While the trappings may be ninjas and super-powers, at its core, this is a book about love and loss.
Elektra Lives AgainPublisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Frank Miller
Price: $24.99 (US)
Item Type: Comic
Publication Date: 2002-09
Star-Crossed in Comics Land
"The course of true love never did run smooth."
� William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act I, Scene 1
Before I met my wife, I was involved in a very intense relationship with a young lady. On paper, our relationship seemed like a great thing: we had similar backgrounds, both being the children of immigrants; we were both musicians; we had similar tastes in movies, music, and literature; and, we had a great sex life. But in the two years that we dated, we spent nearly half that time apart, fighting and not speaking to one another.
I say this not because I think that any readers are truly interested in my personal life, but to illustrate a simple point: some things are not meant to be. No matter how much you may want something to work, no matter how much you may love someone, if you aren't meant to be together, then you aren't meant to be together. We've all seen it countless times: Burt and Loni; Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman; M.J. and Lisa-Marie; Jennifer Lopez and ?, well, just about everybody. And, as Frank Miller shows in this book, superheroes like Daredevil and Elektra can be just as unlucky in love as the rest of us.
Frank Miller exploded in popularity during the mid-'80s with the legendary Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, his story of an aging Batman desperately waging war upon the crime that threatens to overrun society. He followed it up with Batman: Year One, a dark retelling of Batman's first year as a superhero. Since then, he has developed many successful creator-owned projects, including the wildly popular Sin City series for Dark Horse, ventured into films with the Robocop franchise, and, most recently, returned to world of Batman with the controversial Batman: Dark Knight Strikes Again.
Before all of that, however, Frank Miller made a name for himself by rejuvenating the struggling Daredevil. He turned a mostly forgotten, poorly selling superhero title into a gritty, character-driven crime drama, one which became a favorite among many comic fans, including then-youngsters Kevin Smith and Ben Affleck. The former went on to write an extremely popular Daredevil, which revitalized the (again failing) title 20 years after Miller's initial run ended, and the latter will be starring as the hero in the eponymous film, scheduled to be released on Valentine's Day, 2003.
One of the keys to Miller's success on the title came in the creation of a new character, Elektra. The daughter of a wealthy Greek diplomat, Elektra met Matt Murdock, Daredevil's alter ego, in college, and the two fell in love. Their romance was cut short, however, the first time that the hand of fate intervened: Elektra's father was murdered. (Of course he was murdered; it is the inexorable nature of Greek tragedy that Elektra's beloved father must die.) Unable to bear the grief, Elektra left Matt forever, or so he thought.
She returned to his life years later, as a cold, deadly assassin, an enemy on the other side of the law. But as many people know, the lure of an old flame is hard to resist, and the two were lovers again for a brief time, before Elektra fell victim to Bullseye, a murderous sociopath and longtime Daredevil adversary. Of course, things are never so simple in the world of superheroes; the dead rarely stay dead, and Elektra was no exception, coming back to life via mysterious "Ninja powers."
Elektra Lives Again, originally published in 1990 and reprinted in 2002 in a gorgeous oversized hardcover book, is about Matt Murdock attempting to come to terms with his loss. The story, out of standard Marvel continuity, finds Matt haunted by nightmares and memories; nightmares of Elektra tortured by her one-time victims, memories of their love that he can't have anymore. He soon learns why these feelings are filling his head: she's come back. In his attempts to try to be with Elektra again, to save her from her own inner turmoil and outer enemies, the two are parted yet again, and once more Matt has to see her die before his eyes. And finally, he learns that there isn't a future for the two of them, and that it will happen again and again, until he can let go and accept that it just wasn't meant to be.
While his writing of these characters is always top-notch, Miller's artwork really stands out in this collection, in no small part due to the oversized format. His figures and backgrounds are richly detailed and expressive, with that unique rough hewn, gritty, expressionistic style he developed in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns but with none of the hurried-looking scratch that plagued Batman: Dark Knight Strikes Again. Peppered throughout the book are references to Miller's other works, from Batman to earlier Daredevil storylines. The dark, muted colors of long-time collaborator Lynn Varley meld perfectly with Miller's pencils, and it is hard to believe that two people actually created this book.
Smirk all you want about spandex and superhero stories. While the trappings may be ninjas and super-powers, at its core, this is a book about love and loss. Miller shows us that even the most powerful figures have troubled relationships, and that we can all commiserate in the sadness of love lost. I am only thankful that I have learned to let go of old flames as well as Matt Murdock, and be thankful that it hasn't taken this much pain and death to teach me how.