Sunday, 10 February 2013

Daredevil: The Man Without Fear 3

The Man without Fear Part 3 by Frank Miller and John Romita Jr

One Sentence Overview:  Matt's dangerous pursuit of Elektra intrigues the young Greek woman, who is battling her own dark desires, whilst in Hell's Kitchen, the underworld has a new boss

Despite this supposedly being all about Daredevil's origins, this chapter is dominated by Elektra.  That perhaps reflects both the popularity of that character in the early 90s as well as Frank Miller's own interest in his own creation.  In truth, I think she's a very difficult character to write well and I'm not sure anyone has topped Frank's own writing of her in those initial appearances back in DD168 to DD181 (though Greg Rucka did make a good fist of it in her own series about 10 years ago).  

This chapter adds to the Elektra mythos without truly revealing who she really is, which I think is the best one can do.  The unpredictability of the character, which is one of her greatest strengths, is signalled early on here when she jumps into a frozen lake, urging Matt to follow her and rescue her.  Of course, our dear hero does so, only for him to resurface from the icy depths and spot Elektra driving off without him.  Naturally, by the time he returns to his dorm, he's rather cross.

Still, he intrigues her.  Hey, who wouldn't be?  So he makes for the mansion in which she lives with her father, breaking in and taking note of the wide range of martial arts awards that Elektra has in her bedroom.  Elektra's brilliance and discipline is further exemplified in the fact that, down below, she is playing piano for guests at her father's party.  

To see Elektra dressed in pink and indulging in such musical prowess feminises her somewhat, which appears unusual because, of course, Elektra is not a particularly feminine character.  However, what it does demonstrate is that, somewhere, there is a decent, humane side to her and this is highlighted towards the end of this chapter when she takes leave of Matt, because she recognises the darkness of her own heart, a darkness with which she does not wish to infect her lover.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.  Matt's presence at Chateau Natchios becomes known and a gunfight ensues.  That's all fine but Elektra's response to it is, well, extraodinary.  She is, frankly, thrilled by Matt's attempts to seek her out, the danger is which he puts himself to chase her is clearly arousing.  Listen to the text as she continues to play the piano whilst all hell breaks loose.  "And now the music builds toward a crescendo.  Toward climax."  Oo-er!

Matt's illegal entry has the desired effect.  Elektra now seduces him, though his love for her is clearly not enough.  Following an encounter that has obviously been pretty strenuous (Matt's dorm is in disarray at its conclusion), Elektra does not return home but goes downtown to seek out 'vermin' with whom she can toy.

Interestingly, in this sequence, where the thugs with whom she tussles (and even lets have the upper hand to the extent that they 'capture' her until she takes control), the narrative tells us that there are voices in Elektra's head urging her onwards, giving a sense that Elektra, like Typhoid Mary, is schizophrenic, not in full control of her actions.  Matt, however, can only see her good, romantic side, the side Elektra would like to aspire to but cannot.  Stick pays a visit to him late at night to tell him that she's evil and he cannot change her but, ironically, Matt is emotionally blind to this.  

One panel late on by John Romita Jr brilliantly displays their relationship.  Spinning over each whilst ski-ing, Matt and Elektra create yin-yang (though they're in blue and pink rather than black and white).  

It's a true case of opposites attracting - not only in the sense of good and evil but in terms of their divergent backgrounds too - but it's too destructive an opposition to ever be truly fruitful.

The story has a coda, leading on to the next part.  With Elektra gone (interestingly, though we see poppa Natchios' funeral, the events leading to his death are not revisited here), the action returns to Hell's Kitchen and the birth of, well, you know who.  His ascendancy is pre-empted by an old gangster called Rigoletto complaining (ironically, perhaps) of the lack of morality in the work of the modern underworld.  He's averse to children being murdered or corrupted and also the influx of crack cocaine.  

How honourable.  How unfortunate, too, that his second in command appears to hold a different viewpoint...

Daredevil/Matt Murdock
Foggy Nelson
Kingpin/Wilson Fisk
Elektra Natchios

Hugo Natchios

Rating: 8 out of 10

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