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.

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.

 

Secret Invasion #1

Secret_Invasion_Vol_1_1

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.