Thursday, 15 May 2014

Black Widow Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread Review (Nathan Edmondson, Phil Noto)

Black Widow’s inevitable series has arrived and thank Thor it’s good!

Actually, I’m not surprised – a female spy story seems highly likely to succeed. Look at Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s Velvet for a series that could easily be Black Widow in her 40s/50s – that comic RULES! The TV show Archer, the Bourne/Mission Impossible movies, and of course Bond - replace the dudes with a hot redhead? Come on. A Black Widow espionage comic in the Marvel Universe was always going to be a surefire hit.

Natasha’s atoning for her villainous past by accepting mercenary missions, in between avenging the world, and wiring her fees to the families of her former victims. It’s all part of Marvel’s weird but wonderful experiment in turning all of their characters into heroes! Loki, Magneto, Black Widow – even Thanos will probably get re-cast as a loveable rogue soon!

The format for the first half of the book is short, done-in-one missions set in colourful parts of the globe – Shanghai, Dubai, Argentina – before writer Nathan Edmondson switches to a longer story arc. A mad Russian monk (are there any other kind?) is doing naughty things with a bazooka and Natasha’s gotta stop him! Like a lot of solitary, brooding characters with dark pasts (Batman for instance), Natasha learns to trust others and make friends – aww, see what I mean about the villain makeover? Love her yet? No?! Quick, give her an adorable cat!! 

Edmondson seems to be the go-to guy for non-powered superheroes. He wrote the New 52 Grifter series (terrible), and is now doing this and the re-launched Punisher series at Marvel (both much better), and he does good work in this book. Natasha may be cold but the action is interesting and fast-paced enough to overlook her minimal character-development. I do wish he’d stop mentioning “webs” and “threads” all the time though – I get it, black widow is a type of spider, stop alluding to it all the time! 

Phil Noto’s art is gorgeous! It’s really hard to describe because it’s kind of impressionistic and watercolour-y from a distance but look closer and you’ll see sharp lines that hold all of the images together. It’s so pretty and unique - I’ve read a lot of Marvel comics and haven’t seen another art style quite like it. Edmondson’s writing is decent, rarely rising above average, but Noto’s art is way up there in quality.

Do you love the Mission Impossible movies but hate the alien-loving midget with the scary teeth and wish the lead were someone else, like a redheaded former Russian spy? Black Widow is for you!

Black Widow Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread

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