5. Black Widow
|Movie crossover? Tense Tony Stark lays down the law!|
In Black Widow, a noir sensibility, coupled with an affection for action and spy movie tropes, gives the book visual eloquence and urgency. The first issue, a nearly wordless chase story, is one of the most fun single issues in a long time. Once the running stops, there's the good old heroine's journey to propel the storyline. In this case, the backstory of Natasha revisiting her childhood training camp is tense and heartbreaking.
As the story develops, we work around to the on-again, off-again romance with Winter Soldier. While there were rumblings in the fan press that good old Bucky would finally be revealed as bisexual, there's nothing overt (and very little that's covert) in the actual book to support that premise.
However, it does make me wonder about the distinctions between romance in books with male heroes and those with female heroes. Marvel's been very good about diversity this year, not just in terms of inclusion, but inclusion that fits the stories and characters, with a few minor exceptions (the gay Iceman fiasco comes to mind).
Even with that, the book remains a solid read. I've fallen a bit behind, but I continue to pick it up, and eagerly anticipate a binge on the title again soon.
4. Scarlet Witch
As is the case in Black Widow, we have a journey into the heroine's childhood. But in this case, the journey is plagued by rocks on the road in the form of old nemeses, mentoring ghost witches, and revelations of and unknown family tree (once again, Wanda discovers she's not who she thought she was).
This book is visually alarming, in a good way. Wanda's new costume is brilliant. The covers, and some of the interiors, have arresting and compelling designs, often reminiscent of Coles Phillips' classic fadeaway paintings! Vanessa Del Rey is providing moody art that's still readable and tells a story, and Jordie Bellaire's coloring is a exquisite complement to both art and script.
Although it's working fairly well in Black Widow, I'm grateful there's little romance in this book. Not that the character doesn't deserve happiness, but it's refreshing to see a woman-centered book that isn't about romance.
3. Dr. Fate
Well, this does seem to be the year for magic, doesn't it? Between Dr. Strange, Scarlet Witch and this book, magic has regained its position near the top of the comics pile, and rightly so. In the case of Dr. Fate, the magic draws from the Kimetic, or ancient Egyptian, belief system. Since the character was created by Gardner Fox in 1940, with an origin story modeled in part on the 1922 expedition of Howard Carter that unearthed the tomb of Tutankhamen, this is no surprise. The surprise is that the character has never strayed far from its origins.
This incarnation of Dr. Fate, so to speak, brings the ancient connection home in a very different way. The helmet of Nabu, the source of power that possesses its hosts over time, is assumed by a young and somewhat naive college student, Khalid Nassour. The book alternates between his attempts to save the world from a flood caused by the ancient gods (which reminded me of the Peter Weir film The Last Wave), and (shades of early Spider-Man) trying to hold his life together and keep his secret.
Oh, yeah, and Kent Nelson, a long lost uncle as it turns out, puts in an appearance.
|Slice panel showing |
the head behind the mask. Brilliant.
I really hope to see this interpretation of Dr. Fate again. Like last year's run on Martian Manhunter, it put new life into a very old character.
To be a good superhero book, the book must be:
- Rendered consistently with the writing
- Written in a style that suits the character's demeanor and history
- Be plausible. Not realistic, but plausible. There's a quantifiable difference.
- Evoke an emotional response consistent with the intent of the creator(s). Admittedly, this one has a more arbitrary aspect than the others.
The writing by Jody Hauser really grabs me, so much so that I'm tempted to give her TV series Orphan Black another chance. I watched the first episode and it left me cold. Perhaps, in retrospect, that was a mistake. Hauser has been doing strong work on Faith. There are a few times when I wish Faith was not such a popular culture geek. As much as I liked the issues dealing with the Comic Con villain, it felt a bit played out after a while- could have been one issue instead of two and I would have been fine with it.
One aspect of the writing I do enjoy is Faith's relationship with Archer, of Archer & Armstrong. As has been noted in so many superhero books, it only makes sense that a superhero would enter into relationship with another superhero: unique commonalities and all that. I didn't have much use for most of the Valiant line the first time around, largely due to my reverence for the original Magnus, Robot Fighter and ensuing resistance to the reboot. But I did enjoy the original A & A run, both the Barry Smith and Mike Baron issues.
I've not been inclined to follow any of the other crossover titles with Faith in them. I tried one issue of the team book Harbingers, and I was disinterested throughout. If Faith has significant appearances in future issues of Archer & Armstrong, I'll probably pick those up.
Faith remains a worthwhile book, though I'm a couple issues behind in current reading. I'm likely to stick with the book for a while.