Born Again (comics)

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"Daredevil Born Again"

Cover of Daredevil: Born Again  (1987). Art by David Mazzucchelli.
Publisher Marvel Comics
Publication date February – August 1986
Genre
Title(s) Daredevil #227-#233, Graphic Novel
Main character(s) Daredevil
Kingpin
Creative team
Writer(s) Frank Miller
Artist(s) David Mazzucchelli
Letterer(s) Joe Rosen
Colorist(s) Christie "Max" Scheele
Collected editions
Daredevil Born Again ISBN 0-87135-297-4

"Born Again" is a 1986 comic book story arc that appeared in the Marvel Comics series Daredevil. Written by Frank Miller, and drawn by David Mazzucchelli, the storyline first appeared in Daredevil #227-#231. It was later reprinted in graphic novel format along with a follow-up story arc from Daredevil #232-233, which resolves some loose ends from the original story arc. Because of this, this follow-up story arc has become generally considered part of "Born Again".

The story details Daredevil's descent into insanity and destitution at the hands of the Kingpin, as well as his subsequent struggle to build a new life for himself.

Background and creation[edit]

With regular writer Denny O'Neil preparing to leave the series, long-running Daredevil editor Ralph Macchio called up Frank Miller and asked if he would be interested in returning to the series. Miller, whose first stint as writer had brought Daredevil from the brink of cancellation to the top-sellers lists, agreed under the condition that artist David Mazzucchelli would work from full scripts.[1] Contrary to rumor, Mazzucchelli did not draw over layouts by Miller; the artwork on the story is entirely Mazzucchelli's.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

Karen Page, the former secretary of the Nelson & Murdock law offices and girlfriend of Matt Murdock, had left years earlier to pursue an acting career. After a brief period of success, she became a heroin addict and was reduced to starring in pornographic films in Mexico. Strapped for cash, she sells the information that Matt Murdock is Daredevil for a shot of heroin. This information is sold upward to the Kingpin. Over the next six months, he uses his influence to have the IRS freeze Murdock's accounts, the bank foreclose on his apartment, and police lieutenant Nicholas Manolis testify that he saw Murdock pay a witness to perjure himself. By coincidence, Murdock's girlfriend Glorianna breaks up with him and turns to dating his law partner and best friend Foggy Nelson on the rebound.

Daredevil's initial investigations uncover that Manolis is helping to frame Murdock in exchange for medical treatments for his son, but he is unable to find who is behind the frameup and unwilling to turn Manolis himself in to the authorities. An exceptional legal defense by Nelson saves Murdock from a jail term, though he is barred from practicing law. His initial plan foiled, the Kingpin has Murdock's apartment firebombed, leaving his costume in the wreckage to show that he knows his secret identity and is responsible for his recent trials. He also gives out the order to have anyone else who handled the information on Daredevil's identity killed. However, Karen Page eludes his assassins and makes her way to New York to find Murdock.

Now homeless, Murdock begins suffering from paranoia and extreme aggression. He is continuously followed by the Kingpin's subordinates, who provide the Kingpin with frequent updates on his mental state, as he has become obsessed with the fruits of his scheme to destroy Murdock. Driven by thoughts of revenge, Murdock confronts the Kingpin in his office, and is brutally beaten by the crime lord. To avert investigation into his death, the unconscious Murdock is drenched in whiskey and strapped into a stolen taxi cab, which is then pushed into the East River. Murdock regains consciousness, breaks out of the cab, and swims to safety. Badly injured, he stumbles through Hell's Kitchen, eventually finding his way to the gym where his father trained as a boxer. There he is found by his mother, who, having not been in Matt's life for decades, has become a nun at a local church. She nurses him back to health.

Meanwhile, Murdock's confidant, Ben Urich, a Daily Bugle reporter, is investigating his friend's plight and stands vigil with Nick Manolis as his son is taken in for surgery. When his son dies, Manolis confesses to Urich about the frameup and his suspicions that the Kingpin was behind it. Nurse Lois, an enforcer assigned by the Kingpin to monitor Manolis, responds by breaking Urich's fingers and beating Manolis nearly to death. When an unintimidated Manolis calls Urich from his hospital bed, Lois breaks into his room and strangles him, laying the receiver on his bed so Urich can hear his murder. Rather than cowering him, this goads Urich to come forward with his investigation, alerting his paper and the authorities of the situation.

