Review: BLACK WIDOW #2

BLACK WIDOW #2
Written by Nathan Edmondson
Art by Phil Noto
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: January 22, 2014

BWIDOW2014002_DC11_LRHot off the presses and following up on a triumphant debut from writer Nathan Edmondson and artist Phil Noto, Black Widow continues to peel back the layers of Natasha Romanov’s former life as an assassin-for-hire seeking atonement for the misdeeds of her past. Her infamous past has garnered her a reputation with nicknames like The Widow, The Russian Avenger, The Slavic Shadow, The Red Death, and of course Black Widow –all before becoming part of Marvel’s quintessential super hero team The Avengers. Natasha is as tough as they come and one does not earn that line of names by pulling kittens out of trees and helping the elderly cross the street. She is on the path towards redemption and trying to do it without exacerbated funds at her disposal. She is trying to right the wrongs she has made in her life all around the world. This is what Natasha Romanov does when she’s not being an Avenger or an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

This issue starts off and hits you like a car crash –literally — as we are thrown into the streets of Shanghai, China with the Black Widow nearly escaping certain tragedy. The energy continues to flourish back and forth in the issue as Edmondson and Noto keep a tight-rope balance of providing back story and action to keep the reader engaged. Natasha has been tasked by an old friend named Mr. Lin to find his kidnapped son. Sounds like a walk in the park for an ex-KGB assassin right? Wrong. Writer Nathan Edmondson gives Black Widow two pages of routine espionage and mercenary work before throwing a wrench into the gears and proverbially turning the tables on her situation as we find out that once again, the mistakes of Natasha’s past catch up to her.

The surprise of this issue is how Edmondson is fleshing out a fairly new character from Black Widow’s continuity. Isaiah is the manager/lawyer that handles Natasha’s affairs and coordinates the who’s, when’s, where’s, and how’s of her journey towards redemption. Instead of being the stereotypical administrative assistant, Edmondson catapults Isaiah into a sidekick that is more than capable and willing to get his hands dirty in the preservation of Natasha’s estate. While it was an interesting B-story to the main plot, the method in which Edmondson divulges this information speaks volumes to the character of Isaiah, and readers would be cautious to keep an eye on him in further issues.

As with any good action-packed, espionage story we get a great mix of guns, martial arts, swords, explosions, and jumping out of windows, that’s likely to please most comic book fans. Phil Noto’s art is poignant and beautiful as his style shines in Black Widow. Natasha hasn’t looked this real, this genuine, or this beautiful in quite some time. Noto’s ability to capture emotions in Natasha’s face is what makes this book visually soar. His ability to render expressions and encapsulate human emotion brings a sense of honesty to the readers. We can quickly see Natasha’s vulnerability, doubt, and anger in every panel –even when she is falling out of buildings, landing on cars, or having a gun pointed in her face. Noto’s usual employment of warmer color tones has long been a tributary to his style of art and it lends itself so well to this particular series, that it treads on being “unfair” to other comic books. Fans of his work on Trigger Girl 6 will see a lot off familiarity between the two, in a good way, as black-leather, espionage visuals resurface here.

This issue delivers quite the punch in 22 pages. There’s a connection to this character that you’ve never quite experienced before. She isn’t arm candy for another male hero. Her feminine sexuality isn’t exploited to the point of vulgarity. There’s an admiration in her willingness to try and do the right thing. There’s also a pity that we feel when she is unable to properly accomplish it. At the end of the issue, we are ultimately reminded of the Black Widow’s humanity. Edmondson and Noto are building a great foundation for Natasha Romanov to boastfully stand upon, and one which can only lead to better stories for the Black Widow. This is the most genuine version of Black Widow that I’ve ever read and I can’t wait to read more.

The Verdict: 9.0/10

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