As Elektra's winding path towards Cape Crow leads her and his son Kento into the mystical underwater city of Shicheng, they find themselves caught up in a deadly encounter with Cape Crow's unnamed tracker. With breathtaking artwork and a stunning choice of setting, W. Haden Blackman and Michael Del Mundo's "Elektra" #3 brings the book towards a climactic showdown between Elektra and her foe with a truly shocking -- if a bit confusing -- twist.
When I opened the first issue of "Elektra," Del Mundo's artwork immediately reeled me in with its gorgeous painting-like quality, unique figure work, and graceful movement. In this issue, however, he has upped the ante; only two pages in, he drops a jaw-dropping splash page that is as complex as it is profound. As the tracker experiences a heady rush of his victims' memories, Del Mundo takes a layered approach, combining three different personalities in a spectacular show that has twisted, trippy figures just about leaping off the page. The amount of things to look at on this page is simply astounding; what's more, he uses distinct styles to visually separate each set of thoughts, which works tremendously despite the way it overlaps. As the narration wends its way across the page (in a fantastic show by Clayton Cowles, as always), this blend of style organically syncs up with the text. Although the rest of the issue certainly lives up to the phenomenal quality of his work on the last two issues, this splash page in particular goes to show just how clever and skilled Del Mundo truly is at his craft. Additionally, the color scheme is equally striking; with help from Marco D'Alfonso, the teal shades of Shicheng's watery grave give the issue a fantastically murky atmosphere.
No less skilled, W. Haden Blackman's story brings Elektra and Kento to its wonderful setting. With a very "James Bond" feel, this underwater liar makes Cape Crow feel like every inch the super assassin that he's been built up to be, even though the reader has only caught fleeting glimpses of this character through other characters' memories. Likewise, it fleshes this off-page character out a bit more, making him a bit more sympathetic and giving him more background in a natural and subtle way. Blackman builds deftly to the issue's conclusion by dropping hints throughout the narration, logically leading up to the climactic final fight scene. Elektra slips a bit to the background of this issue, with the narration focusing in equal parts on the tracker and Kento's musings, although his ending leaves a tantalizing teaser for more on her personal story that brims with potential. While the ending is truly shocking, its jump from one scene to the next is confusing; it seems to circle back to something Kento mentioned in passing earlier on but doesn't connect in a comprehensive way. Though there's certainly time to flesh this out in the next issue, it's a little jarring and perplexing here.
"Elektra" #3 leaves off on a note that has a lot of potential, following a steady and consistent build. Blackman and Del Mundo make one hell of a team with palpable synergy and elegance. Like Elektra herself, this book is as beautiful as it is deadly.