Last week the shop I frequent was having a sale on Marvel hardcovers. I went through them and found a great copy of a book I hadn’t read in years Daredevil: Born Again. I wasn’t the only one. Ed (one of the Blue Beetle dinner regulars) also picked up a copy as he had never read it before, it got good recommendations from us at the shop and the price was right.
It’s amazing: sometimes when you re-read something years later, you can truly take in the scope of how important the book actually was.
For those of you who haven’t read it, Born Again begins with Matt Murdock’s ex selling his secret identity for smack. This leads to the Kingpin getting a hold of it and breaks down Matt’s life brick by brick.
Technically, this story is superb. Despite being produced in 1986, the book is incredibly well written. This was during the time period where Frank Miller was really firing on all cylinders; he had just returned to Daredevil, Ronin was done and The Dark Knight Returns was still in the process of being published. While at first glance the book may look a little wordy, Miller made every caption, every piece of dialog count. If there’s any issue with the story at all, the piece with Nuke now seems a little tacked on.
That being said, I’m also amazed at how stand alone Born Again is for 1) being part of regular continuity and 2) being a storyline in a regular book as opposed to a mini series. Miller’s writing in Born Again lets you in on everything you need to know about the world of Daredevil for the storyline; we learn who Karen page is and what she’s become that drives her to sell out Murdock. We get a brief appearance of Daredevil’s origin and we learn why the Kingpin has it out for him. Sure small points are lost a little, I couldn’t remember why Foggy and Matt’s law firm was gone at this point in the series or who the hell Glori was but it didn’t really matter much in terms to the overall story. It’s a brief blip on the radar and then you continue.
Born again is also of some significance because it’s where Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli first started to really gel together. While Mazzucchelli hasn’t hit full creative stride with Born Again (there is a sharp difference in style only a year later in Batman Year One) it’s obvious that the two work incredibly well together.
Kudos have to go to Marvel for the Marvel Premier Classic hardcover of Daredevil: Born Again. The binding and paper stock are a great way to present the story, especially in terms of the art where the colors and pencils can look their best.
But what really got me is how much of Daredevil’s stories since Born Again, use it as a giant springboard.
Kevin Smith’s run on Daredevil (Scott says: Daredevil Guardian Devil) for instance, brings back Karen Page as a character as well as dealing with the consequences of her life as addict and porn star. There’s also more than one or two pages that Joe Quesada used to pay homage to Born Again.
Bendis and Maleev’s work on the book not only plays off of Born Again but a large amount of Miller’s work on Daredevil. Bendis takes the idea of Matt’s identity being outed to its logical extreme for the age of TMZ and has Matt outed to the press as well as the criminal underworld. In fact, numerous writers have outed Daredevil since Born Again with it always seemingly returning to status quo.
Of Miller’s three ‘goes’ on Daredevil (his initial run, Born Again and Man Without Fear), Born Again is probably the most solid and the most original. It’s a great book to introduce new readers to the reasons why Daredevil is a great character and why Frank Miller ranks as one of comics greatest talents. Hell, I fully plan on telling my girlfriend to give it a read. As for Ed, turned out he quite enjoyed the book. He had never been a huge Daredevil reader but you could kind of see the gleam in his eye where he really wants another Daredevil book to follow it up with.
To which I will put it up to you loyal readers in the comment section. Which Daredevil run/graphic novel would you suggest to Ed next? Sure there’s Frank Miller’s entire run to consider but what else would you throw in there?