The Daredevil Storyline That Literally Sent Matt Murdock to Hell

Daredevil usually sticks to the seedy streets of Hell's Kitchen, but one time, he had to fight his way through actual Hell..

Photo: Marvel Comics

“Going to Hell for God is the logical end for the Catholic devil,” declares Matt Murdock in 2023’s Daredevil #12.

Matt Murdock isn’t the only religious superhero in the Marvel Universe. In addition to fellow Catholic Nightcrawler of the X-Men, there’s the Presbyterian Christian Wolfsbane, Muslim Ms. Marvel, pantheist Black Panther, and Jewish characters like Moon Knight and Kitty Pryde. But Daredevil might be the Marvel superhero whose religion plays the most pronounced role in his stories.

Of course, Daredevil isn’t the first Marvel hero to go to Hell and literally fight the Devil, as Ghost Rider, the X-Men, and anyone who had to deal with Mephisto can attest. But when it’s guilty Catholic Matt Murdock donning his Daredevil duds to deal with the Devil, then it’s a really big deal. Which is exactly why Chip Zdarsky — who wrote Daredevil #12 with artist Marco Checchetto, colorist Matthew Wilson, and letterer Clayton Cowles — ended his excellent four-year run on the character by doing exactly that.

Servant of God

When writer Tony Isabella had Matt Murdock meet an old boxer turned priest in Daredevil #119 (1974, penciled by William Robert Brown, inked by Don Heck, colored by Stan Goldberg, lettered by Dave Hunt), the winks toward Catholicism were just an extension of Murdoch’s upbringing as an Irish American guy in Hell’s Kitchen.

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But as with most important aspects of Daredevil, his religious beliefs were intensified during Frank Miller‘s groundbreaking run on the character. “I decided he had to be a Catholic because only a Catholic could be a vigilante and an attorney at the same time,” Miller said on a feature for the DVD release of the 2003 movie Daredevil.

Zdarsky and Checchetto began their run with 2019’s Daredevil #1, with flashbacks to Matt reconciling his violent pursuit of justice with his religious beliefs. Matt, wearing the black costume from his pre-DD adventures, slips into the confession booth to speak with a priest. Although the priest acknowledges the good that Matt does, he cannot support Daredevil’s violent ways.

The fourteen-part Red Fist Saga, which closes out the duo’s run, calls back to that first issue. “You’re a violent man, aren’t you?” an unseen interrogator asks in 2022’s Daredevil #1 (gotta love modern comics numbering). “I told you: I have to be,” Matt insists. “You can’t wish evil away.”

The conversation occurs on a single page, in a nine-panel grid, which largely consists of a bearded and masked Matt staring out from the shadows. Checchetto accentuates Matt’s disrupted state with extensive shading and texture lines across both his costume and his beard, accentuated by Matthew Wilson’s muted reds. Letterer Cory Petit positions DD’s word balloons almost directly above his head, underscoring the determination in his answers.

The Red Fist Saga finds Matt and Elektra, who now also calls herself Daredevil, caught raising an army called the Fist to stop the ninja clan the Hand from damning all of humanity to their beastly master. The preparations coincide with the arrival of Matt’s old friend Goldy, who claims that he enacts the will of God by making Matt suffer and inspiring him to be a better hero.

After recruiting reformed supervillains into his army and battling the Hand’s new leader Frank Castle, Matt learns that the man he thought was Foggy Nelson is in fact a shell, a puppet created by the Hand to manipulate Murdock into completing his parts of the prophecy. “Foggy Nelson? Your friend?” the fake Foggy asks as he turns into dust in the final pages of 2023’a Daredevil #9 (drawn by Manuel Garcia, colored by Wilson, lettered by Cowles). “He’s in Hell.”

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Running with the Devil

Throughout the Red Fist Saga, Daredevil promises to save everyone. So as soon as he breaks free of the Avengers, who have arrested him and Elektra for the apparent murder of the President, Matt goes to Hell to retrieve his best friend’s soul.

After killing himself at the end of the previous issue, Matt arrives in Hell at the start of Daredevil #13. With his father Jack and his faith in God serving as his guides, Matt makes his way through the underworld. Now in a white version of his traditional Daredevil costume, Matt encounters spirits of dead friends. Those of Karen Page and his brother Mike taunt him for his failures. But Matt’s faith reminds him that those people are not in Hell, that these are demons who take the faces of people he loves to hurt him, and so he battles through until he finds Foggy and his old mentor Stick, also killed by the Hand.

And yet, when he faces the towering Beast and prepares to fight to release Foggy and Stick, Daredevil notices a change in his father. Jack Murdock transforms into a hideous white demon, while Stick explains that Matt has been used by the Fist. He brought the Wild, the god of the Fist, to fight the Beast, the god of the Hand, to help the Fist gain power.

In the span of three panels, Checchetto draws Daredevil with his head bowed and clutching the bars of Foggy’s cell, seemingly in defeat. Matt’s face and most of his body remain in shadow, the hard edges of Checchetto’s line work accentuating DD’s tense muscles and torn costume, while Wilson sprays glowing red embers and ash around DD’s white costume, making him look like an angel in Hell. Clowes spreads out Matt’s narration in rounded white caption blocks across the three panels, placed to the sides of Matt’s head to emphasize the rhythm of his thoughts.

“God may never have been behind the Fist… but He’s behind me,” Matt tells himself as he tears open the cage and turns to fight the Beast, two glowing batons in his hands. “I keep focusing on the wrong things. God is love. The thing that drives me is love.”

Even more shocking than the fact that this transition into a figure of love occurs in Hell is the fact that it allows Matt to shuffle off his Catholic guilt. Where Zdarsky, following Miller and others, started out by imagining Matt as a man whose fear of God and fear of damnation drove him to do good, the finale of the Red Fist Saga turns that concept on his head. Daredevil is the man without fear. Daredevil is the man with love — love of his friends, love of justice, and love of God.

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By the end of the Red Fist Saga, Matt’s still a Catholic. But he’s transitioned from a man driven by guilt and into a man whose faith allows him to love his friends better. It’s a lesson that can only be learned by hitting rock bottom — or, in Daredevil’s case, going even below that.