Black Widow‘s new beginning was originally teased in January and set for release in April, but due to multiple pandemic-related delays, we are just now getting to experience this new direction in September. Written by Kelly Thompson with art by Elena Casagrande, Black Widow #1 should have fans talking. Not only is it visually stunning — especially for an espionage book — but it also has a cliffhanger that is incredibly enticing. This is a spoiler-free review, save for what can be seen in the preview released last week.
Black Widow #1 opens with a moment of quiet while Natasha Romanova waits in an elevator. She looks bored, then a bit anxious for the wait, then coy, and finally totally relaxed. Turning the page leads you to an excellent double page layout of two horizontal panels showing Black Widow exit the elevator and then tear through multiple bad guys. Her grace, her speed, and her prowess are on full display. It’s a sight to see, all rendered in an almost fish-eye lens by Casagrande.
These three pages expertly create a sense of anticipation that leads to the release of action, and are a great example of how the art dictates the energy and emotion in the scene. Hawkeye appears in the book too, and his quintessential attitude is on full display. The characters really come alive and the art is sharply crafted. There’s also some interesting juxtaposition with framing from the opening page to a midpoint reveal of Natasha that helps thematically set the stage.
Jordie Bellaire colors the book and there are some interesting choices throughout. The opening pages, for instance, are cast in red light, which creates a sense of dread and unease. There’s a subtle use of light from a window conveyed in a slightly reduced red that adds depth. The use of shadow throughout the book is quite good, from this opening scene to a final scene at night that adds depth to a panel.
The scripting feels quite present and fits with where Black Widow is in her journey right now. There are good nods to previous tales, and if you enjoyed Tales of Suspense: Hawkeye & The Winter Soldier, this will feel like a continuation of sorts. Thompson has a good handle on Natasha’s voice, which you can see in the opening captions. The book splits in a sense halfway through and the character shines through in both halves, which is a tricky thing to pull off. Other characters like Winter Soldier and Hawkeye also match how they’ve been written of late. For a #1 issue, everything feels like it’s in the right place and that starts with character.
Your enjoyment of Black Widow #1 does hinge on how you feel about its story mechanic, which gets in the way of telling a conventional story. That means less Black Widow than you might expect, as well as some catching up to do twice over. I won’t spoil a thing, but it does make this first issue feel a little thin.
Black Widow #1 is an exciting thriller with a delectable twist. Witness Black Widow’s magnetic charm in a first issue with explosive immediacy.