Black Widow #1
Written by Marjorie Liu
Art by Daniel Acuña
The very first issue of this series is not a big "holy smokes" kind of debut with sensational reveals or a massive cliffhanger ending. While it's full of some very intense scenes, the action and suspense are a little more low key.
What stands out to me the most are the quieter scenes, the interactions between the cast of characters, and all the things going on between the action scenes To me, this means that Marjorie Liu delivers exactly what I was hoping she would; a story where the character work is at the center, and where Natasha's relationships are touched on from the get go.
Liu invites us into a world where heroes are not just people who kick ass and take names, but have real lives to return to when they're done and people who care about them when they're hurt. And Natasha finds herself in a massive amount of pain this issue.
The issue begins with Natasha's meeting with an old acquaintance and former spy, a meeting brought about by her receiving what she suspects might be a calling card related to this particular friend's code name, the Black Rose. The two tussle in a modern twist on the old hero vs hero brawl where a ridiculous plot would have to be written to justify why people who call themselves friends or allies would find themselves trading blows. Natasha and the Black Rose don't need Stan Lee on caffeine, however, they fight to challenge each other because that's what two old spies do. "A hug or handshake would be too boring." Sort of silly, but I'll buy that.
The Black Rose does not hold the answers Natasha seeks, however. Although, on her way back home, she has a strange encounter with an old woman who is not what she seems. Natasha seems to have the situation under control until she is targeted by the old woman's accomplice and taken out by a dart laced with some kind of chemical. An eerie scene follows in which she is literally cut open and left bleeding on the street.
What follows next is a very anxiety-inducing scene which sees Natasha endure exploratory surgery to her abdomen while fully awake, cognizant of what's happening to her and fully aware of the pain. This certainly must be one of most people's worst nightmares, though as uncomfortable as it is to read about, it also gives Liu the chance to demonstrate just how strong the main character is and what she's able to withstand.
In the waiting room, three of the men in her life, James "Bucky" Barnes, Tony Stark and Logan worry about Natasha and swear to get to the bottom of what's happened to her, a pledge that quickly gets Logan moving. Meanwhile, readers are treated to a dinner scene between Natasha and Bucky which is a flash back to when she first discovered the rose which set her on her present course. It's a nice scene and one which gives a sense of normalcy - sort of - to Natasha's life and provides a contrast to her present circumstances.
Marjorie Liu doesn't hit it out of the park with this first issue, but she does write an intriguing first chapter to a story I'm actually interested in following to its conclusion and sets a tone for the book that I thoroughly enjoy.
Daniel Acuña's art is competent and gets the work done. It sets a sort of retro tone for the book, particularly as far as Natasha's appearance is concerned. There are scenes that are a bit odd looking though, particularly the scenes depicting Natasha's elderly female attacker and the scenes showing Natasha lying injured on the ground. These panels are meant to be frightening, I'm sure, but the characters end up looking ghoulish in a way I don't think was what the artist was striving for.