Subjective Ramblings and Peripheral Thoughts from the Edges of a Comics Studies Project
Writer Alexander Irvine and artist Tomm Coker’s Daredevil Noir is the third series released as part of Marvel’s “Noir” imprint. It follows the titular character through a turf war between two leading gang bosses in New York’s Hell’s kitchen. The series opens on a strong note, starting at the ending like many classic noir texts (and Spider-Man Noir). But in doing so, it also reveals (again, like Spider-Man) from the outset that the conventions of superherodom will force it to abandon the imprint’s outspoken ambition of setting familiar characters within a classic noir framework; Daredevil wears a sleeveless version of his classic costume and has the heightened senses of his standard counterpart. Here, the suit was something the young Murdoch put on already as a child, when he used his physical proficiencies to entertain and awe on the vaudeville scene.
That is not to say that there are no elements of the noir style present in Daredevil. Like so many classic noir gumshoes, the protagonist Matt Murdock is a detective figure with a penchant for cynical narration. And like so many of those same figures, his troubles begin when a woman walks into an office (although, in this case, it is his friend Foggy Nelson’s office). Similarly, the graphic style is matted and the level of contrast between light and shadows high.
When it comes to the New York setting, it should be noted that the environment plays an important role in Daredevil, but then as a means to play up the character’s inner turmoil as his black-and-white view of the world is increasingly challenged by events. Unable to escape the noise of the city, Daredevil tells readers that home is supposed to be a place where you can “leave the outside world behind,” but for him, with his heigtened senses, “[h]ome is a prison I carry in my head.” As with the other series in the “Marvel Noir” suite, some interesting liberties are taken with established characters from the standard version. Although the series’ take on the Kingpin fails to convey any real sense of difference, Daredevil’s long-running nemesis Bullseye gets a twist that, while not really unexpected nor unprecedented in the annals of Daredevildom, is nonetheless noteworthy.
Ultimately, however, there is little to distinguish Daredevil Noir from most other Daredevil titles that have been on the market this century, with two major exceptions: the protagonist is not a lawyer (the orphan son of a Hell’s Kitchen prizefighter doesn’t go to law school) and that there was no toxic waste involved in his going blind, only a brick wall and a shove. It is probably an interesting read for fans of Daredevil, who get a taste of what the character might have been in the 1930s, but anyone looking for a truly noir take on the character will not find much novelty here.