There’s a Cross-over event happening at Marvel Comics, and on the streets of New York, forces are amassing around Elektra Natchios as she dons the mantle of Daredevil. Old memories are awoken as the once hired assassin is forced to face her past in her current battle against the demonic cult, The Hand.
Daredevil Woman Without Fear #1 is the first of a three-issue mini-series that focuses on Elektra in her current role in the Marvel Universe and her complicated history. Despite the number 1 on the front, this is not an easy entry point for new readers; instead, it stands as background for the more significant stories happening elsewhere in Marvel Comics.
Chip Zdarsky’s writing is punchy and emotional. As a reader, you get a real sense of the characters on the page, who they are, and what they are about. The majority of the comic focuses on Elektra herself and her interactions with a host of characters. Each meeting leaves you with a better understanding of who she is and where she’s come from. This allows Zdarsky to maneuver the reader through the comic and keep the reader interested in the character’s development despite the lack of a comprehensible plot.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a plot, and in some respects, it’s a fairly straightforward affair, but this reads like the middle of a story or even the background elements of a larger story happening somewhere else. It does not feel self-contained, and this will be a problem for some people picking this title up. There is nothing on the cover to indicate that this is a mini-series or that it is linked directly with a number of other comics. The selling point here is the number 1, but this does not read like a first issue, and readers who aren’t following the current Marvel comics will become lost in the mix of modern-day action and historic origin snippets.
As part of a larger story, Zdarsky handles the narrative structure very well and, as stated, the characters are cleverly crafted. Throughout the comic, there is a high emotional streak presented to the reader through Elektra’s interactions with her friends and foes; unfortunately, without knowledge of the greater story, this emotional arc isn’t tethered to anything.
The artwork provided by Rafael De Latorre is dynamic and captures the action sequences beautifully. De Latorre uses fantastic choreography to express the fighting skills of the central characters. He also focuses on the people within the scenes, allowing the backgrounds to fade seamlessly into color washes, devoid of objects. The scene for each sequence is set early in the panel layouts and then becomes superfluous to requirements. The emotional aspect of Zdarsky’s script is pulled through into the art by De Latorre’s attention on the character and their reactions within each scene. In some respects, this comic feels like a low-budget martial arts movie where the camera follows the actors and the setting is barely glimpsed.
One of the highlights of Daredevil Woman Without Fear is the lettering work by Clayton Cowles. The subtle highlights and clever pauses created by the placement of the caption boxes and word balloons give the speech character and, along with the artwork, allow the script’s emotional aspect to jump from the page. You can almost see the desperation in Elektra’s voice when she talks to Matt Murdock and hear the disappointment in Stick’s voice as he trains the young assassin. Cowles’ lettering is a treat of visual storytelling and as crucial to character-building as every other aspect of the comic.
There is a constant shift in Daredevil Woman Without Fear between the warmth of Elektra’s friend group and the coldness of her past. This is represented throughout by the contrasting colors on the page. The contrast is best illustrated in a scene where Elektra catches up with an old friend. Federico Blee washes the scene with orange and yellow while leaving a cold white space in the background that acts like an overbearing memory that Elektra can’t escape. This contrast of colors is a motif running throughout the comic and illustrates the emotional turmoil within the central character. It is clear from a quick glance of each page what Elektra’s emotional state is just from the color scheme.
Daredevil Woman Without Fear is an intense examination of the emotional state of the title character. It goes a long way to illustrate her relationships with several characters from her past. However, the reliance on previous plot knowledge makes this a problematic comic to engage with if you are not well-read. Anyone picking this up, believing it to be the start of a new run or even a new story arc, will be left disappointed. This may seem like a moot point to many readers; it is almost expected these days that readers are engorged within the Superhero world they are reading, but it ultimately means that this comic fails as a First Issue. It fails to bring new readers into the world that the strong character inhabits, instead reminding them that there is so much more you need to read before you can follow the plot of this single issue.
If you’re reading the Daredevil comics, this will be a great addition to that collection of stories. If you are not caught with the Daredevil mythos, this will be a tough read and require some research with previous polt threads.