WEB OF BLACK WIDOW #1
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Stephen Mooney
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Artist: Junggeun Yoon
Natasha Romanoff is undoubtedly my favourite Marvel character, so I was pleasantly surprised at their decision to devote multiple solo-series to her as of late. Having recently read the Soska Sisters’ No Restraints Play, the Widow-withdrawal was hitting hard...Could Web of Black Widow be the answer?
With the release of the Black Widow solo movie vastly approaching, it seems that Marvel are trying to spark some new interest in the character, making sure their titles are accessible to first-time readers by providing context to the character’s history. As first issues often feel bogged down with the regurgitation of past events, it was a smart decision to get all of this out of the way in a concise paragraph rather than allowing it to drag down the plot.
Our story starts in New York, at a charity fundraiser for Sobol Industries. We’re introduced to a woman we don’t recognise, who is revealed to be Widow in disguise upon an interaction with Tony Stark, who she warns to stay out of her way. In a short flashback, we see Widow seducing Stark as a ballerina – a reference to her time working as a Soviet spy.
Mooney’s page compositions work effectively when portraying time differences, allowing the reader to simultaneously see Widow drugging the IT guy and retrieving his key card hours later.
Another flashback portrays Natasha’s time at The Red Room, showing a younger version of herself being hired by Sobol to carry out an assassination. This is one of the areas where I feel the story telling was impaired by the colouring. I presume Farrell’s aim was to establish flashbacks as having a muted colour palette, however due to the significant change in Sobol’s hair colour a few pages later, it took me a moment to realise it was him.
This is not helped by Mooney’s facial features, which often lack continuity, especially where Natasha is concerned. Flicking through the book, it’s almost like three sisters rather than the same person. The other elements of Mooney’s artwork are strong, with bold lines and expressive panel layouts. The visual influence of a sniper rifle makes for some intriguing layouts and imagery that reflects the espionage nature of the story.
Later in the issue, there’s a moment between Iron Man and Widow where Houser is clearly attempting to establish a sympathetic rapport, portraying Stark’s sympathy for what Natasha’s going through following her resurrection. This could have been a really nice moment, but the dialogue falls flat compared to Widow and Captain America’s conversations on the same topic in No Restraints Play. Ironically, it all just felt a tad robotic.
The whole book had a compelling noir feel, yet it lacked the grittiness and depth that I expect from a Black Widow story. The series is rated T+, which I feel has limited Houser’s writing, causing Natasha to lose her trademark foul mouth. In my opinion, it was a mistake not to release the book as a Marvel MAX title, as it seems we’ve lost a lot of what makes Natasha the Black Widow we’re familiar with.
Nonetheless, this was an action-packed issue, filled to the brim with espionage elements and fight scenes (though censored). Jody Houser establishes the premise of the arc: Black Widow’s personal mission to take down Sobol Industries, an evil corporation for which she feels responsible for their success (years ago, they hired her to take out their competitors).
Personally, I think the Soska Sisters’ No Restraints Play is far superior to this series in its artwork, story and dialogue. However, I’m never quick to give up a Black Widow series, so I’ll be sticking around for the next few issues before I make any decisions. We have a story here that could be really interesting and important to Natasha’s character if done well. Hopefully, the story will get stronger as it progresses.