Man Without Fear #1 is an introspective take on Daredevil that peels back the layers of Matt Murdock in a creative and compelling way.
Daredevil, having been hit by a truck, is broken. While his body lies perfectly still in a hospital bed and his best friend, Foggy Nelson, chatters away at his bedside, his mind is in turmoil. Fear, guilt, and self-loathing jostle for position in a tattered hellscape of his own imagining, while his most iconic lovers and villains, draped in his most iconic outfits – and some new, morbid creations – hold a mirror to the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. In Man Without Fear #1, he stares back, but nobody blinks.
Writer Jed MacKay has crafted here an introspective examination of Daredevil as a character; the manifestation of Irish-Catholic self-penance made to literally confront his demons. There’s a lot to unpack, and Man Without Fear #1 ruminates on the human need for fear, what it means to supress one’s emotions for the greater good, and how vigilantism effects real-world relationships. While the issue contains skeletal spectres and suits made of muscle and sinew, at its core this is a deeply human story, with the dreamlike art reinforcing reality rather than distracting from it.
While artist Danilo S. Beyruth dreams up all kinds of surrealist imagery, it’s MacKay who finds a voice for Matt Murdock’s internal struggle, and the whole issue speaks in it. Foggy’s bedside ranting might seem like comic relief or a distraction from the torment, but really it’s part of it – Matt’s relationship to his emotions define his relationships with his friends and, by extension, his enemies. In some sense, his emotions and his enemies are one in the same.
With the absurd popularity of Netflix’s now-cancelled adaptation of the character, it’s easy to forget that Daredevil’s classic origin story is Frank Miller’s The Man Without Fear. So it’s fitting for the same title that gave the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen his horns to be reused here, in a story that plumbs the depths of who he is and what that mantle means, to himself and the people who love him. Man Without Fear #1 begins a deconstruction of a complex character and all he stands for; the second issue can’t come soon enough.