Black Widow 3 (March 2001)

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Yuck, there’s a lot of design work from Hampton this issue.

A painter shouldn’t do eighties advertising style design. It just doesn’t work out.

Oddly, nothing works in this comic. Well, except some of Hampton’s skies. He has some beautiful upstate New York blue skies with clouds here.

Otherwise, his work is just wrong throughout. It gets even worse when he’s got to do talking heads scenes and relies on the design stuff. I guess it’s not as static as doing paintings, but—combined with Grayson and Rucka’s weak dialogue—the scenes don’t work.

At the end, the writers try a lot to make the Marvel Universe seem really dark and complicated—way too complicated for someone like Daredevil to understand—and it all comes off like Grayson and Rucka are writing a spec script for a bad Bond movie.

The series is a stinker, but the skies are nice.

CREDITS

Breakdown, Part Three; writers, Devin Grayson and Greg Rucka; artist and colorist, Scott Hampton; letterers, Richard Starkings and Saida Temofonte; editors, Kelly Lamy, Nanci Dakesian and Stuart Moore; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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Black Widow 2 (February 2001)

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Well, the second issue—when Rucka and Grayson reveal the plot (Natasha and S.H.I.E.L.D. are out to discover the blond Black Widow’s boss’s plans to sell weapons to a foreign power)—is a whole lot less compelling than the first.

More annoying Daredevil running around. Hampton doesn’t even try not to make him look silly around the spies.

Hampton’s actually the whole reason to read the comic, it turns out. Not his action scenes, which are still painfully wrong, but his New York location paintings. There are some beautiful, scenic panels in here. It’s a shame he had to have Black Widow and Nick Fury running around in them. They should have just left the characters out and released the issue as a travelogue.

Of course, things don’t go as planned (it’s a spy story), but it’s hard to care. Grayson and Rucka write insipid characters; they waste their MacGuffin.

CREDITS

Breakdown, Part Two; writers, Devin Grayson and Greg Rucka; artist and colorist, Scott Hampton; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Kelly Lamy, Nanci Dakesian and Stuart Moore; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Black Widow 1 (January 2001)

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Now, I generally like Scott Hampton—well, in theory anyway, I remember he’s done some good Vertigo stuff—but who thought he’d be a good fit on a Black Widow book? All of the art, because he’s not doing fully painted backgrounds, looks way too designed and artificial. There’s zero flow to it. It’s like Marvel hired a painter and asked him not to really paint, just paint by numbers.

Still, it’s sort of impossible not to be interested in the title because it features Natasha and S.H.I.E.L.D. kidnapping the blond Black Widow and doing a Face/Off procedure, switching the Widows’ identities. Grayson and Rucka don’t get to an explanation, just the immediate aftermath of the change. It’s compelling.

Of course, since it’s Grayson, there’s this terrible Daredevil characterization (he’s basically just a horny dimwit who follows Natasha around and works freelance for S.H.I.E.L.D.).

It’s bad, but definitely diverting.

CREDITS

Breakdown, Part One; writers, Devin Grayson and Greg Rucka; artist and colorist, Scott Hampton; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Kelly Lamy, Nanci Dakesian and Jimmy Palmiotti; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Supergirl 57 (December 2010)

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Thank goodness for the colorist because without him, you wouldn’t be able to tell who Chang was drawing as a Bizarro or as a non-Bizarro.

Chang actually manages to draw Supergirl okay (too lanky to be slutty even), but everything else is a bit of a disaster. His art lacks dimension, which messes up his proportions eventually.

Again, Gates uses the events on Bizarro world to make Supergirl feel okay about herself and the New Krypton thing, but here it works a little better. Maybe because he’s got an actual relatable event, maybe just because he really does make all the Bizarros sympathetic. Bizarro-Girl is such a good character by the end, she’s ready for a limited series of her own.

The issue has an epilogue back on Earth, teasing about the revenge of Cat Grant. It’s a necessary addition, but it still damages the momentum.

Otherwise, fantastic.

CREDITS

This am the Way the (Bizarro) World Ends; writer, Sterling Gates; artist, Bernard Chang; colorist, Blond; letterer, Travis Lanham; editors, Wil Moss and Matt Idelson; publisher, DC Comics.

Supergirl 56 (November 2010)

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It’s amazing how much I enjoy Supergirl even though the issues read so fast. Gates never leaves the Bizzaro planet this issue either, so there’s no subplot development.

It does open a little weak, with Supergirl telling the unconscious Bizarro-Girl helping her will be a cathartic experience (not in those exact words, but close enough). Gates doesn’t know how to do subtle self-reflection. It’s not a superhero comic standard for a reason—there just isn’t room for it.

