Natasha Romanova was once not an Avenger, not an assassin, and not a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. It’s easy to forget that Natasha was once a girl in Russia who dreamed of being a dancer. And that is exactly where Nathan Edmondson flashes back to in much of this issue, beautifully rendered by Phil Noto. We learn much more about Natasha’s early years than we have in previous issues of this Black Widow volume or any other recent Marvel comic. Edmondson gives us a glimpse of the trauma Natasha experienced in the Red Room, the KGB facility where young future assassins were indoctrinated and controlled.
One of the strengths of a solo title is that a character’s personality can be fleshed out in detail. Edmondson does a marvelous job here. We see Natasha’s forethought when she and her friend, Marina, discover a valuable object. We also see Natasha exhibit ferocious justice and indignance when she witnesses a terrible wrong. The theme of Edmondson’s volume of Black Widow has been atonement: wiping out the red in the ledger of her life. In this issue, we finally understand that Natasha has lived her entire life with an unswaying sense of justice. Edmondson develops her character more in one issue than most event-oriented, action-oriented issues would in many.
Phil Noto’s signature watercolor style and unbelievable shading are in top form. The issue begins with scenes of a ballerina rehearsing, and Noto captures the grace and poise of her movements. I love the purple, red, and orange washes of background color in these scenes. Noto also is an expert at illustrating the luminosity of eyes: when Natasha first wakes in the present here, the light reflected in her eye looks realistic and perfect.
This is a hinge issue: we get a big reveal about Chaos, the mysterious organization that has been terrorizing Natasha’s life, and the issue ends with Natasha needing to make major choices. Noto’s first two pages of this issue raise the bar of what we call beautiful in comics art. This is a lush, imaginative, and moving issue by Noto and Edmondson of Natasha’s tragic childhood journey.
The Verdict: 9.0/10