Daredevil "Know Fear" is character progression done right.

Daredevil : Know Fear Review - Animated Apparel Company
Image by Marvel Comics 

One of the hardest things in the world of comic books is to create character progression without breaking it. This is something that has become fairly common nowadays in the industry: they take an established and popular character and they make big changes to their ethos, core values and legacy, whether it’s for the agenda, shock value to boost sales or genuine artistic interest, and it ends up backfiring.

When it comes to most DC and Marvel properties, these characters, as far as identity, values and personality, don’t really belong to anybody from an artistic point of view because they are the end result of decades of development made by several writers, which makes the notion of changing them quite difficult and it has to be said that the last five years or so have been filled with unnecessary changes to iconic characters–I don’t need to point out cases because we all have our own choices in that regard.


So what Chip Zdarsky does with Daredevil in this new 2019 run with the story-line Know Fear is actually quite interesting: it presents a fascinating change in Matt Murdock’s life that shakes his world and does it in a way that doesn’t feel forced or out of character, making a great story in the process.

Let’s talk about Know Fear, which covers from issue #1 to #5, or as I call it: Daredevil Season 4.

What is Know Fear?

Daredevil: Know Fear Review - Animated Apparel Company

Image by Marvel Comics

Matt Murdock comes back to his vigilante ways after a time out of the picture and his alter ego Daredevil seems to be framed as the murderer of an individual. He has been chased by the police all around Hell’s Kitchen and tries to clear his name, claiming that the Kingpin set him up.

As the story unfolds, Daredevil deals with a new police officer that doesn’t buy into his methods, the arrival of the Punisher and coming to terms with the fact that he wasn’t framed by Fisk or anyone else: his violent actions toward a criminal led to their death.

He has to come to terms with the fact that he has taken a life and how his years as Daredevil have taken a toll on him physically, emotionally and spiritually, plus having to deal with many of his friends getting involved in the situation.

How was it?

Daredevil: Know Fear Review - Animated Apparel Company

Image by Marvel Comics 

Chip Zdarsky is an interesting case in the modern comic book industry: one of the major criticisms that Marvel Comics has received in recent times has been the fact that they tend to hire not based on merit, but rather other reasons that we are not going to discuss here. Zdarsky started off quite slow in his career at Marvel, often trying to write humor in books like Spider-Man and failing to succeed at it, but he has learned and grown from it, Know Fear is his crowning achievement (so far). Unlike other writers that have been somewhat overpraised by the media and lost steam in recent times such as Donny Cates or Tom King, Zdarsky only seems to be getting better and he's learning from his mistakes.

Know Fear explores the notion of Matt breaking his golden rule of no killing and seeing the ramifications of said actions. Rather than depicting it as something that he would do consciously, Zdarsky asks a very simple question: “What if it was done by accident?”

One of Daredevil's characteristics is that he has always been on the edge of self-destruction and carries a lot of guilt. Which is a product of his Catholic values, but this story shows us a man who has been in the superhero trenches for many years and can’t do it anymore. His mind, his heart and his soul are weary and this murder is that breaking point where he realizes that he can’t do it anymore. Sure, we will see Matt again as Daredevil (this is comics, after all), but exploring this notion and showing him truly devastated by his actions shows us a very human, noble and yet exhausted hero.


Of course, this analysis of his character in dire circumstances is also complemented with fantastic action scenes, with the showdown against the Punisher in issue #4 being a personal favorite of mine with that fantastic line: “You’re a demon, sure… but I’m the devil.”

At the same time, you can feel the influence of the Netflix series on this story, with the appearance of the characters from the other shows, such as Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones and the Punisher. This truly feels like a continuation of the show, with the only main difference being that Wilson Fisk is holding a position of power in New York here. Other than that, this could very well be the script of the now aborted fourth season.

Zdarsky understands our hero and shows us how a mentally broken Matt would react to the notion that he is now a killer. The ending, with that talk with Spider-Man (whose few pages appearances in this story might be the most accurate depiction of his character in the last decade or so), is truly heartfelt and is a fitting end to someone who just can’t do it anymore.

What about the art?

Daredevil: Know Fear Review - Animated Apparel Company

Image by Marvel Comics

Just as I praised Zdarsky, Marco Checchetto also deserves a lot of credit because his art is stunning and provides a lot of texture and depth to each panel and scene. One of my biggest gripes with modern Marvel artists that they tend to cast backgrounds and shadows aside, often leading to blander and more uninteresting pages. Checchetto pays attention to every detail and gives a sense of dynamism to each page that a story of this nature requires.

Issues #4 and #5 are particularly stunning, in my view, with several displays of fantastic art that actually enhance everything that is going on with the plot, which is something that every artist should bring to the table.

What it represents?

Daredevil: Know Fear Review - Animated Apparel Company

Image by Marvel Comics

Pushing a character to new territories and keeping him or her true to his or her ethos and core values is something quite complicated, but Zdarsky succeeds at that with Know Fear by showing us a Daredevil who breaks his biggest rule and stays in-character, which is key to make us believe in what is going on and keep us emotionally invested. Here there are stakes, emotions and a lot of actions fitting with the character’s history and traits that made him so iconic.

There are many moments in the industry when you can’t help but wonder if modern writers truly value these characters, but when I read this story I do get the feeling that Zdarsky cares about Matt Murdock and it shows us that the Man Without Fear goes through major obstacles, but will manage to find a way to come back, as he always does.

And if Zdarsky stays this way, we will be definitely coming back too.


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