The final Wastelanders one-shot is out this week and it features Black Widow later in life. After seeing the heroes fall and villains rise, friends and family lost, what is Natasha Romanov’s state of mind? Writer Steven S. DeKnight and artist Well-Bee aim to reveal that and more in a dark look at what has become of a hero.
Similar to other one-shots in the series, like the fantastic Wastelanders: Doom which was my favorite comic last week, this series does a good job delivering a satisfying story. It also probes the mind of the character in a meaningful way. These one-shots may not be taking place in the main universe, but that doesn’t mean their realism and strong character work deserve any less credit.
This issue opens on a zoo that has fallen by the wayside. The Lizard King sits on a throne of bones and harbors a prisoner — a prisoner we soon discover Black Widow is after. Speaking of the Lizard King, he looks dreamlike at times and unreal. It’s a cool effect that makes the creature larger than life and an insurmountable force against Black Widow.
Much of this book isn’t about that so much as it is about what Black Widow had to do to survive after the heroes fell. We get to see the good times, but also the very bad. We see Black Widow act much too serious in lighter moments, but also do horrible things to stay alive. We witness a woman who has been broken down.
Now older, Black Widow still has a lot of fights in her, which Well-Bee captures well. In a great four-panel montage we see her many battles in the Wastelands and the many villains she has taken out. Colors by Mattia Iacono give these panels a subtle flashback look without losing any of the details of the villain’s costumes. She’s still doing heroic things fighting against tyranny and evil, but she’s certainly not as young as she once was. The art goes a long way to show how Black Widow has been worn down and has been affected by the Wastelands — by everything.
The art does seem inconsistent at times, especially in style. In a single scene, the Lizard King might have an odd glow and less detail, then in the next panel, lots of details are cast in shadow. It’s hard to pinpoint what the style choices are trying to achieve, throwing things off a bit. The size of the creature in a fight sequence also seems way off, with his head larger than Black Widow, and yet he was not as large in other panels.
By the story’s end, DeKnight has crafted something that is incredibly tragic. Black Widow has suffered; she’s never given up, but she has suffered and must suffer once more in a deeply emotional way by the end. There’s a lot of bite in this story that hits at home with how Black Widow’s superpower isn’t agility or fighting, but the uncanny desire to never give up even when she deserves to.
Wastelanders: Black Widow ends the series of one-shots set in the Wastelands in the perfect way. Not only does it reveal another fantastical corner of the universe, but it shows how heroes have been bent and changed due to the harsh world they now live in. It also shows that at their core, heroes like Black Widow never give up.
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