Black Widow #5 (Marvel Comics)
It’s no secret by now that Mark Waid and Chris Samnee have the magic touch. From Daredevil to The Rocketeer to now Black Widow, the two have now earned their place in the halls of “great writer and artist pairings” in the Comic Book Hall of Fame. Waid and Samnee’s Black Widow has been a very different book than the one that Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto presented to us before Secret Wars, but in a lot of ways, it’s just as good as that series.
Like in previous issues of Black Widow, we’re still being given little pieces of what exactly Natasha Romanoff has done to get her into so much hot water with S.H.I.E.L.D. If this were any writer other than Mark Waid, I’d start to become very annoyed by this point. However, Waid is able to use this bit of giving out small bits of information masterfully. We get just enough information to help the issue, but not so much that the central mystery is ruined. For example, this issue the only real insight we gain is that whatever Black Widow has done that her enemies are keeping over her is going to piss off her Avengers teammates a lot. And now that they’ve leaked some of the information to Tony Stark, he’s on his way to get some answers from Natasha.
As good as Waid’s script is, this issue is, once again, Chris Samnee’s artistic playground. Samnee does a phenomenal job with this issue, much like every other issue of Black Widow, Daredevil, or literally anything else he draws. Samnee’s panels and layouts are filled with tons of dynamic action. It’s so good that Samnee even pulls off a thrilling car chase in a comic, something that’s practically unheard of.
Marvel’s current output for comics isn’t great (to put it mildly), but Waid and Samnee’s Black Widow is one of the few truly stellar titles that the publisher puts out. It’s a tense, smart spy thriller in the Marvel Universe, and demands all of your time and money. Buy it!
Hellblazer Rebirth #1 (DC Comics)
While John Constantine’s previous DC series was a major step in the right direction for the character, moving him out of London and into New York City always felt off. Now with DC’s Rebirth initiative, new creative team Simon Oliver and Moritat have the perfect excuse to return to deeply troubled sometimes Magician to his native London, and possibly even make him act more in line with the character’s early Vertigo days.
Well, the Vertigo days may still be behind him, but the John Constantine in Hellblazer Rebirth is just as much of a conniving charismatic a-hole as he’s ever been. Simon Oliver’s script reveals what sent Constantine packing to New York City, and just how bad it is: the longer John stays in London, the bigger the chance that he’ll die as his soul leaves his body. Returning home with a plan, Constantine is able to conjure a spell that removes the curse, but has it infect the entire population of London. But John’s not going to let the demon kill millions of people, is he?
Simon Oliver’s script does a great job of keeping you guessing, even when it comes to whether or not John Constantine is willing to let a city full of people die to save his hide. Oliver’s Constantine has a lot in common with the classic Vertigo interpretation of the character, but it is a little bit of a bummer to see John’s language get covered up by skulls and crossbones.
Moritat handles the artwork for this issue, and while it’s not very detailed, he does a fantastic job of showing off the various emotions of our main characters. John goes from being the smarmy cad we love to showing some actual regret at certain times in this issue, and Moritat’s depiction of the demon that cursed John is a really cool and visually striking design as well.
Even though he’s not as “mature” as the Vertigo Hellblazer, there’s still a lot to like with this take on John Constantine. More so than the previous run, it seems like this version has more in common with Matt Ryan’s awesome take on the character from the underrated Constantine show. Fans of that show, or even Hellblazer fans who were turned off by moving John Constantine into the DC universe should give this a try. There’s a lot to like here.