BLACK WIDOW: NO RESTRAINTS
Writers: Jen & Sylvia Soska
Colorist: Veronica Gandini
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Cover Art: Clayton Crain
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Disclaimer: No Restraints Play contains themes which some readers may find disturbing.
Back when I was first discovering my love of horror, one film that I was instantly drawn to was American Mary. Written and directed by the Soska sisters, the film explored the world of underground body modification and medical gore, whilst telling a story that freely explored morality and justice. American Mary was the artistic triumph that, in my mind, established the Soska sisters as exceptional story-tellers. So, when I heard that the twisted twins themselves would be writing a Black Widow series for Marvel, I had high expectations.
The story begins mid-mission: Captain America and Black Widow are preparing to take down an imposter, who’s posing as Cap and spreading anti-democratic views. Que Widow’s first appearance, bursting through the ceiling tiles, effortlessly hanging down in true spider fashion. The situation quickly escalates when the duo has to battle mercenaries and a six-armed robot...why not, right?
This kicks off the main story-line of the arc. We’re taken to Madripoor, a city that’s split into two districts dubbed Hightown and Lowtown, reflecting the crime rate in each district.
Enter Jessan Hoan aka Tyger Tiger, captivating in her warrior-esque attire. Tyger hires Black Widow to find and assassinate the culprits behind ‘No Restraints Play’ (NRP) – a pedophile ring that streams horrific content to the dark web for paying clients. As NRP has grown in popularity, Madripoor’s children have started to go missing, and it’s Widow’s job to put a stop to it. What follows can only be described as a twisted and gory exploration of humanity, identity and justice.
One of the biggest themes throughout is Widow’s struggle with self-acceptance and identifying herself as a lethal weapon. She’s struggling to come to terms with her identity following her death in a previous story arc, which resulted in her being reanimated as a clone. For new Widow fans who may not have been aware of this, the Soska sisters provide context which allows this comic to be read with or without a prior knowledge of Natasha Romanoff’s history.
The Soska sister’s version of Natasha is one who is simultaneously badass, yet endearingly filled with self-doubt and inner conflict. She’s still the sassy ex-KGB agent we all know and love, but with more of an emphasis on her humanity than in previous series; a fact which is ironic considering this version of Natasha could be considered physically inhuman.
The artwork in No Restraints Play is outstanding. Gandini does an excellent job at enhancing Flaviano’s inking with a multitude of illustration techniques. In particular, the textures and lighting effects are very well executed, with gorgeous bokeh visible in the backgrounds and striking glow effects.
The backgrounds are constantly influenced by Natasha’s mood – panels fill with gushing flames as Widow explodes with rage.
Caramagna’s lettering is highly impressive, especially during combat scenes. Lettering is a vital aspect of any espionage comic – you can almost hear Caramagna’s detailed work come to life.
Another thing that I instantly loved about this TP was the dialogue between Cap and Widow. The Soska sisters did a great job of creating a flawed and complex relationship between the two characters without giving in to the overdone cliché of romantic interaction. We get a great sense of their friendship through a sequence of intimate, relatable discourse.
This is by no means a book for the faint-hearted. If you’re looking for a casual, up-beat story, this is not the book for you. However, if you’re a fan of action-packed, gory espionage stories with a conscience, then give No Restraints Play a try. The twisted twins have spun a web you’ll love to get caught in.