"And I—I have shown him ... that a man without hope is a man without fear."

So you may recall, or you may have ignored, my linking CBR's top 100 comic book storylines as voted on by their readers. When it came down to only having the final 5 titles to reveal, I could easily predict 4 of the stories, but could not for the life of me solve the mystery of the final title. And once it was finally revealed, I was completely surprised to know that I had never heard of it. Now truth be told, I had heard about a singular aspect to the premise of the story, but I did not realize where all it took place in the continuity and who all was involved in creating it. I certainly had no idea the story was held so highly.

And thus, probably the single biggest reason that I have undertaken this silly little Daredevil mega-read was to read the story Born Again by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli.

So, this read through of Daredevil has only recently had some worthwhile high points. The character and the book struggled for its own identity up until Frank Miller was given the reins to write and he immediately gave The Man Without Fear a unique vision that stood out from the rest of the super hero genre. This ended up being good, in fact better than I even expected. Though some of that impression may have been from the things I had to wade through to get to them. A hill can look huge to someone born on the plains. Regardless, it finally gave Matt Murdock a far more compelling story to live. After Miller's departure there were still some ups and downs, but there were definitely some good ups. Denny O'Neil threw out some good issues here and there that built off of Miller's take, and it was very enjoyable to watch David Mazzucchelli grow into his art. Okay, it was enjoyable when he inked his art... When someone else did the inking they butchered the job. Looking at the pencils in the back of my Born Again trade it appears he gives his inker a fairly loose sketch to embellish, but this may be because he knew he was going to ink these himself.

So, watching Mazzucchelli get better and better at his craft, and watching Murdock's life already beginning to unravel under O'Neil's care, and hearing the high praise thrown Born Again's way, I was highly eager to finally get into this book.

How did it stand up? Incredibly well. The Elektra Saga had a short-lived life at the top of my Frank Miller rankings. Wait, I need to clarify something really quick. I am not a Frank Miller fan. Well, now I am apparently a Frank Miller when he is writing Daredevil fan. I have found some of his other stuff interesting, some okay, and some terrible. I have certainly not read all of his stuff, nor desire to. And I am under the impression he has presently lost the ability to tell a worthwhile story.

Where to start with Born Again... I think one point I should make is that I felt the ending of this book did not live up to the beginning. Now this is hard in a monthly comic because really this is not all one story, and yet at the same time it is. There is an ending of sorts at one point in this book that was the peak of the book for me. Still more needed to get accomplished, and the majority of that was done by the end, and there was still good story and telling in this end, but I just felt it took a step away from the strength of the story. I had already come to expect this when I had perused the covers of the story, so it was not a surprise, but it is still a letdown.

This sounds like a rather major problem for this book achieving greatness. It is, I suppose, but I think because of the sub-ending in the midst of the book, I was able to have a greater peace with it. I, in fact, went off for a walk to grab some dinner at this point so I could throw the story up to that point around in my head, knowing that what progressed from their would be a different direction, and judging by the covers less to my liking.

One thing I should address is what Miller does to Karen Page. This was the aspect of the story which I knew about before I really knew about Born Again. I suppose the question is, now that I have read the story, do I like what Miller did to Karen? Well of course I don't like it. I am not supposed to like it. But does it work for the story. I would say most certainly yes. It is dark and disturbing, but this is where she needs to be. And the very fact that she is a known character is why her fall is so impactful to the reader. Do I feel that this fall is consistent with her character? It is hard to see a character who I saw mostly written in corny Stan Lee Silver Age optimism thrown into such a despicable pit, and it is certainly jarring. But I also know that the depths to which any man can sink are amazingly low. So not seeing this progression... err descent makes the change to her abrupt and startling, but I think it serves a good purpose within the story. It is not just Frank Miller bringing in his dark disturbed ways into the book for the sake of being dark and disturbed. (I mean really this is a far more positive story than most any of his others)

Watching Matt get torn apart was great drama as well. The way Miller did this was important for his version of Daredevil in which things are more street bound and urban. His life is not ripped apart by costumed silly villains threatening his family and friends; it is taken through the law which he holds up as his standard and guide. This is where Miller understood what Daredevil's world should be like and where everyone before him failed. And the sympathetic connection with Matt through these struggles is far more potent than it would otherwise be. Seeing him in his mire of depression, not able to turn the door knob to leave his room felt real. He is defeated, not by the silly mind control of a evil scientist or some such, but because everything in his life is lost.

And from the title you can probably guess the path the story takes from this point on. The Christ allusions are fairly obvious. In fact there is one image I felt was a little too blatant in this regard. Perhaps my only complaint against Mazzucchelli. More on him later. But besides that point I loved the rebirth theme and most of how it was told. And there are multiple rebirths. Again, this just seems amazing for a Miller book. And I love the cycle he takes these characters through. The depths to which they must lose everything: utter humility, in order to find life. I have to admit I had a couple points where I had few kicks of emotion give me a swift smack.

The initial majority of this book was expertly told. Mazzucchelli is great at carrying across the character emotions and tell the story of these characters through his art in ways most sequential story artists just can't fathom. So many comic stories have to tell you in words what the character feels because the artist can't portray it. Mazzucchelli in this brings across the feel of the character in most every panel. And watching his sequential story telling is just a study in directing the audience (some of this would be Miller's handiwork as well). I am definitely going to have to give Batman: Year One another read through at some point, to see how Mazzucchelli's art in that looks to me now.

Miller's narration is his typical over the top noir voice. At some points it comes on really strong, but noir certainly fits the story. The voice I ended up liking the most (and it belongs to perhaps my favorite DD character) was Ben Urich, at least through the first portion of the story. Which brings me to another point of enjoyment. Miller was able to bring in multiple characters which I cared to follow. This is not common for me from Frank Miller stories. The Elektra Saga was perhaps my first case of this with him, but it was more the villains than the heroes. I think the only character who suffered in Born Again was one Miller had written so well previously, and that is The Kingpin. I think, even if it had been something prior to Born Again, they needed to have some event to better motivate The Kingpin. I think it would have better settled the entire story if they had been able to better characterize his actions.

Now, to say more on the conclusion which I feel suffered: I think the beginning portion. which I so enjoyed, to many degrees transcends the super hero genre. I think the ending falls right back into it in far too many ways however. It is funny that the stories I tend to like the most from these are the ones that step out of the super hero genre. (And yet I continue to search the super hero genre for the stories that transcend it... I don't pretend to make sense.) So, if you want a better definition of my complaint, that is it. Miller is able to step above the genre he writes in, but in order to conclude his story he falls right back into it, pitfalls and all.

I am also a little afraid as to how subsequent writers are going to run with some of the things Miller leaves the continuity with. I now may have a very hard road ahead of me prior to getting to the Smith/Mack/Bendis stuff. I actually may reread this story first.

"And they took Matt's home and career and everything—no—not everything—'Nothing,' He'd said, Matt did, when she told him what she'd done—'I've lost nothing,' Matt said, and laughed like a boy."

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