Review: Black Widow, vol. 5 #1

Black-Widow-001-(2014) by Phil Noto

Story: Nathan Edmondson
Art: Phil Noto
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Marvel

Behind the cut is a review for Black Widow, volume 5, issue 1. There are light spoilers for this issue, but none for future issues. If you’d like to go in complete blank, please proceed with caution!

I will admit that I wasn’t a very hard sell when it came to a Black Widow solo title.  Throw in the fact that Nathan Edmondson was writing it and Phil Noto doing the art and it was even less of a hard sell.

I’m a big fan of Edmondson’s Who Is Jake Ellis? which handled two of my favorite subjects (espionage and a light scifi touch) with such a deft hand that I was really sorry when it ended no matter how well the story paid off. My affection for Phil Noto almost goes without saying. His past work (and his tumblr) are enough where I am always excited to see his name attached to a title regardless of a role. To have him working regularly on a book again had me over the moon with excitement.

All of this created it’s own beastly problem: expectations vs reality.

In the months since the title’s announcement, I was left to contemplate the best and worst ways it could turn out.  Giving Black Widow her own title to shine without playing second fiddle to a guy (or just be one of the group) is a pretty hot topic right now, however it’s not exactly new. Fans (myself included) might be clamoring for Natasha to be granted her own titular film in the MCU, but she’s headlined her own book before. In fact, this Black Widow title is actually the start of the fifth volume.

First issues are tricky things. They are meant to introduce (or reintroduce) a character to the audience without alienating those who are already familiar with the character/universe. Too little explanation and you lose your new audience, too much and you turn off the existing fan base. It’s not a task that I envy of anyone, but it’s also part of the reason that I find myself gravitating towards them.

I picked up the first issue when it was released earlier this month, but it has taken me until now to get over myself enough to read it. The first thing that I can is that it did not disappoint. The book opens in media res with a Russian suicide bomber talking to someone through the door. This person turns out to be Natasha, but it isn’t until she removes her black wig revealing her signature red locks that it fully sinks it. She’s written effortlessly, sliding from one job into another and then finally home with the sort of grace that you can expect from her.

I read someone refer to this as the “Hawkeyezation” of Black Widow, which I can kind of understand but also think is oversimplifying it. It is a book about Natasha, featuring her both as the Black Widow and just as ‘Tasha just like Fraction’s Hawkeye has both our Hawkeyes in and out of their signature purple gear. That’s roughly where the similarities end. Natasha has always been more of a solo character, unapologetic about who she is or what she has done so it will be nice to see her take on both roles.  I expect we’ll be seeing her fellow Avengers at some point in the future, but for now I’m enjoying Natasha just being her solo, heroine for hire self.

It’s still fairly early, but the repeated statements that she’s not going to rehash her backstory, not going to explain why she does what she does is different from her previous solo titles. It could all turn out to be for naught, but I prefer the subtler revelation of her character without jumping right into flashbacks. There’s something more for me to chew on, to wonder how they’re going to incorporate her complicated past without making the story entirely about it. It can’t be an easy task.

Edmondson’s writing goes perfectly with Noto’s art. The colors are muted and elegant, providing a retro-yet-timeless touch that is perfectly Natasha. Noto handles the action scenes just as capably as he handles the quieter moments. The final shot of this issue is gorgeous. Often in early books the relationship between the writing and the art can feel just a touch too new as growing pains are worked out. None of that is apparent in this issue. Edmondson’s light touch, both with exposition and dialogue tells a concrete story and hints at what is to come. This book so far simply sings.

A highly enjoyable read, it has far surpassed the expectations I had and I can’t wait to see where it goes. I look forward to gushing more about it to everyone in the future.

Issue #2 is out today. Check out both it and this issue online at Marvel.com or at your local comic book store. 

About Lina

A university graduate with three too many degrees and an urge to just keep moving. Not too keen to stay on the beaten path, moving is all that she feels like doing. Pieced together from a little bit of everywhere (culturally speaking) she has a love of pop culture and learning that is kind of out of control. Sometimes she acts a little bit like an insane old British lady or an eight year old on speed. Let's not get her started on the books (or soap operas or her affection for making up drinking games). Then we'd be here all day.
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2 Responses to Review: Black Widow, vol. 5 #1

  1. kewl says:

    thanks for the review! I’ve been wondering if I should pick up the issues or just wait three months for the trade paperback to come out collecting the first few issues – but since I’m hearing good things I’ll probably go pick up the issues.

    Black widow is really one of my faves, and I’m glad to hear that they are doing her justice.
    For any fans who wanna read her older series’ I’d reccomend the Kiss or Kill trade paperback and the Name Of The Rose one especially.

    • Lina says:

      I totally understand the appeal of waiting for TPB, but this has been consistently worth picking up the single issues (though I did get a bit backlogged and wound up picking up three issues at once). They’re totally showing how awesome she is.

      Oh yes! I agree with both of those recs!

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