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Daredevil: Born Again Paperback – January 20, 2010
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A string of unfortunate events take place to ruin Matt's life -- it starts slowly, at first, and then escalates. The bank loses all evidence of his payments. The IRS freezes his money. He loses power in his apartment, and he loses his law license. The Kingpin has a noose around Matt's neck, and he's slowly tightening the knot. At the end of the first chapter, he even destroys Matt's apartment, which causes Matt to go off the deep end. And we have no idea how he's going to get out. Matt's in no shape to take on the Kingpin, having just been run over and stabbed by Santa -- yes, Santa CLAUS. But still he does it anyways. He walks into the Kingpin's building, and his secretary even personally escorts him to the office!
Predictably, the Kingpin destroys Matt. It's a brutal few pages and one of the few times where there's nearly no narration. Each blow speaks for itself, and the Kingpin stages a suicide for Matt in a taxi cab off the pier. But weeks later, they don't find a corpse.
"There is no corpse. What is it ABOUT Murdock? He was a MINOR concern -- a promising talent to be observed and cataloged and even occasionally FLATTERED--and perhaps, one day, to be turned to the Kingpin's way --
--but he is MORE than this. Now he is much more than this. He always was. And I--I have SHOWN him...
...that a man without hope...is a man without FEAR."
Matt's missing corpse consumes the Kingpin. This story is really made in two halves -- the deconstruction of Matt Murdock, followed by, what else, the REconstruction of Matt Murdock. Only when you destroy a person, strip away all the unnecessary parts of a character, can you see who that person really is. That's what Frank Miller does here with Matt Murdock, and he conveys that so well. Like Matt tells us himself, he has to let go of everything, except for what his dad told him: "Never give up. NEVER."
Matt winds up in a care facility run by nurses, in a church. The woman -- Maggie's her name -- refuses to give up on him, and when he wakes up, her gold necklace is familiar to him. It's memorable to him, one of the first things he touched after the accident that blinded him. It's heavily implied that Maggie is Matt's mom. That maybe she wasn't ready for a child and became a nun after having him, but still she loves him all the same.
In the truest sense, Matt is "born again" in this church, brought back to life in the hands of his mother. It's a figurative Baptism. Under the roof of God, and the care of his mother, Matt regains his strength and gathers his mind again. The "Born Again" issue is the crux of the story, since it's around there that their roles reverse -- while Matt gets stronger, the Kingpin stews in disbelief. He goes so far as to hire the insane soldier, "Nuke," to take a stab at Daredevil.
I won't spoil the rest for you. It's an all-out brawl that turns Hell's Kitchen into a war zone, drawing out the Daredevil and a couple of his super-powered pals. The tense, meticulous plotting of the Kingpin gives way to superhero action! It's catharsis for everything that we've been through in the past issues, and the payoff to what we've been reading.
Born Again is a seminal Daredevil story, and it's easy to see why. Frank Miller put the 'devil through Hell, and we got to read Matt come back from it. Any Daredevil fan would get a kick out of this gritty, thoughtfully written, meticulous story. Highly recommended.
This review originally appeared on my blog chezkevin.blogspot.com
It BLOWS AWAY Frank Miller's previous work on Daredevil, and in my opinion even tops Batman: Year One or Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. I've read hundreds of Marvel comics, from the 60's to the present day, but none come close to being as epic as Daredevil: Born Again. It is really that good. Miller's writes drama and tension as good as the best Hollywood films. and Miller summarizes David Mazzucchelli's art in a blurb at the end of the story quite nicely:
"It's almost criminal how easy David makes it to write a script. He makes a three-dimensional stage of the individual panel, complete in authentic detail, nonetheless uncluttered and utterly readable. He creates actors whose dramatic range is startling, whose best and most compelling moments are wordless. He's talked of writing his own comics. Keep your eye out for them. I will. - Frank Miller, 1987"
(Incidentally, Mazzucchelli did in fact write and draw his own graphic novel, Asterios Polyp, which was released in 2009 to stellar reviews. Although I wouldn't know since I haven't read it yet... again, I'm very cheap.)
The hardcover is of good quality too. The only problem I have is how Marvel collected the issues. This book contains Daredevil #226-233, which were all done by Miller and Mazzucchelli. But since Born Again starts in issue #227, Marvel decided to stick issue #226 all the way at the end of the book, which doesn't make sense to me. Although not officially part of the story, #226 works as a prelude to Born Again, introducing some characters and elements that play a pretty big role. So I highly recommend going to the back of the book and reading that issue first. Be careful not to spoil yourself by coming across the last few pages of the main story. This is the only problem I have with an otherwise amazing collection.
My final advice: if and when you buy this book, read it all at once. You can thank me later.