Black Widow #1 Review

By: Rob Neil Gruszecki

Sweating profusely and holding a trigger that would ignite the bombs strapped to his chest, a petrified man stands against a wall and readies his assault weapon as he attempts to negotiate a potential escape. On the other end of his stuttered pleas, a thick russian accent regales the man with childhood trauma and violence that has shaped the very woman behind the sultry tones. A few rounds and a shattered window later, the threat is neutralized and send cascading down a building with a bungee cable strapped along with the bombs and the Black Widow reminds her audience that no one will ever know her true life story.

Following in the heavy footsteps of crime noir and espionage talents that brought books like Winter Soldier, Gotham Central, Secret Avengers and the most recent volume of the Punisher to mainstream hero comics, the All-New Marvel Now Black Widow, bursts outward with a brand new number one and an incredibly exciting creative team with Nathan Edmondson (Who is Jake Ellis, The Activity, Dancer) writing and Phil Noto (Ghost, TriggerGirl 6, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) providing the art. The tone of this new series is a welcome mash up of dark and gritty character introspection and espionage action that are exactly what the 616 has been missing since the departure of writers like Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka.

Nathan Edmondson fuses elements of action and spy thriller exceptionally in this first installment and immediately establishes Natasha as deadly and complex protagonist with layers of grey to sift through. Balancing the intense action sequences with more dulcett and reserved character building and story are fluent and organic, never just throwing in violence to keep the book moving. This particular issue does a stellar job of introducing the conflicted anti-hero, throwing her into a mission and having resolution before the end of the issue. It is a perfect example of a complete story in one single issue but faceted with all the trappings of a larger whole and a world you will instantly want to return to. This is more of an episode in the saga of a character’s development instead of being merely a chapter in an arc to be later collected in trade and consumed much more coherently. Black Widow number one reads incredibly well as a single issue and utilizes the strength of the format very smoothly.

Phil Noto’s art work in Black Widow are exemplary. His pacing and storytelling chops are at peak performance here and with some practically (and one entirely) silent pages being placed entirely on his shoulders to direct he pulls off Michael Lark or Steve Epting levels of combat choreography and layout that are enthralling and genuinely badass. His presence on the book is one that the character deserved and that the genre will really grow from. He’s got a really distinctive style that just explodes within Black Widow and make for a series that should be an instant subscription for action/crime/espionage fans.

Inevitable comparisons to books like Ed Brubaker’s Velvet or Greg Rucka’s Punisher are sure to come in droves, but mark them as only the highest of compliments. Phil Noto and Nathan Edmondson have conjured a book that captures all the elements of spy fiction that I love and produced the kind of action comic I want to read and want others to enjoy as well. Do yourself a great favour and jump on what I hope will be a very fruitious creative pursuit and what I’m certain is a daring alternative Marvel comic.

Rob Neil Gruszecki is a Writer, Musician and Wednesday Warrior 

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