Fear in a Handful of Dust by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli
One Sentence Overview: When Glorianna O'Breen's flight back to the US crashlands in the Jersey swamplands, Matt hurries to the crash site hoping his erstwhile girlfriend has survived
An interesting contrast in the art this issue - David Mazzucchelli's been inking his own work recently and it's looked pretty stunning. Here, Kim deMulder's responsible for that end of things and it's extraordinary the difference. It's not that Kim's work is bad - it isn't - but it renders the artwork somehow more bubblegum - bright and clear, perhaps nullifying to a degree the intensity of David's recent work which seems really representative of the ethos of the book. [Incidentally, I googled Kim because I hadn't heard of him and - blimey - does he have a thing for lady vampires...]
Just when I thought we'd had the last of our Irish colleen, Glori's back - and still desperately backtracking on her previous involvement with Irish terrorists. This time, though, the likes of the Gael are the least of her worries as she ends up in a plane crash and at the mercy of a particularly kooky family. The names given to the supporting cast this issue are wonderfully evocative - Dr Sadd and Junius Mudd - giving the sense that Denny's taking us into a kind of gothic horror, very well represented by the night-time swamp and forest landscape. Junius introduces us to his family - a veritable rag-bag of country folk - including his ghoulish brother, Drawley. We're very close to parody central here but actually, the whole thing's very entertainingly written.
However, despite all the macabre stuff going on, Denny wisely spends a lot of his time having Matt ruminate on his love life (never boring, this). In a nice bit of convoluted writing, it's not only Matt who's turned up to check out the plane crash - Foggy and Debbie, Glori's aunt, are also present - but the Black Widow's on the scene, having been alerted to the fact that Dr Sadd has stolen and upgraded one of Dr Fear's old potions.
It allows Matt and Tasha to yarn on their previous acquaintance. After a brief tussle, Matt quips, "We can't go on meeting like this" and Natasha rejoinders, "True, Matt, for if we do we will... fall in love again". Matt then quickly agrees that this would be a disaster. However, bless him, even being in the Widow's presence brings a little doubt into Matt's mind, even if he should be concentrating on rescuing Glorianna. Further on, seeing her in action, he ponders, "I once loved her too. Part of me still does." I'm not criticising - it's a very male thing to compartmentalise and fantasize about other women - but it seems typical of Matt's reluctance to accept the love life he already has.
Whilst Matt prevaricates over his choice of women, poor Foggy thinks momentarily that he's got a chance to get back with Debbie - Debbie appears to be uncommonly kind to Foggy when they first espy each other. Until some sugar daddy type pops out of the background and dear Mr Nelson's illusions are shattered! And just at the moment we thought Franklin had turned a corner - look, he's even mown his moustache.
The Mudd family are agreeably freakish here and there's a nice twist at the end involving Dr Sadd. Quite a fun issue with lots going on but pretty strange too.
Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff
Dr Ephesus Sadd
Rating: 8 out of 10