Daredevil is one of the most relatable heroes in comics because of his background and believable powers. There have been a number of memorable stories about The Man Without Fear, though perhaps the greatest is Born Again, written by Frank Miller. Born Again involves the complete destruction of Matt Murdock’s life at the hands of The Kingpin. Not only is Daredevil pushed to the brink of sanity, but his mental health issues are exposed in a respectful, tragic manner. With themes of religion, family and overcoming adversity, Born Again is a graphic novel that needs to be read by all comic fans.
The story begins with Murdock’s ex-girlfriend, Karen Paige, selling his identity to a criminal in exchange for heroin. Kingpin acquires the information and comes up with a plan to destroy Murdock by framing him for a series of crimes. Over the course of a few days, Murdock’s life is turned upside down as he loses his job, his money and home. Murdock becomes increasingly violent, suspecting everyone is out to get him, even his friends. Depression becomes a major theme, with Matt sinking deeper into a downward spiral.
This is exemplified in a scene where Murdock is lying in bed and his thoughts are scattered. No matter how many times he tells himself to walk out the door, he’s unable to. His thoughts take on a paranoid voice, telling him that he can’t trust anyone and that he should kill The Kingpin. It’s a stark reminder of how serious depression can be and how it saps the strength of people who suffer with it. No matter how productive you want to be, depression can take it all away and make you feel worthless.
Eventually, Matt becomes homeless and Miller doesn’t pull any punches with how it effects someone’s mind. Daredevil is shown sleeping in an alleyway among other homeless people and at his lowest point he beats up a cop. Meanwhile, the Kingpin is revelling in his victory, even allowing Murdock to walk into his headquarters and beats the Man Without Fear into a bloody pulp. Kingpin has Daredevil locked in a taxi and driven off a pier. Matt is able to escape and is taken in by a nun, who nurses him back to health.
“My blood…it burns…it spurts from a heart that’s pounding so loudly it’s trying to burst from my chest – my blood – it gushes through high power hoses and slams against the base of my skull. Everything hurts. I don’t know where I am. Sandpaper scrapes my skin every time I move – no – not sandpaper – starched sheets – I’m in bed – somewhere – and the smells…chemical smells. Disinfectants. Hospital. I’m in a hospital.” – Daredevil
I found the religious imagery throughout the graphic novel to be well done. Each act contains references to Christianity, being called ‘Purgatory,’ ‘Born Again’ and ‘Saved.’ The nun watches over Daredevil while he dreams of his mother and father. Within the nun’s care, Daredevil is born again, rising from the ashes to become stronger. Matt reunites with Karen Paige, which stood out as one of the emotional interactions because of what Paige did to him.
Obsessed with killing Daredevil, Kingpin sends Nuke to destroy Hell’s Kitchen, which prompts and appearance from Captain America. Daredevil is able to get ahead of The Avengers, getting Nuke to the Daily Bugle so Kingpin’s crimes can be exposed. The Kingpin’s business reputation is shattered and his sway in the underworld is lessened. Murdock begins a new life with Karen in Hell’s Kitchen, vowing to continue to protect his neighbourhood.
Throughout the story, Miller’s writing is phenomenal, making every character feel human and relatable, from reporter Ben Urich, to Murdock’s best friend Foggy Nelson. Miller’s presentation of Kingpin is a highlight, as he makes the crime lord feel genuinely intimidating and powerful. Kingpin comes off as cool and calculating, but by the end he’s suffering from the same paranoia that Daredevil previously faced.
The characterisation extends to the protagonist as well. Miller’s Daredevil is a conflicted man who has everything taken away from him. His mental health is constantly analysed, with his mind being peeled away piece by piece. Daredevil overcomes overwhelming odds in order to reclaim his life, demonstrating his mental fortitude. Miller deserves all the praise in the world for his presentation of mental health.
David Mazzucchelli’s art holds up well in the modern era. There’s a simple, soft approach about his panels that still get the point across. Some of his best work features Daredevil’s descent into madness and Kingpin’s smugness over defeating the hero.
Daredevil: Born Again is the definitive Daredevil story that will please fans and make fans of people who don’t know anything about the character. Mature themes combine with quality writing to make Born Again one of the greatest comic stories ever told. Buy it now on Amazon.