Black Widow

Captain America and Black Widow 640 (February 2013)

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It’s another all action issue–there’s some talking heads for the planning and the various plot twists, but it’s an action issue. A bunch of slightly different superheroes–the Black Knight has a magical chainsaw and Venom can pilot a spaceship and Ghost Rider’s techy–attack some slightly different other superheroes who are now bad. Human Torch is a burning skeleton, I think.

It’s all confusing but very nicely illustrated. Francavilla has a great time with the battle scenes.

Otherwise, Black Widow gets the most important scenes. Cap gets none. His promise to the lizard people gets a summarized follow up. The multiverse thing gets even sillier.

Bunn fails at the one duplicate of the bad lady he needs to get right. The other one he does in this issue, he does well. But not the important one.

It’s not a success, it’s mildly disappointing, but at least it’s competent.

CREDITS

Writer, Cullen Bunn; artist and colorist, Francesco Francavilla; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Jake Thomas and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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Captain America and Black Widow 639 (January 2013)

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Apparently, in some realities, Captain America is a dick. Bunn gets how to write Steve’s honesty and morality. It helps here, but doesn’t fit with Bunn’s style otherwise.

I also didn’t get the guy in the Doc Ock arms was the Lizard. My bad. I just thought it was some creature. But no, it’s Curt Connors and he’s not too terrible a guy in this alternate reality.

Decent art from Francavilla. It’s mostly talking heads. The alternate Black Widow talks at length (as usual) about the multiverse. The big action is in the background or in extreme close up, so Francavilla never really shines . I guess I’ve gotten used to how he does the close up conversations.

Bunn giving Steve a promise to help people in the garbage planet dimension makes the comic immediately more interesting. Of course he’s getting home, but will he be able to keep the promise.

CREDITS

Writer, Cullen Bunn; artist and colorist, Francesco Francavilla; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, John Denning and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America and Black Widow 638 (December 2012)

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You can tell the Black Widows apart by their belts. I hadn’t realized that detail. My bad.

Once again the Francavilla art is good. He’s stronger on the distance shots than he is during the close ups. Not to knock him–he’s good all the time but there are a couple fantastic long shot panels this issue.

It’s another all action issue. It takes place over twenty or so minutes, approximately five times longer than it takes to read the comic.

There’s a tiny bit with the bad lady and her duplicates. The scene features Bunn’s best writing. He’s not good for the existing character stuff. He needs to be generative, not repackaging Steve and Natasha exposition. The other best writing bit, for example, is the two Black Widows talking. The bad one’s much more compelling.

It’s a technically competent issue; it’s a waste of time in the important ways.

CREDITS

Writer, Cullen Bunn; artist and colorist, Francesco Francavilla; letterer, Cort Petit; editors, Jake Thomas and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America and Black Widow 637 (November 2012)

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Clearly I haven’t been reading Marvel comics for a while. Since when do they talk about a multiverse like it’s early eighties DC and what’s the deal with the big tripod monsters?

Confusion aside, it’s a fairly good issue. Bunn’s plot twist is somewhat unexpected–supervillain arms dealer only employs her multiverse selves; there’s none of the cool different back stories this issue, which is too bad.

Instead, Bunn and Francavilla do an action issue with some occasional confusing talking bits. There are two Black Widows and it’s unclear who is who… But it doesn’t really matter, since the issue moves so fast.

As far as the writing, Bunn’s got Steve telling a proctologist joke. It’s an odd moment, making one wonder if Steve’s really a multiverse double too. It’s not good banter for him.

It’s an interesting misfire–way too heavy on the dystopian sci-fi–with nice art

CREDITS

Writer, Cullen Bunn; artist and colorist, Francesco Francavilla; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Jake Thomas and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America and Black Widow 636 (November 2012)

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I like Francesco Francavilla. He’s a little awkward with Captain America out on a mission and the superhero stuff, but he makes the talking heads interesting and he’s got a great rendering of Central Park at the open.

As for Cullen Bunn? He has a similar problem. The issue’s perfectly well-written, somewhat confounding stuff about an arms dealer seemingly with clones. Except all these clones have different memories, which Bunn covers in the narration. There’s a great bit with Hawkeye complaining about different dimensions.

But Bunn’s Steve Rogers lacks personality. He plays off people–Hawkeye, Iron Man, the bad arms dealer lady. Even when there’s a good line–Captain America liking Sizzler–it passes quickly. Does Steve Rogers really like Sizzler? There are Sizzlers in Brooklyn?

Bunn can probably get away with it, since the story’s intriguing (and he writes Black Widow well) but it’s unfortunate Steve’s so vapid.

