One of the first comics on Marvel Unlimited I came across after I sped read through the original Ultimate Spider-Man series was Black Widow. As I have stated before, I LOVE Black Widow. To me, she is the most fascinating character today in the Marvel Universe. Yeah, Scarlett Johansson has done a great job with the character in terms of introducing her to a greater audience but she’s been around for many years.
She got her start as a baddie. She was a Soviet agent that was looking to defeat Iron Man. As luck would have it, thanks to the novelty idea of a woman bad guy, she turns to the side of baseball and apple pie and becomes a force for good. From there she has many, many adventures through the years for SHIELD, The Avengers, and others she’s involved in.
But what I love about that character is she’s so complicated. When she was bad, she wasn’t bad for the sake of being bad. No, she truly believed in her cause for the Soviets until she learned the error of her ways. Since then she’s dealt with guilt. The beauty of the current series from Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto has been their detailing Natasha’s efforts to make amends for her past sins.
Everyone has something in their life that they want to make amends for. Granted, that something for some folks is nothing major. Just a simple matter of an apology or something of the like. For some folks we’re talking about something more than words or simple actions. For a spy, you have to imagine the level of guilt that could sweep through your brain if you actually sat back and thought of all the collateral damage your life has caused.
This series as a whole has been great at personalizing the character. You feel closer to Natasha with the simple scenes of her and her cat than you do when she’s kicking ass out in the field. The movies don’t have the luxury of little character moments that comics and television can give characters. While people like Joss Whedon have done amazing work with Natasha in the movies…
…the personal moments with the character have been lacking to say the least. Yeah, they forced a potential love story between Bruce Banner and Natasha in The Avengers: Age of Ultron but the keyword there is forced. There was no hint whatsoever in previous movies that Natasha and Bruce had any sort of interest in each other. At the end of The Avengers, I sensed that she understood the anger that Bruce went through which allowed her to slide off the attack she went through when he changed into The Hulk but I never got the idea that the man who brutally beat her and almost killed her was suddenly a guy who set her panties afire. Maybe, just maybe, she sees him as a damaged soul just like she sees herself but again, there was no setup for that love story. They had hinted at her being interested in Hawkeye and maybe Captain America. Not The Hulk.
The art work in this series is beautiful. Instead of going the typical over the top super curvy sex symbol that barely resembles a real woman, Natasha Romanov looks real. Her face shows such emotions throughout. When she’s having a vision of her and Matt Murdock on a boat in the middle of nowhere, the pure joy on her face is real. The anger she experiences when she realizes it is a vision is real. The locations where she’s at in this particular issue are real. This is some of my favorite artwork in comics today.
I also liked the fact that she was drawn beautiful but not stereotypical. Like any red blooded American male, I think she’s hot. But there’s more to the character than just her physical appearance. If this story were just meant to showcase page after page of her in sexy outfits and poses, it would be Barb Wire. But Natasha Romanov is very much a real woman in this world. She looks like someone you could actually meet in real life, not the caricature you see in some comics. And to me, this makes Natasha more beautiful than in any other iteration I have seen her in (apart from the movies. Cause come on.)
You have to read this comic. If ever there is a perfect marriage of story and art, it is this comic. For all I know, this comic may not go down in history as the greatest comic of all time. And I’m not going to argue that it is necessarily but it is still pretty amazing. It tells a simple story of a woman making amends for her past. While it is set in the world of spies and superheros, her struggle is very much real and very much presented in both word and art as something we all go through. I also love how she is presented in the story. As I wrote this, I showed my wife the cover and some of the art work for this issue and she appreciated that Natasha was presented as a regular woman. One turn off for her in comics and comic book movies has been the treatment of women and rightly so. Women have LONG been given the short end of the stick, if they’ve even been given a part of the stick at all. Take Black Widow in the movies. We have Scarlett Johansson, an actress with incredible range who has been a part of a LOT of great movies over the years, perpetually kept as a side kick in these movies when she has shown that she can carry a movie on her own. You have a movie company that has made every effort to keep her off the marketing for the movie unless it is on a poster in a suggestive pose. What woman could relate to that?
This comic, while set in that world, is something that people, women especially, can relate to. I highly recommend it and like all Marvel Comics today, will be sad when it comes to an end.