Archive for Black Widow

Friday Night Fights: Widow Maker!

Awright, kiddos, it’s Friday evening, we’re all ready to start recovering from the usual workweek stress, and we’re gonna kick the weekend off the right way — with FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from July 1975’s Marvel Two-in-One #10 by Chris Claremont, Bob Brown, and Klaus Janson. While Ben Grimm is busy pulling a planet-destroying bomb off the sea floor, the Black Widow has to keep all the bad guys off his back. Can one woman beat the snot out of a hundred goons?








That’s gonna do it for me. Hope y’all have a great weekend — everyone have some fun and get some relaxation in while you can. And do me a favor — try to do at least one thing you’ll be able to look back on and be proud of. Life’s too short not to periodically do something awesome.

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The Knight Triumphant


Moon Knight #6

I’m basically counting this as the last issue of this series. Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey were only on board for these six issues, and there ain’t no way I’m going to read anything by Brian Wood. So this is it, as far as I’m concerned.

We start out with a short flashback to the very first issue. The NYPD is letting “Mister Knight” take care of a serial killer for them, and after Moon Knight leaves the scene, one of the cops complains about him getting special favors. One of the detectives on the scene tells the street cop to shaddap because he’s a nonentity who’ll never amount to anything. And it turns out this cop, Ryan Trent, has heard this same thing his entire life — and this time, he reacts by getting obsessed with Moon Knight and deciding he’ll become the new Black Spectre, one of Marc Spector’s old villains, so he can kill Moon Knight and take his place. He impersonates a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, practices his dart-throwing skills, kills his girlfriend, and starts rigging up IEDs so he can lure Moon Knight to his death. Can he succeed where everyone else has failed?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This has been such a great series. It’s weird to have so much emphasis on the wannabe supervillain in the final issue, but most of it is designed to emphasize Marc Spector’s strengths by playing them against Ryan Trent’s mental and emotional weaknesses. And whenever Moon Knight finally makes it to the scene, he’s dominant, both physically and graphically. What starts out as a study of Ryan Trent’s darkness ends up playing up the Moon Knight’s strengths through fire and blaringly white cloth. It’s beautiful, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the series as much as I have.


Lazarus #10

Jonah Carlyle thought he could betray his family and win, and when it turned out he couldn’t win, he decided he’d be able to defect to one of the Carlyle’s enemies and win anyway. So he heads for the territory of Jakob Hock, east of the Mississippi into New York City. He expects to be greeted as aristocracy. But Hock territory makes the Carlyle family holdings look like a utopia. In Manhattan, everyone is dirt-poor, propaganda, lies, and drugs are fed to the populace to keep them docile, the police are brutal and murderous, and Jonah Carlyle’s only purpose is to be tortured to harm the rest of his family.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Jonah Carlyle has been a completely unsympathetic douche, and the Carlyle family in general are autocrats. But Hock is running a North Korea-style dictatorship, and what he does to Jonah will make you feel sorry for him, even as you think that the spoiled brat is getting just what he deserves.


Black Widow #9

Natasha invades a ship which she suspects contains information she needs, but she gets on the bad side of Crossbones — at least until the Punisher shows up to save her. He’s planted bombs all over the ship to sink it, so she has only three minutes to search it, avoid hit squads, and find some sort of information she can use.

Verdict: Thumbs down. It just wasn’t particularly interesting, sorry. Great artwork, but an almost entirely forgettable story.

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The Art of the Beat-Down


Moon Knight #5

A girl has been kidnapped and is being held on the fifth floor of a six-floor building. Moon Knight, dressed in his incredibly-spiffy white suit, walks up six flights of stairs beating the crap out of every crook he meets. That’s it. That’s the entire plot.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s all the plot you need. I hate to say it’s a ballet of violence, but screw it, it’s a ballet of violence. It’s a really, really good ballet of violence. This is the next-to-the-last issue of Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, and Jordie Bellaire’s run on this series, and I absolutely pity whoever has to follow them up. They’ve rocked on mysteries, on head-trippy stuff, on superhero stuff, and they’ve turned a straightforward fight comic into the best darn comic of the whole month. I swear, Marvel should just cancel the series and not force the followup team to suffer through the coming reviews.


