Another issue, another fantastic crossover between Black Widow and another upper street-level hero. This time Frank Castle makes an appearance, disrupting, then helping, Black Widow’s inspection of a ship and interrogation of one of its only remaining denizens. Nate Edmondson has been writing both these characters and while I’ve had mixed feelings about his PUNISHER, I’ve been consistently a fan of his BLACK WIDOW and a cross-over between the two is definitely something that would interest me. Sure enough, Frank fits in perfectly, bringing Crossbones and his crew in from his own title while not disrupting a single thing in Widow’s narrative. While she and Bucky had some incredible chemistry, with Castle it’s all business and that fits just fine. This issue feels like another jumping off point for a bigger story, breaking the streak of semi-self contained issues just in time to get Romanova back into a longer-form story.
Phil Noto continues to, apparently, make use of his own professional time machine and turn in solo art that looks like it would require months of time to hammer out. The action has a vicious fluidity in this issue as well as an organic flow that makes the characters almost seem to move through the book of their own accord, and I always love to see it. His colors are subdued and murky, matching the tone of the book perfectly. This is a book, and an issue, where things like morals and allegiances are questionable at best and Noto communicates that on every level.
This issue crosses over with PUNISHER #9 and you really need to read both to get the full story, particularly why Punisher and Crossbones are on this boat in the first place, and even then it remains a bit unclear. Widow arrives on the ship with a ton of questions and, by issue’s end, has almost no answers. Punisher isn’t out of place in the least, but if you just take this issue at face value, he definitely seems to blow in without any kind of rhyme or reason. He’s not unwelcome, and it isn’t that he doesn’t fit with the rest of the book, but there’s a logic hiccup, particularly considering how the issue ends, which is even MORE ambivalent unless you read Punisher’s issue. Overall it gives the issue a sense of being disjointed and only part of a larger narrative.
Despite being a little too tied to another book which is, to both issues’ credit, also by Edmonson, I still thoroughly enjoyed this as a starting point for another, longer storyline. “Fun” comics may be getting their share of praise, and rightly so, but there’s something to be said for a comic that takes itself deadly seriously and goes out of its way to EARN that tone, which this one does. Black Widow is fast becoming the covert hit of the year, and I can’t think of anything that would be more apropos. Edmonson writes Natasha as cold, but she never comes off and boring or emotionless and Noto’s visuals continue to be almost unreal in how consistently great they are considering he does them all solo, making this book a look underneath the curtain of the Marvel U, but one that’s worth checking out if you want to see what goes on when the Infinity Gauntlet isn’t obliterating entire worlds.