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Review: Heroes Reborn #2

Heroes Reborn #2

Heroes Reborn #2 is an intriguing comic. The second issue in the event, the issue feels more like a tie-in than the main event. Split between two stories, it definitely delivers some insight and teases the overall story but it doesn’t feel like much of a drawn. It’s both good and bad in a way.

Invaders From the Negative Zone” focuses on Hyperion delivering a bit of an origin in some ways but more showing us more about this “hero”. Writer Jason Aaron gives us a hyper-patriotic Superman who has no problem killing and whose philosophy seems to be “might makes right”. It’s an intriguing story that gives a good sense of who we’re dealing with as Hyperion must stop a jailbreak from the Negative Zone.

Like the debut, it also feels like the more interesting aspects are the other versions of characters we know in this world. Like the debut, all of that is surface deep. It drops hints and teases of a twisted world but doesn’t go into a whole lot of detail to really become interesting. Where the issue is most important is it teases Hyperion knows something isn’t right but is willing to fight to keep things as is.

Dale Keown provides the art with Carlos Magno. Magno also handles inks with Scott Hanna and Edgar Delgado is on color. The story is full of over the top visuals emphasizing the hyper-violence that Hyperion brings to the fight. Murdering villains is not an issue. Between the visuals and the dialogue, there’s also a lack of remorse in doing so. There’s some visuals that pop with memorable moments. There’s definitely a few that’ll get readers to pause. They do a solid job of emphasizing Hyperion’s brutality.

Welcome Home, Soldier” feels more like the continuation of the first issue. It features a veteran checking in on Hyperion with a reveal as to who it is towards the end. Aaron gives a decent story that has its moments but overall is too little of a movement on the main storyline. It also features some gaps in the story forcing readers to strain a bit to pieces of the puzzle together.

Ed McGuinness handles the art with Mark Morales on ink and Matthew Wilson on color. It’s a story that has some zing to it but whose visuals feel a bit like a throwback to the 70s and 80s at times. It generally looks good but doesn’t feature the memorable moments like the opening story. While the visuals also keeps its individual a mystery, it’s not too hard to guess who it is, which makes the whole reveal lack a punch.

Heroes Reborn #2 isn’t a bad comic at all. It just doesn’t feel like the “main event”. The stories feel like either slivers of an issue’s worth of storytelling or they feel like something that’d normally be relegated to a tie-in. It’s not bad at all but like the debut, it feels a bit like a throwback in some ways. Overall, not bad and will work when read all-together, but on its own, it’s a bit of ho-hum.

Story: Jason Aaron Art: Dale Keown, Carlos Magno, Ed McGuinness
Ink: Scott Hanna, Carlos Magno, Mark Morales Color: Edgar Delgado, Matthew Wilson Letterer: Cory Petit
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.75 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

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Review: Heroes Reborn #1

Heroes Reborn #1

What if Marvel was DC? That’s the vibe I got from Heroes Reborn #1, the latest Marvel “event” that has Blade awaken in a world he does not know. This is a world where the Avengers never formed and existed. Instead, the Squadron Supreme has stepped in and things have progressed differently in other ways. The result is a ho-hum start that has an interesting mystery but lacks memorable excitement.

Jason Aaron continues his Avengers run with this sidequest. Heroes Reborn #1 isn’t a bad debut but it also doesn’t quite deliver a punch. Instead, we’re guided around the world by Blade as he attempts to figure out what has happened. He’s the only one, maybe, that remembers the world isn’t right. Blade, as our guide, introduces us to the various members of the Squadron Supreme and lets us know what has happened to key Avengers members like Tony Stark, Carol Danvers, Thor, Captain America, and the Hulk. We also get to meet this world’s twist on classic Marvel villains. Most just feel like riffs on the combination of characters we’ve seen so many times before. Take two characters, mash them together for a whole new thing to sell.

And that’s part of the problem with the comic. It’s entire draw is to see what’s different expecting readers to be excited that Dr. Doom is mashed with the Juggernaut. The dialogue is a bit on the cheese end of things and the various introductions don’t feel like complete stories. In fact most are not. So there’s an emptiness in a way. We’re also left pondering how Blade is getting around in this strange world as he travels to see Thor or his final stop. We just accept he’s able to.

