Black Widow #1
Written by Nathan Edmondson
Art by Phil Noto
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Review by Joey Braccino
“This is who I am now.
And you’ll never know who I was before.”
The Black Widow.
One of the Marvel canon’s most recognizable heroines. Whether as an Avenger (on-screen and on-the-page) or running over rooftops with Daredevil, Captain America, or Hawkeye, Black Widow is never too far away from Marvel’s biggest stories or biggest characters. In terms of a solo-series, however, Black Widow hasn’t had nearly as much recognition as her male counterparts on the Avengers side of the Marvel U. A few kicks and starts over the years made it to a handful of issues or so; three consecutive limited series by Devin K. Grayson, Greg Rucka, and Richard K. Morgan respectively brought Natasha into the 21st Century zeitgeist, and Marjorie Liu and Duane Swiercynski each wrote an arc of the latest Black Widow ongoing, which ultimately folded into the Hawkeye/Mockingbird series that was running concurrently. Still, for such a prominent character with such a complicated and rich story (and such a warm reception for Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal in The Avengers), it was always a surprise that a solo Black Widow series wasn’t on the shelves.
And yet here we are. On the first full publishing day of 2014, Marvel launches Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto’s Black Widow #1 under the ALL-NEW MARVEL NOW! banner. And it is an exciting, fascinating debut to what should be an exciting, fascinating new series.
Nathan Edmondson, of Dancer and Who is Jake Ellis? fame over at Image, is, in this reviewer’s lowly estimation, a perfect choice to take Natasha on this new journey. Both Dancer and Who is Jake Ellis? explore elements of identity and memory, military/bureaucratic malfeasance, and the constantly shifting lines in the good/evil dichotomy, and both blend the genres of espionage-drama and techno-thriller. For Black Widow, Edmondson’s mission statement establishes Natasha as a “good guy” pursuing a series of jobs in order to atone. Simple enough. Widow has done bad things in her past life, she has to repent through good deeds. While we may have seen this thread before in previous Black Widow stories (and in the spectacular Winter Soldier series, which co-starred Black Widow and featured a similar conceit with the character Bucky, who I so desperately hope will show up in this series…), Edmondson really leans on the fact that this will not be a story of regret and flashbacks; this is a story about Natasha moving forward. The lines that open this review close Black Widow #1, and they capture this “Raison D’Etre” for the titular character and the book as a whole.
Phil Noto’s stylized, pulpy realism is absolutely exquisite. For an idea of just how unique and visually stunning Noto’s work is, think of the interiors to Morning Glories blended with the dynamism of a Stuart Immonen or Olivier Coipel colored with a vibrant array of pastel paints. Or just check out this sample of the interiors:
The lay-outs are engaging and interesting, and the use of white space in the gutters and on the pages emphasizes the stark reds, blues, and oranges of the digital coloring. Just stunning.
Buy. Some may argue that for a debut issue, Black Widow #1 reads a bit too deliberate and does little to establish any larger conflict or villain. I’d argue that Black Widow #1 is like a really awesome cold open to the next great spy-thriller. It’s self-contained, sets the mood, and establishes the status quo of the title character. I’m sure Edmondson and Noto are going to get the gears going in terms of long-term story arcs next issue; for the debut, though, they wanted to show Black Widow doing what she does best. Cue the title card and theme song.