Last year, among a number of All-New Marvel Now titles, writer Nathan Edmondson and artist Phil Noto began their Black Widow espionage series. Most of the series told one, long tale of the former Soviet agent fighting a secret organization only known as Chaos. Even though the story lasted 18 issues, it didn’t feel too long for its own good. But for the last two issues, they touched on Black Widow’s past. Somehow it feels like the perfect way to end their run.
Black Widow 20 takes place in Cuba, during Natasha’s early days working for the Red Room. In the last issue, she worked with a friend to convince a couple to side with the Russians, instead of defecting to the United States. Of course at the end of the issue, she learns that her friend has “gone too deep” and “must be eliminated”. Knowing that, every interaction they share in this issue feels all the more tense, when otherwise they’d seem like normal conversations. The story is fun, while also exploring how dark black ops can be. The twists in this issue lead to an even darker comic than you’d expect from last issue’s end. To help ease the tension, the comic both starts and ends with Black Widow helping evacuate citizens during the final incursion, trying to make up for her past sins until the very end.
The art is great as usual. Noto’s knack for visual storytelling is on full display. One of Natasha’s informants dips a page of information in coffee to destroy the note in the middle of their conversation. There’s a montage where Natasha readies for her mission, complete with a hidden gun compartment in her luggage. She’s is obviously conflicted over killing her friend, made clear by her distant expressions during their last conversation and her show of hesitance while enacting the deed. But what’s really amazing about Noto’s art is that he drew all 20 issues consistently well, and the series was never delayed. He deserves special props for that.
I’ll miss Black Widow, and I hope that she’ll return in some way after Secret Wars ends. It’s been a great espionage series that balances itself well with action, plot twists, glimpses into Natasha’s past and guest stars from all over the Marvel Universe. I would recommend this to anyone interested in an espionage comic, especially those who read Marvel. Black Widow 20 gives us a satisfying conclusion.