Black Widow #1
Black Widow #1 begins a five-issue mini-series about everyone’s favorite red-haired Marvel assassin. Except it shouldn’t because the Black Widow is dead. Captain America killed her. Yet here we are, New Year’s Eve 2019 and the Black Widow is working with Steve Rodgers to stop the man that killed her, Captain America, from killing again.
Writing: Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska
Cover: Clayton Crain
From MAJK’s Coffee Corner:
Black Widow #1 is a sharp first issue, nearly as sharp as Natasha’s tongue. Our “dead” avenger is lively enough to give Steve Rodgers both a hand and a hard time. The two of them are taking on the man who killed her Captain America. Yes. You read that right. For those of you not familiar with the events that brought us here, I’d recommend checking out Secrete Empire (2017) and Tales of Suspense (2017).
If this issue is anything to go by, we are in for a hell of a ride. Black Widow #1 Neatly transitions us from the Avengers Black Widow to the Black Widow in her purest form. Unrestrained, unchecked, and unapologetic; Natasha is everything you’d expect of a master assassin. She’s a woman who has been to hell and back. She’s a trained killer who has fought for years against the programming within her. She’s tried being a hero, she’s worked on the side of the angels. Her reward was betrayal and death. Dead women have no rules. Dead women have no restrictions. The Black Widow is dead and now she has no restraints.
Spoiler Warning: If you have not read Black Widow #1 There May Be Spoilers Below
Not A Victim
Black Widow #1 opens during New Year’s Eve in New York City. The Soska sisters do an excellent job with this opening story as it provides us a look at both how things are different for Black Widow now and giving us an understanding of her relationship with Steve Rodgers which is part of the impetus to her internal struggle.
Black Widow demonstrates her prowess at espionage, staying a few steps ahead of Rodgers as they work together to save lives. You get the sense that she’s the leader in this run and that she is more than up to the job. It’s important to note that Steve demonstrates a solid respect for her, for her skills, and it’s clear he recognizes that she is tops in this game. He’s still her friend and to some degree her conscience though as their heart-to-heart lets us see.
The opener offers plenty of action, some good twists, and a plot of its own but it also sets up the internal struggle that Natasha is dealing with in the conversation with Steve. We see friendship, and honesty but there is also a lot of bitterness and rage. Natasha isn’t apologizing for how she feels. She’s acknowledging it, and she is going to deal with it. She’s not asking for help.
The Monster Within
It’s safe to say that this series is going to be about the journey Natasha takes to sort her place in the world. It’s not so much a question of “Kill or Don’t Kill” as much as a journey back to her core. She clearly has certain values in that she’s not just going on a murder spree. She’s also not setting herself up as the judge, jury, and executioner of local thugs and gangs. She headed for targets calibrated to her rage both in term of their crimes and in terms of their ability to evade authorities.
She understands her inner monster. She has come back from the dead with questions about whether life as a hero or a killer for hire suits her better. To find this out she needs to embrace the monster and feed it before it rages out of control. In the process, she hopes to clear her head enough to decide where her future lies.
Different But Still Beautiful
I particularly love Natasha’s character design in Black Widow #1. In the past Black Widow has been hyper-sexualized and her proportions have been very stereotypical of the superhero comic style. I don’t for one second miss her overly large chest (okay, maybe just a little) and unrealistically diminutive waist. I love the short straight hair too. It just works on her.
In Black Widow #1 not only is she not overly sexualized, she is drawn shorter and lither than in the past. She looks more like an Olympic gymnast that a stereo typical porn star*. This look suits her well and makes complete sense given her acrobatic fighting style. It also highlights her impressive skills in that she is taking down people significantly large than herself. She is still beautiful.
Art & Writing
There is a lot of strength and complexity in Black Widow’s character. Death has really changed her and She’s caught between who she was and who she will be. She respects Steve’s “no killing rule” but she not so sure she can adhere to it. The trauma from the betrayal and being dead have taken a toll and she’s facing a journey to sort her place in this world now that she’s not an Avenger.
I’ve read a few reviews that seemed less than impressed by the Flaviano’s style in this issue. I’d have to disagree with them. The art works for me. It’s not cartoonish, on the contrary, I’d say that the art style plays well with the story line giving a sense of light within the darkness. The action scenes show elements of that manga art style which I think offer an energetic feel. Note though that I am an anime and manga fan thus mileage may vary for those unfamiliar with that art style.
Issue Rating: 4.5/5
- Solid action opener
- Smooth set up for the core story
- Internal struggle is plausibe and engaging
- Mature storyline without being gratuitous
- Action art looks good
- Subtle manga elements
- Good character design
MAJK’s Age Recommendation:
I solidly disagree with the Marvel recommended age on this comic. Marvel lists the age recommendation as 12+, I would list it as more of a 16+ age recommendation. While the No Restraints Play website isn’t shown, it’s sure to spark some scary thoughts. The age of the victim being six really moves this to late teen and above territory.
Other Info: There’s alcohol use and prostitution among other adult themes. My biggest heads-up for parents is that there is the allusion to child abuse – physical and potentially sexual. Nothing is graphic but it is certainly not what you’d expect your average twelve-year-old to be ingesting. Human trafficking is definitively referenced.
Tyger Tiger “Logan’s dead.”
Black Widow “Been a lot of that going around lately.”
*Note: This is not a slight against porn stars, many of them work very hard to achieve their looks and forms. I just think they’d have difficulty scaling buildings and squeezing through many of the places a master assassin would need to access.
Next Issue: February 20, 2019