Elektra: The Scorpio Key

Elektra: The Scorpio Key 

By Brian Michael Bendis & Chuck Austen (Marvel Knights)
ISBN 0-7851-0843-2

Every so often in comics everything falls together. A character or characters will stand out in a storyline, captivate for a too brief moment, end gloriously and be done. While it’s happening it’s a perfect experience, and you’re desperate for all you can get. When it ends that feeling persists, but if you have any sense you’ll stifle it, because it won’t ever be the same.

Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, American Flagg! until Chaykin left, Mantis until she married that plant, the Moench-Gulacy Master of Kung Fu’s, Terra’s betrayal and death in New Teen Titans, the Dark Phoenix saga from Uncanny X-Men, and of course Elektra’s initial run in Daredevil that lead to her murder by Bullseye. All of these were comics zeitgeist moments. All magic. All best left untrammelled, all great narrative moments in comic history, redolent with drama and high passion, made greater because we know they’re ephemeral and can’t be topped. You’d be stupid to even try.

The modern comics industry is not noted for restraint, and usually we are stupid enough to try. Even top-line creators are seduced into attempting to rebottle their best genies rather than be allowed to make new magic, and when new makers are tasked with recapturing old magics – which to publishers means only Sales – the results can be painful.

All of which is a poncey way of saying, “if you can’t do something well, don’t do it at all”. Bendis and Austen’s The Scorpio Key is a sorry mess of espionage twaddle featuring the re-Reborn Again super she-ninja on a mission to recover a cosmic weapon from the clutches of sundry baddies including the subversive secret society Hydra, the Silver Samurai and even the demented ruler of Iraq (No, Really!). Chockful of dastardly double-crossers and clichéd news reportage as narrative devices, it’s little more than an empty headed pastiche. There are, naturally, many fights and explosions. A simple case of ‘So Many Killings, So Little Sense’.

Considering the sheer presence of Elektra in the past, it’s an absolute travesty to see her returned for this pedestrian nonsense. We are never going to have our own Camille, Sydney Carton, King Lear or even Romeo and Juliet as long as publishers think an easy branding exercise can replace creative excellence.

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