But, in a way, Aaron has a bit of a success with the comic. It hearkens back with a retro style in its dialogue and battles. It forgoes an edgy darkness for a classic pop-superhero sensibility about it. When I read the comic, I didn’t feel like I was reading a Marvel comic. Instead, the style in dialogue and look was more akin to DC. It’s an interesting stylized choice and not too surprising based on the fact the Squadron Supreme is front and center.

There’s also a lot that does work in the comic. Blade’s confrontation with Nighthawk and Thor are solid and the teases at the end is the really “meat” of the debut issue. But, it doesn’t quite feel like enough. This feels more like a “zero” issue than a solid debut issue.

Ed McGuinness‘ art is fantastic as expected. There’s some fun imagery on the pages with interesting layouts that catch the eye. With Mark Morales on ink, Matthew Wilson on color, and lettering by Cory Petit, the art pops often. There’s some rough spots, some uninspired villain designs, but like the writing there’s a bit of a throwback to the art style and some of the panels. The art does some interesting things blending “classic” comics, the 90s, and modern comics seamlessly. Page layouts are a bit more modern. Some the character design is more 90s and 00s and some of the character stances feel much older and classic. It works in a fun sort of way.

Heroes Reborn #1 is a bit of a mixed bag. Some of what works does so really well. But, there’s also a lot that feels like clunkers. There’s a mix of styles and voices in a way and it doesn’t always blend together. Some of the comic feels like a spoof of the past. Some of the comic feels like an homage. And some of the comic feels like it’s taking itself too seriously. It’s a bit mixed as to what it wants to be. But, its mystery is one that has me wanting to come back and see what’s behind all of this and more importantly, what comes after.

Story: Jason Aaron Art: Ed McGuinness
Ink: Mark Morales Color: Matthew Wilson Letterer: Cory Petit
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.85 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

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Review: Guardians of the Galaxy #13

Guardians of the Galaxy #13

When the Guardians of the Galaxy relaunched under Al Ewing‘s guidance I was excited to check the series out. I followed it through its first arc and enjoyed where it was going. But I fell off and found myself reading an issue here and there that tied into something else. With Guardians of the Galaxy #13, the issue feels like another good jumping on point. It’s perfect for new readers as well as long-time fans.

My experience with the Guardians of the Galaxy goes back to the team from the future but I fell in love with the team during the Abnett and Lanning days. Since then there’s been ups and down (a lot of downs, lets be honest) but Ewing’s run has been solid (of what I’ve read of it). With The Kree and Skrulls now in an alliance, The Guardians of the Galaxy have a new role, that of superheroes. They’ve been soldiers, misfits, and thieves, but now they’re getting a more formalized take… Avengers in space. And that’s not a bad thing. With a large cast of heroes, the teams can now tackle multiple issues and try to help the infinite issues out there.

Guardians of the Galaxy #13 kicks off with two, an attack on the Kree/Skrull capital planet and the mystery of a cult on a mysterious planet. Each provides different aspects to the issue. With one we get the big-screen adventure and action. The other builds a mystery that will clearly play out down the line. We also get to know each team and members and how the various personalities play out. There’s also a bit of uniformity now too hearkening back to those classic days of matching uniforms (with a bit of a throwback to them).

The art by Juan Frigeri is fantastic. Frigeri is joined by Federico Blee on color and Cory Petit on lettering. There’s some amazing visuals that make you take notice. From the opening of Throneworld II to Super Skrull managing the teams, to the Guardians arriving to battle, and more, there’s so much to enjoy. There’s a fun energy about the art. The colors help and the lettering adds personality to so many of the characters. All of that combines into a visual treat that makes the comic fun!

Guardians of the Galaxy #13 is a near-perfect jumping-on point. There’s just one sequence between Peter and Gamora that feels really out of place. But, beyond that, the comic is a fun adventure. There’s a certain energy and excitement about the issue that jumps from the page. If you’ve wondered about the Guardians of the Galaxy, this is the point to hop and because it looks like it’s going to be an awesome ride.

