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  • Writer's pictureAaron Fonseca

What If...? Proved How Dark Daredevil: Born Again Could Have Been

Even among other dark Marvel characters like the Punisher or Ghost Rider, Daredevil has gained a reputation in the comic world for being a grim character, whose happiness is often followed by death and misery. It's an element that's defined the character for decades and is at the heart of many of his most famous storylines.

Daredevil's upcoming starring role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is adapting one of the aforementioned stories, hinting this trend is set to continue. But a classic issue of What If...? should be a good reminder that things can easily take a dark turn in these kinds of storylines.

Daredevil -- who made his official transition into the MCU in Spider-Man: No Way Home -- is currently set to get his own Disney+ series in 2024. The show will see the return of both Charlie Cox as Daredevil and Vincent D'Onofrio as Kingpin. The title has already been revealed to be Daredevil: Born Again -- suggesting that the series will be taking cues from Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's storyline of the same name. The story focused on Karen Page -- Daredevil's former love interest who sells his secret identity to fuel her drug addiction. Word of this revelation made it to the Kingpin, who used the information to target Daredevil and destroy his civilian life. Thankfully, Daredevil was able to overcome Kingpin's plans and reunites with Karen.

One of the most critically acclaimed stories in the character's existence, "Born Again" is a remarkably dark but hopeful story -- focusing on a man pushed to the brink who nevertheless finds the strength to resist the weight of the world. One of the most iconic moments in the storyline sees Murdock out of costume confront Kingpin and lose a brutal fist fight with the crime lord -- only to escape the trap laid by the villain. But the story could have gotten even darker, as proven in What If...? #2 (by Danny Fingeroth and Greg Capullo). On Earth-8982, Murdock was far more emotionally shattered by the loss of his civilian life, and instead of merely confronting Fisk, he arrived on the scene with a gun. Before Kingpin could even attack him, this variant simply pulled the trigger and murdered the Kingpin -- setting off a grim chain of events.

Having betrayed his convictions on such an extreme level, Murdock's world is turned upside down, and he hallucinates going to trial to face justice for his crime. Despite the best efforts of Spider-Man and the Punisher, Murdock remains dormant. Without Daredevil's intervention, Karen is hunted down and murdered by her former criminal associates years earlier than she was supposed to. Hobgoblin and Fisk's son, the Rose, both try to take advantage of the situation, resulting in a duel to the death interrupted by Murdock. Seeking forgiveness from Fisk's son, Murdock ends up facing off with Hobgoblin -- resulting in a pumpkin bomb going off, killing both men. Recognizing Murdock's attempts to make peace with him, the Rose forgives the former hero and even takes up his mantle as Daredevil.

More so than almost any other Marvel character, Daredevil has embraced a gritty edge that pervades most modern iterations of the hero. Even his more absurd moments are often contrasted against the harsh realities of the criminal justice system, along with challenges to both the spirit and mind. The canonical "Born Again" even features a scene where a criminal dressed as Santa Claus stabbed a destitute Matt with a knife. What If...? serves as a good reminder of how quickly heroes can have their entire lives ruined by a rash decision and the ramifications that can come as a result. Thanks to his murder of Fisk, Daredevil went down a path that would not only cost him his life but the life of one of his great loves. While it's unlikely the MCU version of "Born Again" will be as dark as the What If...? iteration, that dour reality should remind audiences how easily things can take a dark turn for the Devil of Hell's Kitchen.

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