Kabuki & Elektra

Kabuki (Bill Sienkiewicz)
Kabuki by Bill Sienkiewicz

I had missed Bill Sienkiewicz’s work in the 1980s, but I had David Mack; ‘Metamorphosis’ was Mack’s Elektra: Assassin.  Both artists combined traditional fine art skills, collage, and traditional comic book style-art in their work.  David Mack’s artwork exposed me to comic books as fine art; before, the closest at this point was Sam Keith and Travis Charest.  David Mack was the first sequential artist whose name I knew and followed from project to project.

Both Kabuki’s ‘Metamorphosis’ and Elektra: Assassin are stories of teenage rebellion.  In their respective storylines, Kabuki and Electra begin their journey awakening in a mental institution disjointedly recalling their origin, and eventually must escape.  While Elektra escapes and thwarts an evil ninja clan’s plan to take-over the United States, Kabuki spends the entirety of her storyline in the mental institution.  In Kabuki’s case, though, the institution reprograms secret agents to work in other organizations.  While escaping Kabuki is pursued by released inmates and former teammates.  Kabuki’s fights are battles against intrusive ideologies.

Elektra (David Mack)
Elektra by David Mack

By defeating the anthropomorphized points of view, Kabuki rejects the limitations of philosophy.  For Kabuki, a myopic view of the world does not fully explain the world.  Returning to Elektra, by the end of her journey she has defeated the plan of The Beast, an evil entity worshiped by an evil ninja clan.  Having been groomed by outside forces to be a vessel for The Beast, Elektra’s defeat of the creature is her own statement of anti-establishment.  For Elektra and Kabuki their stories are about rejecting the societal expectations, which others use to groom them to be killing machines.

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Queerly Geek

Enigma            Peter Milligan’s The Enigma confronts society’s expectations about identity.  The Enigma, narrated in the first person, tells the story of 20-something Michael Smith. Smith meets Titus Bird, the writer of the superhero comic book The Enigma, the story of a man with omnipotent powers who adopts the identity of a superhero. Smith runs into the Enigma, who reveals that he is an emotionless being, unfamiliar with concepts of right and wrong.  Enigma take Smith on life changing adventure where Smith is challenged by how consciously he is aware of himself.  His experience with Enigma reveal a deeper understanding of his, and the reader’s, place in the world.

In a twist at the end the narrator is revealed to be a lizard, that had been gifted human consciousness by Enigma, and the lizard is attempting to explain its new awareness to other lizards.  The other lizards though are unable to comprehend the story they are being told because their own knowledge of self and the world is limited.  The lizard’s interaction with Enigma mirrors Smith’s, who too has been changed and grown from experiences with Enigma, and finds it difficult to explain to friends.

[To Read the Complete Personal Essay Click the PDF Below]

Queerly Geek

Kabuki

Kabuki (david Mack)            I first read David Mack’s Kabuki with the 1998 storyline, ‘Metamorphosis.’  A storyline where the titular character, an assassin, must escape an institution that reprograms secret agents to work in other organizations.  While escaping Kabuki is pursued by released inmates and former teammates.  Kabuki’s fights are battles against mainstream’s expectations, rejecting the limiting philosophies each inmate represents through their fighting style.  The story is a metaphor for Kabuki rejecting expectations and the role she was groomed for, itself an allegory for teenage rebellion.

Kabuki is weighed down by history and without an identity separate from role.  Her motivation comes from the scar on her face, a feature she views as making her less than, separating her from the group.  To compensate Kabuki perfects the skills of an assassin to impress her paternal grandfather, a general.  Kabuki repurposes her combat skills into dance to express herself in pursuit of a new identity against the routine status quo, reflecting the rebellious nature of a maligned subculture.  I saw how an identity can shatter expectations, particularly when the pursuit of that identity uses the previous life’s tools.  By escaping Kabuki rejects the world, and the role it has tragically giver her.