Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Frank Miller
Artist: David Mazzucchelli
Original Release Date: February 1986
Finally, with just one sleep to go until the Netflix-exclusive Daredevil series engulfs all our lives, it’s time to take a look at what is – in my own humble opinion – the greatest DD story ever told.
Originally released back in 1986, Born Again chronicles the complete and utter destruction of Matt Murdock’s life following a catastrophic turn of events whereby his former girlfriend Karen Page – whose attempt at an acting career has led her to become addicted to heroin and starring in pornographic movies – sells out his identity for another ‘hit’. Upon obtaining this information, The Kingpin begins a systematic campaign designed to break the lawyer down, freezing his accounts, trying to discredit his professional reputation and – in one particularly powerful moment – firebombing his apartment and leaving his costume in the burned wreckage as a message.
As you can probably tell, this isn’t the lively, upbeat Daredevil that some of us may know and love. Writer Frank Miller seemingly takes great pleasure in putting the Man Without Fear through the absolute wringer here, tearing him down both physically and emotionally over the course of the story. This is Miller’s DD at its bleakest, forcing us to stand by helplessly as our hero is pushed to the very brink of his sanity – or perhaps just beyond.
Now I know there are a few people out there whose knowledge of Daredevil is limited, and who are using these reviews as recommendations, so I won’t delve too deeply into spoiler territory for fear of diminishing the effect of what easily ranks as one of my top two or three comics of all time. It’s not flawless, true, and some moments in the third act occasionally lose the powerful impact of the beginning, but as a self-contained journey – and a perfect microcosm of everything that makes the Daredevil character so completely unlike any of the other ‘superheroes’ in the Marvel canon – this is utterly sublime reading.
Matt’s pain-filled journey is brought to life here by acclaimed artist David Mazzucchelli, whose stellar run on the character reaches its absolute pinnacle here. Not flashy by any means, but always masterful in his approach and filled with realism and perfectly framed detail. The action flows smoothly, the emotion pours out onto the page, and the subtle (and occasionally not-so-subtle) use of religious symbolism throughout gives a deeper, almost spiritual air to the proceedings.
What this book does perhaps better than anything else, however, is establish the Kingpin as one of the most powerful villains, not just in Daredevil’s rogues gallery, but in the world of comics as a whole. The calm, calculating and frankly ruthless approach he adopts throughout these pages is utterly chilling stuff, and above all else shows how practically untouchable the character is. Even when he loses a battle, he still escapes with barely a scratch, already plotting his next step in the war. Honestly, if you’ve ever looked at the Kingpin and thought “hang on, what’s the big deal about this fat bald guy in the white jacket?”, then you owe it to yourself to see him at his absolute best (read: worst) here.
I’m not sure what else I can say about this one, folks. One of my favourite comics of all time, and the absolute pinnacle of Daredevil as a character. If ever there was a recommended Daredevil title for a newcomer ahead of the Netflix show’s debut, then this would have to be it. Hell, if ever there was a title full-stop to show someone just how powerful, multi-layered and exciting the ‘superhero’ genre can be in the right hands, then Born Again is undoubtedly that book. Add it to the national syllabus and have kids at school discuss its finer points, while we’re at it. Seriously. It’s that good.
Rating: 6/5 (yeah, you heard me).