Southern Bastards #3

Earl Tubb has embraced his daddy’s legacy. He’s got himself a great big ass-whupping plank of wood and a desire to visit vengeance on Craw County’s scumbags. But beating down on a few rednecks won’t solve the bone-deep problems with baked-in Alabama corruption. Earl Tubb is just one man, and if the bad guys can’t find him, they’ll hurt anyone who has a connection to him…

Verdict: Thumbs up. I don’t know where y’all live, but here, it’s a roasting hot Texas summer. It gets hot in the morning, gets hotter as the day goes on, and doesn’t start to cool down ’til well after sundown. It’s a weird feeling — it’s nighttime, it’s still uncomfortably hot and humid, and as a result, everyone is sweaty and miserable and pissed-off. This comic book feels that way, too. And in this case, that’s actually a good thing.


Lazarus #9

It’s time for the Lift Selection — the Waste of the world, poverty-stricken, jobless, and mostly unwanted, have a chance to get hired as part of the staff of the Family Carlyle. The Barrets have traveled all the way to Denver and lost a daughter, all in the hope that their remaining child and a family friend can be designated Serfs and save the family from utter destitution. But at the same time, a terrorist is stalking the hordes of people in Denver, hoping to get close enough to the Carlyle patriarch to blow him up with a bomb. Can the Barrets make it through the punishing selection process? And can Forever Carlyle manage to find the terrorist before he massacres hundreds?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a tense, well-told, compassionate three-pronged story. The art is gorgeous, the writing is pretty darn grand, and the reader is stuck with conflicting emotions — the Carlyles are representations of a horrible corporate tyranny, but they’re also the only hope the Barrets have of escaping grinding poverty — whose side do you choose?


Black Widow #8

While running an op, Natasha runs into the Winter Soldier, and they both get attacked by a horde of mercenaries. While they try to survive the paramilitary assault, Natasha’s lawyer is forced to take less-than-legal methods to recover money they haven’t been paid and must also deal with the repercussions of being the Black Widow’s public lawyer and business agent.

Verdict: As with so many issues of this series, there’s nothing particularly wrong with this issue, but it just bored me so much. Fantastic art, though — many kudos to Phil Noto.

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A Mushroom with a View


Moon Knight #4

Marc Spector is asked by a sleep researcher to investigate the case of a bunch of people who have all inexplicably gone mad, dreaming the same bizarre dream, when they’ve gone to sleep in the same building. Moon Knight’s investigation takes the direct approach — he decides to go to sleep inside one specific room, despite the risk that he’ll go mad — after all, he’s fairly mad already. Will his fungus-based dreams solve the mystery or doom him to greater insanity?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nothing at all wrong with Ellis’ storytelling here, but the real draw is the lushly, magnificently beautiful artwork of Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire. If you’re into beautiful art, you really have to pick this one up. If you want to see some jaw-dropping examples of the work of an outstanding colorist, pick this up. Jordie Bellaire does a brilliant job of the contrast between the spectacular technicolor of Spector’s dream to the common everyday colors of the rest of the world to the stark, screaming monochrome of Moon Knight himself. I’m serious — y’all go get it.


Loki: Agent of Asgard #5

Loki is uncomfortable with kidnapping Asgardians to have them locked up in prison — especially since those he’s been sent after, like Lorelei and Sigurd, haven’t committed any serious crimes against Asgard, and he doesn’t know why the All-Mother wants them held captive. So he decides it’s time for a heist movie so he can spring Sigurd out of prison. He enlists the aid of Lorelei, a fellow trickster, the Mighty Thor, and Verity Willis, a human who is able to see through any lie, no matter what form it takes. Will they be able to get into Asgard without being discovered? Who’s their secret inside man? And what’s this heist really about?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a wonderfully twisty story, full of last-second escapes and clever tricks and revealed secrets, just like you’d want from any good heist movie.


Black Widow #7

Natasha is in San Francisco, trying to track down the usual bunch of spies and nogoodniks for SHIELD. But she gets made and almost shot — and when she finally nabs the shooter, she’s ready to kill him if he wan’t tell her the info she needs. But San Francisco is now where Daredevil hangs his horns, and he’s not willing to let her commit murder in his town.

