I was not initially planning on picking this series up, because, well, whilst I like Black Widow as a character and as a member of the Avengers, I’ve never really felt like she’s that interesting as a solo proposition before. But really, that’s all down to creative teams, nobody ever thought Hawkeye would work on his own, and we all know how that turned out. I’m not saying that Black Widow is the ‘new Hawkeye’, but I do think that the team of Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto could finally be the ones to make me a definitive Black Widow fan.
The chief draw for me here is Noto’s art, which is just fantastic all through out. I’ve been a fan of his work for a long time, and I think this is the best he’s ever been, everything, from the amazing retro-yet-modern cover art, through to the pacing of the action scenes and his colour choices (Noto is doing everything here) just works. Even little things, like giving Black Widow a small mole on her face just show the attention to detail and thought that Noto is putting in here. In terms of art at least, this actually might be the new Hawkeye, because of just how damn good and unique it looks.
The story here is good too, but nothing beyond standard opening issue stuff, with Edmondson setting up his taken on the character of Natasha Romanov, introducing a new supporting character and showcasing just how bad-ass this woman is through some cool action sequences. Like a lot of recent Marvel titles, it feels like Edmondson is taking quite a lot of cues from the Marvel movies, as the focus here is on Natasha feeling like she has to atone for her past actions as a spy and killer. Edmondson doesn’t outright quote the whole ‘red in my ledger’ bit from The Avengers, but he might as well.
So, Black Widow feels like she has to atone, and she has set up trusts to pay money to unknown places (perhaps the families of her victims?), to pay for this, she is taking side jobs as a hitman (Do you say hitwoman? Is that non-PC?) unbeknownst to the Avengers and SHIELD. The issues opens with a brief glimpse at one of these missions, where she tricks a rogue Russian into thinking she’s on his side, before handing him over to the Berlin authorities. After this, we’re back in America, as Natasha’s lawyer, Isaiah gives her the next assignment, and tells her that she should probably be charging more. But as we know, for Black Widow, it’s not about money, it’s about atonement, she doesn’t want these jobs becoming about her. It’s a fine line that Edmondson has to walk here, writing an stone-cold killer in a way that doesn’t make her seem like the Punisher (who Edmondson is also writing these days), and he mostly pulls it off. The next mission shows that in fact, as we are meant to believe that she has been sent to assassinate someone, but in reality, she is there to protect him, and assassinate his assassin. So Black Widow is bad, but there’s worse out there.
The art and pacing throughout this action scene is fantastic, and really effective. The issue ends with Natasha back home, talking to her cat (who isn’t really her cat, because Black Widow shouldn’t have a cat) and once again wondering how much she has to do to be able to forgive herself and forget her past. I’m very intrigued by what Edmondson plans to do with this character’s history here, she has lived a long time and I’m sure there’s lots of cool stories from the past that could be shown, I’d like to see periodic flashback issues for whenever Noto needs a break showing stuff from the last 50 years or so, and really exploring Black Widow.
I think this was a really strong first issue, the artwork was bloody brilliant, and Edmondson has an interesting hook for the main character, albeit one that is indebted to the Avengers film. If you’re a fan of Black Widow, you’ve already picked this up, but if, like me, you’re kind of wary of her as a solo star, try it out, you will be surprised.