Black Widow has been a character that has had some success with solo comics but none have seem to sold as well as fans and Marvel likely hope. To Marvel’s credit the creative teams they’ve given a Black Widow series to have all done well. The teams of Marjorie Lie and Daniel Acuna, Mark Waid and Chris Samnee and Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto all delivered Black Widow comic book series’ that Marvel fans should read. Now with The Web of Black Widow Marvel has given Jody Houser and Stephen Mooney the reigns for Natasha Romanoff’s latest adventure. How will things go this time? Let’s find out with The Web of Black Widow #1.
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Stephen Mooney
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Using a disguise to get into a New York City party Natasha Romanoff is able to quickly finds her target, Walter Sobol, talking with Tony Stark.
She approaches Tony and asks him to dance with her. Tony immediately recognizes Natasha and asks her what she is doing at a charity party. Natasha questions Tony if this is really a charity event. Tony is confused by this statement so Natasha tells him to play along and dance with her.
While they dance Tony remembers the first time they danced together. Natasha suddenly kisses Tony on the cheek and whispers to him to stay out of her way. She then walks away while Tony hopes that she didn’t drug him again.
In a quick flashback it is shown that Natasha seduced the IT guy watching the security guy. She gives the guy a drink as a “thanks” for his work.
In the present Natasha goes back upstairs and finds the IT guy passed out in the hallway. Natasha quickly grabs something from the IT guy’s pocket.
Natasha then goes inside the security room and immediately starts downloading some information.
Flashing back to years ago the Headmistress of the Red Room is requested by Walter Sobol’s grandfather to see what her trainees can offer. The Headmistress guarantees that Natasha has never failed a mission.
Sometime later Natasha has found her target and uses a sniper gun to kill him from a rooftop.
Back in the present Walter Sobol gets a big applause from the attendants at the charity party. Walter says he has a presentation to show all the hard work his team has done.
As that happen Walter sees his grandfather mysteriously leaving. Walter then notices that the video presentation being shown is not the correct one. He tells his security team to check on the IT guy.
The security find the IT guy passed out and immediately get ready to charge into the security room.
Before they doo Natasha causes a small explosion that blows the doors down. Natasha uses the shock of the explosion to defeat all of the security guards that are in the hallway, losing her wig in the process.
After defeating all the security guards Natasha rushes to leave the scene by running to the rooftop.
Once she gets there Natasha is confronted by Iron Man. Iron Man asks what Natasha was trying to prove with what she just did. Natasha answers by questioning if being resurrected means that she could be the same person. Iron Man says that being killed and resurrected is not easy because of how many unknowns there are to it. Natasha then responds by saying there is a lot of things Iron Man doesn’t know about her.
Iron Man demands to know what is going on. Natasha reveals that everything Walter has done was because of his grandfather work behind the scenes to execute everything. Iron Man doesn’t want to believe Walter, a business associate, knows about his grandfather’s wrong doings. Natasha agrees because or else Walter would’ve sent more guards after her after seeing the end of the video she showed during the presentation.
Iron Man tries to grab Natasha but she mysteriously disappears while telling Tony to stay out of her business.
Iron Man contacts Captain America and admits that he is very worried that something is wrong with Natasha.
Nearby some mysterious people watch Iron Man make the call to Captain America. End of issue.
The Good: Web of Black Widow #1 delivered exactly the kind of start every comic book needs to hit the ground running. Jody Houser waste no time in setting up the story and world she is building around Black Widow. There are still a few continuity issues that end up hurting the overall narrative, but the story we are presented hits more often than not.
Where Web of Black Widow #1 succeeds best is with how quickly it is paced. There is never a moment to rest in this issue. Houser keeps the story moving forward by keeping the main focus on the present mission Black Widow is on and only inserting flashback scenes when necessary. Not staying on one scene or interaction for far too long further helped the pacing of the overall issue.
In addition to the pacing, the other major key to success that Houser implements with Web of Black Widow #1 was her writing of Natasha Romanoff. Houser immediately identifies Natasha as someone that isn’t about quippy dialogue or long internal monologues. Sure since becoming an Avenger we’ve seen Natasha grow more accustomed to throwing quips around with other fellow heroes when the time calls for it. But at the end of the day Natasha is a trained assassin. Natasha understands going into any situation what she needs to do and how to get the job done.
Houser establishes this voice for Natasha early on with how she got into the charity party. From identifying her target to her interaction with Tony Stark, it all established in the reader’s mind who Natasha is. Natasha’s interaction with Tony is especially notable as we learn through this that she is no longer on friendly terms with her former Avengers ally. The entire dance sequence between the two established how Natasha is now living in her own island.
That is confirmed further in the final scene between Black Widow and Iron Man. Tony’s reaction to everything Natasha said pointed to how the Avengers are all concerned for the road she is going on. This is not the Natasha who Iron Man, Captain American and other Avengers have grown too know the last few years. With Tony contacting Steve at the end this issue Houser opens the door for more interactions with the Avengers, which has potential to add too the main story of his series.
Tying in the main story to Natasha’s past in the Red Room is a smart play to make. No matter where Natasha is in her life the past she has with the Red Room will be a part of her. And as a series that looks to bring in new readers in preparation for Natasha’s solo MCU movie that is a good foundation to build on for Web of Black Widow. Giving us those flashbacks to the Red Room version of Black Widow was enough of a tease to drive interest in finding out more on how everything Natasha is doing ties in together.
With all that said, where Web of Black Widow #1 shines brightest is in how we see Natasha string together all of her Black Widow skills throughout this issue. There is never a point were Natasha is not in Black Widow mode. Every action she does, from drawing Tony Stark away from her target to spiking the IT guys drink to taking out the guards, it all had a purpose. It all emphasized how what makes Natash so dangerous as Black Widow is that she is never not working. Every action she does has a purpose as she does everything in her power to ensure she is the most prepared person in the room.
For his part Stephen Mooney artwork is at its best when drawing Natasha in action. The double page spread of Black Widow kicking ass is for sure the standout. Mooney also adds to the scenes were Natasha is doing a bunch of subtle actions to move her target into place. These scenes are made better because Mooney taps into the spy tone this series needs to have.
The Bad: Where Web of Black Widow #1 ends up faltering is the connection Natasha Romanoff still has to the events of Secret Empire. Even though we are now several years away from that dreaded event Natasha, like Steve Rogers, cannot shake the ramifications for the event. And since Houser makes a clear reference to Natasha’s death in Secret Empire there is a lot of unnecessary questions brought up by this.
With how well Houser structured the story in Web of Black Widow #1 this tie-in to Natasha’s previous death and resurrection was not needed. Houser could’ve kept the story simple by putting more emphasis on Natasha’s target to the Red Room to explain the way she interacts with Iron Man. It would’ve been easy to accept since it is well known that Natasha is very protective about her past before becoming a full-time superhero. And with Web of Black Widow being a series that Marvel will likely push to fans when the Black Widow movie releases having this tie-in to Secret Empire becomes unnecessary.
The change in the style Mooney adopted for the flashback scenes did not work. It felt disconnected to the style in the present day scenes even though it was established as having happened only a few years prior. The design for Iron Man’s armor also was much bulkier than the streamlined armor has been wearing for the last decade.
Overall: Jody Houser characterization of Natasha Romanoff shines throughout Web of Black Widow #1. By tapping into Natasha’s past in the Red Room, Houser created a strong story based around the intense spy world. There are a lot of questions created in the mission Natasha sets out on that includes the Avengers in a natural way. If you are a fan of Natasha Romanoff than Web of Black Widow #1 is a book you’ll want to check out.
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