Last Days of Black Widow #20

   One of my favorite comic books of late has been the Black Widow series from Marvel. Thanks to the Marvel Unlimited app, I’ve been able to follow the adventures of Natasha Romanov as she deals with the consequences of her actions as a Soviet spy, an Avenger, and an Agent of SHIELD. It really is some of the best art work alone for a comic I have read in a long while. One issue I, like others, have with comics today is how they draw women. It seems that you can’t have a successful female character in a story unless she is showing next to nothing in a skimpy uniform. I am not a prude. There are times where scantily clad women are a ok to look at and enjoy but when you’re dealing with characters that should be on the level of their male counterparts, having them dress like strippers from a cosplay themed strip club just seems to negate any advances they are giving the female characters.   Natasha Romanov in this comic is different. She’s strong as hell but looks like a beautiful, average woman. She deals with problems in a realistic way, apart from the times where she has to kick ass and man does she know how to kick ass. Nathan Edmondson, the writer, and Phil Noto, the artist, have made one hell of a great comic that empowers Natasha without having to resort to cheap visual tactics to try and entice males to read the comic.

   Issue 20 is the end of the run for this comic and that is a shame. It’s a shame for two reasons. One, it’s sad the story is ending. (From what I understand Black Widow will of course be back but with different artists and writers involved.) Two, the story ends on a sour note because they’re not trying to give this story proper closure, they’re trying to kick start the Secret Wars story.

   Marvel Unlimited is six months behind everyone else so this is old news for some. Their main comic lines are all tied into the Secret Wars storyline which has led to a confusing mess. The main Secret Wars story is all right. I have no real complaints of it but it is not my favorite comic ever by any means. The tie in stories are something else all together.

   Comic book events in and of themselves are not bad things. I don’t dislike a good comic book event. What I have an issue with, and this goes for DC as well, both companies want to bring in absolutely every title under their umbrella into a massive story but end up finding ways to complicate things to such a point that you as the reader have no clue what the hell is going on. The Secret Wars event is meant to do one thing for Marvel and that’s remove the wheat from the chaff. They get a chance to make their world a little less complicated by removing aspects of their world that could confuse the hell out of the casual reader. You have your main characters that everyone knows about but other minor characters may not end up getting the love and attention they deserve because the creators at Marvel have to please so many masters.

   The problem I have with this is that they spend so much time trying to wrap things up for absolutely everyone that I have no real clue what is going on. I don’t read all new Marvel Comics titles. Apart from Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, The Punisher, and a couple Howard the Duck issues, everything else I have managed to skip. So getting this far into the Black Widow story to suddenly find that everything I have read before means nothing because she is suddenly apart of this new story that popped up out of nowhere is disconcerting. There were no seeds in previous issues that the world as it was established in the story was ending in any way, shape, or form. They just seemed to decide one day that whoops, the world is ending. Nice knowing you.

   The story itself is Natasha’s last bit of redemption for her past. It tells the story of how she, as a KGB agent, ended up killing a family in Cuba that wanted to defect to Russia. As an agent, she was just following orders but it was something she did not care to do. The story ends with her rescuing a family that looked just like the family she had killed. A nice ending but one that I wish was given a little more detail.

   The art work is great. Phil Noto is one hell of an artist, finding ways to show both power and weakness in characters that others would probably miss. His work on Natasha alone is amazing. Again, I love the fact that she is not drawn like the stereotypical ways women are drawn in comics. She’s not showing excessive skin. She doesn’t have boobs that could knock over a tank. She looks like a normal woman. Beautiful but normal. More artists need to use this as a model for female characters in their stories.

Bottom Line:

   I am so disappointed in this issue. All good things come to an end as they say but this ending is more like an after thought than anything else. Marvel has been so focused on setting up Secret Wars that they have disregarded the important work that is going on in comics like Black Widow.

   Having said that, despite the obstacles put in their way Edmondson and Noto have ended the series in style. It deserved much more of a proper ending that what it received but it’s still not bad. I hope these two meet up again to explore more of Natasha’s adventures in the Marvel Universe.

   One of my favorite comic books of late has been the Black Widow series from Marvel. Thanks to the Marvel Unlimited app, I’ve been able to follow the adventures of Natasha Romanov as she deals with the consequences of her actions as a Soviet spy, an Avenger, and an Agent of SHIELD. It really is some of the best art work alone for a comic I have read in a long while. One issue I, like others, have with comics today is how they draw women. It seems that you can’t have a successful female character in a story unless she is showing next to nothing in a skimpy uniform. I am not a prude. There are times where scantily clad women are a ok to look at and enjoy but when you’re dealing with characters that should be on the level of their male counterparts, having them dress like strippers from a cosplay themed strip club just seems to negate any advances they are giving the female characters.

   Natasha Romanov in this comic is different. She’s strong as hell but looks like a beautiful, average woman. She deals with problems in a realistic way, apart from the times where she has to kick ass and man does she know how to kick ass. Nathan Edmondson, the writer, and Phil Noto, the artist, have made one hell of a great comic that empowers Natasha without having to resort to cheap visual tactics to try and entice males to read the comic.

   Issue 20 is the end of the run for this comic and that is a shame. It’s a shame for two reasons. One, it’s sad the story is ending. (From what I understand Black Widow will of course be back but with different artists and writers involved.) Two, the story ends on a sour note because they’re not trying to give this story proper closure, they’re trying to kick start the Secret Wars story.

   Marvel Unlimited is six months behind everyone else so this is old news for some. Their main comic lines are all tied into the Secret Wars storyline which has led to a confusing mess. The main Secret Wars story is all right. I have no real complaints of it but it is not my favorite comic ever by any means. The tie in stories are something else all together.

   Comic book events in and of themselves are not bad things. I don’t dislike a good comic book event. What I have an issue with, and this goes for DC as well, both companies want to bring in absolutely every title under their umbrella into a massive story but end up finding ways to complicate things to such a point that you as the reader have no clue what the hell is going on. The Secret Wars event is meant to do one thing for Marvel and that’s remove the wheat from the chaff. They get a chance to make their world a little less complicated by removing aspects of their world that could confuse the hell out of the casual reader. You have your main characters that everyone knows about but other minor characters may not end up getting the love and attention they deserve because the creators at Marvel have to please so many masters.

