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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comic Book Moments – Day 126

Here is the latest cool comic book moment in our year-long look at one cool comic book moment a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we conclude our look at what is most likely the greatest Daredevil story ever told, Born Again, by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli.

Enjoy!

With the ending of Born Again, we have basically come full circle, in a sort of fashion.

While the Kingpin began the story in an attempt to destroy Matt Murdock, in the end, his attempts at destroying Murdock instead ended up robbing him of the one thing he craved the most – respectability. Meanwhile, while Matt and Karen’s lives are certainly not typical, they are happy together, and Matt is actually in a BETTER position than it was when the story began.

What a great page by Mazzucchelli to end the story.

28 Comments

Thanks for all the DD posts. I love that last line, “That’s all you need to know.” It’s a great last page, right up there with the last page of the Miller/Sienkiewicz’ DD story, Love and War.

I’m sure all the complaints about Miller taking the law away from Matt Murdock will take up several of the successive comments so I thought I’d like to pipe in I actually didn’t mind that change of status quo and think that it speaks more about us as comics fans (and comics writers and editors as comics fans) that we absolutely had to get back to Matt Murdock as a lawyer. Honestly, at the time I think they had kind of done all the could with that. It wasn’t until Bendis and Brubaker that I saw any benefit in the lawyer aspect of Matt’s identity.

I thought Miller set up Matt for all sorts of interesting possibilities at the end of Born Again by having made him a better man. I was honestly disappointed that this was a stumbling block for successive writers rather than something liberating as it was intended.

Brian Cronin

May 7, 2009 at 4:36 am

Obviously, I’m agreed, Graeme. I think Miller set up an interesting status quo, just one that most writers weren’t willing to deal with.

“…Speaking more swiftly than the Kingpin can have them killed.” You can smell Fisk’s desperation in that great line.

I love the last page as well. Karen never looked better after all they had gone through. The status quo should have stayed like this for a long while. The Kingpin had been humbled, Matt was happy, and Karen deserved a second chance by his side.

I loved reading these installments. Thanks, Brian!

Obviously, I’m agreed, Graeme. I think Miller set up an interesting status quo, just one that most writers weren’t willing to deal with.

Including Miller himself apparently.

Like I’ve said before, I think anyone who overhauls a status quo so completely has an obligation to at least write a couple of stories under new status quo just to set the pace for later writers. Also, I think if writers were obligated to write a few stories under whatever new status quos they introduce, it would force them to really think hard before introducing a new one because their own reputations would be on the line if they couldn’t write it well.

The Kingpin had been humbled, Matt was happy, and Karen deserved a second chance by his side.

Why exactly did she deserve it? Part of my problem with the book is that even though its a great story, the ending with its redemption of Karen Page seems a bit rushed.

I was honestly disappointed that this was a stumbling block for successive writers rather than something liberating as it was intended.

The problem with this sentiment, and I see it a lot, is that it assumes that Miller could have rocked this new status quo too. Honestly, we don’t know. Maybe he could have, maybe he couldn’t have. But it’s unfair that we praise Miller for introducing this status quo and blame the other writers for not being able to maintain it as if they are somehow deficient in comparison to him, when we have no evidence that Miller could have done any better with it. Miller gets to do all the fun of breaking the toys and taking them apart to see what makes them tick, gets lauded as a genius which he is, then he passes the pieces off to someone else to do the harder part of putting it back together while he collects his accolades. For example if Bendis stopped his Daredevil run with DD becoming the Kingpin and left, he would have left on a high note and been credited with introducing a risky new status quo with infinite possibilities. Then the new writer would have came on and probably had a lot of the same problems Bendis had with the storylines after the status quo change and people would have been bashing the new writer for not willing or able to handle Bendis’s new status quo and hitting stumbling blocks. But as we saw, even Bendis couldn’t figure out how to make his new status quo work in the long run once he put it into place. For all we know, Miller might have ended up facing the same problem and doing a worse job with the status qup than his successors. So I think we have to stop operating under the assumed premise that the successive writers dropped a ball that Miller himself could have easily carried. We have no idea if Miller could have done much better with it.

If a writer believes his new, revamped status quo is really so full of infinite possibilities, put your money where your mouth is and prove it by writing at least a year of stories under the new status quo, risking your own reputation on it.

status quo

the best moment of the story. for the look on the kinpin’s face when he finds the tables turn on him is priceless. and Matt and Karen happy even after what karen did to cause the whole thing. makes the story one of the best daredevil stories ever

Duff Mcwhalen

May 7, 2009 at 6:48 am

The redemption thing was a bit strange, I mean despite all that happened, Karen becoming “clean” just doesn’t work that well. But wow, David Mazzuchelli. That story could not have had a better artist. He even drew the workout equipment correctly, there are like four guys who could or would do that.

