Every day in April we will reveal the greatest stories ever told starring a particular character or written/drawn by a particular creator (and throughout the month, you'll get daily chances to vote for NEXT week's lists). These lists are voted on by YOU, the reader!
Here is the list of characters/creators featured so far (along with the rules on how to vote).
Today's list is the Greatest Black Widow Stories Ever Told!
10. "...And To All a Good Night" Amazing Adventures #5
This is a classic Marvel Christmas tale by Roy Thomas, Gene Colan and Bill Everett. Widow's friend, Ivan, saves a young teen from killing himself and contacts Widow for help. He tells about how he fell out with his friends due to their pursuing a life of MURDER, so now they're coming to silence him before he can spill about their nefarious deeds - Widow is there to protect him, but it doesn't go down as planned. It's a tragic little tale of how you can do all you can to help someone but it doesn't mean that things will work out. Merry Christmas! Gene Colan drew an iconic shot of Black Widow getting out of the shower that at least brightens up this tragic tale.
9. Black Widow: The Coldest War
Gerry Conway, George Freeman and 735 inkers (at least) tell this story, which features Natasha being blackmailed into doing some stuff against her morals in exchange for the life of her late husband, who Natasha thought had died TWICE already. Conway also gets into how people like the Black Widow and Nick Fury deal with the end of the Cold War.
8. "The Valiant Also Die" Avengers #43-44
This story could theoretically stretch all the way back until Avengers #38, when the Black Widow goes on a secret SHIELD mission that causes her to publicly turn on the Avengers and the United States to go undercover on a joint Russian/Chinese project, the Psychotron (a machine that can feed off of your greatest fears). Her mission is to destroy the machine. Her current boyfriend, Hawkeye, is distraught. Black Widow was JUST about to be made a member of the Avengers when she seemingly breaks bad. He can't help but continue to love her while also maintaining faith that she is, in fact, turning bad as a ruse. So he searches for her for a number of issues. Roy Thomas, Don Heck and George Roussos were the creative team for #38-40. John Buscema takes over as penciler with #41 and Vince Colletta inks #43. Anyhow, in #43, Hawkeye and Hercules impulsively follow a tip that takes them all the way to China to rescue the Black Widow. Once there they learn that Widow's husband, who she thought died, is actually alive and has been brainwashed and experimented on until he has become a Communist version of Captain America. The Avengers show up to free Hawkeye and Hercules and all hell breaks loose. The Communist Cap, the Red Guardian, fights against his American opposite but the evil General Ling attacks Captain America from behind. The Red Guardian is angry at this, since he wanted to beat Cap fair and square. Meanwhile, Natasha takes the opportunity to destroy the Psychotron, even though in doing so she leaves herself vulnerable to attack. However, her husband breaks his programming and saves her life, taking a bullet for her. Before he dies, he also saves Cap's life again. With her mission redeemed, the Black Widow is considered a hero once more! She and Hawkeye are reunited (but as you all know, it does not go well for them)!
7. "Breakdown" Black Widow #1-3
A sequel to the 1999 Black Widow mini-series, this mini-series (co-written by Devin Grayson and Greg Rucka and drawn by Scott Hampton) has Natasha and the new Black Widow, Yelena Belova, effectively switch bodies to teach Yelena a lesson. That description does not do the story justice. Grayson and Rucka do a really nice job with the characterizations of both Natasha and Yelena, particularly Yelena adjusting to life as Natasha (unlike Natasha, she doesn't know what has happened to her).
6. "Encircle" Secret Avengers #20
An absolutely stunning one-shot issue by Warren Ellis and Alex Maleev has Black Widow as the lone survivor of a Secret Avengers attack. Before he dies, War Machine gives Natasha an "escape hatch," which is a time travel device. The devices has a number of pre-set destinations in the past. While in the past, Natasha naturally asks whether she can just return five minutes before the attack and just stop the battle before her friends are killed. Beast (who developed the device) explains that that is impossible, as dramatic changes to the timeline are basically like throwing up a brick wall in the middle of a highway. However, changes CAN be made, only if you are extremely deliberate and careful with them. Natasha then spends the entire issue traveling throughout time working with various interesting characters in an attempt to put together a series of events that would result in her teammates living. It is a tremendously well-written issue. And Maleev is always great.
The top five is on the next page!