Story: Al Ewing Art: Juan Frigeri
Color: Federico Blee Letterer: Cory Petit
Story: 8.4 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.45 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Wolverine #10

Wolverine #10

Wolverine #10 starts out like an action movie with Benjamin Percy, Adam Kubert, and Frank Martin channeling that black ops Team X killing machine energy that the folks who made X-Men Origins: Wolverine tried and failed at. Maverick gets to shoot, fight, and kill his way out of being mind-controlled with Wolverine trying to get him to find healing in Krakoa. However, unlike Wolverine who basically has a whole family (Found, cloned, blood, and otherwise) waiting for him on the island, Maverick doesn’t have friends: just co-workers and employers. That’s the tragedy at the heart of the relationship between Maverick and Wolverine. Logan wants to move on while Maverick wants to continue to re-live the past glories of his Team X days and wander around with guns and a mask taking out baddies for the highest bidder even if he no longer has his mutant powers.

Adam Kubert has been drawing Wolverine for over 27 years, but his work on Wolverine #10 shows that he still enjoys drawing Logan’s berserker rage and the nobility buried underneath. (Full disclosure, he’s my favorite Wolverine artist along with John Romita Jr. You gotta love second generation comics pros.) Kubert also has some damn good storytelling chops, especially in his approach to layouts. He uses white space to simulate Maverick coming out of his mindwipe as well as gaps in his memory. At the beginning of the comic, Kubert uses close-ups and different angles on the same stand-off to show Maverick starting to fill in the details with the help of Wolverine. The next page uses more straighforward panel choices while keeping the blanks, and by the time the Merchant grazes Maverick with Frank Castle’s pistol, we’re back in double page spread mode with insets showing these former Team X members doing what they do best while colorist Frank Martin turns on the red.

Wolverine #10 features quite a few of these compositions from Kubert, namely, a double page spread freezing a moment in time while the story progresses through small grids or inset panels. This is also happening while Martin sets the general tone of the page with his color choices from sleazy neons for the port of Madripoor to *fittingly* black for the Mercs and finally light greens for Krakoa. Frank Martin uses darker greens for the inset panels to drive home that Maverick is really hostile and skeptical about Krakoa even if it means rest and the restoration of his considerable abilities. These color choices along with the insets give you the key story information about the sequence while the rest of the spread adds context and atmosphere. They also show how Maverick is still boxed into his past as a merc and is cool with taking money from the CIA (Who tried to kill him earlier) even while he chides and quips at Wolverine for being a cult leader and Kool-Aid drinker. He’s definitely the kind of guy who says “sell-out” unironically.

Wolverine #10
Dudes rock…

Between the chases, killings, and tough guy one-liners, Benjamin Percy and Adam Kubert continue to explore nostalgia in Wolverine #10. Kubert is an interesting artist choice because he worked with Larry Hama and other on the Wolverine and Weapon X comics in the 1990s that the past two or three issues have been trying to evoke with the Madripoor setting, Team X (Especially Maverick’s mask.), and even the short, yet sweet return of “Patch”. Also, the plot of the comic revolves around an auction of basically Easter Eggs from the Marvel Universe like the grave stone from “Kraven’s Last Hunt”, and Maverick, Wolverine, and the Mercs end up going on a mission to a warehouse with these items. However, Wolverine realizes the emptiness of nostalgia and doesn’t even look at what’s in the “Team X” before torching them. Percy shows where Logan is at as a character while also commenting on creators who yearn to re-tell the stories of their youth instead of breaking new ground.

Basically, there have been enough Wolverine flashback/origin stories, and it’s time to put him in new context or remix these previous stories like he and Kubert are doing with Maverick as they focus on the psychological dimensions of the relationship between them. There was that great flashback sequence in Wolverine #9, and now in this issue, Percy and Kubert show the sad reality of Logan and Maverick’s friendship as they’re perfectly in-sync when fighting CIA agents or various goons, but talk past each other once they get a quiet moment on the helicopter or overlooking Krakoa. Logan and Maverick are like (ultraviolent) work buddies, who really gel professionally, successfully complete projects together, and even throw a few brews back at the happy hour, but don’t really work out of that context. So, Maverick’s actions on the last couple pages of Wolverine #10 hurt like hell, but they do make sense. They might stand back to back on the cover, but these are men heading in polar opposite directions with Logan having both family and national responsibilities. Also, the blank panels come back hinting at Maverick resigning himself to just being a weapon again instead of trying to restart his life in Krakoa as Adam Kubert wrings emotions out of just white on the page.

