In interviews, Stan Lee has admitted to the fact that with each new series he was looking for a way to make the hero different from every other hero in the Marvel stable. The first issue of Dardevil actually boasts about the fact that The Man Without Fear has a secret which makes him different from Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. Daredevil's secret is that he is blind, but his other senses were given a super boost due to his exposure to radioactive materials in the accident that took his sight. The origin story is a bit of a stretch, but if you buy into a guy getting super powers from a radioactive spider, you can't really be picky with the sources of your super powers.
Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil) is also an interesting case because not only is he a blind superhero, he's also a crack lawyer. In the first 10 issues of Daredevil, Matt's legal career is a bit of a joke. He goes from graduating law school in issue #1 to being one of the most respected lawyers in town by issue #3. Also, I was really bugged by the fact that more than once he got a phone call, accepted a client, and went to court all in the same day. He was trying cases without studying legal precedent, without knowing any of the relevant facts, and without even meeting the client until he stepped into the courtroom. Even Perry Mason wasn't that good.
The action in Daredevil is good because he relies so heavily on his senses. When he's underwater or driving in a car, or flying in a plane, he isn't able to use his super senses the way he could in a quiet room. Oh, and Daredevil undergoes a couple important costume changes in the first 10 issues alone. He starts off in the yellow and red that you see above. Then he adds a red hood to store his street clothes in. This turns out to be a bad idea (partially due to the fan reaction) and he scraps it. Finally he settles into the red on red outfit which he still wears today.
The unfortunate thing about the first 10 issues of Daredevil is that you never really get a sense for who his nemesis is. Heroes live and die by the strength of their nemeses, and while Daredevil will eventually face off against Bullseye, Kingpin, and many others, the first 10 issues find him handling foes in 20 pages or less. He even kills a couple guys. The most disappointing turn is the fact that The Fixer, the mob boss and boxing promoter who killed Daredevil's father, is tracked down and disposed of in the very first issue. You have to be able to doggedly track your parent's killer for hundreds of issues before finding them, beating them to the point where their life is in your hands, and pondering whether revenge is truly worth the cost. Letting The Fixer go early was a bad job by Stan Lee, who doesn't often whiff on such things.
All in all, Daredevil is standard 1960's Marvel goodness. I know the series eventually takes a turn for the much, much darker when it moved to the Marvel Knights imprint, but I'm prepared for that. I know I'll want to read Daredevil eventually, but I can't say that it's higher on the List than Spider-Man. Here's where things fall:
- Amazing Spider-Man
- Fantastic Four
- Booster Gold
- The Punisher
- Golden Age Green Lantern
- The Avengers
- Captain America
- Golden Age Captain America
- Golden Age Blue Beetle
- Captain Marvel (Marvel Comics)