   The problem I have with this is that they spend so much time trying to wrap things up for absolutely everyone that I have no real clue what is going on. I don’t read all new Marvel Comics titles. Apart from Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, The Punisher, and a couple Howard the Duck issues, everything else I have managed to skip. So getting this far into the Black Widow story to suddenly find that everything I have read before means nothing because she is suddenly apart of this new story that popped up out of nowhere is disconcerting. There were no seeds in previous issues that the world as it was established in the story was ending in any way, shape, or form. They just seemed to decide one day that whoops, the world is ending. Nice knowing you.

   The story itself is Natasha’s last bit of redemption for her past. It tells the story of how she, as a KGB agent, ended up killing a family in Cuba that wanted to defect to Russia. As an agent, she was just following orders but it was something she did not care to do. The story ends with her rescuing a family that looked just like the family she had killed. A nice ending but one that I wish was given a little more detail.

   The art work is great. Phil Noto is one hell of an artist, finding ways to show both power and weakness in characters that others would probably miss. His work on Natasha alone is amazing. Again, I love the fact that she is not drawn like the stereotypical ways women are drawn in comics. She’s not showing excessive skin. She doesn’t have boobs that could knock over a tank. She looks like a normal woman. Beautiful but normal. More artists need to use this as a model for female characters in their stories.

Bottom Line:

   I am so disappointed in this issue. All good things come to an end as they say but this ending is more like an after thought than anything else. Marvel has been so focused on setting up Secret Wars that they have disregarded the important work that is going on in comics like Black Widow.

   Having said that, despite the obstacles put in their way Edmondson and Noto have ended the series in style. It deserved much more of a proper ending that what it received but it’s still not bad. I hope these two meet up again to explore more of Natasha’s adventures in the Marvel Universe.

The Avengers #176

Avengers_Vol_1_176

Starhawk arrives at the mansion and asks Iron Man why he was summoned. Iron Man gives him the Cliff’s Notes version of the story so far and enlists his help. When he’s done telling the story, Starhawk says something that’s on the mind of everyone reading the story by saying he feels the ultimate bad guy in all this is Korvac but hey, for shits and giggles he’d be happy to help The Avengers. You would think that when a group arrives in the 20th Century claiming that an all powerful being has arrived in their time and is out to get someone that maybe someone in The Avengers would put two and two together and think about maybe seeing whether the threat the Guardians face could be the threat they are facing. You would think that would be someone that someone would consider but naw, not when there are city buses to destroy!

We cut to Moondragon who is contemplating events when she feels a disturbance and sets about getting the team together to tell them what she sensed. She witnesses Quicksilver and Hawkeye having an argument about Jocasta and The Vision. Moondragon zaps Quicksilver after he says something quite bigoted which causes him to get some clarity. You would think that someone who in the story is the offspring of one of the most notorious mutants alive would know a thing or two about bigotry of people that are different but what do I know? Then she walks in on Wonder Man and Black Panther having an argument about not being able to do anything. Then Thor busts through a wall as he and Hercules are fighting. Black Widow chews out Hercules which is so damn out of character for her. I could see her putting him in a choke hold but not talking to him like they were on the set of a daytime talk show.

So Moondragon gets everyone together only to tell them that she has to get ALL The Avengers to show up so she sends a message with her mind to the others who quickly arrive. Comics from this era were horrible in regards to a sense of time. It’s like the television show 24. When they needed to get a character from one side of one of the largest cities in America to the other, it would take all of ten minutes, sooner if they were on a chopper. The comics from this era were worse. They’d have characters travel great distances and the caption at the top of the next panel would be ‘Seconds Later…’ It is frustrating to see things like this because it takes you out of the story. When you’re shaking your head telling yourself that something is dumb, you’re not enjoying the story. There have been stories set in the most bizarre of locations and with the most unique characters. But if written well, you don’t notice it because you’re lost in that world. The writer here is his own worst enemy.

So after two pages of time killing filler, Moondragon has the grand plan of everyone putting the clues they found into a computer and have the computer give out the common denominator of everything. Good idea especially for a situation like this if everyone seems to be lost. But Iron Man has to be a dick here and assert his manhood to the woman who dared come up with an idea that could potentially solve their problem. He might as well have told her to help Jarvis do the dishes and have Black Widow do the laundry. He admittedly had no clue where the big bad guy was but when someone actually steps up with a possible solution, he does his best to show that he doesn’t like the fact that they stepped up with an opinion. What a great leader.

We cut to Michael Korvac sensing that Iron Man and the team are getting closer to sensing his presence. Korvac recounts how he killed and raised Starhawk back to life as well as removing the ability to sense him from Starhawk’s mind. What I question is, if he has the power that the comic is presenting, why would he be pretending to be just an average middle class joe in a suburb of New York? Wouldn’t he want to be moving around to different locations so that a team like The Avengers would not be able to do what they’re doing? Would Doctor Doom pretend to be an insurance salesman in Boise, Idaho in order to fulfill his evil schemes? Staying in one spot just screams of lazy writing. Especially when, after 11 issues to get us here, the team that are presented as so horribly in equipped to deal with a being of this magnitude so easily finds his location.

From there, the single dumbest scene I have ever read in comics occurs when the team head outside and after realizing they all can’t hop into a quinjet to get to Forrest Hills, they commandeer a city bus. Once they board, they mention that Tony Stark would pay for cabs for all of them which begs to question why the hell they couldn’t just call a bunch of cabs? And why wouldn’t one of the richest men alive have a fleet of cars at the ready that could take them where they needed to go? If Jay Fucking Leno can have an airplane hanger full of cars, Tony Stark has to have much more! The lack of logic in this scene is mind blowing. George Lucas after he wrote the prequel trilogy of Star Wars would say this was written horribly.

