The Black Widow’s death at the end of Secret Empire was a shocker to the entire Marvel Universe.  Now, two heroes who loved her may have evidence that she is still alive, but can even their formidable skills find the world’s greatest super-spy if she doesn’t WANT to be found?  Your Major Spoilers review of Tales Of Suspense #101 awaits!

Tales of Suspense #101TALES OF SUSPENSE #101

Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Travel Foreman
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Editor: Alanna Smith
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously in Tales Of Suspense:  “Black Widow died.  Everyone saw it happen.  Hawkeye and the Winter soldier both dated her (it’s awkward).  Hawkeye thinks she’s alive (and maybe killing Hydra agents).  The Winter Soldier thinks the’s dead (and someone else is killing Hydra agents).  They tracked the mystery killer to an embassy in Chernaya, where they found the Black Widow’s calling card before getting blown up.  So that’s a whole thing…”

“I HATE HAWKEYE.”

Full disclosure: I think that the premise of this book is not really a good idea.  With the rehabilitation of Natalia Romanova into a big-name Marvel player, reminding everyone that she used to date six or seven different costumed guys feels disrespectful for me.  That said, the interplay in this issue is a lot of fun, starting with the first page, as James Barnes and Clint Barton fall from an exploding building.  Barton’s internal monologue talks about what you need to survive an explosion, with the final piece being pure luck…

Cue Hawkeye, the embodiment of such luck, landing literally ON him, essentially unharmed.  They escape mostly unscathed but their pursuit of the Widow leads them into a clandestine meetup with a former SHIELD agent (SHIELD once again being dormant, because reasons) who turns out to have once been Skids of The New Mutants.  After slipping our heroes some secret information, she is seemingly blown to smithereens by The Black Widow, and Hawkeye and Winter Soldier go off in hot pursuit.  When they catch up to her, though, they find that it  *IS* actually Black Widow, but that things are much more complicated than they seem.

WORTH IT FOR ‘AGENT SKIDS’

Seeing young Skids grown up into a capable intelligence agent is nice (if you don’t worry about how old the other New Mutants are now or that they seemingly blow her to hell in these pages) and the execution of Barton and Barnes as Good Cop/Dummy Cop is well-handled, but the art throughout the issue feels off.  There’s a bulbous fluidity to faces and bodies that I don’t care for, and a sketchiness about the ink lines that takes away from the idea that these guys are super-athletes chasing after a graceful former ballerina.  Backgrounds come and go throughout the chase sequence, and more than once speed lines are used to obscure the fact that the figures are kind of floating in a pastel-colored void.  The final-page reveal felt pretty telegraphed as well, tying into a very unpleasant and frankly unnecessary part of Black Widow’s long Marvel history.

BOTTOM LINE: ENJOYING THE ODD COUPLE, NOT FEELING THE ART

The use of these particular characters makes for a nice central structure for a story, with Clint’s hipster insouciance clashing hard with Bucky’s tormented cyborg loner schtick, giving both characters a counterpoint to play off for fun compare and contrast reasons.  Unfortunately, inconsistent art blunts the effectiveness of these interactions and the central premise still feels a bit unintentionally problematic, leaving Tales Of Suspense #101 with a slightly below average 2 out of 5 stars overall.  There’s some good stuff in these pages, but sadly, it never quite comes together effectively to make the issue really work…

[taq_review]

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About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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