The following contains spoilers for daredevil (vol. 7) #1, on sale now from Marvel Comics.
Matt Murdock, the righteous defender of Hell’s Kitchen known as Daredevil, has always had a complicated relationship with his religion. Raised a Catholic, his faith guided his moral code – a lawyer by day and a crime fighter by night. Murdock presents himself as fearless, but he secretly fears God. Despite this, ironically, he still disguises himself as the devil. These contradictions have been laid bare several times during his career in the face of outsiders who claim to be of holy origin.
In daredevil (vol. 7) #1 (by Chip Zdarsky and Marco Checchetto), Matt Murdock is reeling from the recent loss of his “brother” Mike Murdock and reconciles with his estranged ex-girlfriend Kirsten who leaves him. During this tumultuous time, he meets a former law school rival, Robert Goldman, who inexplicably bursts into a halo of white light and reveals himself to be Matt’s guardian angel. It wouldn’t be the first time Murdock had encountered someone claiming to be his spiritual guardian, however. Her life was turned upside down years earlier when a mysterious baby was entrusted to her.
In 1998, Daredevil was relaunched as part of Marvel’s new Marvel Knights imprint. Clerks and Chasing Amy director Kevin Smith, who happened to be a huge comic book fan, was asked to write for the horn head. This is when the “Guardian Devil” storyline was born. It would go from daredevil (vol. 2) #1-#8 (all by Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada) and will leave a lasting impact on the character for decades to come.
The story begins with Matt heartbroken over the recent departure of his girlfriend Karen Page. Beginning to question her faith, a teenage girl named Gwyneth suddenly appears at her law office with a baby she believes was conceived without a father. She tells Matt that she was chased by hitmen who killed her parents and only narrowly escaped with her baby girl. According to Gwyneth, the angels told her that the baby is special and will redeem mankind. From there, Matt’s life begins to unfold piece by piece.
Things are clearly not what they seem when an elderly gentleman comes to his office and informs him that the baby is in fact the antichrist and will bring terrible misfortune to all who house him. Shortly after this revelation, Matt’s ex-girlfriend returns to town with the shocking news that she is HIV-positive and his business partner and best friend, Foggy Nelson, is arrested for murder. The vigilante begins to wonder if the old stranger was telling the truth. Stuck in his woes and thoughts, he becomes so unhinged that he attempts to kill the baby, but stops at the last moment.
At its lowest, Matt takes refuge in a church where his mother has lived as a nun for almost thirty years. Murdock expresses his resentment towards his mother who apparently abandoned her family for God and abandoned him and his father as a child. Eventually, Matt finds in his heart the desire to forgive his mother, and she helps him restore his faith in the Almighty. However, as soon as this reunion ends, Murdock’s old enemy Bullseye appears to kidnap the baby and destroy everyone Daredevil loves.
Amid the chaos, Murdock’s greatest love, Karen, is killed. She is hit by Daredevil’s own billy club, which Bullseye later throws at her. This would be the second time Bullseye assassinated one of Daredevil’s love interests, the first being the Greek assassin Elektra years earlier. Worse still, he runs off with the baby who has been at the center of all this madness. As he mourns his brutally murdered lover and swears revenge on those who turned his life upside down, the fearless man becomes the man with nothing to lose.
With pent-up rage, Matt follows Bullseye’s employer to a skyscraper in midtown Manhattan. Once he sets foot in the building, it turns into a hellish landscape. The souls trapped in the walls reach out to her. A towering figure named Baal appears and saves him from the lost souls. Baal claims that he is actually Murdock’s guardian angel and has watched over him since he was a child. However, Matt’s superhumanly sharp senses have already revealed the ugly truth, and he attacks this supposed angel, exposing a henchman clad in armor covered in crude circuitry.
All the smoke and mirrors lead Daredevil to the real mastermind behind his pain. It’s none other than Mysterio, a supervillain who specializes in deception and illusion and has primarily served as an antagonist to Spider-Man. Tired of his repeated humiliation at the hands of the web-slinger, Mysterio decided to take on Daredevil as his new enemy. Finding out his true identity from Kingpin, he attempted to drive Murdock crazy by playing games with his religious beliefs. When Murdock responds to his new enemy’s elaborate plot with condescension and ridicule, Mysterio commits suicide as he is no longer able to bear any further humiliation.
Murdock saves the baby being held in an adjacent room. The baby was neither a savior nor the antichrist, but a normal child. That was enough for Matt. He realized that his faith did not manifest as biblical figures, but rather as a guide to always do what is right. His “guardian angels” are those he loves, like his mother and Karen. They are not patron saints descended from heaven, but flesh-and-blood mortals who see wrongs and try to right them.
Now, at another low point in his life, Daredevil must once again reckon with his faith. Robert Goldman, a former law school rival, a man who even sued him for murder, is suddenly bathed in white light claiming he’s a guardian angel. Murdock has long since learned to be skeptical of so-called signs from above. However, appeals to his ingrained faith often have an effect on Matt. Villains can use this will to believe to take advantage of him, as seen during the “Guardian Devil” storyline. It remains to be seen if Goldman is part of some other scheme or if he really is what he appears — a true guardian angel.