The Ultimate Daredevil Reading List

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Posted November 12, 2013 by Stuart Kirkham in Comic Books

There aren’t many characters that have enjoyed a long period of consistently strong creative teams; most series have their ups and downs as talent changes and new teams try to find their own voice, some more successfully than others. For the last decade The Man Without Fear’s record has been almost completely unblemished, but people first started taking notice of Matt Murdock in the 80’s, when Frank Miller went from just drawing the book to writing it as well.

In honour of the upcoming inaugoral Assemble After Dark podcast from our friends Joey Esposito, Erik Norris and Benjamin Bailey (which will be on the subject of Daredevil), we’ve produced this reading list to guide you through the most well-regarding volumes in Red Batman’s long history of being awesome. In parts one and two we walked through Frank Miller and Brian Bendis’ contributions to the character, and in the final part we bring it all together with Ed Brubaker’s fantastic follow up to Bendis run, Andy Diggle’s brief stint and Mark Waid’s recent reinvention of the character. Almost all of these books are still available in the shops and there is a brief synopsis of each one so you can build your own collection.

Frank Miller
DD Miller

Miller’s Daredevil

Frank Millers Daredevil Volumes 1 – 3

Frank Miller originally came onto the title as the artist only, working with Roger McKenzie (whose he disliked). After the first volume Miller takes on writing duties as well, and the book becomes all the better for it. He makes some notable additions to the Daredevil Mythos, changing the dynamic between Matt Murdock and his father Jack, introducing Ninja’s into the mythology, and the creation of Elektra Nachios.

These three volumes collect all of Miller’s initial four year run on the book, and many of the elements and characters he introduced are still used in the modern comics, so if you want a complete Daredevil experience you can’t do much better than starting at this point.

Millers early work on Daredevil can be collected in three trade paperbacks (which are out of print) or an omnibus (which is just coming back into print).

DD Romita

The Man Without Fear

Daredevil: Born Again Miller & Mazzucchelli

Miller returns to Daredevil a few years later and reunites with his Batman: Year On collaborator David Mazzucchelli for this story, which was originally published in two parts. This is considered an important part of the Daredevil mythos, heavily involving Karen Page and The Kingpin of crime Wilson Fisk, while also exploring Matt Murdock’s Catholic faith and reintroducing him to his long-lost mother who is now serving as a nun.

Daredevil: The Man Without Fear Miller & Romita Jr

This five-issue mini-series tells the origin story of Daredevil through Matt Murdock’s childhood. The story expands on many of the elements Miller introduced in his initial run, such as they changes he made to Jack Murdock’s character, and fleshing out Stick’s role in Matt’s training and his early relationship with Elektra. This is still considered the definitive origin story, and has some of the best art Romita Jr has ever done, so is well worth having in the collection.

These stories have been released in various formats over the years, you can get them separately in two trade paperbacks quite easily, or together in a companion omnibus, which is currently out of print.

Elektra: Assassin

Elektra: Assassin

Elektra: Assassin Miller & Sienkiewicz

This is a non-essential story set before Elektra’s first appearance in Daredevil. It’s deliberately over-the-top and a bit more ‘fun’ than Miller’s previous work on the character. Elektra has a run-in with S.H.I.E.L.D. while trying to regain her memory and prevent a villain called The Beast from starting a nuclear war. This story is now considered non-canonical by most people, but fans of the character consider it essential.

Elektra Lives Again Frank Miller

Originally released as an oversized graphic novel, this story follows Elektra as she tried to put a stop to The Hand. It also heavily features Matt Murdock, but interestingly never as Daredevil, and explored the relationship between the two characters. This story has a mixed reception and isn’t necessary to understanding either of these characters, but is worthwhile for Frank Miller fans and completionists.

Both of these stories can be collected as graphic novels fairly cheaply, though Lives Again is currently out of print. There is also an omnibus containing both stories, which is out of print but can be found fairly cheaply.

Jeph Loeb, Kevin Smith & David Mack
Daredevil: Yellow

Daredevil: Yellow

Daredevil: Yellow Loeb & Sale

Set during the early days of Matt Murdock’s crime-fighting career, the story explores his early romance with Karen Page and his mission to bring his fathers killers to justice. Loeb and Sale are on fine form in this story as they explore themes of fear and love. This is one of the more light-hearted Daredevil stories on the list and is essential for any fans of the character.

Daredevil V1: Guardian Devil Smith & Quesada

Kevin Smith comes to Marvel comics to relaunch Daredevil with a new Issue 1 (which weren’t as common in those days), telling a tragic story that sets Matt Murdock on a dark path he’s only recently been able to leave. It’s a little over-written because it’s Kevin Smith, but it is a complex, well told story that is important to the mythos as it involves several key elements of Daredevil lore, such as Kingpin, Bullseye, Karen Page and Daredevils mother.

