Daredevil: Born Again Review

 

“Hell’s Kitchen is where I was born—And Born Again.”

The MCU is better. No, the DCEU is better. Well, I really don’t invest much into either universe. The MCU has provided me with superhero classics like Civil War, Guardians of the Galaxy, Winter Soldier, Iron Man, and the Avengers. The DCEU is still in its infant stage. Two movies so far. Man of Steel was solid, and BvS tried too hard to be different. Movies are exactly that though, just movies. There are going to be some MCU and DCEU movies that come out in the future that don’t necessarily resonate with comic fans. There have been movies already that don’t resonate with comic fans. That being said, what Marvel is doing with Daredevil and his crew right now, is nothing short of amazing. I’m making my way through the second season of Daredevil again so I can review within the next couple of weeks. As I’m watching the show, I’m thinking to myself, “Man, I really want to read some Daredevil comics right now.” That’s what real comic book fans do. We accept the flaws with these shows and movies, because all of these movies and shows are coming from legendary comics. I implore you to read comics more if you love these films and shows. If you think comics are too boring or whatever, then I feel sorry for you because you’ll never be able appreciate this golden age of comic book films.

I had heard of Daredevil Born Again before. Obviously, I know who Frank Miller is and what he means to the comic book world. I have heard the story of Born Again before, I just never sat down to actually read it in its entirety. I wasn’t disappointed. I knew how great this story was, but I gained a whole new respect for Daredevil. Along with Black Panther, these two men have moved into my top 5 favorite superheroes of all time. Most don’t consider Daredevil a cornerstone of the Marvel universe. You have the Avengers, the X-Men, and legends like Spider-Man. Daredevil sometimes flies under the radar. Not recently though. His show is putting a lot of people on notice. If you haven’t read Born Again, you’re missing out. Frank Miller’s The Man Without Fear is Daredevil’s accepted origin story. I would start there first just to grasp a concept of who Matthew Murdock is.

OH, the 80’s!!

Donald Trump’s slogan is “Make America Great Again.” I for one, don’t think America has ever been great, given slavery, segregation, lack of women’s rights, discrimination towards the gay community, the mob flooding drugs in our country, and systematic and institutionalized racism, but to each his own. But some people would say that the 80’s was America’s best era. Why? Mainly drugs, but that’s beside the point. Born Again was written in 1986. This was a time when the comics industry was going through some changes. Different eras in comics have been given different titles. There’s the Golden age (1938-1950) the Silver age (1953-1970) and the Bronze age (1970-1985.) 1985 marked the start of the modern age of comics, which is still going on today. The years 1985-1986 saw the release of some of the grittiest comics of all time. Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns are credited with starting this modern age of comics. The X-Men became more realistic during this time as well. Frank Miller had been writing Daredevil comics since the mid-70’s. Born Again came out one year after his Dark Knight Returns story. It followed the modern twist a bunch of characters had gotten recently. Daredevil was never a happy Looney Tune stumbling over his own feet in the comics, but Miller took Matthew Murdock down a dark path in this classic.

The story starts off with Karen Page. To say she is struggling is an understatement. She looks rough. All she wants is some drugs (the 80’s. Am I right?) To get her fix, what does she do? She tells the man she’s with in the beginning of the story that Matt Murdock is Daredevil. Scandalous! Right away, Miller throws us into the deep waters. The message is relayed and eventually delivered to Kingpin, one of Daredevil’s worst enemies. He lets six months pass before acting on this new information. This is awesome because it shows how careful Kingpin is. He thinks about every move, no matter how big or small. He wants Matt to suffer, but in the right way. The story transitions to Matt. I love the way Frank writes Daredevil. The cool, calm demeanor really shines through. I hear Charlie Cox’s voice whenever I read his comics now. Matt reads his mail and notices the IRS has frozen his accounts until all of his files are audited. The bank lets him know they didn’t receive his last two mortgage payments either. While Matt is trying to talk to someone about his current predicament, a message from his girlfriend, Gloria begins to play at the same time. She basically tells Matt she doesn’t want to be with him anymore. We then transition to Foggy Nelson. He’s with Gloria and someone has broken into her apartment. No one is hurt, but her place is a mess. Their relationship starts to take shape here. Next, Ben Urich is introduced. He was probably the best thing about this story. He calls Matt and Matt tells him what’s going on. The way Ben is written is great. His reporter side is always showing whenever he speaks. Daredevil decides to interrogate the cop who set him up. He’s being charged with perjury because a cop said Matt paid a witness off. The cop doesn’t have anything to say, but he calls someone after Daredevil leaves. He tells the person that he said exactly what they wanted him to say.