So they arrive. The residents worry for a moment about their homes being wrecked but than someone says that the team is probably there to open a 7-11. That puts great confidence in the reader. They find the house they were looking for, knock on the door, and are invited in by Michael Korvac himself who invites them in. They inspect the house, finding nothing. Tony Stark asks the psychics of the group to do a sweep and they find nothing. The only clue they have as to something being wrong is when Starhawk acts like the rest of them are cuckoo bananas because he doesn’t see Korvac. While you as the reader would assume that Korvac, when he mentioned that Starhawk would not be able to sense him referred to him being sensed with mind powers, seems ol’ Korvac meant sensing him period.

Korvac  gives them the usual bad guy spiel that he had great things in plan for the human race but now he would have to destroy them. They banter among each other wondering what they should do next when Korvac attacks.

Bottom Line:

It seems The Korvac Saga is anything but. Korvac has not been in the story much and when you have someone presented as being all powerful doing such stupid things you can’t take him seriously. The only reason Starhawk was kept alive by Korvac was apparently to set up this scene. There was no other reason for it. Korvac is not presented as a reasonable guy with compassion. Even if he was, we’ve hardly seen him in the story. His actions so far have been self serving and bad. It was a stupid mistake. Also staying in the suburbs when he should have been roaming about was another decision made by either the dumbest supreme being ever or by lazy writing. I vote for the later. Thankfully we have one more issue to go because this so far has been a painful read. It didn’t have to be because the ideas presented make for an intriguing idea of a story. It’s just written so horribly my nine year old son would think it’s written bad.

 

The Avengers #174

Avengers_Vol_1_174

We start off with the team facing off against The Collector, the character most folks met for the first time in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie played by Benicio Del Toro. The Avengers tell him to let the other Avengers go which The Collector politely refuses to do. Battle ensues.

I liked the little subtle jabs the writer took against collectors of pop culture artifacts in this issue. In a line that is pretty ironic, Iron Men says that The Avengers aren’t collectibles. The late 70’s saw a marked increase in collectibles like action figures, trading cards, and other toys. While collecting in and of itself it not a bad thing, it can be taken too far. Take comics for instance. You have people that will buy a comic and without even reading it board it up and have it on a shelf where they hope it will make them money someday. What is the purpose of buying a comic if not to read it? Now I get that if I were to somehow get a mint copy of Action Comics #1, taking it out of the package and reading it now would be the dumbest thing to do. But comics are stories. They’re meant to be read and enjoyed.

Anyway, The Collector fights against the team until the only Avenger left standing is Hawkeye. The Collector doesn’t take him too seriously but pays for underestimating him when Hawkeye is able to destroy a machine that has kept the other Avengers in stasis.

Defeated, they get the story from The Collector as to why he attempted to collect The Avengers. The Collector has been around for ages. Being that he has the gift of prophecy, he was able to sense the coming of Thanos. So, like an intergalactic Noah, he decided to collect people from all over the galaxy in order to preserve the species. Being that he was taking people by force you don’t have too much sympathy for the guy however being that his ultimate goal was preservation of life, you can somewhat let his actions slide. He had the right idea, just the wrong way of accomplishing it.

He gets around to letting them know that he sensed another danger, one far greater than Thanos, that was a danger to the world. Because of this danger, he thought it imperative to start collecting again.

We head to the home of Korvac where his wife is telling him that she had plans to betray him but could not follow through because she loves him. She admits that she was sent to foil his plans by her father but love screwed that plan up. Her father? The Collector.

We head back to The Collector’s ship where he is just about to reveal who he fears the most in the galaxy when he is poofed into a pile of dust. The team reflects on the power of the person they will have to deal with…even though at the beginning of The Korvac Saga, the Guardians of the Galaxy made it quite clear that Korvac was in our time. If it weren’t for Vance Astro in the first place they would not be aboard The Collector’s ship to begin with so simply forgetting who this big power is just seems a little too far-fetched for my liking.

Bottom Line:

Things are starting to make a little more sense in the story. If you treat this story line like a season of a television show, this follows a formula that Joss Whedon and others have followed well. You have a big bad that lasts throughout the particular story with little side adventures that may or may not have to do with the bad guy along the way. At the end, everything needs to wrap up with the protagonists defeating the bad guy. While it has been quite rough getting to this point, we’re at a point now where The Avengers are getting set to face off against Korvac. Finally.

I don’t like the fact that it has taken this long for them to realize what is going on. From the outset of the story Korvac has been acknowledged as a bad guy but then he was promptly forgotten. Sloppy writing. And the fact that the Guardians of the Galaxy were introduced in issue one of the story and then almost forgotten as well. Yeah, they’ll make an appearance when they set about defeating Korvac but I wish they had more involvement in the story than almost nothing.

So where does that leave this issue? It’s light on story but what it does is get the ball rolling for the big finale. It finally addressed what has been happening with the disappearance of The Avengers and gave a pretty compelling reason for their disappearance. And while The Collector is very much bad in this story, he does have some very interesting shades of gray in regards to his motivations which make him a much more intriguing character than your standard mustache twirling baddie. This almost comes across like the true beginning of The Korvac Saga because now things are about to get serious.

The Avengers #173

Avengers_Vol_1_173

The issue starts with Iron Man explaining the severity of the The Avengers current situation to an assembled team that The Wasp brought together. It’s one panel that quickly sums up the main problem the team is currently facing. While I wish there would have been more than one panel to have a recap, it’s better than nothing. I simply think of readers that may have started the story with this issue. You have a very generalized idea of what is going on so you’re not lost in the story.

From there we get Hercules and Black Widow arriving in New York on a plane. Black Widow wants to get off the plane and to the mansion as soon as possible to deal with the situation they were called in for but Hercules is more concerned with impressing the ladies. There’s a way to show a hero when he’s faced with a situation that could put the world at peril. Have him more concerned about scoring with a handful of ladies. While the comics of this era were horrible when it comes to how women were treated for the most part, men were in their own way held to their own stereotypical standards. Now compared to how women were treated this is not THAT big of a deal mind you but treating characters as stereotypes severely limits what you can do with them.

