If you haven’t watched the last season of Netflix’s ‘Daredevil’, be warned, there will be spoilers.
The true death of Elektra would seem to be an foregone conclusion for a show that is adhering closely to it’s source material, as Netflix’s Daredevil does. That source material has been drawn exclusively from Frank Miller’s run on the series as writer/artist with issue #168-192 (Daredevil, vol. 1), and given the appearances of the King Pin, the Punisher, and Elektra, it’s only a matter of time before Bullseye – the man that kills Elektra – will make his debut.
When that happens, speculators will likely inflate the value of Daredevil (vol. 1), #181 (April 1982), at least temporarily. The true value of this issue lies in the boundaries Miller’s run pushed; it was darker in narrative and art, but he also put Matt Murdoch through a gauntlet of personal tragedies, the likes of which no other super hero from Marvel of DC Comics had been subjected to.
Paul Levitz, long time artist and executive at DC Comics, has referred to Miller’s work on Daredevil as heralding in the “Dark Age” of comics in his, 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking. Levitz has been a long time fan favorite among collectors of DC Comics. His most notable work was on Legion of Super Heroes, and many of his concepts have become cannon for the 31st century super hero team.
Indeed, the emotional gauntlet that Miller forced Matt Murdoch to run through was unlike anything else that had been published before it. In the narrative of the complete run it’s possible to see Miller mature and gain confidence in his craft. The early issues presented King Pin in more conventional writing styles of the era – a little hokey with a lot of exposition – but as his tenure on the run deepens Miller finds his voice and narrative style. By the time Miller finishes his Punisher arc it’s clear Daredevil has become something truly unique. Miller combined the traditional crime and gang fighting genre with Asian martial arts genre to create a deep and thoughtful narrative epoch.
After Daredevil, Miller would continue to refine his narrative and artistic style, blurring the line between hero and villain, and making the stakes ‘real’ and deeply personal for heroes and villains alike. Success was immediately apparent in the sales of Daredevil. When Miller took over the series, it was Marvel’s lowest selling book; within a year the series was not only Marvel’s top selling comic book, but also the top selling comic book in the industry. The comic industry took note, and followed suit, publishing comics that were progressively more violent and the price of being a hero was increasingly steep.
That Miller’s Daredevil run represents the beginning of a new ‘Age’ makes the issues from #168-192 a serious and important addition to a serious collection. When I say “serious collection”, I mean simply that to complete it, you’ve got to be prepared to spend some money to do so. For example, my most recent purchase at my local comic shop – The Comic Hunter – was Daredevil (vol. 1) #181 (April 1982). I purchased the book for $64.00 CDN, a copy in mint condition. The corners, edges, and spines of the issue are flawless. In this issue, Elektra is killed by long time Daredevil rogue Bulls Eye. This death sent shock waves through fandom for the deeply personal and human experience of watching a loved one die. It is itself one of the single most important deaths of the Modern/Dark Age of comics.
Those that have watched Netflix’s Daredevil know that Elektra, who debuted in the second season of the show, released last fall (2016), ended the season among the killed in action. Collectors and fans of the Daredevil comic book knew, even before the first trailer for the streaming service’s upcoming Defenders series was released. However, based on the trailer we know that Elektra will play a pivotal role in the series, and so she will be alive and well, possibly setting the Daredevil series up for a narrative spin off of the Defenders, one that introduces Bullseye, the villain who will inevitably take Elektra’s life.
In fairness, the gritty and dark artistic presentation of late 1970’s Manhattan set the series tone. So important was Miller’s setting, in what was then contemporaneous Manhattan, that the character of Hell’s Kitchen and its citizens are almost a character onto themselves. In a sign of how vital Miller’s rendition of Manhattan via Hell’s Kitchen is to the modern mythology of Daredevil, the Netflix series has recreated that era of Manhattan’s historical skyline.
Anyone can get an electronic copy of Daredevil #181. Marvel’s online library “Marvel Unlimited” features a high quality, high resolution copy of the issue. It’s really very vibrant as colors are digitized. However, in some cases, as in this case, the digitization of colors strips some of the dark broodiness that threads its way through Miller’s epoch. Printing techniques in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s hadn’t change much over the course of the fifty years. However, colorists learned to work with the limitations of the era including paper quality, ink separation, and available color options.
Miller’s Daredevil epoch was the darkest superhero narrative ever published. The state of printing technology at the time enhance the darkness of the overall narrative. Dark inks mix with bursts of color here at there adding to the emotion of any particular scene. For example, the definitive scene in which Bullseye runs his weapon through Elektra’s heart is drawn on a white background, which a ‘bright’ pink accent bar running vertically down the left hand side. The electronic version of the scene is vibrant and quiet stunning to be honest; however, when compared to the physical copy the electronic copy cannot convey the same emotion that the original muted and darkened colors on the newsprint did.
At $64.00 Canadian, this issue of Daredevil is in my collection. My intention is to collect Miller’s entire run. When I arrived at my favorite, and now local comic book shop – The Comic Hunter – my intention was to buy a few back issues from Miller’s run and save the pricier editions until later. However, the Defenders trailer had just dropped and the hints of Elektra’s return swayed me to invest in the issue. If she isn’t dead, then she isn’t going to die in the Defenders. Her story is directly tied to that of Matt Murdoch and Daredevil, and because of that her murder, Bullseye, will be introduced and her murder will play out on Netflix’s Daredevil.
As it becomes clear that the series is moving in this direction, I expect to see the value of this issue grow. The amount of that increase will likely be proportional to the fanfare and the marketing of the series and the iconic scene. Sometimes the speculation has been daffy. For instance, in the months and weeks leading up to the release of Netflix’s Jessica Jones, the value of the first issue of her 2004 series was valued around $700.00. I’m not sure what the current value of the book is, but I would be shocked if it was still this high. That there may be a new high water market in terms of the issues value post-show release is likely, but there is no way that those values can sustain themselves. My prediction is that it will settle around the fifteen to twenty dollar range.
Now, I’m aware that I’m shitting on comic book market speculation at the same time that I’m admitting to buying this issue of Daredevil for the purpose of speculating on it. What can I say? I’m interested in seeing what happens. However, the issue is still an important touchstone in what has become cannon for Daredevil. Not only is the issue important on it’s own, it is also a part of a larger epoch twenty some-odd issue collection. An epoch that ushered in a new era of story telling and a new Age of comic history: the Dark Age.
The importance of Miller’s Daredevil epoch on the comic book industry can not be understated. As a collector, if you want to collect this important run of issues, you have to accept that there are a number of “high value” issues that you are going to need to swallow. Daredevil #181 is one of those issues, and that’s why I decided to shell out the money to add it to my long-boxes.