Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff) leaps off a building, with Yelena (Black Widow), Anya (Spider-Girl), and Lucy behind her.

Black Widow #50 Milestone! Comic Book Reviews 8/25

Today, my favorite Avenger celebrates a big milestone. Black Widow officially reaches #50! Technically, the current series is only at issue #10, but with legacy numbering its #50. Honestly, for how old Black Widow’s character is, she should have reached it a long time ago, but better late than never. She’s one of Marvel’s best characters, the best Avenger (fight me), and she deserves more readers and solo issues than she has. I’m glad to see her reach this milestone, and I hope she reaches more, especially with Kelly Thompson writing.

But even though Black Widow is great this week, her book isn’t the best. We have three (sort of) Superman books this week, and they’re all utterly fantastic. Icon & Rocket #2 is one of the best issues I’ve read all year (feel like I say that all the time now but I mean it); Superman: Son of Kal-El #2 sets itself up to push what Superman can do; and Action Comics continues one of the best Superman stories I’ve ever read. This was a good week to say the least. 

Black Widow #50 / #10

Black Widow, Natasha, drives a motorcycle as Black Widow, Yelena shoots from it.
The itsy-bitsy spider stole a bike again.

Written by: Kelly Thompson

Penciling by: Elena Casagrande, Rafael De Latorre

Inking by: Elisabetta D’Amico, Rafael De Latorre

Coloring by: Jordie Bellaire

Lettering by: VC’s Cory Petit

We got a special issue for Black Widow’s 50th solo issue. The current story arc, “I Am the Black Widow” came to a close with an issue that’s heavy on the action. The action is where I find myself most critical of this series. The consistent use of extended panels where characters appear multiple times at once to show how they move, isn’t the best in this series. While I felt that the last issue felt a bit weak compared to the series’s usually high bar, the way the action improved here tells me that the artists got the time to get this right.

The action scenes were a lot easier to follow, with one particular page trying and mostly succeeding at doing something new. I don’t think it fits the definition of a splash page, but one page is dedicated to over several dozens panels depicting each move the Black Widow makes in a fight. Most comic books will leave holes in the action, let you fill in the blanks. This scene was the exact opposite, almost the artist equivalent of over-writing, and I think it paid off. It’s an amazing sequence I won’t forget for a long time. A good amount of the play-by-play panels could have been cut, but it succeeds so much overall that it’s still one of the best pages I’ve ever seen.

Ironically, where the action succeeds, the story sort of peters out. Because its an overly action-y finale to the story arc, there isn’t much in the way of story development. They spend their time beating up bad guys, with the new character Lucy, getting a Rogue-like grip on her powers. There was little room for character development, which brings the issue down a bit for me. 

So, while the actual story-part of Black Widow wasn’t terribly exciting, another member being added to the team is awesome, and Lucy getting a grip on her powers is nice too. It feels little rushed, but not so much that I’m not excited for the next arc.

So overall, this is a good issue that celebrates the Black Widow’s new milestone. Plus, I have to recommend for the show-stopping action page alone.

Superman: Son of Kal-El #2

Superman (Jonathan Kent) floats in the air with only white behind him.
He looks so sad.

Written by: Tom Taylor

Art by: John Timms

Coloring by: Gabe Eltaeb

Lettering by: Dave Sharpe

This issue does something bold by calling out Superman with the statement of, “You can do more.” At first, it feels naïve, because we’ve seen Superman and other heroes try to help people in those gray… sticky situations. What happens is that those people reject him, or those in power turn him away. When that happens, the only thing he can do, is either risk breaking his code on killing, or his belief in respecting human autonomy. 

This has led Superman and many heroes to feel like they’re defending the status quo, something I’ve talked about in my “Are Superheroes Inherently Fascist?” essay. (Also available on YouTube.) On surface level, they are defending the status quo, but I say surface level because they don’t mean to. Their hands are tied like real people’s are today. If they go into a place like Israel or Palestine, they’ll likely find themselves liked by neither side if they do anything more than save and transport refugees. Doing that leaves them squarely with the status quo label, and if they do anything more, they risk being labeled a ‘fascist.’ And its for good reason.

Injustice goes over how people can’t do much to defend their free will against superheroes if they turn bad. Tom Taylor wrote that book too, and this issue feels like its going to oppose that’s view on what happens when heroes do more. From now on, Jon Kent is going to do his best to do more, without becoming like Injustice Superman. I’m on the edge of my seat, excited to see how he tries, fails, and succeeds. 

This creative team feels like they’re doing something daring with this book and the questions they’re already asking. It’s amazing to think that this may not even be my favorite Superman book this week.

Icon & Rocket #2

Icon and Rocket are back-to-back, surrounded by flames.
The real world’s finest.

Written by: Reginald Hudlin

Penciling by: Doug Braithwaite

Inking by: Andrew Currie

Coloring by: Brad Anderson

Lettering by: Andworld Design

I was bit down on the first issue, but this issue is a vast improvement. It has the same intelligent commentary that the original Icon series had, but this one is arguably willing to go a step further. It makes no qualms about setting up the establishments that have kept African Americans oppressed as the enemy, but without making it black & white.

