Black Widow #2 Spoiler-free review
Nathan Edmondson, Phil Noto
I’ll say this about Black Widow: The way that it tells stories, while obviously chasing the surprise success of Hawkeye in some ways, is exactly what I think comics need more of. Two issues in, and it seems like Edmondson is attempting to focus on shorter, single-issue stories, building out Natasha’s character and her supporting cast bit by bit while giving us quick, (ideally) interesting little adventures. Done right, it’s a fantastic method of serialized storytelling, and one that I wish more comics tried to use. There are brief moments when those strengths come out, as in Black Widow #2’s brief B-plot featuring Natasha’s lawyer, Isaiah, but thus far, Edmondson has mostly just told fairly straightforward action stories. As much as I like the idea behind the series, Black Widow #2 highlights some of the series’ biggest problems.
For instance, can we put to rest the ‘flash-forward’ device, by the way? It’s obnoxious in most books – it’s a monthly comic; we already know there’s probably going to be an action scene this issue – but it’s downright infuriating in a book like Black Widow, at least as presented here. If you’re going to open your story with a flash-forward to the climax, you have to be doing so because you have something to say – because you want to establish a tone of dread or mystery, because you want the audience to know a vital piece of information going forward, because you want to set up and then subvert expectations. But you absolutely cannot use them to set up something as banal as ‘Black Widow is going to fight someone’, because that is the premise of the entire book. It might seem like a fairly minor issue to pick on, but it’s indicative of a sizable problem in these first two stories: it seems like a series more interested in utilizing the tropes and iconography of its genre inspirations than it is in figuring out how they work to tell the best story possible.
Phil Noto is almost certainly the biggest draw here. David Aja brought Hawkeye to life with startling pop art, innovative layouts and physical storytelling joined with a beautifully washed-out color scheme from Matt Hollingsworth. Noto’s art is just as intensely stylized, but he appears to be pushing for a more intensely noir-inspired look, something that only sporadically fits Edmondson’s script. During Black Widow #2’s best moments, for example – the conclusion to Isaiah’s scene mentioned above, for instance – Noto enhanced the scene greatly. And while I think that Noto’s fight scenes are stiff and relatively lifeless, the man knows how to find moments of intense beauty in static images that elevate certain moments, lend them power.
While there’s a lot to like here, Black Widow still just isn’t coming together. The second issue was stronger than the series’ debut, which was fine but largely uninspired, but I’m still having trouble getting too excited for more. While I tend to like Nathan Edmondson’s work, Phil Noto’s art is currently the series’ biggest draw, and there are times when it feels like Noto and Edmondson are working at cross purposes. I still think this can be a very solid title, and seeing the improvement in Black Widow #2 gives me hope that it’s moving in that direction, but it still has plenty of hurdles to clear.
My Rating: 3 / 5