[This review comes from Bob Schoonover, who's annotating NBC's Chuck on his blog.]
Daredevil: The Devil, Inside and Out, Vol. 1 is the beginning of Ed Brubaker's run on Daredevil, and, given the first six pages, ought to have been confusing and required weeks of digging through previous trades to understand what was going on. To be sure, the status quo in Marvel books is changing regularly, and this can be a headache for someone wanting to begin following Marvel characters. Realizing that the first trade in Mr. Brubaker's run begins with Matt Murdock, Daredevil, in prison, can be even more off-putting.
To his credit, Mr. Brubaker deftly pulls off the explanation of Matt Murdock's imprisonment without lengthy flashbacks or relying on the reader to be familiar with Brian Michael Bendis's previous run. In the end, he presents a compelling story of the prisons in Matt Murdock's life - the one Murdock is incarcerated in, the one created by his secret identity, and the one created around him by his family and friends.
The story begins with a Daredevil fighting crime in Hell's Kitchen, while Matt Murdock sits in prison, charged with obstruction of justice (essentially, for being Daredevil). Of course, Murdock is in the same prison as many of his enemies, including The Owl, The Kingpin, and Hammerhead. These two story strands interweave as the Daredevil on the outside interacts with Foggy Nelson and the rest of Murdock's law team, while Matt Murdock takes control of his prison life. By the end of this arc, the second Daredevil is revealed (this would be the Daredevil that was in Civil War), and Matt Murdock begins his quest to find out who set him up to go to prison (a fact that will be made plain in the next review).
My experience with Daredevil had been mostly limited to Frank Miller's run from the '80s and a random trade here or there. However, I enjoyed Brubaker's run on Batmanand Detective Comics, and decided to follow him to the most "Batman-like" character in the Marvel universe. Brubaker comes out swinging for the fences, including Bullseye, The Kingpin, a second Daredevil, and The Punisher in his opening arc. It was clear that from the various conversations and narrations that I had missed a lot in Matt Murdock's life, but Brubaker deftly covered the important parts, allowing the story to flow without the need for editor's boxes, or for me to hit Wikipedia. This was all done while keeping the story moving at a brisk pace, something I always appreciate.
As good as the story is, and it is good, the art by Michael Lark really makes the book stand out. Lark's style works spectacularly in the "realistic" setting of Hell's Kitchen and prison. My first exposure to Lark was in Gotham Central, and I think he really upped his game since then. The last four pages of the TPB contain an interview from Marvel Spotlight with Brubaker and Lark concerning the opening sequence of this trade, and Lark explains some of his techniques and choices - I'm not an art student by any stretch, but after reading the interview and re-reading the trade again, it's clear that Lark had a very specific idea of the world he was working in, and he executed it perfectly.
For those that are curious about continuity, this volume takes place approximately during Civil War. I think Brubaker managed to have the only comic series/property at Marvel that wasn't involved in the battle between heroes, and I'm glad for it. Daredevil's strength, as both a character and a series, comes from him being out on his own or with other street-level heroes. Daredevil may be the best Marvel analog to DC's Batman, but unlike Batman, who has been elevated from a street-level hero to the Bat-God (see Morrison's run on JLA, or even Mark Waid's) so that he can interact with other superheroes and be involved in cosmic events, Daredevil has chosen not to be in the New Avengers, and has largely avoided the bigger events (it does not appear that he was involved in any Secret Invasion crossovers, either, and I haven't seen a Dark Reign tie-in yet).
By avoiding some of these high-octane stories, the writers can keep Daredevil on the street, and don't have to continuously create more ridiculous situations/villains to spur the hero on or make the universe consistent [it's always seemed odd to me that Nightwing has faced Trigon (The New Teen Titans), Batman has faced off against New Gods (JLA: The Rock of Ages) and Martians ( JLA: New World Order), and Robin faces off against Anarky].
For anyone that liked Brubaker's Batman run (or Greg Rucka's run in Detective, for that matter), Frank Miller's Daredevil run, or Batman: Year One, I think Daredevil: The Devil, Inside and Out, Vol. 1 will suit your needs. Brubaker and Lark have crafted a great prison story where everyone - the prisoners, the guards, the people on the outside - has depth, human needs and human emotions, and Daredevil is, as it always seems, put through the wringer.
[Read a review of Daredevil: The Devil, Inside and Out Vol. 2 from Collected Editions contributor Jeffrey Hardy Quah.]