4. “Born Again” by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli (Daredevil #227-233) – 1839 points (45 first place votes)
Born Again drastically re-shaped Daredevil as a character, in Frank Miller’s return to the book that made him famous.
This time, Miller was working with artist David Mazzucchelli, who was already doing very impressive work on the series with writer Denny O’Neil. However, Mazzucchelli was still growing as an artist, and in many ways, Born Again was his “coming out” party, as he at the very least equaled, and more likely SURPASSED the incredible artwork that Miller had done himself when drawing Daredevil years earlier.
The story is about what happens when Matt Murdock’s former secretary (and former love of his life), Karen Page, who had left the book to become an actress, was now a drug-addicted porn star. Desperate for drugs, Page sells Matt’s secret identity. Eventually this information finds its way to Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime, who uses it to systematically destroy Matt’s life (getting him disbarred, freezing his assets, etc.).
Then, in one of the best scenes you’ll see, Kingpin also blows up Matt’s brownstone – and then, Matt realizes, all of the terrible things that had been happening to him, they weren’t just bad luck, they were because of the Kingpin!
One of the greatest chapter one cliffhangers in comic book history.
That realization, however awesome, is not enough to make Matt “born again,” as he still has to fall to the gutters before he can rise above it all.
The story arc is filled with so many great scenes that I once devoted, like, a month, to cool moments from it, years ago.
But here’s a quick sampling…
1. Kingpin thinks he has Matt killed, but…
2. Kingpin realizes then that Matt may be more dangerous than ever, as after all…
3. Ben Urich knows something is up and is brutalized by the Kingpin’s henchmen into cowering away from his responsibilities, choosing to not even say Matt Murdock’s name out loud. This comes to a head when a crooked cop tries to come clean to Ben but is murdered while Ben listens on the phone. The way it is handled by Mazzucchelli and Richmond Lewis, who also colored this series, is stunning. However, the effect of hearing a man murdered instead inspires Ben to bravery.
4. Miller introduces an interesting new character called Nuke, and becomes the first writer to extend the whole Super Soldier program into conspiracy theories, which leads Captain America to get involved. But Nuke’s involvement helps bring Daredevil back (after Matt and Karen reunite, as Miller redeems Karen), and his return is, well, amazing – Mazzucchelli and Lewis do SUCH an amazing job on the return of Daredevil. A totally iconic shot of Daredevil in front of flames.
Miller, Mazzucchelli and Lewis depicted the Avengers in such a way that evokes how Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette and John Totleben handled the Justice League in the pages of Swamp Thing – and it’s the way you’d almost expect superheroes to be depicted in the “real” world.
And the whole thing ends on such an optimistic note. What an awesome series.