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Elektra: The Scorpion Key

I never once thought that I could ever give Brian Michael Bendis a bad review. Then I read this horrible piece of crap called Elektra and I knew I was wrong.

Maybe it's me. I grew up reading comics, but I wasn't buying them en masse in the 1980s (because I was eight at oldest, Spider-man always appealed more so than "that devil guy") so I never experienced the Frank Miller run on Daredevil. I never saw Elektra get stabbed with her own sai, or saw Karen Page become a porn star. For these reasons, I just don't care about the character.

Apparently someone does, because Elektra keeps getting revived. Noticing this, I picked up the first collection, The Scorpion Key, and wish I'd kept the receipt.

The story goes thus: The new leader of Iraq (still called Saddam -- very subtle, Bendis) has forged an alliance with the new and improved Hydra, an organization that has shifted from over-the-top world domination schemes and settled on the community conscious supplying of global terrorism. Those wacky snake heads.

Nick "I look like an angry pirate" Fury is not too happy about this merger, not to mention the fact that Saddam is in possession of The Scorpion Key, which is…something mystical…that lights up. Bendis never explains what it is or does, and we see only the briefest glimpse of its power, and even then it seems like little more than fireworks over the Sultan's palace from Aladdin (It is a long-standing element in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s continuity, but still...).

In order to cut through the red tape of S.H.I.E.L.D, he hires Elektra to kill Saddam and grab the key. And the rest is a lot of time spent getting from story point A to story point B.

The story is full of holes and pointless filler that just make the book drag for hours. If Fury has to deal with so much "red tape," why the Hell does he have a fully manned makeshift headquarters full of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in Iraq? Where'd you get the clearance Nick? There's a brief and ultimately pointless "mole inside S.H.I.E.L.D." plot that lasts for maybe 8 pages, where Elektra steals the traitor's car as punishment.

Whatever happened to stabbing? Stabbing stops traitors, right?

And just where is the dialogue that Bendis has made his trademark? No two characters have anything resembling a well-choreographed conversation, and Elektra's own dialogue is about as stiff a two-day-old corpse. No one has any personality in this story; even Fury comes off blandly angry.

The artwork isn't all bad, but it is far from great. Chuck Austen is good when he's well lit. The outdoor café scenes and park scenes with Elektra are beautifully done, and the characters are always well contrasted with their surroundings, so you get focused onto the character.

Austen falters when he puts his characters in any kind of shadow: faces get horribly disturbed fro the sake of shadows, action gets lost within dark panels, as demonstrated in the most boring fight scene I have ever witnessed (and I'm still not even sure what happened exactly) between Elektra and the Silver Samurai. Austen also seems to suffer from crowd-the-page-itus, as he jams far too much visual data on one page, or gets repetitive. At one point, he draws the same group of characters almost exactly the same, in almost the exact position, from the same perspective, for eight panels! Jumping Jesus on a crutch, mix it up a little! A close-up. Wide angle. Fish eye lens. Anything different! Thankfully, the panel-that-would-not-end was broken up by a gunshot (thank the NRA).

This book is just not worth it, especially at a price of $15.95. The plot is badly put together, the artwork is bad, and even better, you never find out what the hell the Scorpion Key is. You name the book after it, but decide it's not really important to the plot? Oh Marvel, when will you learn.

The only redeeming parts to the book are the computer graphic enhanced covers of a realistic (and sexy) Elektra, which look great, but honestly guys, soft-core pornography fills the same need. Go out and spend your cash on the Mother's Day gift you forgot to buy (thanks to a twin sister, I never have to remember holidays and sometimes only end up paying half price; it's sweet).

Robert Sparling

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