Marvel re-launched Black Widow earlier this year with Black Widow #1, and to describe it as anything less than phenomenal would do a disservice to the creative team behind the new series. More importantly it reads with the intensity of some of the best action films around, so much so that it begs to ask, “Where is the Black Widow movie?”
Black Widow #1 begins like a lit fuse on a bomb wick. Black Widow is running through the hallways of S.H.I.E.L.D; with Maria Hill announcing that she is now a top priority enemy for the agency. Making her way through the now enemy-filled hallways, kicking ass and running past any names, our heroine jumps out a window to make her escape.
This is her escape.
The single issue alone includes a largely wordless aerial fight scene, a motorcycle chase, and a brutal close-combat brawl as a fantastically gritty conclusion. Black Widow herself doesn’t utter her first words until the final panel of the issue, but throughout the whole book you still get a sense of her character, through the sheer dynamism of her movements and actions. She isn’t just fighting the whole time, she’s sabotaging equipment, hijacking vehicles, performing aerial acrobatics. Waid seems to enjoy staging exhilarating set-pieces that allows Black Widow to explain herself without ever needing to narrate her achievements. In other words, her action speaks louder than words.
Yes, she’s a spy first and foremost, but the way the unique way in which she handles herself in any given situation demonstrates why there are literally no heroes like her right now.
If any character benefited the most from the launch of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (aside from the entirety of Marvel), Black Widow is surely at the top. Just watch her character’s evolution from the sexy side-character in Iron Man 2 to her co-billing in Captain America: Winter Soldier and beyond. Scarlett Johansson’s take on Black Widow has made the Avenger one of pop-culture’s premier spy characters.
Johansson really imbibed the character with pathos by playing up Black Widow’s moral flexibility. She is undoubtedly a good guy in the Marvel films, but watching her utilize her spy training is always a source of great fun for the audience. And ultimately, she is a fun, dangerous character, and that’s clearly on display in her revamped story arc.
Previous comic iterations have played up her anti-heroine side. The fantastic 20-issue run from Phil Noto and Nathan Edmondson which ran from 2014-2015 was a dark spy thriller akin to the Jason Bourne films. Black Widow is a depicted plainly as a killer and her methods are constantly scrutinized by the public, the government, and the Avengers. Still, her heroism is constantly reaffirmed no matter how many dead bodies she left in her wake.
Waid and team seem to be approaching things very differently. With a fantastic story about Black Widow’s past and darkness already told, the 2016 run seems eager to remind readers that she can also be exciting in ways you won’t find Captain America or Iron Man able to be. There are always two-sides to a good spy fiction: the drama and the action. Black Widow can do both, and in the process her 2016 comic looks to be the most exciting piece of fiction you can find this year.