But once Supergirl and Bizzaro-Girl land, the issue just gets excellent. There’s space bugs, the DC version of Galactus (oh, wait, didn’t he have bugs in Ultimate Nightmare?) and Bizarro. Gates takes the reader on an abbreviated tour of the planet and its population, which is just a lot of fun (even though some of them don’t make it). It’s strangely good-natured.

And Igle’s art is rather excellent.

CREDITS

Mad World; writer, Sterling Gates; penciller, Jamal Igle; inker, Jon Sibal; colorist, Blond; letterer, Travis Lanham; editors, Wil Moss and Matt Idelson; publisher, DC Comics.

Supergirl 55 (October 2010)

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Another very fast read, but it goes very smoothly.

Gates resolves his cliffhanger pretty quickly—all while developing the Bizzaro-Girl character into a sympathetic character (some via flashbacks to her origin on the Bizzaro planet). Supergirl, of course, is the only one who can see her as a misunderstood creature and not a monster.But Gates also has time to bring in a second action sequence, handle some stuff at the Planet (Cat Grant has some subplot of her own going, in addition to the Lana discovery) and then come up with another end sequence.

It’s an excellent issue, the kind of thing one wishes Gates and Igle had been doing all along. It doesn’t develop Supergirl as a character very much, but it is a solidly diverting superhero comic. And it’s not making Supergirl slutty.

Igle has a great time with the art too; he’s got lots of variety.

CREDITS

Fakeouts; writer, Sterling Gates; penciller, Jamal Igle; inkers, John Dell, Marc Deering and Richard Friend; colorists, Jamie Grant and Jim Devlin; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Wil Moss and Matt Idelson; publisher, DC Comics.

Supergirl 54 (September 2010)

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Besides one glaring problem (implying there’s a supernatural pedophile out there posing as a Metropolis cop and kidnapping kids), this issue of Supergirl is a great read. It’s a fast read too—really fast, but it all works.

Well, wait… more Cat Grant lameness as she discovers Supergirl and Lana’s relationship/ DC’s unable to produce good new villains.

The issue opens with Jimmy Olsen discovering Bizarro-Girl in a good sequence (so good Gates should do an Olsen series of some kind) then finds Kara (or Linda) moping while Metropolis gets destroyed. Lana has to call her up to motivate her and the scene works well enough. Gates is able to pull it off because the reader wants to see Supergirl in action, not moping. So he gets some slack.

Then there’s a strange one page panel where she pauses to enjoy flying before saving the city.

But, otherwise, great.

CREDITS

Looking Glass; writer, Sterling Gates; penciller, Jamal Igle; inker, Jon Sibal; colorist, Jamie Grant; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Wil Moss and Matt Idelson; publisher, DC Comics.

Supergirl 53 (August 2010)

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It’s an issue of Supergirl without a bunch of crossover stuff? I mean, there’s still some crossover stuff (and apparently they’re keeping Lucy Lane alive because Superwoman’s just a great villain… eye-roll) but it’s mostly just Lana and Kara talking. Wait, Linda. She wants to be Linda Lang now.

I had to go read up on Wikipedia how the “New Krypton” thing finished up. It’s surprising, with such an iconic cover, the series is totally unconcerned with picking up new readers.

There’s some good stuff between Linda and Lana, but Gates can’t keep it up when he’s got Linda refusing to help people as Supergirl. It’s just too contrived, too forced.

As for his small Metropolis (Dr. Light is testing Superwoman, then goes and discovers the mystery villain), it doesn’t work either. Gates brings charm to Supergirl, but he doesn’t bring charm to the DC Universe as a whole.

CREDITS

Fallout; writer, Sterling Gates; penciller, Jamal Igle; inker, Jon Sibal; colorist, Nei Ruffino; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Wil Moss and Matt Idelson; publisher, DC Comics.

Supergirl 52 (June 2010)

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I didn’t read the previous issue in the crossover—even though the notice tells the reader to stop and go read it first (I figured that issue would instruct me to read something else and I can only handle so much of this inane crossover).

Let’s see… from here I can tell all three villains from Superman II are back (new costumes, of course), Lex Luthor is betraying Brainiac (shocker) and Supergirl and Brainiac 5 got together some time in the future. Or the past. I never finished reading that Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes book; I’m unsure if it’s in continuity.

Gates tries really hard for his flirting between Supergirl and Brainiac 5 and it’s just a complete disaster. All of it’s in narration boxes, which is a terrible idea.

Rodriguez’s art is generally decent, if too polished. He also draws an inappropriately short skirt on Supergirl.

CREDITS

Last Stand of New Krypton, Part Seven: Distractions; writer, Sterling Gates; artist, Ivan Rodriguez; colorists, Nei Ruffino and Zaratus; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Wil Moss and Matt Idelson; publisher, DC Comics.

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