BATGIRL #41 – Written by Cameron Stewart & Brenden Fletcher; Art by Babs Tarr
First off, I’d like to say that I was not a big fan of the first story arc from this new creative team, which started with issue #35. The writing itself was solid and the art was certainly different and eye-catching, it was really just the storyline that bothered me: the idea of a villain finding his victims through a tinder-like app just didn’t interest me. It played a little too real for my tastes, like this was something a person could actually do to terrorize people. I like to read to escape reality. After that, it moved on to other part-time villains while maintaining the plot that Barbara had lost her coding project and someone was running around Burnside pretending to be Batgirl. Despite my initial thoughts, I thought issue #40 ended strongly and wrapped up the arc nicely.
That being said, issue #41 hooked me in a lot faster than #35 did. While Barbara faces a moral conundrum, I’m trying to determine whether an underground cult of Barbara-bot worshippers springing up so fast or Jim Gordon shaving his mustache “for the cause” is more unbelievable. I mean, c’mon Jim. If you’ve got that big new Batsuit, why the shave? Anyway. I also like the idea of Frankie being the potential “behind-the-scenes” cohort for Batgirl, given that Barbara has been in that role for the Bat-family before.
Back to Barbara’s conundrum though, this one is tough. Jim has just explained who he is and why he feels he needs to tell her, and for the second time that I can remember (the first being Batman: The Animated Series episode “Over The Edge”) Barbara attempts to tell her father about her nightly activities but is interrupted by him. If she tells him, she’ll feel better about unburdening her secret to him after he has just done the same, but in his new quest to find and arrest all vigilantes, he will be forced to bring her in. After leaving him, she goes to confide in Frankie when suddenly interrupted by Livewire, who has just escaped prison. The two fight until they the big new bat himself steps in.
Compared to the previous storyline, this arc is off to a much better start. The writing is still solid, and the art is unique and fitting for Barbara’s new lifestyle. I’m definitely looking forward to more, especially with daddy Gordon now in the bat-suit.
BLACK WIDOW #19 – Written by Nathan Edmonson; Art and Cover by Phil Noto
If you’re keeping up with Secret Wars, the first page needs no explaining. If you are NOT keeping with Secret Wars, all you really need to know for this issue is that the world is ending and everyone in the Marvel Universe is stepping up do what they can before it’s over. After that first page though, we’re taken to a flashback of a time Natasha had a mission in Cuba. This issue also serves as a good jumping on point for new readers.
On page 2, the reader is taken back to Natasha’s days as a KGB assassin. She has just received a new assignment involving a family of Cubans wishing to defect to the U.S.A. She is soon reconnected with her friend and mission partner, Marina, and they begin to tail the Cuban family. Edmonson, while demonstrating that Romanova is a killer-force not to be underestimated, has shown Natasha’s human side many times throughout the series. But towards the end of this particular mission, she faces a challenge that will test where her humanity and loyalties lie.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Phil Noto’s incomparable artwork. What Noto does with the surroundings and backgrounds, especially in this series, is the kind of artwork that legendary runs are made of. In this issue, he takes us from the bleak cold of Russia to the bright heat of Cuba, and I feel like I’m there with the characters. If the covers aren’t enough to draw you in, just flip through a few pages and tell me something doesn’t catch your eye.
What I’ve enjoyed most about this entire series is its ability to tell new stories in the present Marvel Universe but also focus on significant events in Black Widow’s past, especially when that past is still such a mystery for those who have only seen the recent Marvel movies. I haven’t been reading Marvel comics for very long, and these are some of the first Black Widow stories I’ve read, so I don’t know very much about the character. But from what I have read, if there was a particular series with which to base a movie off of, for my money, this would be it.
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Tags: Barbara Gordon (Batgirl II / Oracle), Black Widow