As I haven’t read some of the latest releases of All-New Marvel NOW!, I can’t exactly offer a fully objective opinion on the topic, but I’d still say that Black Widow is one of the season’s best new series. Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto have been doing some great work on the series and they have started off pretty well, telling one-shot stories that feed into each other, working to develop Black Widow into a much more complex character than she might at first appear. And that’s what the new issue was about as well, though it wasn’t a one-shot this time.
In the new issue, Agent Romanoff goes up against a crazy, delusional religious fanatic. Such encounters never end well for a hero and this issue proves that there is no exception to that concept. Edmondson uses the new villain to provide new challenges for Black Widow and it is quite thrilling to see her go up against who is not so easily taken in with her particular set of skills and abilities. She needs help, and it is nice to see that too. On the other side, Phil Noto continues to provide some of the most stirring artwork from the Big 2, making Black Widow a series that can well be considered a masterpiece.
Looking at that cover, the first thing that comes to mind is “machine-gun preacher”. Quite an apt imagery there, and Nathan Edmondson certainly delivers on that concept. Natasha’s latest adversary fights with a big-ass machine-gun, twin rocket launchers, and more. He is a walking heavy armoury and the action that Edmondson sets up is particularly exciting because of that. Subtly, the writers provides with an adversary who is a bit of a cliche and a throwback to a “sillier” era of comics, but is also quite modern for that.
It all is in the characterisation, no matter what the character. Both Molot, the crazy religious fanatic, and Black Widow are characterised quite well here in this issue. With the latter, we continue to see more into how she thinks, the way she thinks, and what her motivations are. Plus we get some nice commentary from her into the way that SHIELD works, which dovetails rather nicely into how Edmondson portrays Maria Hill, SHIELD’s director and Natasha’s point-person within the secret organisation. With Molot, we get the beginnings of someone who proves to be a very fascinating character. He is clearly delusional to some degree, but how far does that really stretch? That is the big question. His handler makes it quite clear that Molot is totally off his rocker and that he is even dissociated from reality. I am enjoying this!
As mentioned, this is a multi-part story, and not a one-shot as the previous three issues have been. I remarked in the last issue that Edmondson was beginning to set up the framework for a larger story in this rebooted series, and the new issue bears that out. For one, we have an increased presence by Maria Hill. She shows up twice in the issue and promises to lend some SHIELD assets to Natasha in order to hunt down Molot and bring him to justice. Secondly, we have the mysterious patron of Molot’s, the person responsible for giving the mad man his marching orders. Who is this person and what objectives are being planned out here?
Edmondson plays some of these questions close to his chest, and he teases out an overall story in bits and parts, which is an approach that works just fine for me.
And as far as the dialogue/monologue is concerned, I’m enjoying that too. There’s a really nice sense of humour in Edmondson’s Black Widow, and that is one of the best aspects of this issue. When Black Widow refers to Tony Stark/Iron Man as philanthrobot, I couldn’t stop laughing. It is a delicious reference to a bit of a dialogue from the character in the movie Avengers. Nice touch there!
Like I’ve already said for the art, Phil Noto is just amazing. His splash pages in this issue, and the expressions on his characters’ faces, are totally off the charts. With this being his fourth issue on the title, I am now well and truly hooked on to his particular style, which is just gorgeous and breath-taking. Have to admire an artist who can do the pencils plus the inks and colours both as well on a title like this. A labour of love? Most certainly. I don’t doubt that for a moment. I want more of this!
Overall, a fantastic issue that furthers an overall story for the title, and also furthers Natasha’s own personal story too.