I don’t usually write single issue reviews for comics – I prefer to wait and see how an arc plays out before I judge. However, I will make an exception for the #1 issue for my #1 fave. (All right, that was bad and I am sorry.)
For those who don’t know me, I am a huge Black Widow fan. The kind who’d punch a man over that last Black Widow action figure at Target. The kind who buys fan-made jewelry in the shape of an hourglass. The kind that’s read all of her series and is working on hunting down every single issue she appears in over her nearly 60 year history.
You might say I’m obsessed.
Black Widow has had a few different solo series, the longest running being the 20-issue series written by Nathan Edmondson and drawn by Phil Noto that ended just before Marvel’s universe altering Secret Wars event. After that series concluded, I waited with bated breath as series after series was announced in Marvel’s All New, All Different universe, with no Black Widow in sight. When the announcement finally came, though, it was fantastic news: not only was she getting a new series, it was to be written by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, fresh off the acclaimed Daredevil title, and drawn by Chris Samnee – an artist who, notably, draws women that look like human beings.
Whatever the credentials of a writer and artist, however, there’s always a degree of trepidation beginning a new series. Not every writer can write every character equally well, and Black Widow can be a complicated character to write – balancing her secrecy and ruthless capability with her humanity and compassion requires a deft touch.
I can cheerfully say that, at least as far as the first issue goes, I’m hooked.
For a first issue – usually used in comics to lay the groundwork for a series – Waid and Samnee drop the reader right in the middle of the action in an issue with very little dialogue, primarily powered by the art. The Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff, has been declared an enemy of SHIELD after stealing an unknown object. The rest of the issue feels like an action movie, and I mean that in the best way: the kind of action movie where your heart is pounding and you’re leaning forward, holding your breath through the breakneck pace right up to the last page. Samnee’s bold lines make the action pop, giving static art the dynamism of animation, and calling back to early Widow artist Gene Colan’s way of drawing Natasha like a dancer.
It’s not all blood and fighting, though – Waid and Samnee show that they have a grasp on Natasha’s more playful, theatrical side as well, planting a kiss on a SHIELD agent’s helmet as she steals his jetpack and, in the words of one of her pursuers, “making a 40,000 foot fall look like ballet.”
The story of Black Widow on the run from former friends has been told before, it is true. However, I trust Waid and Samnee to tell their own story in their own way, just as they did with Daredevil – calling back to the history of the character without binding her to it.
Bravo, fellas. Looking forward to seeing where Black Widow volume 6 takes us.