Current Reviews


Fear Itself: Black Widow #1

Posted: Friday, July 1, 2011
By: Ray Tate

Cullen Bunn
Peter Nguyen, Veronica Gandini (c)
The Black Widow travels to France in order to deal with a group of terrorists that decide to take advantage of the Fear Itself chaos. Big mistake, because the Widow's through playing nice. Cullen Bunn opens his story by shooting Black Widow in the head, and then turning back the clock to see what led to this hero's "death." I find it very comforting to doubt the Widow's demise and discover that faith well-placed.

Be assured, the Black Widow is alive after this adventure, and Bunn uses no tricks other than Marvel continuity to secure his hero's survival. Before we get to that, Bunn runs the Widow through an Alias-like hyperkinetic spy mission, in which the Widow, infiltrates the captured territory and strikes at each terrorist with smart and deadly stratagems.

Bunn's caper is essentially a Widow fan's dream come true. The story succeeds where others' interpretations fail. Bunn reduces the material down to the bone. You'll find no bad medical science like that in Marjorie Lui's book. Bunn instead researches his gunplay to anticipate questions. You'll find no ill-formed right-wing opinions ala Duane Swierczynski. Instead, Bunn keeps the Widow's mind focused. Like James Bond, the Widow considers only that the hostages will die should she not complete her mission.

Bunn surprises with the addition of the Widow's partner. He's certainly appropriate, but given that his creation was merely a means to flesh out the global superhero status of the Marvel Universe, the winged champion's inclusion is a delightful utilization of Marvel continuity. Bunn furthermore does not treat the character as an also-ran. Instead, he makes him a patriot and an effective crime fighting partner for the Black Widow. At the same time, he never forgets that the Black Widow does not really need a partner. He simply makes her job easier.

Artist Peter Nguyen designs the characters in a style that's reminiscent of Peter Chung's Aeon Flux. As a result the narrative becomes even more fluid. The Widow's a taut, wiry femme fatale that cuts like an ebony dagger through the opposition. The guest hero is a sharp, swift talon swooping down on the enemy. Veronica Gandini's colors act like variegated strobes that staccato through the action-packed tapestry.

Ray Tate's first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, "Spider Without a Web," published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups. In the POBB, as it was affectionately known, Ray reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he's young at heart. Of course, we all know better.

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