By Chris Samnee, Mark Waid, Matthew Wilson, and Joe Caramagna.
Black Widow looks every bit the expert spy in this excellent new series from Waid, Samnee, WIlson & Caramagna, where Black Widow is the star of her very own Spy vs Spy drama. The firs issue was a whirlwind of action, with little narrative or dialogue, which completely set the tone for this series. This will not be a thinking man’s Black Widow; this will be a Black Widow who will be out there doing all the things you would expect from a highly trained and respected master of intelligence gathering and combat. Samnee and Waid have delivered in past endeavors, like Daredevil, by completely reimagining and redesigning our preconceived notions of characters from the Marvel Universe and giving us a new perspective. This fresh take on Black Widow has been slap you across the face good, and it just keeps getting better in the second issue as the many layers start to unfold around Black Widow’s change of heart concerning S.H.I.E.L.D. The story moves along this issue as we see that Black Widow is a heated topic of conversation amongst S.H.I.E.L.D. agents with some trusting her and others not, but Maria Hill defends her and her skills. Things get complicated when a group of assassins try to get close to S.H.I.E.L.D. at a vulnerable spot and Natasha comes through to save the day unbeknownst to anyone. In the process of saving everyone, she compromises herself and we get to meet the seemingly new bad guy, Weeping Lion, another tie to her former Soviet spy days.
Samnee and Waid appear to be another one of those great creative teams that play off the talents of one another, so it makes it hard to assign credit to one without the other. The ideas for both story and art most likely stem from the collective brain of this team that has both Samnee and Waid credited as writers and it shows. The story is deeply connected to the art throughout the issue, more than usual, and it often reveals more than a narration or dialogue ever could. This issue does provide more words than the first, not a hard feat to accomplish, but this is no way takes away from the importance of the art in this issue. If you want to show what a trained assassin looks like, you can either talk a lot about their training and prolific kills or you can have a badass couple of action panels that show the assassin doing what they do best without any accompanying descriptors. Samnee and Waid choose the latter, and for this medium it completely works. Another great aspect of the story that almost goes unnoticed, but deserves accolades, is how female empowering this writing is. Sometimes, people label a comic “feminist” because it will have a female driven title with an all female creative team, but the story can still fail to deliver female positive themes that serve a broad audience. Samnee and Waid accomplish introducing a strong female lead that is a well-known character in some challenging situations that are new for her and her audience. This helps to deliver a few key points that strengthen why this book is more of a feminist statement for women led comics because first and foremost Natasha is respected and feared in her field. No one mentions her being a woman to any disadvantage or advantage so, she is not defined as a woman, only as a spy or assassin. This is really just simple great storytelling that just happens to revolve around a woman, which sounds easy, but is hardly ever executed with such efficacy as you see in this title.
The art in this issue is also flawless and strengthens the story with the action panels showing Natasha silently executing threats, while also showing close up reaction shots to strengthen character emotions. This book features art from the aforementioned Chris Samnee, colors from Matthew Wilson, and letters from Joe Caramagna. The lines are strong and a little heavy, which helps to add movement to the action panels. The coloring is right on point throughout the issue, matching each panel and the mood portrayed to the tee. It portrays a bleak and stormy day with blacks and blues with the interrupting action panels anchored with red and oranges to help off set the action. The best part of the book is toward the end where Natasha is just going to town beating the crap out of a group of men who abducted her. It is beautifully illustrated and orchestrated throughout two pages with the action expertly laid out in varying panels to show the action of her assaults and accompanying shrieks from her victims. The action is easy to follow and really sets the tone of the story with little to no dialogue to narration. The little dialogue we do receive is purposeful and really adds to the story and action sequences.
If you’re looking for a strong female driven book, you’ve hit the mother lode with Black Widow. This second issue does a good deal to further convince its readers to add this to their pull lists as the story begins to really heat up. When a title has a creative team as in sync as Waid, Samnee, Wilson and Caramagna are, you can really trust that the story and art that will deliver in every issue throughout the series.