Editor's Note: What If? Daredevil vs. Elektra arrives in stores tomorrow, December 16.
"What If Daredevil Died Saving Elektra?"
What If Daredevil Vs. Elektra? is a little different to the last couple of What If? issues that Marvel has put out, revolving not around a recent "event" storyline like Secret Invasion or World War Hulk, but around a reasonably minor plot point from a Frank Miller Daredevil storyline from the early 1980s.
Having said that, the story in question is the first chapter of what would come to be known as the "Elektra Saga" (Daredevil #168), and the plot point in question is the death of Elektra's father, a defining moment for the character that spurred her on to become the ninja assassin that we know today. Here, however, it's Matt Murdock that takes the bullet that was originally destined for Mr. Natchios--and the results of this change are intriguing, exciting and bewildering in equal measure.
The crux of the story is that Matt Murdock, after being killed, is taken away by the Hand and resurrected as an enigmatic villain known as the "Advocate", who must be brought to justice by Elektra (now an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., by the way). As with many What If? stories, there's a sense that the basic concept of the story has been dreamed up first, and the moment at which the tale diverges from the original continuity has been chosen as an almost arbitrary afterthought. There isn't a particularly strong logical progression of ideas here (for example, it would be nice to follow the alternate history of Elektra and her father, rather than simply jumping ahead by 10 years to the point at which she must do battle with Matt), and as such it's difficult to buy into the basic concept of the book.
However, the story at least gives writer Karl Bollers and artist Rafael Kayanan the chance to pull off some dazzling action scenes, to provide some interesting alternate spins on well-known characters (this reality's Foggy Nelson is particularly well-conceived), and to throw in more than a handful of cameos from various members of DD's supporting cast for good measure.
I probably would have given the issue a score of 3 bullets had it not been for the excellent artwork of Rafael Kayanan, which is strong enough to push it just above the average rating. The opening pages are particularly arresting, with a wonderfully moody close-up of Elektra that's followed by an explosive action shot of a wounded helicarrier, before giving way to some slightly more restrained flashback sequences. Even in these quieter scenes, however, Kayanan finds a way to make the pages visually interesting, with strong design elements in the artwork (for example, the page in which Stick disarms Elektra), a great use of light and colour (as seen in the montage page that shows Elektra training with Nick Fury) and some delicate handling of occasionally disturbing imagery (such as the aftermath of the massacre in the Kingpin's HQ, or the scene in which Elektra discovers the Advocate's "gallery").
It's obvious that this story is the work of people with a real enthusiasm for the character, and there are little touches here and there that show that the creators have really done their homework (I love the reappearance of Foggy's ridiculous Moose hat from his college days, as seen in Miller's original story). It's also nice to see some amusing cartoony extras in the closing pages that show that the creators aren't above poking fun at their own work, and a certain amount of humour in the story itself (I enjoyed Elektra's comment about ninjas and the 1980s). Ultimately, though, this issue can't escape the feeling of being a pretty inconsequential and not particularly logical What If? tale, albeit one that provides some decent action scenes and some above-average artwork.
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