Black Widow, among the Marvel heroes, has arguably aged the worst. Captain America can always say that he was frozen in ice longer than we once though, and Iron Man and the Punisher simply moved from Vietnam to the Middle East – there is always a war, after all. Spider-Man can exist in a sort of timeless limbo, as his problems about the responsibility of young adulthood aren’t linked to any specific time. Thor is immortal.
But Black Widow derives her storytelling potential from a specific Cold War milieu of spy-fi high action. She comes from the era of Sean Connery’s James Bond, not Daniel Craig’s. Stripped from that Cold War era, the character almost becomes nonsensical.
I mean, look at Scarlett Johansson. She’s 35. Are we supposed to believe that the KGB sent her out on a mission for her communist spymasters to steal technology from Iron Man . . . in 2001? That’s preposterous.
And this lack of tone is what really defines Black Widow Epic Collection Volume 2: The Coldest War. Without having a single series to draw from, the Epic Collection picks up annuals, one-shots, anthology series and graphic novels and binds them into a collection – which, as a result, means that you have a single volume that has stories from 1983 all the way to 1998.
So, we open the volume with an almost Steranko-esque Black Widow-by-way-of-Nick Fury spy story, where there are wild Life Model Decoys and Helicarriers. It’s all very Mission: Impossible. But by the end of the volume, it’s all stories with the Punisher, and the nifty Widow’s Bite gauntlets have been replaced by gun, guns, guns, and a few more guns.
Now, to be fair, it’s not like Marvel had much of a choice. Black Widow does not have a particularly deep solo library on her own, and they’ve been putting out Avengers Epic Collections already. So, given that the movie is coming up, and Marvel feels obligated to put out books involving her, they did what they could do.
But this lack of thematic consistency makes it hard to figure out who Natasha Romanova is. Is she like James Bond, with cool gadgets, cool cars, and cool significant others? Or is she like Jason Bourne, with cool guns, cool guns, and some more cool guns?
So, what’s the takeaway here? I’m not sure I can tell you to get this book. Each of the stories are fine. The art is fine. But unless you already know Black Widow, and are already familiar with what the themes of the character are, this isn’t a good book.
So, hey, if you’re someone who reads comic reviews, get this book. But don’t give this book to your younger cousin who is really into Black Widow from the MCU.
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