Klaus JansonDaredevilElektra
The Elektra Saga
Medium: comic
Year: 1984
Writer: Frank Miller
Artist: Frank Miller, Klaus Janson
Keywords: superhero
Series: << Daredevil >>, Elektra >>
Format: 192 pages
Website category: Comics
Review date: 17 October 2021
It's the graphic collection of a four-issue limited series, which itself was just collecting Frank Miller's long-running Elektra sub-plot from Daredevil on better paper. It is, though, really good. It's from an era when the pacing was punchy and you'd never guess that this very strong story has actually been torn from an ongoing monthly comic.
The material comes from Daredevil 168, 174-180, 182, 187-190 and Bizarre Adventures 28, but rearranged in chronological order and with lots of irrelevant pages chopped out. We see Elektra's early days at university, when she was just the daughter of the Greek ambassador and she and Matt Murdock became each other's first loves. We see her training. We see her many, many kills, some of which are... bloody hell.
"Please forgive an old man's indulgence, Elektra. He was yours to kill. But my pleasures are few, these days. And it has been such a long time since I have shot a Jew."
(On page 119, it's a big deal that Elektra thinks she's about to have killed her first innocent. I was surprised.)
We see how her life keeps entwining with Daredevil's and how they're enemies and yet also more. To be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of the character, but as part of Daredevil's story she works superbly. He's good, while she's... not so good. (It's complicated.) They're trying to defeat each other, but their feelings complicate things big time. Daredevil's a boy scout, so he knows what he's morally obliged to do. As for Elektra, she's never predictable and the presence of Murdock accentuates that tenfold.
Her story is pretty extreme. Nothing is off the table. No one's safe when she's around, including Elektra herself. (Did she need to kill those guards on p105?) It's also good for Bullseye, incidentally. He's always been in danger of looking like Daredevil's patsy, but his material here from p106 onwards makes you take him seriously again. In prison, he's scary. (And wow, the Punisher is a bastard.) Everything with Stick and the Hand works.
Design-wise, the character's brilliant. Her iconic red outfit makes her a perfect match for Daredevil. They're the same, yet different and both instantly recognisable. They're both athletes in skin-tight red from head to foot. Elektra's showing more flesh, as is normal for a comic book superheroine, but she's still wrapped in red from headband to boots. Also, sai are a brilliant choice of weapon for her. Miller realises halfway through that they allow ultra-violence that the Comics Code can't touch. If a sai impales you, it's the perfect length to make your clothes protrude on the other side. It's gruesome, yet bloodless.
There's a nice touch in the Japanese terminology, incidentally. "Genin" and "jounin" are unusual but well chosen words, meaning "low-ranked ninja" and "high-ranked ninja", although they've transliterated the latter as "jonin".
You'd expect a cut-down version to be weaker than the original, but here it's arguably improved it. It goes like the wind, with shocking story developments. It triumphantly reframes the material to turn Elektra into the sinister protagonist. It's cool to read it alongside with other reprints of the same Daredevil issues, which become effectively other storylines that had been happening offscreen. It's really good.