Black Widow is a character who has had several very good comic book series over the last decade that have flown under the radar. Writers like Marjorie Liu, Nathan Edmondson, Mark Waid and Chris Samnee have all deliver Black Widow comics that were all very good. Now one of the core Avengers from the Marvel Cinematic Universe is getting a new five issue mini-series. This new series takes place after Black Widow was killed by Captain Hydra during the events of Secret Empire. She has somehow return but did she come back the same person she once was? Or is she now a completely different person? Let’s find out with Black Widow #1.
Writers: Jen & Sylvia Soska
Colorist: Veronica Gandini
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 3 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: At Time Square during New Years Eve Captain America gets yelled at as people question if he still works for Hydra. Captain America walks past security into a building.
When he gets to the elevator Black Widow tells Captain America about their mission about stopping a fake Captain America and reminds him not to let what others say bother him as their words don’t matter.
Black Widow takes off to a heavily fortified underground area as Captain America says they do.
Captain America arrives at a party where someone is parading around as him.
Meanwhile Black Widow finds a large room with people held hostage and a large robot.
Captain America confronts the fake but is then attacked by the fake’s army.
Back in the underground facility Black Widow quickly changes into one of the hostages and acts like she doesn’t know where she is. Black Widow is able to take out the guards in the area and then frees the hostages.
The fake Captain America arrives and tries to casually talk to Black Widow. Black Widow sees through him and elbows the fake Captain America in the face.
The fake Captain America activates the large robot in the room. While dodging the robot’s attacks Black Widow is able to knock down the fake Captain America with one of her Widow Bites.
As Black Widow continues to dodge the robot’s attacks she is able to start taking out some of its wires. The robot eventually breaks through to the building and goes upstairs. The fake Captain America recovers and begins to activate the bombs inside the robot. Black Widow is able to knock him down by throwing the wires she had at him. She quickly starts choking him out with a wire. The real Captain America shows up and tells her to stop as the fake loses consciousness.
Captain America reminds Black Widow that they do not resort to killing. Black Widow says sometimes that is the only way to fix people. She then says while Captain America can be better that is not who she is. She reminds Captain America that while he can play the hero she is still technically dead since he killed her.
The next day Black Widow is able to disguise herself and leave New York City from the airport without being noticed.
Her flight lands in Madripoor.
While walking through the city Black Widow is surrounded by an unknown gang. Black Widow is able to make quick work of the gang.
This fight ends up getting her noticed by Tyger Tiger, the current leader of Madripoor. Black Widow reveals her connection to Wolverine. Tyger Tiger asks Black Widow what she is doing in Madripoor. Black Widow says she’ll state her business in another location.
At the Princess Bar Tyger Tiger shows Black Widow an online organization by the name of No Restraints Play, a place where the highest bidder gets to be the “Director” of deciding kidnapped victims fates. Black Widow feels something inside her being tapped into as she can be the killer she was made to be.
Suddenly the No Restraints Play gang show up and demand Black Widow to pay for damaging their men. End of issue.
The Good: Black Widow #1 is a mixed bag of a first issue. There are certain aspects of Black Widow #1 that shows potential for what this mini-series will be by the end. Unfortunately there are several plot points that left a lot to be desired, with some big missed opportunities popping up.
One part of Black Widow’s character that Jen and Sylvia Soska got right was making Natasha Romanoff an unapologetic badass. When Black Widow is at her best it is when she doesn’t feel the need to hold back in a given situation. That is something that Soska go into with how Black Widow used all of her abilities against the fake Captain America.
The way Black Widow is now acting made her interaction with the real Captain America stand out more. Of all the Marvel characters, Captain America is the one that is the most on the opposite side of the spectrum in terms of his attitude and thinking when compared to Black Widow. The dichotomy between the two as they made the case for how to handle the conclusion of their team-up was handled well to spotlight who each of them are.
The Bad: Though Black Widow #1 showed some promise there was a lot of little problems with the story that was presented. For one thing the Soska’s don’t go in too much on how Black Widow’s resurrection has affected her. This an odd move given how the interaction with Captain America emphasized that she isn’t the same as she was before the events of Secret Empire. They even make a mention that she was killed by Captain America. That mention quickly puts into question how Black Widow returned.
Not explaining how Black Widow is back from the dead was a major misstep. Even having a panel or page dedicated to how her return happened would’ve been extremely helpful. Without that explanation the importance of Black Widow reminding Captain America that he “killed” her was ineffective. Instead this callback just sounded like shade being thrown by Black Widow, making her no better than the crowd being negative towards Captain America when they are supposed to be friends.
This also made the resurrection angle feel like a wasted opportunity to further help separate her from the rest of the Avengers. While her background has always been very different from the other Avengers over the years we have seen how she has evolved passed the killer she was before. If Black Widow is returning to having more of a killer edge from her secret assassin days in the Red Room bring up how being resurrected affected her mentally should’ve been emphasized. It would have gave greater importance to the fact she is back from the dead while also explaining why she is now prone to letting her killer instinct take over.
The Captain America interaction was also another wasted opportunity to create a meaningful sub-plot. Because of the events of Secret Empire the first meeting between Black Widow and Captain America should’ve been something that was built up to. The tension between the pair was never touched on until the end of their team-up when the events of Secret Empire was brought up. Before that they were operating like business as usual when it could’ve been an interaction that was built up too for this mini-series to conclude with.
While the setting of Madripoor is fitting for Black Widow’s character it was extremely disappointing that the story immediately went down the cartoony route. The bad guy at the end went down the complete ridiculous route, which is the opposite of how serious of a story that the Soska’s teased in the page before. The appearance completely took away any credibility that the guy could have had. Even with his dialogue he came across as a person that someone like Black Widow would laugh at for how ridiculous he looks and then proceed to beat up for being an asshole.
There was also an odd shift in the story with how Tyger Tiger never actually learned why Black Widow was in Madripoor. Tyger Tiger went from questioning Black Widow’s presence in Madripoor to not caring and telling her about No Restraints Play. That was an odd shift since you would think that someone like Tyger Tiger would not let Black Widow stay in Madripoor without knowing why she is there. Not explaining that was an shift in what was set-up through the dialogue before the scene at the special bar.
The artwork from Flaviano was a bad fit for the tone Black Widow #1 was trying to set. Black Widow is a character that is supposed to be involved in stories that are more on the street-level vibe. Flaviano’s artwork does not fit with telling a street-level type stories. The artwork was too exaggerated and bright that never hit the tone of Black Widow working in the shadows. There weren’t even any shadows for Black Widow to hide in. More often than not the artwork detracted from the story rather than adding depth to it.
Overall: There was so much built-in potential for a new Black Widow comic book. Unfortunately it all goes to waste with how it begins in Black Widow #1. The story’s tone and pacing never seems to be connected well enough to set-up a compelling narrative. Even when the opportunity is there to tell a meaningful story it all goes to waste due to the decisions made with how to present Black Widow’s character. Add in artwork that is a bad mix with the presented story, this comic turns out to be a disappointing start to a mini-series with so much potential.