Posted - January 23, 2011 | Updated March 27, 2012 | September 11, 2015
Daredevil: Born Again
What Is Daredevil Born Again?
Daredevil Born Again is the name of a story arc done by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli in issues 227 to 233 of Daredevil, the Man Without Fear (1st series) comics. It has since been regarded as one of the greatest Daredevil stories ever told - I happen to think it is the best Daredevil story ever.
This grim, powerful tale revolves around the systematic destruction of Daredevil's life by his arch-nemesis, the Kingpin . As his world slowly crumbles around him, as his money and home is taken, his career, both as lawyer and costumed crimefighter, in shambles, we get to see, with the same morbid fascination if it were a car crash, we get to see, what happens to Matt Murdock, also known as Daredevil.
Daredevil Born Again is a powerful character study, to be sure. But it is also a riveting tale that uses the traditional tools of the comic book craftsman: story and art. And uses it well. And craftsmen these men are. Miller and Mazzucchelli cement their legend among comics' greats with this incredible effort. Daredevil Born Again forces us all to confront our greatest fear: What if we lost everything? Our jobs, our money, our home, our entire life. What if we lost everything? Viewed from this vantage point, Daredevil Born Again is a horror story of harrowing power - and irresistible fascination.
The Top 6 Things I Like About Daredevil Born Again
1. Daredevil's Heroic Reassurance
After all these years, these are the panels which I remember with the greatest clarity and come back to again and again in my mind's eye :
On the phone is costume maker Melvin Potter. Melvin is a reformed criminal, he's talking to Betsy, his wife, and foremerly, his therapist; the woman who helped him stop being the bad guy. And what a bad guy he was. Melvin used to be called the Gladiator. You should've seen him : metal mask, deadly sharp discs on his hands.
Going back to the panels. I can feel how worried Melvin is. The Kingpin wants him to do something against Daredevil and Melvin owes Murdock for defending him and keeping him from jail. The magic in this panels is that I can actually feel the struggle going on inside Melvin Potter. And then there is that panel with Matt Murdock in silhouette, that simple panel and the dialogue that goes with it exudes a steely confidence that cuts across the anxiety in the panels before it. The last panel: Melvin is suddenly problem free - look at that smile.
I love this sequence. This is what the best heroes do isn't' it? They make things right. God, so simple but so powerful. This is my personal favorite from Daredevil Born Again.
2. The Kingpin's All-Pervading Evil
Let's make a list of just what the Kingpin does in Daredevil Born Again :
EVIL. The Kingpin is delightfully unfunny here. No costumed villain dramatics. I've lived long enough to know what it's like to not have money, to not be able to pay the bills. I know what it's like to be jobless. So I'm right there with Matt as he goes through these tortures. The Kingpin is savagely cruel. Many things kept the pages turning for me, one of them was the anticipation that the Kingpin would pay for all these in the end.
3. How the Kingpin's Malice Gets Translated on the Ground
These high-level manipulations are too removed from the action, so Miller takes us down to the ground level with a choice of thugs. There's Nuke, a trigger-happy psycho military type, but my money goes to Lois.
Lois is one of Kingpin's enforcers. During the course of the story we see her breaking Ben Urich's fingers.
She beats up Nick Manolis, a cop.
Then she kills Manolis in the hospital while a terrified Urich listens on the phone.
Then she goes after Doris, Ben's wife.
4. Daredevil Shows Us What He's Made Of
Ben Urich and Nick Manolis are given a hard time but it is Murdock who is the real target; and Matthew's life is slowly taken apart. His money, his career, his beautiful three-story brownstone. The nadir is reached when the Kingpin himself beats him senseless, traps him inside a cab and throws the cab in the river. It's over. Daredevil is dead.
In the darkness of the river, inside that cab, Mazzucchelli gives us a wonderful panel.
At the core of the Daredevil mythos is the image of the boxer. The fighter. Matt's father was a champion and Matt trains at Fogwell's, a boxing gym . Boxers ignore the beatings and fight on. So does Matt.
He has nothing left but himself, so that's what he works with. I think it particularly wonderful that he manages to hit the punching bag so hard the chain breaks.