Now Hercules is told by Black Widow that they have to get to the helipad on the other side of the terminal. He thinks it’s a perfectly good idea to rip a hole in the side of the airplane and hop through it towards their destination. The late 70’s may have been quite lax at airports before 9/11, I get that. But I don’t see how someone ripping a hole in the side of an airplane, no matter who they were, would be accepted by the authorities. Now maybe you could argue that if Hercules owned the plane it wouldn’t matter because the money was coming from his pocket. But later they say that they had to rely on Tony Stark to pay off the airline in order to leave. This was just pointless when these two heroes were needed at the Avengers Mansion in order to save the world. It is even another example why Gyrich the government official was very much in the right to deny The Avengers government support for their actions. Hell, after Hercules and Black Widow appear on the helipad and are refused service on the helicopter, Hercules decides it’s a ok to throw the helicopter across the tarmac destroying it. Again, while it may go a long way to showcase the physical strength of Hercules, it shows that in the smarts department he is quite lacking to say the least. His actions should have put him in prison, not delayed him twenty minutes.

Soon Hercules and Black Widow arrive at Avengers Mansion where Iron Man fills them in on what is going on. He tries in vain to contact folks on Tony Stark’s secret communication channels but has people that have helped him before like Nick Fury cut off communications. The Nick Fury panel confused me because that character has always been portrayed as someone who would always fight for the common good no matter what got in his way. I just didn’t buy his response that SHIELD would not assist The Avengers if the world were truly in danger. Maybe his assistance wouldn’t be overt but he’d find a way to lend a hand.

Anyway, we next head back to see what Korvac is up to after many, many issues of him being gone…in the story line that is about him. So, we see that he is very much aware of what is going on with The Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy. We’re told that he is doing what he can to make sure that anyone and everyone who could put a stop to his plans is being attended to. Then we see a bizarre scene where the woman who is his wife (it’s not explained if she is really his wife or taking on that mantle after meeting up with him at the fashion show) cries, shimmers with cosmic energy, and then goes back to normal. We see so little of her character up to this point that you have no basis to understand what is going on with her and why this scene is important. Things may end up coming together at the end of the story where as the reader you’ll realize the importance of her role in the story but with no character history to go on, as the reader you’re left confused which is not good. Not that you need a thirty two volume history of her life to understand her importance or anything but you can’t just treat her as a background ornament one minute and suddenly important the next. The readers have to have a reason to care.

We get a bit of an idea as to Korvac’s intentions. He wants to go after a being called Eternity. Eternity is the highest of high, most omnipotent being in the universe and if Korvac could destroy him, or her, he would have ultimate power. Before we can get further details Korvac senses the power coming from his wife. He investigates with what looks like every intention of snuffing out that power like a candle but senses her love and hugs her. Corny. Just corny, soap opera nonsense that has no place. The writer was trying to go for something deep here with this scene but again, with no real clue as to who anyone is apart from Korvac we have no reason to care about them. They’re bad. The wife may have some powers. We have no reason to care about their importance to the story because they’ve hardly been around.

Next we see the emergency meeting at the mansion has finally ended and the heroes all break up to do their own investigating, some alone and some in pairs. Iron Man in the previous issue made a big point of everyone pairing off but apparently didn’t think it was important for that to continue. Even a throw away line like him acknowledging that the pairing off last issue was pointless would have satisfied me but that didn’t happen. Anyway, we next see The Scarlet Witch crying about her brother and her husband both having disappeared. Hawkeye attempts to cheer her up but understandably fails. Then we see a character on a boat who is carving a Scarlet Witch figurine. It’s promised that he would cause problems for her in the future. I actually liked this tease. I have no clue where it is going. It was only two panels long but it does a lot to interest me in future issues.

Next up we see Thor enter the mansion kitchen where Jarvis is making Wonder Man lunch. Thor has no clue as to who Wonder Man is even though Wonder Man points out that they had fought in battles before. Thor tells him he is wrong. We’re again left to question whether the man we are seeing is Thor or not. Nice enough tease and all but it is apparently not important enough for these people to act upon. You would think that with the work they do they would take a moment to ask a few questions or do a little investigating. At least at this time in the comics life model decoys were very much a reality. Why would they not investigate whether Thor was real or not when he could potentially be a life model decoy sent by an enemy? Yet another reason why I agree with the government that The Avengers, at least presented in these pages, should not have anything to do with saving the world because they positively, absolutely suck at their jobs.

We cut to Iron Man talking to Black Panther. Black Panther suggests that they contact Vance Astro on the Guardians of the Galaxy ship for his assistance in location where the missing Avengers are. Vance has been alone on his ship all this time and could have helped them from the moment of the first disappearance but NOW they decide it’s a good idea to contact him. How convenient. I would have even accepted this development if someone, anyone, responded with a ‘Duh, I should have thought of that’ type of response. We don’t get this. We’re supposed to just accept that someone with the technology to help them, that could have helped them many issues ago in locating the first disappearances, was not thought of by anyone in order to help. Maybe it’s just me but I would think that if your job is to protect the world you’d take advantage of every tool at your disposal. But what do I know?

Suddenly Black Panther and Yellow Jacket disappear. They contact Vance who quickly locates where the missing Avengers are which again lets you as the reader question the competency of The Avengers for not contacting him sooner. Vance teleports them to this mysterious person’s ship. It turns out to be The Collector, who crows at the fact that he doesn’t have to capture the rest of them because they are now all there.

Bottom Line:

Yet another uneven story in The Korvac Saga. I find it bizarre that we are seven issues into this story and Korvac’s involvement so far would probably fill a half a comic if that. There are some good ideas that are tossed out there but some of the silliness like Hercules throwing a helicopter just cause makes any enjoyment of the story invalidated. If the writer cannot take the time to have the story make sense, why should the reader invest their time in the story when scene after scene occurs showing just how imbecilic The Avengers are. Especially in this day and age, when you have to sit back and agree with the government that the team that is supposed to be the heroes in the story should not have the power to do what they do, you have to admit the writer has done a horrible job in creating the story. It’s a shame too that such beautiful artwork for the time is being wasted on such a horribly written story. This is classic era homage on the pages and beautiful to look at. If the writer had just allowed the work to go through a proper editing stage at least once the story would be so much better. I cannot recommend this issue at all.