Verdict: This is one I just keep going back and forth on. It’s not that bad a story, overall, and the art is very nice — but it’s coming out at the same time as Brubaker and Epting’s “Velvet,” which does the superspy genre much, much better than this one.

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Rats’ Nest


Rat Queens #6

I heard a lot of good stuff about this and finally picked up the first trade paperback last month. It was great fun, so I figured I’ll pick it up ongoing from here on out.

Our setup here is a fantasy series starring a team of hard-partying mercenaries — Hannah, a cynical elven rockabilly spellcaster, Violet, a hipster dwarven fighter, Betty, a childlike drug-abusing halfling thief, and a human atheist cleric who gets her abilities from an eldritch abomination she refuses to worship. In their first storyarc, they beat up a bunch of monsters, a vast conspiracy tried to kill them, they abused a lot of substances, and they got busy with people they loved, or at least lusted after.

So, with this new issue, we’re working on wrapping up old storylines and starting a few new ones. Hannah’s on-again, off-again relationship with Sawyer, the city’s leading law enforcement agent, gets more contentious, but probably gets wrapped up permanently. The Rat Queens fight off a bunch of mushroom people. Dee’s husband makes his entirely unexpected return. And the Cult of N’Rygoth is coming back in a big way.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This series is crude and hilarious and action-packed and awesome. Go pick it up — the trade paperback is out, and this issue also makes a good jump-on point.


Red Sonja #9

Sonja is seeking the world’s greatest artisans in order to get a dying tyrant to release thousands of slaves. Her quest this time sends her to collect Aneva, the world’s greatest courtesan — but she’s hampered by the fact that she has no money to get into Aneva’s presence, and by the fact that it’s been a long time since Sonja enjoyed any carnal pleasures of her own, and she’s a bit… distracted. She offers Aneva the tyrant’s promised gold, but Aneva is more interested in staying where she is to start a courtesan’s guild and to keep her cruel master Captain Ferox from torturing her friends. Can Sonja convince Aneva to accompany her? Can the two women learn anything about each other’s lives?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great art and story, and a rare chance to see Sonja’s rarely displayed ability to rock a gorgeous dress while still kicking ass.


Black Widow #6

Natasha has been captured aboard the yacht of an old enemy called Damon Dran, the Indestructible Man, who doesn’t seem to be as unstoppable as he used to be. She manages to escape the armed thugs guarding her, only to run into the monk assassin she thought she’d killed, now outfitted in built-in metal armor to make him even more difficult to harm than he’d been before. Even then, Dran is captured easily — but what if the conspiracy Natasha’s fighting goes even deeper? Is there anyone she’s able to trust?

Verdict: Thumbs up, but it’s another near thing. The art is exceptionally nice, but the story still feels a bit light and inconsequential.

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The Red-Headed League

Y’all up for a bunch of comics about redheads?


Red Sonja #8

Sonja has successfully corralled Gribaldi, the world’s greatest chef, on the orders of a corrupt emperor, who wants to experience the talents of the greatest artisans in the world before he dies. Gribaldi is obsessed with cuisine, which doesn’t endear him to Sonja, who sees food only as sustenance — and she’s also frustrated because she can’t convince Gribaldi to help her satisfy her more carnal hungers.

Anyway, Sonja and Gribaldi are now off on their second quest — to obtain the services of Kalayah, the world’s greatest animal trainer. Unfortunately, Sonja would really rather see him dead, messily, because of his sadism and cruelty to the animals in his shows. But when attends a show in which a trained bear is savaged by starved dogs, Sonja mercy-kills the bear, and she and Gribaldi are thrown into the dungeon. Even if Sonja can escape execution, how will she obtain the Beast Lord’s services?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great art and story, wonderful characterization, and an outstanding villain given an appropriate comeuppance. I hope you’re enjoying this comic, people.


Black Widow #5

Natasha is on the trail of a terrorist killing machine called the Hammer of God, a former Russian Orthodox monk. She tries to stop him from blowing an airplane out of the sky, but he still manages to get it on the ground. He’s killed when he’s sucked into the airplane engine, and Natasha learns that the airplane had only a single passenger. Who is he? Who paid for a whole flight just for him? What does he know, and who wants him dead?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice mix of action and intrigue, though it’s frustrating how the Black Widow’s leads keep getting killed off so quickly. But this is finally feeling like an exciting comic, and that’s definitely a good thing.


