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DD Book Club: Elektra Assassin
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Mike Murdock
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Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 984

PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2017 6:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This was a dense issue. It took me thirty minutes to read it through the first time. I'm trying to make sure I read it once entirely through to get a sense of the whole story before I start giving my thoughts.

The story starts from Garrett's point of view again. He is being rebuilt and the descriptions of how his organs are being removed and replaced actually make him seem human as his humanity is being ripped out. Likewise, when he's getting yelled at, he seems small and weak. Seinkewicz's art emphasizes this with the person yelling at him being nothing more than a screaming face. Despite being a crude, misogynist racist, these moments create a twinge of sympathy. It's only a twinge, though, and only when he's a pathetic character.

Next, we get our first introduction to Ken Wind. His slogan, "remember, not wind like a watch, but wind like the air" makes no sense in the audio medium the characters are supposedly getting it in, but it works wonderfully with the art and this Kennedy-like figure. His commercial plays on a very traditional liberal dream with a candidate who is pro-peace and love. I'm sure I'll circle back to this, but there's a very odd contrast with the main character being so horrifying but somehow sympathetic and definitely extreme right-wing with Ken Wind being pleasant and very left-wing while also being such an extreme danger.

Garrett's actions are a bit confusing. He doesn't seem entirely in control of them, but it's never clear exactly what's going on. To a degree, it seems to be some kind of psychic influence from Elektra. On the other hand, it also just seems to be a lascivious desire. It's interesting specifically how it happens. Garrett goes in to essentially molest and kill her. His actions are that of someone who is completely dominating as he points his gun at her head and grabs her breast at the same time. Elektra's words in response are completely submissive. But their roles are, in fact, completely reversed. Throughout the issue, she continues to completely outsmart, out sneak, and basically dominate Garrett in every way. The final humiliation when she steals his ticket as he gets arrested in a pool of his own self-loathing is satisfying.

We only hear Elektra's thoughts on two pages. First, it's at the airport as Garrett is protecting the ambassador. The second is at the end. The second is more important for driving the plot as it's clear that the stakes have increased as Ken Wind becomes a slave of the Beast and could very easily become the next President.

As I said above, this issue felt very dense on the first read through. I think the added wrinkle to increase the threat level was a good one. Other than that, I appreciate the continued exploration of sexuality and power. I'm sure there's some commentary on John Garrett's gun size and how Elektra takes that away, but I won't go there. It's a good story, but it can be a slog at times to read. Four and a Half Stars.

Dimetre wrote:

Miller drops a lot of information in this issue. The most fascinating two pages for me were the ones from the medical director describing the uniqueness of Elektra's brain. This is something that has never come up again in the three decades since this issue was published. It's as if Marvel just wants us to forget about it. But if there is a compound in Elektra's bloodstream that changes the way her brain operates, where did it come from? Did it come from the Hand? The Chaste? Somewhere else?


I took it to be the Beast's Milk. The whole idea is that it stimulated the animal and reptilian parts (even alluding to a snake). It was also described as a narcotic. The idea of craving the Beast's milk fit in well with what we saw.

Quote:
Then the medical director says they reversed the compound's effects through antitoxins, however she somehow exerts control over Garrett a couple pages later. Does that mean the compound began regenerating again, or that it's not the compound that effects the way her brain works, or is it something else?


They also mentioned how they synthesized it, which seems a major plot point abandoned.

Quote:
Elektra demonstrates a lot of psychic abilities in this issue. Either that or she has some inexplicable mental link with Garrett. Again, in the thirty years since this story, that has never again been explored (unless it was explored in "Fall From Grace." I can't remember).


Luckily, Fall From Grace is the next story, so we might be able to find out Wink

Elektra's abilities are one of the things that bothered me a lot the first time I read the story. It's partly why I said I would just enjoy the ride and not think too much about continuity. But it's a glaring difference from what we've seen before with #190 and mild telepathic communication being the only other hint of it.

I also tend to be a little more charitable to the sexualization. I'm not sure it's handled well, but I think there's at least an intent to explore and subvert themes of sexual violence.
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Dimetre
Child's Play


Joined: 16 Feb 2006
Posts: 901
Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mike Murdock wrote:
I also tend to be a little more charitable to the sexualization. I'm not sure it's handled well, but I think there's at least an intent to explore and subvert themes of sexual violence.

To be fair, I don't recall having a problem with it the first time I read it. I may now be judging it based on my knowledge of what was to come later with Vicki Vale and Black Canary in All Star Batman and Robin. Unlike those characters, Elektra, in this story, has more too her than her sexuality. It's just too bad that Miller forgot how to write women.
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Mike Murdock
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Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm reading Paul Young's Daredevil book and there's an exploration of the death of Elektra there. I think there's a valid argument that the death is a fridging. The argument in that book is that story is trying to make us feel complicit in sexual violence. It isn't intended for us to not enjoy it, but to recognize that we can't help but enjoy it even when we know how wrong it is (there's an earlier issue where theater watchers talk about the Maltese Falcon and the glorification of violence that ties into this thematically).

