Patrick: One of the universal experiences of the comic book reader is the gradual sense that you’re actually getting to know these characters. Readers watch them grow and evolve, and there’s frequently running voiceover to add extra context to their actions. You ever notice that comic fans are much quicker to refer to Superman as “Clark” than people that just know him as a cultural icon? Surely, everyone knows that Superman is Clark Kent, but only those of us that feel close to him would have the audacity to use his first name. But what happens when a comic series actively keeps the protagonist’s perspective at arm’s length? Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto’s Black Widow shows off a Natasha Romanova that can only really be herself when hidden from everyone else. That includes Bucky Barnes, the Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D., you and me. Continue reading →
Today, Suzanne and Spencer are discussing Black Widow 12, originally released November 19th, 2014.
Suzanne: Have you ever looked at your job description six months into a new job and chuckled to yourself? Rarely do expectations and generally-worded guidelines from corporate align themselves with real-life experiences. How about that summer internship when you felt more like a barista than a business student? Natasha Romanova feels your pain in Black Widow 12, as jobs constantly pull her away from her preferred role as a spy. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing Black Widow 7, originally released June 4th, 2014.
Shelby: Sometimes it takes other people to really see something about a character. Seeing a character’s actions and internal monologue when it’s separate from others can almost numb you towards that character’s actions. It’s with the inclusion of another point of view that you suddenly realize the character is not all right, or that they need more help than even they realize. If there’s any character out there who needs more help than they realize, it’s gotta be Nathan Edmondson’s Black Widow.
Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Punisher 4, originally released April 2nd, 2014.
Patrick: I can’t think of a superhero with a more troubling psychological origin story than Frank Castle. The circumstances are as cliche as they come: Frank’s family is murdered, driving him to take revenge on those responsible. But Frank’s able to abstract that responsibility and extend it to All Criminals. Very pointedly, he is not an agent of justice, and he’s not looking to make anything right — his goals and his ideology are so neatly wrapped up in his code name. Punisher. Obviously, his approach requires a horrifically oversimplified view of criminals, there’s no room for mercy or subtlety. But that also means there’s no room for complication: Frank’s MO is too pure for corruption. The world around Punisher isn’t so simple, and as issue four simultaneously focuses in Frank’s character and broadens out to illuminate his world, it’s clear that he’s up against threats on a scale totally inappropriate for a street-level executioner.
Today, Shelby and Spencer are discussing Black Widow 4, originally released March 12th, 2014.
Shelby: I have a friend who’s having a frustrating time at work. Her department and position is currently transitioning to something different, so until everything is finalized she’s working two different positions. I can see how, from a management perspective, that would be the perceived best way to transition someone into a new job. For her, though, it just means she’s two jobs to do instead of one, and instead of focusing on one or the other she has to half-ass both. I think one of the toughest things about managing a company is avoiding situations like my friend’s. You have to be able to manage your people in such a way that they are able to do their tasks to the best of their abilities. It’s important to diversify and grow the skills of your employees, but not at the cost of prohibiting them from doing their actual job, especially if that job is being one of the world’s greatest spies.
Today, Spencer and Greg are discussing Punisher 2, originally released February 19th, 2014.
Spencer: As Frank explains in Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads’ The Punisher 2, there’s a strata of villains too big for the cops to handle, but not big enough for the superheroes to take notice of. This is the league of villains the Punisher usually goes up against — the kind that can give him a proper fight — but it looks like all that’s about to change. Not only are the Howling Commandos on Frank’s tail, but the Dos Soles gang also has a powerful new weapon that’s out of Frank’s usual league; this is some definite superhero-level business Punisher’s got himself tangled up in here.
Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing Black Widow 3, originally released February 5th, 2014.
Taylor: Home is a powerful concept for most people. It engenders ideas of safety, retreat, relaxation and rejuvenation. It’s a place to hang up your coat at the end of the day and somewhere where you’re allowed to live exactly how you want. In short, home is that place you go where you just feel good. However, if you’re Black Window, the concept of home can be a bit more complicated. Having lived a life that is defined by violence, the ideas of safety and retreat aren’t exactly well known to Natasha and with that comes an unusual view on the idea of home. In Issue 3 of Black Widow, Natasha ruminates on the idea of home and in the process learns a little something about herself along the way. With the spectacular artwork of Phil Noto accompanying the story, how could this issue be anything but great?
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Punisher 1, originally released February 5th, 2014.
Drew: What defines a character? This is a question at the crux of many narratives, but takes on an added importance in comics, where characters may be written by different writers, and the grind of publishing stories into perpetuity may squeeze characters into ever stranger situations. Is Superman still Superman if he doesn’t wink at the end of his stories? What if he doesn’t wear a cape? What about Batman? Is it still a Batman story if it takes place in Iowa? How many of these details can change before the character is no longer recognizable as the character? Editor Jake Thomas acknowledges this phenomenon directly in the letters page of Punisher 1, where he suggests that Punisher is remarkably capable of being put in different scenarios while staying true to his character. Unfortunately, I see that flexibility as emblematic of Punisher’s lack of distinguishing characteristics, and this issue does little to convince me otherwise. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Spencer are discussing Black Widow 2, originally released January 22nd, 2014.
Shelby: I have lived alone for a little over 3 years. Like anything, living alone has its pros and cons. I love having space that is completely mine, that I can do anything I want with because I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself. I’m a pretty independent person, and living alone is a part of that. On the other hand, sometimes being alone is just really lonely, and at the end of the day I just want someone else to be around. Even with that loneliness, I prefer living alone; having to share my space with someone all the time seems like a weird idea, now. I almost can’t imagine letting someone in to my life and space like that anymore. For Natasha Romanov, being alone is just a part of the job description, which makes it easy enough to carry into her personal life as well. Continue reading →
Today, Ethan and Shelby are discussing Black Widow 1, originally released January 8th, 2014.
Ethan: Adult life teaches you to juggle. Whether it’s as a stay-at-home parent, working a 9-to-5, or holding down more than one job at the same time, everything comes down to how well you can keep it all in the air. There’s the work-life balance, figuring out how to be in a serious relationship, managing different personalities in the office — there’s never a shortage of things to keep you on your toes. Natalia Romonova, aka Natasha, aka Black Widow knows a thing or two about this, though her version of finding balance is a bit more exotic and demanding than most. That is, unless YOUR average day involves infiltration and throwing people out of windows. Continue reading →