CREDITS

Writer, Cullen Bunn; artist and colorist, Francesco Francavilla; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Jake Thomas and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Black Widow: Deadly Origin 4 (April 2010)

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What’s so amusingly sad about the final issue of Deadly Origin is Cornell’s pop psychology to explain the villain’s intentions. I think if Cornell had sat down and watched a bad episode of “Another World,” he would have come off with a deeper understanding of the human condition and how to apply it to the contrived plot he has going here. It’s really a dreadful finish.

But the worst part is all the John Paul Leon flashback art is in the first half of the issue. The rest of it is left to Raney and Hanna, who do the same bad job they’ve been doing the rest of the time. It’s a little worse, I suppose, since Raney’s got to render a SHIELD helicarrier stand-in… in space. It looks really stupid.

The Leon work at the beginning is just wonderful. Makes me wish he’d do a full Marvel series.

CREDITS

Writer, Paul Cornell; pencillers, Tom Raney and John Paul Leon; inkers, Scott Hanna and Leon; colorists, Matt Milla and Leon; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, Rachel Pinnelas and Bill Rosemann; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Black Widow: Deadly Origin 3 (March 2010)

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So all of (well, most of) John Paul Leon’s flashback art this issue is when Black Widow was a superhero in the seventies and eighties. It’s all this fantastic, bright Marvel superhero art, only by Leon. It looks amazing. I wonder if he could sustain it or if just doing a few panels is the limit.

The rest of the issue is awful. I love how Raney can’t keep Natasha’s face centered on her head and his Bucky needs to be seen to be believed. Bucky looks like a teenager with some kind of glandular disorder.

Cornell’s writing is pretty hideous and his big reveal at the end is dumb. But I guess Jim McCann liked the twist a lot because he used it again, less than a year later, in Widowmaker.

Maybe if Cornell’s dialogue were good… but it’s not. Even the flashback dialogue reeks.

Just like the comic.

CREDITS

Writer, Paul Cornell; pencillers, Tom Raney and John Paul Leon; inkers, Scott Hanna and Leon; colorists, Matt Milla and Leon; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, Rachel Pinnelas and Bill Rosemann; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Black Widow: Deadly Origin 2 (February 2010)

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I wish I knew who had the idea suggesting Black Widow and Mockingbird were lesbian lovers, Cornell or his editor… Because unless the next issue reveals Natasha’s only into guys for country and it’s girls for self, it’s the lamest writing move I’ve read since Jeph Loeb had a fifteen year-old girl make out with Poison Ivy to please debauched readers.

Besides that weak finish, this issue is mildly better than the first. It’s incredibly confusing and a bad story, but it’s better than the first issue. I guess Black Widow is now the Russian equivalent of Captain America only she didn’t go on cold storage.

Actually, the real reason this issue’s better is it seems like there’s more Leon, even if he’s just more spread out through the issue, and at least Leon’s competent. Raney and Milla’s renderings are hideous, whether Natasha or her supporting cast.

Origin stinks.

CREDITS

Writer, Paul Cornell; pencillers, Tom Raney and John Paul Leon; inkers, Scott Hanna and Leon; colorists, Matt Milla and Leon; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, Rachel Pinnelas and Bill Rosemann; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Black Widow: Deadly Origin 1 (January 2010)

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I thought I liked Paul Cornell. I would have reexamine that affection, or I can just finish reading Deadly Origin and it’ll do it for me.

Apparently, Natasha’s really old. Like pre-WWII old. And she’s been artificially de-aged and she used to know Wolverine and Bucky when he was Winter Soldier for the Commies.

This might be the stupidest retcon I’ve ever read, but it’s hard to make that kind of final judgment because it’s so bewildering. What’s the point to making Natasha a WWII hero? What’s the point of the Wolverine tie-in? I thought Marvel had stopped tying everyone into Wolverine. Maybe sales dipped again.

The real monstrosity is the art. Regardless how stupid the plot, Tom Raney and Scott Hanna’s art is infinitely worse. They draw Natasha like she’s a teenager (with eighties hair).

John Paul Leon’s fill-in pages are better, but not great.

CREDITS

Writer, Paul Cornell; pencillers, Tom Raney and John Paul Leon; inkers, Scott Hanna and Leon; colorists, Matt Milla and Leon; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, Rachel Pinnelas, Michael Horwitz and Bill Rosemann; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Black Widow: Pale Little Spider 3 (August 2002)

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It’s a fast finish—maybe too fast—but Rucka’s pacing the series more and more like a TV show. The entire issue is the last few minutes of a longer episode, which probably frustrated when reading the series split over three months but not much in a shorter period.

Unfortunately, from the first page, it’s clear Kordey is hurrying along. Maybe it’s because a lot of the issue is bright. He’s letting the colorist fill in the darks here, whereas before he was making sure they were there. It still works, just because Rucka knows how to craft an espionage story. This issue is the finale and has the big moment for Yelena, but it’s the least about her. Like Rucka also knows he can’t push the situation in an action comic.