It hasn't been easy to get to this point, along the way he gets beaten and stabbed, but the resolve is too strong, it's just a matter of time before Daredevil returns.
Meanwhile, the Kingpin goes about his day unable to shake the fact that Matthew Murdock's corpse has not been found. Outwardly he seems unshaken but you get the sense of a growing alarm in the Kingpin.
5. Captain America and Daredevil Compared
The main story is satisfying enough but we also get an answer to the fanboy question: Who's better Daredevil or Captain America?
Well 'better' seems a poor choice of words. The accurate question is 'Who is more physically fit'. The answer is Captain America - courtesy of his super soldier serum.
6. The Love Story
Another big part of the arc is the love story between Matt and Karen Page. The maturity of the treatment of their relationship was such that I would have simply ignored it if I had read the Born Again storyline during my teens.
When I was a teenager, if you told me that a girl that I loved (or had a crush on) would become a junkie, a porn movie actress, a prostitute and finally, would leak my greatest secret, I would say that she would be up for an act of revenge. But Matt continues to love Karen all throughout. Now that I'm much older, I understand, not wholly, but enough to realize the plausibility of such a relationship.
I've read the whole trade paperback three times. I'm getting the impression that the arc can stand continued rereadings, revealing something new each time. It's deep and satisfying and very much recommended.
What Happened To Them After Daredevil Born Again
For a long time it was easy to follow the adventures of the Man Without Fear. There was only one Daredevil series - the original one started by Stan Lee, Bill Everett and Jack Kirby in April 1964. This series would last until October 1998 ending with issue 380.
From November 1998 onwards the second series would begin with number one. This is the series known as the Marvel Knights Daredevil or Daredevil (2nd series).
Now here is where it gets a bit confusing. Starting from issue 120, Daredevil (2nd series) would go back to the old numbering system of the first series; renumbering 120 to 500. The second series would be cancelled with issue 512 February 2011.
Because of this we can consider the first and second series of Daredevil as one continuous series comprising 512 issues and 11 annuals.
The latest series, Daredevil (3rd series), began September 2011 and is the current Daredevil series.
Outside of the main series there is also Daredevil: Yellow. This six-issue series focuses on Matt's relationship with his father, the tragic boxer Battlin' Jack Murdock.
Also worth checking out is Daredevil: Love and War, a graphic novel that came out during Shooter's tenure as Marvel Chief. Bill Sienkiewicz is one of the most "unique" or unusual artists ever to work for Marvel; I, for one, love his slightly abstract art in New Mutants, the same art that is in Love and War.
The Greatest Daredevil Stories and Runs
The greatest Daredevil story ever told is Daredevil Born Again. You just can't get anything better than that. The second best Daredevil story ever is the Electra arc also by Frank Miller. Both stories come from the Frank Miller run which spans Daredevil 158 to 191.
Before this, another good run would be the Gene Colan run. Gene Colan, master of shadows, did Daredevil from issue 20 to 100. A lot of people say that Colan's Daredevil was a bit like Spider-Man, a bit of a clown. Colan himself would say that he did go for a more playful take on DD but he did not have Spider-Man in mind, rather, he was thinking of Will Eisner's legendary hero, the Spirit (see the full interview here.) This is the run to go to before the noir treatment of Frank Miller.
An excellent follow up to Daredevil Born Again would be the Fall of the Kingpin arc from Daredevil (1st series) issues 297 to 300. The tables are turned on the Kingpin in this story - the big guy proves to be every bit as tough as Matt Murdock.
Daredevil's second series presents us with the beautiful art of Joe Quesada. This is Daredevil (2nd series) issues 1 to 13.
Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev would helm Daredevil (2nd series) from issue 26 to 81. People are divided about this run but I love Maleev's atmospheric panels and writing is top notch with Bendis in the helm.
One would think that it would be hard to follow the Bendis/Maleev Daredevil but for the next creative team, Marvel brought out equally potent creators. It's Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark. How can this not be good? This is part of the team which gave us the excellent Gotham Central (Greg Rucka making up the complete trio). The Brubaker/Lark issues are from 82 to 119 (also known as issue 500) of Daredevil (2nd series).