“Black Widow” #1 opens with a high-octane introduction and never throttles down. Chris Samnee and Mark Waid co-write an engaging heist tale with very little exposition, but the issue is such a thrill that none is really needed. Thrillingly illustrated by Samnee, the story kicks off with Natasha Romanov on the run in a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, apparently having appropriated something so important that S.H.I.E.L.D. is willing to do anything to get it back. Natasha isn’t stuck inside for long, but — even after extricating herself — the action doesn’t stop, as the pursuit of the Black Widow continues right up until the conclusion, which comes up all too soon.
Samnee and Waid lead off with a rollercoaster ride of a sequence, and Samnee impresses by crowding fast-paced action into small panels that convey the claustrophobic feel of this S.H.I.E.L.D. office. After establishing this environment, Samnee delivers a surprising reveal when he divulges its location in a dynamically laid out spread with IMAX-like magnitude; unfortunately, this spread also serves as the credits page, and the insertion of Joe Caramagna’s letters detract from the impact of the scene. Despite that, it has beautifully structured composition that tells readers early on that the excitement is only beginning.
Natasha has taken something (or so we are led to believe), and — as the story opens up — readers might initially expect answers to be forthcoming. When they don’t come, however, it doesn’t really seem to matter. Samnee and Waid establish a story, but then let readers know they’ll get around to explaining it once they have a little fun first — or a lot of fun, as it turns out to be. While it’s good to see the pair reunited after their well-received run on “Daredevil,” there’s a totally different vibe here that’s nothing like the low-key atmosphere seen in their previous title. While this sole issue can’t be interpreted as an indication of the flavor of the series, it’s refreshing to see Samnee and Waid try something new and do so successfully.
Samnee’s art stays fresh as well; his panel layouts superbly pace the action, varying in size as dictated by the story’s demands. Some panels are dense, others are airy and open, and each convey the moment without wasted movement. Matthew Wilson’s colors also play into the mood, often dark in the closer scenes but lightening up in others. Samnee throws in some comic touches that add levity to the generally serious tone of the issue, balancing the mood and keeping the tension elevated without becoming overbearing.
“Black Widow” #1 kicks off with a figurative bang, followed shortly thereafter by a literal one. As co-writers, Samnee and Waid demonstrate a slightly different kind of synergy, but it’s a strong one that bodes well for the remainder of the series.