REVIEW: Daredevil #1 is a subdued, intriguing start for Zdarsky and Checchetto

Daredevil #1 is out 2/6/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — Of all the major corporate superhero writers in comics, Chip Zdarsky—for my money—is the least predictable. Sure, all good stories have twists, and I’m not saying that I know every move that a Tom King or a Brian Michael Bendis or a Jason Aaron is going to make. Far from it. I do think, however, that I know the overall type of story that those and the other major Big 2 writers are generally interested in telling. I can’t really say the same for Zdarsky.

Zdarsky’s interests as a storyteller are varied and surprising, quite frankly. He’s the guy who took what was essentially a throwaway run on Howard the Duck (2015), one he was probably hired to write more than anything for his sense of humor, and turned out as poignant and heartrending of a story about parenthood as I’ve ever read (in the over-sized and in my opinion seminal, Howard the Duck #2). And sometimes just when you think you know what his books might be about—Oh hey, apparently this Marvel 2-in-One run is a buddy road trip through the multiverse—he swerves and throws you an annual that tells the best story in a decade (include everything Hickman did) about Doctor Doom.

This level of unpredictability is what made Zdarsky such an inspired choice for Daredevil, a franchise that has a long history of teasing out career-best work from some of the most celebrated and idiosyncratic writers and artists in all of comics. Everytime a celebrated Daredevil run ends—be it Bendis/Maleev, Waid/Samnee, Charles Soule and his many recent artistic collaborators—I find myself irrationally thinking, There’s no way the next team can do it this well.   

So, this new run brings two major and intriguing questions: how will this team put its on stamp on this character, and where will Zdarsky’s thematic interests take us as he scripts it? This intrigue was on full display in the first issue of the new run, a debut that didn’t feature standard launch trappings like the introduction of a new villain, a massive status quo change, or some other CBR headline-grabbing snap-flash element, the sort that has come to mark blow-out, new creative team, $5 first issues. Zdarsky, Marco Checchetto, and Sunny Gho’s Daredevil #1 is instead a slow-burning affair built on a relatively simple premise: for a hero like Daredevil, is fatigue and an off-day more dangerous than things like assassins or undead ninjas, and are his own motivations his greatest enemy? This is all perhaps well-travelled ground, but so is most everything in superhero comics, and this creative team has earned full trust that they will bring something new to the ideas and character via their execution.

I should also note that this is the type of debut issue in which the creative team is not yet ready to tip its hand. It wasn’t massively decompressed (at least not relative to other comics these days), but it also didn’t seek to overfill its pages, instead dedicating ample space to flashbacks that telegraphed the role Daredevil’s ubiquitous Catholicism stands to play in whatever crisis is coming (a glimpse of which comes at the tail end of the issue), or his much ballyhooed (at least by the Netflix television show) willingness to thrash enemies severely but not kill them. It was an incredibly well-crafted comic, in everything from the art to the dialogue to the scenes it choose to feature, and with the promise of unpredictably looming so large, it’s one that has me excited.

Really, what is most impressive about this issue to me is the sheer variety of thematic spaces the story manages to traverse, any one of which will make for a rich focus in storylines, issues, or other tales to come.

Overall: A top-notch debut that does everything well while paving many thematic roads moving forward. Writer Chip Zdarsky is often unpredictable, and I’m excited to see the scope of his take. The one thing I can predict, however, is that damn fine comic book-making will be on display throughout. 9.0/10

Daredevil #1
Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Marco Checchetto
Colorist: Sunny Gho
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $4.99

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.