Monday, September 19, 2011

Moments That Made the Bronze (and Modern) Age: The Death of Elektra

There are so many moments to look at in comic history that grabs me, but this particular comic death didn't affect me so much as a kid when I first read it, but the comics that followed actually got me hooked on Daredevil for a short period of time.

I grabbed this one off a spinner rack in a strip mall in Birmingham while my mom was shopping (yeah, I read a lot while mom shopped), read the entire issue, but for some odd reason didn't buy it. I loved the story, but neglected to spend my precious allowance on this issue. Given the current value of it now, it was a big mistake on my part.

What made this issue so interesting to me? It as that amazing showdown between Elektra, a character Marvel had introduced just a few short issues before with the sole intention of killing her off as a major pivot point in the DD series, and Bullseye, a villain who could turn anything he got his hands on into a weapon.

Frank Miller and Klaus Janson were magic in this time of the series. Their gritty art styles worked perfectly for this down-and-dirty fight to the death between two warriors.

The biggest kick-in-the-face moment of the fight for me? That had to be Bullseye using Elektra's own sai to kill her with.

You might not realize how important that scene was until you consider the catastrophic failure that was Ben Affleck's Daredevil movie.  The only potentially saving grace of that film was how it tried to give us this one Elektra storyline including that final death scene using actual dialogue from the comic, and it managed to stay fairly close to those few pages. Say what you will about that movie, they did get that one scene right.

Of course, Daredevil got his revenge later in the story. If this story had been published today it would have taken him the better part of six issues to find Bullseye, confront him, and deal out his brand of justice. In the 80's though, we were blessed with a complete story in that one double-sized issue.

Daredevil, usually a straight-arrow in the Marvel universe, beat Bullseye down and eventually let him drop to a bone-crunching finale. It looked like this cool villain was done for, but we know of course that he came back and became a regular in comic titles everywhere.

But reading that comic at the time, I was stunned by how Daredevil just let him drop. Actually, I was stunned by how graphic Elektra's death was drawn. Seeing it today in light of the gore-filled comics you find everywhere it looks tame, but back then it was a powerful moment simply because you didn't see that sort of stuff unless it was one of Marvel's magazine titles.

As I mentioned, this storyline led to DD becoming involved with ninjas galore and a guy named Stick, and even to eventually bringing Elektra back to life. That was good stuff and I followed this comic for a while after this issue. When Miller left, I did too. It was hard to imagine this gritty character being drawn by anyone else for me.

That Marvel moment grabbed me and didn't let go. I just regret not purchasing that issue when I had the chance. Even though I didn't buy it, I consider it a pivotal issue in Marvel history.


dbutler16 said...

I actually liked the Daredevil movie, especially the director's cut. They should have released that version at the theaters instead of the one that they did. I know I'm in the minority in liking that movie, though.

I had bought some of the Frank Miller Daredevil issues, but am missing most of them. I've never cared for his art though I admit it fits these gritty stories pretty well.

Yes, this story would indeed take 6 issues to tell nowadays.

William said...

Great review. Frank Miller's run on Daredevil is one of my all-time favorite creator runs on a character. And this issue was the pinnacle of that series, IMO.

I started reading Daredevil regularly right when Miller started on the title (I think it was the second issue he drew). I don't even know why. I never really read DD much before and I didn't know who Frank Miller was, but I just happened to pick up an issue around that time and I thought it looked cool, so I bought it. From thin on I was hooked. I was a loyal DD reader until Miller left the book. I tried to hang on because I had come to really love the character, but it just wasn't the same. So, about 2 or 3 issues after Miller was gone, so was I. I haven't read the book on a regular basis since.

In fact, I haven't read a single issue of DD at all since sometime early in Bendis' run on the book. When he killed of the original White Tiger (one of my very favorite old characters) that was it for me.

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