She's Alive by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson
One Sentence Overview: Matt's grief over the loss of Elektra drives him to the brink of madness
Observant readers of this blog will be aware that this issue is fronted by my favourite ever Daredevil cover. Before we talk about what's inside, I hope you'll indulge me a moment while I talk about what it is that I think makes this cover so great.
I first saw this comic book in the late 80s, considerably later than when it was first published. Despite that, the unusualness of its subject struck me immediately. I knew that this wasn't your average comic book cover - there was something, well, wrong about it. What do I mean? Comic book heroes are not usually rendered pathetic but that's how Daredevil is explicitly portrayed here.
I love how the picture effortlessly communicates to the reader the overwhelming grief that Matt feels at the loss of Elektra (and gives a great contrast to the lack of emotion yielded in the previous issue). He hugs the tombstone desperately, obsessively. The snow on his head and shoulders reveals he's been there a while but does he care? All he knows is that he's lost his first love. Best of all, he doesn't give a damn that he's kneeling there with his mask off. Hey, Matt, anyone could see you, don't you realise? Course he does. And he doesn't care.
But if you're not convinced that this is a great cover, don't just believe me, Wizard Magazine a few years back rated this as the 34th greatest cover of all time, which is pretty impressive, I think. (PS That quote at the bottom is from 'Hamlet' which is perhaps a little pretentious - but, hey, maybe not, Elektra was a pretty important character in the whole Marvel canon, right?)
Inside we're treated to Matt in the midst of Kubler-Ross' five stages of grief. Actually, he's pretty much stuck at denial, though there's certainly anger, particularly when he's costumed up and letting rip in the underworld for no other reason than cathartis.
Despite all the evidence to the contrary - Elektra dying in his arms, he and Foggy visiting her corpse in the morgue - Matt is convinced Elektra is still living. It leads to his old buddy enquiring if he's lost his mind and he even bizarrely finds a sympathetic ear from the Kingpin.
It's Heather's reaction to Matt's mood swing that is most interesting. At first she cannot understand why her supposed boyfriend is so distant and Matt inadvertently grips her hand too tightly as she tries to move close to him. Then oddly, Matt slips out the Greek assassin's name. "Who's Elektra?" Heather responds. Wow, that's interesting. I hadn't even picked up that Heather wasn't even aware that this girl was on Matt's radar. It's a good example of the secrecy of Matt's emotional life and his unwillingness to disclose anything about her to Heather. Of course, this is because, despite everything, including a pasting from her a couple of issues back, Matt cannot help but be in love with Elektra - a deep, dysfunctional, crazy love. However, one need only look at one's own social contacts to realise that irrational, obsessional love is not a particularly unrealistic occurence. As such, I find Matt's illogical obsession with Elektra utterly believable. And the gulf here between Matt's feelings for the two women is brilliantly and very effectively portrayed.
Matt's 'acceptance' is signalled on the final page when he digs up Elektra's grave and finds her body. This leads to a great moment where, for once, he flings himself into Foggy's arms for comfort. Usually, of course, we're used to Foggy needing Matt but it's fantastic to see the roles reversed here and to be reminded that Mr Nelson is the most constant figure in Matt's life. Hell, he's like Linus' comfort blanket.
Ongoing comic books, by their very nature, have to keep moving forward and so there is a jarring contrast of these scenes of Matt's grief and near madness with the Punisher breaking out of jail and being a bad, bad boy. Oddly, the ruthlessness portrayed here in taking out a good half dozen low lives makes it seem as if he's replacing Elektra's role in the book.
Incidentally, his break-out from jail gives us a great little scene with Turk and Grotto who also have had the same idea. In a panel that seems like a satirical homage to Stan Lee, Turk has fashioned some suction pads in the prison workshop with which to escape. Grotto, meanwhile, after a dozen or so exasperating issues as Turk's sidekick, has finally had enough. At the last moment, he suddenly realises that staying locked up is a better bet than being Turk's lackey and turns his heel. Sensible choice, I guess, but I'll miss the big lump.
Meanwhile on the letters page There's clear enthusiasm from the readership about the current intriguing direction of the book. More than this, the rank and file have just read issue 179 and are smarting about Ben Urich's 'death'. Wally Neville bluntly announces "Elektra, you killed Ben Urich. I hate your guts". Leon P Zivkovic is also angry and wants vengeance. He suggests a range of ways for Elektra to have her comeuppance, the best of which is to be "sat upon by the Kingpin". Frank must have kicked himself when he read that he could have had an even more poignant death scene...
Gratuitous Panel of the Month.
Ooo, I'm kind of glad that towel's not any shorter...
Debbie Harris (Nelson)
The Punisher/Frank Castle
Mrs van der Lear
Rating: 9 out of 10