Hellboy: 20th Anniversary Sampler

Yes, Hellboy is obvously a redhead. And definitely as dead sexy as the other two.

We get an excellent collection of short stories here. First, Mike Mignola and Fabio Moon tell a tale of Hellboy’s fight against the Coffin Man, a demon who raises and steals the dead, and his shapeshifting demon donkey. And yes, this is entirely as funny and awesome as you’d expect it to be. Next, there’s a tale written and illustrated by Mignola about Hellboy going up against a poetry-quoting ghoul who has previously masqueraded as a normal family man to hide his hunger for dead bodies. We also follow Abe Sapien and Johann Strauss as they face a zombie plague with an unusual genesis. All that, plus a bunch of wonderful cartoons about Hellboy by R. Sikoryak — in the form of Peanuts, Popeye, Garfield, Dilbert, Ziggy, and more.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s grand, glorious fun, with all the strongest, most enjoyable aspects of Mignola’s Hellboy storytelling on display. And that definitely includes the humor — aside from Sikoryak’s wonderful cartoons, I haven’t enjoyed a line in a comic in months the way I did Hellboy yelling “SIT DOWN, DONKEY!” at a shapeshifting monster mule.

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It’s a Clint Barton Christmas!


Hawkeye #17

In a flashback to a previous issue, Clint falls asleep while watching a cheesy Christmas cartoon and dreams that he’s a cartoon dog who has to rescue the superheroic and holiday-themed Winter Friends — even though he has no superpowers. He’s assisted and hampered by a bunch of other cartoon dogs with suspicious similarities to his friends and teammates. Can he save Christmas?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Glorious cartooning by Chris Eliopoulos. Really, I don’t know what else I can say — just plain glorious cartooning by Chris Eliopoulos.


The Fox #5

Paul Patton finds himself trapped in the past — stuck in a battle between the Druid and a trio of WWII supersoldiers — the Shield from America, Master Race from Germany, and Hachiman from Japan. The Druid plans to use his magical powers to destroy the world, and the humans can’t stop fighting each other instead of the true menace. The Fox has to convince them to join forces — not just as superheroes, not just as fellow humans, but as kindred spirits.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice story, and a nice wrap-up to the series. Nice to see the rare example of the Axis supervillains given a chance at redemption, too.


Black Widow #4

Natasha gets a very routine assignment that gets very complicated when someone blows up an embassy right out from under her. The villain is some sort of deluded powerhouse monk, and he’s more than a match for the unpowered superspy.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Much more enjoyable story this time — it makes it much more bearable for this character when she’s taking on people who are tougher than she is, instead of a bunch of normal schmucks.

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Crazy like a Fox


The Fox #4

Paul Patton, Jr. is the Fox, everyman superhero trapped in a bizarre fantasy world. He’s facing off against the Marvel, a gun-wielding Golden Age superhero driven temporarily mad by the sorcery of the villainous Druid. Another Golden Age hero, the Inferno, manages to calm the Marvel down — unfortunately, he only manages to do it by inflicing a fairly serious wound to him. And that leaves the Fox to fight the mad, mind-controlled barbarian king on his own. Can the Fox prevail? Meanwhile, in the backup story, the Shield and his World War II enemies must join forces to battle an alien monster that plans to subjugate the entire earth. Can they stop the otherworldly horror without some unexpected help?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This series has been getting more and more enjoyable all the time, and the amazing double-twist ending at the end of both stories just ends up pushing the entire thing to an even higher level.


Black Widow #3

Natasha Romanov accepts a mission to rescue a wrongfully-convicted prisoner from an Argentinian prison. The jailbreak goes smoothly enough, with the guards and other hazards easily dispatched by the superheroic superspy — but Natasha starts to realize that the prisoner may not be everything he appears.

Verdict: Ehh, man, I dunno. It’s pretty by-the-numbers espionage stuff. The action is pretty good, and the glimpses we get of Natasha’s home life and her neighbors are enjoyable. But I’m just not seeing enough characterization of the Black Widow yet — and it takes more than decent action and by-the-numbers espionage to make a good comic.

