One of the most important comics runs in modern Marvel history is presented in an oversized format in Daredevil: Guardian Devil Gallery Edition. A scared teenager on the run. An infant child some say is humanity’s saviour. A former lover hobbled by a terrible secret. A law partner accused of a horrible crime. A city overcome by an inscrutable menace. They need a guardian. Someone to protect them. Someone with faith in them. They need the Man Without Fear.
This opening arc of Marvel’s newly relaunched Daredevil series in 1998 had a large impact on both Marvel itself and the comic industry as a whole that cannot be understated. It was the first series in Marvel’s newly launched Marvel Knights imprint and was one of the key factors in that imprint’s success. Beyond being an early case of outside writing talent being brought into comics (one of the first comics to be written by acclaimed film director and writer Kevin Smith of Clerks, Dogma and Chasing Amy fame), it aimed to revitalise the Daredevil character who had become a bit directionless in the mid-90s.
Marvel Knights was an imprint ran by Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti which took Daredevil along with other – at the time – lesser-known characters such as The Punisher, Black Panther and The Inhumans in a bold new direction with a fresh line of highly talented writers and artists including Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon, Paul Jenkins, Jae Lee and more. In the case of Daredevil, the team of Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada injected new energy into the series which cemented Smith in the comics world and lead to Quesada becoming the eventual editor-in-chief of Marvel following the imprint’s success.
From a story standpoint, Guardian Devil takes core elements from classic Daredevil and applies it to a compelling mystery story that revisits several classic Daredevil eras (Frank Miller and Ann Nocenti’s work in particular). It would end up having a big impact on future Daredevil storylines and the direction subsequent creators would take going forward. Smith knows that the very best Daredevil stories see him pushed to his breaking point and Guardian Devil does just that. Matt Murdock sees his closest friends’ lives thrown into chaos and some of his most deadly foes coming out of the woodworks. We see Matt’s faith tested and used against him whilst his complicated romantic history with Karen Page and The Black Widow comes back to bite him.
Most people are familiar with Joe Quesada’s editorial work, but it often got overlooked during his time at Marvel how talented he is as an artist. His Daredevil depiction was a key factor in the relaunch’s success and set the bar very high. He excels in both the action sequences and the many dramatic moments that are in this story arc, all of which benefits hugely from the oversized gallery format.
This is Daredevil classic that belongs on any fan’s shelf. As a significant series in the history of modern Marvel, it is a more than worth addition to the gallery edition line.
Daredevil: Guardian Devil Gallery Edition is out now from Marvel (9781302950170, h/b, £44.99)
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