From time to time, I’d like to share with you, oh maniacal throngs of the Comic Vine community, choice comics from my personal favorites. Comics that have had a profound influence on my writing and (for whatever criminal reason) haven’t received as much attention as I deem appropriate. ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN is one such neglected work.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
After world-class ninja Elektra assassinates a South American dictator, SHIELD sends agents from its suspicious ExTechOp cybernetics division after her. Handling the operation is the crass, out-of-shape ex-con John Garret, an agent who’s vastly, vastly outclassed by this target. Quickly caught in Elektra’s humiliating and painful web of “psychic domination”, Garret becomes an unwilling tag- along for her outrageous war against the Hand assassin clan’s unholy political conspiracy. Hunted by SHIELD agents and supernatural ninjas alike, Elektra and Garret must stop Ken Wind, a charismatic presidential candidate whose mind’s been swapped with the Beast, the unspeakable demon worshiped by the Hand.
WHY THE FUSS?
Few works can be so positively described as “a good kick to the head” like this ’86 mini-series. It’s an octane-charged fever dream on paper, rock n’ roll made manifest in sequential art, a real meeting of two mad geniuses’ minds. For me, this is better than DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, SIN CITY, 300 and the rest of Frank Miller’s higher-lauded “greatest hits” and that’s in great part due to three simple syllables…
Bill Sienkiewicz’s been imitated by a generation of artists, but never duplicated. He’s a true artist with a true mastery of most media. Pen & ink, water colors, charcoal, gauche, even crayons… you never know what he’ll throw at you. Yet even his wildest, most decadent artistic flourish always parlays into the plot, forging a sublime chaos.
Agent Garret’s a wonderfully-repugnant, politically-incorrect schmuck but, by virtue of storytelling alone, he’s also resoundingly sympathetic. When Elektra’s invading his mind, the imagery fractures and you feel like you’re head’s splitting open too (but in a good way, trust me). The plot’s delirious pace and art’s unpredictability keeps you on your toes, just as this two-bit thug finds himself in over his head amongst demon-worshipping ninjas and shrouded blue midgets. Forgoing plot, you can enjoy this as a uniquely sensory experience that only comics can provide.
HOW TO BREAK THIS DOWN?
Very, very few comics have given me a Scout’s honor, 100% Grade A certifiable adrenaline rush like this did. When I read it (going on six years ago, now), I couldn’t help but finish all 200-odd pages in one sitting. This is a storytelling textbook for me. Miller and Sienkiewicz drop you blind into one bizarre situation after another, then kick the gas to 75MPH and let you fill in the gaps later. With minimal explanations, this comic’s at once viscerally thrilling and intellectual complex, freely mixing gun fights with Freudian archetypes and high-speed chases with world mythology.
This comic’s as old as I am, but ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN’S still fresh, brazen and incomparable. The collections out of print, but go find it now! Somewhere! I guarantee, you'll be in for one hell of a ride.
WHERE’S THE BEST SCENE?
Oh, that’s hard. There are so many…
The splash of Garret’s cyborg body getting “stapled back together” by cruel, grinning ExTechOp technicians after Elektra sends him back to them in pieces is the most singularly-striking image. Can't find it online, but it's still carved into my brain. It’ll make you wince.
-- Tom Pinchuk is the writer of UNIMAGINABLE for Arcana Comics and HYBRID BASTARDS! for Archaia Comics. Watch out for the HYBRID BASTARDS! hardcover collection this March - - available for pre-order now on Amazon.com.