This week, Keb takes a look at two very important Daredevil stories and compares the newer as homage to the latter.
What is a superhero’s most precious belonging? His secret identity! Without his identity, he can’t connect to the normal humans he has sworn to protect and thus, he is no longer human.
I dug up some of the old Bendis Daredevil (Underboss, Out, Lowlife and Hardcore) and read them alongside Miller and Mazzuchelli’s Daredevil: Born Again. What I find interesting about the stories is the focus on his secret identity. After reading Born Again, I realized that Daredevil’s alter ego as Matt Murdock became his greatest power.
I find both Born Again and Bendis’ run on Daredevil to be interestingly similar because they both heavily involve Daredevil/Murdock’s reaction to the events happening around him. That is what really pulled me into both storylines. However, I made note of how both writers use similar elements in juxtaposition to affect the character and his “destruction”.
At first, Bendis’ work reads like homage to Miller’s Born Again with the elements dramatically altered. Bendis doesn’t necessarily aim to “break” Matt Murdock. Where Born Again focuses on the complete and utter destruction of Matt Murdock’s life at the hands of the Kingpin, Bendis focuses everything on the destruction of the superhero’s image in the public.
What Daredevil lacks in Born Again, he finds threefold in Bendis’s run. He has the undying support of Foggy Nelson, who never once turns his back on Matt throughout the entire run. In Born Again, not only does Foggy not know that Matt is Daredevil, but Matt also feels like he can’t trust Foggy at all. I think it really shows how badly a person needs support to hold the strings together in times of crisis. With or without Foggy’s support, Matt Murdock becomes human and readers are given the opportunity to make that connection with him.
Another strong element from Born Again that Bendis juxtaposes is the actual Daredevil/Murdock relationship. In Born Again, Matt Murdock hits rock bottom and has to pick himself up and reinvent himself before he can put on the red costume and go fight for what he believes in. It’s the complete opposite in the Bendis stories. Daredevil can’t put on his costume for fear of being found out. It’s a harsh position to put Murdock in, where he is denied the one thing that can solve his problems.
The identity is important because Daredevil and Matt Murdock need each other to exist. In Born Again, Kingpin realizes this and thus he uses Matt Murdock to destroy Daredevil. Bendis recognizes the sacredness of the secret identity and how it connects the hero to world. In the story Out, Bendis essentially mirrors Miller and places Murdock in between rock and hard place to take Daredevil out of the picture.
The most brilliant part of the Bendis homage (if we can legally call it that) is how well he juxtaposes the characters of Daredevil and Kingpin. In Born Again, Murdock/Daredevil is stripped of everything and we see Kingpin put into that same position at the beginning of the Bendis saga. In subplots, we see how Kingpin rebuilds his empire and it eventually leads up to the great confrontation. What I really enjoy about both stories is that the characters seem to have a moment of climactic madness where they just lose their shit. For Kingpin, the moment happens when he unleashes Nuke on Hell’s Kitchen and Daredevil’s moment happens when he beats Fisk and declares himself the new Kingpin. They are two moments that when read separately may not jump out at you, but when read side-by-side you definitely see how they work together.
Reading these two stories together allowed me to see a lot of great similarities between the two runs. At first, I felt that Bendis was trying to undermine Born Again but after giving the matter some further thought, I actually began to see how intricately Bendis worked his run against Miller’s story. These two iconic stories represent what I love about Daredevil most.