Comic Review: Black Widow #1

I picked up the first issue of Black Widow when I was at the comic shop last month mostly on a whim. Having missed out on the newest Hawkeye series that everyone is buzzing about, I didn't want to be left in the dust with the other half of the Avengers super spy team. And even though I was looking forward to reading it, it sat on my side table for a few weeks untouched. I finally got around to checking it out and decided to share my thoughts with you all, despite issue 3 hitting stores this past Wednesday.

The story starts en media res with a suicide bomber being talked down by a mysterious Russian woman who promptly delivers him to the authorities. It turns out that Black Widow is taking jobs on the side of her time with the Avengers. Paid wetworks jobs. The kind of thing a mercenary would do. While this clashes with what readers believe of Widow, her intentions behind them make sense.

Nathan Edmondson scripted the book and while I'm not familiar with some of his other work (The Activity, Who Is Jake Ellis), I love how he handles Black Widow. She's looking to atone for the sins of her past, to make up for all the bad shit she's done. And the jobs she's taking? She chooses them by how bad her target is and how many lives they've destroyed. Black Widow has essentially been reimagined as Dexter, where she hurts only those that hurt others. It's a nice twist on the character, one that definitely works. It manages to bring her back into the fold of work-for-hire mercenary but keeps her likable to the readers and doesn't conflict with the overall mission of the Avengers.

Phil Noto's artwork is simply amazing. He manages to imbue a feeling of phot-realism into his characters even though his art is heavily influenced by a watercolor style. Noto excels at emotion, as well. He masterfully conveys Widow's expressions, making her emotional state easy to read. This isn't a simple task; many artists attempt to do this but fail, making the characters look like they're at the climax of a porn film. But Noto gives Widow so much depth that she comes off beautifully on the page.

Also, I like how Noto chose to give Widow a subdued wardrobe. In these times of "sex sells" where our comic heroines are wearing ridiculously skimpy outfits to help drive numbers, Noto takes the opposite route. His Widow is zipped to the neck, without a inch of cleavage unnecessarily exposed yet she still manages to come off as the sexy super-spy that she's grown into. Maybe it's just the female empowerment that makes her so attractive but regardless, Noto proves that "slutty" does not equal "sexy".

I wasn't expecting to enjoy this title as much as I did. Black Widow has always been a convincing supporting character but as stand-alone star has always seemed to fall flat. I now see that that is not due to the character herself but how the writer handled her. With the success of The Avengers, Marvel is making the right move to shine the spotlight on some of the film's secondary cast, like Hawkeye and Widow. Now if only they could take the risk on giving them their own movie franchises, I'd be all set.

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