Natasha Romanov, AKA the Black Widow, is one of the deadliest women in the Marvel Universe and she’s angry. In last year’s “Black Widow” mini-series, Natasha discovered her true origins and battled a conspiracy that targeted her for assassination. Having survived and now knowing her genuine past, Natasha is back and looking for payback in Marvel Comics‘ “Black Widow 2: The Things They Say About Her,” a six issue mini-series beginning in September by returning writer Richard K. Morgan and returning artist Bill Sienkiewicz, with artist Sean Phillips joining them to provide layouts for the series. CBR News sat down face-to-face with Morgan to talk about the series, which continues the Black Widow’s journey through the shadowy clandestine corridors of the Marvel Universe.
“Black Widow 2” picks up hours after the end of the first series and finds Natasha on the offensive. “Having realized how badly she’s been fucked up, she’s pissed off and looking for targets,” Morgan told CBR News.
The Widow won’t be the sole focus of the action in the sequel. “Without giving anything away, it’s much more an ensemble piece,” Morgan said. “Volume 2 is an attempt to have her as a sort of a focal point of a lot of stuff that’s going on but not necessarily center stage all the time. I’ve tried to bring in an awful lot of side issues and side characters.”
These side characters will be a way of examining the consequences of Natasha’s actions, explained the writer. “There’s a point in which she executes a kidnapping to fulfill what she needs. You then get feedback on how the family of this guy who’s been kidnapped feels. Now they’re criminals, but at the same time there’s a 17 year old daughter and she’s still upset because her daddy’s gone.
“One of the things that I think is important in fiction, whatever medium, is there should be some sense of cost,” Morgan continued. “Marvel did a thing called ‘Spider-Man’s Tangled Web’. There was a great issue where this guy basically gets his orders to go and be executed by the Kingpin. What I liked about that story was this idea that Spider-Man busts these guys and that’s cool but here are some of the consequences of that. Actions have consequences and even if you’re doing things for the best of reasons very often some of those consequences are going to be negative. Likewise, if you take actions that are negative very often there’s a benefit or payoff to that.”
One character that will find himself again entangled in the Black Widow’s web is SHIELD leader Nick Fury. “Fury’s still got this basic problem that he’s up against a corporate environment that has got itself locked into lobbying, government groups and power politics,” Morgan explained. “His old playground the sort of cold war government-department set up has pretty much crumbled around him. He’s in a position where he’s short on options. He’s backed into a number of corners. Its not that he can’t get out of them but it’s not easy for him.”
But this Nick Fury will be a more sympathetic character in “Black Widow 2” than he was in the previous series. “I gave him a bit of a drubbing in the last series because it was all from Natasha’s point of view, and from Natasha’s point of view he’s just a manipulative scumbag,” Morgan said. “I think I’m bringing Fury forward. Yeah he is a manipulative son of a bitch but you can start to see emergent elements of what he really cares about more clearly.”
Another character pulled into the vortex surrounding the Black Widow and her actions is her former lover, Matt Murdoch, AKA Daredevil. “One of the things that’s important about his appearance is the connection with Natasha and how she deals with it,” Morgan said. “She’s almost like a notch on his belt and I find this slightly irritating. It’s like Daredevil is either shagging Elektra, or Natasha, or his wife but this has to happen in some kind of context. When you add it to all that you’re going, ‘That guy is a scumbag. He’s just bouncing from woman to woman.’ I wanted to bring that home in a playful sense really. It’s not something I wanted to go deep into.”
Daredevil’s involvement in “Black Widow 2” thrusts him into a shadowy, unfamiliar world. “He finds himself up against U.S. Marines and in essence framed in a position along with Fury of being a traitor to the United States,” Morgan stated. “I’m wanting to bring in the strain on him much the way Fury has to deal with the changing circumstances of the corporate world in the first series. This is like a whirlpool and it’s sucking them all down.”
There are two Black Widows in “Black Widow 2.” Yelena Belova, another former Russian spy who used the code name Black Widow, appears in the series. “She crops up in the first issue and will have a role later on,” Morgan said. “I felt she had been done a slight injustice in the first set of six because there’s this kind of backhanded comment, ‘Oh I think she models lingerie.’ So she gets a chance to account for herself because it’s very important that characters in fiction get the chance to get their point of view across.”
