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Comic Book / Born Again
aka: Daredevil Born Again

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"Six hours. Spent sweating and straining, seeking the limits of his own inhuman strength. Seeking the place past the thought. There is no corpse. What is it about Murdock? He was a minor concern - - a promising talent to be observed and catalogued and even flattered- - and perhaps one day to be turned to the Kingpin’s way - - but he is more than this. Now he is much more than this. He always was. And I - - have shown him… that a man without hope…is a man without fear. "
Wilson Fisk/The Kingpin’s monologue, the conclusion of Part Three: Pariah

The Daredevil story.

1986 was a big year for Frank Miller. In between the other stuff, he also happened to write this: an instant classic and swan-song to his hugely influential 1979-83 stint on the character. The story goes like this: Karen Page, the love of Matt Murdock's life, now a washed-up and coked-out adult film star, sells his secret identity for a fix. Said information, as good as gold, makes its way to no less than the Kingpin of Crime, Wilson Fisk. Who proceeds to "test" the information — by completely ruining Murdock's life.

Murdock loses his house, job, friends, and even sanity. But as Murdock, exhausted and enraged, fights the Kingpin — and survives, however destitute — Fisk notices something. Murdock won't quit. Kingpin finally has found the man he cannot break.

The story is considered one of the best of the era and one of the three eminent superhero deconstructions — among them Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen — though less famous than they are (and notably the only one to be set in its publisher's main continuity rather than a standalone miniseries). This is somewhat ironic in itself, given that of the three, Born Again probably remains closest to the traditional superhero story, without going into Sociopathic Hero territory. More than the other two, Murdock is portrayed as a fundamentally decent guy with genuine heroic impulses while still very much a human being, and the central story is an old-fashioned battle between the hero and the villain. Notable for featuring perhaps the first time a superhero comic issue in which the hero is not once in his costume.

A live-action adaptation of Born Again —intended as a sequel to the 2003 Daredevil film— was in development at one point but never made, while a later pitch for a (separate) film adapting the story was rejected by 20th Century Fox in 2012. However, the third season of Daredevil (2015), released in 2018, would ultimately borrow several elements from the story. In 2022, however, it was announced that a revival of the 2015 series would be titled Daredevil Born Again and is scheduled to premiere in early 2024.

Born Again provides examples of the following tropes:

