In the Marvel Universe, danger comes in many forms. When a super powered villain launches a new, nefarious scheme, they typically find themselves tangling with a costumed super hero, and when high tech terrorist organizations threaten freedom, they’re usually taken down by resourceful and deadly super spies. Sometimes, though, a unique threat will rear its head that will require the attention of both super heroes and super spies. Sharon Carter, AKA Agent 13 of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Natasha Romanov, AKA the Black Widow, are highly trained spies capable of taking down both terrorists and super villains who regularly take on both as members of Steve Rogers’ Secret Avengers. This March, they team in the one-shot “Captain America and the Secret Avengers” by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Greg Tocchini. We spoke with DeConnick about the project, which is part of a series of one-shots celebrating Captain America’s 70th anniversary by shining the spotlight on the Sentinel of Liberty’s allies and enemies.
Much like the other one-shots, Captain America may be mentioned in the title, but the stars of the story are Agent 13 and the Black Widow. Former Captain America Steve Rogers does play a role, but according to DeConnick, it’s a small one. “Steve Rogers is kind of like Charlie of ‘Charlie’s Angels’ in this story. This is a book about the ladies,” DeConnick told CBR News. “And these are two very interesting and exciting ladies. I think we’ve got an entertaining, thought-provoking and action-packed story.”
DeConnick told CBR that she finds the Black Widow and Agent 13 to be fascinating characters on their own, so when the opportunity arose to unite them in a single adventure, she jumped at the chance. “I love buddy movies, and you just can’t have too many Thelma and Louises in this world,” the writer remarked. “‘Thelma and Louise’ with a touch of ’48 Hours,’ maybe? There’s some resistance to being on this job together. We have a little fun with that.”
While Sharon Carter and Natasha Romanov appear at a glance to be similar characters, DeConnick feels that there are some striking differences between the two, differences which make for some interesting character moments. “Natasha is cooler — and I mean that in the sort of icy kind of way. Sharon is more likely to lose her temper,” DeConnick said. “However, neither of these women is anything close to normal. They’re extraordinary, and in some ways they’re casualties of their own competence. They’re like the good guy version of those mobsters who can’t sit with in a restaurant with their backs to the door. They’re so far removed from normal, they can’t look at a piece of art without evaluating it as a potential weapon.”
The action in “Captain America and the Secret Avengers” is triggered by Tatiana, a young girl who debuted in a short story by DeConnick and artist Jamie McKelvie, in last year’s “Enter the Heroic Age” one-shot. In this new story, Tatiana reenters the Black Widow’s life by writing her a letter. “Natasha called her mini-me in the short. She’s a teenage girl who was trained young, like Natasha. She’s also Russian, like Natasha. She’s not super powered, but she is a well-trained, highly competent assassin. She was being traded in an international arms deal when Natasha liberated her. Steve Rogers put her in a safe house from which she has run away,” DeConnick told CBR. “So in the beginning of our story, she has written to Natasha and said, ‘Thank you for believing in me and thinking of me as more than a bullet. I wanted to thank you and say that I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you were wrong.’ Then she reveals that she’s going to do something bad.
“When Sharon and Natasha set out after her, Natasha says, ‘This is a cry for help. I know this girl.’ Sharon replies, ‘You don’t really know this girl. You think you know her because you think she’s you. She’s not you. You spent a day and a half with her. And this is a trap. If someone sends you a note that says come here at this time, I’m going to do violence. It’s a trap! We are walking into a trap.’
“Sharon is bemused and amused by Natasha’s reaction to the situation,” DeConnick continued. “Of course, the things that bug us most about other people are always the things that bug us about ourselves, right? When I find myself getting inordinately irritated with somebody on the internet, I know that’s about me. It’s either I’m afraid that I come across in that same way, or there’s something about what they’ve said that’s true. Or I’m afraid it’s true. That’s how it is with Sharon and Natasha. There’s some stuff about Natasha that rubs Sharon the wrong way, and really, that’s about Sharon. Because they really are the same in a lot of ways. They really are fellow soldiers.”
The Black Widow and Agent 13’s pursuit of Tatiana will lead them to some surprises while embroiling them in a larger than life, explosive adventure. “As the story progresses, we just might find out that Tatiana wasn’t trained by the Red Room, the secret Soviet organization that trained Natasha and enhanced her physiology as part of their Black Widow project. A more modern day assassin training franchise might be responsible for schooling her in the deadly arts,” DeConnick said. “I had a lot of fun with this puppy. You know the phrase ‘OTT?’ Over the top. There’s one villain in particular who’s OTT enough to be a Bond villain. ‘She’s one step away from Blofeld,’ says Sharon.”
“Captain America and the Secret Avengers” features both a cover and interior pages by artist Greg Tocchini. DeConnick is very excited to be working with the Brazilian artist and is very pleased by the way he’s bringing her story to life. “I am loving what I’m seeing from Greg. You know what it reminds me of? I collect old pulpy Modesty Blaise books. Greg’s work reminds me of some of my favorite books in that collection. No joke. It’s really fabulous.”
March also sees the conclusion of DeConnick’s other major project for Marvel, her five issue “Osborn” series. Fans of the writer’s work don’t need to worry, however — she has a number of projects in development and several more that she’ll start developing soon. “I can’t announce what or where yet, but Chuck BB and I have another project that I’m super excited about because I loved working with him on our ‘CBGB’ story. That was a lot of fun for me. So we talked about how we could make that happen again,” the writer told CBR News. “Then, I have a one-shot with another company that I’m also really excited for, but can’t say much about. And Emma Rios [DeConnick’s artistic collaborator on “Osborn”] and I want to do something else, but we haven’t nailed down anything yet.”