I think it's here as well. I think it would be a mistake to read this story as endorsing sexual violence and, in spite of some humorous undertones, I wouldn't read it as intended as comedy either. But it is deliberately gratuitous and I think that's designed to make us at least think about why it is.
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Mike Murdock
Child's Play


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
Posts: 984

PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2017 11:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Elektra Assassin # 4 - Young Love



Quote:
Can a cyborg and an assassin find true love, happiness and peace in a world where everyone is trying to kill them?


Due 8/12
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Dimetre
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Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2017 4:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mike Murdock wrote:
I'm reading Paul Young's Daredevil book and there's an exploration of the death of Elektra there. I think there's a valid argument that the death is a fridging. The argument in that book is that story is trying to make us feel complicit in sexual violence. It isn't intended for us to not enjoy it, but to recognize that we can't help but enjoy it even when we know how wrong it is (there's an earlier issue where theater watchers talk about the Maltese Falcon and the glorification of violence that ties into this thematically).

I think it's here as well. I think it would be a mistake to read this story as endorsing sexual violence and, in spite of some humorous undertones, I wouldn't read it as intended as comedy either. But it is deliberately gratuitous and I think that's designed to make us at least think about why it is.

I recently read Young's book, and I highly recommend it for anyone on this message board. However, I lent it to a friend, and I haven't gotten it back yet, so I can't refer to it right now.

I am familiar with the "women in refrigerator" phenomenon, and I have to admit that I never thought Elektra fit in to that model. I have never followed Green Lantern, so I don't know anything about Alexandra DeWitt, or whether she was a compelling character before she was killed off. I guess I found that Elektra was such a badass character who possessed complex emotions. In my opinion, Elektra was a fully-formed character before Bullseye killed her. Was her death used to move Matt's story forward. Yes, it was, but if Foggy was killed by Bullseye, the same thing would have happened. I guess the difference is that women are sick of this happening to female characters, and I get that. Again, I don't know if DeWitt was a fully-formed character before she was killed, but I suspect not. I think I would be more likely to categorize the deaths of Glorianna O'Breen or Karen Page as "fridging" than Elektra's. It can also be argued that while Elektra's death was used to move Matt's narrative forward, it also turned her into a legend. So, while Gail Simone did put Elektra on her list of women in refrigerators, I think I can find ways to defend Miller's choice to have her killed.

I also am not sure if it's worse if the character is fully-formed or not. I'm still smarting over Secret Empire #7. Do you think that is an example of "fridging"?

Anyway, that's an interesting topic for debate. Maybe even worthy of it's own thread.

On to Elektra: Assassin #4.

This was a thrilling issue, even if the intended confusion was still present. Again, Elektra displays psychic abilities she would never ever display again.

The most confusing thing about this issue was Elektra infiltrating a hospital. She finds a woman lingering near death in a hospital, probably comatose. That woman seems to be a different woman than Sandy. Or maybe it was Sandy, and Elektra simply took her place in the bed, and moved her consciousness into Sandy's body. At any rate, I was confused, because the woman in the bed at first seemed to be wearing shades, and later on Elektra in the bed seemed to be wearing some sort of visor over her eyes. So, I was unsure if there were three women and Elektra's unconscious body was stuffed in a broom closet somewhere until she needed it again.

I like that Elektra underestimated Sandy's spirit, and how Sandy's monologue overpowered the entire comic, under the Beast's influence of course. I like how Garrett is completely manipulated by Elektra, Wind and now Sandy. I love how Sienkiewicz, at one point, draws Garrett absent-mindedly smiling like that daydreaming schoolboy from Looney Tunes.

But this issue is a thrilling chase with stakes that are no smaller than life and death. It seems like everyone is either working for the beast or in on S.H.I.E.L.D.'s operation. The contrast between Garrett's desperation and Sandy's fantasy romance with Brad is wildly inventive and ridiculous at the same time. The stakes are heightened when Elektra becomes more dependent on Garrett who is literally falling to pieces. The dueling monologues along with Sienkiewicz's anti-realism, once again, makes this an entirely unique work of sequential art.

This was fantastic. Five out of five.
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Mike Murdock
Child's Play


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2017 7:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This one felt like an intense ride from beginning to end. Elektra seems to now have a weird power to trade bodies with a woman in a coma, Sandy. She's using that power to assassinate Ken Wind. Garrett goes to talk to Wind and is overwhelmed by the smell of the Beast (or Beast's milk?). The art and dialogue really work to sell the whole nauseating feeling. He considers killing Wind himself, but Wind can read his thoughts. He manages to overpower Garrett. The Hand then manage to take over Elektra's mind with the mind of Sandy. What follows is chaos in motion. The use of competing thought bubbles just adds to the confusion all the way until the end.

