Friday, January 23, 2015


Storytellers: Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale | Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Lettering: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Wes Abbott
Editors: Bronwyn Taggart & Stuart Moore | Man Without Fear: Joe Quesada
President: Bill Jemas
Dedicated to Stan Lee & Bill Everett & Wally Wood, prizefighters all!

The term "bittersweet, timeless classic" gets thrown around a lot these days, but in the case of DAREDEVIL: YELLOW, no description is more apt. This is a wonderful story from Loeb and Sale, told via a framing sequence set in then-modern continuity, as Matt "Daredevil" Murdock struggles to cope with the recent death of his longtime girlfriend, Karen Page. At the urging of his friend, Foggy Nelson, Matt writes a series of letters to Karen in which he describes the earliest days of their relationship.

Unlike HULK: GRAY, which structured (or, in terms of publication chronology, will structure) its entire six-part story to fit within the first issue of the Hulk's original series, covering less than 24 hours' time and therefore making up a great deal of material, DAREDEVIL: YELLOW threads its tale through the first four issues of the classic DAREDEVIL series, covering what seem to be the first few months of Daredevil's career and drawing heavily upon the original stories by Stan Lee, Bill Everett, and Joe Orlando, resulting in a much more satisfying read.

The story begins as Matt and Foggy near the end of law school. Matt's father, "Battlin'" Jack Murdock, a boxer, is killed by an agent named the Fixer when he refuses to throw a fight. Matt, blinded at an early age by exposure to a radioactive isotope which exponentially heightened all his remaining senses, dons a yellow-and-brown costume crafted from his father's gear and, calling himself Daredevil, goes for revenge upon the Fixer. The agent dies of a heart attack, however, robbing Daredevil of the chance to see justice done.

From there Matt and Foggy graduate law school and found their own firm, Nelson & Murdock. They hire a secretary, young Karen Page, and both men fall for her. Foggy even entertains thoughts of proposing to Karen, but eventually backs down when he sees that Matt is smitten with her as well. But Karen has eyes only for New York's newest superhero, Daredevil. It's not exactly a love story, since Matt doesn't get the girl in the end -- the final issue concludes with Karen preparing for a date with Daredevil, rather than his alter ego -- but it's a very sweet introduction to all these characters, and, aside from knowing that Karen will eventually die, the ending leaves future developments squarely in the imagination of the reader.

The introduction and courting of Karen is the story's main reason for being, but plenty more happens along the way. Loeb and Sale brilliantly utilize the original Daredevil stories to create a world for these characters, updating them for a new generation and rejiggering them to fit into the six-issue mini-series format. Lee and his artists, after all, generally made things up as they went along, with little idea of what the following month's installment would bring.

Loeb and Sale, however, have hindsight to work with and as a result, their story feels much more organized than the original DAREDEVIL issues. YELLOW issues 1 and 2 map to issue #1 of DAREDEVIL, covering the fate of Matt's father and his vendetta against the Fixer -- but the Fixer's trigger man, Slade, survives and eventually makes his way to death row, with his story continuing as a sub-plot through YELLOW #3 and 4. DAREDEVIL #2 found Murdock & Nelson hired by the Fantastic Four, leading to Daredevil fighting Electro at the FF's headquarters, the Baxter Building. In YELLOW, the FF place Nelson & Murdock on retainer in issue 3, and the conflict with Electro occurs in issue 4. Issue 5 finds Daredevil up against the villainous Owl, which originally occurred in DAREDEVIL #3, but the Owl is foreshadowed and introduced by Loeb and Sale in YELLOW #3. Finally, YELLOW #6 chronicles an encounter between Daredevil and the Purple Man, based upon a story from DAREDEVIL #4 -- however, between YELLOW issues 5 and 6, as noted by a Daily Bugle headline in #6, Daredevil battles the villainous Matador -- an event which actually happened after the Purple Man fight, in DAREDEVIL #5.

The result is a very nicely flowing story, which feels more organic and less "made up" than those early Daredevil tales, and which really sells the idea that these issues are merely brief moments in the ongoing lives of Matt, Foggy, and Karen. There are ways to draw upon continuity, to restructure it and use it to tell a new story (or retell an old one) without excessive changes to what has gone before. Loeb and Sale have figured out how to do this just about perfectly (and they'll do an even more masterful job of it in SPIDER-MAN: BLUE).

The artwork is as beautiful as the story, too. Sale and colorist Hollingsworth do a brilliant job on YELLOW, turning in pages that look almost as if they were painted in watercolor (something Sale notes was the desired result in the collected edition's supplementary material). I found Sale's cartoony style a bit off-putting in HULK: GRAY, but here it works perfectly, especially for characters like Foggy Nelson and the Owl. But Sale's Matt Murdock and Daredevil are great as well, and his Karen Page is downright adorable.

Which of course leads to the bittersweet part of the story. We know Karen will die; it's stated numerous times through the letters that Matt is writing to her after her demise. But, reading YELLOW, one can't help but become a little angry at Frank Miller and Kevin Smith for taking this poor innocent girl and putting her though hell over the years. Much as I love Miller's first run on DAREDEVIL, and much as I like a great deal of his "Born Again" story arc, his work with Karen has always bothered me somewhat, and it retroactively bugs me even more after reading YELLOW.

(As far as Smith goes, I've never really liked his "Guardian Devil" arc, so YELLOW simply allows me to dislike it even more.)

But, leaving out the particulars of Karen's later life and ultimate death, DAREDEVIL: YELLOW is exactly what the narration presents it as: a love letter to something long gone; not just to Karen Page, but to the swashbuckling innocence of the Silver Age Daredevil. It's a great read, and a true classic from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. Were I to attempt to introduce anyone to Daredevil, this is most likely the story I'd hand them first.


  1. Karen Page is still dead, isn't she? That's kind of impressive, given that her death doesn't have the historical cache of an Uncle Ben, Bucky or Gwen Stacy, and even those latter two have come back in various forms now.

    Anywho, yeah, this is pretty great. I loved the watercolor look, and it gave me a much greater appreciation for those early Daredevil stories, which I never had much time for prior to this.

  2. Oh, and I forgot to ask: any plans to review the Loeb/Sale DC projects when you finish the Marvel Color series?

  3. I haven't read any Daredevil comics in a long time, but as far as I know, yes -- Karen is still dead. Marvel kills and resurrects tons of characters these days -- I'd say too many -- but there are certain more relatively recent deaths they seem to hold sacred. Karen, Jean Grey...

    Of course, with all this SECRET WARS rejiggering they're about to do, who know who'll be back in the new unified universe?

    I will probably get to the Loeb/Sale DC stuff eventually, but I have no idea when. There's so much DC I've never read that I'd like to get to first. But on the other hand, I've read all their collaborations so many times that I could probably write about them without even opening the books again!