Written as a series of one-sided epistolatory addresses to the (then) recently deceased Karen Page, the mood of Daredevil: Yellow is one of reminiscence and meloncholia, but not torment or despair. Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale recount the early, more innocent Daredevilling days, quietly contrasting the these with the grit of today's hero.
Matt Murdock's life then was dominated by three figures: his boxer father, his partner Foggy Nelson (it never occured to me that Nelson was the first named partner in their law firm, until this story made a point of it) and love Karen Page. Notably missing from the tale is Elektra Natchios, presumably because the Matt/Elektra relationship has been documented so fully, whereas this is my first exposure to how Karen Page entered his life.
I first encountered Tim Sale's art in the pages of Grendel *cough**cough* years ago, and found it distinctive even then. Sale has never, to my knowledge, drawn particularly beautiful people and so it is in this story (one exception - a stunning closeup of Karen Page). To be honest, I'm not sure if I like Matt Murdock looking as gaunt as Sir Ian Richardson. But otherwise, the art is very evocative - more like something you'd find in a cartoon in The New Yorker than a superhero comic - needle thin inks matching perfectly with the watercolour-like tones of Matt Hollingsworth, whose contribution can't be overstated. The sometimes caricaturish, almost whimsical figures aren't quite to my taste for a character who's been drawn in best urban noir tradition by Frank Miller and Alex Maleev, but they do match the nostalgic tone. Another minor criticism: few of the full-page and double-page spreads warrant the extra space in my opinion.
I've read Loeb's Batman: The Long Halloween (also with Tim Sale) and found it over-rated, appreciated his solid work on Superman/Batman and Batman: Hush, but was at a loss to explain why he is such a well-regarded writer, chalking it up to the adulation that someone from the film/TV world gets when "slumming it" in comics. (Case in point: Joss Whedon's praised-to-the-rafters X-run; sure it's decent, but by no means his, or the characters' creative peak.) Yellow however is the best story of Loeb's that I've read, with the obvious exception of the gut-wrenching, heart-wrenching, life-affirming "Sam's Story" (again with Sale). I suspect that - like Kurt Busiek - he's better at personal stories than epic ones ... or maybe it just takes a lot more these days to impress me with the big tale than the little one.
The Loeb/Sale partnership has created similar stories for Spider-Man (Blue), Hullk (Gray) and Superman (For All Seasons). If they're as good as Daredevil: Yellow I'll have to check them out.