So, already Matt’s life is turned upside down. 20 pages in and the man has no money, debts to pay off, and is being charged with perjury. Sheesh! We then go to Kingpin. He’s being a slimy bastard watching all of this go down. He’s enjoying every bit of it. Miller’s writing here is superb, but David Mazzucchelli’s artwork her is breathtaking. The black and white shown on the middle panels of page look stunning. Kingpin looks menacing as he smokes his cigar. I love how we can’t see his eyes in most of these panels. Kingpin watches as Foggy saves Matt from jail time, but Matt loses his license to practice law. He also orders that Karen be killed, but she escapes Kingpin’s assassins. Matt’s sanity is starting to break at this point. He’s extremely tired. He’s losing his grip on his hero attitude. As he’s walking to his apartment, it explodes. He then realizes that Kingpin is behind everything.

The next part of this story is pretty rough. Matt Murdock has ten dollars to his name. He doesn’t have any support, and on top of all that, he’s tired. Extremely tired. The writing here by Miller is exceptional. He has a moment where he says to himself that he’ll find Kingpin and kill him. Immediately he renounces that thought, because that’s not who he is. As he tries to get up, he falls back to sleep. Kingpin is enjoying every bit of it. Kingpin is then lifting while one of his associates tells him about a story involving Murdock. Kingpin has associates in the city that are tracking Matt. He organizes a mugging to take place on the subway. At first, Matt doesn’t do anything, he’s too out of it. Then he brutally beats the muggers. A cop comes and Matt knocks him out too! He’s completely out of it. He calls Foggy to let him know what happened. Meanwhile, Ben is at his job, The Daily Bugle, and he’s talking with J. Jonah Jameson. He wants to do some digging on why Matt was setup. All of this happening while Matt makes his way to Kingpin’s place to get his life back. There’s an eerie feeling here. Reading this, I knew that Matt was about to suffer worse than he already had. Matt and Kingpin fight but Kingpin handles him easily. Matt is weak. Kingpin then orders for Matt to be driven into the river. He wants his death to be made to look like an accident. Everything goes as planned, except there is no corpse. Matt lives. He lies on the ground, which is covered in snow. It’s Christmas. He begins to remember his life and has flashbacks of when he first got his powers. Ben then goes to the cop who turned on Matt. The cop is about to tell Ben what happened, when one of the nurses turns out to be a Kingpin associate. She beats the cop and then breaks Ben’s hand. Meanwhile, Karen is on the run in Mexico. She is avoiding Kingpin’s assassins. She finds a man that offers to take her back to America. The only exception is he wants sexual favors the whole way there. Matt makes his way to his old gym. He begins punching the bag. He’s sick and was just stabbed by Turk. He’s dying. As he passes out, a nun is there comfort him. An image of a golden cross is shown. Matt remembered a woman with a golden cross in his flashback. He promised her he would stay strong even though he was blind. Kingpin then realizes what he has done. Every second that Matt is alive he grows stronger because of what Kingpin has done. He utters the famous line. “And I have shown him that a man without hope, is a man without fear.”

