Tag Archives: S.H.I.E.L.D.

A Black Widow #1 Review – The Thrill of the Chase

Black Widow #1, 2016, Chris SamneeTITLE: Black Widow #1
AUTHOR: Mark Waid
PENCILLER: Chris Samnee
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: March 2, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Now here’s your case for a larger role for Black Widow in mainstream media, right here. This is about as balls-to-the-wall as it gets.

Natasha Romanoff is a woman of few words in this issue, as she’s somehow become an enemy of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s a chase that takes our heroine from the dizzying heights of a Helicarrier to the lows of a fist fight on the side of the road. While it’s not clear what exactly she’s done to be exiled (she’s apparently taken something from them), one thing’s for certain: Natasha Romanoff won’t surrender without one hell of a fight.

Mark Waid and Chris Samnee rightfully gained a lot of acclaim for their Daredevil run. But Black Widow is not Daredevil, at least not in this first issue. The entire issue is one big chase scene, as Natasha flees from S.H.I.E.L.D. With only one line of dialogue, our heroine is a woman of few words, letting her actions do the talking. This issue makes a hell of a statement. This is Black Widow, an ass kicker as she was meant to be.

Black Widow #1, 2016, Chris Samnee, explosionAs the issue is relatively low on dialogue, it’s up to Chris Samnee and colorist Matthew Wilson to convey that statement. And damn, do they deliver. I’ve always been high on Samnee’s style, which is an interesting blend of Alex Toth and David Mazzuchelli, with a some Steve Rude thrown in. It works beautifully here. Black Widow looks as iconic as she’s ever looked, in my view. But then our team delivers on some really great moments, including Natasha leaping from an explosion inside the Helicarrier (shown left). I love the shading across her face, and that glint from the flames in her eyes. We then turn the page and get a two-page spread of the Helicarrier in the sky, with Natasha’s relatively tiny frame freefalling beside it.

But the very best is saved for last. After an issue filled with explosions, flying cars, and a nice little moment where BW feigns becoming a damsel in distress, we get to a fight between Natasha and a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent at a muddy cliffside. With much of their tech stripped away from them, it’s simply Natasha and her opponent in the dirt, with a rock as her only weapon. It’s a fantastic sequence, including one page that goes rapid-fire with 14 panels. And it ends on a delightfully somber note.

Waid doesn’t give us much in terms of information, here. Not only is it unclear what Natasha has done, but we’re not given any exposition about who this character is. Granted, I would assume the majority of the readership for this book already know who she is. But typically, one would usually present at least a little exposition here. In this issue we get none. In this case, it doesn’t do the issue any harm. Given the story they told, it’s not like they had time to slow down for an info dump. Plus, considering the quality of this issue, I’d say it was worth it to delay any backstory we might need.

Black Widow is off to one hell of a start. Considering what Waid and Samnee have given us in the recent past, this series is definitely one to watch.

Images from author’s collection. 

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A Captain America: Sam Wilson #1 Review – On Wings of Partisanship

Sam Wilson Captain America #1, 2015TITLE: Captain America: Sam Wilson #1
AUTHOR: Nick Spencer
PENCILLER: Daniel Acuna
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE:
$3.99
RELEASED: September 14, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Alas, poor Sam Wilson. He flew too close to the sun on wings of partisanship…

Yeah, that’s right. Wings of partisanship. Because his suit has big wings. And because apparently, Captain America is sounding off on the issues facing his beloved country these days. Of course, this issue doesn’t tell us exactly what his opinions are. But whatever he said, it was enough for S.H.I.E.L.D. to drop him from their ranks. Captain America is now a DIY project, with Sam and his remaining cohorts resorting to crowdfunding to restore some of their resources. And what of Steve Rogers? Has Sam even lost the faith of his former partner, the original Captain America?

I like the subtext of a half the country turning Captain America for “coming out” (for lack of a better term) about his true feelings. As the character himself says, our country is so divided right now. Opinions are widely different (at times violently so) about what America should be. Captain America now reflects that. He’s not above the squabbling anymore. That opens the door for compelling, emotional storytelling. Taking S.H.I.E.L.D. resources away from Sam and his cohorts also plays up his everyman appeal.

