I have a feeling this week I’m going to be writing a lot about awesome relationships that drowned in the comic book river of limbo. So here’s something completely different, a relationship that a lot of people think of, but doesn’t actually have a ton of history.
Fun fact: last year’s Black Widow #3 was the first time Natasha and Elektra met on panel.
Wait wait, you might be thinking, what about the Murdock Papers. And yeah, you’d be sort of right. Daredevil #78-80 did feature scenes like this one, where Elektra and Natasha each tried to help Matt and tried to bite the other’s head off.
Bendis wanted a Black Widow and Elektra who just didn’t like each other, so they called each other “skank” and went on their merry cat-fighting way. Natasha has a bit of an excuse, because Elektra’s just taken over an Evil Ninja Cult, and she knows this with her SHIELD powers. Elektra has even more of an excuse, because in these scenes, she is a skrull.
As much as I find their shallow bickering (and Elektra’s shallow costume) here to be one of the few false notes of an otherwise spectacular run on Daredevil, even Bendis showed them as more than just Mean Girls. When Matt’s secret id got blown early on in the run, Natasha called Elektra to give him a bit of a pep talk. The real anymosity only started after Skrullektra committed herself full-tilt to the cause of international terrorism.
Before then, there had been a few offhand mentions, like the following in issue #8, the Kevin Smith finale.
And a famous near miss in the famous Frank Miller Daredevil #191, but no speaking parts.
Which leaves us with the Liu/Acuña matchup in Black Widow #3, and I’m pretty okay with that. Liu only had a few pages to work with— Elektra was mostly there for the gratuitous cameo potential, and not so much the ongoing plot. But the causal indifference really felt right. There was animosity without rivalry, and I think that’s the key to writing their relationship successfully. These are two women in dangerous jobs who would be dead if they let passion choose their actions. They can’t afford the personal investment. It is a difficult currency.
Liu also did a nice job bringing their similarities to the forefront. Both walk a kind of line between Marvel’s superhero community and its darker parts. They’re both professionals, which might seem like no big, but the MU is full of amateurs. These are people who lucked into superpowers struggling with decisions they never saw themselves making and tight clothes they never thought they could wear. Natasha and Elektra chose this, and they couldn’t do what they do without that lifetime commitment.
I don’t want to call them kindred spirits, because they’re very different in fundamental ways. They do not get along, and that makes perfect sense. Elektra is a killer for hire, and that mercenary attitude is anathema to Natasha, who has fought for shifting causes, but always for a cause. And Elektra has every reason to distrust SHIELD, spies, and governments. She’s a true solo act, and she doesn’t need government back-up.
But god, there’s so much more to their characters than Matt.