From the striking to cover to a very intimate last page, Phil Noto makes Black Widow #1 a visual delight. From well-choreographed combat sequences to a look at Black Widow’s stealth skills from a variety of operations, Noto shows what makes Natasha Romanov, one of the most dangerous women on the planet. He also colors the book and uses the trademark reds and blacks to hint at the woman beneath the catsuit. But unfortunately readers don’t get to see enough of this woman. Nathan Edmondson uses caption boxes and an awkward conversation with her lawyer Isaiah to reveal her goal of “atonement” for past misdeeds. But the people she neutralizes are poorly developed characters and merely act as props in her deadly espionage-themed ballet. Black Widow has some moments of reflection and one heartfelt scene towards the end, but she feels more like an action figure than a well-developed, moral ambiguous superhero. But she looks good kicking ass.
Black Widow #1 is an excellent showcase for Phil Noto’s drawing and coloring abilities. His watercolor story makes the plot flow seamlessly from Berlin to New York and other more exotic settings. He lingers on an object, like a knife, smoke grenade, or detonator, and then makes that object the centerpiece of the action in a subsequent panel. Noto’s Black Widow is potential energy and ready to convert into kinetic energy at a moment’s notice. In his action sequences, he zooms on each punch and kick showing Black Widow’s grace and finesse in combat. The most brutal hits are drenched in the red that she wants off her ledger. More so than Edmondson’s platitude filled narration boxes, Noto’s colors reveal Black Widow’s violent struggle for redemption and also shift with the level of danger she is facing.
Sadly, Nathan Edmondson’s writing doesn’t match up with Noto’s art. The opening sequence is cinematic and a wonderful example of Black Widow’s ability to use her mysteriousness to manipulate her enemies. But the rest of the story doesn’t match up to that stunning sequence. It is mostly just Black Widow beating up supposed “bad men” and saving some for reasons that almost seem to arbitrary. The action scenes are fun to watch unfold, but there is no foreshadowing or seeds planted for a bigger enemy or conflict. Edmondson also doesn’t develop the “trusts” and “webs” where Black Widow is depositing her money from her mercenary jobs. How does she choose whom to give the money too, and does this help or hurt her mission of atonement? Black Widow #1 is a beautiful comic with great action scenes, but the plot and characterization lag behind the art.