Quick Review: Daredevil: Noir
As far back as I can remember, I have looked at Daredevil as a character that most closely resonates with me as a reader. The key to all of this was that I approached Daredevil from the Frank Miller iteration. Strongly influenced by Will Eisner, Miller turned an ailing superhero comic into a hot property by making the Daredevil into an angst-ridden pulp character.
Batman, a playboy by day who preyed on the guilty by night as a brilliant yet mad detective was hip, but Daredevil was a tortured soul. Murdock was messed up in a way that was neither cool nor was it fashionable. The brutal vigilante that stalked Hell’s Kitchen known as Daredevil was actually blind lawyer Matt Murdock who ran a profitable legal practice with his college buddy Foggy Nelson. Every woman Matt dated ended up in some horrible situation or another. Murdock’s father, an aging boxer died because he stood up to the crooks who ran the sport and payed the price by being shot dead in an alley. Matt’s life was always a disaster, his one ‘gift’ was the ability to perceive the world more deeply than anyone else, thanks to a radioactive isotope that stole his sight but gave him a ‘radar sense’ in return. Think about being the most sensitive person in a city of trash.
While he fought many costumed super villains over the years, Daredevil’s chief opponent in Miller’s run was the Kingpin, a rich financier who secretly ran the entire criminal underworld. Petty crime took Murdock’s father from him, and here was a face that he could direct his anger toward, the Kingpin. However, the Kingpin was untouchable, making Murdock’s crusade against him seem futile… but that just made him try harder.
The Marvel Noir line of comics set the familiar characters and their worlds in a film noir setting. The eight mini-series released to date have adapted the Punisher, Luke Cage, Wolverine, Spider-Man and the X-Men (Iron Man was just released last week). Alexander Irvine and Tomm Corker’s adaptation of Daredevil succeeds so well in part because the source material (or at least Miller’s version) is so closely related to the world of film noir.
In the noir version, Matt Murdock is an assistant to Franklin Nelson who runs a detective agency. Though blinded as a youth during his father’s murder, Murdock is sensitive to the world around him and picks up things others would dismiss. By night Murdock goes by the moniker Daredevil and performs a high wire act in a costume. A beautiful yet scared looking client named Eliza puts Murdock on the trail of Orville Halloran, the suspected crime lord of Hell’s Kitchen. Halloran and Wilson Fisk (AKA the Kingpin) are embroiled in a turf war. It is said that Halloran can be connected to any number of crimes, but no one is brave enough to step forward. Eliza claims she can give Murdock and Nelson Halloran, which is just too good to pass up. Murdock trails her and finds more dead bodies at each turn, left by the Bullseye Killer who never misses. In the end, he finds that Eliza herself is the Bullseye Killer and that Murdock was used by her and Fisk to eliminate the competition.
The tone is morose and somber, the artwork dynamic and fluid yet sharp like an old film seen on a faded print. Irvine captures the tragedy of Murdock, a young man just looking for someone to hit, fighting a war that will never end, and places him in a wonderfully grim noir world. The art by Corker makes the series come alive for me. In many ways, it is reminiscent of the art by Alex Maleev.
With eight mini-series adapting various Marvel characters into the noir style, this could be the best of them. The Punisher captures the crime angle, but the drama and intrigue is so perfectly captured in Daredevil: Noir. I intend to review all eight Marvel Noir series so make sure to watch this space.