Elektra #5

Though the art by Michael Del Mundo has been consistently stunning, the writing on "Elektra" has been hit and miss, however all that changes in issue #5, easily the strongest entry yet for the series. W. Haden Blackman and Del Mundo deliver an excellent end to the first arc that effortlessly feeds into Elektra's next challenge.

Though there are some problems in the story -- namely why a fighter of Cape Crow's stature would explain to an assassin of Elektra's reputation exactly how to beat him -- there's a lot that makes the story impressive. It's also the first time that Elektra shines brighter than any of the other characters on the stage.

Though Elektra defeats the fantastic villain Bloody Lips with perhaps too much ease, the way Blackman does it is creative and it ultimately works well. At the same time, Blackman draws cleverly on Elektra's past for a nice twist allowing her to also defeat Cape Crow. It's not all fighting smarts that Blackman displays, he also delivers a poignancy to Elektra's story as her history dovetails beautifully into both Kento's and Bloody Lips' giving the story just that extra layer that helps anchor it emotionally. This is also easily the loveliest prose Blackman has presented, especially as it pertains to Elektra's voice. It's not overworked, but simple and clear, precise and sharp, as befitting the character.

Del Mundo's work has been exceptional since page one of issue one, but this is one of his strongest offerings yet, especially as he's given the opportunity to show off more of his vision of how Elektra fights, which looks appropriately as much like dancing as it does fighting. There's a fluidity to how Elektra and her opponents move that is simply magnificent. Del Mundo's work is highly rendered, but unlike many artists that render at this level, there's nothing stiff to his work. In fact, the movement on the page is practically hypnotic. Del Mundo's well-considered visual interpretation of Elektra adds as much to the character as Blackman's prose and dialogue. It's also worth noting that Del Mundo is a master of emotion, engineering Elektra's face like an accomplished sculptor.

Amongst all this Del Mundo never forgets that he's telling a story and that it demands clarity lest his readers get lost. His narrative is effortless, even when it flashes into a nightmarish collage of Elektra's internal scars and memories. The double-page spread of what Bloody Lips sees and feels when he gets a real taste of Elektra's blood is a wonderland of horror and sadness, but executed with an almost carnival feel, everything saturated, as if that's the intensity with which Elektra (and now Bloody Lips) feels it all. Del Mundo's colors, with an assist by Marco D'Alfonso, are particularly impressive in this issue thanks to the snow blanketed setting. The figures are stark slashes on a white canvas, cutting across the pages gloriously. Colors softening and sharpening as the story and emotions demand.

Though the non-visual side of the series stumbled out of the gate, "Elektra" #5 has found some glorious footing. If Blackman and Del Mundo can maintain that energy and precision, they may have a wonderful ongoing series on their hands.

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