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A graphic novel written by Frank Miller and illustrated by John Romita Jr.

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Frank Miller's Strong Noirish, Mature Portrayal of Marvel's Sightless, Red-Garbed Vigilante

  • Mar 29, 2010

Most people are familiar with the name Frank Miller. A vast majority would recognize his name with the movie/graphic novel “Sin City”, some would see him as the writer of the graphic novel “300” and most recently he has made his less than impressive directorial debut with “The Spirit”. His recent success with the comic book mini-series “All Star Batman and Robin” have once again caused him to be noticed by comic fandom. Miller’s name is the name of a comic book writer whose creations have mostly been adapted into film. Few of his fans remember him as the author of the critically acclaimed “THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS” and “Ronin”. But fewer even would remember his stint in the pages of DAREDEVIL in the 80’s.
Well, back in 1993, Miller made a return to the character that made him a household name in comic fandom with the epic mini-series “MAN WITHOUT FEAR” and may well be seen as a prequel to his meaner, darker interpretation of Marvel’s scarlet-garbed crime fighter. This collection goes to his origins. Daredevil and Matt Murdock has become darker through the years judging from the recent issues of Daredevil and many would say Miller had a lot to do with it. Frank Miller and John Romita Jr. has placed Daredevil back in the map with this series and this graphic novel collects all five issues of the “Man Without Fear“ series.
Matt Murdock is a nice young boy who is grew up in Hell’s Kitchen. Raised by his father, Matt was driven to study that led to him being bullied in school and tagged “Daredevil“. Matt’s dad, Jack Murdock is a washed out boxer who moonlights as an enforcer for a loan shark. Despite their hardships, father and son appear happy that is until an accident causes Matt to lose his sight. However, even though Matt is now blind, his other senses seem to have achieved superhuman sharpness; something a mysterious drifter called “Stick” takes notice. Stick is also blind but he is able to use his other senses in ways no one can imagine; he trains Matt to hone and focus his skills and to channel his “Chi”. But things are about to get complicated when Matt’s dad is executed by the mob for refusing to lay down on a boxing match…

“Man Without Fear” is one ambitious collection that may well be the one of the most mature pieces of comic book writing since “Watchmen” and “The Dark Knight Returns”. The story arc chronicles Matt’s journey in becoming Daredevil, his childhood, his relationship with his father, his loss of sight and his tutelage under “Stick”, his college years and the coming of Elektra”, the subplot with the “Hand” and the rise of the Kingpin. What really got me into this collection was the fact that Miller was bold in portraying the dark realism in the story and how it applies to current real world events. Oh, in this collection, you will NOT see the red costume that has made Daredevil well known in the pages of comic books, you will just see Matt Murdock dressed in sweat pants with a makeshift mask.

The fights in “MAN WITHOUT FEAR” are real violent and bloody. You see bones being broken and crushed, the brutality is just realistic. Romita illustrates the action as if it had that noir-like mood, while maintaining a comic book tone. The drawings are quite good and very stylish. Most of the panels can be made into a poster because they are just so cool. The dialogue is successful in inducing that visceral feel, and it is just full of attitude. When Matt says “..I don’t want to kill you, let her go.”, I just got goose bumps. Pretty straight-forward shit that reflects his no-nonsense personality.
You see Matt as a child, and the reader becomes an audience to his growth into manhood. You see him struggling with his decisions at times, Matt was a little brash and careless at first, until he develops this sense of responsibility when he meets a young child after Law school. You see the main character become torn from his decisions; while avoiding violence, he feels the need to give off violence when necessary. I loved the way the story portrays Matt’s mistakes and how he has no such qualms in taking a human life in defense of an innocent. Frank Miller and John Romita Jr. has crafted a ‘coming of age’ tale that is just impressive as it also brings the duality in the main character. Miller succeeds in expanding the Daredevil mythos.
Elektra is also shown in Matt’s college years as his first love. Their relationship is uneasy one although they love each other, they are both unaware that they are linked to opposing ‘ninja“ clans. I loved the way the stories exposed Matt’s relationship with Stick and his dad. The little girl serves as someone that makes Matt realize his responsibilities much like Uncle Ben in Spider-man did. Yes, Miller doesn't hold back and even portrays child prostitution as the one thing Murdock must stop.
Rather than review something by Frank Miller that is so well known such as “300” or ‘Sin City”, I’d rather go into something that was a little underappreciated. “Man Without Fear” exposes Matt Murdock as the man, the myth and “soon to be” legend. I loved the visceral reality that Miller brought into the character by making him a real human vigilante who later realizes his true destiny. Tough, violent and action-packed, this is the way Daredevil should be done…all the time.
Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Stars]
Frank Miller's Strong Noirish, Mature Portrayal of Marvel's Sightless, Red-Garbed Vigilante

