By Jen & Sylvia Soska, Flaviano & Veronica Gandini
Black Widow #1 is an exciting, action-packed start to her new series from the talented writing pair of Jen Soska and Slyvia Soska. It’s set at new years eve and explores Nat’s return after being dead (because all comics characters come back in some way or another), and plunges her back into the thick of things almost immediately, also addressing the fallout from Captain America’s turn as a HYDRA Agent and how it affects him in the process, especially with the knowledge that the alternate Captain America killed Black Widow in Secret Empire. It’s this background that explores the nature of their relationship in this issue, showing Natasha operate in the background as opposed to Cap operating more in the foreground and in the public eye. Natasha is supposed to be dead, after all.
The book remains newcomer friendly for those who aren’t caught up with the events in Secret Empire and blitzes over them quickly in a couple of panels, but always remembers that they’re there in the background. The multiple Captain America idea especially, isn’t completely ignored, as audiences get to see the Soska sisters handle the characters and their split well. The book here unleashes Black Widow as a more reigned in Punisher-esque figure (Can Frank Castle be the next guest appearance in this series?), a character who operates in the shadows without rules or regulations. Including Steve – the real Steve – in this issue then was important beyond just a cameo from a major Avenger, as it helps highlight the differences between the two characters.
Artist Flaviano and colourist Veronica Gandini turn the hustle and bustle of the streets of Madripoor after dark into of a neon-lit Blade Runner-esque city and it’s where the book nails the feel of the espionage tone that a Black Widow book needs. Its globe-trotting terrain allows Flaviano and Gandini to make the most out of a variety of locations available to the character, but the cartoonish style of Flaviano’s art when it comes to the characters almost feels at odds with the tone of the book itself. That’s one of the main problems of the issue, which is not limited to just the artwork, as the story too feels tonally inconsistent, almost feeling like two separate issues combined into one rather than a collective whole, and then the final-page cliffhanger veers in a different direction entirely when it introduces a new villain into the mix.
It’s been almost two years since the last Black Widow series and the current creative team are following a run from Daredevil veterans Mark Waid and Chris Samnee. All the same, that lengthy gap allows readers to treat this series as a breath of fresh air, and it’s safe to say that it’s very good to see an ongoing Black Widow-centric book again. Although nothing about this issue screams ‘must read’ just yet, it has plenty of potential and promise, as the Soska sisters set out to explore Black Widow’s identity and examine what helps her stand apart from the rest of the Avengers. The book does a good job at never letting Steve Rogers overshadow Natasha’s solo series too, and always finds a way to be entertaining despite a few flaws that are quickly brushed aside.