Captain America and two Black Widows battle to escape a wasteland dimension and catch multiverse Kingpin Kashmir Vennema in "Captain America and Black Widow" #638 by Cullen Bunn and Francesco Francavilla.
Bunn's story still hums along, but this issue feels like the slightly less exciting (but necessary) middle installment that leads to the next great reveal. Bunn does some interesting work exploring multiverse Kingpin Kashmir Vennema and all her alternate selves that work for her. It's a fascinating conceit and Bunn handles it with a subtlety that makes it all the more interesting. His two Natashas are intriguing as well, as he explores what makes them different and what makes them the same. Watching them spar with each other is something I could read for pages and pages. Captain America gets the bulk of the fighting time in this issue as he takes on some fantastic "drones" that are a visual treat thanks to artist Francesco Francavilla.
Francavilla's art continues to be a dark and evocative look that is well suited to this spy-heavy superhero tale. Francavilla particularly excels at a gorgeously painted action scene between Captain America, (and to a lesser degree) Black Widow and some Hydra-like drones that recall the greatest of Sci-Fi B-Movies minus the bad special effects. The action is effortless and captivating. As usual with Francavilla's work, his bold color choices do much of the heavy lifting. There are places, like a scene with the Kashmir Vennemas early on, where his work looks a bit rushed and slightly too thin on detail, and others where his colors are not able to push the panels to a higher level. However, it's still a beautiful issue both engaging and impeccably executed from a storytelling perspective.
Bunn and Francavilla have proved to be an excellent match up for this spy tale, and one can't help but wish to see more of them -- perhaps even on a horror book, as their noir-ish collaboration would lend itself beautifully to an even darker story. Regardless, I'll be sad when this arc is done and Natasha exits the book. In the meantime, I'm excited to see where they're going to lead us in the concluding chapters, and I sincerely hope for a Natasha vs. Natasha knock-down-drag-out.