You know, there was a whopping ONE issue — I think — where it looked like Steve Englehart was going to take the “protector of Hell’s Kitchen” ball and run with it, and I remember him giving an interview to AMAZING HEROES where he talked about what a great new take on Matt this was and how he planned to honor what Miller had set up while at the same time bringing his own things to it. And it lasted ONE issue. I think Klaw was down in the Kitchen or something and DD took him down and yelled at him about how you don’t come messing around below such-and-such Avenue any more, that’s under Daredevil’s protection.

And then the next issue Englehart was gone and it was off in a whole new direction. That was when I dropped the book for — Jeez, years. I don’t think I looked at another one until I picked up the Fall of the Kingpin trade, thought “meh, okay,” and walked away again, and then I decided to give Kevin Smith a try and didn’t much care for that either. I did eventually pick up the Bendis/Maleev stuff in trade. But for a long time that last panel up there with Matt and Karen was how I preferred to think of Daredevil ending. It was so perfect.

But I’ve always wondered what the hell happened with Steve Englehart. Because he sounded really up for it in the interview, lots of plans, very enthusiastic…. then bam, he was gone.

I thought Nocenti did some interesting things with Matt as a non-lawyer. It’s no Born Again, but how could it be?

The redemption thing was a bit strange, I mean despite all that happened, Karen becoming “clean” just doesn’t work that well. But wow, David Mazzuchelli. That story could not have had a better artist. He even drew the workout equipment correctly, there are like four guys who could or would do that.

Totally agree, DM kicked ass on this whole storyline, and he got the machine right although I assume it must be custom made because they’d normally never fit Kingpin’s frame. The only nitpick I’d give DM on a side note though is that while he got the machine right, he got the type of exercise wrong. A guy like Kingpin who focuses on functional strength and sumolike explosive power would NEVER use a vanity bodybuilding machine like that to focus on isolating his side delts. It’s pretty much a total vanity exercise bodybuilders use to look good without much real world functional strength. He strikes me as a guy who’d focus on the powerlifting and functional explosive strength exercises actual athletes and strongmen use like squats, dead lifts, cleans, snatches, overhead presses, jerks and bench presses. It’s like when artists draw athletes, martial artists or boxers wasting a lot of time doing bicep curls, which are basically a vanity isolation exercise too.

And yeah, I know it’s a small nitpick. I’m not claiming it’s a dealbreaker or anything.

Also, the more I think of it, I think that final panel may really be a Dylan homage, even if its an unconscious one.

You know how Claremont is doing a book where the premise is what he would have done with the X-Men following X-Men #3? I’d love to see Miller do a 24-36 issue alternate reality book where he follows up Born Again with what he would have done with his new status quo.

@ Greg Hatcher

Honestly, that panel is still my preferred ending for Daredevil. He seems so … resolved.

The Kevin Smith-Joe Quesada stuff was fine, but nothing special. I recently read an interview with Keith Giffen in which he said that he hoped to introduce a bunch of new stuff because (I am paraphrasing) everyone had been drawing from the well for too long. That is what Smith-Quesada was to me, drawing from the well without putting anything back. Any clown can kill off a long-running character and get a reaction. When Marvel killed off Karen Page, I reacted in part because of the good will I acquired for the character with this moment. She and Matt are both deeply flawed, but by accepting that in each other they find happiness (even briefly).

There are worse ways to wrap things up for old Matt Murdoch.

As much as I hate the ending of the story, I have to admit that if this was the last DD story ever written, it would’ve been perfect.

But it’s not. Admittedly, I *think* Born Again pre-dates the revival of positive portrayals of lawyers in pop culture via LA Law (and especially Law and Order, which I’ve often said should be the prototype for any Daredevil writer) so the “well, lawyers are tapped out as a story idea” argument may have held sway at the time – the mid-80s were a bad place for the profession, and I suppose it might’ve made sense at the time. But while it might have been played out… there’s no way the guardian of Hell’s Kitchen thing could have possibly worked on more than a short-term basis.

I do like how Kingpin seems to agree with me – he knows how fundamental the law is to Matt, and takes a grim satisfaction that he took that away from him. Just about every lawyer I know who’s read this story (there’s a disproportionate number of us amongst the DD fanbase) feels the same way.

It’s not like they returned to the status quo immediately. Foggy, the law practice, etc. didn’t come back into the book until about ’91, right? 4-5 years is a pretty long time for a superhero comic to stray from its initial formula.

There are worse ways to wrap things up for old Matt Murdoch.

The guy’s reward is living in squalor and “winning” the love of a grimy heroin addicted, strung out pornstar street prostitute who sold him out, ruined his life and almost got him killed for a hit. Sure there are worse ways to end up, but not many.

Bernard the Poet

May 7, 2009 at 3:14 pm

@ Brian

“I think Miller set up an interesting status quo, just one that most writers weren’t willing to deal with.”

I think that’s a little unfair. Ann Nocenti was the next writer to have a significant run on Daredevil after Miller and she did a fairly good job. She had Matt start helping out at a free legal advice clinic, which soon led him to lead a class action suit against one of the Kingpin’s factories – so, arguably, she reversed Miller’s status quo pretty quickly.