  • All for Nothing: NYPD officer Nick Manolis testified that he witnessed Matt Murdock bribe a witness in order to get Kingpin to pay for the best treatment money can buy for his terminally ill (but not hopelessly so) son. His son dies anyway and Manolis decides to come clean to Ben Urich.
  • Ax-Crazy: Nuke is the end result of a military project designed to create a super soldier. The procedure twisted his mind and reduced him to a delusional maniac who would unhesitatingly kill anyone whom he perceived to be a threat to him or his home country.
  • Bad Santa: Matt is stabbed by a thug dressed as Santa.
  • Battleaxe Nurse: Nurse Lois is a gruff, intimidating nurse who supervises Nick Manolis' recovery. She's also a mob enforcer for the Kingpin who breaks Ben Urich's fingers and kills Manolis.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Kingpin sets out to destroy Matt Murdock's life and succeeds. He just didn't count on him becoming more ruthless as he has nothing left to lose.
  • Berserk Button: For a crime lord, Fisk is actually a pretty reasonable guy. He listens to his subordinates and considers their advice. But don't mention his wife, or he will personally strangle you to death.note 
  • BFG: Nuke carries a massive gun, "Betsy," which he uses to blow away a large portion of Hell's Kitchen.
  • Big Bad: Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. The Kingpin, who is determined to destroy Matt Murdock's life and pulls every string he has to do it.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Between a bloodthirsty psychopath in a Daredevil costume and a murderous drug dealer coming for them pretty much at the same time, it looks like Karen and Foggy are screwed. Enter a reinvigorated Matt Murdock who manages to lay out both threats without breaking a sweat.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Matt's been disbarred and still hasn't reconciled with Foggy, but he's recovered from the trauma inflicted on him throughout the story and is shown to be happy together with Karen. On the flip side, the Kingpin manages to escape legal consequences for his actions, but the Daily Bugle's exposé ruins his attempts at creating a legitimate public image for himself and undermines control of his criminal empire.
  • Blessed with Suck: During Murdock's rehabilitation in the Catholic mission, he relives the terrifyingly painful early days of acclimating to his new senses. Though he is able to hear and smell far-away objects with uncanny precision, he soon picks up unpleasant essences and suffers from deafeningly loud noises, being overwhelmed to the point he can barely sleep.
  • Body-Count Competition: Nuke carries an assault rifle that is somehow able to keep count of the people it kills. For each mission, he tries to break his own record.
  • Boring, but Practical: Kingpin's plan to dismantle Matt Murdock's life. He bribes a cop to testify that Murdock manipulated a witness, resulting in getting him disbarred. All his utilities are cut off as his paying his bills got "lost" in bureaucracy. His financial assets are frozen pending an IRS investigation. It only begins to go wrong for the Kingpin when he himself finds it too boring.
  • The Bus Came Back: This story marked the return of Karen Page after a seven-year absence, her previous appearance being in issue #138 and Ghost Rider #20.
  • The Cameo: Thor and Iron Man show up in the final part of the story with Captain America
  • Captain Patriotic: Nuke is a dark version. In contrast to Captain America's noble patriotism, Nuke is all about crazed jingoism.
    Nuke: Because of you, Americans are ASHAMED of themselves! ASHAMED OF OUR BOYS!
    Captain America: I'm an American -- And you sure as HELL don't speak for me!
    • Captain America plays it (mostly) straight in his guest appearance, even apologizing to the MPs sent to stop him, knowing they're just following orders. One of his most iconic quotes comes when he goes to confront a general about Nuke:
    General: You know the department holds you in the highest regard. We've always valued your commitment — and your loyalty...
    Captain America: I'm loyal to nothing, General... except the dream.
  • Cheap Costume: The Daredevil impostor hired by the Kingpin had such a convincing costume (made by the Gladiator), that the real Daredevil actually stole it from him and put it on himself. Of course, he had no choice as all of his other costumes had been destroyed.
  • Christmas Episode: The story just happens to be taking place around the end of December. Perennial loser Turk dresses up as Santa to swindle New Yorkers and a delirious Murdock tries to stop him. It ends poorly.
  • Costume Copycat: The maniac hired to impersonate Daredevil. Matt ends up kicking his ass and stealing his costume before going to defeat Nuke.
