At a young age Natalia Romanova – a.k.a. Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. the Black Widow — was groomed to be the perfect spy by a secret arm of the Soviet Union’s intelligence services. As part of this training, she underwent a procedure that greatly expanded her lifespan and heightened her physical abilities, but left the Black Widow with no real superhuman abilities to speak of. Despite this, the Black Widow remains one of the deadliest women in the Marvel Universe.
In “Black Widow: Deadly Origin,” a new four-issue miniseries by writer Paul Cornell and artist Tom Raney, a present-day mission brings to light some of the experiences that made the Widow into such a formidable spy and superhero. CBR News spoke with Paul Cornell about the book, which debuts in November.
The title of Cornell’s series may be “Deadly Origin,” but the bulk of the series takes place in the here and now. “The plot connects back to all these different times in her life, as she tries to save everyone she ever kissed from something deadly. A real Black Widow’s curse. That was one of my favorite times for her, by the way, when she was living in L.A. with Daredevil and being all fatalistic,” Cornell told CBR News. “She’s not defined by the men in her past. They all, to some extent, are defined by her, and now possibly fatally. It’s about the past coming after Natalia seeking revenge, and the present not being able to do a thing about it. So she’s on her own. And that’s fine, because she’s never seen herself as being anything else.”
The Widow’s quest will illuminate much of her past, including what’s been established and what still hasn’t been revealed. “When we first meet her in this series, she’s actually just been born,” Cornell said. “We’re following one particular mission during the main part of the story, but one which touches on various different aspects of her history, leading us to flashbacks that show previously unseen moments from all the different phases of her life, including times past with Logan, the Winter Soldier, Clint Barton, Daredevil, even Hercules. She’s been very different people all through her life, but always deadly, and, I like to think, funny. Not in a one-liner way, but with a very dry, somewhat cynical, wit. I’m looking to find the Sean Connery in her.
“I’m exploring all of her history, but I like the contrasts that all lead to the same place, how she learned different styles of toughness and guile over the years. I think she’s a very together person, not a damaged one, and that she’s just found wisdom after wisdom in all her travels. Until now she’s the perfect stealthy operative, who could waltz her way in and out without anyone ever knowing, by being the cleaning woman who brings the security man muffins, as well as being a Daniel Craig-style blunt instrument that can level buildings (or indeed, space stations, as we’ll get to) on her own. This is someone who was an equal partner to the Son of Zeus.”
As Cornell hinted, the action in “Deadly Origin” unfolds across the Earth as well as far above it. “We’re all over the globe with the flashbacks, but the main story starts in the upper stratosphere, and visits Las Vegas, Moscow, New York and outer space,” the writer explained. “At the very least.”
The Widow’s travels in “Deadly Origin” bring her face-to-face with several familiar supporting characters. “Including one who used to be very important to Natalia, who hasn’t been seen for a long time,” Cornell teased. “I always used to like him, and want to catch up with him now.”
Paul Cornell is excited that Tom Raney (“Dark Reign: Hawkeye,” “Secret Invasion: Inhumans”) is bringing to life all the action and intrigue of “Deadly Origin.” “I’m so fortunate in the artists I get! Tom is someone I’m especially pleased to be working with,” the writer remarked. “He can do action, romance, character, beautiful women without cheesecake. I’m really looking forward to seeing the pages.”
With “Black Widow: Deadly Origin,” Cornell hopes to explore and provide some insight into one of the Marvel Universe’s most intriguing female characters and to do so with a larger-than-life super-spy action. “I’m going to have my collected James Bond themes on all the time while I’m writing it,” he said. “Lots of fist fights, high tech battles, the sort of extreme superhero hedonism you expect from the Iron Man movies, pre-titles sequences and movie poster splash pages.”
“Black Widow: Deadly Origin” #1 goes on sale in November from Marvel Comics.