Blackman Ignites a War of Assassins in "Elektra"

UPDATE 9-19-2014 at 8:47AM: The black and white art in this article originally attributed to Mike Del Mundo is actually by Alex Sanchez, who is illustrating "Elektra" #6-7.

Unbeknownst to the vast majority of Marvel's fictional world, a secret guild of enterprising, powerful, and dangerous assassins has been operating in the shadows of the Marvel Universe for years. Murder for hire has proven to be a lucrative business for this Assassins' Guild, so it's understandable that its members don't take kindly to costumed heroes interfering with their work -- and they're even more ferocious towards independent killers who murder their agents and poach their contracts, like the legendary assassin known as "Cape Crow." Having been embarrassed by Crow on a number of occasions, the Guild's leadership has relentlessly hunted the rogue killer, but soon, they'll have something else more pressing to worry about.

Earlier this year in the opening arc of Marvel's current "Elektra" series, the title character accepted a contract to protect Crow -- and she's about to realize that the best defense is a good offense, in the second arc of the book that starts with this week's issue #6.

CBR News spoke with series writer Haden Blackman about Elektra's war with the Guild, her mental state, collaborating with acclaimed series artist Mike Del Mundo and the killers that will soon cross her path. Plus, courtesy of Marvel, exclusive black-and-white interiors by Alex Sanchez from October's issue #7.

CBR News: Haden, let's start with the big reveal in "Elektra" #5 -- that the title character's psyche is sort of a twisted ball of pain, disgust, sadness and regret. What can you tell us about how Elektra shoulders that mental burden? Is she aware of how much inner turmoil she's in, or does she not allow herself to get that introspective?

Haden Blackman: I definitely think that she is aware of her inner turmoil -- enough to know that no one else could handle it, which is why she floods Bloody Lips with it all. She understands everything she keeps bottled up will bring someone like Bloody Lips to his knees.

That said, I think she deals with it all in two ways: By throwing herself into danger so she doesn't have to face what she's done, and by holding onto the few "good" choices she's made in the past -- sparing Foggy Nelson, her relationship with Matt Murdock, defeating Bullseye.

As you said, Elektra used her inner turmoil to defeat Bloody Lips, one of the assassins on her trail, but the end of Issue #5 revealed that she still has one more killer hounding her in the form of Lady Bullseye. So how would you describe the enmity between Elektra and Lady Bullseye?

Their relationship is really lopsided. Elektra thinks of Lady Bullseye as a dangerous obstacle in her quest to find Cape Crow -- but one she defeated and left behind on Monster Island. I don't think that Elektra has given her a second thought. Conversely, Lady Bullseye is obsessed with Elektra. She has been humiliated by Elektra, and focuses all of her anger and shame on Elektra, blaming her for everything she has suffered since Monster Island.

Lady Bullsye won't be the only assassin hot on Elektra's heels, as it appears the wrath of the Assassin's Guild will be coming down on her head for helping Cape Crow and his son Kento escape the their agents in the first arc of this series. What kind of role will Cape Crow and Kento play in this second arc? Are they officially part of the book's supporting cast? Will Matchmaker, who gave Elektra the contract to find and protect Cape Crow, continue to play a role in the series as well?

All three characters continue into the next arc, though they might not all make it out -- as issue #6 opens, all four characters have banded together to survive continued attacks from the Assassin's Guild, but Elektra has a plan to draw out the Guild's leaders.

What can you tell us about her plan, and the next arc as a whole?

The second arc starts as a slugfest with some of my favorite villains, which I really enjoyed writing. But the arc eventually evolves into a massive showdown between Elektra and the Assassin's Guild, with several other players involved as well -- Elektra will hunt the Guild's leaders to the ends of the earth, but there's another character -- someone from Elektra's past -- who holds the key to the Guild's secrets, and that brings two other organizations into the story.

In many ways, the first 11 issues are a self-contained story. The first arc, ending with issue #5, establishes Elektra's supporting cast and sets up Elektra's conflict with the Guild. Issues #6 and #7 focus on Lady Bullseye and Elektra's first strike against the Guild, while issue #8 through #11 escalate the fight with the Guild into an all-out war that draws in two other groups with a vested interest in the outcome.

What can you tell us about the structure and shape of the Guild's leadership going into this second arc? The last time the Guild had a major appearance was in "Scarlet Spider" where, I believe, they fell under the control of Wilson Fisk, and Fisk was recently toppled by Otto Octavius in "Superior Spider-Man." Does this mean the Guild is once again an independent organization?

The way I see it, yes, they are largely independent. The leadership is spread out, in hiding, trying to keep their identities a secret even as they send assassins to hunt Elektra and her allies. They pull out all the stops, hiring a number of named and very dangerous characters to pursue Elektra.

One of my favorite aspects of the first arc of this series was the way Mike Del Mundo brought to life some of the series more surreal scenes and the nightmarish qualities he gave some of the antagonists like Bloody Lips. Do these next few issues afford Mike the opportunity to do something similar?

Issue #8 is a crazy fusion of high-tech, almost sci-fi moments and epic fantasy. I think it's going to really allow Mike to shine. These elements will continue throughout the rest of the arc, but we also have two or three more surreal moments as we continue to explore the psyches of our characters. I'm really excited about issue #11, which is a combination of big spectacle and action with some quiet character moments.

Finally, this December you will be nearing the end of your first year on "Elektra" -- what can you tell us about your plans from now through 2015?

Right now, I'm just focused on bringing the first 11 issues to a satisfying conclusion that is a statement on Elektra -- who she is, what lines she won't cross, and what is important to her.

I feel incredibly fortunate to be on this book. Elektra is a challenging character, but I've seen that as an opportunity to push myself, experiment, and take a few creative risks that have seemingly paid off. Mike and I have tried to ensure that every issue is an audition for the next issue, so hopefully we've continually outdone ourselves.

"Elektra" #6 is on sale now.

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