Black Widow #1 Review: An Exhilirating and Stylish New Start for Marvel's Greatest Super Spy
2020 has been an interesting year for Black Widow fans with the release of her long-awaited solo film delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Even with the film's release pushed back until at least November, fans have still been able to discover new content tied to the Marvel heroine, including the Black Widow: Bad Blood audio series this past spring. Joining this week is Black Widow #1, the highly-anticipated first installment of a new ongoing series telling Natasha Romanoff's adventures. On essentially every level, Black Widow #1 is exactly the kind of story fans of the character have been hoping for—a slick, cameo-filled, and surprisingly-heartfelt installment, and one that tees up an intriguing mystery in the process.
After returning home from a secret mission, Natasha's entire life is turned upside down by an unexpected chain of events, and her ties with heroic allies are seemingly cut. Months later, Natasha is shown laying low in San Francisco, only for her past as a super spy to haunt her. If all of that wasn't enough, the return of an unexpected villain threatens to shake up everything readers thought they knew about Natasha's predicament.
Interpretations of Black Widow have varied wildly across the years, with writers across TV, movies, and comics unsure how to strike a balance between her morally-ambiguous femme fatale roots and her earnest attempts at being a hero. Series writer Kelly Thompson rises to that challenge, crafting a version of Natasha that you'll want to follow on any and all adventures that follow. There's no denying that Natasha has a lot on her plate in this issue—including the central mystery, which is largely left to be explored in future issues—but there is never a sense that she's burdened or emotionally overcome by these events and her many responsibilities. All of the elements that fans have grown to love about Natasha are prominent in this issue—particularly her tenacity, her ingenuity, her playfulness, and her sense of swagger—and they all help move the plot forward in a meaningful way. To an extent, it's unsurprising that Thompson's take on Nat is so nuanced and fun to read, as she has already had such great takes on Marvel heroines like Captain Marvel, Kate Bishop, and Rogue. Still, her version of Nat is uniquely promising, and it will be fun to see where this story goes next.
Another element in Black Widow #1 that is sure to be a highlight of the series is its supporting cast, which unites many of the other heroes that have been romantically or platonically tied to Nat over the years. An early sequence between Nat and Steve Rogers will be a delight for many fans, and both Clint Barton and Bucky Barnes have roles to play as well. After an entire miniseries was dedicated to Clint and Bucky avenging a fridged Black Widow, there's something refreshing about their new roles here. The emotions that both of them feel for Nat are apparent, but there's still an overwhelming sense that she is centered in her own story. That fact only makes the reveal of this series' villain more of a pleasant surprise, as the conflict that is sure to follow should be a fascinating and unpredictable one. If anything, fans might complain that there isn't enough action from the start, but there's still a profound kinetic energy felt through every page.
Much of that energy is thanks to Elena Casagrande's art, which is gorgeously executed in every single panel. The visuals instantly transport readers into Nat's diverse lifestyle, including the bustling night-time cityscapes of Manhattan-set sequences and her crisp, almost-too-serene life in San Francisco. The character designs in Black Widow are impeccable, with Nat's costumes and street style sure to launch thousands of cosplays and aesthetically-pleasing Tumblr posts. Jordie Bellaire's colors take the visual world of this issue to a whole other level, bringing a timeless, but undoubtedly modern energy to the proceedings. The use of reds in Black Widow #1 are gorgeous, and will hopefully translate well when printed on a physical page. Cory Petit ties it all together with the lettering, which makes both the more serious and more jovial sequences of the issue sing.
Black Widow #1 exceeds expectations at every turn, bringing a new take on the world of Natasha Romanoff that feels both reverential and fresh. In the span of twenty-ish pages, the issue effectively and brilliantly uproots both Nat and the reader, setting up a mystery fans will definitely want to follow. Sure, the issue leaves a lot of questions unanswered and fight scenes unseen, but it's so unfaltering in its nuanced and earnest take on its heroine that those aspects never seem like a problem. When coupled with some truly breathtaking art and color work, this is a debut issue that Marvel fans—and comics fans in general—definitely don't want to miss.
Published by Marvel Comics
On September 2, 2020
Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Elena Casagrande
Colors by Jordie Bellaire
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Adam Hughes