Colan gave to the Daredevil universe are Ben Urich, comedy criminal sidekick Turk Barrett, and villains Mr. Fear, Jester, Death-Stalker, and Stunt-Master.
Daredevil: Vol. 1 #292–309, 312–332, 338–342, 380
Notable Arcs: Fall From Grace
Sometimes the 90’s aren’t looked at in the most favorable light as Daredevil was not a very high profile book. Chichester’s crowning achievement on Daredevil is the story Fall From Grace.
Daredevil Vol. 2 #9–11, #13–19, 50 (with Brian Bendis), 51-55, Daredevil: End of Days #1-8 (with Brian Bendis)
Taking over for Kevin Smith, Kabuki creator David Mack started out as the writer for a few Joe Quesada drawn issues and then did the art for some Brian Bendis issues. Years later Bendis and Mack would return for the miniseries Daredevil: End of Days. Of note to fans of the Marvel Netflix shows is that Mack did the covers for the comic Alias, the series that was the basis for Jessica Jones.
Notable Arcs: End of Days
Daredevil Vol. 1 #124-132, 140, 147-152, 156-161, 163-197, 234, 500, Vol. 2 #50, Daredevil: End of Days: #1-7
Inker Klaus Janson is very much a bridge to a lot of these arcs as he did some of the art at the end of the Colan run and in that time began contributing to End of Days. In his time as inker, Janson started his collaboration with Frank Miller. It has been reported that towards the end of Miller’s run, Miller would only give rough layouts and Janson was the one that brought the art together.
Sam McCoy is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @realcactussam