Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra: It’s All in the Roots
Posted October 21, 2009on:
As I said in my last post about Greg Rucka’s female characters, I’ve been hunting for a copy of his four-issue run on Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra for a while now. I finally came across a copy earlier today, in a discount bin at my favorite hometown comic shop. I snapped it up and immediately sat down to read. As he’d done with the Huntress and other angst-ridden female characters in the past, Rucka took another crack at defining what drives angry, tragic vigilante women and his conclusions were, as usual, thought provoking.
In everything I know of normal continuity, Elektra Natchios is the kind of character who seems to hold no allegiance to anyone except the highest paying bidder for her ninja assassin skills. I know that Frank Miller tied Elektra’s decision to become an assassin to the death of her Greek ambassador dad, Hugo at the hands of terrorists in Daredevil Vol. 1 #168. Elektra watched her father die. Fuck. So she quit school and joined the Hand.
But this is the Ultimate Universe! Continuity be damned! This is Greg Rucka’s chance to add his feminist flair to an extremely well-known character!
Just a heads up, I’m totally gonna have massive spoilers coming up. (I mean, come on, the issues were released in 2001-2002. But you know. You’re warned. Just in case.) In Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra, Elektra still attends Columbia University and ends up dating Matt Murdock pre-tights, but those are pretty much the only parallels to regular continuity. Rucka gives Elektra much humbler beginnings; her father is a mere Greek immigrant who runs a dry cleaning business in Queens, her mother died of breast cancer (rather than as the victim of a hitman). In lieu of a bunch of ambassador-murdering terrorists, her first real nemesis is the school’s token macho rich white kid (think Stan Gable from Revenge of the Nerds). She emasculates him in front of his peers and he retaliates by raping one of her two best friends and hiring some street thugs to firebomb her dad’s shop (unlike Miller, Rucka lets Hugo live). After charges are dropped against Rapist Arsonist Jerk, Elektra’s gateway act of vigilantism is to break into his loft and threaten him with physical violence. As a means of protecting her from herself, Matt suits up for the first time (although not in the traditional Daredevil garb) and is forced to decide whether or not he can be in a relationship with a girl who is willing to kill in the name of justice.
OK, re-cap over. Time for me to get to the fucking point. Both versions of Elektra strive for justice while using completely unjust methods, but what is remarkable is that both versions turned to vigilantism even though their early years couldn’t have been more different. The Elektra of the normal Marvel Universe was born into a family of corruption and violence and the Ultimate Universe version was born into innocence and, uncharacteristically for a comic book character, contentedness and happiness. This makes the Ultimate Elektra’s decent into the underworld all the more tragic (especially what she’s become in Ultimate Spider-Man). Basically, Greg Rucka has managed to take Elektra and make her much more relatable without sacrificing the heartache and complexity of the original character.
Anyways, I highly recommend this read, even if the trade is now out of print and you’ll spend forever looking for it. Pair it with some decent merlot.