It’s no big secret that my favorite superhero is Daredevil. Frank Miller is almost inarguably the biggest influence on the character. I recently reread his entire run, and I just started “Elektra: Assassin,” and I can’t stop this nagging feeling that Frank Miller has always been just awful.
At first you could overlook it. The stories were operatic, so maybe the misogyny and noir excess were tongue-in-cheek… but no. Elektra’s death had the same effect on Daredevil’s relationships with women that “The Killing Joke” had on Batman’s rogues gallery: all of a sudden, everything is locked into a doomed repetition of over-the-top “gritty” bullshit. Getting into a romantic relationship with Daredevil is now pretty much the same thing as jumping off of a cliff. Sure, it’s exciting at first, a new experience, but we all know where it ends up. Women in refrigerators time.
Elektra got murdered by Bullseye within a year or two of being introduced. Spoiler alert. Naturally, they brought her back to life, because if comics creators have any superpower it’s the ability to endlessly beat dead horses/superheroes.
Karen Page was a lovely girl in the first few issues of “Daredevil,” albeit suffering from the “gee golly gosh, I’m just a dizzy dame” sensibilities of the era, but she ended up a recovering drug addict and former porn star who was killed by Bullseye (just like Elektra… sigh…) after Mysterio tricked her into thinking that she had AIDS. What the fuck is that?
Every time Daredevil meets a new woman, he falls in love, and then she turns out to be evil, dead, or both. Or Black Widow, but that’s not the point.
It all started with Frank Miller introducing Elektra and then killing her off, primarily for shock value, because that’s what Frank Miller does.
I loved “Sin City” as a kid, because I thought it was a hilarious, over-the-top parody of noir movies and books. Nope. It’s just hilariously over-the-top. There’s nothing satirical about it.
Ditto “300.” I thought the homophobia was tongue-in-cheek, but now I think it was just a mean-spirited jab by a bitter and increasingly conservative aging artist.
“Holy Terror.” ’Nuff said.
Also, did anyone else notice that he called the protagonist from “Holy Terror” “The Fixer,” when that’s the name of the mob boss who had Daredevil’s father killed? He just ripped off Stan Lee, and a sandbox he’d played in. What the hell, Frank? I read an interview with him (in “Dark Horse Presents” Vol. 2, Issue 1, I believe), where he said he’d just had the name for the character floating around in his head for a while. Yeah, jackass, that’s because you read it in old “Daredevil” comics.
His more recent work has had the “Star Wars Prequel Effect” of making me realize that everything that came before it was nowhere near as good as I’d previously thought. The flaws in his current work are so glaring that they’re easier to see in his older work, back when they had been less obvious.
So far, “Elektra: Assassin” is full of casual misogyny and Miller’s weird fetishism of women, channeled through Bill Sienkewicz, who at least makes the boring/borderline incomprehensible story fun to look at. You’re awful, Frank Miller. Just awful. And I used to love you.
Misogyny, homophobia, racism… I just don’t have time for that shit. Not in the real world, and especially not in my fantasy world. I honestly think Daredevil would be better off without you, Frank. Even if he’d languished a while longer, someone like Bendis or Brubaker would have come along and given him a noir treatment without all of your weird hangups (which they eventually did).
Now I’m off to finish reading “Elektra: Assassin,” just so that I’ve read it. If it’s anything like Miller’s execrable “Man Without Fear,” I’ll finish it, set it aside, and let it gather dust until kingdom come.
You let me down, Lanky Frank.
PS “Dark Knight Returns” is still fucking awesome.