Black Widow #1 Review

by Charles Martin on January 16, 2019

Black Widow #1 Review
Writers: Jen & Sylvia Soska
Artist: Flaviano
Colourist: Veronica Gandini
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Black Widow is, so far as most of the Marvel universe knows, dead. She's going to use that to her advantage to do some much-needed wetwork, starting by shutting down Madripoor's latest and nastiest snuff film operation.

First, though, she has to get through a team-up pitting her and Captain America against a fake Captain America.

Secret Empire commentary ahoy!

Let's concentrate on the good parts: This issue has some incredible art. The Madripoor vistas are fantastic, the action is viscerally powerful, the costumes are (with one big exception) tons of fun.

That double-Cap adventure is set in Times Square on New Year's Eve. Comics artists rarely get enough credit for handling crowd scenes, but this one is drawn so incredibly well that it demands acclaim.

That turns into a running visual theme throughout the issue; it pays way more attention to settings than your average comic. The passionate care makes them flourish. Streets, cityscapes, rooftops, bars, criminal lairs, even elevators - they're all real and incredibly alive.

The colour palette is an integral part of this vibrant world. It adds even more depth and heft with translucent washes and raw brushstrokes. It's not afraid to dial up the intensity when the action or the location call for it, though. The fight scenes and the more neon-drenched settings are bursting with strong colours.

I wish this artistic excellence was allied with a challenging, ambitious script. The Cap and Madripoor sections get equal amounts of page real estate. The Cap team-up seems to drag on twice as long thanks to its frustrating refusal to really sink its teeth into the complicated relationship Steve and Natasha have right now.

The high point of the issue might be the devastating line Natasha uses to say goodbye to Steve. That one does bite into the relationship, and it draws real blood.

Unfortunately, it's the exception rather than the rule when it comes to characterizing Natasha. She is suddenly in favour of quips when she fights - and not good ones. Every creator is free to realize their own vision of the Black Widow, but I'm not all that excited by one that shouts, "From Russia with love, #$%&!" while clobbering the baddie.

To swing back around to the ongoing plot, Natasha winds up in an uneasy alliance with Tyger Tiger. She's the one who clues the Widow in on the snuff ring. When exposed directly to the video evidence, Natasha gasps with shock and takes a hard belt from a whiskey bottle.

I'll agree that snuff films are a shocking and special evil, and this series doubles down even further by implying the victims are children. But this comic emphasizes the evilness of the material by flapping the unflappable Black Widow. 

It's more characterization I disagree with. These fights are so tough the Widow has to cuss; these baddies are so evil the Widow is shocked. This script misses the delicate balance it needs between protagonist and plot. It's either selling the Black Widow short or over-selling its antagonists.

Black Widow #1 launches Natasha Romanoff - eventually - into a solo adventure on the streets of Madripoor. The script has an unsure grasp on Natasha's character. The course laid out for the plot has promise, but this first taste is not particularly compelling on its own. Tour de force art hauls this issue up out of the ordinary. This volume has a long way to go before it becomes a must-read for Widow fans, though.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
The one exception to the fun costume designs? Peep the new villain in the final panel and get back to me.