Marvel is putting out some damn good comics.
That’s been the case pretty much always, I think, but the House of Ideas seems to be on a winning streak that doesn’t end. Brian Michael Bendis is soaring high on Guardians of the Galaxy and his X-Men titles, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie are pretty much winning all of the Internets with Young Avengers, and Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye is my favorite comic currently being published. And I’m pretty sure that, if you’ve read even a single issue, it’s probably yours too.
Starting this month, Marvel started releasing the next wave of their Marvel Now program, dubbed All-New Marvel Now. Established creative teams are starting new story arcs, creative shifts on existing titles are leading to renumbered series, and, most exciting of all, some brand new titles are kicking off. With industry darling Charles Soule taking on She-Hulk, Al Ewing and Lee Garbett performing the admirable/scary task of launching Loki: Agent of Asgard, and the criminally underrated G. Willow Wilson introducing a new Ms. Marvel, I’m finding myself more excited for Wednesdays than I’ve been in a while. However, the title I’ve been anticipating more than any other has been Black Widow. With the character taking on a major role in multiple Marvel Studios flicks, it’s about time Marvel puts out an ongoing Black Widow series. But just putting it out wasn’t enough for me. For some reason, perhaps because of the way they were paired in The Avengers, or perhaps because I love the character, or perhaps (very like this one:) because I’m greedy… I wanted it to be as good a read as Fraction’s Hawkeye.
Which is ridiculous. It’s like saying that I want all food to taste like bacon. I mean, I do, but who doesn’t? You just can’t expect all foods to be bacon.
But this comic? It’s pretty damn bacony.
I just read the first issue twice in one sitting. It’s about as wildly different from what I expected than it is from every Black Widow book I’ve ever read. Comics Alliance recently ran a piece on the issue where they referred to the new wave of Marvel Now titles as “the Hawkeyzation of Marvel Solo Titles.” They were getting at the idea that, after Fraction and Aja kicked ass and took names by making Hawkeye very much their own, it might benefit other characters to have creators come in and give these book a similar treatment. Black Widow #1 even begins with a similar set-up, giving a slightly darker take on the whole “what ____ is doing when he/she is not being an Avenger” thing.
And yet, it’s absolutely nothing like Hawkeye at all.
We follow Widow as she goes on two freelance missions. She’s doing this on her downtime, not to get rich, but to do good just to do good. To atone for what she’s done. To make herself feel better about her past, which – and she vows this to the reader, more than once – we will never really know. Not knowing what it is she’s atoning for gives a nice spin on the classic redemption storyline. We can’t weigh what it is she has done versus the good she’s doing. As long as her past is a dark, growling monster in her closet, she can’t atone. It’s pretty brilliant.
The best touches are the grounded, human bits. She has a great rapport with her lawyer/accountant/exposition-homie, Isaiah. She is sleek, cool, confident, but a bit second-guessy, which she never shows to anyone. She hangs out with a stray cat sometimes, but she warns the little guy that, should he get clingy, it’s pretty much over. It’s all small stuff that seems like it’s grounding her, but it’s also building on her character. How she is with the cat is how she is with Isaiah is how she is on missions is how she is.
Writing-wise, the only thing I don’t love about the issue is that the final two pages have Widow talking aloud to herself. She has inner monologue earlier in the book, and it seems like the dialogue in the final two pages was screaming to be written as captions instead of bubbles. However, the final image of the book is poetry.
The art is fantastic. From the pencils to the layouts to the coloring, it’s Noto’s best work by a long shot. The faces are perfect, and the foreground/background work is some of the best I’ve seen, period. What I loved most, though, was Noto’s use of colors. Each scene has a very specific tone to it – though he doesn’t saturate the pages in one color to the point where it’s noticeable. What this does is subtly tell the story while also making for fluid mid-page transitions, which work better here than I can remember seeing anywhere else.
I hope Edmondson and Noto have a long run on this book. The first issue is stellar and I, for one, am in for the ride as long as it’s moving.
PAT SHAND is a writer and editor for Zenescope Entertainment. Look, he hung out at Blastoff Comics over the weekend! Here’s a picture of him kicking it with Scott Tipton.
PAT SHAND needs to work on his bio-writing skills.