Daredevil is over, long live the Daredevil creative team.
Chris Samnee and Mark Waid, the two collaborators who defined modern-era Daredevil, are never going to work together again…right? We’ll never see the two work together on a comic as perfect as Daredevil until the end of time…wait the duo is back for Black Widow? Colorist Matthew Wilson and letterer VC’s Joe Caramagna are returning as well? There’s even a new chapter of Avengers Standoff this week? Quick, que The Marvel Rundown!
Avengers Standoff: Assault on Pleasant Hill Alpha #1
Writer: Nick Spencer Artist: Jesus Saiz Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles
I could feel Nick Spencer cackling in the margins of the first chapter of Pleasant Hill. The series writer set up a (seemingly) predictable premise and followed it up with something that felt completely out of left field (unless you have an index of the Marvel Universe implanted in your head). How does he follow it up? By creating another amazing one-shot, that’s how.
The opening scene here is a lovely flashback to Spencer’s work on the Superior Foes of Spider-Man. From there, the writer uses a few lines of exposition and interesting visuals to close a large dangling plot thread that cements this series firmly within the All-New, All-Different Universe. The writing, by and large, is very strong, but because Spencer is working within the confines of a large amount of continuity, some of the many allegiance changes that happen throughout the issue as various heroes take sides in the war to come feel inexplicable.
However, a lot can be forgiven when a strong sense of humor is intact. This is something that Sam Wilson: Captain America, also written by Spencer, lacks at times. However, it comes out in spades in Pleasant Hill, and even builds upon Wilson’s character. As it turns out, the Sam Wilson series is unfortunately imperative to understanding the conflict between Wilson and Steve Rogers in Pleasant Hill, but an astute reader should be able to piece together the basics of their disagreement. However, if you can look past that and are somewhat aware of at least the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s great fun to be had in these pages.
Not to be outdone, all of Spencer’s work in this issue wouldn’t be nearly as fun without the concise lines of Jesus Saiz. The artist gets a chance to shine here with lots of different characters, locations and types of scenes. Saiz draws rich, expressive character models with real personality and has an uncanny sense of comedic timing. He’s an artist that can provide slick pencils while exaggerating the humor in Spencer’s script.
The worst thing about Avengers Standoff is how unwieldy the crossover event is as a whole. In order to get a full grasp of the event, you’ll have to pick up this book, the first issue of Pleasant Hill, All-New, All-Different Avengers, Illuminati, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Uncanny Avengers, Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Captain America: Sam Wilson followed by one last one-shot. Do you have a headache yet?
It would have been preferable to have Spencer and Saiz tell Pleasant Hill’s entire story in one straightforward limited series, but there’s Marvel for you.
Verdict: Avengers Standoff is great fun. Pick up this issue and continue reading the Marvel books you’ve already been reading that are involved in the crossover.
Black Widow #1
Writers: Chris Samnee and Mark Waid Art: Chris Samnee
Colors: Matthew Wilson Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
It only takes a quick look at Black Widow‘s sleek cover design or glorious preview pages to know that artist Chris Samnee remains a force to be reckoned with in the Marvel Universe. The Harvey award-winning creative partnership between him and Mark Waid has been so widely recognized for an astute reason: these two creators are perfectly in sync and succinctly understand the language of comics. There’s not a splash page or spread in this comic that feels wasted. The title sequence and cover perfectly showcase the content of the story that’s buried within the interior comic book pages.
It’s always been hard for me to imagine the ideal form for a Black Widow series. She’s a complicated character, but just showing her day-to-day life as a spy doesn’t make for the most interesting story. However, she had a compelling side story in Captain America: Winter Soldier that Marvel’s creators seemed to be ignoring– until now. Waid and Samnee explore this plot point from the very first panel of the very first page. The book gets off to an explosive start from there, and while this issue can certainly be read fast, readers would be shortchanging all the wonderful moments hidden in the page design, and the carefully rendered expressions of the characters themselves.
The tone here already seems similar to Daredevil, as real stakes are built into the story from the start. However, Natasha Romanov is an incredibly competent superhero who has been fighting the good fight for years; readers are spared the formative misery that plagues Matt Murdock’s story. Waid and Samnee ask more questions than they answer in this book, but I would be shocked to find anyone that wouldn’t be willing to go along for the ride after this first issue.
Verdict: Add to the pull box. This is what comics are supposed to be.
Next week we’re exploring Adam Warlock in the Marvel Universe with Infinity Entity and seeking out one of Marvel’s agents, Bobbi Morse, a.k.a. Mockingbird.
Fruit snack aficionado. @AlexandComics