In the same way that Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye series took us by surprise as the best new series of 2012 (and hasn’t let up in 2014), Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto’s Black Widow monthly comic book series is proving to be at the top of the 2014 titles. Strange that the duo of Hawkeye and Black Widow is well-known to be a second tier partnership within the Avengers, yet they are the stars of some of the best monthlies the Marvel universe has to offer.
The Black Widow series follows Natasha Romanova and her attempt to atone for her past sins as a mercenary, assassin, general all-around “bad guy.” She selects missions these days very carefully. Her goal is making money but not hurting anyone in the process. And that money goes into trust funds and pays off her web of back-up operatives around the world—nothing in her plans is about profit-taking.
That doesn’t mean she won’t be tapped for S.H.I.E.L.D. or Avengers projects from time to time. Former agent and now director Maria Hill (who you’ll recall is played by Cobie Smulders in the live-action Marvel universe) brings her in on a few missions. They make a great team. Edmondson has a great feel for Romanova. In the same way Fraction was able to show the personal side of Hawkeye, Edmondson scratches the surface of what makes this lethal heroine tick, but her character shows great depth. Yet as she says at the beginning of her series “my full story will never be told”.
Phil Noto’s fantastic female renderings put him in a league with Adam Hughes, Frank Cho, and Cliff Chiang. In fact, if the Wonder Woman look for years to come is seen as Chiang’s or Hughes’s versions, we will likely find it hard to think of Black Widow and not see Noto’s version of her created in this series.
Noto has drawn Romanova and her world in a scheme of 1960s hues and James Bond spy movie imagery. His color choices—soft watercolors that pull us into this sleepy but edgy noir place and time—are stunning. In fact, the same look Noto used for his Trigger Girl 6 series is used here to create a series readers will be eager to look forward to each month.
Black Widow, Issue #5, is currently in comic book stores everywhere, with issue #6 due out next month. It’s a must to add to your reading list, or if you can’t find the back issues, wait a month or so for the trade edition which will likely be released later this year. It will be a book you’ll want to share with others, and at this rate it should be in contention for best series of 2014.