Captain America and Black Widow 640 (February 2013)

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 … Continue reading Captain America and Black Widow 640 (February 2013)

Captain America and Black Widow 639 (January 2013)

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 … Continue reading Captain America and Black Widow 639 (January 2013)

Captain America and Black Widow 638 (December 2012)

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 … Continue reading Captain America and Black Widow 638 (December 2012)

Captain America and Black Widow 637 (November 2012)

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 … Continue reading Captain America and Black Widow 637 (November 2012)

Captain America and Black Widow 636 (November 2012)

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 … Continue reading Captain America and Black Widow 636 (November 2012)

Black Widow: Deadly Origin 4 (April 2010)

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 … Continue reading Black Widow: Deadly Origin 4 (April 2010)

Black Widow: Deadly Origin 3 (March 2010)

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 … Continue reading Black Widow: Deadly Origin 3 (March 2010)

Black Widow: Deadly Origin 2 (February 2010)

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 … Continue reading Black Widow: Deadly Origin 2 (February 2010)

Black Widow: Deadly Origin 1 (January 2010)

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 … Continue reading Black Widow: Deadly Origin 1 (January 2010)

Black Widow: Pale Little Spider 3 (August 2002)

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 … Continue reading Black Widow: Pale Little Spider 3 (August 2002)

Black Widow: Pale Little Spider 2 (July 2002)

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 … Continue reading Black Widow: Pale Little Spider 2 (July 2002)

Black Widow: Pale Little Spider 1 (June 2002)

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 … Continue reading Black Widow: Pale Little Spider 1 (June 2002)

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

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

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

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

Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her 4 (February 2006)

I think I just remembered how this series ends. I think it’s with a big, unresolvable cliffhanger. Unfortunate. Anyway, this issue’s pretty good. It’s an all-action issue—Natasha goes and gets her sidekick from the South American work farm. There’s also another big Daredevil scene with Nick Fury—Matt beats up a bunch of guys—and it’s where Morgan is setting up the eventual series cliffhanger. The art is off again. It’s the faces. They aren’t Sienkiewicz faces here, they’re a strange amalgam. The issue opens with those bad faces and it’s this scene setting up yet another plot thread. I guess the … Continue reading Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her 4 (February 2006)

Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her 3 (January 2006)

Reading the scene where Nick Fury gets tortured by a Bush flunky, it’s clear why comics should never get too involved with politics, especially not superhero comics. It’s Nick Fury… shouldn’t Captain America bust in and save him? And if Captain America isn’t busting in and saving him, isn’t the reason why more important than anything else going on? Otherwise, the issue is all right. About half of it is spent on Black Widow’s teenage sidekick, who’s recuperating in a third world South American hospital. It takes the focus away from Natasha, which is okay because Morgan doesn’t really have … Continue reading Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her 3 (January 2006)

Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her 2 (December 2005)

The art problems continue. It appears even when he’s just doing finishes, Sienkiewicz didn’t really want to take the time on the series. This issue improves the series overall, even if Morgan is sort of racing around. There doesn’t seem to be a story so much as clean-up from the last series. Natasha is trying to find her friend (who I really hope doesn’t turn out to be brainwashed to be an assassin against her) while her enemies are trying to track her down. Then there’s Daredevil and Nick Fury, who are just standing around so they can guest star. … Continue reading Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her 2 (December 2005)

Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her 1 (November 2005)

It’s Sienkiewicz over Phillips so you’d think the art would be good… You’d think. Instead, it’s a bad combination. Sienkiewicz is too contained in the layouts, Phillips is too broad because he knows there are going to be finishes. There’s no magic here. Morgan starts this issue a week after the last series ends. It’s a direct sequel, lots of returning characters. Unfortunately, it’s been more than a week for the reader, so one might need a cast refresher and none is offered. As for the series itself, it’s too soon to tell. Morgan just barely introduces the overall story, … Continue reading Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her 1 (November 2005)

Black Widow 6 (April 2005)

Well, there’s the finish. Morgan leaves it unsatisfactory—some of it—on purpose, but I wonder if he also needed a little more space. The issue ends with a tag announcing the sequel series, almost as though they knew they needed to promise more story…. There’s a somewhat lengthy fight scene this issue. It’s got some good moments (the fight scene), but it doesn’t have very much dramatic weight. It’s like Morgan thought of it in an outline and didn’t realize Sienkiewicz doing a blow-by-blow on the deck of a yacht would get boring. Maybe it was Parlov’s fault. Otherwise, it’s a … Continue reading Black Widow 6 (April 2005)

Black Widow 5 (March 2005)

