Black Widow #1 (Comics Review)

Just earlier this week I was listening to Kelly Thompson’s podcast with Sue from DC Women Kickin’ Ass where they talked about gender parity at Marvel and DC, both in terms of the characters and the creators. And a point was raised that Marvel has done less than DC, or that DC is currently just better with it. The podcast was released just after NYCC last year, and some of the news that came out at the time was about Marvel’s All-New Marvel NOW! initiative which would mark the first big step forward in the company’s Marvel NOW! relaunch of its titles, with a slew of new titles, and a few restarts as well. In light of that news, while the creator gender parity hasn’t increased any, the character gender parity certainly has. And new title Black Widow is at the leading edge of that.

Black Widow should be familiar to anyone who’s been watching Marvel movies for about four years now. Under Scarlet Johannson, the character has seen a revival of sorts and she’s quickly become a fan favorite with the fandom demanding she get her own movie. I concur. This is why I was so taken up with the idea of a Black Widow solo comic because I see it as a great step forward to make that happen, though there’ve been a number of Black Widow titles over the years. With this new series, Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto deliver something truly amazing.

Black Widow 01Black Widow has been seen in two movies so far, and while that’s not enough to go on, I admit, I still say that she’s been pretty damn fantastic. She’s shown up bigger characters (particularly Tony Stark) gone up against people like Hulk and Loki, and driven a Chitauri skimmer with her fist-knives embedded in the skimmer’s actual driver. In the midst of all that, she’s been developed as a character such that she’s retained her badassery from what the comics and animated series over the years have given us, and yet she’s also helped break the fascination that a female character on-screen can only be an asskicker if she wears short shorts and shows off her womanly parts.

Along with characters like Sif, Katniss, Merida and others, Black Widow is one of the best portrayals of female characters in movies right now, and this is what Edmondson and Noto build on for their new series.

Black Widow #1 takes some plot points from The Avengers and uses them to further its own story, setting it apart from the movies so that it has its own continuity. Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye did something similar. It showed us a Hawkeye in-between his missions for SHIELD and the Avengers and gave us a more comprehensive look at the character.

Black Widow is very similar in that regard and more than anything, while it has some really great action scenes, it also takes care to develop Natasha as a character. She feels very well-rounded and three-dimensional here, given that one of her driving motivations right now is to balance her ledger, which is pretty far in the red. So she takes on jobs where she either has to bring in the worst of the worst villains, or just take them out (the former is specified repeatedly, the latter is kind of just hinted at).

I had some high expectations from this title and based on this one issue, I can say that they are definitely being met. Edmondson’s script is a little off in places and it gets too wordy, but overall it feels pretty solid. He pulls you into the story from the get go and establishes his version of Natasha Romanoff early on so that the reader has an idea of how this issue is going to end. Which is not to say that the ending is predictable, far from it actually. It was a great twist and I loved every panel of it.

I am passingly familiar with Phil Noto’s artwork, mostly from his colours for Darwyn Cooke’s Before Watchmen: Minutemen from 2012-2013, and I got to say that seeing a full issue worth of art, pencils and colours and inks, is really thrilling. He has a really interesting style that is a big departure from what the “traditional” superhero style. In fact, I’d say that the artwork is a big draw of the comic in the first place. In the second half, when the climax is about to go down, there’s a big action scenes and what’s notable is how Noto emphasises it, with white border inks for the characters as they kick and punch. And his Natasha is pretty damn good, whether she’s in uniform or not. No spinebreakers of any kind here, not even close. The pencils in general can be a little off in that the art doesn’t look quite polished, but the colours more than make up for that.

Overall, Natasha has seen a great outing with this issue and I’m definitley around for a few more. The second issue is supposed to shit out in 2 weeks, which means that the title is going to double-ship this month just as with some of the other new launches from Marvel, so not long to wait!

Rating: 9.5/10

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Posted on January 9, 2014, in Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

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