Three part series of Black Widow and the introduction of a new character, Yolena Boleva. Different art in each series with more or less a story arc throughout each volume.
Hints Of: Cold War (obviously), James Bond
Warning: Lots of sexualization of the female body, BDSM
Natasha Romanoff has always led a life of adventure. A former Soviet spy, she defected to the West and became a super hero and Avenger. Natasha has earned a reputation as a consummate professional, coldly efficient and deadly as her namesake. But now, her time as Black Widow may be running out! Yelena Belova is the first student in the history of the Red Room to exceed Natasha’s skills — and now she’s gunning for the mantle she feels was stolen from her. And she’s determined to put Natasha in the grave! Prepare for a war of the Widows that will rage from the Middle East’s deserts to New York’s Upper West Side. And explore the history of the “pale little spider” in a never-before-collected tale!
This is our first Marvel review. You will be seeing more of these. I've loved reading these indie comics that we've been reviewing but the artistry from Marvel and other major comic book companies is striking. I wanted to do this because of the Black Widow movie (FINALLY!) coming out soon. Widow has been on my radar since her first appearance in the MCU for me and I've been eager to learn more about her. Of course, with the virus her movie has been pushed back but I thought, what a perfect time to catch up on her storyline in preparation for the eventual film's release! I wanted to read this collection because according to many, this was the inspiration for much of the film.
A bit of back story on the beloved Avenger. Black Widow, created by Stan Lee, was first conceived in the 1964 comic; "Tales of Suspense". However she didn't get her first solo book until 1970. She's was a Russian spy playing villain to Iron Man until she defected for America where she eventually was recruited into the Avengers. Much is written about her backstory and the infamous Red Room, but the most you need to know for this collection is that the program continued and produced few graduates but one in particular was much more advanced than Natasha would've realized.
This collection of Widow stories includes Black Widow (1999) #1-3, Black Widow (2001) #1-3 and Black Widow: Pale Little Spider #1-3. Each series has its own unique art style which is a fascinating way to read a series.
The first introduces Yelena Belova, a student of the Red Room that has exceeded Natasha's skills, making her the perceived new Black Widow. Yelena, however, didn't come to her skills and devotion through mind manipulation like Natasha did. She's a natural devote to the Motherland. This proves a difficult task for Natasha who must subdue this new adversary so that she can capture the weapons being pursued by both Russia and the US, while fooling both sides into thinking she's loyal to each. This is classic spy novel in superhero form and its really very clever and exciting how its written. The artwork however is top notch. Crisp lines and beautiful striking colors really make this a Marvel comic.
The second is by far my favorite. In this comic, Natasha and Yelena trade faces, against Yelena's wishes, in an attempt for Natasha to get information from Russia. They look identical in this comic so it's easier for Natasha to get away with this doubling performance. The procedure confuses Yelena who wants to be Black Widow so badly that she convinces herself she's Natasha. This is where I'm going to theorize a bit. Yelena has blonde hair, Natasha the classic red. In the MCU, Black Widow at one point has the blonde short hair, contrasting her classic red hair we get in her first couple of appearances. Since, like I mentioned earlier, this series will be a backdrop of sorts for the film, one has to wonder if the moments when Natasha is blonde in the MCU if she's not actually Yelena's double????? Anyways, sorry, wow, yea so this one is my favorite. The art is more oil painting and subtle, making you strain to see the detail in the comic. Much like Yelena is straining to understand if shes her, or if shes Black Widow, or if shes both. Eventually all is revealed and they ultimately switch back with Natasha saying it was all a test for Yelena but I digress.
The final comic is graphic as hell. In this we don't get an appearance by Natasha but we do learn a whole lot about Yelena's backstory. We get to meet her Red Room teacher who has a strange fetish. Yelena herself. Why is this strange? Well in the program, the women aren't allowed to have any relationships and of course the graduation ceremony permanently prevents them from any childbearing. Also he's super old. But he gets his kicks at a fetish brothel where he hires a woman to play Yelena and, well, do stuff. Yelena's teacher however is found dead by two detectives and the mystery for the killer begins! Yelena, who was devoted to her previous professor is distraught and demands to be in charge of the investigation. She goes looking herself but is stopped by the head mistress of the brothel house who interrogates her motives for investigating. The two detectives who've been removed from the case aren't convinced the Russian government has the investigation's best interest in mind. One in particular goes snooping where he also meets the same fate as the teacher. Ultimately Yelena meets her body double and kills her out of rage and loyalty. The final page though is where the major twist occurs. I think i'll leave that one for you to find out about but lets just say we'll probably be seeing more of Yelena Boleva. This series' art is probably my least favorites. Not very "superheroy" and the lines are sloppy imo. The faces seem like a rush job and it doesn't add to the effect like the artwork in the second novel had.
I gave this collection 4 stars because the first is a great introduction to Yelena, the second is a fascinating mind bender and the third is classic spy. But the artwork in three is dull, and the first books storyline feels out of place after you finish the other two. However, all in all its a great collection and I'd recommend it to all! Especially those that love Black Widow!
Drink Pairing: I mean...The Black Widow