REVIEW: Tales of Suspense #103

TALES OF SUSPENSE #103 / Writer: Matthew Rosenberg / Artist:Travel Foreman / Color Artist: Rachelle Rosenberg / Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles / Cover Art: Andrea Sorrentino / Publisher: Marvel / March 21, 2018

Does your death matter if a replacement you could exist? What’s the value of your own experiences and memories in a world where you can be easily replaced? Rosenberg and Foreman ask this question through a very alive Natasha Romanoff’s search to understand her death and new life. Tales of Suspense #103 sends the reader through many strange, disturbing, and ultimately, compelling moments in this penultimate chapter. Tales of Suspense unquestionably earns its name this month as it vividly reveals everything but how this amazing tale will end.

The bulk of the issue is told through flashback, divulging exactly how Natasha is alive and why she’s been eliminating the Red Room’s enemies. All previous issues were told from Hawkeye or Winter Soldier’s perspective. This time, it’s all Natasha and it’s glorious. Also, there’s a talking bear named Ursa Major. Obviously.

Despite revealing major plot points and character motivations, the issue takes a restrained tone. Cold, detached, precise, all perfect descriptors to Rosenberg and Foreman’s take on the Red Room. Where Winter Soldier and Hawkeye have been sprinting to keep up with the twists and turns, The Red Room reveals itself, and it’s current mission, in a clear and direct way. It’s a juxtaposition that makes me think Natasha, for all her allegiance to Mother Russia, has something amazing planned for the final issue next month.

Foreman and Rosenberg easily rise to the challenge of all that is revealed by delivering multiple stunning visual moments. The calculating cold nature of the Red Room’s true intentions is reinforced at every turn. Natasha’s fiery red hair and the blood red of the Red Room itself counters the medicinal green/utilitarian coloring present throughout the scenes set in Russia. Where the Red Room’s plans are clear, the art reinforces that clear cut nature. Straight lines. Characters drawn from an angle of strength. The panels are very box like, clear cut.

Contrast that with Natasha’s returning memories, the assassinations we’ve already seen now remembered through her perspective, her panels and pages resemble cracked broken glass. Her confusion, her struggle with her new reality and how she came to be bears out (ha) in the utter chaos of how panels and gutter are structured. The scene below captures the twisting nature of the reveals in this issue. Where we know Yelena was murdered, we didn’t see how. Now that we know, the artistic twist that leaves me feeling unbalanced was the addition of Extra Yelenas. Adding them here lends the reader an insight into Nat’s mindset in the moment she executes an old comrade. The contrast of the Extra Yelenas’ dead eye stares with Real Yelena’s wide-eyed shock was powerful. I found Foreman and Rosenberg’s choices in this scene to be riveting. 

I’ve loved how Foreman and Rosenberg brought three of my absolute favorite characters to life. Let’s be honest, after this issue, I’m really hoping Bucky considers cutting that luxurious hair (or at least braids it/pulls it back) before fighting anyone again. These three panels exemplify how seamlessly the artistic team blends plot, character, and drama. I loved the flow between the two closeup panels. One minute Bucky’s on his back and in the blink of an eye, Nat’s got him launched like a rock at Clint. Both go down in a pile of limbs. Our guys may have weapons but this set of panels visually reminds the reader that Natasha is the weapon. Quirky little visual moments like this, character building at its finest, have been everywhere in this series.

After reading Tales of Suspense #103, it seems I am destined to be contented with only five issues in this marvelous series. It delivers almost all the answers, living very little in the way of open story-lines to explore later. If you like a finely woven Black Widow story with a heavy dose of Winter Soldier vs Hawkeye snark, and humorous sight gags tucked in like sneaky Easter eggs, Tales of Suspense is clearly for you.

VERDICT: 5 out of 5 highly trained Red Room graduates

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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.

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