Daredevil & Echo #1
SOMETHING STIRS BENEATH HELL'S KITCHEN! For months, the bloodthirsty and demonic Demogoblin has been kidnapping children for reasons unknown. In this series, Daredevil and Echo discover why—as Demogoblin works to wake an ancient and powerful evil deep within the bowels of the city. Reunited at last with Echo, herself fresh from a brief time as the host of the Phoenix Force, it falls to Daredevil to stop Demogoblin and save not only the children, but everyone in New York!
It might be cliché, but good stories make the setting a character. This is achieved by infusing the intersection of a place’s specificity and familiarity, capturing the setting’s feeling and rhythm and the elements that transcend region. The specific feeling has felt like a running undercurrent of most Daredevil stories, and the new miniseries Daredevil & Echo does not break the pattern. A work that captures that sense of a sliver of spacetime that not only grounds the story but generates a new dimension to the narrative and craft on display.
Daredevil & Echo #1 – written by Taboo & B. Earl with art and colors from Phil Noto and letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles – offers to counterprogram to the epic saga Chip Zdarsky and Marco Checchetto are weaving in the main Daredevil title. Here, Matt Murdock and Elektra (in her Daredevil costume, making it adjacent to the current run) investigate a series of back-alley murders, mirroring murders from the late 1800s that involve a Murdock in Hell’s Kitchen.
The victim of the current-day murder is an associate of Maya Lopez, AKA Echo, leading Daredevil to reach out and team up with her for help solving the mystery. The two are attacked by a mystical girl, which causes buildings to rip apart and attack the heroes. The two stop her, and Echo recognizes the girl is deaf. In the past, Creeping Death, a member of Echo’s tribe, the Cheyenne, appears and offers help to Tommy Murdock and the church he’s turned to, claiming their God sent her to help solve the killings and stop the criminals encroaching on the church.
In both, the past and present, the team-up of Cheyenne and the Catholic lead investigate a secret staircase under the church’s altar. With the priest dead and Creeping Dead claiming to be sent by God, she can open the path to the staircase. In the present, the church appears to be in disarray and worn, a relic of a past era for the Kitchen. In the past, Creeping Death and Tommy descend the staircase. At the same time, in the present, Echo and Daredevil are ambushed by a demonic figure, who’s already been revealed in solicitation and press to be the Demagoblin.
The scripting for this issue is vital on a macro-level, delivering a solid mystery and fascinating intertwining of past and present to give a sense of history to Hell’s Kitchen. Where the writing stumbles is in the lengthy caption boxes, peppering in pop culture references and descriptions that feel out of place for Daredevil. If Echo were the p.o.v for the modern day, those references would make more sense, as her character has been established to enjoy a wide gamut of culture to bolster her skills. Instead, the voice for Murdock feels a little less specific, which is a departure for the character after multiple recent runs that captures the tone and inflection without missing a beat. This book was written to have been led by Echo but was switched to Daredevil due to the bigger name cache of the hornhead.
The seeds of the mystery and mysticism are planted carefully, engaging enough to compel a page turn but don’t reveal too much, which is a good sign for a limited series. Echo and the past sequences are the more vital elements of this issue and feel more in line with the story being told by Taboo and Earl. The dialect of the Irish Americans gives a fun twist to the dialogue that takes a slight adjustment but also helps to center the reader into the two distinct times. Noto does excellent work on the visuals.
The greatest strength of the writing, and by extension, the art, and color, is the parallel structure in time, which works to flesh out the history and simmering tension of Hell’s Kitchen. The neighborhood has always been an integral element of the Daredevil mythos and has been touched on in the past, but this treatment is closer to the development of, say, a Gotham in Batman. It’s a fascinating angle that slots into the mystery tied into religion and mythology and grounds the book in a different feeling compared to the globe-hopping adventures of the main text.
Noto’s art and colors build and reinforce that fascinating parallel, utilizing two palettes to divide the times, even as they switch back and forth on the same page. There are harsher colors thanks to modern lighting while Daredevil and Echo investigate, while the past is bathed in warmer hues as much of the lighting comes from candles and natural sources. It’s an exciting divide that creates a distinct look for both elements.
The panel work in this issue handles the two timelines with an expert level of craft, creating a rhythmic switching of one to the other in wide panels. Noto will then switch to a page featuring diagonal gutters between triangular panels that split the page. On a page right before, Noto utilizes an excellent structure that shows both duos walking up the stairs to the church, with the first panel being Creeping Death and Tommy, and the following features Daredevil and Echo on the steps above. It’s a simple moment but links both timelines’ movement and pace, creating an echoing (no pun intended) effect that creates a strong sense of symmetry in the art and story.
Noto effortlessly blends the two and then layers in a third specific element with the young girl’s mystical attack. Like Noto’s other entries into Daredevil, the past and present play was primarily focused on the street level. At the same time, that main fight with the magic feels out of the ordinary buildings unravel, and brick and patio furniture flies. It’s an exciting departure in a style that feels organic to the story and allows Noto to play with techniques that feel adjacent to Daredevil but not the norm.
Daredevil & Echo #1 is a strong start to a miniseries that plays with the history of Hell’s Kitchen and the mystical side of the neighborhood. While some of the writing stumbles a bit in regards to narration, it isn't enough to detract from the story unfolding, or the stunning level of craft on display from Noto’s art and colors. Fans interested in a quieter, less tortured version of a Daredevil book or those interested in the ongoing story of Echo will want to check out this issue.
Daredevil & Echo #1: ‘What’s past is prologue’
- Writing - 8/108/10
- Storyline - 8/108/10
- Art - 10/1010/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10