One of the more radical reimaginings of the Marvel Universe in a while, “What If? Daredevil vs. Elektra” #1 offers an engaging story where a young Matt Murdock sacrifices his life to save Elektra Natchios and her father where, in the regular MU, it was Elektra’s father that died. The resulting story is a twisting of various elements of Frank Miller’s run on “Daredevil” with numerous allusions and in-jokes, but is still easily accessed by those who haven’t read Miller’s seminal work on the title.
The issue stars in media res with the Hand having attacked the SHIELD helicarrier and their leader, the Advocate, about to kill Nick Fury via decapitation. And then he does, much to the shock and anger of Agent Natchios. But, the bigger shock is when Agent Romanov attacks the devil-clad Advocate and his mask is knocked off to reveal Matt Murdock who apparently died ten years ago. Much of the story is then told in flashback as we learn the lead-up to the Hand’s attack on the helicarrier, including Natchios’ investigation into the brutal murder and decapitation of both the Kingpin and his enforcer, Bullseye, all of which points to the Advocate.
It’s revealed, of course, that a blind guy taking on a bunch of terrorists brought Murdock to the attention of many, including the Hand, who stole his body and resurrected him under their control. Ten years later, Murdock as the Advocate is in charge of the Hand, it appears, and is set upon reining in the chaos of the world, working not just as an alternate to Miller’s run, but also as an interesting comparison to what’s going on currently in “Daredevil.” While this Murdock kills (and likes to hang heads on his wall), he’s also rather effective.
Most of the issue focuses on Agent Natchios as she investigates the Kingpin’s murder, putting her on the trail of the Hand despite Fury’s best efforts to keep that knowledge from her. The pacing of the story is a little too breezy, but many of the scenes work well on their own, especially the one where she questions the Kingpin’s lawyer, Foggy Nelson, and we can see how Murdock’s death affected his best friend.
The biggest weakness of the issue, besides the pacing, is that it’s never addressed how or why Elektra became a SHIELD agent. In the regular MU, her father’s death spurred on her training to become an assassin, but, here, there’s no indication of how or why she pursued a SHIELD career.
The art is a mixed bag as Rafael Kayanan’s dark, dynamic, sketchy art is fantastic most of the time, fitting the mold began by Miller and continued by David Mazzucchelli. The coloring, though, is varied, looking its best when it works with the dark, shadowy world that Kayanan draws, but sometimes looking too glossy and flashy, which is distracting. As well, Kayanan’s figures sometimes don’t fit the world that he’s drawing, particularly faces, which don’t blend in as well, looking more cartoony than their setting. Otherwise, it’s a strong performance, particularly the action scenes and the aftermath of the Kingpin’s murder, which is disturbing.
Fans of Daredevil should enjoy “What If? Daredevil vs. Elektra” #1 as it provides a stark contrast to what actually happened and throws in a lot of Easter eggs for the knowledgeable reader. It also happens to be a pretty good read.