BORN AGAIN

Our two heroes (Ben and Matt) endure some rough times here. Matt is suffering from a high fever. His rib is out of place, and he’s lost a lot of blood. Ben, on the other hand won’t utter Matt’s name. Kingpin has forced him into a state of pure fear. Karen makes her way to America with her man. She contacts Foggy. She tells Foggy about how abusive the man is. Foggy is insistent that Karen stay with him. A really cool moment happens at the end of this issue. Ben, being the badass reporter he is, finally comes to his senses regarding Kingpin. He wore the cast on his hand the entire issue. At the end, he takes it off and says the name. “Matt Murdock.” Matt is okay as well. He asks the nun, who we learn is Maggie, if she is his mother. She says no. Matt can hear her heartbeat fluttering. He realizes she is lying. This moment is heavy with Christian symbolism. It’s a very cool moment to see our two heroes stand up in the face of adversity.

Redemption is the tale of the story after Miller takes us through a rough patch. The nurse who broke Ben’s hand is out for blood. Kingpin wants to send her to Arizona since she killed the crooked cop. Lois, the nurse, doesn’t want any part of that. She goes to Ben’s home and tries to hang his wife. Matt is there to save the day quickly and capture Lois. Things aren’t going well for our crime lord, the Kingpin. He knows it too. He is fearful of Matt Murdock now. He wants him dead by any means necessary. He takes that attitude to a new level with his next act. He gets a lunatic out of jail to pretend to be Daredevil. The plan is for the lunatic to kill Foggy and Karen. Frame Daredevil even more. Things don’t go exactly as planned though. Matt is there to foil Kingpin’s plans. The man Karen was staying with in Mexico shows up too. He is abusive and controlling. He tries to kill Karen for leaving him. All of this provides some stunning images from Mazzucchelli. Karen is able to escape her abuser. She wants one more fix though. One more go. Just before she picks up the syringe, Matt grabs her, and the two of them embrace. Probably the best image from the story.

We are introduced to Nuke or Agent Simpson is his real name. The character Will Simpson, who was an annoyance in Jessica Jones, is an adaption of Nuke. He takes those crazy pills to become a superhuman. Kingpin deceives Nuke into thinking that Daredevil is the one and only enemy. He weaves a tale of an American man simply trying to live out his American dream. But, this one man wanted to ruin the American dream. It’s an interesting moment for sure. I don’t know Miller’s true intentions with this scene, but I get the sense he is commentating on the way our government (or most governments for that matter) get soldiers wired up to fight enemies. Nuke is already mentally unstable, so some feel-good words from Kingpin is all it takes. Nuke is drawn really well, and the US flag tatted on his face really drives home the point. Matt is living under the radar, working at a diner. Kingpin wants to force Murdock’s hand. Nuke is dropped in the middle of Hell’s Kitchen. He starts raining bullets on anyone and anything in the area. Daredevil is back! He leaps into action and has an epic fight with Nuke. The best writers to me, mix action and dialogue really well. Miller does is perfectly here as Daredevil is trying to figure out how to beat Nuke. Throughout the entire story, Daredevil is very perceptive. His awareness obviously struggled when Kingpin made his life hell. It showed in Miller’s writing. When Daredevil is “Born Again” the writing is sharper than it was before. He’s extremely focused. Karen is hurt during the fight, and so is Gloria, who’s working for Ben now. A surprise appearance from the Avengers comes as Nuke and Daredevil continue their fight. Captain America takes Gloria. Iron Man and Thor come to assist as well. They don’t steal the spotlight but their presence is welcomed. I love comics for that reason. Movies are annoying because actors have egos. Robert Downey Junior isn’t going to just pop up on season 3 of Daredevil. And Ben Affleck isn’t going to be in Aquaman to help Arthur Curry clean the Indian Ocean with some billionaire environmentalist scheme. That was long winded, but my point is that comics are special in that way. There aren’t really a bunch of rules in terms of who can show up. It all depends on how much the writer wants to focus on their main character. Captain America is an important part of this story so it makes sense. After all of this, Kingpin is with some of the other crime bosses. They are berating him about Nuke. Hundreds of people died and Kingpin has jeopardized their operation. One member mentions Kingpin’s dead wife. Kingpin isn’t having that so he ends up killing the boss. Nothing is going Kingpin’s way at this point.