David Mack's Echo Cover

David Mack’s Echo Cover

Daredevil V2: Parts of a Hole Mack & Quesada

David Mack introduces a new character named Maya Lopez to serve as a love interest for Matt Murdock, and her alter-ego Echo as an interesting foil for Daredevil. Maya has been deaf since birth and was a child prodigy, able to mimic any action she sees. She has been influenced by The Kingpin since an early age, who tries to use her against his arch-enemy.

Daredevil V8: Echo: Vision Quest David Mack

Mack follows up on his first Echo story in the middle of Bendis run on Daredevil (while he and Maleev take a quick break), this time he uses his own distinctive art style. Having realized she’s been lied to her whole life, Echo goes on a soul searching journey to her Native American roots and meets Wolverine along the way. This story sets her on the path to her next big story, told by Brian Bendis in the pages of his New Avengers series.

Daredevil: Yellow can be found in various formats as it’s been released several times over the years. Kevin Smith’s issues can be found fairly easily in Trade Paperback or Oversized Hardcover Volume 1, which also includes Parts of a Hole. Echo Vision Quest is available in OHC Volume 4 and Trade Paperback.

 

Come back in a couple of days for Part Two, which covers the award winning run by Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev.

Brian Bendis & Alex Maleev
DD Maleev 1

Bendis Daredevil Omnibus V1

Daredevil V3: Wake Up Bendis & Mack

Brian Bendis’ first Daredevil story was told with David Mack, and while it isn’t essential to his run with Alex Maleev that comes next, it is does have strong links to his spiritual finale; End of Days. This focuses on Ben Urich as he investigates a mystery and intermittently ‘interviews’ a young boy who only communicates in drawings. The art is very cerebral as some of the story is told through these drawing’s and Mack dream-like painted art style suits the book perfectly.

Daredevil V4: Underboss Bendis & Maleev

The first chapter in the Bendis-Maleev partnership sets the ball rolling for the next ten volumes. Sammy Silke comes to New York to work for the Kingpin and decides he wants to make a name for himself. When Wilson Fisk’s son Richard informs him that his father has known Daredevil’s identity for years, he tries to use this to his advantage, but things go rather badly.

Daredevil: Out

Daredevil: Out

Daredevil V5: Out Bendis & Maleev

Matt Murdock is outed in the press as Daredevil, and as his life starts to spiral out of control. He faces an interesting moral dilemma of whether to uphold the values he defends as a lawyer and tell the truth or deny the allegations and sue for damages, all the while Foggy tries to convince him to walk away from his life as Daredevil. This gets too the core of what motivates Matt Murdock to risk his life and take the law into his own hands every day.

Daredevil V6: Lowlife Bendis & Maleev

The Kingpin is temporarily sidelined and The Owl becomes a growing concern in Hell’s Kitchen, dealing a new drug (MGH) which temporarily grants its users super powers. Owl tries some unconventional techniques and uses Daredevil’s exposed identity to his advantage, but the interesting part is how all this pushes Matt Murdock closer to the edge of sanity.

Daredevil: Hardcore

Daredevil: Hardcore

Daredevil V7: Hardcore Bendis & Maleev

The Kingpin returns to New York and quickly regains his power with the help of Typhoid Mary and Bullseye. Matt Murdock’s life is spiralling further out of control and this is the last straw for him, so he decides to take drastic measures to regain control of Hells Kitchen. Maleev’s art continues to be outstanding, but this cinematic story is particularly suited to his style.

Daredevil V9: King of Hell’s Kitchen Bendis & Maleev

After Bendis & Maleev return from a few months break, they pick up the story one year later with Daredevil in control of Hell’s Kitchen. On the surface things are looking up for Matt Murdock, but the cracks soon start to show as the Yakuza turn up and Daredevil’s superhero allies (Spider-Man, Luke Cage and Iron Fist) start to question his methods.

Daredevil: The Widow

Daredevil: The Widow

Daredevil V10: The Widow Bendis & Maleev

As the life Matt Murdock has been so desperately trying to keep together starts falling apart around him, old friend (with benefits) Natasha Romanov turns up in need of Daredevil’s help. Even though he has his own stuff to deal with he can’t turn away a friend in need, and helping someone else with their problems turns out to be just what he needs to get some perspective.

Daredevil V11: Golden Age Bendis & Maleev

A former Kingpin that Daredevil put away during the early days of his career is released from prison after an extended sentence, and the first thing he wants is revenge on the man that put him there. Maleev brings old New York to life wonderfully as this story is mostly told in flashbacks to a bygone era (when Daredevil was decidedly more yellow). It’s a temporary but entertaining diversion from the bigger story Bendis is telling.

