They may not have super human strength or healing factors that makes them unkillable but Marine turned vigilante Frank Castle (AKA The Punisher) and super spy turned Avenger Natasha Romanoff (AKA the Black Widow) are two of the most dangerous characters in the Marvel Universe. Part of their lethality comes from the very special skill sets they have picked up across their careers, but what really makes them dangerous is their relentless, almost superhuman relentless drive that pushes them to use their skills and weapons in crusades against evil.
In the latest volumes of "Punisher" & "Black Widow," writer Nathan Edmondson kicked off long form stories in which his protagonists targeted two very powerful, very evil conspiracies, and with the Marvel Universe's end now fast approaching and the "Secret Wars" about to begin, Castle and Romanoff embark upon their final battles with the organizations they've targeted for destruction. Assuming they complete those missions, the two anti-heroes will turn their relentless focus to the chaos of the Marvel U's "Last Days."
CBR News spoke with Edmondson about his plans for the concluding chapters of his long form "Punisher" and "Black Widow" stories and the "Last Days" arcs that follow them. The writer explained how his plans include the Punisher coming face-to-face with Sam Wilson, the new Captain America, revisits one of the Widow's earliest missions as a Russian spy and the personal, character-driven narratives that unfold against the backdrop of the final Incursion event that sweeps away the Marvel Universe and gives way to Battleworld.
CBR News: With the "Last Days" stories in "Punisher" & "Black Widow" you're arriving at the end of the long form stories you set out to tell in both books, not to mention participating in you first Marvel event tie-in. What does it feel like to do both of those things simultaneously?
Nathan Edmondson: Really the "Last Days" stories are kinds of episodes following the 18-issue arcs we planned for each book. So they are bonuses, if you will, but they're bonuses that come with some really unique liberties for the creative teams. We can do things and show things that wouldn't have fit into the narratives that preceded them.
One of the joys of writing and completing these long form stories is the fact that you built a pretty tight collaboration with artist Phil Noto on "Black Widow, and with "Punisher you built upon the relationship you and Mitch Gerads began with your Image Comics series, "The Activity." How does it feel to reach the end of these stories with both of these guys being there to bring them to life?
I wouldn't say I've reached the end with the guys there; there is no story, beginning or end or anything without the artists. I'm so fortunate that my collaborations -- which include the editors on these books, Ellie Pyle, Jake Thomas, Tom Brevoort and Axel Alonso -- are so unified and collaborative. So this is almost a family effort with each book, and the character is a part of that family.
You began the latest volume of the "Punisher" with Frank in Los Angeles, and now the final few issues of your story find him in Washington, D.C. hunting for the head of the conspiracy involving chemical weapons, Mexican drug cartels and the U.S. government that he dug up in issue #1. What does putting Frank against a backdrop of power and secrets like D.C. allow you to do as a writer?
I'll be honest, I was surprised with where the story took me. I think readers will be divided, or at least there will be plenty of discussion about the way the Punisher handles the end of this long, west coast journey. It's a great experience to have a character surprise you after 18 issues. Frank really did.
It looks like one of the people Frank will cross paths with in these upcoming issues is the new Captain America, Sam Wilson. Knowing that Frank has an intense amount of respect for the identity and symbolism of Captain America, what can you tell us about their dynamic when they confront one another?
Frank does have respect for Captain America, and for the military, and for justice -- but is Sam Wilson standing between the Punisher and justice? If so, which side of the scale will be tipped, and where will Frank draw the line?
That's a nice tease. Let's talk a little more about the "Last Days" story in "Punisher." What is Frank up to while the final Incursion event is unfolding?
It's a story specific to Frank that comes out of our run on the character. I won't spoil it, but readers who have been with us for the duration will find a really fun connection in these final two issues. Maybe fun isn't the word. Also, these issues are gruesome...
Let's switch gears to "Black Widow." It really feels like what you and Phil have been doing with this series is using the mystery of the organization known as Chaos to tell a deeply personal story about Natasha, temptation, and walking the edge between hero and spy/assassin. Was that your goal when you pitched your take on the series?
You've kind of hit the nail on its head. I won't say it was 100% intentional at all times, but yes, part of the idea of Chaos was to have this mysterious force tease some of the mystery out of Natasha; and to have her break against an immoveable wall, forcing some of her own facade to break away.
What can readers expect from these upcoming issues of "Black Widow?" Will we learn more about Chaos and see Natasha's conflict with the organization escalate as the sands of time begin to run out on the Marvel Universe?
In "Black Widow," we will take the opportunity to tell an intimate tale, to pluck one of those first strands of her web to see what wrapped-up prey dangles there.
As an Avenger, Natasha is aware of the Incursion phenomenon and that the world may be ending because of it. Do you think that's colored some of the way she's reacted to things in your series? Do you think she's had time to truly process what that means to her? Or would answering these questions spoil the story you're telling in the "Last Days" arc?
No, not spoiling. That hasn't been a part of our narrative at all and doesn't affect her until issues #19 & #20. Everything that precedes those issues -- in our series -- is not affected by the Incursion.
Finally, I know you can't exactly talk about whether or not you have more "Punisher" and "Black Widow" stories in your future after "Secret Wars," so let's conclude with a look back. What have you you enjoyed most about working on these books? What story elements have you been most proud of in terms of going from conception to execution?
I've mostly enjoyed the way the books have come to life artistically; to see the way these artists -- and Mike Perkins on "Deathlok" -- have crafted the universes and brought personality to the characters is, as is ever the case for me in comics, the real joy. In "Punisher" I've loved some of the small moments that Mitch has crafted so exquisitely; lightning flashing as Frank raises his gun in slo-mo, little folds of the Punisher mask hanging and expressions on Loot's face. With "Black Widow," her stares which reveal nothing but tell you that there is so much going on behind her eyes; it takes real artistic skill and wisdom to pull those beats off. Phil can do that. I love how the SFX and action occasionally add some comedic beats. I like Natasha in sunglasses and Isaiah working out. These little things really do it for me.
I want to say a very sincere thank you to our readership. I believe you'll be rewarded for joining us on the ride with these books!
The "Last Days" begin in June in Marvel's "Black Widow" #19 by Nathan Edmondson & Phil Noto and "Punisher" #19 by Edmondson & Mitch Gerads.