Let me talk about what I don't like first: Elektra. The romance, the slow build up, and the deterioration of Matt and Elektra's relationship was evocative, beautiful and heartbreaking when Miller first wrote it. Here, he has her wild, hearing voices, and quite possibly mentally ill - or possessed - before she even meets Matt. It's an odd choice, because it diminishes what came before, it's written by the same man, and it's not really necessary: Miller has enough to work with here that he doesn't need to include Elektra. He makes some vague references to a war that Matt and Elektra are, but leaves that thread dangling, and he doesn't really bring the romance to any sort of conclusion: Elektra fades away, but surely not for long given how the relationship was portrayed during the first run?
Elektra was originally a sympathetic character: kind, a bit demure, although her backbone showed if she bristled enough. (She was a diplomat's daughter; no doubt the demure side was the part she had to play at times. Also, I think it was a nice counterpoint to the cold, arguably soulless, killer she became later. By turning her into a maniac and crazy murderer, Miller only made me hate her right from the beginning. The tragedy of Elektra was who she could have been and what circumstances and her personality turned her into at the end of her life; Miller strips away any tragedy, and replaces it with nothing other than what seems to be cheap shots, all at Elektra's expense. The more I think about this, the more annoyed I get at her inclusion in this mini-series.
The main storyline is hard to read, all about Kingpin's rise to power, which act as a counterpoint to Matt's ferocious development of his own abilities and his decisions about what to do with them. The mob leader that Fisk works under insists that there will be no hard drugs, and no child pornography. He might be a gangster, but he has some honor, some lines he will not cross, and furthermore his family lives where he works. He will not turn their lives, their neighborhoods, into the hell the other mobsters present to him as a possibility for work.
Fisk murders his boss, takes over, and proceeds to bring child trafficking and pornography into Hell's Kitchen. There is controversy over this: is it appropriate for a Daredevil title? The arguments I've heard in favor is that he is a street hero, and is more likely to encounter these types of real life horrors than, say, Thor who is busy fighting off Loki, or some global danger like Thanos or Galactus. Furthermore, someone like Thor - or Iron Man - is fairly mobile. Globetrotting, or even fighting crime off world or in another dimension? Check.
Daredevil, however, is fairly local. At one point, far later, people accuse him of only looking out after his own house. Hell's Kitchen is also an incredibly poor neighborhood; the poverty and crime connection works well as far as the narrative goes. It seems to make sense if anyone's neighborhood were plagued by crime, it would be Daredevil's and not near the mansion that Tony Stark calls home.
Urban superheroes, or heroes, seem to push the edge, to encounter the real life tragedies and horrors that plague the real life. Green Arrow's Speedy/drug use storyline was shocking at the time; comics didn't deal with drugs. I suppose it's the same reason that Arkham Asylum and mental illness fit in so well with Batman. (Despite being a Justice League-er, Batman does also stay very affiliated with Gotham City; he is, arguably, another street hero, working at street level. Despite having some more fantastic villains, his dealing with Arkham and the mentally ill - Harvey Dent, The Joker, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn - fits in with street hero working at the urban level. Then again, Green Arrow is a League-er, too, and DD was once an Avenger. The street level heroes/urban heroes can also be part of the larger teams that deal with worldwide events, and larger threats. I think mostly they have their own series that deal with the street level threats, though, or that's the impression that I get.)
So I think the storyline fits, and giving Matt a personal tie to one of the victims made sense. (I saw that coming before it was revealed; it's pretty obvious, but the emotional impact is in no way lessened. Matt's fear when he makes his discovery, his determination to save his friend? That's where the real hook is.)
Miller could potentially have done more to show the damage this kind of criminal activity causes, but that wasn't what he really wanted to do. He wanted to focus on the rescue, rather than the trauma, and in some way, it's a smart narrative mood. It makes it nice and neat; he can tell the story, and he can leave Matt ready to fully take on the mantle of Daredevil. It also turns the children, and their plight, into a kind of fridging element; their storylines and their trauma are only there to teach Matt a lesson, to galvanize him. It's disappointing how brushed off they are at the end. Matt doesn't even check in to see how the children are doing, and instead we end with the partnership of Nelson and Murdock - in a business sense - being formed.
Again, it's a bizarre ending given the buildup of this storyline in some ways, and it leaves me questioning what Miller was doing*, much as I did with Elektra. I'm giving this the side eye and wondering if I was just duped into Miller-fests, bolstered by the hype. I still loved the way the connections were made, this glimpse at young Matt turning into a man named Daredevil and I loved the risks it took, all of which made sense as far as Daredevil's world goes.
*Hey, Troy, you might have been right on Miller? After my DD project and I finish some library books, I definitely need to reread The Dark Knight Strikes Again** to see if I find that overhyped, too.
**My former co-worker says one customer insisted he wanted The Dark Knight Strikes, an oh, yes, there totally was one before, because the one my co-worker was giving him says 'Again' and he wanted the first one!