Friday, October 06, 2006

The ELEKTRA angle

I’ve told you before that I read comic books. I’m into everything from the slam-bam WITCHBLADE to the literary PROMETHEA to traditional iconic stories like BATMAN and SUPERMAN. Since I occasionally save a series until I can read a bunch of issues back-to-back, that’s why I’m just now writing about the Marvel Knights rendition of ELEKTRA, which stopped at issue #35.

Elektra is one of my favorites. Really, I’m drawn to a lot of strong female characters—I wrote Bombshells, so there you go—and Elektra is a great Bombshell. However, she’s actually got a much harder edge than a lot of heroines you’ll encounter, except maybe for Anita Blake. I find her especially interesting because she’s a popular figure, and I would think she’d be much more polarizing.

As a form of illustrating that, let’s start with the movie depiction of Elektra in DAREDEVIL and then the eponymous movie. She was one of the best things in DAREDEVIL—it featured her doomed romance with the hero as well as an Elektra “big moment”: her death and resurrection. While Jennifer Garner played her tough, there was a definite vulnerability and humanity to Elektra, and it was appealing for a mainstream audience.

That’s not how the Marvel Knights series goes, although I’ve read issues in which Elektra does have that softer side in other stories.

But we’ll get to that in a sec. Let’s look at the movie ELEKTRA. It was actually a lot closer to the Marvel Knights character: an emotionally shut-down, ethically challenged warrior ninja woman who’s a stone-cold mercenary. The movie did not do well either commercially or critically, and I think it’s because of more than just the movie’s suckitude. Bad movies often do well at the box office, so why not this one? I’m not sure audiences could connect with the colder version of this heroine, and while the movie went halfway toward depicting the redemptive killer who is the Marvel Knights Elektra, it didn’t go full throttle. It shut us out in a lot of ways, and unlike other Marvel enigmas like Wolverine, Elektra didn’t show a great deal of to-the-heart emotion that audiences linked to. Yeah, she rescued a girl, but that was all plot, not characterization.

Now, the Marvel Knights Elektra is a frosty bee-yotch who has a real neat arc. She is the last person you would ever want to have on your tail. She is SCARY, because when she’s hired for a wipe-out job, she damned well completes it. There’s a great issue (#23—“The Mark”) that’s told from the POV of one of her victims. It’s awesome. He’s been running from Elektra for a while, and he tells this weary story in which we see how he’s come to accept finally being caught by her. While he drones on, we see flashes of her creeping closer and closer to him, leaving a trail of blood behind. Unlike the ELEKTRA movie, this issue made me respect her abilities and root for her to balance her inner monster with the more ethical motives of an avenging angel. The Marvel Knights series shows us a lot of character growth—she learns to take jobs based on how they will affect humankind—and I found that fascinating.

So just a comment: if you’re going to miss Bombshell come February, you might want to check out your local comic store. There are some great stories out there, like ELEKTRA or WITCHBLADE or PROMETHEA. It’s exciting to know that tough yet relatable female protagonists are out there, even if Bombshell didn’t fly as it should have.


Kristen Painter said...

I've always been a comic book fan (true geekdom was mine in high school) but I've fallen away from really reading them as I've gotten older. More from lack of time than anything else.

Might have to see what I've been missing tho.

Crystal Green's Blog said...

Kristen, great to hear from you! I didn't gravitate toward comic books until after graduating college, and I'm so happy to have finally gotten with the program. Like you, time plays a huge factor in keeping up with the stories because they seem to never end--and I'm always getting addicted to a new series, besides.

I started reading another good series that I didn't mention in the blog entry, since it's not as exclusively "bombshellish" as, say, ELEKTRA or WITCHBLADE. I'm really enjoying 52, a DC title that chronicles one week in the life of all the DC characters per issue. Very cool, especially since it provides a sort of Reader's Digest recap of the DC universe every week....

Crystal Green's Blog said...

P.S. Kristen, I've been meaning to get over to Romance Divas!!! This latest deadline has put a kink in those plans, but I'm finishing that book up. :)