Posts tagged “Black Widow

Vacation Catch-Up: Thor, Sensation Comics, & More

I’ve spent the last week taking it easy during the holidays and doing my best to catch up on my reading stack.  In the past few days, I have brought myself up to speed on a few titles and some 40 issues of:

Justice League – Meh.  Just … meh.  I wish I could offer something more on this title, but it’s leaving me bored.  Might be time to drop it from my pull list soon, but I’ll finish the current arc first.

Gotham Academy – I hate to say this because I was hoping for so much more, but the writing on this title has let me down.  It’s not BAD—it’s just … a little slow?  The pacing is dragging for me.  And it’s perfectly reasonable that many others would love the type of story they’re telling in Gotham Academy, but for me personally, it’s not hitting.  I anticipated giving the book at least the first full arc to grab me, but I think I already know that it’s not going to fit.  And that’s really a shame, because I LOVE the artwork on this book.  Karl Kerschl’s style is so clean and so lively, and even more exciting when you throw on Geyser and Dave McCaig’s incredible colors—I wanted so badly to fall in love with this book.  But I’m just … not.

Hawkeye – Umm … so, this title is coming back, right?  Because I need this title.  This title has to exist.

Phil Noto's variant cover for the February issue of Inhuman.

Phil Noto’s variant cover for the February issue of Inhuman.

Black Widow – Natasha/X-23 team-up?  Yes, please.  More, please.  Also, my goodness, I cannot explain my love for Phil Noto in any sufficient way for others to fathom.  He is just … I can’t.  I love his work so much, it’s unlike anything else.  I can’t compare him to anyone.  And Marvel just announced that they’re releasing a month’s worth of Phil Noto variant covers in February, which means I’m trouble and will be buying way more titles that month than I need to be….

Thor – LOVE.  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.  Three issues in and I am OBSESSED with this book.  Everything about it is solid; the writing is spectacular, the artwork is a delight, the colors are captivating.  There is nothing more I could possibly want from this, and I’m so excited for the next issue.

Superman/Wonder Woman – This title was actually fairly decent under Charles Soule—it was better than what I was expecting, and Tony Daniel’s art was crisp and lovely.  But Tomasi’s first issue as of #13 made this book take a giant nose-dive for me, and Mahnke’s artwork is just not my cup of tea.  Wonder Woman’s characterization continues to suffer greatly since the New 52—I don’t know who that person is, but she’s not my Wonder Woman.  But that in itself is a topic for a whole other discussion.

Sensation Comics – This book.  This book is …  just about the only thing keeping my DC fandom afloat at this point.  If post-New 52 Wonder Woman is wrong, then Sensation Comics Wonder Woman is everything RIGHT and everything she should be.  Reading this title is this massive dose of nostalgia, which is kind of weird, right?  Because how can something brand new with different, alternative takes on a character make you feel nostalgic toward said character?  It does, so very much.  I’m not sure I’d do it proper credit in trying to explain, except to say that it’s very clear each writer and artist gets Wonder Woman.  They get her and they love her, and that comes through so obviously in every story—which, I’m sad to say, is not the case in her actual title or in pretty much any other DC book she’s currently in.  It’s a tragic state of affairs.  But if, like me, you want the Wonder Woman you loved before the New 52 destroyed everything she was and everything she stood for, then pick up Sensation Comics.  You won’t regret it.


The Women of Marvel Own NYCC

Some cool female-focused stuff came out of NYCC this weekend.  DC announced that Stephanie Brown is finally making her return to the DCU, and while I want to be over the moon about this, I’m keeping my guard up.  As the New 52 has taught me over and over again, these aren’t the characters I love, but some horribly mangled iterations of them, so I can’t let myself get too excited about Steph just yet.  Not until … I see her.

