The first issue of Mark Waid’s Black Widow run was an issue-long action scene where she’s running from SHIELD after taking something, and a fun one at that. Normally those kinds of issues are best left for later on in a series, but this one really worked. Issue 2 explained who Black Widow is working for, without revealing everything. Issue 3 begins some time after the first issue ended, and it’s a very dramatic entry.
Natasha’s mission takes her back to where her life truly began, the ruins of the Red Room itself. There’s a brief fight scene when she first arrives, involving both invaders and a mystery figure in the distance. It’s after that point where Natasha starts recalling her time as an assassin in training. The memories are clearly distracting her, as she’s not as aware of her surroundings as usual. The flashbacks offer a great glimpse into her past and how Red Room trainees were treated. While it’s not explicitly stated, the ending might reveal exactly why Natasha returned to the Red Room in the first place. It’s also an intense moment that could go pretty much anywhere in the next issue.
The art by Chris Samnee is great. Black Widow’s facial expressions say it all. She’s clearly distracted by the memories that haunt her, to the point where she’s surprised to encounter anyone else in the area. The ruins are well detailed, with the bent gates, plants overgrowing the buildings from the outside and the mess of furniture, papers and broken windows within. The best page is probably the full page montage of Natasha beating up a bunch of guards, while throwing in a couple pictures of her dancing, and the concluding piece at the bottom where she stands over her defeated opponents in a dance-like form. It would work great as a poster, and it also fits the narrative well. Matthew Wilson’s colouring compliments the comic’s mood well. The forest is mostly green, with touches of grey, the internal scenes are browned or greyed out, and all the flashbacks are tinted red.
What started off as a fun series has become quite dramatic – probably the most dramatic comic I’ve seen from Mark Waid (although to be fair, I haven’t actually read too much of his stuff outside of his current Avengers run and his Indestructible Hulk run). In a week where I only picked great comics, this might be the best one. Black Widow fans should give this series a chance if they haven’t already.