Thursday 31 December 2015
#CBR7 Book 153: "Daredevil: Born Again" by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
Rating: 4 stars
Like so many others, I was a huge fan of the first season of the Netflix series Daredevil. I decided that the time had come to look at some source material.
In what could easily become season three of the series, Karen Page, Matt Murdock's former legal secretary and ex-girlfriend is down on her luck in Mexico. After a failed porn career, she's now a heroin junkie and she sells Matt's secret identity as Daredevil for her next fix. The name falls into criminal mastermind Kingpin's hands and over the course of six months, he sets out to completely destroy Murdock's life. His rent and utility bills turn out not to have been paid for months, his girlfriend Glori breaks up with him because he never has time for her anymore, he's accused of criminal misconduct and faces a grand jury trial. While the diligent efforts of his best friend Foggy keep him out of prison, he loses the right to practise law. As more and more things go horribly wrong, the more Matt's paranoia plays up and his mind slowly unravels. When Glori moves in with Foggy after her apartment's been trashed (Matt doesn't know that part), he's convinced even his best friend and his girl are against him. Only when his home is blown up, does he figure out that Kingpin's behind everything. All this - the first issue, guys.
Matt vows revenge, but is in a pretty bad state. He tries to kill Kingpin and fails miserably. He ends up in the East River, left for dead, framed for even more crimes he didn't commit. Matt, however, is tough and doesn't die. There is no corpse found, and Kingpin starts to worry. Afraid for her life because she's now hunted by Kingpin's assassins and feeling dreadful about betraying Matt, Karen laboriously makes her way back to New York City. Foggy and Glori grow closer, worried about the whereabouts, sanity and safety of Matt. Reporter Ben Urich works to clear Murdock's name and is nearly scared silent by the terrible reach of the Kingpin. Once again, the crime lord overplays his hand and loses control of the situation.
There is so much plot and action packed into the seven issues collected in Born Again, so much darkness, grimness, violence and pain. Frank Miller returned for a guest run in the middle of the standard Daredevil run, took all the toys out of the metaphorical toy box and didn't so much put them back where they were when he started, as blow up the entire box and leave the toys scattered and broken all over the place. I don't envy whomever was left to follow his limited guest run. It's not exactly easy comfort reading, but it's undeniably very good and there's no wonder this is one of the definitive Daredevil stories. Frank Miller was a heck of a writer before he went completely cray cray. I really wish his frequent misogyny hadn't reared its ugly head with the treatment of Karen Page. Not really surprised, because I've read Miller comics before, but I wish the character hadn't been degraded to the degree she is. Matt's current squeeze, who dumps him at the start of the story seems to move on to Foggy real quick as well, which I'm sure Miller just feels is illustrative of the fickleness of women.
Published in the late 1980s, the art by David Mazzucchelli (who also worked with Miller on the seminal Batman: Year One), isn't entirely to my taste and the colouring especially is quite dated. Having fallen so completely for Charlie Cox' portrayal of Matt Murdock in the Netflix series, I just couldn't reconcile myself with Matt being ginger here.
I'd love to see some of this play out in the TV show's later seasons (although there would have to be some changes, considering choices they've already made). The action packed climax would be especially interesting and opens for the intriguing possibility of cross-over with the cinematic universe that would be spectacular. Alas, I doubt that bit'll ever happen.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.