With Daredevil #18, one of the best modern superhero sagas came to an end. It was a run that lasted roughly 4 years, 2 volumes, and about 54 issues (give or take an annual and a special edition here and there). It started off great with Mark Waid writing and guys like Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera on art, but it truly became something special when Chris Samnee took over as regular artist. Soon enough, Waid and Samnee would share the credit of “Storytellers” at the beginning of each issue, casting aside the traditional artist and writer designations. At its height, Daredevil was not only the best superhero comic book on the shelves, it was one of the best books period.
The trick that Daredevil pulled off so spectacularly was a play on our expectations. Ever since Frank Miller and the 1980s, Daredevil had been dark. Really, really dark. Words like “noir” and “bleak” got tossed around a lot. Miller tapped into something special with the character and its tone and feel would stick around for decades. For a very long time, Daredevil felt like it was a crime comic, a street-level story that just so happened to feature a guy in a skin-tight costume.
Those darker years are rightfully heralded as brilliant. Daredevil remained consistently fantastic as it passed through different creative teams. Folks like Kevin Smith, Joe Quesada, David Mack, Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Michael Lark, and Ed Brubaker all took a crack at the character and all produced fantastic runs. Daredevil was a book that you could pick up and pretty much be guaranteed to get some quality hardcore, street-level vigilante tales. It seemed that Daredevil had a formula and that formula was, lead character Matthew Murdock’s life was awful, brutal, violent, and dark.
Under Waid and Samnee, the focus of Daredevil shifted. It became fun. I’ve loved the character since I was a kid, but until the Waid and Samnee run, “fun” was never a word I would have used to describe Daredevil. There was still on outer rim of darkness, a tribute to the character’s past always lurking on the fringe, but largely the book turned away from all that. It was bright – both in the look of the book and the overall tone – and exciting. Daredevil was a full-fledged superhero book and it was amazing.
Daredevil became a character who was constantly saving people, fighting the good fight, and doing the right thing no matter what. You know, superhero stuff. The character was inspiring, the sort of thing more costumed comic characters should be. Sure, he had his down moments and there were plenty of moments when the darkness seemed to come creeping back, but then Matt Murdock would pull through and save the day. He was the good guy, no doubt about it. That’s not something you could always say about Daredevil.
During their run, Waid and Samnee also took the Devil out of Hell’s Kitchen. Daredevil had long since been a book that was – for lack of a better word – grounded. It took place in its own little corner of the Marvel Universe, and when it did crossover with other characters or books, it always seemed to be the street-level ones. Instead, this run firmly planted Daredevil in the Marvel Universe. He teamed up with monsters and the Silver Surfer; he battled villains in the daylight. He smiled. Like, all the time. Matt Murdock was smiling. He was a superhero and, at least some of the time, he seemed to be enjoying himself.
The series was, rightfully, hailed as a masterpiece. Waid’s writing and Samnee’s art were a match made in heaven, a true comic book dream team. You could just feel the energy in the book, month after month. It was superhero perfection and we couldn’t get enough. More than anything, perhaps, Mark Waid and Chris Samnee proved you can’t pigeon-hole a character. They took Marvel’s darkest, bleakest character and made him fun, adventurous, and happy. And it worked. It could have fallen flat and alienated everyone, but it did the opposite. It was the superhero comic book that all other superhero comics aspired to be.
So, in memory to one of the greatest runs in Marvel history, we salute you Chris Samnee and Mark Waid. You too, colorists Javier Rodriguez and Matthew Wilson. And you, letterer Joe Carmagna. You fine folks put together the best superhero series in recent memory and you did it consistently for years. Thank you for that. Thanks for the good times. Thanks for keeping us on our toes and keeping things exciting. Thanks, perhaps of all, for having so much fun. It was infectious.