Comic Review – Black Widow #7 (Marvel Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

This week I’m revisiting one of the best books being published right now: Black Widow from Marvel Comics. I reviewed the first issue of the current run back in March, and as Marvel are doing a new ‘Marvel NOW!’ launch, I thought I’d review issue #7 as the start of the ‘No More Secrets’ story arc. Black Widow is being co-written by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, with art by Samnee, colours by Matt Wilson and letters from Joe Caramagna.

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Cover art by Samnee & Wilson

Widow has defeated the Weeping Lion, the man threatening to expose her past and a host of S.H.I.E.L.D. secrets to the world. Discovering that he possesses telepathic abilities, Natasha recruits him in her mission to stop her old Red Room Headmistress and her daughter Recluse, who have resumed recruiting young girls and training them as assassins in the new ‘Dark Room’. Together, Widow and Lion sneak into the Greenland Sea Base, while the rest of the issue flashes back to Natasha’s first kill mission.

Wait and Samnee continue to display how well they understand the character of Natasha Romanoff and what makes a truly great spy-craft story with this issue. This book has been one of the strongest offerings from Marvel in recent memory (and is mercifully untouched by Civil War II thus far), and the latest issue doesn’t break that streak. Razor-sharp dialogue permeates the book, and despite her recent set backs Black Widow remains stoic and formidable (and even a bit of a dick at the end, almost like she wants to create a new enemy for herself). Interestingly, while the art and writing are both of a top-notch quality throughout, they are given distinct parts of this issue to shine. The showdown at the end of the book between Widow and Weeping Lion, and the Headmistress and Recluse is driven by dialogue rather than action, allowing the characters and the plot room to stretch out, even if it is amidst some stunning visuals.

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Art by Samnee & Wilson, letters from Caramagna

However, it is in the flashback to Natasha’s first kill mission where the art gets to truly impress, and is really the most impressive part of this issue. The young Black Widow engages in some utterly brutal violence (it is a kill mission after all) to a degree that is all the more stunning coming from a child. Samnee’s art seems to step up a gear with every issue, and this sequence was possibly the best yet. The detached horror and fury from the young assassin’s face is chilling, and the montage of the implications of her kill showcases some excellent character work and panel design. Matt Wilson’s colours work superbly along with Samnee’s art, with the flashback scenes washed with a warm sepia tone and the present day steeped in the shadows and dark palette of the final confrontation in a spy movie, interspersed with the violent flash of colour of the discharge of firearms.

Black Widow is one of the best books on the stands right now. It’s definitely my favourite Marvel book (just beating out Mighty Thor), and when I look back on this year I’d be hard-pressed to think of another comic that I have enjoyed more. With gorgeous art, razor-sharp dialogue and a slick spy story, this is a must-buy. Check it out at your local comic book shop or online doo-dad now!

Score: 9.5 Exploding Heads out of 10

Comic Review – Black Widow #1 (Marvel Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. He missed reviewing them while he tries to write up his PhD thesis, so every other week he’ll be reviewing one, with potential minor spoilers.

More Marvel first issues! This week I picked up the highly anticipated Black Widow #1 from the team behind the critically lauded Daredevil run that ended in late 2015 – co-written by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, with art by Samnee, colours by Matt Wilson (as I suspected, he does colour everything I’m reading!) and letters from VC’s Joe Caramagna. Black Widow #1 was published by Marvel Comics.

BWNatasha Romanoff is on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. The super spy has taken something from her (presumably now former) employers, and their leader Maria Hill wants her stopped at all costs. This first issue picks right up in the middle of the action, as Natasha is declared an enemy of S.H.I.E.L.D. and she attempts a daring escape from a helicarrier, cutting a brutal path through scores of agents that are trying to catch and pursue her. We don’t know what she’s taken, but it must be incredibly important (and considering S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hill’s recent behaviour, fairly damning) for the organisation to disavow one of their most valuable agents.

Black Widow #1 is very light on dialogue, with Romanoff herself uttering a single line right at the end of the issue and most of the rest coming from the agents desperately trying to capture her. This serves to let the action come to the forefront of the book, with no one pontificating or dragging the pace down with exposition. Widow has taken something. S.H.I.E.L.D. wants it back. Go. The pacing and style therefore mirrors in a way the elevator scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where Cap is suddenly faced with scores of agents trying to take him down. This feels very much like a direct and intentional homage to that, while simultaneously raising the stakes with regards to the action.

BW2And the action is superbly drawn by Samnee. With both him and Waid co-writing the book, it seems that Samnee had a lot of input on the flow of the story and as a result the action within. Natasha wrecks agents left and right, silently and brutally taking down all comers. Despite the pace and dealing with multiple figures, many of whom are in the same uniform, the fighting never gets confusing or muddled. When the issue becomes a city-wide chase scene, the speed and intensity is palpable. The line art is bold and incredibly dynamic, with an excellent variation across the book. And god damn that double page spread of the helicarrier as a title page was beautiful.

I joke about Wilson seemingly colouring every book I read (and it’s not quite true, but close!), but with every comic he brings something totally different that fits and really enhancing an already great looking issue. There’s a vibrancy to the helicarrier escape as Natasha runs through (or breaks through) the sterile corridors, a washed out late-afternoon glow to the chase scenes and a moody, bloody end-of-the-film style hue to the sunset showdown at the end.

The first issue of the new run on Black Widow is an excellent display of a creative team at the top of their game. These folks know how to bring out the best in each other, and it shines in this book. Marvel needs to stop putting out so many books that I can’t stop reading. Pick this up at your local comic book shop or digital comics app now!

Score: 9.5 Jetpacks out of 10