Benjamin Percy, Adam Kubert, and Frank Martin balance black ops action and the complicated relationship dynamic between Logan and Maverick in Wolverine #10. It also features breathtaking layouts from Kubert and smart color choices from Martin and has nods to the 1990s era of X-comics while adding a little substance to those books’ style.

Story: Benjamin Percy Art: Adam Kubert
Colors: Frank Martin Letters: Cory Petit
Story: 7.8 Art: 8.8 Overall: 8.3 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Avengers: Mech Strike #1

Avengers: Mech Strike #1

Remember not long ago when cartoons and movies were around clearly to sell toys? That’s kind of how Avengers: Mech Strike #1 feels, though takes a bit to get there. Giant kaiju, I mean biomechanoids, are threatening the planet and new problems require new solutions. This solution? GIant Avengers mechs piloted by the heroes. Don’t worry they’ve been in the works for a while, also don’t try to think so hard.

Writer Jed MacKay delivers a new spin on the Avengers that feels like it was spun out of a Saturday morning cartoon. It’s Pacific Rim but with biomechanoids instead of Kaiju and one Avenger piloting each Jaeger. But, Avengers: Mech Strike #1 seems to realize all of this, and the general silliness of the concept, and rolls with it. It hopes the readers roll with it too and not think too hard about the situation.

There’s a fun goofiness about Avengers: Mech Strike #1 but it works and works well. MacKay has a good handle on the team though the writing has some small ticks that get irritating as you read them over and over. As the battle wages on characters talk to the team by saying “(fill in character’s name) to Avengers” and when that happens what feels like multiple times on a page and feels rather stilted, it stands out and kills the momentum a bit. But, there’s a solid play between the characters with Spider-Man delivering some humor to everyone else’s rather stiff nature.

The art by Carlos Magno is solid and fun. The action is good and easy to follow as the monster tears apart a neighborhood. The characters look great and everything works together, yes even the mechs look like they fit this world. Magno is helped by Guru-eFX on colors and lettering by Cory Petit. It’s all good but doesn’t quite pop. There aren’t memorable moments visually when there’s an opportunity for a lot, it all feels rather standard, even the ending which should pop.

Avengers: Mech Strike #1 feels like it’s aimed at younger readers who will run out and eventually get the toys tied into the series. It’s a pretty fun comic, though feels a little thin in some ways and you just need to accept the reality. An example is Tony’s mechs match up to the team. Keep in mind the team often changes and these mechs have been worked on for years, so it’s just random that the mechs match the Avengers or there’s a whole bunch more mechs out there for other members.

It’s not a bad comic at all but it also never quite pops the way it could. The story is good. The art is good. It never quite gets to that moment where there’s something really exciting. The comic comes off as an attempt to sell some toys and that’s it.

Story: Jed MacKay Art: Carlos Magno
Color: Guru-eFX Letterer: Cory Pettit
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

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Review: Wolverine #8

Wolverine #8

Wolverine #8 celebrates 350 issues of Wolverine in solo adventures and for such a big number, the issue is rather… normal. Marvel has apparently decided to play things a bit conservative with an issue that’s pretty much a normal issue. There’s not a bunch of guest creators doing short stories or celebrating creators of the past. Instead, Wolverine #8 is a solid jumping-on point for those who haven’t been reading the series and want to check it out.

Writer Benjamin Percy, artist Adam Kubert, and colorist Antonio Fabela kick things off with a story featuring Wolverine and CIA operative Jeff Bannister. “War Stories” features the two soldiers sharing some of the scars they carry with them. It’s a solid opening and sets up things down the road but an entire issue of just this could have been an amazing anniversary issue.

There’s some real emotion and pain danced around with the opening and a full issue could have really delivered an amazing end to the year. The idea of these two soldiers sharing their pain and haunted past could make for a very interesting read. Mix it in with the very real world issue of PTSD in our soldiers and there’s potential magic. This would have been a very interesting way to “celebrate” 350 issues.

