Marvel Comics is celebrating Marvel Knights with 20-year anniversary editions of their classic collections. Folks like David Mack, Brian Michael Bendis, and the impressive cover art of Alex Ross propelled these stories into timeless perfection. I’ve loved the first take on Daredevil by Jimmy Palmiotti, Joe Quesada and Kevin Smith, delved deeply into David Mack and Joe Quesada’s follow up and now it’s time to see what Bendis, Mack, and comic greats Bob Gale, Paul Jenis, and Phil Winslade can bring. In this latest collection, there are great reasons to explore these classic tales. Here are the three reasons.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Dazzling Daredevil stories from creators without fear! When the staff that once belonged to his mentor Stick is stolen, Matt Murdock is determined to get it back – even if that means joining an ancient ninja battle between the Seven and The Hand! When villains from Gladiator to Stilt-Man target the Kingpin, DD and his old friend Spider-Man must stand in the way! When a rich client hires Matt to sue Daredevil, it’s time for everyone’s favorite attorney to play to the camera – but where does the Jester fit in? And Echo returns, courtesy of her co-creator, David Mack! In a bid to pick up the pieces of her shattered life, Maya Lopez embarks on a Native American vision quest…but she never expected to encounter Wolverine!
Can I jump in easily?
The opening story by Bendis and Rob Haynes is pretty easy to pop into, but other stories like David Mack’s introspective Echo story is a bit trickier. Read “Parts of the Hole” to get some backstory. There is however a lot of Spider-Man who didn’t pop up much up until this point in the Marvel Knights line, so it’s written for a wider audience.
Reason 1: Stories within stories.
In the opening story, entitled “Ninja,” Bendis and Haynes hammer home how being a ninja is a bit part of who Daredevil is in his journey. He’s blind, has superpowers, but his ability to master the arts of fighting is also a key feature. In this story, Bendis tells an ancient story of Japan that explains why his friends are fighting so hard against the Hand. Stories within stories help build up lore within the universe and this one gives new meaning to the fight Daredevil attaches himself to. It also gives the story a stronger more believable presence.
Later in this collection, David Mack explores a story within a story using Echo who has met Wolverine. This story delves into a man who must battle two demons within himself one good and one evil. The story is told in a visually arresting way using mixed media and incredible paintings, sketches, and real materials. Mack attaches this story to the struggles of both Echo and Wolverine in a way that is reflective and deeply meaningful. It’s a reminder of the story you’re reading is impactful not just for us, but for the characters we follow. It’s a reminder that storytelling is a powerful thing that can change us. It’s worth noting Mack’s work here is incredible, mixing media and creating a reading experience that’s practically spiritual. Dave McKean’s work comes to mind when reading this and it’s exceptional.
Reason 2: Plenty of Spider-Man.
Spidey graces the cover of this book for good reason: he’s in this a lot. Paul Jenkins and Phil Winslade utilize him in a duo caper quite a bit revealing a Spider-Man who is nonstop and relentless in helping others. There’s a bit of his wit too — he gives a common thug plenty of a headache early on, but you get a good sense of the Marvel Knights Spider-Man as almost obsessively hellbent on helping others. Brett Matthews and Vetche Mavlian’s Spider-Man/Daredevil #1: “Neighbors” story captures the fondness between the heroes as they fight crime by pushing themselves to the limits. They are human after all, and in the end, these characters still need to sleep. They do this because they must, and it’s a reminder Spider-Man, and Daredevil, leave nothing on the table when they save lives.
Reason 3: Dark, brooding, awesome Daredevil.
This book, like previous Marvel Knights stories, continues to capture the almost obsessive nature of this hero so well. He’s swinging through the night because he must. He’s helping people in his law firm because he must. It’s a tragic sort of story due to his borderline unhealthy approach to helping others and it’s a valiant journey to watch. It’s books like this that remind us Daredevil should be held up as one of the greatest heroes ever written.
Reasons to be wary?
I could take it or leave it on certain sections of this book, particularly some of the middle Spidey sections. They are verbose, seem to carry on too much, and can get carried away with captions. The Jester story, in particular, runs along so slowly it’s maddening. The art is a bit suffocated by all the dialogue and captions further hurting the experience. A surprise to be sure with the exceptional art in other sections of the book.
Is there a rationale to the reasons?
If Daredevil ever deserved an unending TV or movie series this and the other Marvel Knights stories are proof enough. This collection houses visual storytelling that’s borderline spiritual in their delivery.