The Avengers #169

Avengers_Vol_1_169

A little side mission brings us to the next issue of The Avengers. Captain America, Iron Man, and Black Panther are killing time at Avenger’s Mansion when a crazy guy in a green metal suit arrives looking to get The Avengers to kill him. Because he explicitly says this, The Avengers incapacitate him and knock him unconscious. Turns out that the man is Jason Beere. We learn that like Tony Stark, he is an industrialist. He’s learned two things. One, his family is leaving him. Two, that he only has a few months to live. So he does what any sane person would do and sets up four neutron bombs around the world that are connected to his heartbeat. When his heart stops, the world stops with it. So the three Avengers decide to travel the world in hopes of finding the bombs.

Captain America heads to South America. He quickly discovers the location of the bomb but is attacked by locals. During the battle one of them attempts to shoot a poison dart at Captain America but he forces the dart to hit the local instead. Captain America decides to say the dumbest thing I’ve ever read in comics when he says to himself that he is aware of these bird worshiping locals and he knows that they have a cure for whatever poison they tried to shoot him with. Now I wouldn’t have had a problem with this if there were a little foreshadowing in the story. If they had shown the three going over the files of the locations they were going and Captain America reading about the tribe. But that scene doesn’t happen for one and two, Captain America seems completely surprised that these people arrived out of nowhere. Yes, I can understand that Captain America is a soldier and understands tactics so I could see him studying up before going somewhere. The way it’s presented is horrible. One moment he has no idea who these people are, the next he is an expert and knows the types of weapons they use.

Next up, Black Panther finds himself in the Arctic Circle. A man dressed in leather…finds himself in the coldest place on Earth. Maybe Iron Man was hitting the sauce too hard when he sent people out on their missions. Anyway, Black Panther finds the bomb easy but is attacked by a polar bear. Not only a polar bear, but a big ass polar bear looking to kill him some Black Panther. Black Panther as presented in the comics is a reasonable fighter against wild animals. That I can believe. What I can’t believe is a man dressed in leather in the middle of the Arctic falling through the ice into freezing cold waters with a gigantic wild animal would not die instantly. Not only does he live, he escapes without even getting the sniffles.

Iron Man is last up. He finds himself in Russia where the Soviets think he is there to attack him. They spring a trap on him which he escapes but from there uses diplomacy to tell them what is going on and get their support. Nothing wrong with that mind you but tell me, do you think another country would take the word of a famous super soldier of their enemy that he’s simply there to pick up a bomb that could destroy their civilization? And for the sake of argument, if the Russians were as agreeable as they are presented this issue in regards to allowing Iron Man to do his thing and take away the neutron bomb, why couldn’t he just radio ahead and tell them what was going on? You can’t paint people as your enemy one minute and as totally agreeable nice guys the next. What would have been more appropriate would be an appearance from Black Widow. At this time she was a defector from the Soviet Union but she would still have connections with the right people there and could have given the Soviets a heads up as to what was going on. Granted, there would be no reason to include that because there is no conflict with that scenario but the conflict presented in this story ends up being for no reason anyway so you end up not caring.

They bring anything back only to discover that what they found was a tape recorder telling them that the bomb was in Jason Beere all along. So they freeze him with cryogenics…and do nothing else. Maybe I’m a heartless dick but my next step would have been putting him in a manless rocket and shooting him into the sun. The Avengers essentially freeze the guy, leave him in the freezer, and just wash their hands of the whole affair.

Now having a little break in the Korvac affair was not a bad idea but man, when you get to the end of this issue you just feel stupid. It’s not a bad premise mind you, they just execute it so poorly that any story elements that are actually entertaining lose their value the further you read. Not that they had to have forty pages of back story to send us on the mission but something as simple as a throw away line about each character doing some research on the locations they are going would have been nice. Yes, they mention Jason Beere left some notes but that doesn’t give them info on the locals they are going. It’s especially bad when Captain America, who is supposed to be a noted soldier, just haphazardly goes into battle without appearing to know where he’s at until giving a throwaway line at the end.

Bottom Line:

I don’t mind having a little breather from the Korvac saga but this was the equivalent of sprinting one hundred yards while holding your breath than immediately jumping into a lake. Again, the premise is fine. It is a basic premise that works well in action adventure stories. Take the movie Speed. The story is so simplistic that it almost doesn’t even qualify as a story but a mere premise. A madman plants a bomb on a bus and it’s up to the good guys to defuse the bomb and catch the guy. But the way they execute it in the movie is ingenious. Each challenge the protagonists faces is presented in as logical a way as that world presents it. This story just goes to sabotage itself from the start with silly mistakes that could have easily been fixed. I shake my head at this issue because the premise was good but it was just bad.

The artwork is common for work of this era and that’s not a bad thing. While it’s not classic work by any means, it does well to show the action on the page and showcase the emotions of the characters involved. But it doesn’t matter if you had the Picasso of comic book artists drawing this piece, when you have a story that is as bad as this one, any good the art gives to the story is flushed away. What a waste. This is not a part of the Korvac saga and should just be avoided.

Black Widow #1

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Marvel Knights was a part of the Marvel family telling stories that were of a more adult nature. Not that they necessarily used adult language or had excessive violence just for the hell of it but if it ended up suiting the story then they would include it. It’s been a couple years since they discontinued the line mainly because the types of stories that were told in the Marvel Knights line were being told in the regular Marvel line of comics so why have the special imprint that would appeal to a small audience?

I decided to check out issue 1 of Black Widow. You would think that they couldn’t really screw up a Black Widow story too bad. And with that you would be wrong. The first issue hints at a possible story but doesn’t get around to actually setting it up. Women are being killed around the country. Somehow Black Widow is involved. They reveal later that one of the women that was killed was originally from Russia like Natasha but they really don’t go into what is going on. Why they couldn’t have a simple page of set up of a premise is beyond me. While they did have a page with bad guys talking about a man that attempted to kill Natasha and failed, you never get any sort of hint as to why. You may argue that why would the writers want to reveal the main goal of the antagonists in issue one. While I agree that we don’t need to know absolutely everything that is impelling the bad guys to do what they plan on doing in the very first issue, we have to have some idea as to what is going on.

