TALES OF SUSPENSE #100 / Writer: Matthew Rosenberg / Artist: Travel Foreman / Color Artist: Rachelle Rosenberg / Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles / Cover Art: Marco Checchetto / Publisher: Marvel / December 20, 2017
Everyone remembers the divisiveness of 2017’s Secret Empire. For those of us not charmed by the concept—never mind its execution—the idea of paying hard-earned money to read a story spun from that series was inconceivable. Enter my pals at my @SourceComicGame, specifically my comic book fairy godsister, @lisasnaps. She endured my side eye judgement of all that HydraCap foolishness, so when she tipped me off to this new story in October, I was suspicious. What good could follow that ridiculous storyline? Why would I want to pay to play in that world?
It’s not a stretch to guess the folks at Marvel knew it might take a few shiny lures to get like-minded readers to bite at anything post–HydraCap. Honestly, how could they do it? First, no HydraCap in sight? I see you. Second, tell me I’ll get Winter Soldier and Hawkeye, a mismatched pair if I ever I saw one? My girlish heart is listening. Third, dangle the possibility that Natasha didn’t actually die at HydraCap’s hand? Keep going. Name it Tales of Suspense and get Rosenberg and Foreman to do the story and art? Ok Marvel, you win, you’ve reeled me back in.
Hello, Tales of Suspense, my shiny new obsession.
The story opens on Clint Barton attending a funeral. Between musing that drinks should be served before a funeral starts and the fact that he’s buried too many friends, in the space of a few pages, he…insults the deceased, gets in a fight with a former HYDRA slimeball and the slimeball’s henchmen, punches the undertaker, knocks over the deceased’s coffin, and accidentally burns the entire funeral home to the ground. That’s one way to make an entrance. Clint’s not really willing to own up to the chaos he caused; all he really wanted was a lead on the mysterious assassin strategically taking out fascist HYDRA creepers, like the deceased, all around the globe.
Barton heads off to Chernaya, cracks a joke about Calvin & Hobbes, and purposely gets himself arrested at a march in front of the U.S. Embassy so he can sneak inside. Catching up with his old funeral pal and HYDRA stooge, Peter Antone, Hawkeye accidentally protects Antone from an assassin’s bullet. Cue the awkwardness as the assassin spitting bullets is the Winter Soldier. Meet cute!! What are the chances Everyone’s Favorite Spysassin (my words) and Everyone’s Favorite Malibu Avenger (Bucky’s words, not mine) would meet in the middle of a HYDRA fool’s office in the middle of the U.S. Embassy in Chernaya? Actually, the chances are good as both men are tracking the mysterious assassin hunting and killing HYDRA.
Of course both men dislike each other. Of course both men operate very differently. Of course both men dated Natasha at one point. Of course. This is the formula for nearly every funny buddy road movie ever, at least at the start. It may feel a little formulaic; I mean, it is a variation on a meet cute, but it works because Hawkeye and Winter Soldier are surely an Odd Couple in the making.
Sorting out everyone’s intents and purposes takes a comic turn until it all blows up in their faces. Literally.
There are myriad reasons to grab this issue and jump into the series. First, I’ve got to speak on the art of Travel Foreman and Rachelle Rosenberg. They cleverly drape the issue’s opening scene, the funeral, in shades of Clint’s signature black and purple. As the situation escalates, as he loses control, those cool colors drip away and burn with reds and oranges, reinforcing just how hard Clint has crashed and burned in his latest attempt at being a spy.
Near the end of the issue, we get another beautiful series of frames. Focus on the page when Bucky and Clint meet/clash/fight. It starts at a distance, as if we are watching from across the room. We’re safe. Right? No. The bottom half of the page violently captures Bucky’s tackle dive into Clint. The best part is as the juxtaposition of this visual attack with Clint’s narration/introduction of Bucky: “Bucky Barnes, A.K.A. the Winter Soldier, A.K.A. the Beaker to Captain America’s Bunsen Honeydew, A.K.A. Former U.S. Child Soldier Turned Russian Killing Machine Turned Unbelievably Pompous Jerk…Oh, and he’s also Nat’s ex-boyfriend.” I mean, what is this? Even in the middle of beating each other down, the snark flows freely.
As it should.
Then, there’s Natasha, the reason these two handsome heroes are in the same office in a country on the other side of the world. Clint’s convinced the evidence points to Natasha being alive and being the mysterious assassin. Bucky believes Natasha is long dead; he just wants to know who is mimicking her style. Both want answers. We want answers too.
I’m a little frustrated that Tales of Suspense is not even a full length series. This Red Ledger arc is a whopping five issues. That’s barely enough to find an audience, never mind let that audience build. Honestly, without a strong recommendation by my Comic Book Store Fairy Godsister, I might have passed on this gem. It spun off from a series I didn’t like. I wasn’t the only one. Fingers crossed that this story pushes past people’s concerns to find an enthusiastic and vocal audience willing to pay. I can’t be the only one!
Verdict: 5 out 5
I’m a curious, creative, comic(al) woman. I am unapologetically Team Cap, but not HydraCap because there is a line in the moral sands of the universe and that whole thing is on the other side of it. I teach high school students all about the joys of mythology through comic books, graphic novels, and films. I wandered into the comic book world in 2015 and is a proud member of the #DoYouEvenComicBook gang.