Captain America & Black Widow #636

Cullen Bunn and Francesco Francavilla tell a delightfully unexpected story of Captain America and Black Widow in "Captain America and Black Widow" #636. This is not your usual superhero team-up -- it's far too interesting and cool for business-as-usual superhero antics.

Cullen Bunn's story of Black Widow and Captain America both separately on the trail of the same (or is it?) criminal rockets along, delivering intrigue after intrigue and answering little, but promising a lot before the arc ends. Bunn sets up some potentially controversial ideas, especially with Natasha's character, but there's such confidence and skill in the way he lays it all down, the writing reinforces faith that he knows exactly what he's doing and ultimately, the story will be full of strong reveals. There's a whole lot to like from the dynamic between Captain America and Hawkeye to Black Widow's matter-of-fact business acumen and their slippery and mysterious quarry. Bunn introduces a lot of compelling mysteries and if they play out half as brilliantly as this first issue, readers are in for a real treat in this run.

Francesco Francavilla has such a singularly distinctive style that it's impossible not to get caught up in the beauty of it. Fortunately, he's also a great storyteller, so his comics are sublimely cohesive and incredibly enjoyable. Francavilla is a magnificent fit for a superhero-meets-spy meets horror tale and he's a fantastic artist for Natasha, giving her a striking but almost practical beauty that goes well with her character and profession. His colors are always especially strong and this is no exception. "Captain America and Black Widow" #636 is an evocative and moody blend that's a unique and drastic palette compared to most superhero comics. It's a nice change and a perfect tonal match for Bunn's tale. A few panels here and there look slightly rushed compared to the whole, but it's a tiny nitpick in an otherwise sublime looking book.

Between this book and Matt Fraction and David Aja's "Hawkeye," I'm feeling a real love for clever, beautiful superhero comics. Like Fraction and Aja, Bunn and Francavilla seem to be doing something a little different, if only in the perfection of the execution. "Captain America and Black Widow" #636 has the kind of quality and smarts that all superhero comics should aim for.

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