During the story, Natasha and a former colleague decide to travel to Alabama to investigate the death of one of the women. They don’t fly there because they know that bad guys could be following then so they decide to drive them to not be noticed. They arrive at a truck stop only to see a young lady, who they incidentally had passed along the side of the road earlier in the issue, get threatened by two truckers that had driven her. Natasha saves the young lady by attacking the men.All fine and good but let’s examine what was going on here. Natasha was trying to avoid being noticed so she could investigate what in the hell was going on. She did not want anyone knowing where she was. Yet she kills the two men who had threatened the young lady.

Why? If she were truly in hiding, no matter how disgusted she would have felt there was no reason for her to do what she did other than to have the writer show off that she is a good person. It was needless action that went contrary to the logic the story was trying to tell. Why would anyone trying to avoid notice kill two truckers at a truck stop with dozens of people who saw what she did? An ass kicking ginger is not someone people are going to forget people. Maybe, just maybe, she could have kicked their ass without too much of a problem from me. It still wouldn’t make much sense but you could explain it by having a panel or two where the proprietors of the truck stop talk about the two truckers being jerks and they thank her for what she did. I could live with that. I wouldn’t like it but they could work that to make it make sense. Straight up murdering their faces just made no damn sense.

The art work was the drizzling shits. A phrase an old pro wrestling announcer Jim Ross used for wrestlers who took horrible gimmicks and ended up making something out of them was that those wrestlers turned chicken shit into chicken salad. The artist here was trying to give the image of an old 70’s Grindhouse film and just didn’t accomplish what he wanted. It’s sloppy, dimensions are drawn all wrong. There was one frame of Natasha where she looked like a mutated giant. To me, the art comes across as pretentious garbage. This is someone who attempted to draw something stylish and ultimately came out with something that was complete shit. Horrible, nasty, painful shit. This hurts the eyes it is so bad. How anyone could fuck up something as simple as Natasha Romanoff. I mean, we’re talking three colors here. Black for her outfit, Caucasian for her skin color, and bright red hair. How can you fuck that up? Pablo Picasso on LSD with his hands cut off while being attacked by a pack of wild boars could have drawn a better comic here. My wife, who is a professional artist, compares this to having her eyes scratched. Painful, painful stuff.

Bottom Line:

Avoid this comic like the plague. You will find better comics in magazines at your local dentist office. This does nothing to make you care about what is happening in the story and the few times they could have drawn a decent picture to look at, they screw that up by presenting pure garbage. This is an embarrassment of a comic. Avoid it. If you find it at your local comic shop, buy it and burn it in the parking lot. It’s the type of comic that if you put it in your bird cage for your parakeet to shit on, the parakeet will fucking die. You will be a bird murderer if you do that. Do you want to kill a bird? Do you? You are so evil if you do.

Black Widow #17

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One of the first comics on Marvel Unlimited I came across after I sped read through the original Ultimate Spider-Man series was Black Widow. As I have stated before, I LOVE Black Widow. To me, she is the most fascinating character today in the Marvel Universe. Yeah, Scarlett Johansson has done a great job with the character in terms of introducing her to a greater audience but she’s been around for many years.

She got her start as a baddie. She was a Soviet agent that was looking to defeat Iron Man. As luck would have it, thanks to the novelty idea of a woman bad guy, she turns to the side of baseball and apple pie and becomes a force for good. From there she has many, many adventures through the years for SHIELD, The Avengers, and others she’s involved in.

But what I love about that character is she’s so complicated. When she was bad, she wasn’t bad for the sake of being bad. No, she truly believed in her cause for the Soviets until she learned the error of her ways. Since then she’s dealt with guilt. The beauty of the current series from Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto has been their detailing Natasha’s efforts to make amends for her past sins.

Everyone has something in their life that they want to make amends for. Granted, that something for some folks is nothing major. Just a simple matter of an apology or something of the like. For some folks we’re talking about something more than words or simple actions. For a spy, you have to imagine the level of guilt that could sweep through your brain if you actually sat back and thought of all the collateral damage your life has caused.

This series as a whole has been great at personalizing the character. You feel closer to Natasha with the simple scenes of her and her cat than you do when she’s kicking ass out in the field. The movies don’t have the luxury of little character moments that comics and television can give characters. While people like Joss Whedon have done amazing work with Natasha in the movies…

…the personal moments with the character have been lacking to say the least. Yeah, they forced a potential love story between Bruce Banner and Natasha in The Avengers: Age of Ultron but the keyword there is forced. There was no hint whatsoever in previous movies that Natasha and Bruce had any sort of interest in each other. At the end of The Avengers, I sensed that she understood the anger that Bruce went through which allowed her to slide off the attack she went through when he changed into The Hulk but I never got the idea that the man who brutally beat her and almost killed her was suddenly a guy who set her panties afire. Maybe, just maybe, she sees him as a damaged soul just like she sees herself but again, there was no setup for that love story. They had hinted at her being interested in Hawkeye and maybe Captain America. Not The Hulk.

The art work in this series is beautiful. Instead of going the typical over the top super curvy sex symbol that barely resembles a real woman, Natasha Romanov looks real. Her face shows such emotions throughout. When she’s having a vision of her and Matt Murdock on a boat in the middle of nowhere, the pure joy on her face is real. The anger she experiences when she realizes it is a vision is real. The locations where she’s at in this particular issue are real. This is some of my favorite artwork in comics today.

I also liked the fact that she was drawn beautiful but not stereotypical. Like any red blooded American male, I think she’s hot. But there’s more to the character than just her physical appearance. If this story were just meant to showcase page after page of her in sexy outfits and poses, it would be Barb Wire. But Natasha Romanov is very much a real woman in this world. She looks like someone you could actually meet in real life, not the caricature you see in some comics. And to me, this makes Natasha more beautiful than in any other iteration I have seen her in (apart from the movies. Cause come on.)

