Elektra is a character that’s known for her connection to Daredevil, but her backstory allows her to fit into other parts of the Marvel Universe. Elektra: Always Bet On Red, written by Matt Owens, sees Elektra go to Las Vegas to try and escape her past and start over. But Sin City is a place of criminals looking to leave their mark, and picking a fight with one of Earth’s deadliest assassins is a way to do it. Elektra finds herself caught in a twisted game that pushes her to the limit, making her question whether killing really is the answer to creating a better world.
The story begins with Elektra sitting in a bar, trying to make sense of what she wants out of life. Lauren, a bartender, strikes up a conversation with her and the two of them are contrasted against each other. Like Elektra, Lauren came to Las Vegas because she felt she had no control over her life. She works for a local criminal who abuses her and Elektra decides to take matters into her own hands by teaching him a lesson. It demonstrates the character’s compassion and how she identifies with broken women.
“I cannot save these people. It’s futile. Trying to help. Trying to be good. There’s always someone looking to hurt. Looking to profit. Men will only take their hands from around your throat long enough to put them in your pocket. And then they toss you away when they’re done with you.” – Elektra
However, Elektra’s act of kindness puts her in the crosshairs of the maniacal Arcade, who wants to use her in his latest game. Arcade has set up a new edition of Murderworld, a reality TV that forces contestants to fight for survival in front of a betting audience. He traps Elektra in the show along with several celebrities.
Elektra works with the other competitors to stay alive, pushing back against Arcade until the two of them engage in a final ‘boss’ battle. I found the gaming element of the story to be clever, with Arcade representing an obsessive gamer who’ll do anything to win. A lot of video game tropes are explored, such as puzzles, mazes and difficult levels. It’s fun to see Elektra fight through them all and get sick of Arcade’s shit. There’s a great moment where she wonders if she should say some kind of “stupid, cheesy hero line” but figures that Arcade would enjoy it too much. With Lauren’s help, Elektra overcomes Arcade, ending Murderworld once and for all.
“Arcade spoke of fish. Salmon have an uncanny ability to return to their birthplace to lay their eggs. To continue the circle of life. Many animals exhibit this behaviour. They say it’s magnetism or something like that. So I should have known I would end up back here. Where everything begins. And ends. Back to him. Back to you. To continue the circle of death. It’s magnetism. No. It’s someone else entirely. It’s fate.” – Elektra
This leads to a great scene where Elektra ponders whether she should kill Arcade to stop him from hurting anyone else. She chooses to let him live, which demonstrates a lot of character development. Elektra finds out that Arcade was working for The Kingpin and this inspires her to return to New York to stop Fisk.
Owens does a wonderful job in making Elektra sympathetic and someone you want to root for. Her inner strength is put on full display as she tries to live up to Daredevil’s example even when they’re miles apart. My favourite sequence involves a flashback where Elektra finds a storage container full of dead women and she uses the memory as fuel to stop Arcade and save the people in Murderworld.
Juann Cabal handles most of the art and he’s created some gorgeous panels. There’s a lot of detail in Elektra’s costume that’s been adapted from the Daredevil Netflix series. His art is the reason why I enjoyed the flashback sequence even more because of the transitions from black and white to colour.
Elektra: Always Bet On Red puts one of my favourite female characters in the spotlight and allows her to flourish. If you’re unfamiliar with the character then this story is a great jumping on point and sets up something big for the future. You can buy it on Amazon now.