Short & Sweet: Princess Ugg, Black Widow, Scratch 9, and more!
Princess Ugg #2 finds Ülga facing the biggest trial of her life. She’s faced giants, war, terrible beasties, but what can she do when challenged with – posture lessons?
This issue focuses on the loneliness Ülga feels as she struggles with the daily lessons that the other princesses breeze through: embroidery, drinking tea, even archery. She is discouraged, but then finds a ray of hope in their history lessons. When their teacher points out that the princes these women hope to marry will be more interested in history than sewing, the other girls perk up, but Ülga knows this. She’s been listening to tales of warring queens and conquest all her life, and is thrilled to finally know something these stuck up princess don’t. The feeling is short-lived, however, when it comes out that Ülga doesn’t know how to write. Will she stay at the princess school? And what’s up with their teacher?
Once again the art and coloring is lovely. The princesses are of a variety of races, although it would be nice to see more diversity in body type. Naifeh’s expressions are fantastic. It’s really the traditional princess – blonde hair, light skin, and blue eyes – who are the least interesting to look at. The backgrounds hug the edge between cleanly defined and abstract, and do a great job of conveying emotion through line and color. Warren Wucinich is the colorist for this series, and it’s his work that brings me back again and again to certain panels.
James Tynion IV
Reality is starting to set in for the students of Bay Point Preparatory High School. They are no longer in suburban Milwaukee. They’re not even sure they’re on earth.
Students have died. Food is running short. There is no sign of rescue.
In this gap, chaos ensues. Five students have snuck off to follow one’s vision of a black stone, while the school splits into faculty and jocks against the rest of the students. The coach is behind much of this, and he locks the head of the student council, Maria Ramirez, into the equipment cage. Her friend is beaten when she is discovered visiting Maria, and it’s clear that this isn’t going to end well.
Things are just in bad in the woods, where one kid is bitten by a mysterious bug and something roars in the deepest shadows. The students realize they’re being hunted.
The acid colors on the covers contrast with the more subdued interiors, and really add to the surreal feel. Each student looks like a different individual, and the monster and flora design is nicely done.
“Bitter Cold” (#8) makes this run the longest self-titled ongoing series in Black Widow history. The plot is getting more and more complicated. There are subplots like Isaiah’s, Natasha’s lawyer and manager. The spy avenger is also picking more than one case at a time, leaving unfinished big ones (like the Hammer of God), to do a more straight-forward stealing job in Prague. This writing strategy, although scary to new readers, shows all of Natasha’s life, making her character more human than ever. She does not have all the answers, but she has to keep going.
In Prague, while attempting to steal a suitcase for a client, she meets the Winter Soldier, and also an unidentified gang. They are all in the same race, although each has a different goal. Black Widow and the Winter Soldier have a BFF moment and fight this criminal gang. Eventually, though, they have to go separate ways: they have different orders and are possibly working for rival clients. The reader will have to wait for next issues to know how their choice will affect them, and if they will get to meet again.
Paralleling the main story, Isaiah goes to a man who is owing money to Natasha, and uses unorthodox methods to make him pay it. He is a mystery at this point, but he doesn’t look to be too professional at this spy things – at the end of the issue, he gets caught in a terrible situation he may not survive.
Phil Noto’s art is consistent since #1, and continues to be great. In my opinion, it is the best art in all current Big Two titles. It is especially impressive how good he is with physiognomies. Romanov’s face is realistic and remarkable. It is not a face you will forget. The colouring is beautiful and, together with the softer tracing, gives a lighter feel to the images. It’s visible that Noto and Edmondson are in synchronicity.
The next issue promises to be action packed and delivers one more outstanding cover.
Rob M. Worley (W)
Joshua Buchanan (A)
Scratch 9 is cute. Not squee-inducingly adorable, but it’s easy on the eyes and it has a fine premise: Scratch is a modern-day housecat with the ability to call upon aspects of his previous nine lives to help get him out of jams. This series starts off with Scratch crash landing into the world of his prehistoric aspect, the sabertooth tiger. Then the comic backtracks to explain how he got there. He snuck off to Robo Camp in his owner’s luggage where they swiftly discover that the camp is a front for their old enemy Dr. Shrodinger, who has turned himself into a robot. When he and the doctor’s cat Strick (Strychnine. Lots of puns in this comic) get into a fight, their powers of purring and hissing collide to create a powerful explosion. This explosion is what lands him in the Ice Age.
This definitely had appeal. Worley’s Eisner nom for best all ages comic makes sense. But it didn’t hook me. I like my stories atmospheric, and this felt a bit bland. A little too much audience pandering is going on for my taste: Everyone loves cats. Everyone loves robots. Everyone loves time travel. Throwing those three ingredients in a pot sounds like it would work, but it still managed to bore me. Note to Hollywood: If you ever try to remake The Terminator, add some cats. Now THAT would be a kitty, robot, time travel crowd-pleaser.