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'Black Widow 15' carved into Black Widow's Back
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‘Black Widow’ #15 leaves Natasha Romanoff caught in a contentious web

Visually, Black Widow #15 is nothing short of perfection. However, certain narrative factors bring it down.

Kelly Thompson’s and Elena Casagrande’s Eisner-winning Black Widow ends at issue #15, as Natasha Romanoff faces off against one of her supposed greatest villains: the Living Blade. As a final installment, Black Widow #15 epitomizes both the highs and lows of its run. With phenomenal action sequences, perfect thematic coloring, and expert paneling, Black Widow #15 is a visual wonder. Yet, amongst all the artistic spectacle, the writing largely lags behind.  

SPOILERS AHEAD for Black Widow #15!

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Black Widow #15
Courtesy of Marvel

The impact of Black Widow #15 as a final issue is immediately lessened by its disjointed scheduling. The previous installment of the series was published in early February, leaving more than a month’s gap between the last cliffhanger and now. Moreover, it is clear that the cancellation of the series was not expected by the creative team, as a lot of loose threads are hurriedly tied up in a single go. Overall, the unfair nature of the comic industry has set Black Widow’s later issues back somewhat.

Black Widow #15
Courtesy of Marvel

The issue continues on from #14’s shocking climax: that the Black Widow has lost her arm at the hands of the shadowy Living Blade. It looks like all is lost for the Widow, until she is ceremoniously saved by Hawkeye, who has recovered from his injuries and escaped capture for reasons that are never explained. Minor plot holes aside, this opening sequence is exciting and emotive. The artistic team—Elena Casagrande, Rafael T. Pimentel, Elisabetta D’Amico and Jordie Bellaire- cannot be given enough praise here. The paneling is impeccably mapped out to suspend every moment of action, completed by some fantastic SFX lettering by VC’s Clayton Cowles and Cory Petit. Casagrande’s depiction of Romanoff’s injury is downright shocking, as she does not shy away from the bloodier elements. All this furthered D’amico’s and Pimental’s colors and inks, which have kept a thematic stylization through the series.

Black Widow #15’s opening pages also bring out the best of Thompson’s writing. The dynamic between Hawkeye and Widow feels genuinely heartfelt in this instance and reveals a vulnerability that the two share. Indeed, between Romanoff’s connection with Barton and Barnes, and her friendships with Yelena Belova, Anya Corazon, and Lucy, Thompson has written many compelling relationship dynamics in Black Widow. It is a shame that there still seems to be a great deal unfinished in this respect.

Black Widow #15
Courtesy of Marvel

Despite its promising start, the rest of Black Widow #15’s narrative feels decidedly rushed. Visually, the issue remains perfect. Widow’s fight with the Living Blade offers the best single-page action sequences of the year so far, and the thematic use of reds and blues is effective in guiding the reader through various states of tension. However, as a concluding issue, the writing calls attention to some of the problems over the series. For instance, retconning the Living Blade as Widow’s most terrifying villain was already an ambitious task — one that had not exactly been fulfilled before the release of the final issue. Thompson only weakens this status by immediately fixing the character’s most memorable achievements as an antagonist — Hawkeye seems to have walked away fine after being stabbed in the gut by the character, and Widow’s missing arm is sorted by way of deus ex Starfish. By the end of Black Widow #15, I am left wondering what the point of the Living Blade exactly was, as he has contributed essentially nothing to the plot.

Black Widow #15 also closes with the lingering burden of Little Baby Stevie. I have previously explained why giving Natasha Romanoff a child (one she had unwillingly, at that) is a disappointing addition to the gendered narrative of motherhood that continues to haunt the character. Since this arc ended, the series has made sure to occasionally remind the reader that Natasha Romanoff still secretly longs for a “normal” life with a nuclear family. Without a doubt, the greatest failure of Thompson’s Black Widow run is creating a tangible link between Widow’s sexual history and the inevitability of caregiving. Where the Living Blade can be furthered upon and explored in his own right, Widow is now discursively tied to motherhood.

Black Widow #15
Courtesy of Marvel

All in all, Black Widow #15 is an appropriate end to a run that has thrived on first-class visuals and groundbreaking action sequences, but lacked in written plot. With a bit more time to tie up loose ends, the series’ conclusion may well have been more satisfying. However, the controversial choice of giving Widow a child will inevitably prove difficult to consolidate going forward.  

'Black Widow 15' carved into Black Widow's Back
‘Black Widow’ #15 leaves Natasha Romanoff caught in a contentious web
Black Widow #15
All in all, Black Widow #15 is an appropriate end to a run that has thrived on first-class visuals and groundbreaking action sequences, but lacked in written plot. With a bit more time to tie up loose ends, the series’ conclusion may well have been more satisfying. However, the controversial choice of giving Widow a child will inevitably prove difficult to consolidate going forward.  
Reader Rating1 Vote
4.2
Much like the series overall, Black Widow #15 is a visual masterpiece.
Thompson finishes a run that has meaningfully developed Natasha Romanoff's relationships.
As a finale, the issue is rushed and does not conclude its story satisfyingly.
The Living Blade does not live up to the hype as one of Widow's greatest foes.
Thompson has drawn a definite line between Natasha's sexual history and motherhood.
7
Good
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