Bottom Line:

You have to read this comic. If ever there is a perfect marriage of story and art, it is this comic. For all I know, this comic may not go down in history as the greatest comic of all time. And I’m not going to argue that it is necessarily but it is still pretty amazing. It tells a simple story of a woman making amends for her past. While it is set in the world of spies and superheros, her struggle is very much real and very much presented in both word and art as something we all go through. I also love how she is presented in the story. As I wrote this, I showed my wife the cover and some of the art work for this issue and she appreciated that Natasha was presented as a regular woman. One turn off for her in comics and comic book movies has been the treatment of women and rightly so. Women have LONG been given the short end of the stick, if they’ve even been given a part of the stick at all. Take Black Widow in the movies. We have Scarlett Johansson, an actress with incredible range who has been a part of a LOT of great movies over the years, perpetually kept as a side kick in these movies when she has shown that she can carry a movie on her own. You have a movie company that has made every effort to keep her off the marketing for the movie unless it is on a poster in a suggestive pose. What woman could relate to that?

This comic, while set in that world, is something that people, women especially, can relate to. I highly recommend it and like all Marvel Comics today, will be sad when it comes to an end.

Iron Man #276

iron man

Iron Man. Tony Stark. While I very much knew of him growing up and watched his exploits on various cartoons, I have to say that I never really read any of his comics. I can’t really pinpoint what it was about the character that didn’t interest me growing up. I just did not have the interest and never really read anything involving Iron Man. But where I grew up there really weren’t any comic book shops near me anyway and being poor, comics were not something I really got into until I grew up.

So like everyone else, in 2008 I fell in love with Iron Man thanks to the movie. Robert Downey Jr., basically playing an exaggerated version of himself, embodied Tony Stark. His performance was so good that it helped take what was a third rate character in terms of popularity and turned him into a first tier character that rivaled Spider-Man for popularity. Being the first Marvel Studios movie, they made sure that the performance helped encapsulate everything that makes the character so enjoyable. Too often in comic book movies you’d have the filmmakers take a couple traits of the character that they liked and promptly disregard the rest. Even the best of comic book movies like Batman Begins aren’t really faithful to the origin story. It’s a great film mind you, a classic in the genre, but it does not really reflect the comics.

Iron Man was different. Sure there were changes. There has to be. You cannot take a comic book, hand it to a movie maker, and say film this. There are budgets alone to think of as well as the fact that not everything in a comic is easily translatable to film. Inner monologues alone would kill any action that’s happening on the screen. But Marvel, being that they were the company that made the damn comic in the first place, were able to take a lot of elements from the comic and successfully put them on the screen.

For my review today I came across Iron Man #276 which featured Black Widow. It makes me feel old because the issue came out when I was in 8th Grade, when comics were still only a dollar. The issue revolves around Black Widow showing up at Tony’s home and telling him she needs his help to stop an enemy infiltrator from starting World War 3. It’s quickly established that Tony is sick at this time but due to the severity of the situation he helps her out.

I really liked the back and forth between the two characters. A majority of the issue is banter between Black Widow and Tony Stark. The writer did a good job of establishing their connection. You could feel that they had a long time friendship without the writer having to rely upon three pages of backstory in order to explain the fact that they know each other.

I had a couple problems with the story and it happens a lot in Marvel Comics from this era. Apparently they never got the memo that stories could be told in ways other than how Stan Lee wrote them back in the 60’s. For example, Tony and Natasha have to break into NORAD to stop an enemy agent. They’re told by soldiers on the base that since there are drills going on there were safeguards in place to keep them from entering. Those safeguards were about as exciting and effective to a modern story like tying someone to railroad tracks and hoping the afternoon train would show up on time. In fact, Tony even mentions during their escape from one of the traps that it felt like a trap from an old movie. If a character can realize that than the reader can as well. Maybe, just maybe, audiences in 1991 still found that exciting but I found it quite unrealistic and hokey.

I could also see the surprise twist coming from a mile away. The twist is that the person they were looking for that was supposedly going to start World War 3 was Natasha Romanov herself. She tricked Tony Stark to get her into NORAD. Now I may end up forgiving the writer the next issue but I do wish there was more effort to give smoke screens to the audience. Because three pages in I was dreading that I knew what the twist would be and I was right.

The artwork was all right. Nothing classic but it was effective, especially for Tony and Natasha. Once again I felt the location drawings were quite underwhelming. I want to feel the action is taking place in a real location and I just didn’t feel that in this story.

Bottom Line:

This is an interesting trip down memory lane. It’s not a classic story in any sense of the word but the issue does a good job at the start of exploring a bit the relationship between Tony Stark and Natasha Romanov. You got the sense of their history without having to have a Master’s Degree in Marvel Comics history to know what was going on. While the traps for the characters were antiquated, even for 1991, and the twist was something you will get right away, it’s not a bad start. I have to give the story a 5.

The art is a different matter. It’s not bad or sloppy but there’s no passion in it. It’s formulaic, especially with locations in the story. If felt like a set on a television show or bad movie and it took me out of the story a bit. For that I have to give the art a 4.

 

Chaos: Bad Kitty One Shot

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I’m a sucker for women with guns. For too long women have been made to be the damsel in distress. While sometimes it can be used to good effect, it really pigeon holes women as always needing to be saved which I can tell you after twelve years of marriage is not the case. Women can be just as strong as men if not more so.

Female characters in action movies are slowly becoming more dominant. In the past you had someone like Sigorney Weaver who in the Alien movies was probably one of the first mainstream actresses to tackle a role that men would normally have. My complain about those films though is that I could just as easily see a man doing everything she does. Sigorney Weaver is an amazing actress do not get me wrong and her contribution to that series is immeasurable. Her gender had nothing to bring to the role she played as Ripley.

On the flip side you have some filmmakers and comic book creators go the opposite direction. They will have a female lead who kicks ass but is also either overly sexualized in how they make her appear or they make her flightly and talk in stereotypical female talk that has no basis in reality like Marvel does with The Wasp. So when you come across a character who is able to kick ass, is very much what you expect from a living, breathing female, as well as not being forced to be a stereotype of some sort, you have to appreciate the results.

Bad Kitty is about a cop who has a split personality. She’s been able to keep her issue a secret until a bad guy she is tailing throws a grenade at a car she is sitting in and she ends up in the hospital.