Wolverine #8‘s main story, also written by Percy, is a bit more traditional as Wolverine is tasked to continue the battle against Xeno and others attacking various facilities. In this case, the path leads him back to his Team X partner Maverick, a character whose use over the years has been rather mixed. It’s a pretty standard story but it at least delivers a jumping-on point for new readers. Most is explained and done well enough that you don’t feel like you’re missing anything.

Percy is joined by artist Viktor Bogdanovic and colorist Matthew Wilson. Along with letterer Cory Petit, the art is solid though feels a bit reserved in some ways. This isn’t a story with flashy splash pages or really panel breaking layouts. The panels are mostly boxes and the images are kept within. It’s an odd artistic choice in that the art looks good but it’s also not splashy.

For an anniversary issue, Wolverine #8 feels pretty average as far as issues. It’s a good issue and a good starting point for readers but this isn’t one that really celebrates anything. It seems to do that by just telling a solid and entertaining story.

Story: Benjamin Percy Art: Adam Kubert, Viktor Bogdanovic
Color: Antonio Fabela, Matthew Wilson Letterer/Production: Cory Petit Design: Tom Muller
Story: 8.25 Art: 8.1 Overall: 8.15 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Avengers #40

Avengers #40

The Avengers are on to their next big storyline as the Phoenix has returned to Earth searching for a new host. Writer Jason Aaron has been building out a long-running epic that’s building to something with this latest chapter exploring another aspect of the original Avengers from thousands of years ago. Avengers #40 kicks off the “Enter the Phoenix” storyline and for all the build-up and hype, the issue is a whole lot of been there/done that.

After briefly aiding Moon Knight’s battle in the previous story arc, the Phoenix has taken up residence on Earth once again, this time searching for a new host to hold the power. The Avengers are on alert as are numerous groups and individuals looking to take the power for their own. But, the Phoenix has its own plan to find a champion in a battle between individuals with apparently the last one standing gaining the power.

Writer Jason Aaron delivers a pseudo-follow up to Avengers vs. X-Men as the Phoenix looks for a new host, this time focusing mostly on non-mutants. The battle between characters to prove who’s mightiest is something we’ve seen over and over again and this issue provides nothing new as far as that. In fact, it riffs on the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a groan-inducing moment involving Captain America. Uninspired. Not exciting. Downright boring. These are the words I’d describe a moment that has global implications.

The most interesting aspect of Avengers #40 is its ending where we see those who have been whisked away by the Phoenix to compete.

Javier Garrón provides the art along with David Curiel on color and Cory Petit on lettering. The art is a somewhat interesting aspect of the comic making best of Aaron’s disjointed script. While some panels lack details the focus and highlight is the battle between Captain America and Doctor Doom. It’s an anime/manga inspired fight full of energy blasts dripping of Phoenix Force. While Phoenix powered Doom isn’t all too exciting Captain America’s look is interesting though a bit “just happens”. The colors pop on the page emphasizing the energy oozing off of the combatants.

After a lot of build-up and hype, Avengers #40 and “Enter the Phoenix” is an uninspired start. Like the title suggests, it’s a riff on the tournament battle story we’ve seen so many times before. It delivers nothing new or interesting to the genre. Maybe down the line it will but as a beginning it’s a hell of a stumble.

Story: Jason Aaron Art: Javier Garrón
Color: David Curiel Letterer: Cory Petit
Story: 5.0 Art: 8.35 Overall: 6.0 Recommendation: Pass

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Review: Avengers #39

Avengers #39

In Avengers #39, a million years ago, a baby is saved from death by a wolf pack. Years later, she comes upon someone who speaks in her mind, leading her to the first mutants on Earth. Bigoted humans come and attack them and the young child unleashes her power, which is the Phoenix, engulfing everything in flames. From there, she heads to Asgard to recruit Odin.

If I was looking to read about the Avengers, I’d probably avoid this issue. Honestly, this revisionist history that Marvel allows drives me a bit crazy. The past is never good enough and we need mutants and the Phoenix used one million years ago. I feel like Jason Aaron is better than this. Overall, this is just a cheap appetizer for the main course, which is “Enter The Phoenix,” the next story arc which starts in the next issue.

