Elektra is one of the Marvel Universe’s foremost ninjas, skilled at hiding in both shadows and light. As such, she has no problem disappearing into brightly lit neon metropolises like Las Vegas. Of course, the bright lights of Vegas cast many shadows, darkness that can conceal murderous predators who pose a mortal danger to even the most resourceful of assassins.
That’s the set up for Marvel’s new ongoing “Elektra” series from TV writer Matt Owens and artist Juan Cabal, which sends the title ninja to Vegas and straight onto the radar of the murderous gamesman Arcade. CBR spoke with Owens about his takes on Elektra and Arcade, the new and familiar characters that will have a presence in the comic’s initial stories, and moving from writing for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to his first ongoing Marvel Comics series.
CBR: What do you find most interesting about Elektra? What’s your sense of how the character has changed and evolved in recent years? And which of her personality traits are you especially interested in exploring?
Matt Owens: For a resurrected assassin, I find Elektra to be a very relatable character. She is a person who dislikes parts of herself, and I find that to be an incredibly real struggle. She is searching for belonging and acceptance. No matter how closed off she is. That is so human to me. Sure, she crosses lines and does bad things, but we all do. So it’s that yearning stemming from a very real kind of self-loathing that I find so interesting about her. But it’s not all so serious. Other parts of Elektra’s personality are her dry wit, which I love to write, and her unashamed ability to do what she wants. She’s a badass all around, so I’m having a lot of fun writing her.
For your initial stories you’re sending Elektra to Marvel’ version of Las Vegas. What’s it like writing a stealthy character like Elektra against the back drop of the bright neon lights of Vegas?
When I was brought onto this Elektra book, the biggest mandate I had was she can’t be in New York. She is running from the city and people in that city, so I thought, well, if a super rich assassin is trying to hide in plain sight, do it in the biggest and brightest city she can find. And since Vegas has not been thoroughly explored, especially by Elektra, it seemed the perfect new place for her to go. All those bright lights cast a lot of shadows, and that’s exactly where Elektra operates.
What can you tell us about some of the supporting cast members Elektra will interact with while in Vegas?
One of the elements that pulls Elektra into the story is the unexpected friendship she forms with a young casino bartender named Lauren. I’ve really enjoyed writing scenes of Elektra trying her best not to make a friend but finding one despite her best efforts. I wanted Elektra to have a positive female friendship, so I hope she’s someone who sticks around. As for returning characters, Elektra is the kind of person very influenced by her past. Especially with Daredevil. So while they may not be on the best of terms right now, his presence will be felt in the story in certain ways. You’ll see.
One villain Elektra will run afoul of while in Vegas is the psychotic gamesman Arcade. What made you want to pit these two characters against each other?
Arcade! I am so excited to use him. As soon as Vegas was the approved backdrop, he instantly came to my mind as the foe to use. He is flashy and dangerous just like the strip itself. He’s got a new criminal setup and a new game that will be explored. The brilliant tactician tech wizard versus the elegant and deadly assassin. It is an interesting pairing because Elektra will not simply be able to stab her way out of the situations that she finds herself in. And Arcade could never pass up such challenging prey! His reasons for being in Vegas are not so simple. He’s got an arc of his own and a role to play in bigger things to come. There is another familiar but lesser used Marvel villain I’m using in this story that I won’t spoil, but hopefully it will be a fun surprise. Like “Wait… really? How did this happen?!” In a good way!
Is this primarily a tale of Elektra trying to escape one of Arcade’s MurderWorlds, or is their conflict more cat and mouse-like?
It’s a bit of both. Elektra is trying to lay low. She’s not looking for trouble, but when she comes on Arcade’s radar, it does become a bit of a cat and mouse game. But don’t worry — there is a MurderWorld to the story, and it should be a fun one. It’s not just about killing. There’s some social commentary to that aspect of the story as well.
You’re working with artist Juan Cabal, and like you, this is his first ongoing series. What’s it like working with Juan? What do you enjoy most about his style for this book?
Juan is a rockstar. Every time I see pages from him, it blows me away. He’s very collaborative and finds his own ways to dig deeper into the material and find stuff that surprises me. People are going to love the look of this book.
You’re coming to the world of comics from TV, where you’ve spent time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a writer for Netflix’s “Luke Cage,” and story editor for “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” How does it feel to be making that transition to the world of the source material that inspired the TV shows?
This is the dream! I’m having way too much fun doing it. I love TV and I have gotten to tell some awesome stories, but comics is where it started for me. To be able to play in this world is a dream come true for me.
What can you tell us about your larger plans for Elektra beyond her initial battle with Arcade? What kind of year will 2017 be for her?
2017 is going to be a year of reluctant self-discovery for Elektra. For someone who for so long has felt defined by other people, relationships, expectations, and outstanding circumstances, she is really going to come into her own. Part of that will be finding her place in the tapestry of the universe. She won’t be able to stay hidden for long so you’re going to see her take some big steps into the light so to speak.
I think fans of both Elektra from the comics and those coming from the “Daredevil” TV series will dig this book. We’re aiming to strike a balance between those two iterations of the character. I love the characterization that Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez gave her on “Daredevil.” And as a child of comics of course I want to try to do service to the great Frank Miller. I also love Zeb Wells “Dark Reign” run, and I’ve really enjoyed Elektra’s recent jaunt with the Unity Squad in Gerry Duggan’s “Uncanny Avengers.” At the end of the day, Elektra is a strong, confident female and one of the best killers in the Marvel Universe and if those two things interest you (which they should!) then you’ll enjoy this book.