Rick Remender has quietly been creating a great Captain America story with his characteristic classic sci fi tropes against an exploration of American covert history that keeps improving with each issue and this one is the best yet. There is a lot of cool stuff going on here; Nuke and Captain America discussing how to come back from war, the expanded roles for supporting cast members like Falcon or Nick Fury Jr and the total oh shit moment that strikes at the end where everything seems to be copacetic until it all falls apart. I’ve loved how this arc has worked to explore America’s military, espionage and cold war history without feeling derivative of Ed Brubaker while also keeping a tight narrative. Remender is a guy that writes Grant Morrison idea’s like Frank Miller and it’s made for a Captain America that is like nothing I’ve ever seen but still true to the character. Remender’s see’s Cap as the son of Irish immigrants and a child of the great depression at his core and it’s that deep seated empathy for the character that is the heart of this series in the center of all the crazy science fiction. A story that keeps getting better every step of the way.
…in which Natasha learns that mistakes comes with consequences and Mr. Ross takes care of business–with bullets!
This is a Black Widow book and it is fantastic, people. I never thought that I would find myself enjoying a book about a character I knew/cared nothing about. This series (like Hawkeye, Green Arrow, Aquaman, and Daredevil) proves that all it takes is a strong creative to bring a lower-tiered character from the back issue bins and into the limelight.
In this issue, BW finds herself on a mission from an old friend to locate his missing son. Unlike last issue, not everything goes as planned. Soon, BW learns that she is being hunted by an unknown source. The threat is later revealed to be Iron Scorpion, the brother of a murderer she once disposed of. This story continues to set the foundation and build the mythos of Black Widow’s world. We may have found our overarching enemy for the time being.
Something Marvel has been doing really well is diversifying its line. Each book feels different from the rest, able to offer something the others cannot. Black Widow follows suit. Between Edmondson’s super spy approach to Phil Noto’s magnificent art, this series has carve a nook to rest upon and dares readers to give it a try. Trust me, you should.
Warning: This is a review of a story that will be released tomorrow and there may be plot points discussed in said review that you the reader may consider Spoilers and as such be prepared for such plot points to be discussed.
Does nothing exist?
Astro City #8 by Kurt Busiek & Brent Eric Anderson (cover by Alex Ross)
Things are not going well for heroine Winged Victory. Someone has concocted an elaborate plan to taint her name in the minds of the public. Winged Victory’s records have been falsified to reveal criminal activity. Meanwhile, adversaries are claiming that they were trained by her and that their public battles were nothing but choreographed spectacles designed to lure more young women under her influence. If these attacks were simply personal it would be one thing, but, they go straight to the heart of her primary mission. Winged Victory has dedicated herself to assisting women in need, giving those with no other options a place where they can safely learn the necessary skills to start a better life. Now the government is shutting down her shelters under anti-racketeering laws and even if her name is cleared, she fears never being trusted again.
I shall admit that when this four-part story started last month, I was a little nervous. I had never read Astro City prior to last year’s new series, and am unfamiliar with its vast cast of heroes and villains. I really enjoyed the first six issues, which centered on everyday people acting or reacting to the fantastic circumstances around them. Would I grow lost when tossed more directly into a world of heroes with whom I had scant previous experience? Well, turns out there was no need to fear. Ever the master, Busiek naturally weaves into the dialogue whatever background is required for a new reader. More importantly, as in the previous issues, he keeps the focus on character moments, sketching in their personalities so well that you feel familiar with them by the end of an issue. And yes, there’s still action (it seems even in Astro City heroes, upon meeting, are required to misunderstand each other and slug it out for a few pages until it occurs to someone to state the obvious).
Anderson’s art continues to fit well with Busiek’s story, capturing equally well the awe-inspiring and the everyday. I’ve enjoyed getting to know Winged Victory, and look forward to seeing where her story goes next . . . Cheers
Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent
Suicide Squad #27 by Matt Kindt, Rafa Sandoval & Roger Robinson
The fourth chapter of Kindt’s Forever Evil tie-in finds the characters in a transitory place. So far Kindt has split the narrative between the two Squads in the field and Amanda Waller fighting for an upper hand at Belle Reve prison. This issue focuses almost exclusively on the two rival Suicide Squads. Each team was given the same order from someone claiming to be Waller: retrieve the O.M.AC. weapon. In the end, though, both teams were betrayed by Harley Quinn, who spirits away O.M.A.C., but not before O.M.A.C. collapses a mountain on top of the Squads.
