Here's a true story.
During my last year of school at The Evergreen State College, I took several "individual contracts" in lieu of actual classes. Evergreen was a hippy school that emphasized non-traditional learning and ultimate frisbee. Anyway, these contracts involved creating your own curriculum - readings, projects, papers - in consultation with a faculty sponsor. For many Evergreen students the individual contracts represented a chance to challenge themselves and focus in an academic way on something that engaged them. For others the individual contracts represented a chance to watch The Rockford Files and do bong hits.
I had a writing contract with a faculty member (we didn't call them teachers or professors, that was too hierarchical) who we will call Paul Sparks. Being a passionate young man, excited about writing and fiction and comic books, I brought in some stuff for Paul Sparks to look at. You know, to show him where I'm coming from. Among the books I dropped off were the trades for Batman: Year One and Daredevil: Born Again, both by writer Frank Miller and artist David Mazzuchelli. Paul Sparks thanked me and said he'd check them out.
The next meeting we had, I asked him if he'd checked out the comic books. He handed them back to me, looking vaguely disgusted.
"I didn't read them," Paul Sparks said. "They're violent, adolescent fantasies."
"But... but this one, Born Again, has all these film noir elements, and it's this story about redemp--"
He flipped through Born Again, a little too roughly I thought. I mean, I know it's just a trade, but take it easy, dude. "In this one I see somebody shooting cops, here's a woman hanging, somebody getting beaten to death, more guns, more guns..." Paul Sparks plopped it down dismissively, shaking his head. "I'm not going to read that. Why would I read that?"
"Too violent? Feh. It’s just violent enough."
I did not strike him. No, I just sat there and looked at him and I thought, "You and I are not going to get along."
Put simply, anybody that doesn't like Daredevil: Born Again is no friend of mine.
Too violent? Feh. It’s just violent enough. Adolescent? Only a stupid shithead would think that, Dave said adolescently.
Seriously, this is one of my favorite comic book stories ever, and it has more than a few F*@% Yeah moments, but anybody that has read Born Again will know what scene I’m going to pick. It is perhaps the most satisfying, the most stirring, the most F*@% Yeah moment I can think of.
That’s right, I’m talking about the last page of Daredevil #232.
On the slim chance that you have not read Born Again, I’ll do a quick fly-over. This is the return of Frank Miller to Daredevil, the title he made his name on. The story runs from Daredevil #227 through #233 with art by David Mazzuchelli. In Born Again, blind attorney Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil) has his life completely destroyed when his enemy, the crime lord known only as The Kingpin, learns his identity. Murdock’s ex-girlfriend and secretary Karen Page, now a junkie, sells Daredevil’s secret identity for a fix, setting into motion a horrible chain of events. The Kingpin dismantles Murdock’s life piece by piece, leaving him disgraced, disbarred, and destitute – and more than a little crazy. Finally, the wounded and deranged Murdock is goaded into a confrontation with The Kingpin, who beats the living bejeesus out of him and has his men seal him inside a taxi, which they push into the East River. Daredevil is dead.
Of course, Matt Murdock escapes the watery death trap and begins clawing his way back to the life he once had. When they don’t find Murdock’s body, The Kingpin starts to worry.
Murdock is alive. The Kingpin tries to flush him out of hiding by sending a deranged killer in a Daredevil costume to kill Foggy Nelson, his ex-partner. Murdock saves Nelson and Karen Page, who has fled to New York seeking the man she betrayed.
Desperate, The Kingpin brings in Nuke, a super-powered psychopathic soldier to finish his enemy off. Nuke is a rabid, pill-popping dark reflection of Captain America (who appears in #233). He is barking mad, bat-shit crazy.
I didn’t want to scan the whole damn comic, but there’s a great sequence where Murdock – who we haven’t seen in costume since issue #227 – runs through Hell’s Kitchen while Nuke indiscriminately lays waste. With his super-senses, Murdock can hear and feel the carnage happening blocks away. He’s running –
- and you just know he’s going to suit up in the Daredevil costume that the Kingpin’s killer was wearing.
Imagine that you are Young Dave reading this for the first time in a monthly comic book format. Imagine the agony, the anticipation Young Dave must have felt, waiting months for this moment. It’s been half a fricking year since Young Dave has seen his hero in action, and now… now…
I’m getting goosebumps just writing about it. To this day, Daredevil #232 remains one of my most treasured comic books and one of my most memorable reading experiences. Seriously, it’s that fucking good.
He kisses Karen. He takes the costume. He rips open his jacket.
He’s going to do it. He’s going to suit up. Young Dave is breathless with anticipation.
That, my friends, is 100% pure comic book gold. You are dead inside if you don’t feel at least a little stirring of sentiment looking at that triumphant image, remembering when you first read that. It speaks to the part of us that still believes in heroes, that has faith in the power of the human spirit.
And in the next issue? Daredevil kicks the living shit out of Nuke. He mops the floor with the guy! The fricking Avengers have to show up and stop him from killing Nuke! The fricking Avengers, man!
So there you go. If that isn’t a F*@% Yeah moment, I don’t know what is. I know Celine Dion has got my back on this one, right Celine?