Friday, 30 November 2012

Elektra: Assassin

Frank Miller & Bill Sienkiewicz Elektra: Assassin (1987)

By the time I made it to art college, 2000AD had turned a bit shit thanks to dross like The Mean Arena and Meltdown Man, so I packed it in on the grounds of my subscription having become a financial extravagance and a possible hindrance to the likelihood of my enjoying sexual intercourse with nude ladies. I soon realised that, regardless of whether or not I read comics, no nude art college lady was particularly likely to jump my bones mainly because I had the wrong haircut - actually the haircut later popularised by members of Nirvana - so I thought fuck it, and went back to the comics again.

This was partially the fault of Charlie Adlard, then making Super 8mm zombie films as part of the same course. He'd given me a lift home and we stopped off at Sainsbury's for a pint of milk when I noticed an X-Men comic in the magazine department - Uncanny X-Men #211 for the benefit of anyone to whom such things might be important. I bought it out of rampant curiosity, having lost touch with the X-Men roughly when I was eight. Charlie filled me in on what had been happening at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters in my absence, happily without recourse to any of that shit about comics growing up or whatever. I responded well to Chris Claremont's Mutant Massacre saga, so Charlie wrote me a prescription for Watchmen, The Dark Knight, and Elektra: Assassin, thus introducing me to the astonishing artwork of Bill Sienkiewicz.

Back before Frank Miller found himself forced into reincarnating as Ted Nugent by the commie pantywaistery of freedom-hating pinko liberals like myself and almost everyone I know, he wrote some pretty snappy comic books, and I'd argue the case for Elektra: Assassin being the snappiest. It was produced very much as a collaboration, the definitive and final scripts drawn up in response to what the artist had done for earlier drafts - Sienkiewicz's art being so distinctive, so powerful, that a script failing to acknowledge whatever had started happening on the page since Bill got to work with his crayon would inevitably look out of step.

All the weird effects that have been employed in comic book art since the 1980s, photocopies and objects taped or even bolted onto the page, panels looking to Gustav Klimt or abstract expressionism rather than Jack Kirby - I'm hazy on the precise details of who did what first, but I never saw anything of the kind before Bill Sienkiewicz embarked upon the experiments that were to provide Dave McKean with his entire career. Elektra: Assassin is neither deep nor particularly profound, a basic action thriller, well told with all sorts of big grisly ideas and psychological touches; and elevated to the status of Art with a capital A by the means of its telling. For those who need it, there's probably a message about corrupt politicians and the advent of spin, although with hindsight there's something a little bothersome about the villain being an evil and conspicuously liberal presidential candidate, what with Miller recently denouncing Adolf Hitler as a mommy's boy bleeding heart faggot and all.

Still, best to remember him when he wasn't a reactionary old tosser, when he worked in tandem with true genius to produce stuff like this. Elektra: Assassin is probably one of the greatest things Marvel ever did.

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