The police aren’t completely evil, but they are a controlling force who can’t stand someone else showing them up on the job. The way they visit Rocket’s home was a moment of realistic tension, that called upon the way police behave in the news. The way it was followed up by the government visiting Icon created a different kind of tension. Icon knew they had nothing to defeat him, and he made it clear he was not afraid of them. 

Incredibly, this all happens within the first few pages, not only revealing that many people know their secret identities, but the community they’re helping protects them. Even without the realistic, yet hopeful political commentary, the idea of the neighborhood protecting their protectors is something I wish I saw more of in comic books. Sometimes its hard to believe that superheroes would continue to be heroes with how many in-universe people seem to hate them. It was pleasantly surprising to see the community protect Icon & Rocket instead.

But not as pleasant as seeing Icon’s origins where he freed many slaves and killed Jefferson Davis. It was spectacular to see the would-be Confederate President’s head in Augustus’s hand. Usually, I would say depicting violence of real-life people is in bad taste, but there are a few evil people where it’s not only justified, but encouraged. This is why Icon is the true black Superman, because he symbolizes not only our hope, but our rage, and the justice we deserve. It makes it all the more interesting that the series never seems to make him infallible or the African American community infallible either. It’s makes for an amazing issue, and an amazing story.

Action Comics #1034

Superman's back is to the light as he walks into a dark room.
You can see his shield even in the shadow.

Written by: Phillip Kennedy Johnson

Art by: Christian Duce

Coloring by: Adriano  Lucas

Lettering by: Dave Sharpe

Superman is accused of not doing enough now and then, with his own son being a recent example. This issue shows what happens when Superman has had enough and does more. For all intents and purposes, the MacGuffin of this story arc belongs to him. It is from his people, yet he let the Atlanteans have it. Then the Atlanteans punish all of humanity because one human organization decided to try to take it.

And on the onset of a war between humanity and Atlantis, Superman decided that neither of them should have it. 

Aquaman can eat a dick.

Superman doesn’t go far enough sometimes because people are the problem. It doesn’t matter how much he helps, humanity is the one who makes the mistakes and keeps him from making a difference. This dilemma creates all kinds of tension and conflict in Superman stories. There are few that carry less tension than this current run of Action Comics. Each issue, I find myself hanging onto every conversation, while also wanting to tear it apart in seething rage. 

But I never could, not only so I can read it again, but so I can see the jaw dropping art. Even when the style becomes more detailed without much warning, it always serves a purpose. Christian Duce may be one of, if not my favorite Superman artist with how displays he Superman’s powers, and his range of emotion.

Action Comics is easily DC’s best ongoing right not that I’m reading. Every comic book reader should be reading it right now.

Wolverine #15

Wolverine is facing a big scary guy with his wounds that reveal his metal skeleton in his left arm, left leg, and the ribcage on his back.
It’s just a scratch.

Written by: Benjamin Percy

Art by: Adam Kubert

Coloring by: Frank Martin

Lettering by: VC’s Cory Petit

Where are my vampires, Percy? Where are my goddamn vampires?!

Oh, look Solem is back. All good.

Seriously though, this Wolverine series feels like a guilty pleasure to me. Wolverine is being a little gruff boy, doing gruff things with gruff people, but he’s secretly not gruff inside. In reality, he cares so much, his own brain doesn’t seem to comprehend it. 

He listens to this whole backstory about Solem, about how terrible and toxic he is, and still choses to protect him. Solem and Wolverine couldn’t be anymore different, but they’re made of the same metal. I mean that literally, because Solem’s skin is made of the same metal as Wolverine’s skeleton, but I won’t be shocked if it becomes metaphorical.

This issue traded the vampires I miss to begin developing Wolverine’s new rival. Tired old Sabretooth is gone, and Solem is in, already with a dynamic that goes beyond, “I hate you, fight me!” Solem still seems to have no motive beyond the fact that its fun to screw with Wolverine, but that’s okay, because he makes that fun. He maintains the simplicity that Wolverine’s rivalry with Sabretooth did, but makes that simplicity feel complex.

It’s amazing what the creative accomplishes in this issue. They strengthen the tension between two characters without them ever seeing each other. It’s an achievement to commend, and read.

Behold the Black Widow and her Milestone, then Read the Best Milestone Series Out

I ate good this week between Black Widow, and the world’s greatest superhero. The best thing is how each issue was enjoyable for how hopeful and altruistic the characters were. Even Wolverine showed his good heart in his own messed up way. From the outside there may not appear to be a lot of variety in the comics I read this week, but I promise, if you were to buy each of these, you’ have a different and good story with each. 

Seriously, at least read Icon & Rocket #2, it’s even on DC Universe. I want DC to confirm that a Season Two is coming before Season One is even over.

Leave a Reply