Black Widow #1
Published on: 3/2/2016
Written by: Mark Waid and Chris Samnee
Art by: Chris Samnee and Matthew Wilson
Get ready for some as kicking espionage action. Black Widow is back with her new solo series! And the action kicks off early, page one she is off and running from S.H.I.E.L.D. Natasha is on a mission and she’s not pulling any punches. Mark Waid really knows how to pull me to the edge of my seat because I was flipping through the pages frantically, my brain consumed with one overriding question: What the Hell is going on?
Perhaps I’m being a tad snide, the plot is purposefully obfuscated. Why? Spy stuff. Allow me to list off all of the plot points of this book: Natasha stole something from S.H.I.E.L.D. They want it back. That’s all we know. Ambiguity is one thing—slow reveal to keep us on the hook but I’d like to have some stakes, you know? Some investment? So far all we know is Natasha stole something. News flash! She’s a spy! This is a regular work day for her. If we get this level of information through the whole series we may know what she actually stole by the end of the first arc.
Okay, enough snark. Seriously this was a good book. I give Mark Waid and Chris Samnee a hard time because everyone is going to love this book regardless of what I say. They killed it on Daredevil and now they’re gonna knock it out of the park with Black Widow. The action is absolutely incredible; they start off in a chase and move to flight combat before seamlessly moving into a highway demolition derby battle. Combat dances across these pages like a Buggatti screeches across the tarmac, gut wrenching but with quite a lot of flair. Thought that does raise another point. How does Chris Samnee compare to his predecessor?
Phil Noto will forever be the preeminent master of comic book elegance. Yes this could be construed as bias but that’s the power you get with writing your own comic book review. But back to Black Widow, when Phil Noto drew Natasha he had such a distinct and beautiful design for the art it was like all the style of a James Bond movie distilled down into a pair of eyes with perfect eyeliner. Not only did I love his action but his scene work was absolutely inspired. So now along comes Chris Samnee and I unfortunately have to say definitively that his art isn’t near as beautiful as Noto’s. Samnee’s Black Widow art is very much function over form. Nothing is added for extravagance, everything has a purpose within the frame. Which is a shame. Never again will we see something as indulgent as Natasha staring from her loft into a spider as it spins its web.
I want to take an opportunity to voice a different concern. There’s a few books featuring officers of S.H.I.E.L.D out this week, this book included. Why isn’t Marvel taking the opportunity to put some Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. into their books? They have a series which is barely connected to the rest of the universe. This could easily be remedied by making some guest appearances in these books, establishing the characters as prominent and in cannon. The only book that’s made any attempt so far was “Karnak” by Warren Ellis. Maybe I’m wrong and Mark Waid has some plans later in the series. But c’mon guys, it’s an easy fix. All right, back to your regularly scheduled comic review.
So on a whole everyone should buy this book, without a doubt. But let’s measure this book from a different metric, how does it compare to “Invincible”? There’s a sequence in “Invincible” that reminded me of Black Widow escaping S.H.I.E.L.D. During the takeover by Robot, the heroes make a desperate play to free their team mates from imprisonment and have to escape. There’s a few times when it seems they’re not going to make it, where hope appears to be lost when a miracle happens. Whether it’s an assist by the Anni-men or Monster Girl using Brit as a beating stick, all of these desperate maneuvers made it seem they were on the razor’s edge. Even the slightest error would mean the difference between success and failure. I’m not sure I ever felt that in “Black Widow”. Sure the action was exhilarating, but Natasha was always going to make it out. And sure this was a first issue and capture wasn’t going to happen—though it would have been very dramatic if it had—but it means the stakes will never really be at their highest.