That said, Marvel took the cake as far as announcements that make me happy.  We already heard a couple of weeks ago that Charles Soule is writing a new She-Hulk book.  As if that weren’t great enough, we’re also getting new Elektra and Black Widow solo titles, and a relaunched Captain Marvel.  That’s on top of the female-centric X-Men and Fearless Defenders books, to boot.

Soule She-HulkDeconnick Captain Marveldmonson Black WidowWells Elektra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This reader is very happy indeed.

Except … I did notice something kind of weird.

  • From Stephen Wacker’s Captain Marvel interview on CBR:  “Carol is sort of a blank slate coming out of the recent ‘Enemy Within’ storyline.  So she’s back to trying to find a place for herself.”
  • From Nathan Edmonson’s Black Widow Interview on CBR:  “Without giving too many of our plot turns away, Natasha is a character driven by atonement.  She’s a hero now, but she was a villain, and a dirty one.”
  • From Zeb Wells’ Elektra Inverview on Newsarama:  “Elektra’s in a dark place […] The series will be about her journey to find meaning and maybe start clawing her way towards redemption.”

Is it just me or does that all sound vaguely the same?  That all of these characters are essentially lost and/or trying to make up for who they are or once were?  Particularly regarding Black Widow and Elektra, haven’t we already read these stories of attempted redemption over and over again?  Isn’t it about time those characters get over that trope and move onto something else?

I’m not condemning these titles; in fact I can’t wait to pick them all up.  But I am wary of the possibility of reading something that’s rehashed and stale.  I have a relatively high level of trust in these writers, though, so I guess we’ll find out next year.

  • On the flip side, here’s what Charles Soule had to say about his She-Hulk “She absolutely has problems, just like most of the heroes of the Marvel U, but she chooses to approach them with optimism and good spirit rather than surrendering to the grim and gritty.”

Kind of leaves you with the exact opposite feeling from the others, doesn’t it?  I know which title I’m most looking forward to in 2014.


Post-Turkey Day Reviews

Hello.  Have we all recovered from our food comas yet?  I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  It’s tough being back to work after four lovely days off, but such, I suppose, is life.  At least there is always the promise of Wednesday and new comics.

 

Princeless #2Princeless #2
Written by Jeremy Whitley
Illustrated by M. Goodwin
Publisher:  Action Lab Entertainment
Price:  $3.99

 

So … are you reading Princeless yet?  Was my earlier review of issue #1 not convincing enough?  Because I’m going to hound you all relentlessly until I get some messages saying “Yay, you’re so right, Princeless is awesome!”

Oh, issue #2—you were everything for which I’d hoped.  Princess Adrienne’s story is continued, but this time around the narrative voice is shifted in the beginning from being Adrienne’s to that of her brother, Prince Devin.  When their belligerent father, the King, is misinformed that Princess Adrienne is dead (having fled the tower atop her dragon at the end of the last issue), Devin is devastated by what’s happened to his sister and the thought that he may have had a hand in her death.  Ooohhh, yeah—weren’t expecting that, were you?  You’ll just have to read the issue to learn what I mean.  There’s a lot more that happens here, but I can’t tell you about it without an insane amount of gushing.

Jeremy Whitley’s writing keeps its momentum from issue one, and the hilarity doesn’t stop either.  A couple of scenes in particular had me laughing out loud as I read this on one of my train commutes, and the ending left me disappointed in the sense that I was sad there had to be one at all.  Two issues in, and I feel like I’ve known these characters for a while.  They’re well-developed, well-rounded, and well-illustrated.  Wonderful, wonderful comics being made.

This book is just a blast, and I’m so happy I found it.  In a week where DC didn’t release any of their New 52, it’s a perfect opportunity to check out something else and breathe a breath of fresh air instead of the same old constant disappointment.

Please read this book, and please pass it along.  I absolutely cannot fathom that you’d regret it.

