Sometimes, when there are a lot of twists and turns when an espionage series moves on, it’s hard to give each individual issue a proper review without spoiling something. That’s partly why I didn’t review too many issues in this series. So to sum up the story thus far, the series began with Natasha stealing something from SHIELD, forcing her to go on the run. Over the course of the series, it’s revealed that she did it in order to save SHIELD from a resurrected red room, the Russian organization that turned her into an assassin all those years ago.
With story credits going to both Mark Waid and series artist Chris Samnee, this issue closes off the most recent Black Widow run with an intense duel between Black Widow and a former co-assassin from the Red Room. There are also a bunch of young girls from the resurrected red room, who are being used to activate SHIELD’s ultimate failsafe. It’s a way to destroy all of their equipment, all of their data and all of their resources in one swift stroke. This comic is intense with both the action and the story behind it. There’s a clear hatred between Black Widow and her former co-assassin. At the same time, this issue really shows how Natasha has grown to care about others, and that’s part of what makes the difference in the end. It’s also the main thing that separates Natasha from the villain. Again, this issue is hard to talk about without spoiling something, so I’ll just leave it at that.
Samnee’s art is fantastic. There’s great use of close-ups, both to highlight important objects in the background, and to show action while sometimes withholding information just for a moment. There’s one particular moment that works very well in this regard, saving the reveal for the turn of the page. You’ll know it when you see it. Facial expression do a great job at conveying emotion for both original red room assassins, and while the girls are all wearing suits that conceal their faces, their body language says enough about what they’re thinking while still keeping them mysterious. This kind of skillful storytelling is something that’s remained consistent throughout this series. Matthew Wilson’s colouring is also great. Most of this comic is dark with minimal colours, but in a way that adds to the tension. Red is often used not only for blood, but to highlight important objects in the background. And like the art, sometimes the minimal colouring is used to help hide certain reveals. Once the tension is dealt with, the comic becomes more bright and colourful.
As a whole, this is basically a great 12-issue mini-series. The story is tense, and the art often helps tell the story, sometimes in fascinating ways. The letters at the back of the issue from the creators also highlight the strong working relationship between Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, showing that Samnee came up with the story in the first place. Fans of espionage comics should enjoy this series, even if they’re not hugely versed in the Marvel Universe.
I said in the Spider-Woman 17 review that I’m not sure which comic this week is my favourite. Both that and Black Widow 12 are contenders, as is the Batgirl Annual.
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This series is the storyboards for a Black Widow movie. It really is. Marvel Studios, if they ever decide to make a Black Widow movie, should just make it this. It could be damned near panel-for-panel, aside from the stuff with Bucky.