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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Black Widow

Scarlett Johansson is the highest-grossing actress of all time. It seems safe to say it is her six performances as Black Widow in the Marvel Comics' Universe, and not her turns in indies like Ghost World and Lost in Translation, that have earned her this record. It may be then safe to say that Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow, is the most viewed female film character of all time.

Black Widow has never been a major Marvel character, though. When I was reading comics, she was teamed with Daredevil, and later with Hawkeye. I don't think any female character had their own book in those days. But over the last couple years, writer Nate Edmondson and artist Phil Noto put out what was one of the better Marvel series of the year. I read the three volume compilation, which has 20 issues of Black Widow and one of The Punisher.

In the movies, Natasha Romanov was a former KGB agent turned Avenger (and S.H.I.E.L.D agent). That's true in these comics, but there are her adventures aside from those groups. She is basically an assassin and mercenary, and has a devoted attorney, Isaiah. She takes jobs all over the world, mostly killing bad guys, but this is a direct contradiction of the old comic book code, which disallowed such wanton murder. But now she is a cold-blooded killer.

The through-story of these three volumes is her at odds with an organization called Chaos. She does battle with quite a few terrorist types, usually falling on or off boats and, while completely skilled in martial arts, doing a lot of shooting. She is a fairly closed personality. We see one flashback of her as a little girl in Russia, where she kills a guy, and is allowed one fantasy of being in love with Matt Murdock (Daredevil). She also adopts a cat.

But the rest is pure mayhem, and very well done. I'm still not used to the way comic books are drawn these days--there are much fewer word balloons and more abstract ways of showing action. But the artwork is terrific--Noto resists having Natasha look like Johansson--she looks more like Bella Thorn--and the action is relentless. Some familiar faces pop up. In addition to Daredevil and the Punisher, Winter Soldier, Hawkeye, and S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Maria Hill (who took over from Nick Fury) are on hand. I don't follow Marvel Comics religiously anymore so I was surprised that Captain America is now black.

No matter how old I get I still get a thrill from reading superhero comics, and when they are as well done as this one, I realize why. They are fun, they are exciting, and they appeal to a certain part of my brain that arrested at about age 15. Is it any wonder that all of Marvel's female characters are beautiful?

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