The précis: when Matt Murdock was a kid, he rushed in front of a truck to save an old man. For his trouble, he got hit in the face with a radioactive isotope that blinded him but superenhanced his other four senses, giving him a "radar" that allows him to "see" as well or better than a normal person. As the costumed superhero Daredevil, he defends Hell's Kitchen. As blind lawyer Matt Murdock, he takes down big corporations and sticks up for the little people. Also, he is a ninja.
I can't remember whether I read Frank Miller's classic Born Again storyline first or not, but I want to re-read it and also read Frank Miller's character-defining run on the series. As I said, I have fallen in love with the character. Why?
I started with the rebooted numbering of Volume 2, which began with Guardian Devil, a story by Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada. I remember really liking it years ago, but on a re-read, I think it's good for comics, but it's sort of a mediocre story overall.
The mediocrity is evident immediately once David Mack steps up to the plate with Parts of a Hole and really gets inside the heads of Matt Murdock, Kingpin, and his new character Echo, a deaf Native American woman named Maya Lopez who has the ability to replicate any movement she sees, be it piano playing or a specific fighting move. Mack really explores what it's like to live blind or deaf, delving even deeper later on in Echo - Vision Quest. His unique style lends itself to the introspective stories he tells.
For me, however, the character-defining run that hooked me on Daredevil was that of Brian Michael Bendis (of Powers fame) and Alex Maleev (of Batman: No Man's Land fame). They tell the story of Daredevil as crime fiction, focusing on the Kingpin and the gangster underworld. The art is gritty, lines not sharply defined, colors mostly in the grey and brown spectra. This is not a shiny happy colorful tale. Bendis is clearly fascinated by superheroes and what makes them tick. Why they do what they do and how the public perceives them.
So he decides to out Daredevil. And not sweep it under the rug a couple issues later as per comics tradition (and, hell, Daredevil tradition). The outing sticks, even though there's no proof, and Matt Murdock has to deny deny deny for fear of being disbarred and arrested and having half his cases overturned. Meanwhile, of course, there is more gangster action because this is a Bendis book.
I see some similarities between Daredevil and Batman. They're both very territorial costumed vigilantes who scare the crap out of criminals because they're prone to beating the crap out of them. But one major difference is that with Matt, Daredevil is the mask. There's no debate necessary because Matt Murdock is a person. He is a fully formed, complex character with a life of his own, who just happens to dress up as a devil at night and fight crime. And I love him for it because he is so very protective of Hell's Kitchen and its people. He feels responsible for them and their safety, and he's willing to go farther than most superheroes in the name of cleaning the streets. He also has a very complicated love life. His girlfriends all have a tendency to A) go crazy, B) try to kill him, C) die, or D) all of the above. They are all also terribly hot. And he has a thriving law practice with his partner and best friend Foggy Nelson.
With the exception of Kingpin and Bullseye, Daredevil doesn't have the greatest Rogues' Gallery (and Matt even comments on this), but for my money, Kingpin makes up for everything. I love Kingpin. Wilson Fisk is large, imposing, ruthless, cunning, brilliant, and dangerous. He's known Matt is Daredevil since Born Again (when he BLEW UP HIS HOUSE), but rather than out him himself, he keeps the information to himself just to fuck with him. He's one of the great Magnificent Bastards. And he's always hiring assassins! Oh, assassins.
The Bendis/Maleev run on Daredevil is some of the best superhero storytelling I've ever seen, and it makes the more traditional comics stories (like Smith's) look trivial in comparison. I highly recommend it (along with the David Mack stories). I had intended to stop reading at the end, hoping the story would come to some satisfying conclusion, and while it did come to a conclusion of sorts, it only made me want to read more! This is how invested I am in Matt Murdock's life: I drove over thirty blocks to the library to grab all they had of Brubaker's run and then ordered the rest off Amazon. I wish I had in any way been successful in writing a post about how much I love Daredevil and why you should too, but maybe you'll give him a chance based on my sheer enthusiasm alone.
If I'm going to be dedicated to one superhero, it might as well be Daredevil, the Man Without Fear.