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Dino Danger!


Atomic Robo and the Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur #5

It’s the grand conclusion of Atomic Robo’s latest storyarc! Dr. Dinosaur has built a gigantic time bomb — a bomb designed to wipe out time itself and roll history back to the age of the dinosaurs! But that’s not possible, is it? Everything Dr. Dinosaur does is stupid, right? But what if his mad science and crystals can finally do what seems impossible? Meanwhile, Tesladyne is being attacked by Majestic-12’s mercenaries — can Jenkins and Action Science save the day?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Oh, as if I would ever give this series anything but a thumbs up! But it’s a great story, great art, lots of funny lines and great action. And it ends with a thoroughly glorious cliffhanger, so now we have to wait even more desperately for the next series…


Hawkeye #16

You may not have noticed, but Marvel just completely skipped Issue #15 of this series. I have no idea why, but they apparently plan to return to that issue soon. Maybe an art issue? Like I said, no idea.

Anyway, this issue focuses on Kate Bishop, living the down-and-out superhero lifestyle out in Los Angeles. Kate runs across a deeply depressed and imbalanced former musician named Will Bryson (clearly based on the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson). Bryson is upset that his long-unfinished masterwork, “Wish,” is being released without his permission on the Internet, and Kate resolves to help him stop his brother from ruining his greatest album. So she goes with her usual M.O. — breaking and entering — which ends the way it usually seems to — caught by the bad guys. Is there a way for Kate to solve the case, or is she just gonna stomped on by goons again?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a fun comic, action-packed, funny, clever, gorgeous art — and it’s also a pretty dark story. The Brysons have a pretty horrible relationship, mostly geared around driving each other more insane, and Kate has to deal with much more ruthless enemies than normal and sustains more serious injuries. And the whole story still ends up becoming a pretty positive thing, even with the ominous mini-cliffhanger at the end. Go read it, guys, this is a great series.


Black Widow #2

Natasha Romanov gets overconfident, gets in over her head, and has to somehow recover from a simple mission that’s gone entirely wrong, all thanks to a cunning schemer called the Iron Scorpion. Will the Black Widow survive — and who’s now plotting against Natasha’s attorney?

Verdict: Ehh, really, I dunno. The problem is that, while the story is decently exciting, the Black Widow is just a femme fatale superspy — she just doesn’t have a unique personality. You get a much better femme fatale superspy in Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s “Velvet” comic.

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Widow’s Might


Black Widow #1

Things that are crazy: it’s taken this long to get Black Widow — who, let me remind you, is played by Scarlett Johansson, one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, in the Avengers movies — her own ongoing comic series.

Anyway, here’s the first issue, written by Nathan Edmondson and illustrated by Phil Noto. After stopping a would-be terrorist using a combination of deceit and more deceit, Natasha Romanov pays a visit to her lawyer to discuss how her fee will be distributed (most of it to charity), her motivations (atonement for past sins) and her next job — a visit to Dubai to deal with a horde of international criminals. Can she take out a multitude of hardened crooks and bodyguards, take out the real target, and make her escape?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s essentially an espionage caper, well crafted and beautifully illustrated. But let me say this — if all they’re going to bring us is espionage stories, this one won’t be that great. Marvel is hoping this will be a second “Hawkeye” — B-league Avenger with smart, independent creators — but if Hawkeye wasn’t funny and transgressive, all the beautiful artwork in the world wouldn’t keep it afloat. I want to see this title start making some waves and breaking some ground quickly — it won’t have time to mosey into a unique voice.


Manifest Destiny #3

The Lewis and Clark expedition is stuck inside a seemingly deserted fort at La Charette. They’re surrounded by savage bison minotaur/centaurs — and unfortunately, the fort is infested with plant-hybrid zombies! The only way to stop them is to burn them, as they soon learn from a small collection of survivors of the fort, who were witness to the death of most of their friends and family as the plant infection spread throughout the community. So with enemies waiting outside the fort and within, how can they all hold out? Or do they have some important allies stalking their enemies for them?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent action, characterization, and horror. And we get a fun introduction to a character I’d forgotten would be showing up. This one is a great little alternate-history horror title — I hope you’re picking it up.

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