Review – Daredevil: To Heaven Through Hell
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Pencilers: Marco Checchetto, Lalit Kumar Sharma & Jorge Fornes
Inkers: Marco Checchetto, Jay Leisten & Jorge Fornes
Colourist: Sunny Gho, Java Tartaglia & Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
I recently got to read through Daredevil: To Heaven Through Hell for review and although I had read the first five issues of this run in the past, it was interesting to see where writer Chip Zdarsky took the character directly after those five issues.
To Heaven Through Hell follows a Matt Murdock who is a good bit into his career as a crime-fighting vigilante and is starting to grow older too. In the story arc prior to this one, he was struck by a truck whilst saving a child and so, when this story opens, he is still in recovery from the near-death experience.
What Zdarsky does with this setup at the opening of this TPB is fascinating and he uses Matt’s current predicament as a clever way to re-establish this character to both newcomers and Daredevil veterans alike.
I love it when a storyteller does this; uses a recent plot point to craft a subtle re-introduction of an iconic character. It means that readers with no prior knowledge of the character’s history can immediately jump on-board with the story being told, whilst being careful not to bore fans familiar with the character or condescend them either.
In the first issue, Zdarsky also wastes absolutely zero time establishing Matt Murdock’s morals, history, religious ties & powers. All of these vital character elements are immediately evident or at least hinted at and never in a way that feels contrived or unnatural. This aspect of the storytelling in this book is masterful.
Without having to explicitly come out and say, this guy has sonar abilities and is a devout catholic, these aspects of the character are made clear through more subtle means such as dialogue. On the second page, the girl that Matt is chatting to at the bar asks if she can have one of his painkiller, to which he bluntly responds; “That would be illegal.”
In just one short response, Zdarsky manages to encapsulate Matt’s moral compass, his career as a lawyer and his unwavering commitment to always do the right thing. Frankly, this is one of the best examples of indirectly summing up a character’s ethical standpoint that I have ever read.
Another fascinating motif that Zdarsky dips his toes into at the start of this book before fully diving into as the run progresses, is Daredevil’s somewhat inconsistent and fairly questionable no-kill rule. Unlike Batman, who has an extremely staunch perspective on the subject that he will never kill regardless of the circumstances, or Frank Castles antithetical viewpoint that killing criminals is undoubtedly the best practice to prevent them from causing any further harm, Daredevil’s take on the issue is more of a grey area.
Over the years, there have been books where Daredevil has chosen to end a criminal’s life and there have been others where he chooses to take an approach more akin to Bruce Wayne’s outlook on the matter. Usually, it depends on the writer telling the story at any given time.
However, here Zdarsky retcons this inconsistency in the character’s lore and utilises it to enhance the story being told in this book. Matt explains that early in his Daredevil career, before he really properly knew what he was doing, he did accidentally beat a few crooks too badly, leading to their death. Though, in the years since he has become more precise and is now able to have more self-control so as to ensure he is able to dish out justice without taking lives. Therefore, he hasn’t killed any criminals in for long time.
Speaking of the fact that Matt has been the Man Without Fear for a good number of years during this story, it is interesting to get to see an aging Daredevil, somewhat struggling to keep up with his old standards. Hearing Matt’s inner monologue during these sequences really put me in mind of Frank Miller’s Batman from The Dark Knight Returns.
In terms of the artwork in this TPB, unfortunetaly it is one of those books where the artist various throughout. By far the highlight is Marco Checchetto’s work in the first five issues of the book. His character designs are unique compared to how past artists have portrayed Matt Murdoch, but it was never off-putting or distracting.
Instead, it gave a fresh, unique look to the characters when the first issues dropped back in 2019. His use of shading is extremely well implemented. A really good example of this is in Issue 1, page 7, panel 4. In this panel, Matt is telling the girl he brought home from the bar about why he is on painkillers, while his eyes are covered in shadow from the window pane.
Something else that I really appreciated was the visual used for Matt’s sonar ability. It is fairly minimalistic, but also very striking and bold. The colour work by Sunny Gho also greatly enhances this visual choice. His colour work throughout the chapters he worked on in the book is all pretty great. I love the way that he colours the red suit against the dark night sky.
Unfortunately, when you move onto issue 6, the look of the book takes a turn for the worst when Lalit Kumar Sharma takes over art duties. In particular, I do not like the way that he chooses to draw Kingpin. Instead of being the brooding brute that we are all familiar with, Sharma draws him as a wide-eyed maniac who is entirely incapable of masking his emotions.
This is particularly jarring having just came from the measured, dignified look that Checchetto gave him in the previous issues immediately before this one. Sadly, Sharma’s artwork doesn’t improve whatsoever between this panel and the end of issue 9, which is where his work stops.
Don’t get your hopes up though, the artwork in the final issue in the book by Jorge Fornes is somehow even worse again. To attempt to go from the dark, gritty aesthetic of Marco Checchetto in the book’s first few issues, to the poppy, juvenile look of the final issue is frankly outrageous and really distracting.
Overall, To Heaven Through Hell is a pretty great Daredevil run. It is just a shame that the art style varies so wildly throughout the book, which ultimately somewhat detracts from the brilliant story being told by Chip Zdarsky. If Marco Checchetto had remained on art duties for the entire 10 issue run collected in this volume, then my scores would have been much higher.
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