Hey Kids, remember back in the Fall of 2012 when Marvel started rolling out new #1 Titles that gave a number of characters in the Marvel U a “Soft Reboot” under the banner MARVEL NOW? Guess What? They’re doin’ it all again, Baby!

It’s the ALL NEW MARVEL NOW! Over the next few months, I’ll be taking a look at the first issue of each new title as it hits the comics stands. (This only applies to REAL #1 Titles – None of this .Now stuff.) Wanna know if this series seems like a keeper or is destined for the quarter bin of our interest? Sit back and enjoy my analysis. You just might learn something.

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Black Widow. This bad-ass secret agent from the wrong side of the cold war with her red hair and Emma Peel style has always been just the kind of spy I could fall in love with…..right before she kills me that is. Over the past decade, there have been a dozen attempts to garner interest in an ongoing series. She even got one for a while back in 2010. But unfortunately, none of these attempts have ever been successful. So a fan like myself has had to be content with the odd mini series and appearances in team books that usually have a large “A” on the cover. So when I heard that one of the first ANMN titles to be released would be a Black Widow ongoing, I got giddy with excitement. This excitement did build when I heard that the creative team was Who is Jake Ellis writer Nathan Edmonson and Trigger Girl 6 artist Phil Noto. Each seemed like the right man up for the task of creating a dark and gritty Widow story that fans could get behind. After reading Black Widow #1, that still appears to be the case.

In this first issue, we catch up with Natasha Romanoff in the middle of an extraction job. This isn’t an Avengers gig. It’s not a S.H.I.E.L.D. mission either. This is the Widow taking jobs on the side. Contract work to take care of the folks that the big guns usually let local law enforcement chase. The kind that got no powers or grand designs of world conquering. They’re just very bad people who do very bad things. Why is Widow focusing on this type of individual. Well, she kind of used to be one when she was an assassin for the KGB. These days, to atone for her sins against certain innocents who’s lives she’s ruined, she does these jobs with no profit to herself, placing the money she earns in various trusts. Isaiah, her lawyer and middleman, thinks that she’s crazy. But it’s not his job to analyze. His job is to find more contracts. He delivers one such contract and it’s off to Dubai for Natasha. The job is a harsh one as she feels her penance is important. It’s also a lonely life she’s carved out for herself. As long as she can make everyone forget what she once was. But will she be able to make herself forget?

This issue reads like a premise for a t.v. show. Usually, I don’t really enjoy it when the whole first installment is to set the tone of a book and nothing else. I prefer it when the introduction of the characters and the world they live in takes up the first few pages and then jumps into the story that will make up the first arc, especially when dealing with a character that we already know. In this case, it was kind of necessary. As I’ve mentioned previously, there have been a number of mini series (and one monthly title) starring Black Widow in the past 10 or 15 years. Each and every one of them had a slightly different take. Sure, they all covered the bases on who she is – former Russian spy, cold war defector, costumed superhero/government agent – but each gave a slightly different characterization. What she’s thinking, what she cares about, what makes her tick. This has pretty much changed from writer to writer. So while it’s not important to repeat Spider-man’s or Captain America’s introduction, it’s good to have a strong base for Black Widow to jump off of. We need to know where Natasha is coming from and why she’s doing what she does. Nathan Edmonson does a great job of setting up the world she lives in and does so without talking down to the reader. Professionally, she’s the best there is at what she does and what she does isn’t pretty (this catch phrase actually fits her better than Wolverine in my opinion). But in her personal life, she’s a mess. She has collegues but no real friends because in her eyes, she has no time for friends. All of this is conveyed within the context of the story. There’s no monologue on a rooftop for three pages where she curses her lot in life. The necessary exposition is given throughout the book and in bite-sized morsels. A very digestible way to get reaquainted with the world’s most deadly spy (sorry Nick Fury, she’s got you beat). And the pretty pictures don’t hurt either.

Phil Noto is an artist who I used to believe was an aquired taste. His art always seemed a bit off. Not stylized but not photo-realistic. That thought went out the window after I saw this issue.   The  illustrations are beautiful and feel very real. The look of the book feels like it could be easily reproduced by a film crew but there’s an extra magic to it that only the finished comic artwork can provide. The faces of each the characters have CHARACTER. On top of that, the facial expressions are diverse and really sell some more nuanced glances. This is what I dreamed a spy book should look like. Noto took a good first issue and made it great with an attention to detail.

If you’re a fan of Black Widow, you need to check out Black Widow #1. As her history shows, she’s been a hard sell as a solo act and I’m hoping that this book does not become another example of that. Support this title and I believe you will see a very fruitful reward in the form of a kick-ass tale unfold.

Come back tomorrow to hear my thoughts on Avengers World #1 and All New X-Factor #1. Until then, stay in the NOW!

If you’re gonna geek out GEEK HARD! 

Dark and Moody with a touch of a death wish zipped up in a stylish catsuit = The Widow done right.