I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t generally pick up a What If? story and expect a lot of depth. Nor do I expect to have any kind of emotional reaction to it beyond the cocked eyebrow of “huh, what do you know?”. The What If? takes regular continuity, throws it out the window and goes on to tell the story of what didn’t happen. So, beyond the novelty of the format, there’s rarely much left to make the reader really care about what’s going on.
Considering the inherent limitations of a What If? story, this issue is surprisingly good. Writer Karl Bollers approaches the task by not trying to do anything ground-breaking, instead offering up interesting new takes on old characters such as Foggy Nelson, and making the kinds of nods to continuity that should appeal to any hardcore or longtime Daredevil fan. For obvious reasons, most of the story references events from the Miller run, but even frequent co-stars from the decades since then make guest-appearances.
In What If? Daredevil vs Elektra, Matt Murdock dies while saving the lives of Elektra and her father, and is raised from the dead by the Hand, taking on the name of the Advocate. Many years later, he comes back into Elektra’s life. Elektra is now an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. though very little of her backstory is revealed, which detracts a bit from the overall story. For obvious reasons, Matt – or, more accurately, the Advocate – is the most enigmatic character and while some of the superficial elements of the story would have his role as ninja leader seem similar to current mainstream continuity, very little of the character we know remains. Despite the lack of emotional connect with the Advocate, the final scene between him and Elektra is a beautiful moment and I must admit to being moved by it in ways I wasn’t expecting when I picked up this issue.
The art, with pencils by Rafael Kayanan, is good but feels a little uneven. Some scenes look messy and cluttered whereas others are strikingly beautiful. On the whole, it works quite well, and new takes on classic moments in Daredevil history are easily recognizable.
At the end of the issue is an extra feature by Mike Gallagher and Dave Manak called Say What? which offers a humorous look at the events of the main feature in comic strip style. While it had its moments, I must say that it would have been more enjoyable (and not out of place) if the subject for the comic strip had been the characters from the 616 continuity, rather than their What If? counterparts.
All in all, this issue wasn’t stellar, but still delivered more than I expected. It appealed to my inner fangirl and even made me care about the characters and events.