By: W. Haden Blackman (story), Michael Del Mundo (art) Marco D’Alfonso (colors)
The Story: Elektra experiences her own Poseidon Adventure.
The Review: Back when Blackman was working with J.H. Williams III on Batwoman, I often wondered how much he contributed to that series. I won’t lie; I had a lot of admiration for the writing on Batwoman, mostly for its great technique. In no other series did I feel like I had a deep understanding of all its characters, even the most incidental. It achieved this by consistently doing what few ongoing titles ever manage to do: push plot and character development at the same time.
At this point, I’m ready to conclude that particular aspect of Batwoman‘s success was probably due largely to Blackman. He’s accomplishing much of the same thing here, on Elektra, finding all kinds of ways to reveal something new about the characters in the middle of a scene, and using the gaps in between to fill in the characters’ lives even further. He does all this so seamlessly that you never notice howhe’s doing it; you’re just carried along by the ceaseless flow of the story, only realizing how much you’ve learned once you reach the end.
Of course, Blackman gives himself a very handy storytelling tool in Bloody Lips’ memory-absorbing power, which offers glimpses into the minds of characters past as much as the ones featured in the here-now. Fascinating as the differences in psychology between Bullseye, Lady Bullseye, and Scalphunter are, the really important stuff comes from what Lips manages to glean from Kento and Elektra. These details don’t just add substance to the plot; they give it flavor.
Kento’s family memories are crucial to the narrative in that they give Lips the clue he needs to track down his targets. But moreover, they offer insights into Kento’s relationship with Crow as well as Crow himself. Last issue begged the question as to whether Kento or Elektra have the right assessment of Crow’s character and this issue only makes the question more insistent. Should we take the memories of father-son bonding trips to the Savage Land and the blue area of the moon as signs that Crow genuinely wants to be a family man? Or should we take the cold, hard fact that he’s still one step ahead of his hunters as a sign that he hasn’t yet put a life of assassination behind him?
Meanwhile, Blackman continues to take us into new locales in the Marvel U, the latest being Shicheng, a.k.a. Lion City, an ancient Chinese city sunk as a consequence of modern technology. As with Monster Island, we don’t get to explore the place as extensively as we’d like, but Shicheng provides a fresh setting for Elektra and Lips to duke it out, as well as a mystical plot device that renders both assassins vulnerable, ready for even greater character mining. Admittedly, the whole delusion-as-revelation thing is overdone in superhero comics, but you can forgive its use here since there’s some ambiguity as to how much of what Lips and Elektra see is true—which is not the same thing as to say it’s real.
It’s also worth pointing out that Blackman simply has one of the most descriptive narrative voices in comics, one that manages to capture details that even Del Mundo’s expansive art can’t contain. Take Lips’ painfully chaotic visions after Elektra thrusts a tsai straight into his skull: “All I can see are flashes in my brain…red yellow blue green they burn the back of my eyes…so bright can’t see can’t think can’t heal…one last flash then darkness…”
Or how about Elektra’s experience of drowning: “As his voice fades, I can hear everything else…my heart hammering in my head…my lungs screaming… My jaw pops. Then silence.”
With all the different graphic styles he uses to distinguish one psychopath’s memories from another in the opening pages, Del Mundo reveals he has a far greater artistic range than the dreamy, painted pages of this series would show. Frankly, it’s already amazing that with such stylized work that he can give the issue such liveliness, but chalk that up to the elongated lines of his figures, and how every motion seems to send them swirling, swooping, streaking. D’Alfonso also shows some delightfully variety in his coloring here, stepping back from his usual, even monochromes for shots of neon-infused hues.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – I do like how Elektra’s harpoon gun is loaded with a tsai.
– This is bad, but isn’t it kind of amusing that Bullseye kills a baseball player with actual baseballs?