Running with the Devil comes to an end this week with the debut of Elektra! The initiative spins off Daredevil supporting characters into their own series and Elektra is the last player up to bat, we’ll dive into the debut of that title and cover yet another Monsters Unleashed tie-in zeroing in on the Champions in this week’s Marvel’s Rundown:

Champions #1.MU
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Artist: Ro Stein and Ted Brandt
Colors: Frank D’Armata
Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles

There’s a lot of stigma around Monsters Unleashed as a whole from me. While the event should be a fun-filled romp of heroes fighting villains throughout the Marvel Universe, most of the issues have functioned like a PG-13 generic superhero disaster film. If anybody should be able to really have some fun during Monsters Unleashed its writer Jeremy Whitley, a creator that impressed me to end with his unique approach to The Unstoppable Wasp, a book that should be forgettable, but is actually charged with a fun, unique tone that makes it my favorite book to read every week!

Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos’ Champions series has been a bit of an ideological mess in the way the teens of the Marvel Universe are trying to team up and take on socially conscious issues. Whitley starts off the narrative here nicely by addressing that the Champions might not even be needed in the first place. Still it can’t help but feel misguided when the Champions step into a battle that might not be the best use of their talents. The team of villains introduced in this issue are also a little too thinly characterized to be even a little bit interesting.

Ro Stein and Ted Brandt’s pencils are very animated and well tailored to normal looking characters that are very expressive with their fluid motions and background activities. Unfortunately, the art stumbles a bit when depicting the some of the Champions’ costumes. Nova looks to bulky and his helmet changes in size throughout the issue. Kamala Khan’s face changes its proportions a little too fast and loose for comfort. While characters are very expressive, the wilderness-laden background of the issue is a little sparse. Thankfully the two artists kick the action into gear late in the issue when the monsters come out.

Whitley’s dialogue heavy script bogs down the narrative as Stein and Brandt still feel like they are still honing their craft in Champions #1.MU. The issue falters when trying to tie the monsters back into the narrative. Lots of creators are seeming to have trouble doing anything interesting or substantial with the Monsters Unleashed premise.

Verdict: Skip. Whitley’s dialogue heavy script makes Champions #1.MU a snore while Brandt and Stein feel like they are developing an interesting style.

Elektra #1
Writer: Matt Owens
Artist: Juan Cabal
Colors: Antonio Fabela and Marcio Menyz
Letters: VC’s Cory Petit

It can be difficult to anchor a series around Elektra. Getting the character right outside of the main Marvel Universe and widening the scope of the hero to an ongoing series is going to prove difficult for writer Matt Owens and artist Juan Cabal. After seeing Bullseye and Kingpin go smaller with their respective leads, it will be interesting to see what exact approach Owens will take and if the writer can even hope to live up to the history of the character following the legacy of creators like Frank Miller, Bill Sienkiewicz, Michael Del Mundo and W. Haden Blackman.

With a certain level of skepticism coming into the series, I was really surprised to see Owens dig into the seediest part of the Marvel Universe. Elektra is a character who isn’t extraordinarily well defined and having a dark mirror reflected into the Marvel Universe is a great way to start a new series.

Juan Cabal’s incredibly polished pencils give this title an absurd amount of personality. The artist’s knack for great poses and creative panel layouts ground this issue in a beautiful, poignant manner. The flashback scenes to some of the great Elektra stories really show the true potential that the artist has to do great work in the back. The dialogue is understated and sparse, giving Cabal lots of room to do what the artist does best, which is to vividly depict the character in the foreground. There’s also a nice amount of subtlety here, where Elektra is able to say what she’s actually thinking without the need for words.

Owens’ dialogue makes this issue glide right along at a really smooth pace. The issues’ long opening scene filled with dialogue is still easy on the eyes with the amount of restraint from the author. When Owens kicks the issue into gear with a massive fight scene, he again steps out of the way to let Cabal really deliver the stellar fight scene that the entire issue has been building up to in a beautiful moment of catharsis.

The comic has a great final moment, bringing a mainstay Marvel character into the mix in a unique way that should shock the rest of the comic with energy. With all the cards in the deck seemingly stacked against the creative team, Matt Owens and Juan Cabal deliver a beautiful, politically charged take on Elektra that should leave readers with their mouths hanging up at just how bleak the subject matter covered here is. This is a different take on the character than seen in the Netflix series and I hope that Owens will continue to channel on this optimistic look at the hero in this same unique manner going forward.

Verdict: Buy. Elektra #1 steals the show thanks to Owens’ tortured script and Cabal’s lovely art.