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– by Tim Jousma

   Natasha Romanov is on the run from SHIELD. Tasked with retrieving an item from the deadly Red Room in Russia from a man calling himself Weeping Lion, she battles through her enemies as well as her memories to retrieve the object he wants. But all is not what it seems…

   I love Black Widow. The character is so intriguing. Starting off as a Russian spy and turning her life around to be a long time member of SHIELD, she carries the weight of her past on her shoulders. The previous run by Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto brought some of the best Black Widow stories I have read as well as producing some of the best art I have seen in comics. When their run came to an end I had to wonder how Marvel could top such a great run.

   This latest run of Black Widow from Mark Waid and Chris Samnee is a little choppy for my tastes. What do I mean? The story from issue one reads like it is highlights of a much larger story. You’re tossed into the deep end of the story without being given enough idea as to what is going on to orient yourself. I have felt lost. You can put two and two together and come to your own conclusion but to me that does not make a good story. Does everything need to be spelled out for you? No. But when it takes two and a half issues to get to a point where you have some idea what is happening, I call that a failure in the writing process.

   Another issue I had was the flashback scenes Natasha had in this particular issue. The story and art in this issue brought together such a cacophony of confusion that when the last panel came and a little girl who I thought was a flashback version of Natasha throughout the story ends up stabbing her I had to go back in the issue to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. Chris Samnee tried to use a reddish pink to indicate the flashback scenes and that was all fine and dandy but they gave no indication that there was an actual little girl in the wreckage of the Red Room that had a weapon. She just appeared out of nowhere. What I would have liked to see was one panel showing the girl hiding, something to indicate that when she appears and stabs Natasha that I am not losing my mind wondering who the heck she is.

   The art work is another source of frustration for me. Going from the beautiful, fully realized work of Phil Noto to the flat, Saturday morning cartoon feel of this story is jarring. A similar style of drawing is used for the Howard the Duck and Squirrel Girl stories which I love because it complements the story at hand. Here, there is no substance to the work. The characters don’t seem real. The settings are sparse and give the appearance of a movie set, not of a story set in a real, living world. Not to say it needs to replicate reality as much as possible. Those are called movies. To me, the art has to feel like it is an actual, inhabited place. Whether it be set in New York or the planet Melmac, the art for the locations around the characters has to feel like a real, livable place where the characters inhabit. If it doesn’t have that lived in feel, it affects the believability of the story.

   Despite the critiques, I still like what the story is doing so far. There are definitely flaws, don’t get me wrong, flaws that hopefully future issues will address with a much more fleshed out story and art that doesn’t appear like it comes from a newspaper comic strip. I reserve the right to change my opinion later because for all I know future issues may allow the first three issues to make more sense. For now, enjoy Black Widow.

Chris Samnee- Writer and Artist

Mark Waid- Writer