In Chip Zdarsky and Rafael de Latorre’s Daredevil: Woman Without Fear, which spins directly out of the main Daredevil title and the Devil’s Reign event, Elektra Natchios has taken on the mantle of Daredevil in an effort to reinvent herself as a force for good. But struggles with her inner demons and a face from her past may put her new life in jeopardy.
Right away, this issue hammers home the difficulties Elektra faces after taking a vow never to kill again. De Latorre excels in showing the reader how much Elektra is struggling, which is extra impressive when you consider how her face is completely obscured by her costume. Instead, her posture, the tense grip on her sai, and the swiftness with which she withdraws from this opening confrontation tell us everything we need to know. Zdarsky’s moody and to-the-point narration is the icing on the cake — it’s clear from the beginning that it’s taking everything in Elektra not to break her promise.
The captions by letterer Clayton Cowles do an excellent job in showing Elektra’s trepidation throughout. As headstrong as the character may be, her new direction in life often leads to the character finding reason to pause, to doubt her next moves. These captions inform so much about Elektra’s state of mind, beyond just telling us exactly what she’s thinking. This book is dealing with a lot of history, which may put off some readers at first, but it manages to simultaneously offer a succinct recap of Elektra’s past and give us an idea of where she’s at in her head at this moment.
This inner battle continues throughout the issue, with her narration often being very much at odds with what she presents to the world. Sure, every hero has a side that they keep to themselves, but with Elektra, there’s a very palpable sense that she’s barely contained. Years of programming from the Hand and others who made themselves into a semblance of what she thought she needed have turned her into someone she doesn’t entirely recognize. The flashbacks peppered throughout the story paint a haunting portrait of someone who has been gaslighted and cajoled at every corner. And that doesn’t meant that Elektra is weak; it means that she’s much more human than she wants to be.
Under Zdarsky’s pen, Elektra is a character who is cursed by how sharp her mind is. She’s so analytical that she remembers everything that’s ever happened to her, but she can’t simply enjoy the good memories. Every experience has been tainted by her upbringing or her lifelong mission. Every moment of joy is overshadowed by the fatalistic streak that has kept her fighting and kept everyone she loves at arm’s length. This first issue alone reveals a depth of character to Elektra that I can’t wait to see explored to its fullest extent.
De Latorre delivers some exquisite acting from the characters, particularly in a vulnerable sequence between Matt and Elektra. Their chemistry is palpable, as is the sense that they’re trying their hardest to deny it. Elektra feels like she’s purposefully denying herself anything she wants in this story; whether it’s taking the life of her greatest enemy or sharing a laugh with an old friend, Zdarsky and de Latorre imbue her with a sense of unease that smartly contrasts with her general poise and outward confidence.
Tying it all together are the excellent colors from Federico Blee, who knows just how to set a mood. Whether it’s the hazy orange-ish hues of a romantic sunset or the stark white of a drift of snow, every scene feels like it’s at peace until the blood red figure that is Elektra comes slicing her way through. The flashbacks feel less vivid than the modern day sequences, perfectly lining up with Elektra’s desire to stay in the moment with Matt and her new life — even as darker forces conspire to tear it all away.
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