AMERICA!

The final act of this comic involves Captain America. Matt tells him about Nuke’s abilities so Cap goes digging. Cap is concerned because of Nuke’s tattoo. Cap takes his pride in America very seriously. He is appalled at someone like Nuke being allowed to wear the American flag that way. Nuke is in the custody of the army. Cap finds reports of Nuke. The reports say that Nuke was a part of the same program that made him a superhuman. Everyone else involved in the program died. Nuke snaps soon after. He breaks free from the military and takes an entire bottle of his red pills. He engages Cap in a fight. Daredevil steals money from some con men in order to help his employers rebuild their diner after Nuke’s attacks. The fight with Nuke is brutal. Daredevil intervenes just as Kingpin’s assassins come. They are tasked with taking out Nuke to avoid him showing up in the papers. Daredevil sees an opportunity so he takes Nuke in a cab to the Daily Bugle. Nuke was hit by the bullets of the assassins. Daredevil tries to get him the Bugle, but by the time he gets there, Nuke is dead. The story ends with a disgruntled Kingpin watching his reputation become ruined. He isn’t serving jail time, but everyone is aware of who he really is. After everything, he’s proud of the fact he at least took Matt’s law license away. Matt doesn’t give a damn though. The last page shows him walking with Karen, happy as a kid. He says, “My name is Matt Murdock. I was blinded by radiation. My remaining senses function with superhuman sharpness. I live in Hell’s Kitchen and do my best to keep it clean. That’s all you need to know.”

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Christian symbolism is heavy in this story. Almost every issue title is a word of meaning in Christian history. The presence of Matt’s “mother” symbolizes the Virgin Mary in this story. She was there when Matt was a kid, when he first got his powers. Then, in his time of need, she appears again to help her son. Matt essentially dies in the first couple of issues. Maggie recites a prayer for Matt when his condition worsens. The symbolism can also be seen on the front cover of this comic. A nun is displayed on the top of the glass pane with a white dove. The dove I’m guessing, represents The Holy Spirit. Below Matt and Karen, you can see Kingpin. It’s a very animated version of Kingpin, but it’s him. He’s red and orange. He’s swallowing up people, so it’s safe to assume that Kingpin is the true devil. He represents hell.

This is the best Daredevil story without a doubt. Miller’s writing is phenomenal. He paces the story perfectly so by the end of it, you go through every emotion in your body. It’s a must read for people who have become fans of Daredevil since his resurgence in popularity. There are a ton of other stories out there about the man without fear, but this one tops most. Mazzucchelli’s artwork here is sensational as well. Every image is pretty flawless. The emotions Mazzuchelli tries to convey really come alive in every panel. Every character looks stunning. Kingpin is probably the best drawn character throughout, but he isn’t leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else. I love Captain America in this story. Ben’s facial emotions are standouts here as well. Combine Miller’s writing style and Mazzucchelli’s artwork combined for one of the best Marvel, no strike that, one of the best superhero graphic novels of all time. Matt Murdock never quits. Murdock’s never quit.

 

P.S. I didn’t talk about Foggy much in this review, but he was annoying in this story, just how he is in the show with his constant bickering with Matt. I love his wit and comic relief in the television show, but in this story he doesn’t do much. He takes Matt’s girl, but still helps Matt avoid jail time. But the two don’t talk at all after Matt recovers from his predicament. So there you go Foggy lovers.

 

I hope you enjoyed this review. Make sure to like, share, and follow me on Twitter @Hero_Review for more updates on my upcoming reviews. Until next time!!

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