In the same way that Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye series took us by surprise as the best new series of 2012 (and hasn’t let up in 2014), Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto’s Black Widow monthly comic book series is proving to be at the top of the 2014 titles. Strange that the duo is known to be partners with Avengers missions.
This is the story of Natasha Romanova and her attempt to atone for her past sins as a mercenary, assassin, general all-around “bad guy.” She selects missions these days very carefully. Her goal is making money but not hurting good guys. And that money goes into trust funds and pays off her web of back-up operatives around the world—nothing for profit.
That doesn’t mean she won’t be tapped for S.H.I.E.L.D. or Avengers projects from time to time. Former agent and now director Maria Hill (played by Cobie Smulders in the film series and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series) brings her in on a few missions in the pages of this new Black Widow series. They make a great team. Edmondson has a great feel for Romanova. In the same way Fraction was able to show the personal side of Hawkeye, Edmondson scratches the surface of what makes this lethal heroine tick. But as she says at the beginning of her series “my full story will never be told”.
From the previews of the 2014 theatrical release of Guardians of the Galaxy, we get the feel we’re dealing with the motley crew of a Firefly class-inspired vessel, Marvel universe style. Along with that we see plenty of “bounty hunters” or assassin types previewed. Fans of the Eleventh Doctor on the Doctor Who TV series are particularly eager to watch the actress who played the beloved Amelia Pond—Karen Gillan—as the very futuristic looking alien assassin Nebula. Gillan even shaved her head for the role.
We don’t know how great Nebula’s role will be in the film, but she gets center spotlight in the first of two “prelude” comic book issues from Marvel Comics.
Like Darth Vader, Mara Jade, and Anakin Skywalker were subjects of the Emperor, we meet up first with Nebula as she is being guided by the villainous Thanos. And similar to the plot the previews have promised us for the new Tom Cruise summer release Edge of Tomorrow, this warrior fights and loses and is somehow recycled to live and fight on another day. Like Vader and Skywalker, Nebula, too, is part cybernetic.
If you’re still waiting to see who is going to pick up the reins and turn Gentle Giant’s Honey Trap Army into a comic book series, the next best thing may be at your local comic book store right now. It’s Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto’s new Black Widow biweekly series from Marvel Comics. What does it have to do with the Honey Trap Army? Nothing really, except that Natasha Romanoff as realized by the 1960s style art of Phil Noto would fit right in with the mod-inspired team of high-end assassin action figures.
You’ll get the feeling you’re reading something with plenty of potential, storytelling on par with Jason Aaron’s Thor, God of Thunder. In a similar way as Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye created a story of a second-level Avenger apart from the world of the Avengers, Edmondson’s Black Widow is on her own and carving out her own life in this new series. She’s still working with the Avengers, but this story is about how she spends the rest of her time. And like Hawkeye has his pal Lucky Dog, Natasha almost has her own pet cat. Almost.
She’s an assassin turned paid killer, a distinction that has real meaning for Natasha, who is taking on her own mercenary projects for good pay but not for personal gain. It’s all part of her atonement for past sins, a process she is both forging ahead and wrestling with. She has an able if not seemingly foppish aide in this endeavor, a buttoned-shirt lawyer named Mr. Ross, who selects assignments to take any subjective influences away from what projects are selected for Natasha to pursue. At her request. And we learn even he is full of surprises.
If someone gave you the brass ring, let you write and draw your own comic book series, including combining your favorite characters and places, and heck, even an image of yourself and your college roommate, what would you do? If you were that lucky you might put something together like Savage Wolverine. So many components of Issue #1-5 of this year’s new series screamed “win” that it’s no wonder Marvel kept charging ahead with the monthly series after Frank Cho’s initial story arc.
Frank Cho is of course the biggest reason to check out the new hardcover and trade paperback edition now on newsstands. Cho is simply the best at rendering women and dinosaurs and guns and bringing them all together. And while we’re all still anxiously awaiting the long-delayed Guns & Dinos series that was supposed to land in 2011 (where the heck is that anyway?), Cho is forgiven as this is the next best thing.
From its “bad romance”-themed Issue #8 in February through an issue featuring the other Hawkeye Kate Bishop in Los Angeles in its most recent Issue #14, Marvel Comics’ monthly Hawkeye series has kept up its unique brand of high-quality storytelling all year. With its visuals led by David Aja for most of the year, other artists have stepped in to backstop Aja, including none other than another Eisner winner artist, Francisco Francavilla. But the continuity and consistency of Avenger Clint Barton and his friends is thanks to the writing of Matt Fraction, who, like J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman and their Batwoman series, took a lower tier superhero and produced the best monthly series in its publisher’s line-up.
