Today, Shelby and Spencer are discussing Black Widow 2, originally released January 22nd, 2014.
Shelby: I have lived alone for a little over 3 years. Like anything, living alone has its pros and cons. I love having space that is completely mine, that I can do anything I want with because I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself. I’m a pretty independent person, and living alone is a part of that. On the other hand, sometimes being alone is just really lonely, and at the end of the day I just want someone else to be around. Even with that loneliness, I prefer living alone; having to share my space with someone all the time seems like a weird idea, now. I almost can’t imagine letting someone in to my life and space like that anymore. For Natasha Romanov, being alone is just a part of the job description, which makes it easy enough to carry into her personal life as well.
Black Widow is having a bad day. Her current client, a “lesser of two evils” sort of decision turns out to be a setup, as a man by the name of Iron Scorpion come very close to killing her for the hit she took out on his brother years earlier. The whole mission goes belly-up, and Iron Scorpion ends up in front of a bus for his trouble. Meanwhile, back at home, Natasha’s lawyer gets a visit from a man claiming to seek restitution for property loss caused by Black Widow’s antics. He’s actually planning to kill the lawyer and blackmail Natasha, so Mr. Ross takes care of it in a most unlawyerly sort of way.
I can’t help but be struck by how alone Black Widow continues to be. The bulk of the issue is her on her mission, in her own head as she goes over the mistakes she had made, the reasons why things were going as poorly as they were. The focus is all on her, the things she herself did wrong. She knows she is the only one out there on these missions, and so she knows who to turn to when things go sour. She’s the one who makes all the calls on the missions she goes on; she’s got the final say on who she takes. Natasha has created this world for herself wherein she is the only support she has. That’s understandable enough for a woman in her position, but I’m curious as to what has led her to adopt this attitude in her personal life as well.
I think Natasha’s bigger mistake here is the act of pushing everyone away. It’s a dumb decision to not have backup available on a mission, and it’s a dumb decision (albeit an understandable one) to prevent people from being in your life because you let someone in who hurt you. It might seem like the easier decision, to just build up a wall and separate yourself from everyone, but it’s ultimately the worse decision for you. I’m hoping little Liho is going to put some cracks in Natasha’s walls so someone can come and kick them down. I think it’s great Nathan Edmondson is taking this approach with this character. This is the first Black Widow title I’ve ever read, so maybe she’s always like this, but I love heroes with relateable, human issues. Being hurt and pushing everyone away is an issue everyone can relate to, and I love seeing the human sides of these fantastic characters.
That’s where the lawyer as a secret badass comes in. Natasha only thinks she operating on her own, but she’s got a support system that she may not recognize. Actually, I wonder if Natasha knows the lengths to which her lawyer will go to protect his client’s assets. Does she see him as just a money manager working in the background? Or does she know that he is not afraid to get his hands dirty if the situation arises? Furthermore, if she doesn’t know, why would he keep that a secret from her? I don’t know that he will be the person to break down the walls she’s built around herself, but I’d like to see him turn into something more than an ally behind a desk. Spencer, what did you think? Are you buying Natasha’s sad single gal lifestyle? How many issues do you think it will be before she breaks and lets that damn cat in? I didn’t even touch on Phil Noto’s beautiful art, what did you think of his fight scenes?
Spencer: She better let that cat in soon, Shelby, because there’s only so much of a sad cat I can take; much more and I’ll have to break into the comic somehow and adopt the poor thing myself.
Anyway, Phil Noto is a national treasure and I am absolutely in love with literally every aspect of his artwork. As far as I can tell he’s doing his own coloring, and he’s a genius with it, treating us to some beautifully lit backgrounds and absolutely breathtaking scenery.
I’ve never been as much of an art buff as I should be, but if Noto was a landscape painter I’d go look at his work in a museum. Thank you, Shelby, for mentioning his fight scenes, because they’re somehow even more impressive. Right from the second page I fell in love with the effect of Natasha tumbling through the margins between panels as she recovers from her fall, but the most dazzling page was yet to come:
Just…just look at it. First of all, I love how, even though we aren’t literally seeing things through Widow’s POV, we’re still essentially seeing things from her perspective, unable to make out the new threat attacking her just as she’s unable to; just the fact that Noto can show Iron Scorpion in the panel while still completely obscuring his identity is impressive. Then there’s the action itself, which is not only full of clever moves like Natasha throwing around chairs and kitchen knives like weapons — kudos to Edmondson for these as well — but is also impeccably choreographed; even though the action is crammed into ten panels in a single page (If only more artists nowadays could still pull that off) and features multiple camera cuts, it’s still incredibly simple to follow. Noto makes it look effortless.
Man, I could probably rave about Noto’s art all night — and perhaps I will from the privacy of my personal padded cell — but I’m starting to run out of adjectives, and there’s still so much story to talk about. Shelby’s examination into Black Widow’s loneliness reminds me of how much this issue is the antithesis to the last; in Issue One Natasha is flawless, accomplishing two missions effortlessly, while in this issue almost every move she makes is a mistake. Likewise, in Issue One I didn’t get the impression that Natasha was necessarily lonely; it felt more to me like she was just a very private, independent person who liked having control over who she let into her life. In this issue, though, she definitely comes across as not only lonely, but actually incapable of letting anyone in.
Why can’t she let anybody in, anyway? “That’s one mistake I won’t make twice” is a very personal kind of statement to make, which leads me to believe that something or somebody (or even multiple somebodies) in Natasha’s past has led to her feeling this way. Until now I was perfectly content with the exact details of Natasha’s past remaining unknown — especially after Widow stated in no uncertain terms that she wasn’t telling anybody her secrets anyway — but this kind of statement is practically begging me to dig further into it; it’s like one of those posts people make on Facebook where they make a seemingly innocent comment about, say, how bad their day was but they’re secretly baiting people into asking them about it. I doubt Natasha’s doing it consciously, and I think it will take more than a cat and her manager to break through the wall she’s built around her heart, but I feel like that, on at least some unconscious level, Natasha wants companionship, no matter how much she pushes it away. It should be interesting to see how this conflict plays out as this series continues.
One other moment I found noteworthy was when Black Widow made an important distinction between herself and her enemies:
Iron Scorpion and his brother — who shot a likely innocent man in the head executioner style before Natasha took him out — are murderers, but Black Widow is a killer. What’s the distinction here? I can’t help but to be reminded of that scene in Avengers 11 where Widow feels compelled to take out that room of war criminals they were supposed to be interrogating. Is that the difference? Is what Natasha does “killing” and not “murdering” because she has a righteous cause, because her victims deserve it, because she’s not doing any of it for personal gain? If so, then it could definitely make Natasha’s life messy when the more and more personal threats inevitably begin to show up on her doorstep.
Do we buy it, though, or is the difference between murdering or killing mere semantics, as Iron Scorpion suggests? Is being a killer instead of a murderer something that elevates Widow beyond the thugs she goes up against, or is she just as guilty as they are? I’d love to hear what y’all in the audience have to say about it; it should be a fun way to fill the torturous two weeks until the next issue of this thrilling, gorgeous title.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?