But that followed organically from Miller’s story. Matt would have rebuilt his life, he wouldn’t have been satisfied for long with flipping burgers during the day and beating up drug dealers at night.

“You know how Claremont is doing a book where the premise is what he would have done with the X-Men following X-Men #3? I’d love to see Miller do a 24-36 issue alternate reality book where he follows up Born Again with what he would have done with his new status quo.”

Good idea, BUT, that Frank Miller doesn’t exist any more. The current Frank Miller would probably explore the new status quo by having Matt team up with a gang of topless ninja-hookers and asking Foggy if he’s dense or retarded or something, because he’s the goddamn motherfucking Dare-fuckin’-devil…

T-”The guy’s reward is living in squalor and “winning” the love of a grimy heroin addicted, strung out pornstar street prostitute who sold him out, ruined his life and almost got him killed for a hit. Sure there are worse ways to end up, but not many.”

That guy also happens to love that girl. Would it have been more in character to have Matt turn his back on Karen?

I don’t agree that the ending is a dead end.The ending is open ended enough so that the next writer can go any way they feel. They can work Matt back to being a lawyer, they can have Matt be some sort of community advocate, or they can keep him at the grill. It says it all in those last lines.

The whole point of the story was to boil down Daredevil to his essence. He doesn’t need to be wealthy or to even be a lawyer to be content. That was the Kingpin’s downfall, he took away Matt’s “surface” life. The bank accounts, the job, the house. When does Matt seem the happiest, besides the ending? When he’s working the grill at the diner (that’s another great idea in this story, Matt using his sense to cook the perfect burger).

stephen cade

May 7, 2009 at 7:12 pm

Let me be a minority opinion and be glad that this is finally over–sure there were some cool moments along the way–but it dragged on too long.

Nothing against Miller or Mazzucchelli, but I could never get into Daredevil that much–he’s okay–but nothing spectacular.

Still some good picks along the way–but I feel drained by all that in a row–too much at once.

But then that’s my opinion–it may not be yours.

On the other hand I am waiting for some more Suicide Squad–as it has been indicated there is more Squad moments to come.

But I’m glad those are being spread out.

The ending is perfect and thematically consistent. It’s not just Matt who’s “Born Again”, but also Karen. They need each other. She needs him to protect and forgive her. He needs her because she’s the only thing he has left, no matter what she’s done. Through their friendship, their previous sins and suffering are washed away. It’s about redemption and hope.

I love this story. It’s possibly the best thing Marvel’s ever done. And I’m not even a big DD fan.

But as we saw, even Bendis couldn’t figure out how to make his new status quo work in the long run once he put it into place.

I thought Bendis handled the new status quo well. His whole run on Daredevil is excellent (though not quite up there with Frank Miller’s)

I like all of Bendis run too, but I do think the second half of his run is weaker than the first half.

@T – I just finished reading (tonight!) Bendis’ run for the third time and I didn’t really perceive any drop in quality in the story-telling or any feeling that the guy wasn’t sure where to go next. I think I wasn’t such a fan of the Bont storyline, but otherwise, some of the best storytelling and moments of the run occur in its second half. (And I think this may be more evident when reading the collections back-to-back now than it was when going month-by-month way back when.)

Still, I probably wouldn’t say that Bendis even created a new status quo. Throughout the run, there really was no status quo to my eyes, just a story in constant flux. And really, I think that’s what I appreciate so much about the run. Bendis takes the character and crafts a genuine story (or series of stories about him) such that he stops seeming like this monolith to whom nothing can really happen. Bendis’ telling of Daredevil is more naturalistic than the common series in that these characters and their lives are very liquid and puts me in mind of how I’d prefer all of these hero books to operate.

Not that I’d necessarily want them to all be written in Bendis’ style—just that I’d like to see more books written as evolving stories chronicling the lives of interesting characters than mere story-telling engines. It’s the engine-aspect of these books that has pretty much finally driven me away from reading superhero fare with any regularity.

“Miller gets to do all the fun of breaking the toys and taking them apart to see what makes them tick, gets lauded as a genius which he is, then he passes the pieces off to someone else to do the harder part of putting it back together while he collects his accolades.”

Morrison does this as well.

“I thought Nocenti did some interesting things with Matt as a non-lawyer. It’s no Born Again, but how could it be?”

I’d love to see Brian post a moment from the Nocenti run.

“Good idea, BUT, that Frank Miller doesn’t exist any more. The current Frank Miller would probably explore the new status quo by having Matt team up with a gang of topless ninja-hookers and asking Foggy if he’s dense or retarded or something, because he’s the goddamn motherfucking Dare-fuckin’-devil…”

Hilarious. And true.

I think there are 2 moments here – the Matt/Karen panel, the last shot that focuses on Kingpin. “Murdock, he thinks. And plans.” Uh oh…

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