  • Crossover: Matt actually appeared in an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man during the events of the story, where he makes Peter promise not to go after Fisk before he gets a chance at him. Peter ignores him and confronts Fisk as Spidey, but realizes that he can't legally barge in and attack him since he doesn't have any official proof and is forced to bow out, deciding it's best to leave things to Daredevil once he recovers.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Deconstruction. Fisk is trying to expand into legitimate businesses and be a Villain with Good Publicity, but his vendetta against Daredevil is costing him money and putting that ambition in jeopardy. The first crony to try and point that out to him is "bought out" and later has both his legs broken off-panel; the second is murdered by Fisk then and there. Fisk is trying to turn his criminal genius into more acceptable enterprises, but his obsession with Daredevil and his violent instincts keep overriding his sense.
  • Daydream Surprise: There is an exceptionally depressing version when a close-to-rock-bottom Matt briefly fantasizes about an over-the-top Deus ex Machina Happy Ending before realizing he hasn't even gotten up from his flophouse bed:
    "I walk out and a kind stranger gives me a ride uptown to the Kingpin's headquarters and I punch the Kingpin out and he begs for mercy and gives me my life back and surrenders to the police and everybody knows it is me who beat him and there's a parade."
  • Delusions of Eloquence: Felix Manning, one of Fisk's henchmen spying on Matt Murdock.
    Felix: I myself gain admittment to the very same subway car as Murdock — there to observe him to be in a state of extreme aggregation. We proceed without incitement to the Pennsylvania Station stop, whereat three youths board, brandishing nine-millimeter handguns of the street variety, loudly declaiming their intention of depraving the passengers of their personal effects.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Ben Urich crosses this briefly when one of Kingpin's enforcers breaks his fingers and tortures the man he is about to interview in front of him.
  • Despair Gambit: Kingpin finds out he's dying, crosses the Despair Event Horizon himself, and decides he wants a Taking You with Me "swan song" where he can drive Daredevil insane.
  • Determinator: Murdock loses everything, including his right to practice law, becomes a paranoid wreck, and is badly beaten and left to die by the Kingpin — and he just keeps coming back.
  • Dirty Cop:
    • NYPD Lieutenant Nick Manolis, who framed Murdock initially, needed money to pay for an operation to save his son. He tries to set it right, but that doesn't turn out well for him.
    • A group of dirty cops are bribed by the Kingpin and kill one of his former subordinates when she agrees to testify against him.
  • Easily Forgiven: Murdock's life is ruined as a direct result of Karen Page selling his secret identity. When they reunite, he notices her decrepit state and embraces her, never whispering a single reproach at her for it. By the end of the story, it's implied that the two will resume their relationship.
  • Emphasize EVERYTHING: All over the place. Just look at the quote at the top of the page for one example.
  • Evil Is Petty: After being told that Matt Murdock is secretly Daredevil, whose actions have barely impacted the profit of his previous crimes, and even though he is unsure of this information, The Kingpin dives headfirst into this, going above and beyond to ruin Murdock's life to confirm it, and sacrificing his calmness and methodical approach (the factors that made him such an intimidating and effective villain in the first place) for his vendetta against Daredevil.
  • Frameup: The gist of the Kingpin's initial plan — he gets Matt Murdock disbarred from his law practice due to bogus testimony from a cop in his pocket, among other things. Later on, Kingpin attempts to frame Daredevil by killing his friends with a lunatic dressed in his costume. Unfortunately for Kingpin, Daredevil was onto him from the beginning, takes out the lunatic with no problem, and gets a new costume out of the deal.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Nuke is a genetically engineered Super-Soldier whose actions alone lead to the deaths of hundreds of innocents in Hell's Kitchen.
  • Good Shepherd: Sister Maggie is a female version, who takes care of Murdock after he's injured.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Fisk destroys Matt's entire life in the very first issue of the story. Then Matt strolls into Fisk's office, gets his crap handed to him, and Fisk tries to kill him in the East River. When they don't find a body, Fisk realizes Matt's alive, With nothing to lose, and coming for him. After all, a man without hope is a man without fear.
  • Grand Finale: For Frank Miller's run on Daredevil.
  • He's Back!: The Kingpin, knowing that he has completely ruined Matt Murdock's life, sends the Super-Soldier lunatic Nuke to attack Hell's Kitchen. As the maniac is laying waste to the slum, he is struck with a billy club, which then ricochets back to Daredevil. There, back in costume after so long and framed by the flames, Matt is ready to show the monster that there will be the devil to pay for all the harm he caused that night!
