This week, one of my favorite Marvel series came to an end. Assuming you even glanced at the title of the article, you know I'm talking about W. Haden Blackman, Michael Del Mundo, and Marco D'Alfonso's ELEKTRA. Despite receiving plenty of positive reviews, the title was unable to keep a substantial amount of readers. Sure, it's possible this series would have ended no matter how many fans purchased the issues just because Secret Wars is drastically changing the Marvel universe, but I was stunned to see how just low the sales were for a comic that I believe is legitimately phenomenal.
Whenever a new issue was released, it would be the very first comic I'd read. The series managed to pull me into its surreal and exciting world each and every time. These issues were clever, fun, and full of wonder and stunning visuals. (Well, Del Mundo didn't illustrate two issues and the difference is noticeable. He's not an easy act to follow.) Every issue made me want to immediately read it all over again because it just delivered on so many different levels. It's often action-heavy, yet it doesn't lack depth, worldbuilding, or emotion. In almost every review, it was clear a number of my fellow Comic Viners were equally passionate about this series, but it looks like a large percentage of comic book readers didn't bother to read it.
According to Comichron's sales figures for January, ELEKTRA #10, the penultimate issue of the series, came in 164th place. It was the lowest selling Marvel title which takes place in the 616 or ultimate universe. To me, this is totally baffling. How could a series that's so good receive so little attention from readers? Before I get into what some of the reasons might be, I'm going to tell you what made me fall in love with this series. Maybe -- just maybe -- it'll motivate you to pick up the trades.
The elevator pitch for this comic's story could sound very, very generic. "The Hand and the Assassin's Guild are after Elektra and they want to resurrect Bullseye." Doesn't sound like anything out of the ordinary, does it? We'd get some cool action sequences of Elektra obliterating ninjas and an obvious Bullseye vs. Elektra rematch that has her struggling until she takes him down yet again. Sounds amusing enough, but it also seems very familiar and most likely forgettable. Except the book is far from generic. The overall objectives may be standard, but the way the writer has it all play out is simply brilliant; it's full of elements you'd probably never expect.
For example, Elektra invading a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility to get her hands on a captured and incapacitated Bullseye could have been so uninspired and predictable. She'd beat up some guards, get her hands on Lester, and then bolt. While she does do the first thing, it doesn't play out how you'd think it would. Additionally, this is by no means your cliche prison facility, either. And then to make things even more imaginative, flying ninjas and even a dragon are added to the mix. In someone else's hands, we could have seen Elektra drop some nameless fodder with several panels full of basic punches and kicks, watched her grab Bullseye from a cell, and then observed her flee while throwing in a few more punches and kicks. But in ELEKTRA, it turns into this imaginative sequence in which S.H.I.E.L.D. has fascinating technology, Elektra humiliates them with a paintball gun (it just goes to show how talented she is), and then she puts on a jetpack for an action sequence that's totally out-there and jaw-dropping. This is just one example of all of the ingenuity that went into making sure these seemingly ordinary story beats were full of awe and fantasy.
There was no shortage of action in this book and it was never formulaic. However, the writing thrived for two other key reasons: It embraced all of the strange things the Marvel Universe could offer and it gave us a tremendous look into Elektra's mind. It's a series that throws a bunch of weird yet thrilling action in your face, yet it never forgets to also be character-driven and takes full advantage of all of the cool elements and characters the various settings can offer. Fun action and fantastic visuals are a big selling point, but they just aren't the same without a strong script.
You probably noticed by now the art is pretty breathtaking, yeah? Even if the style isn't for you, it must be tough not to at least appreciate just how much attention goes into the characters, effects, and layouts. Every single issue illustrated by Del Mundo had several pieces of work that were downright astonishing. Whether it's crazy action, bringing an environment to life, or amazingly creative ways to present a scene, Del Mundo (along with D'Alfonso) did an incredible job turning Blackman's words into gorgeous and striking pages.
ELEKTRA has a smart and exciting script and it's loaded with beautiful artwork. The creative team generated some unforgettable stories and a ton of unique and exhilarating action sequences. So, why weren't more people reading this series? Obviously, all of these blasphemers will have different reasons, but a few immediately come to mind.
First and foremost, I'm guessing some people just don't care about the character. Their reasons may range from having a very limited amount of knowledge of the character ("she's Daredevil's ex -- the one Bullseye killed, right?") to thinking she doesn't have that much depth. Or maybe the movies left a terrible taste in the person's mouth and it'll never fade away. It's a shame if a lack of interest in Elektra is the reason because you can have zero knowledge of the character going into this and it'll still give you such a strong connection to her. It's meant to be new reader friendly while also feeling like major fan service for her preexisting fans. Blackman's frequent trips into her head did such a good job humanizing the deadly anti-hero. Look, I have a confession to make. Before reading this series, I wasn't a big Elektra fan. There, I said it. I've always thought the character was badass, but she'd never be included in any of my "favorites" lists. She just didn't grab my attention like other characters did. This series, though? It totally changed that and now I have my fingers crossed she'll get another ongoing series during Secret Wars.
Another possible reason (and I hope it's not a common one) could be the artwork. I think it's incredible, but I can understand how someone may not appreciate it as much as I do, especially during the more elaborate and crazy moments. I mean, art is subjective, right? So, if that's your reason for not reading the title, I guess I can find it in my heart to one day forgive you. A third possible reason: Money! For many of us, reading comics isn't a cheap hobby. With so many titles now costing $3.99 or even $4.99, the cost of following many comics really does begin to add up. Then throw in however much money you spend on back issues and collectibles. It's very understandable that a large amount of fans are pretty hesitant about adding yet another title to their pull list because they just can't afford to.
I want to know why you -- yeah, you -- didn't read the series. So, we've created a nifty poll for you. If your reason for not reading it isn't in there, I guess just don't vote and then explain below why you avoided ELEKTRA.
It's perfectly fine if you gave an issue a shot and honestly didn't like it. I mean, we all make mistakes. However, if you missed out on this because of a tight budget or because you just aren't all that into the character, I really hope this article has made you consider picking up the title's TPBs. The first one, Bloodlines, is currently available. Do your best not to hold it against them for not putting a Comic Vine quote on the cover, okay? It looks like the second volume, Reverence, goes on sale May 2. Yes, I'm disappointed this series didn't sell well and I'm especially disappointed the creative team didn't get to spend more time with the character. That said, having an excellent but short story that you can read over and over again is infinitely better than not having one at all, isn't it?