By: W. Haden Blackman (story), Michael Del Mundo (art) Marco D’Alfonso (colors)
The Story: Which assassin will have the better family reunion?
The Review: If there’s someone who fits the definition of antihero, Elektra does. Her methods are unapologetically brutal, her objectives not always for the greater good. In times past, she’s even been outright villain, I believe. Therefore, it’s important, for those of us who want to continue enjoying this book without feeling bad about ourselves, that we get a solid sense of where her morals land, so we’re not just getting entertainment out of a killer satiating her killer’s instinct.*
Indeed, that could be Blackman’s very purpose in kicking off the series with an arc involving a whole bunch of assassins. They provide the comparative framework we need to understand how Elektra places on the scale between good and evil. Putting her side-by-side with Bloody Lips seems particularly useful because they have the common ground of deep family tragedies in their past. The more similar two things are, the more profound their differences.
Unfortunately, after a weak attempt to absolve himself of killing his wife and kids, Lips simply accepts that he’s a homicidal sadist then proceeds to imagine, with no small measure of contentment, all the different ways he could have killed them if he hadn’t already done so. No one’s expecting him to get down on his knees and beg penance, but this does cheapen his character considerably. He might as well be one of Batwoman‘s monsters, killing just because it’s in his nature.
Obviously, Elektra’s not that bad. Imagining the life she could have led had her mother survived, she sees herself fighting for self-defense and sport, working as an artist and diplomat, becoming a mother—she sees a normal, peaceful life. Blackman’s telling us this is what Elektra’s capable of, even if time and experience has conditioned her into something very different. Unlike Lips, she doesn’t enjoy killing for its own sake.
But let’s forget about comparing her to Lips. Even Scalphunter and Lady Bullseye, mercenary as they are, have more complicated motives than a thirst to kill. Now Elektra may be as attracted to the big bucks as anyone else—that’s how she got onto this mission in the first place—but there’s principles involved in her kills, too. When her vision of her mother demands that she looks upon her victims, Elektra declares, “[A]ll I see are murderers, terrorists, and despots[.]” Hard to argue with that.
With that settled, we’re now free to enjoy Elektra doing what she does best: outmaneuver her targets. In round two of her match with Lips, she manages to score again, proving that one can’t simply rely on metahuman** powers defeat her. It’s almost a little disappointing how quickly she disposes of him, though I suspect he’ll rise again next issue. You can only hope Cape Crow turns out to be the challenge the arc’s hyped him up to be
Often, when characters experience a delusional encounter with ghosts from their pasts, the artists don’t seem to know what to do with the settings. Most of the time, they eliminate extra details altogether for a blank background that gives more focus to the drama before you. That’s a fine choice, but I happen to like the watery dreamworld Del Mundo and D’Alfonso craft between them. Here, your vision is slightly blurred, sharp and dull colors mix and blend in a dizzying way, and exaggerated, occasionally grotesque figures loom and leer from the sidelines. It’s uncertain what you’re looking at; is it spiritual epiphany, psychological breakdown, telepathic manipulation, magical spell, or simply the physical reaction of half-drowning at the bottom of the ocean? That ambiguity turns a talky sequence into a complex visual experience, which is much appreciated.
Conclusion: Pure action from beginning to end, but from it you can get some valuable insights into our antiheroine.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * As you might imagine, this is the same reason why I stopped watching Dexter. Also, it turned out to be a stinker at the end, so I lucked out on that one.
** Is metahuman a term in the Marvel U? I was under the impression it was a DC-centric one and perhaps Blackman forgot which publisher he was writing for.