Karen Page arrives in New York, having hitched a ride with a pornography fanatic named Paulo Scorcese, who keeps her supplied with heroin in exchange for sexual favors. She contacts Foggy Nelson to ask about Murdock's whereabouts. When he realizes that Paulo has been beating her, he insists on taking her into his home.

The Kingpin, increasingly obsessed with killing Murdock, uses his military connections to procure America's super soldier, Nuke. To draw Murdock out of hiding, he arranges for a violent mental patient to be released from an asylum, dress up as Daredevil and kill Nelson. Nurse Lois is ordered to relocate so that she cannot implicate him, but she rebels and attempts to kill Urich. Murdock, who has been shadowing Urich since hearing of the articles he is writing on the Kingpin, knocks out Lois and leaves her for the authorities. He then overhears a phone call to Urich which tips him off to the plot to kill Nelson. At the same time, Page spots Scorcese stalking Nelson's apartment building. To prevent his killing Nelson, she runs outside to meet him, and they are attacked by hitmen who the Kingpin has ordered to kill anyone who emerges from the building. The Daredevil imposter arrives to find Murdock waiting for him. Murdock defeats the imposter and saves Page. Page confesses that she was the one who gave away his secret identity, but Murdock tells her he has moved beyond the loss of his material possessions. They move into a derelict apartment, where Murdock helps her through heroin withdrawal while supporting them as a diner chef.

Nurse Lois offers to testify against the Kingpin in exchange for a reduced sentence, but he has her killed by a Daily Bugle reporter sent to interview her. Having failed to draw Murdock out of hiding, the Kingpin orders Nuke to make a general assault on Hell's Kitchen. Nuke shoots down dozens of civilians and destroys the diner where Murdock works. Appearing as Daredevil for the first time since his apartment was destroyed, he is left with no choice but to kill both Nuke and his helicopter pilot in order to avoid further civilian deaths. However, Nuke survives his attack, and the Avengers arrive at the scene to take Nuke into custody.

Captain America, disturbed that Nuke has a USA flag tattooed on his face, investigates his background. When the military authorities give him evasive answers, he breaks into top secret records and discovers Nuke is the only surviving test subject of an attempt to recreate Project Rebirth, the project that enhanced the Captain's own body. Nuke breaks free from custody in the same base. He is stopped by Captain America, but the Kingpin gives the order to kill Nuke. Nuke is shot by the military. Daredevil, having heard word of Nuke's escape while stealing money to rebuild the diner, grabs Nuke from Captain America and takes him to the Daily Bugle, hoping to get him to testify about the Kingpin. He is not fast enough, and Nuke dies before he can provide any evidence.

Trying to get Nuke back from Daredevil, Captain America instead stumbles upon one of the hitmen sent to kill Nuke. The hitman names the Kingpin as being behind Nuke's assault on Hell's Kitchen, setting off a wave of lawsuits. The Kingpin is able to fight off all the charges, but his public image as an honest and respectable businessman is shattered, and his lieutenants lose confidence in him. His obsession unabated, he disregards Captain America's role and plans for revenge on Murdock instead. As for Murdock, he is living in Hell's Kitchen content with his life with Karen and his vow to fight for justice in his neighborhood.

Themes and symbolism[edit]

"Born Again" makes heavy use of Christian symbolism, primarily from Roman Catholicism (though the title itself refers to a Protestant concept). While the story is set during the Christmas season, it follows Easter themes almost exclusively.