My favorite thing about Avengers #39 was page after page of Dale Keown art. He’s definitely one of those artists that should be working on a big-time book. Maybe Avengers is that and I just don’t know.  There’s a level of beauty in his human characters that’s really pleasing to the eye. His action sequences look fairly epic. Jason Keith’s colors fill it all in and honestly, the colors are great on the Phoenix reveal page.

This felt like a whole lot of build-up for a better story, which I guess will be the upcoming Phoenix rehash that Marvel is serving up. Avengers #39 is fairly lackluster in the storytelling but it’s a really nice issue on the eyes.

Story: Jason Aaron Art: Dale Keown
Color: Jason Keith Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Story: 4.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 6.5
Recommendation: Pass

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Review: Black Widow #4

Black Widow #4

Black Widow #4 continues what is a hell of a series. Each issue has built on the last to deliver an action-packed thriller whose twists, turns, and actions entertain. We get a better sense as to what has gone on as Black Widow’s memory comes back and she does what she does best, kick ass.

Writer Kelly Thompson just ups everything and delivers the outlandish story in a way that works. We now know where Natasha’s kid came from and a better sense of her husband. We also are delivered a real connection between them all upping the stakes of everything.

Thompson also makes sure to keep things fun. Whether it’s Clint and Bucky’s back and forth or the villains realizing how screwed they are, there’s some laughs keeping the overall tone light. This is an action packed story with a smile and a wink.

It also has a hell of a style. Elena Casagrande and Carlos Gómez split the art duties between the past and present. Jordie Bellaire and Federcio Blee split the color in the same way. There’s clearly a lot of coordination and work being down between the teams as sequences mirror each other in some ways. The use of panels really emphasizes the flow of the action. There’s also a solid amount of detail when it comes to faces and body language to really make the emotions pop. The colors too really differentiate between the two time periods of the comic.

Black Widow #4 continues what is a fantastic series. It really brings a lot of fun and action. Each issue delivers laughs and cool moments. This is one of the best debuts for the character in years. If you’ve missed out, it’s not too late to catch up and see the quality you’ve been missing.

Story: Kelly Thompson Art: Elena Casagrande, Carlos Gómez
Color: Jordie Bellaire, Federico Blee Letterer: Cory Petit
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Black Widow #3

Black Widow #3

Talk about a series that has gotten better with every single issue. Black Widow #3 delivers it all with some great intrigue, some humor, and lots of action. This is a series that should be on everyone’s pull list and continues a fantastic debut and new series.

Writer Kelly Thompson lifts the veil on the mystery as we find out who is behind Black Widow’s world. We also get some motivation to their actions too. Thompson keeps it basic as to the who and the why keeping the focus more on the action and what’s said than some overly complicated plot. In many ways, Black Widow #3 keeps it simple with a progression that we’ve seen in other media. But, the issue does it in a style and with such flair, it’s hard to not enjoy it all.

Thompson builds to the eventual action slowly. We get the reveal as to who’s behind the plot. We get her allies discussing what to do. And we get Natasha debating if something is wrong in her perfect life. While the comic could, and with the title somewhat expected, be a lot of action, instead we get a lot of focus on the characters. There’s a lot of humor and laughs, mostly driven by Bucky and Clint as they debate what to do. There’s also some amazing action with art that pops off the page and just nails its sequences in every single way.

Elena Casagrande handles the art with Jordie Bellaire on color and Cory Petit doing the lettering. The team does a fantastic job of building to the eventual explosion of action. When we get there, the imagery pops off the page with eye-catching spreads and some amazing uses of the page. There’s also a great focus on the quieter moments, especially when Natasha is thinking about her impending marriage. The design is fantastic and there’s an attention to detail that emphasizes the perfection of it all. But, it’s the action sequences… they’re amazing in their flow. The two-page “web” page is so amazing with imagery of Natasha’s past webbed in… you’ll know the page when you get to it.

Black Widow #3 is just a fantastic issue. The action is solid. The humor is great. There’s just so much there to enjoy and it’s all tied together with top-notch visuals. This is a comic that just improves on the previous two and it’s a series that’s getting better with every issue.

Story: Kelly Thompson Art: Elena Casagrande
Color: Jordie Bellaire Letterer: Cory Petit
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

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