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April 07, 2010
One of your best reviews ever man, I remember these with out a doubt. I need to pull out all my stuff and get to reading again.
April 07, 2010
I have more to come...Lunch gives us the ability to review almost anything. (well, emphasis on 'almost')
March 31, 2010
Great write-up on a well-known piece of Frank Miller's writings! I loved all the details as well as the images you included in the review. I'm adding this one to my Goodreads's TBR shelf. :)
April 01, 2010
Thanks, Adrianna...I have more to come and thank you for welcoming my comic book reviews in your community!
April 01, 2010
Thanks so much for sharing them with the community! I hope we can get more readers interested in non-traditional materials. I'm so sick and tired of people thinking comics and manga are just for kids or teens. :-P I'm excited to read more of your reviews too! I'm falling behind on all my reading and writing, but I'm enjoying playing "catch up." :)
April 01, 2010
Adrianna, you haven't seen anything yet ;-P My collection spans 5 decades. But I will pick out the mature comic books that hardly anyone has even heard of.
April 01, 2010
@Scotman: Yeah! I hate that certain stigmas drive people away from good reads! Of course a lot of the manga I read are pretty childish, so I'm sure I'm not helping the case! LOL! But, I think the styles vary in any genre, and it's really limiting to label all material in that genre as "one way."

@woopak_the_thrill: I can't wait to read more of your reviews, especially such an extensive collection! Feel free to post as many or as few of the reviews as you desire. They can be about the obscure ones or fun light-hearted ones. I'm going to be posting another review of Monkey High next week. ATM I'm trying to finish my review of "My Mighty Princess" and play "catch-up" with my reality reviews!
March 30, 2010
Pure awesomeness! Seriously, a very well-done review, Woo. I actually am more familiar with Miller's run on the "Daredevil" series than I am with this graphic novel, I'm sad to say. However, I am familiar with the plot to this one, mainly because it was so heavily discussed by the filmmakers of the "Daredevil" film as well as by filmmaker and fellow fanboy Kevin Smith. I really ought to pick this up A.S.A.P.!
March 30, 2010
By the way, some dweeb gave you only two thumbs in all categories on this review.
March 31, 2010
Thanks, Sean! I try to find the lesser known collections since everyone is already looking for Sin City. When I had Miller sign a few of my comics; this being three of them and "300" (before the movie) he went like "Excellent Choice!, I was getting tired of signing Sin City and Dark Knight Returns"--I was all smiles then. It is safe to say that this is one of Miller's best. Yeh, I noticed the 2 thumbies, but we can't satisfy everyone and I just wish they would make comments. ;-)
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Quick Tip by . May 13, 2011
Frank Miller's lesser known and yet so amazingly gritty re-issue of the origins of everyone's favorite hornhead; this happens before he dons the scarlet costume. It goes into the relationship between Matt and Jack Murdock, his love affair with a young woman named Elektra in college and the very first time he took matters into his own hands.      Not for kids, and more violent than your usual Daredevil issues, this goes into the darker side of Manhattan, its crime element …
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(excerpt from Wikipedia's Daredevil page)
Frank Miller returned to the character and his origins with the 1993 five issue Daredevil: The Man Without Fear mini-series. With artist John Romita Jr, Miller expanded upon the character's beginnings and provided additional detail about the life and death of "Battling Jack" Murdock and Matt's first encounters with the Kingpin and Foggy Nelson. The role of Stick in the genesis of Daredevil was expanded, as was Murdock's doomed love affair with Elektra Natchios, the daughter of a Greek diplomat.

A fire burns deep within Matt Murdock. He was raised by a single father, an over-the-hill prizefighter with one last chance to make it good - a chance that cost him his life! Taunted and tormented by children while growing up, Matt's life was irrevocably altered after he was blinded by radioactive materials while saving the life of an old man. The payoff? An unbreakable will and a keen intelligence, helping focus the super-senses he was blessed with during the accident. His story is one of love, pain, disappointment, and strength. Witness the tour-de-force origin of the Man Without Fear by industry legends Frank Miller and John Romita Jr. Collects Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #1-5.--This text refers to theHardcoveredition.
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Author: Frank Miller
Genre: Comics & Graphic Novels, Crime Drama, Superheroes
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date Published: 1993
Format: Graphic Novel
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