In November, D.G. Chichester returns to Daredevil with the a four issue mini-series called Daredevil: Black Armor. Yep, the armor is back. Debuting in issue 321, the armor is either loved or hated by Daredevil fans. So why bring it back when it’s so divisive? I guess only Marvel editorial knows. Of course the armor is secondary to story. If the writing is good and the art is compelling, no one will care about the armor.
Before jumping into the new series, a look back at Chichester’s run may give us some insight on where this series may go. Among fans, Chichester had some serious highlights and some excessive mis-steps. His most talked about stories are Last Rites and Fall from Grace. Again, those both receive mixed reviews. So, what did Chichester bring to Daredevil?
Chichester’s run began with an initial story arc that brought together a lot of pieces. In issues 292-296, the arc leading to Last Rites, Chichester gives us a glimpse of what’s to come. He knows that Daredevil is a character capable of small, personal stories, street level crime stories and mystical stories featuring The Hand, The Fist and The Chaste. He pulls out all the stops here.
In this arc, we get Tombstone, Taskmaster, The Punisher, Ghost Rider, Kingpin, Typhoid Mary, Baron von Strucker, the Hand and the Chaste. That is a lot to juggle and feels more like the hero/villain count in a team book. Each piece of the story builds to another piece and ultimately leads to the final showdown with the Hand and Chaste. Following that, Matt vows to take down the Kingpin.
Chichester picks up threads from the past. Matt and Foggy work to get his law license reinstated. I know this is minor in a lot of Daredevil stories, but Matt’s relationship with Foggy is important. Foggy grounds him and adds a layer to Matt that makes him more relatable. Chichester also brings Karen back. Matt tries to rekindle the flame, but Karen is not quite ready, if she ever will be. Again, this relationship is important to his character. Typically, those around Matt get hurt or are used by others. This adds to his responsibility and guilt. Of course, both characters remind us of the amazing story Born Again. Kingpin does Kingpin things here. He works alongside Typhoid Mary as he attempts to steal money from a southern gentleman. Baron von Strucker works surreptitiously to steal money from Kingpin and has a tie to the Hand. The Chaste return and come to Matt’s aid. Matt works like a detective to figure out why Tombstone and Taskmaster are on a killing spree. The ending leads to Matt starting his mission to take down the Kingpin; this becomes Last Rites. The pieces are here for a long run. It’s a promising start.
Lee Weeks- one of my top five artists of all time. Looking at Weeks’ art now, you can see his progression from these issues. But even then, he excelled at the action. He expertly handles Daredevil’s acrobatics as well as his hand to hand and use of billy club. Of course, the smaller moments are important with Daredevil, and he equally directs/draws the emotional beats of the characters and moments. His Kingpin is huge and menacing. Love how this sets him up for the fall to come.
The Bad (it’s actually pretty minor)
It’s just too much. With all of the above going on, Chichester throws in the Punisher and Ghost Rider. The Punisher makes for an entertaining fight sequence and shows us why Matt is better than him. He is the perfect foil. Both want justice, but Matt takes a higher road, sometimes falling short, but striving to do right. That’s where it ends, though. There is really no reason for him to be here unless Chichester is planting seeds for a future arc. Still, not essential for this story.
Ghost Rider makes sense in the fact that he uses the penance stare to make villains reconcile with their sins. Daredevil has a history of dealing with faith, guilt, and redemption. But, that is where the reason for Ghost Rider’s appearance ends. He shows up following the trail of murders by Tombstone and Taskmaster. He fights alongside Daredevil and ultimately returns to his true self following an odd event with a ninja of the hand. Both Punisher and Ghost Rider are thrown in extraneously, possibly as a stunt to draw readers. Matt gets a glimpse of von Strucker through Ghost Rider, but it ends there. As I said, above, there are pieces in place, but with the sheer number of threads and characters, extra characters are not needed. 1990s comics are viewed as art over substance and largely dismissed as a poor era in comics. In fact, the glut led to bankruptcies. This story, no matter how full, is certainly not the glut of the 90s- Just maybe slightly over ambitious.
Last Rites is up next in issues 297-300. Chichester has done a nice job of creating some threads and story beats moving forward. Kingpin will have to deal with von Strucker who is trying to steal his fortune and Daredevil who is coming after him to exact retribution. Matt will continue to reinstate his law license with Foggy and try to rekindle his relationship with Karen. The Hand is lurking in background ready to return at a moments notice, and the Chaste have returned, always keeping Stick lurking around.
Overall, this is a great start to his run. Chichester uses many of the elements that make Daredevil great. The key here is if he can narrow down the number of players and focus the story. Come back next time for a look at Last Rites.