Since her debut in the 80s, Elektra has played many roles in the Marvel Universe - hero, assassin, ninja, villain - some of them at the same time. In recent years, she's vacillated allegiances quickly, and been put through her paces. But a new Elektra ongoing title debuting this week from writer Matt Owens and artist Juan Cabal aims to refocus and reinvigorate the character by with a change of scenery, and a new threat.
With Elektra #1, Owens brings the deadly ninja to Las Vegas, pitting her against the newly rising criminal empire of Arcade and his host of deathtraps - a plan that, in Owens' words, leads to "a lot of soul-searching and a lot of ass-kicking" for Elektra. A veteran of writing for Marvel's Netflix series, including Luke Cage and Defenders, Owens plans to eventually circle Elektra back to Hell's Kitchen, but not before she finds herself out west.
Newsarama spoke with Owens about Elektra, discovering the roots of Owens' run which run deep in old Marvel lore, his plans for the character, and his "eerily excellent" partnership with artist Cabal.
Newsarama: Matt, Elektra has been around the block as a hero, a villain, and everything in between. When this series starts, where does she fall on that spectrum? What’s Elektra’s status quo?
Matt Owens: Elektra will always will be all of those things and more. And it’s that identity quagmire that she’s trying to get away from. In some of the recent stories she’s been in, and just in her life in general, she has really been put through the ringer. So she’s looking to shed the multiple personas of her past and hide in plain sight while figuring out who she wants to be.
Nrama: Elektra is going up against Arcade - a pretty perfect enemy for Las Vegas. But he’s been around the block himself, even being seemingly killed just a couple years ago. What’s his deal as Elektra’s new arch-enemy?
Owens: Arcade’s got a new, very profitable setup in Vegas. He’s taken some of the fame from Avengers Arena and his expertise in technology and games and is making a serious profit. Elektra sort of turns up unexpectedly in his backyard - and as any good businessman/serial killer, he cannot resist that kind of opportunity when it presents itself.
Nrama: Given that Elektra is launching as part of new line of books that are all Daredevil adjacent, will we see Elektra crossing paths with anyone from Hell’s Kitchen any time soon?
Owens: This first arc is firmly planted in Vegas. Elektra is purposefully trying to separate herself from Daredevil and New York. That said, you will see characters from the Hell’s Kitchen corner of the universe show up. That place and those characters form so much of who Elektra is (to her, for better and for worse) so those influences will be seen and felt. That said, even though Elektra and Arcade are duking it out far from New York, the story does have roots back in the Big Apple and will lead back there eventually.
Nrama: How did you land the gig writing Elektra? Is she a character that’s been on your radar for a while?
Owens: I’ve been writing on Marvel TV shows for a while now and one of my friends and co-workers Marco Ramirez (co-showrunner of Daredevil and Defenders) introduced me to Marvel's Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso and we got to talking about what books and characters I love and seeing if there was an opportunity to work together. So I pitched him some character ideas and story arcs and we just sort of nerded out via email for a few weeks. Then one day he called me and asked if I had a take on a solo Elektra series cause my interests and sensibilities matched what they wanted the book to be. The only mandate I got was Elektra cannot be in New York. So I came back at him with an Arcade-centric story in Vegas and here we are!
Nrama: How does that experience as a writer on some of Marvel’s Netflix shows, including Luke Cage and Defenders, inform the way you’re approaching Elektra?. What’s your history with comic books?
Owens: My history with comic books goes way, way back. I remember reading Spider-Man and X-Men books and that being where I really expanded my vocabulary and my imagination as a kid. I’ve been reading comics forever and it’s always had a big influence on who I am, the things I like, the kind of writing I do. So the timing for the Marvel takeover was perfect because now I have the ability to put all my passion and knowledge towards telling stories with these characters I love. I’ve kind of become the walking Marvel encyclopedia on the shows I’ve worked on. I’ll always pull some villain or storyline out of thin air. I tend to be pretty animated when pitching ideas.
As it pertains to Elektra, a character with such a rich history, I want to make sure that she feels like a person with the past that she has. She is affected by the things that have happened to her. She doesn’t trust easily. She’s quick to jump into a fight. When you look back at what she’s been through, you get a picture of a full person. What’s been fun about this book is that when we find her, she is running from all of these things. She is tired of being defined by her past and being used. But those things are always in the back of her mind. So referencing past events and relationships is important to this story. It’s allowed me to bring up Elektra events that I enjoy and have them make an impact on this new story I’m telling.
Nrama: You’re working with artist Juan Cabal on Elektra. Putting a ninja into the bright, neon environment of Las Vegas must be an artistic challenge. What does Juann do with Elektra that no one else could? What’s your favorite thing he’s drawn for the book so far?
Owens: Juann is incredible. There is a lot of light and shadow play to the art of this book and Juann does it with an expert hand. I make a lot of references to things in my script and he finds a way to give me what I want while making it his own as well. It’s been an eerily excellent working relationship for two people who have never worked together before. And he has a great sense of humor that if you really pay attention (which you should be!) comes out in smaller details in almost every panel.
My favorite thing that Juann draws is Elektra’s eyes. She’s the kind of person who says so much with just a look. Especially when the lower half of her face is covered a lot of the time. Elektra gives great side eye and Juann nails that. There is a page in Elektra #1 that I adore that features a roulette table. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you get there.
Nrama: After Arcade, what’s coming next for Elektra? What can fans expect from this series?
Owens: This series has a lot of ass-kicking and soul-searching for Elektra. It’s really going to help define who she wants to be in this world. And armed with that knowledge (and also maybe with some new toys) Elektra will head back to New York. Because stuff is going down back in Hell’s Kitchen and she is definitely going to get involved.
Nrama: What’s something you haven’t told anyone else about Elektra?
Owens: My biggest influences on this book (outside of Marvel) have to be John Wick, Final Fantasy, and One Piece.