Spider‘s a strong approach to the character. It’s a shame Rucka and Kordey didn’t get a follow-up.

CREDITS

Writer, Greg Rucka; artist, Igor Kordey; colorist, Chris Chuckry; letterers, Richard Starkings and Albert Deschesne; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, MAX.

Black Widow: Pale Little Spider 2 (July 2002)

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Rucka continues with less of a procedural, though that element is still present, and more of a… well, not character study but something close.

Pale Little Spider is, for the majority of this issue, all about Yelena and her psychological problems. She’s not crazy or anything, but she’s disturbed and she discovers things about herself and her world view while in the S&M club.

I’m not sure where Rucka came up with the issue’s twist, but it’s a good one. He’s bringing thriller movie set pieces to a familiar comics territory. One of the best moments is when it’s clear the Russian police don’t really believe in “The Black Widow.” She’s so scary, she’s just a legend. Then Rucka shows the damaged person behind the assassin.

And great Kordey art too.

The Call of Duty backup is pretty awful. But at least Marvel’s lionizing firefighters and not soldiers, right?

CREDITS

Writer, Greg Rucka; artist, Igor Kordey; colorist, Chris Chuckry; letterers, Richard Starkings and Jason Levine; editor, Stuart Moore. The Call of Duty: 911, Part Three; writer, Chuck Austen; penciller, David Finch; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Matt Milla; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, C.B. Cebulski, Brian Smith and Ralph Macchio. Publisher, MAX.

Black Widow: Pale Little Spider 1 (June 2002)

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Something tells me Marvel won’t be trading Pale Little Spider if Disney ever makes a Black Widow movie. Jaded as I am, I never thought it’d be an S&M-themed Black Widow comic, regardless of it released via MAX.

What’s immediately striking about it is Greg Rucka’s writing. He’s doing a police procedural (in Russia). It opens with regular detectives, then it turns to Black Widow II (you know, the blond one) doing the investigating. The series plays to Rucka’s strengths—though I had no idea S&M was one of them.

It helps he’s got Igor Kordey, of course. Kordey is able to show the entire thing as ugly, whether it’s something simple like the crime scene, the autopsy or the investigators themselves. Disney also wouldn’t want this one traded because Yelena (blond Black Widow) is an ugly little troll under Kordey’s pencil.

Little Spider‘s shocking and good.

CREDITS

Writer, Greg Rucka; artist, Igor Kordey; colorist, Chris Chuckry; letterers, Richard Starkings and Jason Levine; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, MAX.

Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her 6 (April 2006)

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It’s interesting how Morgan finishes the series—it’s kind of setting up Civil War only with Dubya as the bad guy. I guess Marvel lost the cajones.

He also runs out of space, hinting the character he wasted about fifteen pages on throughout the series will be a threat next time, not this time. And there is no next time. The editor really should have asked for an outline.

The issue opens like a dream sequence, where everything’s going to be okay and then Natasha will wake up from a drug-induced delusion. Only she doesn’t wake up. The calvary arrives and it looks ludicrous—Daredevil running around in broad daylight, the blond Black Widow accessorizing her rescue gear—another sign Morgan stopped caring, if he ever did about this series.

He gets it to a mildly honest final moment (borrowing from The Terminator no less), but it’s not enough.

CREDITS

Welcome to the Game; writer, Richard K. Morgan; penciller, Sean Phillips; inker, Bill Sienkiewicz; colorist, Dan Brown; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, Cory Sedlmeier and Jennifer Lee; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her 5 (February 2006)

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It’s not an all-action issue, instead Morgan creates the all-torture issue. Well, okay, he’s got a scene with the blond Black Widow saving Daredevil and another one with Black Widow’s sidekick, but basically the entire issue is just Natasha either being tortured or about to be tortured.

Oddly, the torture isn’t what drives the comic (and presumably the series) off the rails. It’s the pacing. Nothing happens this issue. Nothing gets resolved from last issue. Morgan’s just dragging it out. It’s like he needed one more issue of the last series so instead Marvel gave him six.

There’s something incredibly defeatist about it too. As good as Morgan writes Natasha, he doesn’t spend any time writing Yelena (blond Black Widow) well. He writes her as a self-aware bimbo, like if “Sex and the City” met superheroes.

It’s a disaster; I didn’t even pay attention to the art.

CREDITS

Do You Feel Better Now?; writer, Richard K. Morgan; penciller, Sean Phillips; inker, Bill Sienkiewicz; colorist, Dan Brown; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, Cory Sedlmeier and Jennifer Lee; publisher, Marvel Comics.