TALES OF SUSPENSE #104 / Writer: Matthew Rosenberg / Artist:Travel Foreman / Color Artist: Rachelle Rosenberg / Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles / Cover Art: Yasmine Putri / Publisher: Marvel / April 18, 2018
Black Widow turns the tables on absolutely everyone, including her friends, in the action packed conclusion to Rosenberg and Foreman’s Tales of Suspense. All the best pieces are there. A body count of epic proportions, explosions, sharp snappy banter, assassin ballerinas, and a talking bear fill the pages as deliciously as one would expect. More importantly, this issue equals so much more than the sum of its parts. After you finish, you realize you’ve just witnessed an effortless blending of trauma fallout mixed with a fight for hope, hope for our friends and the future. Tales of Suspense #104 leaves the reader remembering that justice doesn’t have to be pretty as it rises from the ashes of a world gone very, very wrong.
Black Widow is nothing short of a dispassionate avenging angel of death in Tale of Suspense #104, which is just how I like her. The Red Room is back in business, with a new nefarious death defying/life-giving twist. It’s truly horrific. Natasha is known for being emotionally detached and that character trait shines through in this issue. She stops at nothing, including nearly killing her old loves, Hawkeye and Winter Soldier, to execute her murderously effective plan.
From the start Clint and Bucky have been playing catch up, and Tale of Suspense #104 is no different. Missing an arm and a bow, these two continue on with their insults and gallows humor in an attempt to catch up and suss out Black Widow’s plan. By issue’s end, we see both of these talented men well out of their depth, just as the started in the first issue. Their reactions to all of this bloodshed and chaos speaks truthfully to the heart of their characters. Clint’s reactions, page after page, reinforce the idea that he might just be too good to have any place in Natasha’s world. On the flip side, Bucky sees Nat’s plan for what it is, setting in with his signature grim determination to assist her in laying waste to the Red Room (and beyond??).
Apparently there are shipper-y feelings about how Tales of Suspense #104 ends. For me, none of that matters. None of it. HydraCap decapitated Nat. Say it with me, loud enough for the people in the back. “HydraCap decapitated Nat.” That’s a mountain that cannot be moved, blown up, or flown over. Somehow, Natasha is back in the living world. As she rightly sees it, the only response is to rise up and push back hard in hopes of saving and protecting any good that remains. I don’t blame the boys for going to the ends of the earth to find her, it’s what we do for our friends. But I’m with Nat on this one, she never asked for them to do it and nothing about the situation is about them. That’s a tough truth to take.
The emotional weight is carried by the men in Tales of Suspense #104 and everything about the art reinforces this reality. Early in the issue there’s a strong two page spread built entirely out of 16 small, precise rectangular panels. Alternating cool tones during Hawkeye and Winter Soldier’s storyline for warm tones during Natasha’s storyline proves an easy and effective way to contrast two concurrent storylines. More importantly, it kept my eyes marching across the page. The energy in this spread was snappy but not chaotic, reminding the reader that Widow has a plan and those pieces are falling into place in an orderly fashion.
Rachelle Rosenberg also pulls off a sweet twist with her use of color. Most of the panels with the boys are colored in cool blues and greens. Yet, the boys are the ones carrying the emotional weight in this story; cool and detached are two words completely foreign to their arc in this issue. On the flip side, most of Natasha’s panels in early in the issue are colored with warm red and orange tones. Usually warm tones are related to passion and fire. By flipping the script with the color choices, reinforcing the truth that Nat’s plans are not easily mapped out.
The entire Tales of Suspense series is a gem, containing hidden gags and clever visual touches. Past examples include a sandwich being thrown at people on the street and Clint chugging from a milk carton like a slob. This time, a particular visual detail caught my eye. Natasha fights in flat footed boots. Flat. Footed. Boots. For the love of all that is good in this world, I’m going to cheer for this and let me tell you why. Too many comic women fight in heels, or wedge boots. It drives me crazy. Fighting in heels or wedge boots is nonsensical. Would Batman fight in wedges? How about stilettos? Hell no, an elevated heel’s sole purpose is to change the shape of the woman’s leg to make it more appealing to men. For women readers, at least the women readers I know, seeing a woman kick so much ass (and boy does she ever) in flat footed boots is gratifying. Hats off to Travel Foreman and Rachelle Rosenberg for defining Natasha, at least visually, in a way that reminds the reader, even the males ones, “It’s not about you.”
Tales of Suspense #104 perfectly balances the gritty, bloody determination of Black Widow with the perpetually on-their-heels Hawkeye and Winter Soldier, resulting in a thoroughly satisfying story worth your time.
VERDICT: 5 out of 5 Ferocious Flat-Footed Kicks to the Face
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.