Great Graphic Novels 2015 Noms: Spies and Assassins

by Tessa

Read about the whys of this series here.

SPY/ASSASSIN STORIES

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Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread, Volume 1

Nathan Edmondson, writer

Phil Noto, artist

Marvel

Anticipation/Expectation Level: I like Black Widow comics well enough, even though sometimes I’m bored by the spy genre.

My Reality: Much like the delightful Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja, this follows the adventures of Black Widow in her non-Avengers life (and it does offer a nice Hawkeye cameo). Natasha is taking assassin or recovery jobs and trying to pick the lesser of many evils in so doing, trying to atone for her mercenary former life. Her only friend is her accountant and a stray cat. Over the course of the book the separate jobs she takes start to connect with each other and affect her. She starts to rethink isolating herself from other people.

Noto draws a vivid, stylized world. Black Widow as incarnated here is more realistic and believable, a great marriage with her characterization – tough, stubborn, smart, and sad, but still quippy. I wish the major theme hadn’t been hammered into every issue collected here. Read together, it is tiring to be told over and over what is implicit in the action. Otherwise, it’s a tangled, intriguing start to a series that is worth following.

Will Teens Like It?: Sure.

Is it “great” for teens?: Yeah.

Art Taste:

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Zero V 1: An Emergency

Ales Kot, writer

Michael Walsh, Tradd Moore, Mateus Santoluoco, Morgan Jeske, Jordie Bellaire, artists

Image

Anticipation/Expectation Level: None

My Reality: I was neutral on this – it wasn’t bad, in fact it was a serviceable spy story, just not what I enjoy –  until the last issue, when there was a surprising twist. I read this in October so I don’t remember much of the story. It’s set in the near future, involves a man named Edward Zero who is a spy and is starting to realize that he doesn’t trust the people he works for, and each issue is drawn by a different artist. And now Ales Kot is writing a new story for a pilot TV show based on this.

I like watching different artists do interpretations of characters in a story. Um…. yep. That’s all I have to say.

Will Teens Like It?: Sure

Is it “great” for teens?: I feel like I have to read the 2nd volume to gauge where the story is going to say whether I think it’s great. It looks like it’s going somewhere interesting. But right now I’d say it’s so forgettable to me that it’s not great, just pretty good verging on very good.

Art Taste:

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kingsman

The Secret Service: Kingsman

Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, writers? – not clear from The Internet

Dave Gibbons, artist

Marvel

I’m far down on the holds list for the one copy of this book, and don’t expect to get it any time soon. It’s now a movie. My guess is that it reads like a book that was written to be a movie and that it’s not that great. Especially as it was originally published by Icon. In fact, I might cancel my hold, because this is not my favorite type of story to read, and the movie connection will be enough for many people to check this out, so I don’t feel like I need to write about it either way.

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5 Reasons to make Night of the Comet the next 80s movie you watch

If you’re the type who needs convincing, here are some

Reasons Why You Should Watch Night of the Comet (1984)

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screenshots and review by Tessa

 

1. You’re sick of the classic 80s movies.

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Ok so, Night of the Comet isn’t OBSCURE – it has a whole fan site devoted to it. It was shown at an art museum. But it’s not on the level of Weird Science or other stuff that would automatically get namechecked in, say, Ready Player One. I’m getting old and I need to branch out into lesser-known fare from the 80s in order to satisfy my craving for 80s movies. Often this means watching the quality of the film degrade, in plot or acting or both, trying to find some small part of the film to make it worth watching (usually the clothes and/or hairstyles). Not so here.

 

2a. You like Linda Hamilton doppelgangers.

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Catherine Mary Stewart has the big blue eyes, strong jaw, tawny hair, and toughness of Linda Hamilton. Her character, Regina, is the daughter of a military-career-obsessed father. Her mom is dead and her stepmother is mean. She’s learned to take care of herself as much from her dad as from his absence –  and gets fun where she can take it – like keeping the top 10 slots on her favorite video game at work (a movie theater) filled with her initials. Her only deep bond is with her younger sister, so she has a protective and friendly side as well.

 

2b. Sisters!

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It’s great to see loving sisterly relationships portrayed. Regina and Samantha are totes believable as siblings. Regina has the older sister leading her way into the world thing down, where she makes mistakes and worries about her sister. Samantha, being the younger sister, is more carefree . She’s happy to be a sardonic blonde cheerleader type – tough & bubbly – and she wants to make her own decisions but kinda enjoys being in the protected zone. And R&S are close enough in age that they are also friends and can razz on each other without it becoming big drama. Except in the case of boyfriend-poaching which, if they both survive the cometpocalypse, will probably become a deep seated neurosis for Samantha in her adult life.

Overall, the main peeps were well-written and came off as characters. The zombies and the stepmom were pretty much evil though.

 

3. You’re into great 80s fashion.

 

I’ll start at the boots:

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And raise you legwarmers and spandex:

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Finishing with the irresistible shopping-at-the-mall-cuz-everyone-in-the-world-is-dust-or-zombies montage

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4. You want a post-apocalyptic movie that is as silly as it is gritty.

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The premise of the movie is that the Earth is in the path of a comet’s huge elliptical orbit – not the actual comet, but its emanations or whatever. The last time it hit earth the dinosaurs died, but everyone thinks that’s a coincidence. Most people are outside watching the comet when it passes through, and are pretty much instantaneously dried out and turned to dust.

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The ones who were partially exposed become zombie-like. They go a little crazy and kill and eat people, but they can also talk and reason, up to a certain point in the progression of… whatever it is. A virus? A bacteria? An environmental thing? It’s transmitted through the air. People who weren’t exposed at all are okay… or are they?  Some selfish scientists are trying to figure it out.

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The scientists also like legwarmers.

The actual science is, as you may expect, vague, and its resolution is in keeping with that vagueness. Scientific clarity isn’t really the point – the setup is a great background for seeing empty city streets and setting up alternately silly and scary situations, but with a SPOILER ALERT happy ending — that has our characters totally not worried about things like gas, and continuing to put things in the trash as if there were garbage collection still happening.  Walking Dead it ain’t.  Still, the zombies are scary – there aren’t very many, but the fact that they retain brain function for a while makes them trickier to deal with.  And the human characters can also be scary – Doris, the stepmother, punches Samantha in the face, and the scientists give off a vibe that made me feel uneasy – like they were losing their minds but they didn’t know it, and so had to be watched at all times.  There’s even a plot twist that faked me out and made me think that the writer/director was really being gutsy.

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5. You want a soundtrack chock full of smooth 80s jams.

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Everyone is constantly listening to the radio on giant boomboxes or in their car, and the songs are uniformly full of spiraling saxophones and pulsating keyboard chords. (The shopping montage features a non Cyndi Lauper version of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.)

BONUS: Because empty cities are a little thrilling.

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