  • Humiliation Conga: Daredevil's secret identity is sold to the Kingpin, who makes his life a living hell. Matt loses his job, gets his credit cards canceled, gets accused of criminal misconduct, gets stabbed and almost killed, and becomes homeless, among other things. He finally turns the tables and manages to start ruining Kingpin's life by revealing that Kingpin sent a madman to destroy Hell's Kitchen.
  • Impossible Insurance: After Nuke's rampage through Hell's Kitchen, the owners of a diner Matt had been working at say that their insurance company refuses to pay their claim and that they don't have the money to hire a lawyer. Since Matt has been disbarred, he takes some cash from a group of criminals he beats up to help repair the diner.
  • Invulnerable Knuckles: At the beginning of the story, Matt has injured knuckles from a fight.
  • Jammed Seatbelts: The Kingpin tries to kill Matt Murdock this way, justified in that the buckle is chemically treated to be unopenable.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Most of the conflict originates from Kingpin's ability to influence numerous prominent figures, including higher-ups in the police, army, and the IRS, by means of bribes, threats, or even simple lies. One of the most blatant examples is his manipulation of the mentally unstable Nuke, to whom he pretends to be a loyal patriot struggling against a traitor named Daredevil.
  • Manly Tears: Matt Murdock, after suffering deep professional and personal losses at the hands of Wilson Fisk a.k.a. The Kingpin for what appears to be a period of several weeks, sees his apartment blown up before his eyes and is left jobless and homeless. After discovering proof of Fisk's involvement amongst the ruins of what was once his home he finally breaks down in tears while holding what is left of his costume in his hands.
  • Mouth of Sauron: James Wesleynote , Fisk's personal and most trusted assistant, is introduced in this story. He is the second most feared man in Fisk's organization, considering he is responsible for carrying out Fisk's most secret orders, including when to kill people.
  • Mugged for Disguise: In the Christmas issue, Turk and one of his criminal associates mug a pair of sidewalk Santas for their costumes as part of a plot to scam donations from wealthy shoppers. When the other crook, feeling uneasy about beating up and robbing Santa Claus, asks why they couldn’t just buy some costumes, Turk says they don’t have the money due to having been fired by the Kingpin.
  • Mundangerous: The closest Matt comes to dying is from pneumonia after he takes a dip in East River and then sleeps in the streets in December.
  • Neck Snap: The Kingpin does the one-handed version on a complaining associate.
  • Never Found the Body: The Kingpin realized immediately that Daredevil was still alive when he learned that the car he was locked in and thrown into the river didn't contain his body. Sure, he might have drowned trying to reach the surface and sunk into the mud but...
    Kingpin: There is no corpse. There is no corpse.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: When Nick Manolis is about to confess to framing Matt Murdock, he is subjected to a beatdown by one of the Kingpin's minions.
  • Oh, Crap!: Fisk's reaction to Murdock's body not being found. He realizes that destroying Matt's life but not ensuring his death has given him a foe with nothing to lose.
    Fisk: And I—I have shown him that a man without hope is a man without fear.
  • Orgy of Evidence: This phenomenon is what finally convinces Daredevil that the recent misfortunes he has suffered are being caused by The Kingpin rather than simply a string of bad luck. Most of his difficulties were subtly engineered problems concerning his taxes, his career, and his friends — his entire apartment building blowing up is a little more suspicious.
    Daredevil: It was a nice piece of work, Kingpin. You shouldn't have signed it.
  • Phoney Call: Matt, at the end of his rope after having just attacked a cop, calls Foggy, begging for help because there's something wrong with his mind. On Matt's end of the conversation, we hear him being reluctantly persuaded that everyone really is working for the Kingpin, including the cop, and that Matt should go challenge the Kingpin right now. As he walks away from the phone, we hear the time recording coming from the speaker.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: The splash page where Maggie the nun is holding a badly injured Matt has them in a pietà pose. Unlike some other examples in superhero comics, the comparison to Jesus and Mary is well justified here, since Matt's "rebirth" has parallels to Jesus's resurrection, and we find out Maggie actually is his mother.
  • Psycho for Hire: The Kingpin hires two psychopaths at once to draw out Daredevil and hopefully kill him: Nuke, a Super-Soldier driven insane from years of harsh experiments and being pumped full of drugs, and a killer in a Daredevil costume. Nuke is to drop into Manhattan and just start firing his huge gun Betsy, and the other one is supposed to kill Matt Murdock's friends while dressed as Daredevil, framing him for the crime.
