Comic Book Binge

I think the recent barrage of Marvel reboots has worked its effect on me, especially the animated Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes series. Why? Well, somehow a bunch of comic books “fell” into my digital shopping cart recently.

The one I was most excited about was Hawkeye & Mockingbird: Ghosts, which collects the first six issues of the recent (and already canceled, sadly) new Heroic Age title featuring the wisecracking archer and his superspy ex. Series writer Jim McCann is clearly a Hawkeye fan, and his introduction does a great job of summarizing the archer’s appeal. The trade paperback omnibus edition also summarizes the character histories for those of us who’ve lost the continuity over the years. I enjoyed the Ghosts storyline quite a bit, and David Lopez’ artwork is great. The story pits Hawkeye and Mockingbird against individual arch-enemies, Crossfire and the Phantom Rider. The series set-up is right up my alley: Mockingbird now leads a freelance intelligence organization with a colorful cast of supporting characters, while Hawkeye tags along trying to rekindle the duo’s contentious romance: a good superhero-spy hybrid premise, perfect for me. I was sad to hear the series won’t be continuing, except for a final crossover omnibus with the other new title I checked out.

Black Widow: The Name of the Rose, scripted by bestselling author Marjorie Liu. This one didn’t work quite as well for me, but it was still fun to read a solo project featuring the notoriously side-switching Russian spy. Black Widow’s backstory appears to have undergone considerable revisions since last I visited the Avengers universe. I found the historical elements confusingly unfamiliar, and there’s some distracting Avengers crossover business. Daniel Acuna’s artwork is good, although the style isn’t entirely to my taste. I did like the dark, underworld atmosphere, though.

I suspect both titles were conceived to capitalize on the Avengers movie build-up, and I liked both, although Hawkeye & Mockingbird was more satisfying as a standalone for me. With both books, though, I found something of a minor barrier-to-reentry, since I haven’t followed the universe for twenty years. I probably wouldn’t recommend either title for people not already steeped in the lore of the characters.

On the other hand, there’s Marvels, which I would recommend to anyone with even a passing familiarity with the Marvel Universe. Written by Kurt Busiek, this standalone story is told from the point of view of photojournalist Phil Sheldon, who makes a career out of photographing superhero action in New York City from the rise of the “marvels” in the 1940s into the 1970s. It’s an effective, nostalgic trip through Marvel history with some spectacular artwork by Alex Ross. I kind of wanted it all to add up to more — there wasn’t a ton of payoff in the end — but the journey is quite engrossing.

I suspect I may be adding more comics to my rotation based on this latest binge, a fun trip down memory lane. If anyone has any recommendations, I’m all ears!

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