Tales of Suspense (Vol. 1) #53

Credits:

Cover Date: May 1964

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Sol Brodsky

“The Black Widow Strikes Again!”

Plotter: Stan Lee

Scripter: Don Rico (credited as N. Korok)

Penciller: Don Heck

Inker: Don Heck

“The Way It Began”

Plotter: Stan Lee

Scripter: Larry Lieber

Penciller: Larry Lieber

Inker: Paul Reinman

What’s Going On?

In “The Black Widow Strikes Again,” the Black Widow steals a top-secret military device, and her ultimate goal is the destruction of Tony Stark! And probably capitalism, because she’s a Communist.

In “The Way It Began,” we learn the origin of the mysterious Watcher, and why he is pledged to observe and not interfere in events.

Details:

In “The Black Widow Strikes Again”:

  • On the run from the Russians after her failure last issue, the Black Widow is eager to get back in Moscow’s good graces. Luckily for her, she spots a newspaper article about a Tony Stark invention that the Soviets would love to get their hands on!

  • Her plan is to flirt/seduce Tony and steal the anti-gravity device. And, despite realizing that she was a Soviet spy last issue, Tony falls for it!

  • Tony genuinely welcomes her, despite her efforts to kill Iron Man before.

  • To the surprise of absolutely no one (except Tony Stark), the Black Widow plays a trick on Tony and steals his device.

  • Stealing the anti-gravity device appears to buy Natasha some leeway with regards to any Russian agents trying to kill her. However, she is instructed to destroy Iron Man and Tony Stark before returning to Russia.

  • The Black Widow strikes quickly, causing havoc at various Stark Industry factories. Iron Man is able to mitigate some of the damage, but Natasha is striking without a clear pattern, so he is unable to predict where she will strike next.

  • Meanwhile, some other Communist agents approach Natasha with an updated plan: after destroying Stark and Iron Man, she is to rob Fort Knox!

  • Thanks to the clumsiness of Natasha’s new cohorts, Iron Man is able to track the Communists down. Unfortunately for him, Black Widow has practiced enough with the anti-gravity device to use it against him in a fight.

  • Iron Man survives that battle, and follows the Black Widow to Fort Knox. There, he manages to remotely destroy the anti-gravity device, thus ending the Black Widow’s threat. She manages to avoid capture, though.

In “The Way It Began”:

  • While observing surgeons trying to save a random person’s life, the Watcher reflects that he has the knowledge to help, but he is pledged to not interfere. It wasn’t always that way, though…

  • Long ago, the advanced alien race of the Watcher decided it would help less advanced species.

  • The first planet the Watchers visited was Prosilicus. The Watchers gave the Prosilicans the secret of nuclear power.

  • The next time the Watchers passed by Prosilicus, though, they were shocked by the results of their “gift;” the Prosilicans used nuclear weapons to destroy their own civilization.

  • The Watchers then vow to never interfere with other species, and only observe them.

Is It Good?

It’s not very good, but there is a certain cheesy charm to this issue. The pseudoscience —- especially Tony not following the scientific method in his experiment —- is hilariously bad. The fact that Tony allows himself to be tricked so easily by the Black Widow was also entertainingly dumb. On the other hand, it was nice to see the Black Widow quickly prove to be a formidable enemy, and not just a “Mata Hari” type.

As for the Watcher back-up story, it was pretty heavy-handed. It does explain the Watcher oath of non-interference, though, so at least it serves a purpose. It seems bizarre, though, that this story was featured in this title. Until now, the Watcher has only appeared in Fantastic Four stories, so it would have made more sense for this to appear in the pages of Fantastic Four or maybe the Human Torch-led Strange Tales.

Continuity:

  • Black Widow last appeared in Tales of Suspense #52.
  • We usually see Tony needing to charge his chest plate, but this time, he is charging his entire Iron Man armor.

  • This is the first appearance of a lot of Watcher-related things: the Watcher home planet, the Watcher High Tribunal, Ikor (Uatu’s father), the alien planet Prosilicus, and the Prosilican alien race.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • Oh yes, this is the sort of thing a scientist and inventor would do: put together an experiment that is improperly documented and unrepeatable.

  • “Welp, I can’t reproduce this result. Better try to sell it to the government!”

  • Tony, you’re lying to yourself. Iron Man didn’t defeat Boris —- it was Professor Vanko. And you didn’t let Black Widow go last issue —- she escaped. But I totally believe that you believe this nonsense.

  • Sure, Tony. You knew she was up to no good. Suuuuuure.

  • Why didn’t the Russians have Natasha bring the stolen device directly to them? Of course, the reader realizes that they probably won’t be able to replicate it, but the Russians don’t know that.
  • Ah, yes…”delta rays.” That sounds like something you can scrub your armpits with.

  • Well, it turns out that giving knowledge isn’t the same as implementing it. The lesson from this failure is never help anyone.

Well, That Aged Poorly:

  • Let me finish that sentence for you, Mr. Narrator: “So…shut up, and knock off your sexist bullshit.”

  • Remember, kids: compassion is an inherently American trait that confuses other nationalities!

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