The Black Widow has so much unrealized potential: a spy, an Avenger, and a fan-favorite character who binds much of the Marvel Universe together with minimal effort. Other than Wolverine (because of his vast quantity of appearances in Marvel titles every single month) what one other character can thread the former Soviet Republic together with the X-Men, Captain America, and Iron Man?
An unwary Natasha Romanova is targeted by the “Icepick Protocol,” a mystery set up to fuel the action of this miniseries. The plot seems a bit contrived, but Cornell uses it to provide flashback sequences that are splendidly designed and meticulously executed by John Paul Leon. The difference in art style between Leon and Raney is so disparate that this book feels as though it contains two different tales, rather than the tale of the life of Marvel’s most recognizable femme fatale. The flashback sequences make this book.
That’s not to say that Raney’s pages are disposable. Raney provides marvelously detailed action set in the present day. He also provides the delicate artwork for Natasha’s conversation with James Barnes. Unfortunately, the emphasis of this book doesn’t seem to be in the present day adventures, so Raney’s work gets overshadowed. Perhaps his role in this story will increase as the story continues.
While some of Widow’s potential is getting tapped here, this adventure seems slightly misguided. If someone truly wanted to wipe out the people Widow cared for, why telegraph it? With a character as crafty, connected, and resourceful as Black Widow, the mystery presented here seems very thin, the challenge more minimal and elusive than daunting. The thin veil of the present day story is a distraction to the more interesting details of Natasha’s past. Hopefully Cornell can punch up the present day tale in the issues to come.