REVIEW: Tales of Suspense #102

TALES OF SUSPENSE #102 / Writer: Matthew Rosenberg / Artist:Travel Foreman / Color Artist: Rachelle Rosenberg / Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles / Cover Art: Yasmine Putri / Publisher: Marvel / February 21, 2018

Act III of Tales of Suspense keeps the action in NYC as the Winter Soldier and Hawkeye tumble from one lead to the next, bodies piling up in their wake, as their mission to identify the mystery assassin continues.

Yelena, another graduate of the Red Room, got herself caught by Hawkeye and Winter Soldier at the end of issue #101. Is she the one taking out the remnants of Hydra? She’s not saying much, despite Winter Soldier’s efforts at questioning and Hawkeye’s attempts at cleaning her refrigerator. Strategically retreating, Bucky and Clint leave Yelena and follow her after she leaves her apartment. Before they can figure out her next moves, she bolts on the subway, Bucky gets his gun stolen, and BANG! Their one decent lead, Yelena, lies dead on the tracks, bullet hole in her forehead.

Leads down to zero, our heroes high tail it out of the subway, Bucky reminding Clint, “I don’t have one of your Avenger ‘Get out of Jail Free’ cards.” Thankfully, Clint knows a possible lead, taking him to The TOMB a supermax prison. Clint convinces the warden to let him speak to Rodion Steshenko, a prisoner who’s been in solitary for over ten years, and he looks it, I tell you. No dental care in solitary confinement at the Tomb, I guess. Clint wants info on the Red Room, he wants leads. He implies that he’s already told the Russians that Steshenko is cooperating, so why not just go ahead and talk? Of course, Winter Soldier is right outside the complex, making his way inside. This freaks Steshenko out, as it should, and he anxiously gives up a name: Alexander Cady.

Stakeout humor, talk of sidekicks, and Winter Soldier kicking in a door like a badass lead us to Cady’s home. It’s pretty quiet You guess it, he’s already dead; bullet hole to the head and the Winter Soldier’s calling card mark left on his neck. In good luck/bad luck, it’s Winter Soldier’s gun next to the body. Grabbing the gun, they make a quick exit from this crime scene as well. Will our guys ever get ahead of this thing? I’m starting to wonder. The mystery person behind all of this is better than I anticipated. Holed up in a motel, Bucky searches for clues in a book pulled from Cady’s fireplace while, you guessed it, Clint eats food and watches football on tv. There’s high talk of spreadsheets for their new found data but neither knows what or how a spreadsheet works.

Tucked atop a high building, Winter Soldier and Hawkeye’s middle of the night stakeout is interrupted, rather violently, by Anya, aka Orphan Maker. Mistakenly believing Winter Soldier and Hawkeye are responsible for Yelena Belova and Alexander Cady, she fights to put them down. A rather intense battle shapes up between Anya and Winter Soldier, with Hawkeye doing whatever he can to get things sorted. In a moment of clarity, our guys learn the truth about the Red Room’s true mission. Just as she’s about to give the name of the assassin.. BANG! She goes down with a bullet to the forehead. The looks on their faces is pure shock when they finally come face to face with the shooter.

I say our heroes trip and tumble their way through this issue because honestly, between Bucky getting nearly framed at every death and Clint wanting to eat constantly, I’m surprised they are even alive to keep up the search. It’s not that they are incompetent, far from it. The mystery assassin is just that good. 

The Odd Couple trick, Clint eats constantly and Bucky never eats, plays for the humor this time around. The snark between the two is still sharp but the reality of an ever-increasing body count and the emotional weight that carries is not lost on our heroes. The humor, this time, helps ground the story in reality. Three times in three panels artist Travel Foreman has a half gallon of milk prominently displayed on the page. Milk. Later on it’s Clint in his socks eating chips and talking about spreadsheets and coming back from the dead. These little everyday moments help the reader take a breath in between counting the bodies as they fall.

Artwise, a few scenes really stood out strongly for me. First, at the supermax prison, the way Steshenko was drawn was particularly repulsive. No toothbrushes in solitary confinement? Pudgy, pale, crazy eyes, hackneyed teeth, he looked just like I’d imagine someone would look after getting locked up and the key thrown out.

The rooftop fight with Anya has the biggest impact. All the other scenes in this issue played out in the light of day. We are at the darkest of night. The city lights blurring to neon green as Winter Soldier battles it out with Anya. The contrast of black and green made everything feel tenuous at best, and rightly so with how it all plays out.

Where issues #100 and #101 set the table with a meaty mystery myriad side dishes of snark, #102 takes a harder edge. We are in the thick of it now. Too many bodies drop before they can share what they know. Will Hawkeye and Winter Soldier survive this mission? It’s not clear. I’m excited to see how this 5 issue series concludes.

Verdict: 5 out of 5

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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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