In the fifth and final part of “Always Bet on Red,” we finally get to see the showdown between Arcade and Elektra and, if nothing else, it sure is fun. The story picks up after Elektra transports herself into the newest version of Murderworld to save her new friend Lauren. She does this by using a stolen helmet that controls the death trap. With a new player on the field, Arcade makes use of a giant killer mech he built for just such an occasion. The issue starts with a clever nod to the title with Arcade stating: “Former ninja assassin versus state-of-the-art killer robot. Place your bets!” Of course, nobody needs to be told to bet on red as Electra is obviously going to win, and this is a perfect analogy to the issue as a whole, which isn’t really groundbreaking in anyway, but has enough clever moments that it is nevertheless enjoyable.
Juan Cabal isn’t doing anything too outstanding with the art, but it is consistently solid with some fun paneling choices in the big battle and the use of bleeds in the gutter is well-timed. That said, the best part of this issue is the costuming. The mech itself is a perfect choice for Arcade whose characterization is spot on while in the suit; the shadowing and the red coloring really highlight the emotional extremes he exhibits as he gleefully tries to kill Lauren and Electra with all his new gadgets. Not to be outdone, Elektra also gets a new look. After taking control of the stolen helmet, Lauren claims: “I’m about to go Konami code all over your ass!” and levels up Elektra with a new Tron-esque ninja suit complete with what looks like Iron Man’s gloves. She’s barely recognizable, but she does indeed look “awesome.”
As far as Matt Owens’ writing, it suffers from the same overuse of pop culture references that seems to be everywhere right now. Are they fun? Sure! But, the more we see them, the less fun they are. I understand that this kind of stuff is expected in Murderworld; however, Elektra using her ninja skills to evade attacks doesn’t exactly warrant a reference to Frogger in my book. Similarly, the ending is so expected that it was kind of letdown. As part of the “Running with the Devil” initiative, we all knew where it would end up, so it isn’t really Owens’ fault, but it could have been handled better.
On a side note, I was very pleased to see the page honoring Rich Buckler, although it would have landed better if it wasn’t right before the big reveal. I would hope Marvel considers the placement of these types of pages a little more in the future.
In the end, if you want some fun summer reading, this is a great choice. For those of you who adore each of the Murderworlds as much as Arcade hopes, this is a must read. Three Stars!
(W) Matt Owens (A) Juan Cabal (CA) Elizabeth Torque