The splash pages of the first four chapters all show Matt Murdock lying down. In chapters 2 and 3 he is in a fetal position, followed by him assuming the pose of the crucified Jesus Christ in chapter 4.[2] The splash page of chapter 5 shows him standing, representative of the risen Jesus. In chapter 3, his wandering through Hell's Kitchen parallels Jesus's walk to Golgatha, including the three falls represented in the Stations of the Cross, before culminating in the image of the Pietà.[2] Sister Maggie takes the role of the Virgin Mary both there and on the cover of the graphic novel, on which a dove (traditionally used in Christian artwork to represent the Holy Spirit) is posed above her. All the chapter titles, excluding those of the story arc in #232-233, are names of Christian concepts.

Reception[edit]

David Mazzucchelli autographing a copy of the Artist's Edition of the story at a June 28, 2012 signing at Midtown Comics in Manhattan.

The first issue of the storyline was voted 11th of the 100 Greatest Marvels of All Time by fans in 2001.[citation needed]

In 2012, IDW Publishing published David Mazzucchelli's Daredevil: Born Again: Artist's Edition, a 200-page hardcover collection of the storyline printed at the dimensions of the original art, 12 x 17 inches. The art for the book was scanned by Mazzucchelli himself, and in color, in keeping with other books in IDW's Artist's Edition series, so as to mimic as the experience of viewing the actual original art, complete with things such as paste-overs, blue pencils in the art, editorial notes and art corrections. Mazzucchelli appeared at a signing event for the book at Midtown Comics on June 28, 2012. The signing was preceded by a discussion with fellow creator Chip Kidd and a Q&A session with fans in attendance.[3][4][5]

Sequel[edit]

The "Last Rites" story arc in Daredevil #297-300, though written and drawn by an entirely different set of creators (except for colorist Christie Scheele), is to an extent a thematic sequel to "Born Again". The plot of "Last Rites" is centered on Daredevil systematically destroying the Kingpin's reputation and worldly possessions, much as the Kingpin did for him in "Born Again". In an explicit acknowledgement of this parallel, a deranged Kingpin mutters "born again..." in the final installment. The story also sees Murdock finally unraveling the frame job from "Born Again", winning back his attorney's license.

In an ongoing subplot of "Born Again", the Kingpin hires Foggy Nelson for one of his firms. When writer Frank Miller left the series, this plot thread was temporarily abandoned, before finally being resolved in Daredevil #248-256.

Film adaptation[edit]

Director Mark Steven Johnson had expressed interest in directing a sequel to the 2003 Daredevil film with the "Born Again" storyline.[6] In June 2011, it was reported that Fringe writer Brad Caleb Kane would be adapting the "Born Again" storyline for the film.[7]

In August 2012, it was reported that Fox had turned down a pitch by director Joe Carnahan for a film based on Born Again.[8] On October 10, 2012, the film rights reverted to Marvel Studios.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cordier, Philippe (April 2007). "Seeing Red: Dissecting Daredevil's Defining Years". Back Issue (21) (TwoMorrows Publishing). p. 56. 
  2. ^ a b c Cordier, Philippe (April 2007). "Seeing Red: Dissecting Daredevil's Defining Years". Back Issue (21) (TwoMorrows Publishing). p. 45. 
  3. ^ "David Mazzucchelli Signing "Daredevil Born Again: Artist Edition" with Special Guest Chip Kidd". Comic Book Resources. June 28, 2012.
  4. ^ Johnston, Rich (February 12, 2012). "IDW To Publish Artist Edition Of Daredevil Born Again By Frank Miller And David Mazzuchelli". Bleeding Cool.
  5. ^ Gallaher, Valerie (June 22, 2012). "'Daredevil: Born Again' Artist's Edition And More SDCC Exclusive Goodies From IDW!". MTV Geek!.
  6. ^ Daniel Robert Epstein. "Mark Steven Johnson, director of Daredevil (Fox)". UGO. Accessed May 1, 2009.
  7. ^ Kit, Borys (June 7, 2011). "Fox's 'Daredevil' Relaunch Hires 'Fringe' Writer Brad Caleb Kane". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 14, 2011. 
  8. ^ Daredevil Film Rights Returning to Marvel Studios."The Escapist".
  9. ^ John 'Spartan' Nguyen (October 12, 2012). "Welcome back, Daredevil, to the Marvel Studios family". Nerd Reactor. Retrieved 2012-10-14.