BOTH HAVE SHARP TEETH
S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 Women of Marvel variant by David Marquez.
Painting done for Heroes Con 2014 art auction
It’s about time that one of the world’s most recognized female super heroes got her own solo series. And “Storm” brings our count of monthly series featuring female leads up to seven. All of these books – “She-Hulk,” “Elektra,” “Black Widow,” “Ms. Marvel,” “Captain Marvel” and “X-Men” – have very different vibes, and feature characters motivated by very, very different things. “Storm” will continue that trend.
Here’s a screenshot from a January 2005 Wall Street Journal article about Elektra and the superhero glass ceiling. “Guys like girls dressed up in sexy outfits, but when it comes to the action they still prefer the men doing it,” says the comic book expert. “Even the females prefer the men.” A Fox studio executive adds that Elektra must appeal first to the “audience that is most attentive to the genre” (read: young men).
Of these four projects, only the Underworld sequel made it to filming.
I remember attending Toronto Comicon shortly after the release of “Captain Marvel” and seeing a five-year-old girl who’d come in a handmade Captain Marvel outfit with her hair moussed up – and I totally got the need for this book, for this hero. Someone who looks like her, and acts like her. So, in a way, “Captain Marvel” helped pave the road to the expanded role of female leads. “Ms. Marvel,” “Black Widow,” “Elektra,” “She-Hulk,” the all-female “X-Men” book – female heroes anchoring their own series have never been as prevalent in the Marvel Universe, and there’s more to come. There’s a thirst out there for strong female characters, and it’s not just female readers who crave them. Marvel readers want a good story, that’s all.
I’ve done a write-up of their relationship but it’s so old I don’t remember what I said, so, here you go. Name of the Rose was actually the first time they met, at least on panel. Since then they’ve appeared in a couple big team-up scenes together, in Heroes for Hire and Fearless Defenders, but nothing really substantial. There’s one earlier team-up worth noting, in the Murdock Papers arc of Daredevil.
Natasha: Natchios, drop your weapon or I take off your face.
Elektra: Don’t threaten me.
Natasha: I’m not threatening you. I’m telling you. Just take us to— Matt…
From Daredevil #80, by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev.
This Elektra is a skrull, but I think this meet-up still set a lot of precedent. There’s clearly a relationship there even if we’ve never seen them meet. And why not? They are women of large reputations and common acquaintance. Bendis painted them as two people who just don’t get along, at some fundamental level. There’s the easy explanation for that, some kind of mutual Matt Murdock-born antipathy, and Bendis implies that at least a little bit. “If you and this ninja are back together,” his Natasha says, “I’m killing you both.”
That’s boring, though. Like, neither has been with Matt since the 1980s. We can do better.
Step back and there are all these other reasons they might hate each other. Elektra’s relationship with SHIELD is troubled. She doesn’t like spies, and who really does? When she confronts Natasha in Name of the Rose, it’s because her own secrets have gotten out, secrets Natasha stole, that the bad guys stole from her. And Elektra doesn’t have any reason to trust Natasha, like the Avengers do.
And to Natasha, Elektra is a mercenary, an assassin, a terrorist. She kills people for money, and I think that can’t sit well with someone who kills for loyalty, country, some self-justified higher purpose. Elektra is simultaneously the one thing Natasha isn’t and too close for comfort. Earlier in Bendis’s Daredevil run, Natasha sets up a meeting between Matt and Elektra, because she’s manipulative and wants Matt to be happy. By the time this scene rolls around, Skrullektra has made herself leader of the Hand, a bad guy group. And I think the perceived backslide, here, the return to the evil that carved her, made her into a puppet, strikes Natasha especially awful for reasons of her own backstory.
I do think there’s a sliver of Matt Murdock based irrationality in here. Natasha thinks of Matt as a friend, and while I don’t think their relationship will ever be completely platonic, I think now he is a friend, first. She’s been kind to his other girlfriends, towards Clint’s other girlfriends, and if she was ever jealous she’s had a lot of practice swallowing her own feelings. But Elektra is bad news, dangerous, and Natasha protects her friends. Natasha’s right: Matt and Elektra are terrible, tragic. They only have happy endings in What Ifs. But I can’t see Elektra caring.
If Richard Morgan got a third Black Widow volume, he was going to introduce Elektra. Maybe now that they’re both getting solo series again, there will be another chance.
In Whoville they say that her small fan heart grew three sizes that day.
I’m gonna take this as an opportunity to freak out all over about the new Elektra title, since I will spend the entirety of the next three months talking about Natasha’s series. Zeb Wells has a huge passion for Elektra and his Dark Reign mini with Clay Mann is one of the best takes in years. And look at this gorgeous promo art:
Not even the stars are safe in the sky.
I’m not sure if this is Fearless Defenders related, but possible upcoming cover!
CORRECTION! It IS FEARLESS DEFENDERS RELATED!