The Murdock Papers

The Murdock Papers

Daredevil V12: Decalogue Bendis & Maleev

This story flashes back to the missing year that Bendis skipped between volumes 7 and 9, and is told from the perspective of people in a support group whose tales are all connected. It’s a really effective device that heightens the mystery and slowly builds the tension untl the final issue when it comes to a head.

Daredevil V13: The Murdock Papers Bendis & Maleev

The Kingpin makes a deal with the FBI and plays his final card to get the ultimate revenge on Matt Murdock, who is about to lose everything he’s been trying to hold onto since he was outed to the press. Wilson Fisk has proof of Daredevil’s secret identity hidden away, and the interested parties must race to the finish line. This is a fantastic final volume that brings all the big characters from DD history back into the spotlight, including fan favourite: Elektra. Bendis and Maleev close-out their run fantastic run, leaving Daredevil’s life in tatters.

This run can be collected in various ways; volumes 3 to 7 and 9 to 13 in trade paperback, three ‘ultimate’ trade paperback’s, volumes 2-6 in oversized hardcovers, or two omni’s which are currently out of print.

Daredevil: End of Days

Daredevil: End of Days

Daredevil: End of Days Bendis, Janson, Sienkiewicz, Mack & Maleev

This all-star team of Daredevil creators throughout the years join forces to tell the final Daredevil story. Years in the making, this mini-series draws on elements of Daredevil’s history to show why the character is so important, and acts as a bookend to Bendis’ run with Alex Maleev, even though it was released several years later. This volume can be read at any time after finishing Bendis’ initial run on the character.

The story opens with Daredevil’s murder at the hands of Bullseye, then follows Ben Urich as he visits important people from Daredevil’s past in an attempt to understand the meaning behind Matt’s final words. As the tale goes on a new Daredevil emerges, and by the end we’re shown how these two mysteries are related. It’s a brilliantly told story that honours everything that came before and concludes the characters journey in a depressing, but fitting way.

This volume is currently only available in an oversized hardcover, but is due to be released in trade paperback in the near future.

Ed Brubaker & Michael Lark
Devil in Cell Block H

Devil in Cell Block H

Daredevil: The Devil Inside and Out V1 Brubaker & Lark

Ed Brubaker has the unenviable task of following such an incredible creative run, and picking up where Bendis left Daredevil: Behind bars. This first volume is almost entirely set in the prison as Matt Murdock tries to survive in a hell of his own making, he continues to try to protect his secret identity even as the super villains he put away surround him on all sides.

Daredevil: The Devil Inside and Out V2 Brubaker & Lark

Fresh out of prison and back in his costume, Matt Murdock goes on a globe-trotting adventure to try to put the cat back in the bag. A mysterious third party with unknown motives is working from the shadows and Daredevil has to discover who is pulling his strings,. Brubaker and Lark take do a great job filling the big shoes that had been left behind, putting their own stamp on the character and setting up the status quo for their own long-form story.

Daredevil: Hell to Pay V1 Brubaker & Lark

DD thingy

Hell to Pay

Matt Murdock has managed to introduce some reasonable doubt into the question of his secret identity, which has allowed him to return to his old life. This story is set after the Superhero Civil War, so Daredevil has to deal with the Registration Act as well as the return of the Gladiator and the break down of his marriage.

Daredevil: Hell to Pay V2 Brubaker & Lark

This volume features a special oversized issue 100, where Daredevil is exposed to fear-gas and has to battle his worst nightmares, which are bought to life by a range of guest artists joining Michael Lark, including Bill Sienkeiewicz, Marko Djurdjevic, Alex Maleev, Lee Bermejo and more.

Daredevil: Cruel and Unusual Brubaker, Rucka & Lark

Daredevil is spending more and more time in costume, running away from his real-life problems, but Luke Cage and Milla Donavan need help only Attorney Matt Murdock can provide. Greg Rucka joins Brubaker to deliver a psychological crime thriller like only they can.

Lady Bullseye

Lady Bullseye

Daredevil: Lady Bullseye Brubaker & Lark

The Hand return to New York in search of a new leader, and they’ve bought a new Bullseye with them. Luckily Daredevil has the help of some old friends, and a new one; Master Izo, an elderly Ninja with links to Matt Murdock’s past. Things really start to ramp up as Brubaker lays the groundwork for his final volume.

Daredevil: Return of the King Brubaker & Lark

The Kingpin returns and proposes an alliance with Daredevil to take down The Hand and Lady Bullseye, but the question is whether he has a secret agenda, and how will the pieces fall after the final battle. David Aja joins Michael Lark on the first issue, and Brubakers run is concluded in a giant sized issue 500 with a slew of guest artists and a beautiful foldout Djurdjevic cover. As is now traditional in Daredevil, the story is left in an interesting position for the next creative team to pick-up.

