Monday, 24 January 2011

Books: Elektra: Assassin


Elektra: Assassin
Written by Frank Miller
Art by Bill Sienkiewicz

Available now from Islington Libraries
You can reserve this item for free here:

Elektra Natchios: first introduced (and killed off) by Frank Miller in his run on Marvel's Daredevil: a lethal ninja assassin forever wielding twin sai (which you - like me - most probably will recognise as Raphael's weapon of choice) and always elegantly dressed in skin-tight red. But really you don't need to know anything previous about her or her history in order to read this book (which exists as a prequel in case you're wondering about her whole 'coming-back-from-the-dead-thing') - this is a stand alone story that - while it uses a few Marvel characters and touchstones (including the secret spy organisation S.H.I.E.L.D.) it wraps and mutates them in such a way as to make them unrecognisable.

First thing to say: the artwork in this book by comics legend Bill Sienkiewicz is absolutely jaw-droppingly delicious. I want to eat it up with a spoon and touch it against my face licking the pages. And the way he draws everything from cars rushing towards the reader, to the angle of his characters arms, to the electric leads strewn across the floor, to the way his ninja/accountants hold their briefcases - it's all so fantastically seductive and alive that makes the hairs on the back of my everything tingle.

Next thing to say is that: be prepared for disorientation. This isn't exactly (especially at the start) easy reading and it will take you a little while to find your feet and things start to make sense. If it all seems a little much - and if you're thinking of giving up: my advice would be to stick with it at least until you're about halfway in.

Hard to believe that the story lives up to it too and - ok - I admit - it might not seem that sophisticated (Ninja assassin goes up against a demon trying to destroy the world) but the techniques and flashy tricks it uses to tell that story are just as polished and finely worked over as the art. Plus: it's gripping, exciting and at many points massively laugh out loud funny. Because - well it's Frank Miller - and despite (or because of?) his teenage mind-set - dude really knows how to write to comic that will entertain the hell of anyone. Yeah the thrills are cheap - but they're all pulled off in the most luxurious and expensive-feeling ways possible: like driving 100miles an hour in a leather chair sipping a superior whiskey and smoking a big, fat cuban cigar. "Presidents don't cry. I don't cry. That's why I'm the president." A brilliant and crazy masterpiece: pretty much as good as comics can get.

Links: Death To The Universe Analysis, Comic Book Resources: Comics You Should Own Article, The Comics Reporter Article.

Further reading: Stray Toasters, Daredevil: Born AgainThe Big Guy and Rusty The Boy Robot, The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the Twenty-First Century, Cages, Black Summer, Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Hard Boiled.

Profiles: Frank Miller.

All comments welcome.

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