From A Library – Elektra: The Scorpio Key

Elektra: The Scorpio Key
Brian Michael Bendis & Chuck Austen

I recently saw the Elektra film on DVD; the film was dull, but the accompanying documentary on comic book writers and artists who had worked on Elektra was far more interesting. Hell, just seeing Frank Miller, Brian Michael Bendis, Greg Rucka and Bill Sienkiewicz in the flesh was worth the rental. The reason I mention this is that Bendis said in that documentary that he only took on the job because he had an Elektra story to tell. I can only assume he meant The Scorpio Key, because I’m not sure this book is what he had in mind when he decided to overcome his initial aversion to writing the character, so dull and lifeless is the tale that unfolds.

I won’t bore you with too many details, as I want to keep you reading my blog, but it basically involves SHIELD getting Elektra to go to Iraq and kill someone and pick up a ‘thing’, which turns out to be the Scorpio Key. It might sound like it has the constituents to make an exciting espionage thriller, but that’s not what happens. And it certainly doesn’t feel as if it requires the character of Elektra in order for it to be told, which kind of misses the point. Why use Elektra, a character that should stay in the past, in a generic spy/action narrative?

The story meanders rather than whips; Bendis is known for his dialogue, and it can be good, but people sitting around, either outside or in darkened rooms, is not really what Elektra should be about. Based on the stories that Bendis has been telling in the Marvel Universe, from the obscenely tardy Secret Wars to the New Avengers, suggests he has a huge hard-on for spies stories, Nick Fury and SHIELD in particular (and this is without mentioning his early indie work, Fire; it’s hard to believe they are both written by the same guy at times). However, that urgency for the genre doesn’t equate to any passion here, leaving you bored and flicking through the book with not much enthusiasm.

What kills the book stone dead is the hideously flat art from Chuck Austen. To quote the documentary again, Bendis said that another reason for doing the story was seeing the great computer art that Austen was using. You what? Are we talking about the same art here? Blandness bleeds from each page like slime from a beaker in a mad scientist’s laboratory in a ‘50s B-movie. Everything is so static, even the action shots. The characters all look like Action Man figures and Barbie dolls being posed badly and poorly photographed before being manipulated inexpertly in Photoshop. It’s like being weakly slapped around the face with an old cushion by your gran after Christmas dinner; not what you want, and it gets annoying after a while. The ultimate insult is the ‘Nuff Said chapter included at the end of the book, a silly marketing stunt where there is no, or minimal, dialogue in the issue. In what is a poorly choreographed, extended fight scene, which ends up with Elektra showing off her scars to bring the fight to a conclusion, you feel cheated at paying for this rubbish. I’m glad I read it for free, or I’d be pissed off.

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