Marco Djuerdjevic's Issue 500 Cover

Marco Djurdjevic’s Issue 500 Cover

Brubakers Daredevil can be collected in eight trade paperbacks listed above, or two omni’s which are currently out of print, but volume two can be found fairly cheaply.

Andy Diggle
Shadowland

Shadowland

Daredevil: The Devil’s Hand by Diggle, Johnston, De La Torre & Checchetto

Andy Diggle gets off to a strong start as he deftly handles all the pieces Brubaker left behind and starts to build his own story. The art in this volume is truly fantastic, with Roberto De La Torre on four issues then Marco Checchetto taking over, both of whom are very well suited to the character and story at hand. Antony Johnston co-writes the last half of the volume as things build towards Shadowland.

Shadowland Diggle & Tan

This limited series acts as a miniature Daredevil event, with several tie-in series that are best left forgotten. This misguided story is a bit of a stain on Daredevil’s recent record as the character is taken in a questionable direction and basically turned into the villain of his own story.

Daredevil: Reborn by Jock

Daredevil: Reborn by Jock

Daredevil: Shadowland Diggle, Johnston, De La Torre and Checchetto

This is the only tie-in volume worth taking notice of, following Daredevil’s allies as they brave Shadowland in an attempt to reason with Matt and bring him back from the dark path he’s gone down.

Daredevil: Reborn Diggle, Johnston & Gianfelice

Diggle and Johnston use this four issue mini-series to explore who Matt Murdock is in the wake of Shadowland, and whether he should return to the costume or abandon that life altogether. This volume attempts to remind readers who Daredevil is and wipe the slate clean for the next volume, and it partly achieves that but fails to tell a compelling story along the way.

These volumes are still available in trade, and they’re only necessary to understand how Brubaker’s cliffhanger is resolved, as things are put back in the box by the time Mark Waid starts his story.

Mark Waid & Chris Samnee
Daredevil 4

Daredevil #4

Daredevil Volume 1 Waid, Rivera & Martin

Mark Waid teams up with two exceptional artists to revitalise and reinvent Daredevil in the wake of Shadowland. The book looks and feels very different, more vibrant and upbeat, which is reflected in Matt Murdock’s new attitude as he’s no longer wallowing in self-pity and despair. This first volume re-establishes the world and sets Matt & Foggy up as lawyers in a slightly different capacity, but one that makes total sense in the context of the story.

Daredevil Volume 2 Waid & Rivera

The second volume starts to lay out the pieces of a larger story, introducing recurring plot threads like the Omega Drive and the disappearance of Jack Murdock’s remains. Cracks start to show in Matt Murdock’s new state of mind and Foggy wonders whether it’s a facade that’s hiding an unbalanced mind. It also features an entertaining crossover with the Amazing Spider-Man and more fantastic artwork by Paulo Rivera.

Daredevil 16

Daredevil #16

Daredevil Volume 3 Waid & Samnee

The first half of this volume is a three-part crossover where Mark Waid and Greg Rucka co-write an issue of Avenging Spider-Man then each write a chapter of their own books, Daredevil and Punisher. The story concerns the Omega Drive but also furthers Rucka’s Punisher plot, so to get the most out of it an understanding of that run helps. The second half involves Matt Murdock being transported to Latveria and being subjected to a brand of torture that’s particularly suited to a man with no eyesight. Chris Samnee joins Daredevil, immediately making it hi own and starting a long-term association with the book.

Daredevil Volume 4 Waid, Samnee & Allred

A new villain appears to torment Daredevil, and it seems like he’s been behind a lot of the peculiar goings on that have been troubling Matt Murdock since Waid’s run began. Mike Allred lends his distinctive pencils to the series for a fill-in issue, but his art works well in the context of the story and the series in general.

Daredevil 25

Daredevil #25

Daredevil Volume 5 Waid & Samnee

This closes out the last two years worth of stories, putting Daredevil through the ringer like never before and delivering some truly memorable moments. This is the best the series has been since Waid took over, and that really is saying something. The true menace behind all of Daredevil’s recent problems is finally revealed, we’re shown how everything fits together and given a fantastic conclusion in the process.

These books are all available in hardcover and paperback, with an OHC collecting the first volumes and a second OHC on the way. Waid and Samnee’s run will continue to Volume 7, after which the title appears to be relaunching with a new #1 as well as digitally under Marvel’s Infinite Comics initiative.


About the Author

Stuart Kirkham

Stuart is a comic book collector, film and TV enthusiast, and video game crackerjack. Unfortunately these pursuits are occasionally interrupted by having to go to work and do real-life things.