Patrick: Last time, we discussed the lengths Elektra goes through to not be defined by the actions taken against her (or even those taken on her behalf). The obvious point of comparison is the bounty hunter Bloody Lips, introduced to us in that issue, but left off our heroine’s radar. Bloody Lips gains skills and perspectives by eating the flesh of his enemies. Rather than having traits forced upon him, his borrowed abilities are elective. It’s hard to distinguish between the morality of these two characters: both are mercenaries willing to kill in order to get closer to their goal. The second issue starts to delineate hero from villain as Bloody Lips is propelled forward by instinct and Elektra is held back by compassion.
Elektra makes her way to Cape Crow’s safe house, only to find that it’s already been ransacked by a pair of mercenaries. A little deductive reasoning (and some handy footprint identification) reveals their identities as Scalphunter and Lady Bullseye — no problem for someone like Elektra. Between her mad-sai skills and an angry mother-monster, Elektra’s able to readily dispatch her competition, either killing them or leaving them for dead. Then finally, she happens upon Cape Crow — only, that ain’t Cape Crow, it’s his son Kento Roe. Confession time! Even though he doesn’t have the money, it was Kento who posted the second bounty — y’know, the one that specified “alive.” No one’s particularly happy about this, but Elektra and the Matchmaker agree to help Kento locate his father, in return for all of their belongings.
That’s a curious turn for this series to take. Elektra was looking for a reason to get out of town, but the contract that lead her to Monster Island was also promising a shit ton of money. Michael Del Mundo makes a point of showing her stoic disappointment when she discovers the bounty isn’t real.
You’ll notice that we aren’t clued into to Elektra’s internal monologue here, even though it’s been a constant companion otherwise. Even when we do get the voice over boxes back a few pages later, she’s determining the viability of the proposed course of action, and not whether or not she wants to take it. She’s obviously showing mercy, even a willingness to be helpful.
This isn’t the only time in the issue we witness Elektra’s sensitivity to the relationship between parent and child. Part of the reason she’s able to survive the encounter with Scalphunter and Lady Bullseye is that she has an extraordinary understanding about the field of weird eggs they’re walking through. Now, maybe that’s just common sense — tip for everyone: if you encounter six-foot tall eggs, don’t shoot them; you’ll only enrage their enormous mother — but Elektra is able to leverage this knowledge in a tactical way, giving her the distinct advantage in a fight that even she admits is tougher than she thought it was going to be. I really dig that short range blade fight, by the way. It simultaneously delivers on both the chaos of close quarters combat and a design-y symmetry that calls attention to the skills of both combatants.
Hayden Blackman is deliberately withholding when it comes to Elektra’s motivations, even when it comes to dicier decisions — like how she very coolly lets Lady Bullseye fall and lets Scalphunter be eaten by the monster. Even when she pulls Kento in for questioning about the fake bounty, it’s Matchmaker who voices all of their complaints (still using hilariously anachronistic turns of phrase, by the way). It’s easy to go along with the character’s unexplained change in motivation because we’re always willing to watch our heroes become more heroic, and Kento does seem like a genuinely pitiable dude.
Meanwhile, Bloody Lips occupies a scant five pages of this issue, and what drives him are increasingly inhuman motivations. He lists S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents and supervillains among his previous meals, but the images betray a far more unsettling feast: a shark. How does all of that rest in his head? He’s got the secrets of a S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent, the hatred of Bullseye and the appetite of a shark. He’s a juggernaut, hurtling toward his goal with a terrifying animal ferocity. Even more terrifying: he’s decided that eating Elektra is part of that goal.
Hey, Spencer, I know I usually leave you with slightly more thoughtful questions than this, but: why is the sound effect that accompanies Scalphunter’s gunfire “YOLO?” Is that a reference to the fact that he is about to die? Or maybe I’m missing something and all sound effects have always been hashtags? #snikt #bamf
Spencer: Maybe Scalphunter’s just a Drake fan? (It was Drake who started that whole YOLO business, right? I’ll admit that I’ve never heard any of his songs; to me he’ll always be Jimmy Brooks). I dunno, if nothing else, Scalphunter definitely seems like just the kind of douche who would have a gun that goes “YOLO!”
Anyway Patrick, while I certainly agree that Elektra shows mercy to Kento at several points (especially when she stops Matchmaker from turning him in to the Guild), I don’t think that mercy’s her primary motivation in this issue.
Like we established back in issue one, Elektra is still looking to redefine herself, to step out of the shadow of other people, and Kento is exactly what she needs to achieve that goal. What I find interesting is the dynamic this goal creates between Elektra and Bloody Lips. Elektra wants to become something more than she is currently, and to do so she’s looking to assimilate the resources of another assassin; isn’t that just a less brutal, less cannibalistic version of what Bloody Lips is doing?
I get the feeling that we’re heading for a “opposite sides of the same coin” kind of relationship between these two, but I don’t know if we’ve reached that point just yet; for all Elektra’s compassion, for all Bloody Lips’ madness, they’re both primarily self-interested mercenaries. Bloody Lips kills to gain power or fulfill contracts, but seemingly leaves Lady Bullseye alive because she has nothing to offer him; Elektra saves Kento, but that act of mercy hinges upon him helping her find Cape Crow; neither one’s exactly a saint, I suppose is what I’m saying. I’m psyched to see what happens when these two clash, but more than that, I can’t wait to see how their encounter may come to reshape Elektra’s definition of herself, what she does, and who she wants to be.
Still, as Patrick points out, it can be hard to tell exactly what’s going on in Elektra’s head, even with the internal narration and Del Mundo’s brilliant interpretation of the character. Reading over this issue, I couldn’t help but to notice how Elektra’s narration is all business, eschewing almost any personal ruminations. This reminds me of something I said when talking about Thunderbolts, about how Elektra’s personality befits her position as a ninja, about how she stays quiet and unnoticed until she has something important to say; now that Elektra’s on a mission, this seems to carry over to her internal monologue as well, like she can’t even afford to even spare herself — or the audience — a look into her soul while she’s working.
Like I said, though, Del Mundo does a bang-up job at brining Elektra to life and imbuing her with personality even as she deliberately seems to be trying to shut us out.
Just the way Elektra carries herself — not just in this panel, but throughout the entire issue and even when she fights — shows that she has total confidence in herself, and that confidence brings her not just a fierce spirit, but also a sense of poise. She’s tough as nails, but there’s also an unexpected grace to her.
Elektra’s moves in the second image Patrick posted are powerful and precise, and they are in this spread too, but they’re also combined with a sense of grace and movement, much like the similar spread of Elektra dancing in the first issue. More than anything else in this issue, it shows just who Elektra might really be inside, hidden deep beneath that tough assassin shell.
This spread’s also just plain killer on a technical level. It’s only one panel, but Del Mundo manages to bring to life two separate fights, each moving on a different plane at a different speed; if that wasn’t enough, the shots from Scalphunter’s gun occasionally connects the two fights without disrupting the flow of either one. This is some jaw-dropping work here, and I can’t get enough of just poring over it, looking for more details I may have missed.
There’s plenty to pore over in this book actually, both from the writing and the art, as we wait thirty days for the next issue. There’s a lot to love about this book, and since we’re only at the second issue, it could be the perfect time to catch-up and get on board the Elektra train; do it, you only live once!
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?