Monday, March 13, 2017


Artist and Writer : Frank Miller | Inker/Embellisher: Klaus Janson
Colorist: Dr. Martin | Letterer: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: In search of a thief under the protection of Eric Slaughter, Daredevil runs afoul of a bounty hunter whose voice he recognizes as that of Elektra, the woman he loved in college. Elektra knocks DD out and, while unconscious, he flashes back to their time together.

When he comes around, Daredevil continues his search for the missing thief, and he and Elektra cross paths once more on the waterfront as Slaughter is about to send his charge away in a seaplane. Elektra realizes that Daredevil is Matt Murdock when he saves her life. He then leaves her on the pier as the police approach.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Daredevil’s search for the missing thief brings him into contact with Turk, who reminds DD and the readers of their last altercation on Coney Island in issue 161.Turk’s boss, Eric Slaughter, puts in an appearance here as well.

But more importantly, this issue features the debut of Elektra, possibly Frank Miller’s most iconic creation. We meet her first via a brief skirmish with Daredevil, and then her backstory is quickly filled in by way of an extended flashback to Matt Murdock’s college days. The short of it is that she was the daughter of the Greek ambassador, studying in the United States. She and Matt fell head over heels for one another very quickly, leading him to reveal his powers to her. But Elektra left school abruptly a year later when he father was killed by the police in a botched attempt to defuse a hostage situation.

Disillusioned by her father’s death, Elektra returned to Europe and improved her already considerable martial arts prowess to become a bounty hunter.

My Thoughts: It’s his first issue as writer, and Frank Miller hasn't wasted a second in going “Full Miller”. We have a noir-ish story in the ran-blanketed big city set entirely at night. We have a hard-boiled dame with ambiguous loyalties making life hard for our hero. And in that hero, we have a man who’s not afraid to cross certain lines to get what he needs. There’s a bit where Daredevil questions a member of Slaughter’s gang which is quintessential Miller, though nowadays this sort of behavior tends to be associated more with Batman than any other character, I think:

It’s interesting that Miller is off and running with Elektra straight out of the gate. Yes, he was the series artist for several months prior to this issue, and yes, he was co-plotter as well right at the end, but even so, the fact that he jumps directly into this story immediately upon taking up the reins of sole writer is interesting. It leads one to believe that the tale of Elektra was something Miller had wanted to tell for perhaps some time, and so he hasn't wasted a moment in committing her to the page. And Elektra’s saga will, of course, form the spine of Miller’s entire run, so it’s also kind of fitting that he leads off with her.

Also, let's take a moment to contrast Miller's Elektra intro here with the version adapted into the DAREDEVIL Netflix series last year. Here, young Elektra is a skilled martial artist and perhaps a bit of a daredevil (no pun intended), but generally she's a fairly demure girl when Matt first meets her. It's a massive shock to him a decade or so later to find that she's become a merciless bounty hunter. This allows us to question what happened in the intervening years to harden her to this extent, and it's an approach that works way better than the TV show, where Elektra is presented as a psycho-murderer adrenaline junkie even back in college. Her reappearance in Matt's life comes with no surprise, no reason to wonder about her path, because she was always that way to begin with. This seems like a massively botched opportunity on the part of the show's producers.

Anyway, getting back on track -- the material with Roger McKenzie, much as I like a lot of it, was basically a prologue for what we've reached now. This is where the legendary Frank Miller DAREDEVIL run begins in earnest, and it’s amazing to see that he already has a crystal clear vision for what he wants to do with the character. From this point forward, it’s going to be an exciting ride.


  1. Miller himself, when it came time to do Man Without Fear, was the one that introduced the notion that the younger Elektra was an adrenaline junkie, which is the likely source of the Netflix series version. Which makes the change even odder (I can't remember if Man Without Fear was meant to be a new canon for Daredevil's origin or not, but it seems to have been accepted as such by at least the Netflix producers.)

    Beyond that, though, there isn't really a lot you can say about this issue if you read comics in the 80s. It's The Debut Of Elektra. It's like ingrained in the head, like The Death of Phoenix and another issue upcoming in this run. This issue launched a singularly massive amount of trends in comics, and is legitimately a big event. I've not read it in in a long time-I sold my copies of the Miller run a few years ago when I moved house, and I've not yet replaced them-so I wonder how it holds up to me now, but back then, it was Big.

    1. I think the story is fine, though I don't know that I would've recognized it as anything special at the time, if it was just the newest issue on the stands. Tonally it's not all that different from the prior McKenzie stuff, even though it does include those "Miller-isms" noted above. In retrospect, of course, the issue's importance can't be denied -- and I can tell what a big deal it is since I've only ever read it as part of The Miller Run.

      I feel the same about Claremont/Byrne X-MEN -- I never had the opportunity to read it an issue at a time; I've always known it as one big chunk of story. I sometimes wonder if it all felt as momentous to readers on a monthly basis as it looks in retrospect.

      Thank you for the info on MAN WITHOUT FEAR! For whatever reason, I've never actually read that story -- but I know the first season of DAREDEVIL took some cues from it, so it make sense the second might have as well. Interesting then, that it seems to be a case of Miller ret-conning himself.

    2. The Man without Fear mini was adapted from a movie treatment written by Frank Miller. I'm not sure it's as much a case of him retconning himself as it is making slightly different choices for a different medium.

    3. Wow, thanks, Derek! All this time and I had no idea MAN WITHOUT FEAR was based on a movie treatment. I wonder if it was originally intended to be an out-of-continuity revamp of the origin?

  2. I will admit that Daredevil #181 was more of an immediate "OH WOW" comic than #168 was-you knew that was a big deal from as soon as you saw the cover-but to me, reading at the time, #168 felt like Frank Miller had arrived. He'd been drawing and co-plotting the book, but when he started writing, the energy was immediate and obvious.

    Speaking *cough* as someone old enough to have read the Claremont/Byrne run as it happened, while it was obvious from the start that the X-Men just looked and read better than any other Marvel Comic at the time-Byrne was just so good then-not a lot of people read it at the time, so it wasn't until Dark Phoenix that the book really caught fire and the kids I knew that read comics starting going on about how good it was.

    (Humorously, when I read the book during the Claremont/Cockrum days, my fellow kid comic readers thought I was weird for reading that odd bi-monthly X-Men book. Funny how that turned out.)

    Man Without Fear is one of the last comics Miller did I really, unreservedly, liked, but it was helped in no small part by the John Romita Jr. artwork. I loved his art style in the early 90s, so that just hit all the right buttons for me.

    1. It's funny you mention how good Byrne was when he was on X-MEN. I'm certain Terry Austin had a ton to do with it as well, but for me, looking back at it as someone who wasn't there, the artwork is just so far beyond anything else Marvel was producing at the time, it's astounding. Like, light-years beyond. Byrne/Austin, both in terms of layouts and in terms of the slickness and polish of the work, looked and read to me like a modern comic when I first read it in the early nineties. Nothing else from the seventies could make that claim for me.


  3. I hadn’t read this in well over a decade so it was interesting to read it again with the Netflix version relatively fresh in my head. And I’ve probably read Man without Fear more recently, if not by much, so the dichotomy isn’t that great for me. Regardless, I was surprised by just how brief the flashback here was given how great a role Elektra will end up playing in Daredevil’s lore.