Ultimate Daredevil & Elektra
Collects: Ultimate Daredevil & Elektra #1-4 and Daredevil (1998) #9
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Salvador Larroca
By Michael David Sims
If there's one thing that can be said about the Ultimate line, it's that it has youthfulness to it. It's an X-factor that other titles seem to have trouble capturing, even books that focus on young heroes. When was the last time Tim Drake, the current Robin, actually felt like a teenager? Hell when was the last time he acted like a teenager, saying and doing teenager things? Sure, he has grownup responsibilities (RE: superheroing), but he's still a child in and out of costume. Yeah, his dad can come down on him making him feel small despite his volunteer work and his schooling can be a thorn along with friends, but he still feels too mature for his age.
That youthfulness is something Brian Michael Bendis has never had trouble capturing with the teenaged Peter Parker in Ultimate Spider-Man, who has real world teenage problems homework, a girlfriend, a part-time job. But the difference is that Peter's problems despite being the same exact problems Drake suffers feel real. Even though our teenage years might be long behind us, there's something in Bendis' writing that rekindles those days and invokes the universal pains of teenagers, allowing us to relate to Peter in new ways. (Never mind that he's a genetically enhanced superhero.)
Because Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man was the first Ultimate title, he set the standard for what an Ultimate title should be namely, the youthful attitude it should present. Some of that is of course lost in the teenage-less Ultimates, but at least there Mark Millar is taking a concept (the super-superhero team) and making it fresh or, in other words, youthful. (If an idea/concept can be personified and dubbed youthful.)
Unfortunately, this attitude appears to have been overlooked during the production of Ultimate Daredevil & Elektra. That's not to say it's not worth reading on the contrary really. It's just that the book feels more like Elektra: Year One rather than an Ultimate title. Had Marvel decided to set this story in the regular Marvel Universe and toyed with the origins of the two title characters just a little bit, no one would have objected. Not even the most rabid of fanboys who guard continuity like it were the unalterable Word of God.
Now I don't know much about Brian Michael Bendis' writerly background other than he was an independent creator so I can't pinpoint where his slant on Peter Parker stems from. However, Greg Rucka is a different story and his background explains much when one reads Ultimate Daredevil & Elektra.
Before penning Batman: No Man's Land or even Whiteout, Rucka was a crime novelist chronicling the cases of one Atticus Kodiak in Keeper and Finder. So his comics often take on a more serious tone. (Not to say Bendis can't do the same. One look at his work on Daredevil reveals he's more than able.) In this case, however, the tone prevents Ultimate Daredevil & Elektra from feeling like the other titles in the line. Granted, these are college freshmen we're dealing with, so they're years apart literally and figuratively from Peter Parker and the X-Men, but they still feel a little too stiff (RE: mature) for their age.
Basically, we meet Elektra Natchios and her roommate Phoebe as they settle into their dorm for the first time learning each other's quirks along the way. (Phoebe listens to Blues artist Sue Foley; Elektra is majorly into kung-fu.) Shortly thereafter, they meet Mel a timid girl whose overprotective parents were reluctant to let her school in the city when Elektra saves her from the tauntings of Calvin Langstrom the Third. Better known as Trey, the kid with the politically connected father. Everything seems right in the world, and can't possibly get better. But then Elektra falls for Matthew Murdock, and her star soars even higher. Her giddiness knows no bounds.
Here I have to recant some of what I said about this book having overlooked the youthfulness of the other Ultimate titles, insisting on a more serious tone instead. Elektra's unbridled crush on Matt and her willingness to do anything even Phoebe's laundry for a month to get his name rings true of young love. Her dancing in the street after a late night date is a nice, gentle touch.
Then Trey rapes Mel.
It's never explained exactly why he violates her, however. Sure, earlier Elektra embarrassed him in front of his friends (when she rather forcefully showed him who the stronger of the two was while saving Mel), and then she and Mel verbally embarrassed him again. But rape...? Not that rape is ever justified, but a reason beyond a bruised ego would have been nice. Then again, maybe he was sending a message to the strong spirited Elektra (and to a lesser extent Phoebe). Maybe he thought by raping her friend, Elektra would step into line and fear him like the rest. Maybe.
Seeing as how his father is rich and connected to the politically elite, Trey walks infuriating Elektra who was taught by her optimistic, immigrant father to trust the legal system. To trust America. When that fails her, Elektra has nowhere to turn and begins her descent into vigilantism which quickens after her father's apartment/dry-cleaning business is torched by two of Trey's hired men, and Trey attempts to rape Mel again. To Elektra, her course is clear. She must kill Trey if she and her father and friends (and other women down the line) are to ever be safe.
Little did she realize that to end Trey's life she'd have to come up against another vigilante who, unlike Elektra, still believes in the legal system. Worse yet, it's her beau Matt Murdock. Yet, despite the joy and love Matt brings her and the wall it would surely erect between them, she must kill the sexual predator.
But she hesitates, presenting Matt with an option after she stabs Trey: "You can put a tourniquet on him, get him to the hospital... or you can come with me." Matt's decision, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, leaves us with a very bleak ending as the two lovers are forced to walk down separate paths forever divided by one fateful night and a series of life-altering decisions.