It’s easy to forget, with such an illustrious career as a hero, that Natasha Romanova used to be one of the more well-known and infamous villains of the Marvel Universe. Now yes, a lot of that was written as a result of Cold War anti-Soviet sentiment at the time, but rather than quietly retconning it, Marvel’s used it to fuel one of her defining characteristics: a desire for redemption. Nathan Edmonson uses this past to frame this issue, not only revealing who’s behind her attorney Isaiah’s disappearance, but giving the responsible character a backstory involving a part of her life Black Widow would prefer be erased. This part, which we jump back and forth to throughout the issue, is especially tricky as Hawkeye was working against her, and the two of them had shared a relationship which always complicates things. Edmonsen jumps straight into the action here: there’s little prep, there’s no scenes of Romanova getting ready, we jump into action in the past and action in the present. This was really enjoyable as I feel like he’s earned the ability to do that with how well he’s developed the character in the past. He’s working with a very solid foundation, and the character’s actions are clearly being driven by that.
Phil Noto’s art is, as always, incredible. The linework is subtle and sketchy, giving the whole issue, especially the parts set in the past, a dreamlike, memory quality and making the present seem sharp and in the moment. Part of this is his use of colors as the past is extremely bright, even overexposed, adding to the tonal quality and the frantic action. The present, meanwhile, is pitch-black with very little detail, reflecting Isaiah’s disorientation and confusion. Noto’s always done an amazing job at having the filter and background reflect the characters inhabiting them.
Phil Noto remains the sole artist on this title and it’s finally beginning to show around the edges. There are a few panels where the characters lack detail or look more like concept sketches than final art.
The dialog in the flashbacks, as well as the general interaction between Natasha and Clint, comes off as stunted and almost unnatural. Natasha’s comments are and attitude are mercurial and, at times, border on nonsensical and one or two things Hawkeye mutters to himself are equally head-scratching. Edmonson may make good on these in a future issue, but it doesn’t feel like there’s any mystery here, it just felt like filler where there could have been silence.
This issue continues what I consider to be a ten issue winning streak of this series. BLACK WIDOW hasn’t failed yet and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. We’ve got the character nailed down and established perfectly, so we can dig into the nitty-gritty of her every day life and something tells me that we haven’t seen the last of Hawkeye either. Widow finally getting some satisfaction from whoever’s been jerking her around should be a sight to behold, and this issue sets that up beautifully.