Review: Black Widow #12
“Black Widow #12 is proof-positive that a solo film featuring the Russian spy-turned-Avenger is dying to be made. While Natasha is often depicted as a written-by-the-book hardass in both film and in print, Edmonson and Noto are able to show a multifaceted character that hold multitudes in her personality.”
Black Widow #12
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Nathan Edmonson
Artist: Phil Noto
Release Date: Wed, November 19, 2014
While it doesn’t get the press of say Batman or Avengers, Black Widow by writer Nathan Edmonson and artist Phil Noto is a quiet hit for Marvel Comics (and, incidentally, the perfect companion piece to Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye). Even with solo books like Captain America or Superman, too often the cacophony of big action overshadows any quiet character moments. When those character moments do make some sort of nominal appearance in the overall comic book chapter, those moments sometimes feel rote and something to check off for a story’s Things To Accomplish.
That’s why an issue like Black Widow #12 is such a refreshing read. Edmonson and Noto are able to move along the story arc and character development of Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow, while not skimping on the action. In Widow #12, we get two tales juxtaposed with one another, each tale hinting at what’s to come for the SHIELD spy and Avenger. In Somalia, Natasha and the Howling Commandos engage in a rescue mission, and Nat’s having the time of her life. She feels like she has a sense of self and purpose that she hasn’t possessed in quite some time, and the mission in which she currently finds herself makes her feel all the more self-assured that perhaps she is finding a balance of all things in her life.
Couple that with the hubbub going on back in the United States, where, unbeknownst to Natasha, Anderson Cooper is reporting on his AC360 series about some of the more secretive, clandestine activities Nat often finds herself embroiled in for SHIELD when not working with the Avengers. Anderson’s story is complete with video evidence, leading folks from all sides of the issue to come out of the woodwork, either praising the Widow’s service or denouncing the off-the-reservation endeavors of a supposed superhero.
Black Widow #12 immediately made me connect to the film Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in which Natasha’s past is leaked for all the world to digest at the story’s end. However, in that tale, Natasha was responsible for the leak, so she was able to own the story before the story owned her. It will be interesting to see how Edmonson shows Nat dealing with her world turned on its head. The title credits on the last page of the issue even allude to that, depicting a black widow spider barely hanging by a thread from a web (of deceit? Of secrets?) it has spun for itself.
As I read Widow #12, I couldn’t help but lament that this is what Marvel’s miniseries Civil War should have been, with commentators on television speaking thoughtfully and without hyperbole. A contrived explosion of an elementary school by young, inexperienced superheroes felt shoehorned in to move Civil War. With Widow #12, I feel like we are treated to a more grounded, more sensible, more believable depiction of how something like this would play out in the “real” world. In our camera phones-flying drones-WikiLeaks culture, few writers (with the notable exception of Brian Michael Bendis on Daredevil) have taken advantage of the eyes-everywhere climate in which we live.
Phil Noto’s art is exquisite and, frankly, was one of the reasons I tried Black Widow, a book I’d never touched before in its current run. Aside from his spot-on depiction of Anderson Cooper in the issue, Noto is able to capture the joy and world-weariness you’d expect to see on Natasha’s face. In fact, the expressions of all the characters in the book rival the personalities seen in Olivier Coipel’s art.
Black Widow #12 is proof-positive that a solo film featuring the Russian spy-turned-Avenger is dying to be made. While Natasha is often depicted as a written-by-the-book hardass in both film and in print, Edmonson and Noto are able to show a multifaceted character that hold multitudes in her personality.