 

Captain America & Bucky #624Captain America & Bucky #624
Written by Ed Brubaker & Marc Andreyko
Illustrated by Chris Samnee
Publisher:  Marvel Comics
Price:  $2.99

 

Hmm.  What can I say about this one?  I’m kind of stupid about Bucky and Natasha.  They’ve only been a relatively recent discovery for me and I really, really love the pair … my reasons are myriad.  So whenever I see the promise of some Bucky and Natasha team-up, I’m all on it.  But this was a little bit of a letdown.

The issue started off very well.  The story is set in the early days of the Winter Soldier, and Brubaker and Andreyko use it to delve into some of Bucky’s past conditioning.  We get peaks of his early missions and the formation of his romance with Black Widow, and all is well.  We also see Bucky begin to defy his programming—the writing is strong, and I have to shout out to Chris Samnee, who really draws some excellent stuff.  His style is wonderfully suited to the “throw back” feel of the book, giving it a unique flavor that’s separate from that of the main Captain America title.

I began this by telling you that the issue was a letdown.  Then I told you the writing is good and the art is great, so obviously I’m not making much sense here, right?

I guess I can’t quite put my finger on what’s missing.  I think the problem is that I’m sitting here reading this issue, things are moving, I’m getting really into what’s happening, and then … it’s over.  It just sort of … ends, and not in a “to be continued next issue” way.  At first I wondered if my copy was missing some pages or something—that’s how confused I was.  I even went online and read some web reviews, but the three reviews I read all loved the issue and said nothing much further.  I’m thinking I’m the only one who was left with this hanging feeling.  If the book were an electronic device, could we chalk this up to “user error”?  Did I somehow read the book wrong?

Despite my confusion, I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed what I read, and if you’re a Bucky fan or a Black Widow fan, it’s worth the pickup.  Past that, I’m still trying to figure it out, but if the writing here is any indication of Brubaker’s new upcoming Winter Soldier title, I’ll definitely be picking that up.

 

Wolverine & the X-Men #2Wolverine & the X-Men #2
Written by Jason Aaron
Illustrated by Chris Bachalo
Publisher:  Marvel Comics
Price:  $3.99

 

I had some qualms about this title and the team split that resulted from Schism, but since the X-Men are essentially what got me into comics in the first place, I always tend to follow at least one or two of their books.  I read through the Schism event, and while I wasn’t impressed with it to start, the latter issues picked up the pace and I found myself a little more invested in the central argument of what was happening—should the X-kids be mutantkind’s soldiers, per Cyclops, or should they be children and students, per Wolverine?  You can see the pull for both sides, and the depiction of that gray area is what makes this so interesting.

So as much as I dislike the title of this and the emphasis that’s continually placed on Wolverine, the lure of most of my favorite characters siding with him as well as the promise of Chris Bachalo’s artwork convinced me to pick it up.

I’m not disappointed.  The first issue was a lot of fun, centering on Wolverine and Kitty trying to prep the newly-built Jean Grey School for opening day—and Jason Aaron’s writing was strong.  It continues to be so with issue #2, which is full of action.  Usually when an issue of a comic is nonstop action, I actually get kind of bored, because my favorite thing about comics is character interaction.  I like dialogue, I like getting in characters’ heads, I like seeing them play off of one another.  You know when Bendis writes pages and pages of Avengers where the characters are just talking and talking and talking?  A lot of people seem to hate that, but I love the stuff.  It’s vastly more interesting to me than watching the X-Men battle a giant monster for 24 pages straight.  If they aren’t saying things to one another—if I’m not learning anything about anyone by watching them fight, then for me, that “action” is boring.

Lucky enough, this seems to be where Jason Aaron shines.  The majority, if not the entirety, of issue two was the X-Men in a fight, and I was not disinterested once.  Aaron seems to have struck the perfect balance between action and character development.  We have an opening scene where Iceman unleashes his oft-discussed “potential” against the bad guys; there are shots of the X-kids holding their own while conversation and even romance brews.  There are great things here.