Having survived the initial cave-in, the various members split into groups to find a path back to the surface. As they go about their search, Kindt fills in the back stories of some of the principal characters. A cynic could view this issue as filler padding out the arc to a number of chapters equaling the length of the main event. This could be true; however, Kindt takes advantage of the situation to do more than recycle origin summaries. Instead, he uses it as an opportunity to muse of different types of heroes. For example, Power Girl recalls her time on Earth 2. In her mind, this was a simpler time, living in a world without shades of grey. If there is an airplane tumbling out of the air, you save it? What else is there? There is a lot more, Steel would argue. He reflects on how he tried be a costumed hero, fighting dire threats and “watching Titans clash.” Eventually, though, he turned his back on it. He refuses to see Metropolis as the shining, glittery center of the world, redirecting his attention to impoverished residents of the Third World. Here is a more immediate need for his talents. I suspect though, Warrant would find this naïve. An off the books assassin for the Israeli government, Warrant believes in killing threats before they’re allowed a chance to act on their desires. Meanwhile, Deadshot simply murders for a paycheck, while secretly wondering what it would be like to cut loose. What if he let slip precise control of his aim and just maim an’ kill for the fun of it. All of a sudden, he thinks, perhaps that Harley isn’t so crazy after all, maybe she—oh wait, she did try to kill all of us . . .
The previous three issues of Kindt’s run featured art by Patrick Zircher. He’s off this month, which is a loss to the book. Pencilers Sandoval and Robnison do a fine, if unremarkable, job. Hopefully Zircher will be back next month, so that Kindt’s great character work will be matched by equally strong art. Regardless, I’ll be there to follow Kindt’s Squads to the end of their road.
Oh, fans of the New 52 OMAC, you have a pleasant surprise waiting for you at the end of this issue . . .
Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent
Velvet #3 by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting
In the latest issue of this period spy drama, the narrative continues to build in momentum. A former field agent for an espionage Agency, Velvet has been framed for the murder of fellow agent, X-14. Forced to take flight and hit the streets once again, last issue centered on Velvet putting distance between her pursuers and her. Having caught her breath, she begins to retrace X-14’s steps which leads her to Belgrade and a rather, shall we say complicated, marriage.
One of the greatest pleasures of Velvet is watching Brubaker take the often disposable female types of spy stories (loyal secretary, restless wife of high level functionary) and flesh them out as nuanced characters. Velvet may have all of the superior skills of the best field agent, but she’s also a recognizable human being. There is a brief moment between Velvet and her colleague Burke, where Burke makes a suggestive observation. Velvet brushes away his advance with a dismissive comment (“stop looking at me like I’m still twenty-five”), and a slight smile which hints at feelings far richer within her.
As for the art, Epting continues to excel. This a story where the romance of globe-trotting espionage has been stripped away, revealing a spy adventure set mostly on shadowy streets, drab bureaucratic buildings and dank prisons. Epting (ably assisted by Elizabeth Breitweiser on colors) perfectly evokes this atmosphere of intrigue amidst the mundane. All in all, one of the best books I read this week. Looking forward to #4.
Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent
By Mick Anglo, Don Lawrence, Alan Moore, Gary Leach
So this is a couple golden aged stories written in the 1950’s with an extended history lesson and interview with Miracle Man/Marvel Man’s creator (which was a Shazam rip off anyway) but the real meat of this and what really matters here is the Alan Moore work and let me tell you it is something. Miracle Man which was written in 1981 predates Moore’s seminal DC work on Batman, Superman, Swamp Thing and of course The Watchmen. What’s so striking about this comic is despite coming before all of that work this still feels like he’s fully formed doing all the things that made his writing great. There’s the fall from grace of the golden age superhero as a symbol for the decay of the “great society“, the constant paranoia of nuclear holocaust and apocalypse in the cold war, the wonderful narrative devices and Moore’s underrated strong dialogue that carry’s his work and engages the reader to the characters. Forget all that cash grabbing prequal nonsense from 2013; this is the real Before Watchmen and over thirty years later it still feels as vital and full of life and wonder as if it was created today.
Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Great, Excellent
By Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Bachalo
This review begins with a question. Is calm mannered Magneto a compelling character? The answer is no. This book has been fantastic and I have enjoyed it every month since issue #1. The one criticism I have is that Magneto is useless, he gets lost in the background. Scott’s babysitter is not Erik’s finest role. Bendis tried to make him interesting by giving him that double double agent story, but that fell flat because being a double double agent cancels itself out, and turns out is not interesting (comic book math 🙂 ).