Halfway through this book, I had to check the creator credits, as it felt like I was reading a comic book written by Greg Rucka. Natasha's conversation with the Black Rose and the members of the family he watches for Natasha seems torn straight from the pages of "Walking Dead," or "Critical Space." Liu's work is tight and polished, with a nice balance between coldly personal and professional. Only enough information is given, leaving the reader to jump to his or her own conclusions.
AcuÃ±a's art is unmistakable and distinct. The painted imagery occasionally sacrifices detail for emotion. The end result is a beautiful looking book that seems a little out of place and frequently too soft for the dirty world depicted within. I did find fault in that the Black Rose's camp is referred to, but never really shown, particularly after Natasha is shown traveling for more than a page and a half.
This issue ties in a great deal of Black Widow's past while hacking down a path for her future. Natasha makes an enemy here that future issues of this series are certain to play up. After four months, we learn the identity of Black Widow's assailant, and we also glimpse a few secretive skeletons hiding out in the closet of Natasha Romanova. In retrospect, this story does seem to have been dragging its heels a bit. That's noteworthy, as it certainly seems to move a clip faster during the issue.
Marvel made a great choice in pairing Liu with AcuÃ±a for this title, but it truly is time to find some resolution to this initial arc before it gets too much longer in the tooth. Natasha's in a bit of a bad spot at the end of this issue. Next issue should wrap that and move her along to the next adventure in her life. The redeeming part about Black Widow is her adventures, and the amount of issues they individually span, can vary as wildly as the comic market itself. This story is an espionage-flavored race against the clock. It could just as easily have featured a reunion with the Champions of Los Angeles or a trip to outer space.
"Black Widow" is a title without true limits, featuring a character more integrated in the Marvel Universe than Kevin Bacon is in making connections between movie stars. This first arc -- and this issue specifically -- does a good job establishing that. Now it is time to build on that foundation.