That said, it’s definitely not my perfect book.  For one thing, I really dislike the villains—not in the “oh man, these guys are so evil” kind of way, but more in the “wow, these guys are so lame” kind of way.  A group of rich, genius evil children taking over the Hellfire Club doesn’t do it for me.  I just have trouble buying it, and that’s all on Aaron.  His setup for them in Schism felt hackneyed and contrived, and I have no feelings invested in the group whatsoever.  I can’t connect, and really at this point, I just want the X-Men to defeat them and get it over with so they can move on to their next set of villains.

Despite that, I’m definitely enjoying this new title so far, and I’m optimistic that we can look forward to it being consistently good story-wise.  However…

In my last review of the Captain America, I complained that Steve McNiven was the artist on the book for only six issues.  Well, Bachalo’s got him beat, because he’ll be off of this after issue #3, with Nick Bradshaw taking over.  I cannot tell you how much this pains/saddens/infuriates me, and it’s taking a high degree of restraint not to fill this paragraph with cuss words.  While it isn’t a HUGE surprise that Bachalo’s tenure here is brief—I can’t remember the last time he actually stayed on a book past a few issues—it’s still a huge tease to be reeled in like this, only to have half the creative team change within three issues.  This is NOT the way to launch a new title, Marvel, and the habit is becoming unbearable.  And for goodness’ sake, this book is four bucks.  FOUR BUCKS!  Argh!  Infuriating.  Depending on how Bradshaw’s art is, this title may or may not be on a short leash for me.  Let’s give it a few more and then re-evaluate.

 


Blurb Reviews

I wrote you all what I thought was a witty write-up on PAX East, but my computer apparently liked it so much that it ate it.  I apologize that I don’t have the patience to re-create from memory what was quite a long post, so I offer you blurb reviews in its place.  Not quite the same, I know, but we make do with what we have.  Off we go!

Ruse #1Ruse #1
Written by Mark Waid
Illustrated by Mirco Pierfederici

I’ve never read the original Ruse title, or any other Crossgen series for that matter.  But when I heard about this book coming back along with Sigil under Marvel’s takeover of Crossgen as an imprint, I figured there wouldn’t be a better time for me to jump in, and Ruse sounded pretty intriguing from the solicits.  The first issue didn’t let me down, and I liked that it was easy to get into as a new reader without needing to look up years of back story.  I like Mark Waid’s manner of storytelling, and the artwork creates a great tone for the book as we follow a grand detective and his “assistant” (small joke) solve a murder.  Waid opens the book right in the thick of things, and it only gets better from there.  I have to say, I was a little worried that the female character in this series was going to come off as some helpless, futile figure only along for the sake of “bettering” the male character.  My fears aren’t entirely subsided from the first issue—but there’s reason for hope.  I’m on board.

Avengers: Children's Crusade Young Avengers #1Avengers: Children’s Crusade Young Avengers #1
Written by Allan Heinberg
Illustrated by Alan Davis & Mark Farmer

When I first saw the solicitation for this in Previews, my reaction was something along the lines of “OMG ANOTHER ONE WHAT THE HELL I HATE YOU MARVEL.”  I really didn’t, and still don’t, see a reason for this issue to exist, other than to try to fill the absurd gap between current issues of Children’s Crusade, and even then, it’s pointless.  Also, what’s with the title?  That’s honestly the best they could come up with?  You shock me, guys.  Anyway, if you’re reading Children’s Crusade, you can pretty much skip over this entirely with no consequences whatsoever.  The only thing we learn from this one-shot is that Kang the Conqueror (Iron Lad of the future) tricks his past/current self (Iron Lad of the present) to go back and try to stop the Young Avengers from rescuing the Scarlet Witch so that they don’t get killed by the real Avengers … or something like that.  Yeah, I can’t even explain it, basically because it makes no sense and has no value to the story whatsoever.  Cheap gimmicks all around.  Also not a fan of Davis’ art.  Avoid this like the plague, but pick up the next issue of Children’s Crusade (which I have yet to get to).

