After years of speculation and anticipation it appears that Marvel Studios is finally ready to move forward on a solo Black Widow movie. At this time, there are no real details beyond its existence and the presumption that Scarlett Johansson will continue to play the leading role. However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to go on when speculating about what Black Widow (or whatever its final title might be) will be about.
Black Widow has been a regular feature at Marvel Comics since her introduction in the pages of 1964’s Tales of Suspense #52, created by Stan Lee, Don Heck, and Don Rico. She has gone from villain to hero, then skirted the world in between many times since. She has been an Avenger, a Champion, and a part of many other teams. Her team-ups have regularly featured the likes of Hawkeye and Winter Soldier. It has been a storied career filled with current adventures and a fascinating origin story. There’s plenty of story to base a script upon, and a few Black Widow tales stand out as the best of the bunch.
Here are the five best Black Widow comics that could best inspire the upcoming film.
S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Most Wanted
Black Widow (2016-2017) #1-12
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Chris Samnee
Colors by Matthew Wilson
The most recent Black Widow series from Waid, Samnee, and Wilson, one of Marvel Comics’ absolute best creative teams, was a tour-de-force that told a masterful story of spycraft and secret histories within 12 issues. It kicked off with a bang when the entire first issue dedicated itself to Natasha being hunted by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents as she fled a Helicarrier. Over the rest of the series her motives were explored as a spy on the run, striving to be a hero without the help of many allies and resources.
This sort of setup lends itself well the Marvel Cinematic Universe where Black Widow has the ability to call on super soldiers, war machines, and gods if things get too hot. Creating a situation where she must keep everything a secret both keeps the focus on her and makes every task more difficult. It’s not only a great premise to highlight what makes Black Widow special, but comes with several new villains that would be a great fit for the big screen including The Lion and The Headmistress.
Secret Avengers #20
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Alex Maleev
Colors by Nick Filardi
This one-shot has enough story to fill an entire big screen adventure. Like all six of Ellis’ Secret Avengers installments, it served to highlight a specifically interesting aspect of their varied adventures, such as time travel in this instance. When Black Widow watches the rest of the Avengers die during a shoot out, she takes a failsafe mechanism back in time by five years to discover how she might still save the day.
While a direct adaptation of this story might not be as exciting for the big screen since it begins and ends with what is ultimately a minor confrontation, the ideas it contains offer a lot. One of the most important elements of the story is that Natasha must act on her own and devise an incredibly complex plan that even geniuses like The Beast will not notice. Furthermore, her work goes entirely unnoticed at the end of the day, showing that she works best in the shadows where no one can see what she accomplished. It’s a great story, and one that really understands Black Widow’s unique brand of heroism.
Black Widow (2004) #1-6
Written by Richard K. Morgan
Art by Bill Sienkiewicz and Goran Parlov
Colors by Dan Brown
“Homecoming” plays on the classic trope of a spy trying to leave their trade. When Black Widow decides she has had enough, the world decides it isn’t done with her quite yet. A string of killings leads her back to her origins in Russia to fight a battle only she can win. The story combines a retelling of how the Black Widow was created along with the sort of mystery and adventure that shows why she is needed in the Marvel universe.
Outside of some discussion in Avengers: Age of Ultron and the Agent Carter television series, Black Widow’s origins have gone largely unexplored within the movies. While an actual origin story would be redundant at this point, having Natasha’s past create the antagonist for her present is a perfect setup. It will allow fans to see what made the Black Widow while remaining focused on the new status quo of the MCU following the next Avengers movies. Those movies might also offer a good reason for Natasha to seek retirement.
Web of Intrigue
Marvel Fanfare #10-13
Written by Ralph Macchio and George Pérez
Art by George Pérez, Bob Layton, and Luke McDonnell
Colors by Petra Scotese
“Web of Intrigue” is a classic Black Widow story that holds up every bit as well today, thanks in no small part to George Pérez’s incredible pencils. This tale, like “Homecoming”, features the Black Widow returning to Russia in order to confront her past. On this adventure there’s a greater focus on Natasha’s new life as a hero when she seeks to rescue an old mentor. It highlights that she functions best as a solo agent, overcoming the interventions of both foes and friends.
We have already seen Black Widow square off against S.H.I.E.L.D. once in Captain America: Winter Soldier, and the idea of her confronting massive spy organizations again certainly doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Going up against both American and Russian agencies in order to protect the people she cares about sets stakes high and offers an opportunity to reshape the Marvel movie-verse moving forward.
The Name of the Rose
Black Widow (2010) #1-5
Written by Marjorie Liu
Art by Daniel Acuña0comments
This story from superstar writer Marjorie Liu starts with Black Widow on a very low note when she barely escapes assassination. The resulting mystery pulls her across the superhero landscape of the Marvel Universe as she seeks out who wants her dead and why. Liu crafts both a thrilling whodunnit and pulls the many threads of Natasha’s life together into a single story.
As the MCU expands cameos are becoming more common, so it only makes sense to take advantage of a mystery that puts the superhero status quo of this world first. We expect Black Widow to contain genre elements of noir, spy, and mystery tales, but what will really make it stand out is blending these elements with a superhero universe. “The Name of the Rose” offers some great concepts on how to mix these concepts together and craft a fantastic first Black Widow solo movie.