Down time? In the debut of her stunning new solo series, Natasha Romanoff doesn't know the meaning of the phrase as she travels to far flung corners of the world in the name of atonement. Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto's "Black Widow" #1 plays with the notion of her shady past and not-so-pleasant reputation in a way that propels her into a new era filled with promise and intrigue. Rife with action and breathtaking art, "Black Widow" takes Natasha Romanoff's character in a fun yet bold direction that is sure to be enjoyable ride.
Black Widow's solo storylines often involve the demons from her past, whether it be the return of secret U.S.S.R. training programs or the betrayal of old Soviet comrades. Not so here; indeed, Edmondson crafts several fake histories for Natasha, throwing the readers for a loop as she exercises her manipulative prowess. In doing so, he shifts focus away from who she used to be in order to focus on who she is now, creating a fresh plot that feels influenced by the past rather than tied to it. She even says it herself: "No one will ever know my full story," indicating a nice, clean break that implies the book will spotlight her present and future exploits while simply touching on the past. What's more, Edmondson plays with the idea of her reputation, as other characters consistently make assumptions based on her name and skill set. However, as Natasha proves them wrong in turn, Edmondson makes it clear that his story revolves around her moving forward and bettering herself, culminating in a refreshing breath of air for the character.
While a bulk of the book puzzles out just who Natasha really is, it isn't without a few fun moments. Edmondson and Noto infuse some few spy-genre influences into the issue, up to and including a "James Bond"-esque atmosphere and several "Mission: Impossible" references. Although such devices could quickly become cliche, they're made fun by new characters, sarcasm, and situational humor. In fact, Edmondson and Noto bring us a great new character in Isaiah, who acts as a composite Q and M to Natasha's 007. In addition to managing Natasha, Isaiah provides excellent insight into how the average person receives a character like Black Widow; he also acts as a great tool for exposition, as he lays out Natasha's benchmarks and goals in a way that fits naturally in the overall narrative.
As always, Phil Noto's artwork is nothing short of gorgeous; his style truly benefits from its monochromatic coloring and lack of heavy inking. Each panel is its own individual masterpiece, from the stylized, cinematic sequences that illustrate her fake histories to breathtaking, full page action scenes to dynamic figure work. Noto always keeps the smaller details in mind, crafting beautiful, elaborate backdrops and stunning yet subtle panels that reflect his creative forethought. Natasha's slow introduction is graceful, deliberate, elegant -- fitting for a character with the same, well-defined qualities. His attention to lighting and dynamic layouts, in particular, breathe life into the work as a whole.
Peppered with noir overtones and subtle humorous moments, "Black Widow" #1 has impressive depth and complexity. Edmondson and Noto's brilliant debut issue does Natasha Romanoff great justice by showcasing her diverse skill set and all-around badassery while weaving in some genuine character moments. "Black Widow" is a wild ride for new and old readers alike.