Wow, what a downer. Morgan gives the issue, for its soft cliffhanger, an extremely depressing turn of events. Not the one I was worried about, but one I dislike maybe even worse. It comes after the big revelation issue. I mean, there’s some bridging stuff at the beginning, but most of the issue is spent with Natasha learning all about the Black Widow program and what it’s done to her. Morgan does it in story, which really helps keep it fresh. There’s a lot of talking heads this issue; it’s strange to see Sienkiewicz do the conversation scenes is a … Continue reading Black Widow 5 (March 2005)

Black Widow 4 (February 2005)

So, for the first issue of the second half, Morgan’s changing it up again. He’s got Natasha in Russia, where she uncovers her past. It’s not the past she thought—I’m not even sure if it’s in continuity anymore—and the way Morgan does it makes the entire series feel like the first Black Widow comic ever. Even though she mentions the second Black Widow from the last series… everything old is new again. Meanwhile, Morgan gets in the comic relief with Natasha’s friends back in the States (he’s joking about it going bad) and develops the villains. He implies a whole … Continue reading Black Widow 4 (February 2005)

Black Widow 3 (January 2005)

Morgan quickly makes up for any deficiencies in the last issue. It’s almost like he realized it, because this issue establishes Black Widow as being about gender issues. It turns out the bad guys are this freaky pharmaceutical company (probably using mutant gene in their face cream) and Natasha finding out about it. Along the way, there’s more with her sidekick and their youthful charge (they rescued a teenage girl from some rednecks first issue). Unfortunately, there’s the implication the sidekick might be a problem later on. But for now, it’s an awesome dynamic. It brings humor to the comic, … Continue reading Black Widow 3 (January 2005)

Black Widow 2 (December 2004)

With Parlov taking over the layouts, all of a sudden it reminds me of Ennis. Well, not really. Morgan does a fine job with Natasha—his brief first person narration works, instead of the usual, lengthy nonsense male writers do when writing first person narration for female characters—but the only other female character in the issue is so bad Jeph Loeb could’ve written her. Some evil spy lady is—shocker, a lesbian—and violently lusting after a waitress. It’s like Ennis done bad. Otherwise, the issue is good. It’s not as strong as the first issue because there’s not as much going on. … Continue reading Black Widow 2 (December 2004)

Black Widow 1 (November 2004)

I’ve read this Black Widow series before, but it’s been so long I forgot Bill Sienkiewicz does the art. I remembered it was good, but I didn’t remember why it’s good. So it’s a nice surprise. Richard K. Morgan doesn’t have any Marvel Universe stuff here. It’s just a retired spy story so far—Natasha keeps trying to get out (moving to Monument Valley to rock climb, what’s more American than that?), and they keep pulling her back in. It appears the bad guys are some Blackwater stand-in. Or something. With ex-Soviets along for the ride. The issue gets Natasha from … Continue reading Black Widow 1 (November 2004)

Black Widow 3 (March 2001)

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 … Continue reading Black Widow 3 (March 2001)

Black Widow 2 (February 2001)

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 … Continue reading Black Widow 2 (February 2001)

Black Widow 1 (January 2001)

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. … Continue reading Black Widow 1 (January 2001)

Black Widow 3 (August 1999)

Grayson’s back to true form here, with terrible dialogue and sexy smooth talker Matt Murdock. It appears he’s got a cell built in to his Daredevil costume. He shows up towards the beginning, talking to the Black Widow II. I’m sure this story wasn’t Grayson’s idea—maybe someone at Marvel thought it sounded good—but it’s just a stupid plot. Especially the way the last page suggests all these double-crosses Grayson never even hinted at earlier. Jones basically has one job this issue. Make a fight scene compelling. He fails miserably. Some of it is his page composition, some of it is … Continue reading Black Widow 3 (August 1999)

Black Widow 2 (July 1999)

So who shoots her (Natasha) at the end? Is that SHIELD? Why’s SHIELD shooting her? This issue might be better written than the last. The conversation between Natasha and Matt is nowhere near as bad, though Grayson’s characterization of him as a lech seems a little off. Well, no, it seems a lot off. Grayson makes Daredevil a pig. What’s striking is how much I hated the art this issue. Maybe I was just being nice to the first issue. Jones draws everyone’s head veiny and fat; the comic is full of hideously ugly people. He doesn’t even bring enough … Continue reading Black Widow 2 (July 1999)

Black Widow 1 (June 1999)

For some reason, I was expecting more from Jones. I wasn’t expecting anything from Grayson (and, oh, did she deliver), but Jones… I thought he’d at least do a consistently good issue. Instead, it’s like he’s alternating. One panel is good, the next isn’t. He has these terrible eyeglass lenses, which makes Matt Murdock’s cameo doubly painful (Grayson’s dialogue, which is supposed to be romantic banter between Matt and Natasha, is laughably bad). The action scenes are similar. Sometimes he does all right, other times his proportions all of a sudden change. The issue has some well-paced fight scenes, but … Continue reading Black Widow 1 (June 1999)