Overall, I'm not really sure how to feel about this one. The Hand and the Beast manage to be terrifying. We've seen Elektra in control in the past, so the fact that she's basically taken over and in dire straits works well. Garrett desperately clinging on as everything seems to fall apart is great too. On the hand, while I defended some of the sexual violence imagery last time as being thematically important, this just feels a bit gratuitous. There's something overwhelming about the young girl's fantasy projecting in a way that takes over Elektra, but I also felt uncomfortable in a way that I don't think was intended.

The emotions of this issue are probably its strongest points. I'm going Four and a Half Stars.
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Mike Murdock
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Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 9:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Less than one week until Defenders premieres!

Elektra Assassin # 5 - Chastity



Quote:
Elektra and Garrett take a "tour" of Washington, D.C. The question is, how much of the city will survive?


Due 8/19
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Mike Murdock
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Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 14, 2017 9:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This issue picks up where the cliffhanger last issue lets off. It doesn't forget what happened as Garrett and Elektra are forced to fend off first the Hand and then SHIELD. The arrangement feels surprisingly conventional with six panel grids and the like. Garrett seems fully on Elektra's side, but I like the twinge of loyalty. He asks Elektra to not kill them, which she promptly ignores and decapitates an agent. Neither the story nor Garrett really dwell on this beyond Garrett's statement that this will make it harder for him to go back to his job, but it does continue the moral ambiguity where everyone kinda sucks. The only exception is Chastity McBryde, who I actually kinda like. She's a no nonsense SHIELD agent who respects her oponent and does her job.

The story flips between Ken Wind and the President. If Ken Wind is a satire of liberals, the President is the exact opposite. He's a Nixon-esque gremlin looking dude who is literally caressing the button to launch the nuclear missiles while drinking and proclaiming how strong and tough he is (while clearly being the opposite). The thing is, if Ken Wind is the bad guy of this story, does that make the President a good guy?

I think the moral ambiguity and extremes of the characters are all very deliberate and deliberately contrasted in this issue. It's also no coincidence that Chastity represents goodness and purity, not just with her name, but with the crosses she has as earings. Miller has her going directly against Elektra and Elektra seems to be going out of her way to kill SHIELD agents. Garrett, of course, is turned on by this. In the end, Garrett rejects the pure Chastity and chooses Elektra.

I wasn't really in the mood to read this story, so I was worried it was affecting my judgment, but I actually do like the contrast of personalities displayed here - with the good, evil, and ambiguous all thrown together. I thought it was a well-paced, fun issue. Four and a Half Stars.
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Not sure what to read next? Check out the Book Club for some ideas!

I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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Dimetre
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Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2017 12:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The woman on the cover is a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent named Chastity McBryde. She doesn't seem to be a noteworthy character outside of this miniseries. She doesn't leave a strong impact once you're done reading this issue. It kind of makes you wonder why she's on the cover, let alone why this issue is entitled "Chastity."

This issue picks up in the aftermath of the thrilling chase scene from the previous issue. Elektra has come to Garrett's rescue underwater, but is attacked by agents of the Hand, along with the Beast, who actually gets the better of her. Garrett is able to rescue her, since he is made out of so little flesh, preventing the Beast from attacking him. The Beast's realization of that is one of the strongest moments from this issue.

The Beast seems to be able to take control of S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel without other agents, let alone Nick Fury, being aware. Elektra's murder of them, and Garrett's complicity in those murders, is endangering his ability to remain in S.H.I.E.L.D., and that seems to be Garrett's main concern in this issue, along with his lust for Elektra.

I don't think this issue held me in the same thrall this issue, and I think it's because it picked up right where it left off: underwater after the chase scene. It didn't start in a quiet place and build -- it started off at a hundred decibels and the issue ended at a hundred decibels. There's a sameness that pervades throughout the issue.

However, because it's Miller and Sienkiewicz in their prime, the material in this issue is top notch. However, there is still a sameness throughout this issue.

My favourite part of this issue is the two page scene of the Nixonesque president watching Ken Wind's ad. The president displays such a fragile ego, and his gigantic wife treats him like a child. It's surprisingly strong political satire.

It's a fantastic series, but I feel like we've plateaued with this issue. I give it a four out of five.
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Mike Murdock
Child's Play


Joined: 08 Sep 2014
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2017 12:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I do think this series may have been a bit over-long. But, hey, we just had some fun Elektra moments in Defenders. Maybe that'll raise my enthusiasm a bit:

Elektra Assassin # 6 - What We're Fighting For



Quote:
Elektra and Garrett spend the night at a sleazy sex motel to plan their final assault on the Beast!


Due 8/26
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I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
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