Bucky Takes Center Stage in Tales of Suspense 101

by Drew Baumgartner

Tales of Suspense 101

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

I like spy stories enough, but I’d never claim to be a connoisseur of the genre. I’m sure there are countless subtle subgenres, but to my lay eyes, the most obvious division is between the sensationalized high adventure of, say, James Bond films, and the more grounded stories of intrigue and espionage of John le Carré’s novels. And I recognize that that’s a gross oversimplification, but the actual point I want to talk about is tone — while the later category takes itself super seriously, the former is much lighter and more fun (more recent Bond films notwithstanding), savoring terrible one-liners and groan-inducingly punny names. The Bond franchise has recently eschewed that lightness of tone in pursuit of something more serious, but Tales of Suspense 101 represents another approach; one where everyone agrees the situation is very serious, but the characters can’t help but be funny, anyway.

We got a big dose of that humor back in issue 100, as Clint’s internal monologue and general ineptitude made for some genuine laughs. Writer Matthew Rosenberg shifts to Bucky’s perspective for this issue, and while Bucky clearly presents a more polished, serious demeanor, his inner monologue makes clear that it’s somewhat of a front.

Bucky and Clint

Just knowing that Bucky kind of agrees with Clint (but can’t admit it) goes a long way to humanizing a character who might otherwise come off as totally joyless. It’s a great way to get a laugh line out of a character who takes himself so seriously. Obviously, most of the humor here comes from the odd-couple pairing and Clint’s far less self-aware demeanor, but I’m so pleased that Rosenberg managed to soften Bucky in this way.

Of course, that lightness of tone might devolve into over-the-top nonsense were it not for Travel Foreman’s steady hand on art. We get moments of Clint picking and flicking boogers, sure, but Foreman can put real weight behind the action beats when the story demands it. That means some truly hard-hitting punches later in the issue, but for me, the real shock of the stakes here came as Skids drove off from that clandestine meeting.

Skids skids

There’s no sound effect as her car explodes, but with an explosion that forceful, we really don’t need it. I absolutely love the way the footprint of the car (and action around it) grows as we move across the page, from that small little rectangle in the first panel to almost a third of the vertical space in the last. It’s a subtle move that helps sell the motion as the car lifts into the air and then falls from the bridge. It’s vivid and visceral action, made all the more impactful by the lighter moments that surround it.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

One comment on “Bucky Takes Center Stage in Tales of Suspense 101

  1. I don’t think it is just that Bucky’s inner monologue shows he isn’t as self serious as he appears. A key part of the humour of this issue is the ludricous nature of serious spy stories. The idea of a clandestine redevous is just as ludricous and fun as James Bond, just a different fantasy. One is an action packed power fantasy, the other is the fantasy of successfully navigating the dangerous world where your very survival comes down to your intelligence. And that is what is mocked, with Bucky privately admitting how needless all of this is, while also admitting how fun it is (Also notable, no amount of clandestine strategies saved Blevins. It didn’t help, was just an excuse to use spy tropes). The combination of Bucky, a ‘serious’ spy who secretly has to admit how much of his serious spywork is just fun and vicarious power fantasy, partnered with Clint, the Fool who makes a mockery of the very power fantasy (Another scene worth bringing up is the explosion. Bucky gets a self serious speech about strategy that feels pure power fantasy. Makes him seem like the ultimate badass (even the luck statement basically serves to make a point that what Bucky is doing is that dangerous). Then Clint makes him look foolish by landing in top of Bucky by breaking all the rules and relying entirely on luck.) The double act between these two is fantastic.

    Also, while I’m talking about the ludricous nature of spy tropes, I remember hearing that in the Cold War, spies would be sent in fake missions to pick up dead drops because spying was so, so boring that they needed something to do or they’ll go insane. Which just proves that John le Carre is just as fantastic as Bond. Only fantastic in different ways

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