“Daredevil: Born Again” by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli

Prompted by a recent article at The Comics Reporter (link from The Morning News) on the collaboration between comic book writer and artist, I pulled my copy of Daredevil: Born Again off the shelf. It’s written by Frank Miller and illustrated by David Mazzucchelli. Even at twenty plus years old with garish colors, it remains undiminished as a classic of the superhero genre.

It opens on a skinny, defeated-looking woman hunched over a cigarette in a smoky room with a smug-looking man:

It’s a hot day. Like all the rest. All two years of them. Two years… and the motion picture epic that turned into just another come-on isn’t even a memory…like all the rest except this one has a special glow to it. It’s not every day you sell your soul. That’s not way to think. Grow up. It’s the eighties. You do what you have to. And you have to do it…

“Daredevil. Okay? I said it. I said the name. And he’s got another name. And it’s written down right here. You want it or not?

Matt Murdock’s ex-girlfriend, Karen Page, is a junkie now, and she sells his name for a fix. It gets back to his nemesis, the Kingpin, who systematically breaks down and takes away all support in Murdock’s life until he’s not only on the edge, he’s gone so far beyond it that no one knows if he’s coming back. While the title kind of gives the ending away, it’s the marriage of words and pictures, and how they detail Murdock’s fall and resurrection (in all its Catholic imagery) that compelled this reader through the book.

The recent runs of Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker got a lot of kudos from the critics. But their artistic collaborators (Alex Maleev, who largely made the Bendis run, IMO, and Michael Lark with Brubaker) are hardly mentioned, and often not named on the covers of the collections. Ng Suat Tong’s collaboration article makes a good point. If a writer writes a decent script, and an illustrator draws well, you get a good story, sometimes even a very good one, as when Bendis and Maleev worked together. But only when there’s a true collaboration, and the writer and artist are working together, and both bringing more to it than each could individually, do you get a great work, a classic, like this one. And to give a collaborating artist second billing, or no billing, as noted by Tong, “should be cause for consternation if not disgust.”

This was not the case with Born Again, on which Mazzucchelli receives equal billing with the much-more-famous Miller. Mazzucchelli is receiving his own share of praise this year for his first solo work, the graphic novel Asterios Polyp.

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