When Marvel Comics announced their latest Black Widow series, it seemed like a potential blockbuster on paper. The title character has become one of the company’s best known thanks to her appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the new book’s creative team of writer Mark Waid and artist Chris Samnee just wrapped up a critically acclaimed and massively successful run on Daredevil. However, it’s been proven time and time again in comics that high expectations don’t necessarily equal a good title. Does Black Widow live up to it’s pedigree? Let’s find out.
The issue begins with Natasha Romanav aka Black Widow being chased through a S.H.E.I.L.D facility by a group of armed agents. She fights them off one by one as a call blares over the P.A. saying she mustn’t be allowed to leave, and should be stopped by any means necessary. This multiplies the number of people chasing her considerably, but Natasha is still able to fight through until eventually leaping out of the window of the facility, revealing it to be one of the organization’s Helicarriers.
Black Widow is able to survive the fall by commandeering one of the jet-packs of the agents who pursue her out of the Helicarrier. She’s able to fight them off one by one, until left with a final agent on the ground. The issue ends with a climactic confrontation with the two that reveals just why Natasha has been running in the first place.
Black Widow #1 is, quite frankly, fantastic and out of the box comic book. In addition to their normal roles, Waid and Samnee share co-plotting duties and the artist’s place on the writing team really shows in the structure of the book. The twenty pages of story only contain 23 word balloons, a majority of which are the early public address announcements. In fact, the titular heroine only utters one line in the whole story. It’s a testament to the editors and creative team, especially Waid, that the issue’s story doesn’t suffer one iota or become incomprehensible at any point.
Given the lack of text the book obviously is dependent on its art, and Samnee (along with colorist Matthew Wilson) meet the challenge swimmingly. The book’s action is crisp and compelling, never coming off as “paint by numbers” while still being easy to follow. A particular highlight to me is the mid-air fight scenes that make up the issue’s middle portion. All of Black Widow’s movements flow like a choreographed dance routine that’s beautiful to look at.
The nearly text-less Black Widow #1 was a risky issue to launch a title with, as in the hands of a lesser creative team the concept could come off gimmicky and perhaps turn off the new readers that a first issue is supposed to cater to. However, Waid and Samnee prove themselves more than up to the task at hand, producing one of my favorite single issues of 2016 so far.