Sunday, June 21, 2009

1985 – Daredevil: Born Again

Daredevil #226-233
January - August 1985
Writer(s): Frank Miller/Dennis O'Neil
Artist(s): David Mazzuchelli/Dennis Janke

Frank Miller, famous for his early run on this title, helps Denny O’Neil co-write Daredevil #226, “Warriors”, a 24-page story. Miller, after this issue, would replace O’Neil as the regular writer. The dialog is strong and has a sharp, chilling edge to it. David Mazzuchelli’s art is finished by Dennis Janke and doesn’t stand well compared to his solo art that will follow for the next seven issues.

Melvin Potter, a reformed foe of Daredevil called the Gladiator, is forced back into crime by a group of thugs who have kidnapped his lover and demand money, that he can only get from a series of robberies. Daredevil, who’s suffering through an emotional low with Heather’s recent suicide and the closing of his firm, hears about Potter’s latest robbery. Gloria O’Breen who is desperate trying to get through to Murdock seeks the advice of his closest friend, Foggy Nelson and both unexpectedly find pleasure in each other company. Daredevil confronts Potter, but isn’t really interested in his excuses. Daredevil beats him up and then realizes to his shame that Potter isn’t responsible, and helps Potter free his lover.

The "Born Again" story line by Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli runs through Daredevil #227- 231. Miller and Mazzuchelli open issue #227, “Apocalypse”, with former supporting character (who left to become a movie star, but ended up a junkie in porn movies) Karen Page selling Daredevil’s secret identity to her drug dealer for a hit. This information filters up the ranks of organized crime to the Kingpin who sets in motion a plan that will destroy the unsuspecting Murdock. The Kingpin’s recipe is as follows: one call to the bank to put Murdock’s mortgage payments in arrears, one call to the IRS to freeze Murdock’s assets with a timely audit, one call to a cop (who needs money for his son’s surgery) to hit Murdock with a charge of perjury, a couple of calls to the local utilities to shut off his power and phone service, and let simmer until ready to serve desert which is to blow up Murdock’s home before his very eyes.

Miller provides a text book example of how to properly control the rate of revelation, which is so important in story telling. The subplots in this story effectively pace the events. Getting the Kingpin’s perspective as Murdock and Nelson battle in vain to defend against the perjury charges was brilliant. Not to forget the final “rug-pulling”, as Murdock avoid jails, but has his license to practice law revoked, at which point the reader is finally able to sigh in relief that the Murdock’s luck is finally changing. No such luck as Murdock witnesses the total destruction of his home.

In Daredevil #228, “Purgatory”, Murdock suffers a total mental breakdown, and is unable to distinguish reality from delusion and paranoia. Murdock makes his way to the Kingpin. Their battle is one sided as the Kingpin breaks Murdock physically. Their stage an accident in order to dispose of Murdock, but when it is discovered, Murdock is nowhere to be found.

In issue #229, “Pariah”, Ben Urich, a veteran reporter for the Daily Bugle, gets a whiff of what has happened to Murdock and doesn’t believe those charges against him. Urich investigates the cop, Manolis, who pressed those charges and learns that his son has died. No longer feeling any loyalty towards the Kingpin, he wants to tell Urich the whole story. A nurse working for the

Kingpin and who makes the woman from Stephen King’s Misery seem down right hospitable, hurts Urich and severely beats up Manolis as a warning. Murdock, who barely survived his encounter with the Kingpin, wanders through the streets of Hell’s Kitchen where he is gravely wounded by some thugs. Meanwhile, Foggy and Gloria fall in love. And the Kingpin begins to get worried about the fact that Murdock survived.

Miller and Mazzuchelli really get it together this issue in terms of storytelling. The dialog, the panel organization and the art flow incredibly well. Miller excels in a series of panels which are blackened out, to represent Murdock’s blindness, and only filled with powerfully paced and rhythmic dialog/monolog. The credit page which is a giant single panel has Murdock sleeping in a different position and location which provides a neat form of symbolism to what he has endured. “Armageddon”, a 30-page, no ads story.

The turning point for this entire run is issue #230, “Born Again”, where Murdock refuses to give up despite having had his life destroyed, his sanity broken, and his body crushed. Murdock is rescued by a nun who brings him to her mission and nurses him back to health. Murdock learns that this nurse is his mother. Meanwhile, Karen makes her way back to New York and meets up with Foggy, but the drug dealer who helped her get back now claims he owns her.

There is one powerful and disturbing sequence in this issue that stays with you for quite some time. The nurse, who injured Urich, lets him lisen in as she slowly and agonysingly kills Manolis as another reminder to Urich to stop his investigation. The Mazzuchelli art in this issue stands out the most of all the issues in this run (with issue #233 a close second). The alternating panels, flashbacks, and powerful colouring work very well. I also really liked the pages where the panels where uninterrupted by though ballons or narrative, and had the text in the margin.

In Daredevil #231, “Saved”, Murdock regains his strength and the Kingpin grows more anxious as he knows Murdock is still alive and that Urich is putting out a series of very damaging articles about him. The nurse, eager to clean up the loose ends, attack Urich and his wife at home, but Murdock comes to his rescue. As Karen’s drug lord attempts to reclaim his “goods”, the Kingpin arranges for a madman, garbed in a Daredevil costume, to kill Foggy and Karen which will make Daredevil a wanted man. Fortunately, Murdock intervenes and takes down both the madman and the drug lord, and finally makes a tearful reunion with Karen.

The Kingpin, in issue #232, “God and Country”, contacts the US military and rents one of their super soldiers, Nuke, to take out Daredevil. Nuke goes on a rampage in Hell’s kitchen where the Kingpin hopes he draws out Daredevil. Murdock finally dons his costume and confronts Nuke which is wonderfully depicted in a full-page panel where Daredevil is standing amid the flames of Nuke’s destruction.

More than half a year’s run comes to a dramatic conclusion in a 30-page story called “Armageddon” in Daredevil #233. Daredevil faces off against the super-solider Nuke in Hell’s Kitchen. Their battle is brought to an end by the Avengers who take Nuke into custody. Captain America, bothered by the connection between Nuke and the super solider program that created Captain America, begins to snoop around. He isn’t very happy with what he finds. Nuke goes on another rampage, but Captain stops him and tries to get him to help. The military mortally wounds him during their escape, but Daredevil gets him to the Bugle just as he dies, giving Urich the final bit of proof needed to finish his attack on the Kingpin. The Kingpin is buried in a hoard of investigations and charges, but he manages to dodge them all. Despite being unable to destroy Murdock, the Kingpin clings to having stripped him of his ability to practice law. Murdock, however, is simply happy to be alive.


  1. Yep - don't write them like that any more ...

  2. Too bad this hinges on basic misunderstandings of how banks, government, and the judicial system work, plus Kingpin would never win a fight against DD. Not impressed. Typical Frank Miller.

  3. Sadly Miller s portrait is quite Accurate. And on the other hand Kingpin has beaten DD, on many ocassions , the firts one was when they first met back on Daredevil 171.



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