Elektra and Wolverine: The Redeemer (#1 – 3) – Greg Rucka

4 out of 5

Damn, it’s been so long since I’ve read Greg’s books that I forgot why I fell in love with his writing in the first place: he’s a damn good thriller writer.  What I appreciate about what he does sounds so obvious and simple, and yet, it’s undeniably a skill: the clear creation of space and choreography.  I remember it clicking for me in one of the Atticus books, in which the lead is sleeping on the floor, and Greg takes just the right amount of time to make the layout of the room clear, so that when the character moves his glasses out of the way to lay down, we can picture it.  You can certainly do this by over-detailing scenes, but that’s not what Greg does: he offers up details in context, so it feels relevant while you’re reading, and not just a list of what’s what.

This three prestige series is kind of a novel idea (no pun intended) in and of itself, pairing a then-(somewhat)-fledgling comic writer Rucka with a man known more for (from what I can tell) design and illustration, Yoshitaka Amano, for what is essentially a spot-illustrated text story.  It can be kind of daunting when you’re expecting paneled art and words, but Greg’s writing style is pretty inviting, and he gets right to it: setting up Elektra’s assassination-gone-wrong, which leads to her kidnapping a young girl whom Wolverine has been tasked with protecting.  Oddly, it’s a single man behind both initial jobs – the assassination and the protection – and so we get some details filled in along the way on how this all ties together.

Greg makes excellent use of his limited page space to offer up a very full story.  Early Rucka tended to be rather maudlin at points, and that crops up here briefly, but either due to the constraints of the Marvel / DC genre (you can’t dig in to or change the characters all that much) or the space constraints, he avoids anything too eye-rolling, and perhaps even plays with that expectation, ducking his tale down interesting avenues when you assume it’s going to be about one thing or another.  That said, even though he would later do a great job with Logan in his run on Wolverine, the character gets kind of short shrift here; Elektra would seem to be of much more interest to Greg in relation to this particular tale, with Wolvie more as an observer.  The text is nonetheless structured to bounce back and forth between the two POVs, though, in case we like one person more than the other.

Amano’s work does take some getting used to.  There are a few unfortunate shots that ignore Greg’s writing cues and maybe sex up things inappropriately, and the loose sketch style can occasionally seem more like storyboarding than final art, but after getting a feel for how Yoshitaka is interpreting the work, and how his shots are pace into it, it ends up punctuating things well, especially going into the third chapter’s showdown.  And it’s admittedly hard to say what style of illustration would’ve worked better, so, ultimately, I think it makes for a good fit.

Sadly, I’d left this thing sitting on my shelf forever because I was never in the mood to dig into the text.  Once I committed to it, though, it moved incredibly quickly.  The unique format is now a notable shift in a deluge of weekly comics, and, as mentioned, damn can that Rucka write.