I really likes how the writer went out of his way to present Katherine, the main characters real name, as a normal woman. She wasn’t oversexualized. She didn’t wear skimpy outfits she bought from an S&M shop that caters to size 0 women. She’s just a woman. I love that. Too often, even with Black Widow, women are drawn in unrealistic poses just to show off their curves and boobs. I think of this funny image I saw where someone redrew The Avengers movie poster and made the guys pose the way they had Black Widow pose.

superheroes_posed

To see a woman as presented as just that, a woman, someone you could potentially meet during your daily life (hopefully without a grenade) is refreshing to see. Even when her split personality issue comes back and she’s Kitty the characters is not over done. She wears a little skimpier outfit than she initially wore but it is still something you would see a woman wear.

I also liked how the writer was able to differentiate between the two characters. Katherine was smart, intelligent, and could outwit someone like a chess master knowing they will put you in checkmate in twelve moves. Kitty on the other hand is as subtle as a brick to the head. She knows what she wants and if you get in her way, she’ll put your ass in the hospital. A nice twist on the Jekyll and Hyde story.

The art was a little sloppy but I liked how the artist went to the effort to show the split in Katherine’s mind. Near the end of her story her partner has her at gun point while she is Kitty. Kitty is aiming her gun at him. They are standing in front of a mirror and you can see the image of Katherine aiming a gun at Kitty as well. Visually we could see the split in her mind and that her dominant side, Katherine, was trying to fight its way back out. The art beautifully shows that the old adage show, don’t tell will make your story so much better.

Bottom Line:

This is a good start. Apparently this character was obtained via a bankruptcy hearing from Dynamite Comics from another company. This one shot is a chance for the company to make people aware of her while whetting their appetite for more potential stories.

I am conflicted though. While I loved this issue, I don’t know how far they can really draw out the story without Kitty and Katherine finally running afoul of the law. Katherine would eventually lose her job when it is discovered she is Kitty. Does she become a vigilante? Does she just say fuck it and become a criminal? Does she learn to tone down the violence? All interesting questions that could be explored but for the life of me I don’t see how this could be a regular on going series and continue to keep the split personality dynamic. Something would have to come to a head causing her to choose one or the other then the main thrust of the story so far would be gone. It would be a Katherine or Kitty story from that point on. Maybe they could keep any potential new series as just a limited run. Then you could explore the split more without having to find ways to keep it going. I give the story a 7 with the caveat that I don’t think it could make a successful continuing series.

The art again is pretty sloppy but don’t let that fool you. The artist does a great job of visually exploring the split in the character’s mind. It does more to bring out the craziness of what is going on than a two page long monologue would. I give the art an 8 as well. It’s a good story that could be dragged out for a few more issues but if they tried to make it a regular series, what makes this story special would quickly fade away.

Secret Invasion #1

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Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Secret_Invasion_Vol_1_1

The Good:

The next entry in the Secret Invasion story line brings us to the first comic labeled Secret Invasion. I loved how the tension in this particular comic was more of a natural build compared to the last comic. It felt more real, like it could actually happen somewhere other than in a comic or a movie. They also did a great job in building up the mistrust among the teams more. One issue I was having over the last couple issues was the fact that it seemed both teams were getting awfully cozy with each other awfully quick if one, they had had two recent fights against each other and two, there were aliens in their mist copying them in order to sow discord. There had to me more mistrust among the players involved with just the faintest of hopes that one last shred of trust would be earned to prove they could trust each other.

Little character moments really shone through as well, especially with Spider-Man being his ever usual sarcastic self. If anyone has a good grasp on what makes these characters tick it’s Brian Bendis. None of the dialogue in this issue seemed forced or out of character.

The slow reveal of the sheer amount of sleeper Skrull agents was well played as well. Unlike the previous comic, the reveals felt more realistic. I could believe this was happening which was enough for me to enjoy what was going on. It didn’t strike me as out of character for the reveals of each of the sleeper Skrulls to make their appearance.

My hopes going forward are that some of the mistrust will be laid to rest. We need to get to a point where the true heroes need to step up and start trusting each other so they can begin to fight off the Skrull invasion. Now we’re only five issues in to a 98 issue affair so it may be a bit before this happens but to me it needs to happen soon. One thing I am seeing among these separate issues is that they end up treading a lot of the same ground, saying the same message in different ways which gets real repetitive.

The artwork was pretty good in this issue. It had the classic feel without some of the sloppiness I see in some comics today. Granted, some of the close ups of some characters ended up getting messy. This particular artist does better with wide shots and showing depth in exteriors which you don’t see often in comics today.

The Bad:

The setup at the beginning where we see some explanation from the Skrulls as to what the hell is going on was too short and made no sense. Maybe it’s because there are other issues not in the suggested reading order that could fill in some of the back story but if that is the case, Marvel should have added them to the list to read. You should not be having to sit back at this point wondering what the motivations for the antagonists are. Apart from the one page we get this issue, we’re supposed to not like them simply because they are showing up. I want to know why and I am not getting those answers.

Other little things were annoying to. Such as, how the hell could the New Avengers steal a quinjet from Tony Stark so easy? It was like a 16 year old stealing the car keys from his Mom. You would think a multi-billionaire in charge of the defenses of Earth would have a little more security then what I have for my house which is jack shit.

Speaking of that, Natasha Romanov was treated horribly in this issue. For a super spy of her caliber how in the blue hell was she taken down so easily? They’ve built her up to be such a bad ass that the ease at which the New Avengers tie her up to steal the quinjet is just insulting and completely out of character. She was not even needed for that particular scene if they were going to take her out as easily as they did. They could have had some random no name guard be tied up and it would make a little more sense.

Bottom Line:

This was certainly better than the last issue but it has shared some of the weaknesses the story has encountered ever since I started reading it. Repetition! Too many things are happening over and over again and it is getting annoying. They need to move on to further the story before it loses me. While I think this story was not bad by any stretch, Marvel is losing me with their suggested reading order. Maybe if I just read this particular line of comics I would have enjoyed it more. But with the others I have read with this story line, I have to give the story a 5.

The art was not mind blowing but it was much better than other issues. More focused and including the scope I love to see in exterior shots, there wasn’t too much mess to distract you. The biggest complaint I have is the close ups which are still pretty messy. But since that is the only real complaint I have, I have to give the art a 6.