Black Widow #1 has all the best intentions in the world. The creative team of co-writers Jen and Sylvia Soska and artist Flaviano put their collective best foot forward as they try to pick up the pieces of the titular Avenger's shattered life. During the events of "Secret Empire," Natasha Romanoff was killed by an evil version of Captain America. She was later brought back to life by way of cloning and suspended disbelief. With Black Widow returning from the dead with a clean slate, the direction of a solo series was wide open. Sadly, while the direction taken shows a lot of promise, it's hard to tell if it will be kept from what we've seen in this first issue.
Now, this isn't Jen and Sylvia Soska's first time at the comic book rodeo. They've written stories featuring Night Nurse and Deadpool over the last few years, but they seem to be a bit out of sorts with their first ongoing series. The manner in which they handle Natasha feels restrained, leaving one with the suspicion that this comic would have been more compelling as a Marvel Knights release or filtered through the mature reader's imprint of Marvel Max (is that still a thing?).
The Soska Sisters have produced some pretty solid entries in the horror movie genre, writing and directing the film American Mary and a segment in ABCs of Death 2. They have a playful eye for extreme violence and revel in their characters expelling copious amounts of blood, even in their non-horror film work, and the general conceit of Black Widow #1 is perfect for their visual flare for violence and knack for conveying dark humor. In the end, however, the issue plays things a little too safe, which doesn't sound too on brand for the writing duo.
With Black Widow free from her previous heroic constraints, the opportunity to explore the character as something more than a tough-as-nails, super spy was squandered. The plot that occurs in this issue feels as if it could have been covered in a few pages or in a b-plot of another comic series. The story involving Captain America doesn't feel natural, and is ultimately distracting from the focus of our hero.
Hopefully this issue is ultimately a prologue leading up to the real appeal of the series, which is Black Widow being let off her superhero leash and allowed to act as the highly-honed killing machine she was trained to be. This might sound like desperate pleas of a gorehound fan, but with the Soska Sisters behind the story, it's hard not to want things to play out in a crimson ballet. After all, they've proven time and time again it's a dance they know very well.
Flaviano's art work is solid, but the cartoon-ish aspect of the character designs takes you out of the issue. Again, this is a case of preconceived notions when going into this book, but a more stark or serious aesthetic would have resulted in a bit more excitement for the story ahead. Flaviano is a fantastic comic artist, but he feels out of place here. This series needs someone with a bit more edge to their art style; someone in the vein of Lee Weeks or Alex Maleev would have sharpened things up wonderfully.
Ultimately Black Widow #1 is a mixed bag. The idea behind Natasha breaking her superhero mold is great, but the story surrounding that notion is not terribly engaging. I wanted to love this comic -- I really did. The talent behind it is amazing, and the promise it makes is one worth nourishing, but in the end it feels like a little white lie that might hold some truth down the road. Fingers crossed for issue #2. Perhaps the necessary hurdles have been cleared and in subsequent issues the Soska Sisters and Flaviano will find a way to sprint forward without any obstacles in their way.