I’ve greatly enjoyed Cullen Bunn and Francesco Francavilla’s “Captain America and Black Widow” story arc with its superhero-meets-spy meets time travel vibe. Issue #639 stumbles a bit with some lack of clarity in the storytelling, but the ending has a great twist that largely redeems the confusion in the book, and it nicely sets up the arc’s final issue.
Bunn has juggled Captain America, two Black Widows, countless Kashmir Vennemas and a series of alternate reality guest stars with ease until now. In this issue, it catches up with him and becomes a little confusing. There are just too many characters on the scene, plus alternate dimensions and techno babble that makes everything a bit murkier than is ideal.
Francesco Francavilla’s style is one I appreciate and find both emotionally resonant and beautiful, but there are places in this issue where it feels a bit rushed and unfinished. A panel where Natasha is missing a nose, a random odd Cap facial expression, some coloring slightly too loose, and too little background detail in too many panels. It’s still a great tonal fit for this kind of story and there are really beautiful and fun things throughout (like a double page spread portraying other worlds that speak volumes in only a sliver of one panel).
The biggest stumbling block in the book however is simply the lack of clarity in the writing and the art in one section toward the end. After three reads, I still wasn’t entirely sure I got what Bunn and Francavilla were going for. It wasn’t enough of a problem to ruin the book, but it did throw me and despite liking the rest of the issue, I have to take off points when there’s a lack of storytelling clarity at that level.
Seeing Bunn and Francavilla cut loose with the spy noir vibe on this book makes me wish we could have something like this more regularly. While this issue has not been the strongest of the run, a book like this with either noir or even horror elements with creators like this at the helm would be a great and unusual addition to Marvel’s slate.