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Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller Vol. 2

A comic review article by: Michael Deeley

Plot: Collects Daredevil #168-182, which introduced Elektra to comic books.

Frankly, (no pun intended), I'm disappointed.

After reading Elektra: Assassin, I was expecting to see the same dark, conflicted, sexy, passionate, complex woman I had come to know. To me, Elektra is a woman completely aware of the connection between sex and violence. The two actions often involve the same physical reactions: the racing heart, sweating, pounding pulse, skill, timing, dominance, and all the mixed up feelings of guilt, morality, and rationalizing that come after. There is darkness in Elektra's soul. She is tainted, and tarnishes everyone she loves.

That's not here. None of it. The Elektra seen here is the typical "lover from the past, turned into the enemy" type of character that is almost cliché in detective fiction. We see her as a bounty hunter who learned to hate the world after police accidentally shot her father. Now that her first lover, Matt Murdock, is back in her life, she finds herself having feelings she thought long dead.

Ho-hum. Seen it, taped it, ripped it off. Like Gwen Stacy and Barry Allen, Elektra became interesting after she died.

That doesn't detract from the quality of the stories. In brief, Daredevil faces the Kingpin for the first time. These two adversaries would come to define each other in a rivalry that continues today. DD saves Bullseye's life, and soon learns to regret it. In fact, the fights between Daredevil and Bullseye are the highlights of the book. We are also introduced to Stick, the ninja master who taught Daredevil to use his radar sense. These stories would come to define and shape Daredevil continuity for the next 20 years.

Miller's storytelling is superb. These aren't super-hero stories as much as they are crime-fiction. The mood, panel use, settings, and occasional humor remind me of Will Eisner's The Spirit. Janson's thick inks help heighten whatever feeling Miller is trying to convey. The powerful Kingpin becomes a huge, looming figure. The spry Daredevil becomes an adventurous rogue. It is in these stories that Miller and Janson begin to "click". You can see their art evolve into the familiar, abstract style used inThe Dark Knight Returns. This book not only chronicles the growth of a character, but of a fine artistic team.

The only real flaw in the storytelling comes after issue #179. At the end of that chapter, Elektra has Daredevil caught in a bear trap and buried under a pile of bricks. Ben Urich, DD's friend, has been stabbed in the back with Elektra's sai. The next issue begins with DD walking around with a cast and Urich up and about. Urich's explanation of "spending two weeks breathing through a tube" seems like a cop-out. It's too quick, too pat.

Nevertheless, this is a fine book. Fifteen issues, (including the double-sized #181), re-colored on glossy paper is well worth $24.95. The stories have a quality of real humanity to them. You can actually feel the pain, fear, love, and passion the characters do. It sucks you in, and you don't want to leave.

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