Every character deserves a Spotlight. A moment of appreciation, reflection, discussion…and in some cases rejection.
Elektra is the poster lady of the Retcon.
Frank Miller had her on the back burner, waiting for the opportunity to write her into Matt Murdock’s life, which was Daredevil #168 when Miller took over writing duties.
How did he do it? He brought her in as a professional assassin with a back-story where she and Matt met in college. Matt became totally infatuated with her and they had a great time until tragedy struck - her father was accidentally killed on campus during a political skirmish. She was so distraught over her father’s death that she decided to leave . Matt begged her not to go, but she went anyway. Back in the present, Matt realizes what she’s become, and his greatest love is now the opposite of everything he stands for both as Daredevil, and as Matt Murdock Attorney At Law.
Retcons work when they add to a story or further a character’s development. Miller succeeded here. We learned more about Matt’s post-accident/pre-Daredevil days, and saw how deeply Elektra affected him. (Having been in a similar relationship myself, I completely buy the idea of losing oneself when around another person.) Miller made their relationship even stronger by connecting her to Stick, another important person in Matt’s life.
Elektra became all the more interesting when Miller killed her off after only thirteen appearances (including Bizarre Adventures #28).
That was it. By Daredevil #181, she was dead. It was confirmed in #182 after Miller played with us the whole issue. We saw her corpse. Matt touched it. In What If? (Vol. 1) #35 (which Miller also wrote), Uatu even showed Matt what his life could have been like had Elektra lived.
But this is comics we’re talking about, and she was too good a character to leave dead.
Miller hadn’t planned on bringing her back, but thanks to fans asking for more, he did in Daredevil #190.
Do the math. She stayed dead fewer issues than she was alive.
The way she was brought back, though, was well within the scope of Elektra’s world. It wasn’t a dream, an alien (although that does happens later), or an alternate reality/timeline version of herself that wound up on Earth-616. The Hand resurrected Elektra to be their assassin, and Matt’s love and purity of heart cleansed her soul, allowing her to be ‘reborn’ (an overused word lately, but applicable here) with a new outlook on life. The last page showed her at peace, dressed in a white version of her red outfit; pure, strong, ready for what’s next.
What did happen next was a bunch of hooey.
Miller must not have known what to do with her, because outside of the occasional reference, we didn’t see her again until Elektra: Assassin…three years later.
With Elektra’s reappearance, I first noticed the visuals. I love Bill Sienkiewicz’s work and thought he should have stayed on New Mutants forever, but we had only seen Elektra as Miller drew her up to this point, and visually, a new look signifies a new direction for the character. That, in and of itself, is fine but…
…I was hoping for a great story involving Matt and Elektra reuniting and an epic battle against the Hand. Matt would realize that he wasn’t complete without her and Elektra would thank him for bringing her back. Instead, it was a story about government corruption, mind control, new powers - and no sign of Daredevil whatsoever.
Elektra: Assassin was a shark moment that I could have easily jumped over and not given a second thought to.
But Elektra went missing for three more years until Elektra Lives Again.
Being put off by Assassin I wasn’t about to try again. While I have read the occasional issue of her 2001 series by Bendis and have hit the highlights of her involvement in the Skrull storyline, I haven’t collected comics since the bubble burst in the early nineties (around the time Daredevil got his new suit), my focus being on filling holes in my existing collection.
So for me, Elektra has been living on top of that mountain at peace ever since, replacing Stick as the new leader of The Chaste and training new warriors in their continuous fight against The Hand.