Captain America & the Secret Avengers #1Captain America and the Secret Avengers #1
Written by Kelly Sue Deconnick
Illustrated by Greg Tocchini

I’m still debating how I feel about this one.  You know what?  It really wasn’t bad.  It wasn’t the BEST thing I’ve read lately, not by a long shot, but it was entertaining and kind of a breezy read.  I like the duo of Black Widow and Agent 13, and I loved the comedic and witty interplay instituted by Deconnick.  It’s a bit campy, a bit short, but overall a different flavor to the other books in the pile.  Natasha and Sharon Carter walk into a trap in order to rescue a girl from … um … some other girls.  Trained assassins.  Hi-jinks ensue.  Witty comebacks are delivered.  And Steve Rogers is stuck at a desk doing paperwork while the ladies are out there rather swiftly kicking some ass.  The art is a bit stylized and “sketchy” as opposed to “clean,” which worked for me.  Hmm.  I’ve decided I like this.  It’s a one-shot, and that’s enough.

Birds of Prey #11Birds of Prey #11
Written by Gail Simone
Illustrated by Pere Perez

*High-pitched voice* AWESOMENEEESSSSSSSSSSS!  I read this during my train commute in the ungodly hours of the morning, half groggy when I opened to the first page.  It quickly woke me up.  This story was not at all what I expected, particularly by the end.  One look at that front cover and you’re kind of sick from all the hearts, right?  But don’t judge a book—at least, THIS book—by its cover.  This is a one-issue story, and in it, Gail Simone crafts yet another tale of action peppered with comedy, a little bit of tenderness, and some seriously solid badassery (sans Hawk and Dove, which was admittedly a nice breather).  I’ll tell you what we have here:  a jewel heist.  A hostage.  A tense romance.  A full-grown man in a cat suit.  And, come the final pages, one seriously pissed off Huntress.  It shouldn’t need any more convincing than that.  PICK THIS UP!

Nonplayer #1Nonplayer #1
Written & Illustrated by Nate Simpson

Wow.  First of all, this was gorgeous.  Absolutely beautiful to look at—eye candy in a pure sense, rather than the usual cheesecake sense.  Do you ever read a comic where you’re stuck looking at the same page—same panel—for minutes on end, just to make sure you’ve caught all the details and intricacies?  That’s what this book was like.  I’d read a lot of hype online about this miniseries, and I was hooked on the “MMO” angle it sounded like it was going to take.  It’s actually so much more than that, though.  The story is set a world apart from the one we know, and it’s clear by the first issue that the gaming setting is going to be secondary to what’s really happening here.  The notion that this is Nate Simpson’s first comic work is surprising—his simple, direct writing and his artistic layouts are spectacular and echo the experience of someone who you’d think has been in the industry for a while.  Hopeful that the rest of the series continues this level of excellence.  The book is already on a second printing; definitely check this one out if you can get your hands on it.


Marvel’s Widow Maker

I was really looking forward to this a few months ago, and while I’m not entirely let down, I’m not blown away either.  Here’s what’s up.

Marvel created two new titles last year in Black Widow and Hawkeye & Mockingbird, hailed as “ongoings.”  Frankly, I thought both were great, enjoyable reads.  But then Marvel did what they always do, which is to say “Omg, these books aren’t selling to our absurd standards … WE MUST DO SOMETHING TO MESS WITH THEM!”  So Black Widow got a new writer in Duane Swierczynski after merely one story arc, which was a big mistake, as Swierczynski’s script was nowhere near the level of his predecessor’s, Marjorie Liu.  Nor, for that matter, is Manuel Garcia’s art any better than Daniel Acuna’s, who I thought was a perfect fit for the tone of the book.  Hawkeye & Mockingbird, on the other hand,  simply goes on “hiatus” … after this genius crossover concludes, that is.

