Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Daredevil, Voume 2: Visionaries by Frank Miller, et al

Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller, Vol. 2Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller, Vol. 2 by Frank Miller
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

This is comic book history. It really is. Frank Miller tells an epic love story that a few sad people who have never heard of Daredevil and Elektra will never know. It starts with two idealistic college students who meet and fall in love, and ends with them on opposite sides of the law.

I don't think I am exaggerating by saying that Elektra is one of the most lethal women ever written on paper. She is an accomplished assassin who uses her pointed sais to end the lives of those who either become her target, or get on her bad side (although she is not a psychopathic killer who murders at will). Like Daredevil, her entire body is a weapon. Elektra has renounced the law after the death of her father, so she sees nothing wrong in working for the highest bidder. This puts her in extreme contradiction to Matt Murdock/Daredevil, who believes in the law and supporting it even to his detriment (while he is a masked avenger, his work is to uphold the law). As such, Daredevil has sworn to bring her to justice.

What I liked about this book, among many things is that Elektra and Daredevil are like moons that continually encounter each other as they follow their individual gravitational paths. While their romance is doomed, it's clear that they cannot forget or disavow each other completely. In fact, they save each others lives more than a few times in this book. While they are enemies, their hearts are never parted from each other. It's romantic in the deepest sense.

The artwork was really good. I was especially impressed with the motion and energy of such athletic and graceful characters as Elektra and Daredevil. Elektra herself was extremely visually stunning. She is so iconic in her complete look in this graphic novel, I can see no need to change her look that much even so many years later (although it was done in the two movie incarnations, which I liked to varying degrees). Honestly, I liked her artwork in this better than in Elektra: Assassin, which looked muddy to me. When I started painting last year, Elektra was one of the first characters I attempted, because her look strikes me so profoundly.

The emotional landscape of the characters was very clearly portrayed through the artwork and narrative. Elektra's desolation at her father's death and the fact that Matt is everything she wants but cannot have, that he has moved on. Matt's determination to follow his hard path, despite the fact that his heart wants something else. And the end of their tumultuous love affair, it's brutal and abrupt, and Miller is unapologetic about it. And Matt is not ready to move on from Elektra, despite confirmation that she is denied to him in every way.

Some episodes in this volume were a bit more cartoonish than others. The character of Turk, a two-bit thug that is continually humiliated in his encounters with Daredevil, is clearly played for laughs. Matt's friend and partner, Foggy, is almost always drawn rather goofily, but even he has some very serious moments. I honestly didn't like Matt's girfriend, Heather, at all. Her personality seems very dated to me. Even though Elektra is a ruthless killer, I think she's a much better love interest for Matt. There is a deadly seriousness to the stories that feature Kingpin and Bullseye, two major adversaries to Daredevil. The first a methodical career criminal who veers more towards sociopathy, the latter a complete psychopath with some serious malignantly narcissistic tendencies. Kingpin has a vibrancy and a power, a charisma that comes off the pages at the reader. I don't like him, but at the same time, I liked looking at him and reading his dialogue. I can't stand Bullseye for reasons apparent and some I can't get into.

In my opinion, this is a groundbreaking series of comic books. Miller has given us the comic book antiheroine we always longed for, but assumptions about gender held many back from delivering. Even twenty plus years later, I think that Elektra will always stand out. She touches on the inner ninja that every girl secretly wants to be, even when we have been told that girls don't do that. This wannabe ninja is cheering!

Overall rating: 4.25/5.0 stars--Not quite 4.5 stars, but better than 4.

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