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Monday, November 4, 2019

David Mazzuchelli's Daredevil Artisan Edition - a Review

David Mazzuchelli's Daredevil Born Again Artisan Edition (September 2019)
IDW Publishing

What are the comic book stories in your history that left you waiting impatiently for the next issue to arrive? In retrospect, it's probably a short list when you really consider a sense of anticipation that bordered on anxiety. For me, there are a few such times.
Notably, Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns would be one. And today's fare, coincidentally (or not) also by Frank Miller, is another.

I am not going to review the "Born Again" storyline, although I'd love to converse with any and all concerning just how awesome a read it is. In putting together today's post, I found that the photographing (the book is too large for my scanner), scanning (of the reprinted story), and cropping took quite a long time - I kept stopping and reading on each sample! So if you've never read it, I'd encourage you to find a copy of the trade, or pay for the individual issues (Daredevil #s 227-233) online.

My focus today is IDW's recently released paperback David Mazzuchelli's Daredevil Born Again Artisan Edition. I was not fortunate enough to get my mitts on the Artist Edition when it was published a few years ago, but I am eternally thankful to the original art gods that IDW chose this book to reissue in the somewhat-smaller-and-much-more-affordable format. The book clocks in at a thick 9"x12" (approximately), and is published on heavy stock. I don't believe it's as heavy or the same texture as original art board - which is the composition of pages in your standard Artist Edition - but it's nice. There are also several pages crafted of vellum, which I'll discuss a bit later. Although I come from a family of printers, there were some parts of the process that I didn't fully comprehend. Suffice it to say that printing in the mid-1980s was a bit more primitive than color separations allowed by current computerized tech. That Mazzuchelli could pull off his vision - and it was a vision - is amazing (at least to this reader).

As we commence, I've chosen some interesting panels and pages from the Artisan Edition. For comparison's sake, I've also included color panels. Although remastered, I do hope they provide the impact of the story's published colors. Christie Scheele colored six of the seven issues, with Mazzuchelli himself on one.

Leading off, above, is the first page of the Artisan Edition, followed below by the Table of Contents. I love the color choices on these pages. The khaki and crimson mesh quite nicely.

Next up, the cover to Daredevil #227. I vividly recall pulling this from the spinner rack in Eureka, IL while in college. I'd recently gotten back into comics after a multi-year hiatus during which I missed 90% of Miller's first turn on DD. If my aging memory serves, #227 was my second issue. Talk about hitting the ground running! Here we have a vellum overlay featuring the Kingpin and the crosshairs images. When put together, you can see the finished product. Again, I didn't completely grasp the technicalities of the printing processes of the day, but that Mazzuchelli could figure out "if I do this, then it will look like that" impresses me.

Turning the cover of the first issue let us know right away this wasn't going to be any sort of standard art job. Saying that is not to denigrate any other artists' work. But c'mon... look at that initial page and tell me Mazzuchelli didn't pour himself into this project from the start. Breathtaking... And note how reliant the mood is on blacks and whites in the published version. I can't decide which version of the page I like better!

Later in that first issue, there are two really nice sequences involving Foggy Nelson and Matt's (former) girlfriend Glorianna O'Breen. I have to declare that the original art is better. The use of zipatone is impactful. The first panel is from page 9; the second sample is found on page 13.

One of the neat little extras is a DD illustration to break the end of one issue and cover of the next.

Page 7, from Daredevil #228. The black background makes both versions pop:

At the end of the book there are several extras, including some samples of Mazzuchelli's pencil art. Below is page 12 from DD #228, with the published version:

Detail from Daredevil #228, page 15. I love the lighting on this street scene.

This sequence occurs early in Daredevil #229. Say, did you know that the first several issues in the arc include a person lying in bed, or at least in some state of repose? Check it out.

Later that same issue, Ben Urich's livelihood takes a turn (page 19):

I thought it was a great reveal when Matt figured out his healer's story. If you've not read this, I won't spoil it for you. This is page 2 from Daredevil #230:

This panel is found on page 10, and may be the single best panel in the entire story. Phenomenal use of lighting, and Miller nails J. Jonah Jameson. Just nails him. This is another sample that plays better in black and white.

Daredevil #231, cover:

In Daredevil #232 we are introduced to Nuke. Man, is he a treat. Great character, and perfect for this storyline. This panel is on page 4.

The Avengers show up in DD #233 to take down Nuke. Captain America is particularly interested in this rogue soldier. Note Iron Man's Silver Centurion armor. The first sample is page 9, followed by a couple of panels from page 22.

And to wrap things up today, another one of the extras at the back of the book is the original art for one of the trade paperback collections. This happens to be the cover of the edition I own. I read this story a few months ago, in anticipation of getting the Artisan Edition. As I said at the top, it's a great story. And I'm just a lover of original art and of seeing the creative process. This book did not disappoint.


  1. Wow, what a book. Great job as always, Doug! I missed this run entirely, as I was pretty much out of comics by 86, and had stopped buying DD after 200. This looks excellent, again another tale added to my "must find" list (man, that list is getting long...). Not familiar with David Mazzuchelli, shame on me. My initial impression upon viewing your post was that it had a Klaus Janson feel, but more intricate. That stained glass window page is stunning.

    1. Happy Monday, friend -

      While seeking out this tale, be sure to get your mitts on Miller and Mazzuchelli's Batman: Year One. The art in that one is really nice as well.



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