Yes, here we have Hawkeye & Mockingbird meeting up with Black Widow, and the creative teams on each book are taking turns writing and illustrating each issue.  And therein lies my problem.  While the story as a whole isn’t bad, I have to say outright that the issues seem to go up and down.  Issue one, done by Hawk & Mock’s creative team of Jim McCann and David Lopez was stellar enough as far as setting up the book.  Issue two sunk a little under Swierczynski’s pen, and the artwork was incredibly hard to follow.  Last week’s issue three picked things back up, although I worry about the conclusion.

If you read the solicitation for this story and/or seen the preview images, you should know you’ve been misled.  This book is almost not at all about what they said it would be about.  I mean, take a look at this:

Widow Maker Solicit

What’s going on here?  Mockingbird and Black Widow fighting?  Surely it must be a cat fight over Clint.  Shock!  Well, no—not even close.  In fact, Bobbi and Natasha have gotten along uninterestingly well so far.  There is absolutely no drama in this department—which is fine by me.  There’s a general misconception that you can’t put two women in the same room who have dated the same man without the claws coming out, so it was refreshing to see that NOT happen here.  There’s a reason these two ladies are strong characters, and it has nothing to do with the men in their lives.  But I digress.

The main point of the story is that there is a new character running around using the “Ronin” name and costume, and causing all sorts of problems.  Bent on setting off a war utilizing both Japanese and Russian forces, it’s up to Clint, Bobbi, Natasha, and Dominic Fortune (still the most entertaining piece of this) to set things straight.  That’s the basic gist.  Is it the most inspired piece of work out there right now?  Not really, but it does have things to offer that some other books don’t.  It’s fun, the character dynamics are pretty interesting, and overall it’s just kind of a nice read—but it probably would have been even nicer if Jim McCann was just left to do the work himself.  You should see the stuff that guy’s putting together over at Archaia.

Ultimately, Marvel shoots themselves in the foot yet again, tampering with two recipes that were working just fine for the readers.  I’ll stick through this crossover, because I’m curious as to what happens to the Clint and Bobbi team once it ends.  I’m kind of nostalgic about those two.  I’ll be sad to see Hawk & Mock go; sad that I have to read a subpar Black Widow when it was once so great with Liu behind the helm; and sad that when Marvel comes back in a few months to hype up a different “ongoing,” I’ll probably still fall for the bait.


Quick Blurb Reviews

Black Widow – This book has seriously gone down the sink hole with the new creative team.  It’s sad, too, because Marjorie Liu did an awesome job on her first arc, only to be replaced by unimaginative drivel.  I’m hoping the upcoming Widow Maker cross-over with Hawkeye & Mockingbird (another title biting the dust) writer Jim McCann will maybe breathe a bit of life into Black Widow, but I’m not optimistic.  This may be beyond saving, as Marvel had clearly already given up on it with the end of the first arc.  If the horrible front cover doesn’t give it away….

Halcyon – Huh?  What??  Reading this title’s first issue was upsetting; I’d heard so much hype and praise, and it most certainly let me down hard.  The thing is, it’s a great concept; I just find the execution sorely lacking.  Not a fan of the art, not a fan of some of the lamer scenes, and ultimately closed the first issue without any love or attachment to the characters at all.  I thought I might give this one another go next month, but honestly, I have better things to read.  Like Return of the Dapper Men.

Uncanny X-Force #2Uncanny X-Force – Now this is what I’m talking about!  Issue one got me so excited; issue two just pumped it up further.  This book is going to be a great ride, and I’m already waiting eagerly for #3.  Rick Remender is on his game—the character interaction is fantastic; the concept and execution are clever; the artwork is fitting.  Uncanny X-Force jumps to the top of my reading pile every time it comes out.
   

Other Recent Yeas:  X-Men Legacy, Amazing Spider-Man
Other Recent Nays:  Uncanny X-Men
 

X-posted at Nerd Caliber