Captain America vs. Crossbones, Daniel AcunaCap runs into Crossbones early in the issue, and they have a funny little exchange. They’re about to fight, they know they’re about to fight, but first they shoot the breeze a little bit. They’re clearly enemies, but they’re almost old acquaintances too. That’s a funny dynamic. You wouldn’t want to see that with everybody, but ot’s cool once in a blue moon.

This issue also sets up a nice supporting cast for Sam. I don’t know as much about these characters as other fans do. But Sam’s partnership with Misty Knight is obviously intriguing. Nick Spencer and Daniel Acuna put together a nice sparring session between the two that’s ripe with sexual tension. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ve got D-Man to provide a little levity, along with some mechanical exposition. We also get a nice two-page scene between Sam and his brother Gideon, a pastor who brings a very personal, and potentially spiritual perspective to things. And of course, you’ve got our ol’ buddy Redwing. Add this all up, and it potentially gives the book some solid depth.

Captain America: Sam Wilson #1, Daniel AcunaDaniel Acuna is mostly on point here. He draws a good Sam Wilson, and I love his rendering of Pastor Gideon. He’s also good with the explosive moments. He’s also good with the explosive action moments that come during fights. Where Acuna lacks here is in Sam Wilson’s acting. When he’s in the mask, he almost always has the same blank and stoic expression. Granted, Acuna doesn’t have Sam’s eyes to work with, which I’m sure makes it harder. But even during the sparring scene with Misty, they both have expressions that aren’t blank (Acuna plays with the eyebrows a bit), but feel very lifeless. I hate to use the term “Captain A-Mannequin”… so I won’t. When Acuna has Sam’s eyes to work with, things are much better. But c’mon, man! You’re not working with a Spidey mask or an Iron Man helmet! Gimmie some feeling!

Sam’s stoic nature notwithstanding, we’re off to a really good start with Captain America: Sam Wilson #1. They’ve definitely got me coming back for issue #2. Something tells me old man Rogers ain’t too happy.

Images from author’s collection.

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An Indestructible Hulk: Agent of SHIELD Review – Fading Strength

Indestructible Hulk, Vol. 1: Agent of SHIELDTITLE: Indestructible Hulk: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
AUTHOR: Mark Waid
PENCILLER: Leinil Yu
COLLECTS: Indestructible Hulk #1-5
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $24.99
RELEASED: May 15, 2013

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Indestructible Hulk had a lot going for it before it even hit stands, what with Mark Waid and Leinil Yu reuniting. Throw in a hell of a premise with Hulk working for S.H.I.E.L.D., and you’ve got one of the hottest tickets in all of comics.

Then a trip to Atlantis watered it all down…no pun intended.

Frustrated at the idea of being remembered only as the Hulk, with very few contributions actually having been made to science, Bruce Banner strikes a deal with S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill. In exchange for a state-of-the-art lab facility and a staff of researchers, S.H.I.E.L.D. gets to use Hulk as its personal cannon, to aim at whichever battle or crisis it sees fit to. This new arrangement will see Hulk battle supervillains, Atlanteans, and even Iron Man.

Indestructible Hulk #1, Bruce Banner, Maria HillIn terms of superhero comics, Mark Waid is truly one of the modern-day greats, and he shows us why in the very first issue of Indestructible Hulk. Banner and Hill are simply sitting in a diner, with emphasis placed on a ticking clock. “Tick…tick…tick.” The idea is that Hulk is a ticking time bomb which could explode at any moment. Waid also has a few clumsy diner patrons poke the sleeping giant to up the tension. It’s a fantastic scene, possibly my favorite since the start of Marvel NOW!.

Waid does some really good character work with Bruce in the first half of this book. Much of it is actually pretty funny. For instance, the first time Banner meets his new staff, he tests their mettle with a scream of: “What do you mean there’s no internet connection?!?” There are a couple of moments with a would-be robot companion (who we see on the cover) which are amusing as well.

