Recently back from the grave, Natasha Romanov has returned to reclaim her title as the greatest super-spy in the Marvel Universe in her new comic book series Web of Black Widow. Written by Jody Houser and illustrated by Stephen Mooney, the new series wastes no time but putting its eponymous superhero right into a new mission that deals with her shady past and has an impromptu meeting with another iconic character. In doing so, the creative team returns Natasha to her espionage roots in a relaunch that is all killer, no filler and sure to thrill fans of the character.
Infiltrating a high society charity event, a disguised Natasha works all the angles as she targets a ghost from her past, who facilitated her villainous background as a contract killer before her own heroic redemption. In between the black tie intrigue and inevitable no-holds barred action set pieces, Natasha reflects on her origins along with her literal new lease on life after recovering from her untimely demise during the crossover event Secret Empire.
Houser is no stranger to writing hard-hitting action, and here she achieves the perfect balance of written dialogue and knowing when to let the visuals do the talking; an increasingly under-appreciated feat in modern mainstream comics. And Houser nails Natasha's voice effortlessly, as the hero radiates a clandestine confidence and swagger that can clear off a dance floor or take charge in backroom brawl as naturally as gravity. The sense of danger and heightened stakes aren't quite there but given how the issue plays out, this issue is more concerned with Natasha reminding everyone that she's the Marvel Universe's best top-secret operative. This issue is a showcase for Natasha Romanov as the Black Widow, plain and simple.
The idea of Natasha confronting her troubled past is perhaps the most well-worn type of story the character has seen for the past decade at least. Fortunately, Houser revisits the tropes and themes without the premise coming off as stale or tired but rather fresh and a new energy, partially thanks to adding a familiar associate of Black Widow's to the mix, giving the resurrected super-spy a sounding board as she delves deeper into the violence. The issue's setup doesn't reinvent the wheel by any means but doesn't really set out to do it either.
Just as this issue is a showcase for Natasha Romanov at what she does best, it is also an artistic tour-de-force for illustrator Stephen Mooney. Joined by color artist Triona Farrell, Mooney captures the lush glamor of the gala Natasha is infiltrating and wistful glimpses at her past as she is reminded of various moments in her own history as the plot thickens. But where Mooney truly delivers is the book's action sequences, with the fights possessing a certain balletic quality. The standout is a breathtaking double page spread that marks the issue's climax, Mooney rendering a literal danse macabre as Black Widow dispatches her enemies with as much grace as extreme prejudice.
Jody Houser and Stephen Mooney's Web of Black Widow #1 doesn't attempt to pull the rug out from under readers with subverted expectations or impossibly raised stakes. Instead, the creative team is more interested in just telling a solid, straightforward espionage story starring its eponymous superhero in a new adventure that addresses old wounds as she reacclimatizes to the land of the living within the Marvel Universe. Houser perfectly captures the resurgent Natasha Romanov's characterization while Mooney delivers career-level work with the issue's action sequences. Welcome back to the fold, Black Widow, you have been missed.