Nate Edmonson has officially perfected Black Widow’s internal monologue as well as the tone and tenor of this book. From her first moments on-panel, we’re treated to an incredibly analytic series of text boxes that let the reader know, while things look bad, Romanova is completely in control. When the trap springs, it’s not surprising, but it still feels great to see. We get some closure on the series’ recurring antagonist, some backstory on what exactly brought Damon Dran to this low point, and an incredible ending that, once again, lets the reader know that this is only the beginning of the series, and storyline. We get more Maria Hill and her plausible deniability, and I love it when Hill is firing on all points, doing the full-on S.H.I.E.L.D. spycraft. There’s even an event near the end that winks about the similarities between this title’s mission statement and another “Avengers off-time” book.
As great as the writing is at setting tone, Phil Noto’s art and colors are the real stand-outs in that department. Even a bright, sunny day seems murky and mysterious in this comic, and there isn’t much sunshine to be seen. The scenes on the ship all look like they’re taking place in a dense fog that the characters can still, somehow, be seen through. The colors are muted and mellow, looking washed-out without looking dull. This is an extremely visually arresting book, no small feat for how subdued everything looks.
We see the return of the Hammer of God, but his appearance causes two minor problems. The first is that he’s completely unrecognizable in his current state, so his reveal is kneecapped until it’s clarified who he is (he winds up looking EXACTLY like a larger version of the main antagonist, adding to the confusion) and the fight with him is extremely brief, feeling more like the tying up of a loose end than a real fight. Which may be an intentional choice, but either way it winds up ringing hollow.
An amazing debut followed by a great first arc has made this a must-buy and a book to eagerly anticipate. Its tone is even more geared toward espionage than Secret Avengers was and it is another great example of using the medium of superheroics to tell different, fresh stories. The art establishes the tone, the writing plays perfectly into it, the creators work amazingly together. If you were reticent about starting a new series, this one is absolutely worth it.