In Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto’s “Black Widow” #10 an “old friend” has captured Natasha’s accountant Isaiah, who also happens to be her only real confidante. The issue jumps back and forth in time between present day with Natasha dealing with Isaiah’s capture and the story of how Natasha and “old friend” Rashid met, and how that relationship went awry, thanks in part to Hawkeye.
It’s a fantastically tense issue, despite the fact that little happens with Natasha in the present day scenes, which are mostly Isaiah being tortured and Natasha dealing with Maria Hill and Tony Stark. But the flashback sets the scene of Natasha and Rashid’s relationship perfectly and the flash-forward between Rashid in past and present is well realized.
The flashback battle between Natasha and Clint is magnificent in its pared-down poetry. It’s a mostly wordless duel where they try not to hurt one another, while still attempting to accomplish their goals, which are in direct opposition. Guest-stars can easily overwhelm a book — especially a character like Clint in a relatively quiet book like “Black Widow” — but Edmondson handles Hawkeye’s presence deftly, weaving him and his push-pull confrontation with Natasha into the book seamlessly, while still keeping Clint’s character in tact. Edmondson also does a nice job of presenting a Clint that’s a bit different than his appearance in “Hawkeye,” but straddles that line nicely, so that it just feels like a different aspect of Clint, rather than incorrect characterization.
As always, Noto’s storytelling and character work is top-notch. The tension in Natasha’s face as she struggles internally with fighting Clint is perfectly balanced and strong enough that Edmondson is able to let it stand on its own without a lot of dialogue or narration. A strength of this creative pairing from the outset has been their trust in one another, especially Edmondson’s trust in Noto’s visuals to do the heavy lifting, which in turn gives Edmondson the opportunity to finely tune Natasha’s complicated and subtle voice.
Noto’s work has always been stunningly pretty and exceptionally composed, but he’s really pushed the reality in this book, and reality is not always pretty and perfectly composed. I’ve come to appreciate over the course of his run on “Black Widow” some of the deliberately awkward panels, especially as a contrast to those that could double as the basis for exquisitely posed photographs. This book finds Natasha and her charge in a car chase through city streets, a motorcycle chase through a marketplace, a rooftop battle with a sniper, and yet it never falters to be effortless in its storytelling.
“Black Widow” #10 is a fantastic example of the smart understated work Edmondson and Noto present in this series. Full of action, but pared back, poetic, beautiful, and easy to digest for readers new and old, it’s solid superhero-meets-spy-comics every month without fail.