By: W. Haden Blackman (story), Michael Del Mundo (art) Marco D’Alfonso (colors)
The Story: So, wait—you don’t want Elektra to kill somebody?
The Review: Now that I’m on something of a hot streak where Marvel titles are concerned, I might as well go for broke and pursue another series featuring an unusual suspect. Of all the solo characters I’ve picked up in recent weeks, I probably have the most familiarity with the assassin by virtue of her guest spot on
Daredevil #35. It’s not much to go by, but it was enough to get me interested in her cool, confidently amoral aura, so close to that Secret Six flavor I haven’t tasted in so long.*
In a lot of the Marvel #1s I’ve read, the protagonists are at an uncertain juncture of their lives, and Elektra is no different. What separates her from the others is that she knows exactly who she is, an “assassin,” and she also knows why: “…I could not bear how foolish I felt every time I spared someone who was determined to kill me.” She’s come to the point where she accepts herself and her beastly past (as concisely summarized by Blackman) completely. She’s a killer with Zen. Even when the direction of her life is unclear, she knows what she has to do.
Right now, that means getting out of New York, a “cage” she stayed in only, it seems, for Daredevil’s sake. His departure from New York is akin to a break with Elektra; as much as he loves both, both have nearly destroyed him more times than he can count. Elektra’s in the same position. Fortunately, her chosen profession gives her plenty of opportunity to not only leave the city behind, but to tackle new challenges, if not happiness.
Along the way, Blackman invigorates the Elektra mythos by immersing us into her assassin’s world. Elektra gets her latest mark from the Matchmaker, a woman who matches members of the Assassin’s Guild to available assignments. The one she gives to Elektra is a doozy: Cape Crow, an assassin so good that he began taking down his peers to snatch up their contracts. The twist is the mission is that while all the other assassins want him dead, Elektra is sent off to bring him in alive. That means resisting her usual killer’s instincts and somehow surviving a man who “[b]rutally dismantled” Sabretooth, Taskmaster, and Bullesye—at the same time. And just to make things interesting even before she runs into Crow, her search starts on Monster Island, the cousin to the similarly primordial Savage Land.
This would all be enough to make an entertaining first arc, but Blackman throws in a dark horse rival to top things off. Bloody Lips seems like a perfect antagonist for Elektra in that he’s similarly driven by his martial artistry, but with just the right touch of the supernatural to make him impressive. His power to absorb the strengths, skills, knowledge, and voices of those he consumes—yes, it’s exactly how it sounds—is derived from “the Serpent,” as is his mission: “…to find and eat Cape Crow.” All these disparate orders concerning Crow has to make you wonder why this previously unheard of assassin is suddenly so important and why he’s lately come out of the woodwork.
Del Mundo’s painted style really shouldn’t have so much physical and emotional range, and yet it does. He draws the way Frazier Irving might had Irving decided to buckle down with a more sophisticated look, all full of haunting silhouettes and scrunched faces. The opening pages, of Elektra transitioning from ribbon and ballet dancing to the ruthless yet no less graceful killing of a Hand ninja is a thing of brutal beauty, a sample of innovative storytelling that he carries throughout the issue. D’Alfonso’s colors seem inspired by the paintings of Toulouse-Lautrec, juxtaposing and blending colors that usually wouldn’t go together—sickly blues, white-hot golds, ruddy pinks, and snaky greens—to create lovely, but tense, evocative moods.
Conclusion: As good of a beginning as you can get, with just the right amounts of appealing character work and intriguing plotting, rendered in a unique, attractive visual style.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * At least, not since Ales Kot’s all-too-short run on Suicide Squad.
– I know Bullseye is a remorseless killer, but you got to feel bad for the guy. First physically broken, then he loses sight of his vision, and now he’s getting eaten.
– On the subject of Bullseye, I was under the impression that he had no voice left, yet he’s pretty chatty here. What gives?