Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Black Widow #1

Marjorie Liu & Daniel Acuna

With Black Widow debuting on the big screen in a few weeks in Iron Man 2 (played by Scarlet Johansson), Marvel has wisely launched a new on-going series starring the red-headed ex-Russian-spy Avenger Natasha Romanoff.  There have been a few mini-series as of late, including Black Widow: Deadly Origin (Paul Cornell & Tom Raney) and Black Widow & the Marvel Girls (Paul Tobin & Salva Espin), both of which were disappointments, so I was preparing myself to be disappointed once again with this new series debut, but it seems that the third time really is the charm for Black Widow.  In case you're unfamiliar with Black Widow's elaborate history, there's a nice recap at the back of this issue to get new readers up to speed, including anything readers may have missed in the recent Black Widow: Deadly Origin.  I'm personally a little surprised that Marvel hasn't done more to highlight Greg Rucka's work on Black Widow, since he's all the rage with his recent Detective Comics run at DC.  I loved his Black Widow material through the Marvel Knights imprint and this is the perfect time to make a fuss over it so new readers and old readers alike can rediscover a real gem in the character's history.

Black Widow #1 is paced wonderfully, beginning with Natasha's meeting with another spy, Black Rose.  It's an interesting meeting that leads very quickly into a mystery that Natasha is looking into involving some clues that have been very obviously left for Black Widow to discover, including a black rose that led her to seek out her former comrade.  But the reasons behind the clues are as-yet unknown, and as Widow is soon attacked and put through quite an ordeal, we see Tony Stark, Logan and her lover James try to sort things out as well.  The relationships between all of the characters is intriguing, and the plot is pretty riveting, but I think Liu is especially skilled at making Black Widow herself a very likeable character.  Many former interpretations of the character have left me a little cold, but Liu knows how to work Natasha as an interesting person, which makes all of the difference in storytelling.  It certainly doesn't hurt the book that Daniel Acuna's artwork is stunning.  It's very pretty and stylized, with some panels that are flat-out amazing.  A few action scenes are a little murky, but for the most part, it's clear and quite exciting.  I hope this is the beginning of a real presence for Black Widow in the Marvel Universe.  She has a lot of potential, and it's nice to see someone tap into that potential once again.

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