The Avengers #223



The Good:

Time to go to the circus with Clint Barton and Scott Lang. Hawkeye gets a letter from an old friend asking for his help. He arrives to find that his friend is being held hostage by The Taskmaster in order to use the circus that she owns as a training ground for future terrorists. Scott Lang happens to be at the circus at the same time and, spotting Hawkeye needing help, decides to join in on the fun.

This was a fun simple issue. While some older comics can be tough to read, the beauty in them is that for the most part the stories are self contained little gems that don’t ask too much from you as the reader. Too often comics today want you to know the details of tons of details that in the grand scheme of things don’t matter to the story the writer is trying to tell. They want to have the next grand epic that will last over dozens of issues in order to get interest in stories that really don’t need too much complication for them to be fun. I compare Brian Bendis’ work on the Ultimate Spider-Man line to his work on the Secret Invasion story. While the Spider-Man stories ended up being a grand world that had a lot going on he still did one hell of a job in making the issue you purchased its own self contained story that enticed you to WANT to buy the next issue. You are rewarded with a good story and more to come.

The Secret Invasion was the opposite. Too much was happening for you as the reader to really get a read as to what was going on and what loyalties people had. That’s not a knock on Bendis since he didn’t write every single issue of that series for one and two, when you have to put out the sheer volume of work he has put out over the years, not everything is a gem.

This story fit into the former. While you definitely felt that the characters were a part of a much larger world, that back story was icing on a very good cake. You didn’t have to know the fact that Hawkeye knew the young lady who now owned the circus to know that he cared for her and ended up being sexually attracted to her as well. The same goes for Scott Lang. You knew he cared for his daughter and that he was excited to be Ant-Man but his past had no bearing on the story and hand. While this story was a little simplistic compared to comics today, I wish more comic artists could take some of the rules they followed back in the day to heart.

The art, while feeling aged, was pretty good. The cover alone is classic with Hawkeye ready to shoot an arrow that Ant-Man it hitching a ride on the arrow. Marvel had a habit in the 80’s it seems of wanting to add cultural references at that time into the story to be hip. That included the hair style which today can look silly. When the going gets tough though, the action is well drawn.

The Bad:

As I mentioned Marvel had a nasty habit of trying to be hip by including cultural references of the day into the story. While that can’t always be avoided, for stories that are simple like superhero stories there should be as little to remind you of when the story is taking place as possible. Now apart from Superman at this time, comics weren’t quite the cultural icons they are today. Marvel had one show, The Incredible Hulk, that was a hit but that, apart from the characters, was completely different than how Hulk was in the comics. That doesn’t mean the show was bad. I love that show. For the Hulk character, copying Les Miserables was a brilliant idea because while it allowed the producers of that show to have the action scenes that would interest the kiddies like me, it had enough dramatic meat for the adult viewers to really get into. Comics were still kids stuff though. Things were definitely changing mind you but Marvel and DC were not marketing to 39 year old guys like myself just yet.

I would have liked to have seen more locations than a tent and just outside that tent. They could have done more to spread the action out to other parts of the circus. While circuses don’t cover miles upon miles of space, they are large enough that they could have had a little variety in where the action took place.

The art was a little sloppy when it came to details in the locations where the action took place. It’s not that I demand that comic drawings replicate photos and come across as realistic as possible. These types of stories are fantasy mind you. There is meant to be some element of the fantastic in what we are seeing. What we should not be seeing is sloppiness and that’s what I was seeing throughout the story.

Bottom Line:

You would think that based on my criticisms that I didn’t like the story. That could be farther from the truth. Yes it was a simplistic story and you definitely knew the story took place in the 1980’s but sometimes the simplest of stories can be the best. Take sitcoms. I love Everybody Loves Raymond. There is NOTHING about that show that is original. Nothing. No innovation whatsoever. But they took very familiar sitcom elements and wrote and performed them well. That’s where this comic falls in my thinking. Could it be released today? No. But it’s still a damned good story. I give the story an 8.

