For Elektra, the daughter of a Greek diplomat turned ninja assassin, she’s been killed three times but each time came back stronger, more determined and more resolute. Created by Frank Miller in 1981′s Daredevil #168 based on a character he had made as a teen, Elektra was a violent counterpoint to the Catholic-tinged heroics of Matt Murdock, being equal parts ally and antagonist. Trained by both Daredevil’s mentor Stick and the Japanese ninja organization known as the Hand, Elektra has gone on to work for virtually everyone in the Marvel U from S.H.I.E.L.D. to Kingpin, HYDRA, and now as a member of Thunderbolt Ross’ Thunderbolts.
Forged in fire through writers like Miller, Chichester, Bendis and Rucka, Elektra has become much more than the one-off character originally intended. As long as she stays away from the creepy T&A, bad girl territory she’s sometimes pulled into, she can be a pivotal and dramatic addition to any story — and even on her own. In this week’s Where Do I Start?, we go from her origins in 1982 to the modern day to find the heart and soul of this one-time Hand assassin.
But above all else, avoid the movie.
Daredevil Visionairies: Frank Miller, Vol. 2: Frank Miller’s legacy on Daredevil came to define the character more than anyone before or after — even his creators. One of his many gifts to the Marvel Universe and Daredevil was the introduction of Elektra. This second volume of his run on the Daredevil title collects everything from her first appearance in #168 to her (first) death in #181, including the postmortem the next issue.This really sets the tone for everything that’s gone after, with Frank Miller in full force like few times in his career.
Elektra By Frank Miller & Bill Sienkiewicz Omnibus: After killing her just a few years earlier, Miller returns to his Greek ninja creation in a series of great collaborations with Bill Sienkiewicz spread over one miniseries, one graphic novel, one anthology story and a great (but forgotten) What If? issue. iFanboy has gone on record of saying how good Elektra: Assassin is (which is included in this volume), but in addition to that is What If? #35, “What If Elektra Had Lived?” In this oft-forgotten story, we see what would happen if she hadn’t been struck down by Bullseye and had rebelled against the Kingpin. They end up in a life far different from what they have now in comics, part Blade Runner and part True Romance.
Elektra: The Scorpio Key: One of the lesser known Bendis stories in his massive Marvel oeuvre, this six issue arc by a pre-Daredevil Bendis and misguided art by Chuck Austen takes Elektra out of the ashes and into the employ of Nick Fury’s S.H.I.E.L.D. to assassinate Marvel’s version of Saddam Hussein and recover an artifact from Fury’s past called the Scorpio Key. This isn’t the Bendis we know now from his work on Powers or Avengers, as this feels looser and less trained but still full of intense dialogue and setting Elektra down a more realistic and personal path. Austen’s art brings this book down several notches from what it could be as it veers into the T&A territory I mentioned.
Elektra by Greg Rucka Ultimate Collection: Likewise marred by some questionable art choices, Rucka overcomes it as best as he could and quietly becomes the most powerful chronicler of Elektra’s story since Miller back in the 80s. Fresh off his work on Queen & Country, Rucka central conceit is what if Elektra can’t get work as an assassin. To hot to be hired, the idea of an out-of-work contract killer pushes Elektra down some different paths than we’ve ever seen for the character. The single bright spots in the art is two issues by Carlos Meglia that, although cartoonish (especially in comparison to the pseudo-realism the other artists use), really gives the character some spirit that was never followed up on much before or sense.