  • Psycho Serum: Nuke's pills are depicted as this. Red pills were adrenaline-boosting "uppers", causing him to fly into berserk furies that granted him increased strength and resistance to pain. White pills were mood stabilizers, keeping him balanced and clear-headed. Blue pills were adrenaline-nullifying "downers", cooling him off and ending his berserker rages.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Nick Manolis, after a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown, still tries to confess to framing Matt Murdock and is murdered by one of the Kingpin's minions.
  • Revenge Before Reason:
    • Early in the story Kingpin fights the temptation to land a finishing blow on Murdock as his manipulations tear down his life from afar. Finally, he can't resist and has a bomb set up in Murdock's house. This gives him the first and only clue he needs that Kingpin is behind everything.
    • Later, Fisk gets called out on it, as his vendetta against Matt is a drain on resources and is jeopardizing his plans to expand into more legitimate enterprises. This was not the time to point this out to him.
  • Rousing Speech: Played with. After Ben Urich is intimidated into silence by the Kingpin's goons, J. Jonah Jameson (of Spider-Man fame, displaying Hidden Depths) gives an incredible speech explaining how important it is that the Bugle expose the Kingpin for what he is despite the potential consequences. Urich is unmoved at first. He later decides to pursue the story, but the speech isn't portrayed as an important factor in his decision.
  • Save the Villain: Daredevil desperately tries to save the maniacal Super-Soldier Nuke after he realizes that he isn't even aware of his surroundings and needs all the help he can get.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: One of the Kingpin's lieutenants speaks with an excessive amount of this, which is played for laughs.
  • Shout-Out: The last page of the story very closely resembles the cover of early Bob Dylan album "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan".
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Nuke is a genetically modified super soldier — who is also completely insane and needs a steady intake of drugs just to function.
  • Super-Soldier:
    • Nuke is a product of an attempt at making another Captain America. He's a Super-Soldier with heightened reflexes, drug-fuelled rage, and hardened plastic under his skin. He's also totally off his rocker, thinks he's still fighting The Vietnam War, will slaughter anyone he thinks is threatening "our boys", has his gun keeps a count of his kills, and needs a steady intake of drugs just to function.
    • Captain America. Nearly every character — even the crazed Nuke — practically salutes in his presence — except Murdock, who's more annoyed that Cap is interfering in his private war against Fisk.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Daredevil normally adheres to the "no killing" code of most superheroes. In this story, when Nuke's pilot is shooting up New York in a military helicopter, Matt picks up a rocket launcher, mutters, "Forgive me," and blows him apart.
  • Too Broken to Break: The Kingpin does everything in his power to make Matt's life a living hell, and destroy everything he had. When Matt is left homeless and penniless with barely any of his sanity left, Fisk thinks he has beaten him... Only to realize that he has created a man with nothing to lose, and thus a man without fear.
  • The Unmasking: The Kingpin learns Daredevil's identity and tries to destroy his life, but later on does nothing about it.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Fisk undergoes a subtle one over the course of the story after he learns that Murdock is still alive. It's very clear that he's becoming quite unhinged, culminating in Fisk sending the Nuke to Hell's Kitchen and making him shoot up the place to draw Matt out.
  • Wealthy Ever After: Inverted when Matt Murdock is ruined by the Kingpin after he learns his enemy's Secret Identity. The Kingpin is eventually defeated and disgraced but feels he at least made Murdock miserable by impoverishing him while he plans to strike at him again. However, when you see the final panel of Matt and Karen being happy in their situation, you know the Kingpin has truly lost.
  • What If?: What If? gives two alternate takes to this story in Vol. 2.
    • In issue #2, "What if Daredevil killed Kingpin?", when Matt confronts the Kingpin, he blows him away with a pistol. The end result drives Matt mad with regret and causes a Gang War to erupt that ends with Karen Page, Matt Murdock, and the Ned Leeds Hobgoblin dead. However, Richard Fisk abandons his identity as the Rose and becomes the new Daredevil in his stead.
    • In issue #48, "What if Daredevil saved Nuke?", Daredevil is able to get Nuke to a hospital instead of dropping Nuke's dead body on Ben Ulrich's desk. He's forced to put him into hiding when some of Kingpin's goons try to finish the job, forcing Kingpin to release Bullseye to get him back. Nuke kills Bullseye before he ultimately dies, but his actions seem to be the ultimate finish for the Kingpin.

Alternative Title(s): Daredevil Born Again