The art was pretty good. While I do have some issues with it, the cover alone is worth the price of admission. In fact, I love the cover so much that Kevin Feige and the folks at Marvel would be damn foolish if they don’t do that same Ant-Man on the arrow bit in either Captain America: Civil War or The Avengers: Infinity War. While the movies should mostly use the comics as inspiration and look to adapt them to the movies, if there is no other image in comics that deserves to be on the silver screen it is this cover. I give the art a 7.

Now because I loved The Incredible Hulk, here is the tv show theme song.


The Amazing Spider-man #86 Beware the Black Widow


I love Black Widow. To me she’s one of the most fascinating characters in Marvel. NOT FOR THAT REASON!!!


Ok, it helps. Anyway, Black Widow has a shadowy past that she’s making atonement. She started as a villain for the Soviet Union facing off against Iron Man with her henchman The Crimson Dynamo. A man named Clint Barton helped bring her to the side of the angels.

There are many characters in comics that people know a lot about however they haven’t had a chance to actually read some of the origin stories for said characters. The issue I read today is not so much an origin story but a sort of re-origin story. While Black Widow had been in the Marvel Universe for a while at that point, apparently at some point they took her out of the stories for a while. This story brings her back.


The Good:

Getting more acquainted with Black Widow was great. While this is a Spider-man comic, Ol’ Peter Parker kind of takes a backseat to Natasha Romanov. We see her in her original outfit spying on Ol’ Spidey. From there she heads home contemplating what she needs to do in order to get back into the hero business all the while trying on a new outfit, the outfit that we associate with Black Widow today.

I really enjoyed the trip down memory lane. Seeing what brought Black Widow into the woman she became was great. You got an understanding that when she was bad, her motives were based on helping someone, her husband at the time, a fact that I was not aware of. Her logic to want to fight Spider-man, in order to learn from him so she can be a superior fighter, was sound, something you could actually see someone doing.

I also enjoyed the plot with Peter and Gwen Stacy. At this point Peter was just coming back from a fight with Kingpin. Gwen notices he’s hurt and gets upset, telling him she no longer wants him to associate with Spider-man. (At this point she knows that he takes photos of Spider-man for The Daily Bugle, not that he’s Spider-man.) One great feat Marvel has always been good at was showing that the job of being a hero can take its toll on you, even if your goals are to help mankind.

The artwork was what you would expect from this era, excellent. John Romita Sr. was one of the figures that helped shape the images we take for granted today. While you could probably nitpick of the artwork (there was too much yellow. Apparently John Romita Sr. liked yellow.) when your work creates the standard that people still use to this day, you’re doing something right.

The Bad:

I find myself again reacting negatively to a story that is simply not written for today’s audiences. It was a great story but there were little things I found quite annoying. Stan Lee apparently LOVED having people speak their thoughts out loud repeatedly. I’ve read many comics from this era and this is a common device used to express thoughts but it really took me out of the story.

I also hated Stan’s use of dots during this dialogue. It was annoying…reading a sentence…that was constantly interrupted by those damn dots. I had to go back to make sure William Shatner didn’t write the comic.

I hated how the women were portrayed in this story. The most offensive part was when Gwen had Peter promise to not associate with Spider-man anymore and leaves. Her father tells Peter that he should excuse her because she’s a woman and women think with their hearts. Yeah, this was the early 1970’s. What should I expect? I could not accept the dismissive attitude both Gwen Stacy and Black Widows were treated with.

Bottom Line:

While the story is not perfect, debuting the modern take on a character that people know and love was a great read. As I stated, my objections have more to do with modern tastes than anything else. The story I give an 8. The artwork brought me back to early Saturday morning cartoons which was great. As I stated, while you can certainly nitpick, you could probably nitpick a Van Gogh as well. While the story is not perfect, it is a perfect introduction to the modern Black Widow.