Each issue managed to maintain a slow, downward spiral of its hero as a self-deprecating lost soul who is only understood by a dog who is then taken across the country by his friend Kate. In one issue (Issue #12) his brother Barney “Trickshot” Barton takes over the entire story and we barely see Waverly, Iowa born Clint Barton. Rarely do we see typical superhero action, like Hawkeye donning his supersuit or showing his skill with bow and arrow. When we do see it, its via West Coast Avenger Kate Bishop. Clint is virtually absent from Issue #14, as Kate, with Lucky in tow, matches wits with a strange but beautiful masked villain.
One issue (Issue #13) focused on the somber events surrounding the funeral of neighbor “Grills,” the guy who grilled on the roof for tenants of his building and referred to Clint as Hawkguy. In that issue girlfriend Jessica Drew, the Spider-woman, tries to mend fences with Clint in the car procession, only to see afterward that he had fallen asleep during her entire compelling monologue. It’s a scene that defined this year for Hawkeye–everything that could go wrong, did, and every time he was close to getting a break he missed it. Yet readers are sucked in, and stick around to cheer on this everyman and his daily efforts to get back on track in a world where he isn’t the main superhero around.
For Marvel Comics and X-Men fans, the next in the line of X-Men movies to hit the big screen looks to be an epic production, starring the stars of the first three X-Men and Wolverine movies and the younger stars of X-Men’s past in X-Men: First Class. Not only does that mean Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Hugh Jackman, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, Halle Berry, and Ellen Page are back, but we get to meet new characters, too, including Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask, Omar Sy as Bishop, Booboo Stewart as Warpath, Bingbing Fan as Blink, and Adan Canto as Sunspot.
Check out this first full-length trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past:
We have a long wait for this one. X-Men: Days of Future Past is scheduled for release in theaters May 23, 2014.
As promised, here’s the full trailer released yesterday for next year’s Captain America sequel, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. But it might as well be The Avengers 2, considering the inclusion of Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow.
Although reviewers at early screenings are already calling Thor: The Dark World the best of the Avengers movie sequels so far (that’s compared to Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3?), 2011′s Captain America: The First Avenger is still nearly tied with the original Iron Man as the critical favorite. So we’re excited about the next film to put Chris Evans’ 1940s super soldier up against his next foe, and see the return of Cap, Nick Fury and Black Widow in their first movie appearance since last year’s blockbuster The Avengers.
Last night Entertainment Tonight previewed a full trailer that will be uploaded to the Web today, and we plan to have it posted here at borg.com as soon as it’s available. In addition to returning favorites Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson, one great addition to the cast is the one and only Robert Redford making a rare genre appearance as a high-ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. director and Nick Fury’s superior.
By Art Schmidt
I was having lunch with a friend the other day and we were talking about comic book movies and the slow transition of the formulas for the ones which have succeeded to television format. My friend was grumbling about the lack of costumed heroes on popular shows such as Arrow or the new Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I have to admit, I hadn’t really noticed the lack of costumes in those shows, loving the first season of Arrow despite very few folks with traditional comic book costumes, and enjoying the first couple of episodes of A.O.S. (can you acronym an acronym?).
But the more I thought about it, the more puzzled I was. Why weren’t there more costumes in Arrow? Certainly Deathstroke’s mask was a pivotal prop in the series, and the Dark Archer had a cool getup, but they weren’t costumes so much as work attire fitting the villain’s nature. And of course A.O.S. is a show about normal people, super spies and highly-skilled to be sure, but not superheroes. And certainly without costumes outside of May’s black leather suit, akin to Fury’s normal wardrobe and the attire seen by many personnel aboard the Heli-carrier in The Avengers.
Speaking of which, The Avengers is a perfect case in point. The evolution of the superhero sans costume. I’ll get back to that in a minute.
Each new preview of the November 2013 release Thor: The Dark World gets us that much more anxious for its release. Earlier this year we previewed a teaser here and trailer here at borg.com for the follow-up to The Avengers and the 2011 Thor starring Chris Hemsworth and Anthony Hopkins. The first full trailer was pretty extensive, maybe revealing a little too much, but this newer version is a bit more fun, showing up in theaters and on TV screens since Wednesday. It focuses on Natalie Portman’s character Jane Foster and Tom Hiddleston’s superbly played, villain-we-can’t-get-enough-of, Loki.
After The Avengers, fans of the Marvel Comics characters are waiting for the next movie to rival that blockbuster. Iron Man 3 didn’t seem to be that movie, so maybe this one will deliver the goods?