The ninja assassin cult known as the Hand has been operating in the shadows of the Marvel Universe for centuries as an order veiled in secrecy, but one woman, Elektra Natchios, knows many of those secrets. For many years, Natchios was a member of the Hand, and even after breaking from their ranks, she continued to find herself embroiled in adventures involving the ninja assassins. This July in Marvel’s latest event storyline, “Shadowland,” the Hand once again becomes part of Elektra’s life as she decides to aid her former lover – and the Hand’s current leader – Daredevil, in his quest to use the clan to aggressively fight crime in New York City. In the September one-shot, “Shadowland: Elektra,” writer Zeb Wells and artist Emma Rios examine the path that leads Elektra to join Daredevil in his quest. CBR News spoke with Wells about the project.
Daredevil’s leadership of the Hand is of great interest to Elektra for a number of reasons, one of which being her own attempt to take over the group, an attempt which ultimately and failed thanks to the interference of the race of alien shapeshifters known as the Skrulls. As part of their “Secret Invasion” of Earth the Skrulls were attacking prominent members of powerful organizations and replacing them with Skrull doppelgangers. During the early stages of the Skrulls’ invasion, a Super Skrull abducted Elektra and brought her to a Skrull prison ship. A Skrull agent then assumed her guise and took control of the Hand in her stead.
After the heroes of Earth defeated the Skrulls, they discovered the shapeshifters’ prison ship in orbit around Earth and freed Elektra and her fellow abductees. Elektra’s liberation put her into direct conflict with America’s newest “Top Cop,” Norman Osborn, who succeed his espionage agency H.A.M.M.E.R. and the assassin known as Bullseye on her. Writer Zeb Wells and artist Clay Mann chronicled this conflict in the five issue miniseries, “Dark Reign: Elektra.”
Strangely enough, however, it wasn’t that series that landed Wells the “Shadowland: Elektra” assignment. “Actually, Steve Wacker hadn’t read the Elektra miniseries when this series came up,” Wells told CBR News. “I had heard that he was taking over the Daredevil office, so the next time we talked I brought up that I wanted to do more Elektra if the opportunity ever arose. Luckily, I caught him right when he was looking for a writer for the ‘Shadowland’ one-shot.”
Elektra has been fascinating readers and comic creators since writer/artist Frank Miller first introduced her to the world in 1978’s “Daredevil” #168. The person most fascinated with her has been Daredevil himself, though. Their intense and romantic relationship took place during their college years, ending tragically with the death of Elektra’s father. So even though they haven’t been together for years, Daredevil’s feelings for his former beau are still there lurking beneath the surface and are in danger of reemerging every time she walks back into his life.
“I think you have to be obsessed with Elektra to write her properly. You have to see her like Daredevil sees her,” Wells said. Most of the Marvel Universe sees Elektra as violent and ruthless assassin, but Wells believes that it is tragedy and heartbreak that has motivated many of the character’s decisions, not a lust for blood, giving the character a weird and particularly compelling sense of longing and displacement.
Since the end of her “Dark Reign” miniseries, Elektra has been maintaining a low profile, and “Shadowland: Elektra” will chronicle what she has been involved in since then up to “Shadowland.” It will also offer some insight into her motivation for helping Daredevil and the Hand battle the heroes who believe that Daredevil has gone too far in his crusade against crime. “The story begins with an awesome battle between Daredevil and Bullseye, so right away they have a common enemy,” Well explained. “I don’t think Elektra would meddle in Daredevil’s affairs if she didn’t have a vested interest in seeing him win.”
Elektra won’t be the only character in her “Shadowland” one-shot with insight into the mysteries of the Hand. The mysterious Master Izo will also play a role in the book. Izo made his first appearance in 2008’s “Daredevil” #112 and was later revealed to be one of the founding members of the Hand. Several centuries ago, when the organization was corrupted and became a demon worshiping cult, he renounced the clan and formed The Chaste, a ninja group dedicated to combating The Hand, and a faction that Elektra would later join. It was Izo’s urgings and machinations that lead Daredevil to decide to attempt to redeem the Hand by taking control of it.
The Hand worships a demon known only as The Beast, and certain members have been shown to be capable of casting dark and powerful magics that produce a number of effects. The most notable and sinister of the Hand’s black magic powers is the ability to resurrect the dead and turn them into malevolent and unstoppable assassins. Luckily, Wells’ collaborator on “Shadowland: Elektra,” artist Emma Rios, is no stranger to stories featuring such weird and sinister magical feats. Her credits include two series where the supernatural has played significant roles: BOOM! Studios’ “Hexed” with writer Michael Alan Nelson and Marvel’s “Strange” with writer “Mark Waid.
“Emma’s storytelling is amazing,” Well stated. “I know from the fill-in work she recently did for Chris Bachalo in “Amazing Spider-Man.’ If you’ve never seen her draw action before, you will be blown away.
It’s no secret that Frank Miller intended hi Elektra to be an homage to the classic mythological character of the same name. Both are Greek and both have father issues. The Elektra of Greek myth was the daughter of King Agamemnon who was slain by his wife and her lover when he returned home from fighting in the Trojan War. This inspired her to go on a quest for vengeance that would eventually become the subject of classic Greek tragedies by the playwrights Euripides and Sophocles. The tragic path of Marvel’s Elektra also came about because of intense feelings of anger about the death of her father, which allowed the Hand to use and exploit these feelings in order to convince her to join their ranks.
In keeping with these tragic roots, Elektra’s adventures are not always happy affairs, and “Shadowland: Elektra” is no exception. According to Wells, “Shadowland: Elektra” is “brutal and sad, as all Elektra stories should be.”