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Black Widow: The Itsy-Bitsy Spider & Black Panther: Who is The Black Panther


By Devin Grayson and Greg Rucka (Authors), V.G. Jones and Scott Hampton (Illustrators) Marvel Comics (Publisher)

Natalia “Natasha” Romanova is one of those characters who can be very easily underestimated. As the Black Widow, she was introduced as a Russian spy who eventually turned from serving her country to serving the world as a member of the Avengers. And while many writers have struggled to “get a handle” on the character, Devin Grayson and Greg Rucka have proven that, when done properly, the Black Widow can be a most excellent protagonist. In the first of two stories that originally debuted nearly a decade before the character’s appearance in the film Iron Man 2, Grayson spins a tale of a haunted heroine, still young in body but much older in her soul, on a mission to stop a deadly bio-toxin. A complication arises in the form of Yelena Belova, the first graduate of the program that produced Romanova to beat her scores, now out to prove herself as a new Black Widow. Pragmatic as ever, Romanova continues the mission ... in her own inimitable way. In the second tale, aptly named “Breakdown,” Grayson and Rucka give us both spies in a tale reminiscent of the film Face/Off. Belova wakes up in the body of Romanova and, before she can get a handle on what’s going on, is given a mission: to kill Yelena Belova! This twisted psychological adventure goes a long way to remind people that Romanova is an espionage agent, not a superhero. The art style shifts between the two stories: V.G. Jones’ crisp, realistic lines in the first tale echo the certainty and clear visions of the characters. In the second tale, Scott Hampton’s bright, softly-painted imagery evokes the odd reality of the story. If you’re a fan of the movies and want to really understand what motivates the Black Widow, this collection is a great buy.


By Reginald Hudlin (Author) and John Romita Jr. (Illustrator) Marvel Comics (Publisher)

From 1998 to 2003, Christopher Priest reinvented how the world perceives the Black Panther with adventure stories heavily influenced by contemporary politics. In 2005, Reginald Hudlin continued the trend with new tales in the same vein of T’Challa, king of Wakanda. In Who Is the Black Panther?, Hudlin combines the past and the present, continuing Priest’s method of showing how Wakanda’s proud history of having never been conquered continues to cause problems for it in the modern world. The tale’s opening sequences makes the point: Wakanda has been sending invaders home in body bags since the dawn of time. A 5th century raid by a rival tribe goes awry, courtesy of giant crossbows unseen in the rest of the world for another five centuries. A World War II clash between Wakanda’s king—T’Challa’s grandfather—and Captain America doesn’t end well for Cap. In the present day, Hudlin tells a tale of how the United States, allied with other nations, is uncertain how to handle an African nation that remains technologically and culturally superior to the Western world. The”obvious” solution? Regime change. Hudlin weaves a tale that blends race, cultural identity, world politics and family dynamics into a superb storyline that adds depth and historical texture to the reader’s perception of Wakanda. The art of John Romita Jr. adds to those family dynamics and rich history as Romita, who is comic book royalty himself, pours his own talent and that of his father, John Romita Sr., onto the page in crisp, almost subdued tones that are perfect for the tale. If you can’t wait until Captain America: Civil War hits theaters, this book is a good way to whet your appetite.

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