Welcome back to the Marvel Rundown! This week, we take a look at the debut of Black Widow & Hawkeye, in a new series celebrating 60 years for both characters! This review contains MILD SPOILERS, so head on down to the Rapid Rundown for spoiler-free reviews of Ghost Rider: Final Vengeance #1 and Wolverine #45.

What did you think of this week’s batch of fresh Marvel Comics, True Believers? The Beat wants to hear from you! Give us a shout-out, here in the comment section or over on social media @comicsbeat, and let us know what you’re thinking.

Black Widow & Hawkeye #1

Writer: Stephanie Phillips 
Artist: Paolo Villanelli
Color Artist: Mattia Iacono
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover Artists: Stephen Segovia & Jesus Aburtov

During his tenure as Marvel’s editor in chief, Jim Shooter dictated that every comic should read as if it was someone’s first. It’s a rule admittedly that isn’t applicable to every comic nor does it necessarily guarantee better storytelling. If you write characters or stories tied into long running continuity, it remains good advice. It never hurts to assume maybe someone is coming in blind to your book.

Black Widow and Hawkeye #1 by Stephanie PhillipsPaolo Villanelli, and Mattia Iacono is meant to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of both characters. Since their early days featured the two characters, together why celebrate their friendship? This would have a great opportunity to tell an untold story set in their past. Maybe a story featuring the most iconic versions of them?

Unfortunately writer Stephanie Phillips sets this story at the current point in continuity. So for anyone who has not kept up either character parts of this book will be very confusing. Readers investment in this book’s various conflicts rely on their knowledge of these characters recent history. So if you aren’t aware Natasha Romanov has a symbiote or with Clint Barton’s recent history with his ex Mockingbird, you may not care.

Thankfully, Phillips’ plot is zippy enough to overcome not knowing current Marvel continuity. Natasha needs to find Hawkeye after an incident with a Russian minister. All kinds of assassin are out to kill him. And it’s an ambitious script going forwards and backwards in time in the span of 48 hours. Regardless of where they currently are, Phillips gets believable friction out of the old friends. When Clint Barton suggests they’re in an unhealthy relationship, that hits hard. It’s the real crux of a story celebrating their anniversary as characters.

Helping the action feel breathless is the art of Paolo Villanelli. The action scenes were Clint is on the run Madripoor just move. His Clint Barton is constantly in motion; leaping, hopping, and firing arrows. He handles the moment to moment storytelling by changing page layouts when time needs to go forwards or backwards. The quieter moments feel stiff by comparison. He doesn’t quite pull off facial expressions or conversations with the same verve as explosions.

It’s a fun story but definitely a BROWSE if you’re not up to speed with these characters presently.

Rapid Rundown!

  • Ghost Rider: Final Vengeance #1
    • Writer Ben Percy’s gritty style has proven to be a natural fit for the darker corners of the Marvel Universe and that continues to be obvious here in the debut of a new Ghost Rider. His penchant for pulpy narration gives everything a sense of over the top  high drama that perfectly befits a story of demons and damned souls. Danny Kim’s art and its heavy blacks are foreboding but what really stand out is how he, with the addition of Bryan Valenza’s muted colors, depicts the spirit’s Hellfire. It crackles on the page, cutting through the black ink and casting an orange glow in the perpetual night. It looks great. Percy’s script gives the artists a chance to tour the whole Marvel U and twist it into haunting and extremely cool images of temporary spirits of vengeance. Until it comes to its new and final host, which may be a surprise to those who avoid spoilers and solicits so I will save that. But it is a clever choice. VC’s Travis Lanham provides the letters, which have a sharp edge suiting the darkness of the subject matter.  I was worried that this would be too connected to Percy’s recent Ghost Rider series, which I have not caught up on. But this is a perfect standalone launch—it gives you everything you need.  This should be a fun and brutal book. – TR
  • Wolverine #45
    • Part 5 of writers Victor LaValle and Benjamin Percy’s Sabertooth War storyline continues as Wolverine hunts Sabertooth to the ruins of Krakoa. If you haven’t been reading this run you’re missing out as this has been a wild ride, besides its high body count, it’s a gruesome run, exactly what you would expect from LaValle and Percy. They’ve packed a lot into this arc with Sabertooth coming for Wolverine with his army of multiverse Sabertooths and slaughtering anyone in their way. This issue gives a little bit of a break in bloodshed but stays funky as Sabertooth searches for a secret on Krakoa using the severed head of Quentin Quire as a psychic compass. My only nitpick isn’t about the story, rather it’s that this story takes place before the Fall of X events but is running concurrently which takes away a bit of the suspense as we follow along in what I believe will be a defining moment in Wolverine’s life. —GC3

Next Week: Web of Spider-Man and X-Men Forever!


  1. The only thing that takes me out of this story is BW having a Venom symbiote – it’s odd. This should be a street level comic…I grew up on Hawkeye and Mockingbird, so that is cool….

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