Waid also explores a really intriguing idea in the first two issues: Banner is jealous of Tony Stark, as he always gets to use his brilliance to save the day. Banner, meanwhile, has been stuck trying to “cure” himself of the Hulk. This factors in to his more proactive “manage what exists” approach. The second issue, which culminates in a fight between Hulk and Iron Man, actually represents a lot of what I’ve been missing from DC since the New 52. When Tony Stark and Bruce Banner have a conversation, they feel like old friends, because the audience knows there’s so much history there. Compare that to the conversation we recently saw between Superman and Batman in Justice League #20. We know the characters, but we don’t know them like we do Stark and Banner in this book.

Indestructible Hulk #3, Maria Hill, Iron ManFor the most part, Leinil Yu draws a kick ass book here. He has some issues with his layouts early on, most notably in the first issue, in an instance where a diner patron inexplicably appears to be stroking Maria Hill’s forehead. But he’s so good at the action side of things, and his Hulk seems to be positively pulsating with explosive ferocity and rage, it’s easy to forgive him.

Sadly, the book loses a huge chunk of its momentum in the second half of the fourth issue, when a mission sends Hulk to Atlantis. Simply put, when the emphasis shifted toward the Atlantean conflict, I stopped caring. We’d spent the majority of the book on the Banner/S.H.I.E.L.D. dichotomy, growing more and more invested in this new found balance struck between the two. So when we leave it in favor of Atlantis, the result is just…meh. I suffered through issue five (despite Yu’s stellar art), because it seemed like such a departure from everything I’d been reading up to that point. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book which started with such a bang, but ended with such a whimper.

Sadly, Waid and Yu’s reunion began and ended with this book. But so long as Waid is still on board, Indestructible Hulk will no doubt continue to be worth keeping an eye on. My feelings of Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. are positive, given how wonderfully it started. I only with this Hulk book had been able to maintain some of its awesome strength.

RATING: 7/10

Image 1 from mindofshadow.com. Image 2 from blogdesuperheroes.es.

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First Impressions: Savage Wolverine #1

Savage Wolverine #1, 2013, Frank ChoTITLE: Savage Wolverine #1
AUTHOR/PENCILLER: Frank Cho
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: January 16, 2013

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m not sure if I’m any more of a Wolverine fan after reading the debut issue of Savage Wolverine. But I’m a Shanna the She-Devil fan for sure!

After Shanna and handful of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents crash into the Savage Land during a cartography mission, Wolverine is dispatched to save them. But the Savage Land lives up to its name, as Wolvie faces off against hostile natives, and even a few cranky dinosaurs.

Frank Cho’s amazingly gorgeous art is almost enough of a reason on its own to pick Savage up. His rendition of Shanna the She-Devil is pure cheesecake. Particularly enjoyable was the full page, full body profile shot of our muscular and powerful, yet most definitely feminine heroine laid out against a page consisting largely of white space, with panels depicting the S.H.I.E.L.D group’s predicament almost extending from her body. It’s a gorgeous page. Though I’m not expecting my girlfriend (or anybody‘s girlfriend for that matter) to be much of a Shanna fan after this issue.

Savage Wolverine #1, 2013The way Cho plays with white space in his layouts is also very interesting. Whether he uses it to draw focus to certain things, such as the lovely Shanna in the aforementioned page, or simply as a way to guide readers through the layout, it makes for a very interesting visual journey.

The curious thing about the story being told, at least at this point, is that despite having his name on the book, Wolverine doesn’t really need to be there. Based on what we’ve seen so far, Cho could simply have made this a Shanna the She-Devil story about survival in the Savage Land. The only reason Wolverine seems to be there is to make the story more marketable to casual fans. Mind you, we’re only one chapter in. But that’s the vibe I’m getting so far.

The Logan we get from Cho juxtaposes the character’s trademark penchant for blood and violence with a relaxed, analytical side one might expect from a hero with this much experience. When we first see him, he’s analyzing his surroundings, drawing conclusions based on the climate and the presence of things like volcanic ash. Then he tangles with a dinosaur. Moments later, we see him label a group of natives as neanderthals based on the spread of their toes. And then he’s chopping their limbs off. It’s not necessarily what you’d expect from a book called Savage Wolverine, but it’s interesting to watch nevertheless.Whether readers will enjoy this issue likely depends on their level of enjoyment for Cho’s art. For Cho’s fans, this is a can’t miss book. For Wolverine fans, the verdict is still out.

Image 1 from speakgeekytome.com.

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