Marvel's Daredevil, Netflix's latest offering, is a well-scripted, beautifully acted superhero saga that is surprisingly impressive.
The 13-episode first season will be posted Friday by the streaming-video provider.
For someone who's never cared much for the whole comic book and superhero shtick , it is shockingly, alarmingly impressive.
Developed by World War Z writer Drew Goddard, Daredevil is the first of four planned series coproduced by Marvel TV and Netflix.
Daredevil has been on screens before. In 2003, Ben Affleck starred in a film version that did not impress critics.
The series is a breath of fresh air: It's not flippant , but neither is it geekily earnest; it's moody and dark, yet never self-indulgent; it has strong characterization without resorting to caricature. (Sadly, I am not qualified to judge whether it stays true to the comic book.)
British actor Charlie Cox, 32, who turned in such a memorable performance as Kelly Macdonald's love interest in HBO's Boardwalk Empire, leads a well-oiled, well-attuned ensemble cast as the titular hero, Matt Murdock. The son of an also-ran pro boxer, the highly intelligent Matt was blinded in a freak accident when he was 9. He spent the next two decades proving he's as capable a man as any of his peers and went on to graduate with honors from Columbia Law School.
As the series opens, Matt and his BFF, Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson of the Mighty Ducks franchise), have hung their shingle as defense attorneys in a ramshackle office in their childhood neighborhood, Hell's Kitchen.
Daredevil is set in the same universe that Marvel has developed over the last half-decade through various films and TV series, including Captain America and Agent Carter. It's a world where superheroes are very much in the public eye - the struggle between various masked men and women has nearly destroyed New York City.
Hell's Kitchen is a purgatory of abandoned buildings infested with drug dealers and pimps - the perfect place for a budding superhero to ply his trade.
Cox is quite good as Matt, a complicated man burning with rage who occupies a gray area: He serves the side of the good and the just, but he's happy to visit crushing violence on his enemies.
Thing is, Matt has no superpowers - and he's blind. Yet he has nurtured his remaining four senses into powerful tools, and, like the mythical Japanese blind swordsman Zatoichi, he has honed his martial arts skills so perfectly he could kill a roomful of sighted people without breaking a sweat.
As costar Rosario Dawson remarks in one episode, Matt can smell people through walls. Dawson exudes confidence both professional and sexual as a nurse who periodically tends to Matt's wounds - will there be love?
The other potential love interest is Matt and Foggy's leggy, 5-foot-10 receptionist, Karen Page (True Blood beauty Deborah Ann Woll), a woman with demons and secrets of her own.
Daredevil has a plot that's, well, comic book-y: Hell's Kitchen has been taken over by a sophisticated conglomerate of criminal gangs that include Chinese and Russian human traffickers, gun and drug dealers, and a corrupt construction company headed by a mysterious monster whose name cannot be spoken out loud. We don't meet him until the final 60 seconds of the third episode, so I won't spoil it for you. (One clue: He's very Apocalypse Now.)
Daredevil, of course, is preposterous stuff. But if we are to have more comic book superhero pap on the small screen - and I'm not sure we need any more - they should be made like Daredevil.
All 13 episodes of the first season will be posted Friday on Netflix (www.netflix.com) EndText