Yelena’s very different perspective will pit her against Natasha. “It’s a pretty powerful point of view, ” Morgan explained. “It’s not a worldview I share but it’s a very strong point, which she makes to Natasha quite forcefully. You’re going, ‘Shit she’s got a point.’
“I’ve always liked the idea of my heroes finding themselves if not in the wrong maybe they got a hold of the wrong end of the stick. I like it when you get a character who is extensively a bad guy coming in and making a point that is valid because it gives a little more reality both to the bad guys and the good guys.”
The other bad guys Natasha must face in “Black Widow 2” are of a different sort than what she took on in the first series. “I’m angling very hard at not having one big bad guy mainly because I didn’t want a repeat performance of Volume One,” Morgan stated. “So, she’s up against in a sense an invisible enemy. It’s a matrix of power that’s been set up against her. She’s not really in a position to do much about it except pick small localized targets and go after those.”
Some of the supporting characters from the first “Black Widow” series will return in the sequel. Morgan wouldn’t say whom, but at least one important character will reappear and number of others will be mentioned.
The action in “Black Widow 2” will take place all over the globe. “The international stuff is far more within a theater rather than sort of WHOOM! We’re on the other side of the world. WHOOM! We’re back again,” Morgan explained. “It’s not purely a US theater it’s a geo-political theater and it has a very specific political context to it as well.”
The tone of “Black Widow 2,” like that of the first series, is dark and awash with shades of gray. “It’s still very noir,” Morgan stated. “There’s no really clear good guys or bad guys, a lot of intrigue, a lot of nastiness. There’s a lack of moral clarity lets say.”
Morgan’s tone for the series leaves no room for the sexual gratuity, colloquially referred to as “TnA,” that can often find its way into comic books. “One of the things that drove me to utter distraction while I was looking at the previous ‘Black Widow’ stuff with both Yelena and Natasha was just the way in which everything came down to tits and ass in the end,” Morgan explained. “There was the Grayson stuff where you’ve got essentially a mud wrestling thing; these two leather coated voluptuous women going at it. Then you’ve got all the Rucka stuff in MAX where Yelena just discovers she doesn’t understand her own sexuality.
“If you tried to play that stuff with male superhero characters, there would be a riot,” Morgan continued. “If you tried to say, ‘Yeah the truth is that really Captain America wants to be muzzled, gagged and dragged around,’ that would do it. Someone like Grant Morrison could probably write that and I’d love to see it in fact but I guarantee the response of the readership would be fury.”
Morgan is enjoying working with artist Bill Sienkiewicz again, with whom his creative synergy is excellent. “You’ve got to have art that conveys the tone,” he stated. “It was pure genius of Jenny [Jenny Lee, Morgan’s old editor] to look at my novels and to say Bill Sienkiewicz would be good for this. Sienkiewicz has got this kind of dark spikiness and I love the way it works.”
Morgan also had praise for his new artistic collaborator on “Black Widow 2,” Sean Phillips. “I’ve seen a couple of the early lay outs,” he said. “They look great.”
If sales allow for a “Black Widow 3,” Morgan has some ideas. Chief among them is a face-off between Natasha and another of Daredevil’s old flames, Elektra. “I’m not going to do the mud wrestling thing because I hate that shit,” Morgan explained. “I’m thinking it’s quite interesting because, in theory, you’ve got at least a certain amount of confrontation here because these are both women who have some emotional involvement with the same man and they’re both lethally capable.
“The thing about Natasha, the reason I’ve been really drawn to the character from the beginning is that she’s intensely pragmatic. She was a spy and if you’re a spy you really have to sort of build your world as you go. The idea of someone like that clashing with a female character who is sort of driven much more by these sort of traditionally super heroic drives/dynamics it would be interesting. I have it in my head to have Elektra saying, ‘They murdered my dad.’ And Natasha saying, ‘Well at least you had a dad.’ I don’t think I would want to make a story out of that but it might well be a side issue.”
Morgan’s primary profession is sill novelist but he has enjoyed working in the comics field. “I’m doing it because it’s fun,” he said. “I’m not doing this to make a living. As long as it continues to be fun I will go on doing it.”