As you know, I like to review comics in well-defined chunks, self-contained arcs that have a beginning, middle and end. That’s sometimes easier said than done, especially for comics that aren’t necessarily written that way.
Like this one.
That’s not a bad thing, but sometimes you keep waiting for a clear stopping point and when none presents itself after a while, you just have to make your own.
Therefore, let’s look at the first six issues of Marvel’s newest series about Black Widow.
I’ve never been a huge Black Widow fan. I tend to follow the heavier hitters in the Marvel Universe and those who have skill, but no powers, don’t tend to impress me that much. Here, we see Natasha trying to make ends meet while paying her dues for the evils she’s done in her past. Her lawyer, Isaiah, finds jobs and she performs them, although they can never get ahead of her self-imposed debts to society. Even when working for S.H.I.E.L.D. or the Avengers, Natasha always gives her earnings to those she’s wronged.
We see a number of different cases here, including an extended one for S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill. However, this isn’t the self-assured super soldier that we know and love, Black Widow makes mistakes. A lot of mistakes. We also spend a lot of time figuring out just who Black Widow is, clearly these opening books are intended for people who saw her in the Avengers movie and want to know more. Still, as a fallible hero, she does make a considerable number of errors and gets the crap beat out of her more than once. For a super-spy, she’s anything but super here. Still, she has spirit and drive and wants to prove herself worthy of the title “hero” and that makes these comics a good read.
The story by Nathan Edmondson and art by Phil Noto work well together to make a comic that is a consistent interesting read. Of course, writers and artists don’t last long on series these days and they have had a number of different teams that have worked reasonably well together over the course of this series so far. Maybe this has to do with the success of Fraction’s Hawkeye series, which cast unpowered heroes in solo adventures that focus as much on the characters themselves as on their heroic adventures. We get to know them as people, not just spandex-clad heroes. We see what they’re doing when they’re not fighting aliens with the Avengers, we get to see their day-to-day problems and the fact that being well-known doesn’t necessarily mean well-appreciated. This is all about the story, not the action, even though there is a lot of action packed into each issue.
Of course, there are some issues, mostly in execution. We’re given a former monk turned homicidal killer called the Hammer of God. He’s severely injured by Natasha and returns in an armored form that, unfortunately, looks almost identical to his boss, the Indestructible Man, Damon Dran. They needed to differentiate between the two, although considering that HoG lasts for mere pages in his armored incarnation, I suppose they didn’t want to go overboard with a new character design.
There’s been a considerable amount of spy comics coming from Marvel lately, most have been interesting in their own right. From Secret Avengers to Hawkeye, we’re seeing a wider world from Marvel than I think we’ve seen in quite a while and this is a good thing. I just hope that all these forays into new territory actually survive long enough to get a good look. We see a great start to what could be a really good series, I’m on for the long run, how about you?