Editor's Note: Black Widow & the Marvel Girls #1 arrives in stores Thursday, December 3.
Plot: Natasha runs a mission with Ivan as her remote handler. As it's a piece of cake, she flashes back to her early years of training in the Red Room.
Comments: Previous mini-series featuring the Widow have explored her former homeland's attempts to replace her, twisted assassins attempting to kill her, gender roles during and after the Cold War, and old foes seeking vengeance. This tale has no such deep goals; it's a flashback to the interaction of the Widow and some other Marvel female mainstays, and it seems set on exploring some odd pairings, such as this one between the Widow and the Enchantress. The KGB meets Asgardian intrigue? The explanation is fairly contrived (though not unamusing, as Amora is worthy of a quip or two).
Girl power isn't exactly the theme (despite the cutesy title), though it's a subtext as Amora aids Natasha in her harsh training years where she's doing poorly at death camp politics. The art is serviceable but cartoonish, missing the mature gloss that artists like Bill Sienkiewicz and Sean Phillips (among others) gave to her previous outings. Espin's style is more in league with the retro "First Class" look, but the story does get the characters right in their odd setting, and features a few good lines of dialogue:
"Duck your head. Bullets don't care how pretty you are."
"Pretty girls always have a choice."
"Life has taught me the foolishness of patience."
I'm not sure about the time period of this story, but it would make most sense for it to be in Natasha's mesh-stocking days, two or three costumes back and not a timeless look like the one John Romita, Sr. designed for her reintroduction in the pages of Spider-Man. That classic catsuit look lives on in the upcoming Iron Man movie, and in the other current Black Widow origin series. This one feels rather superfluous, but worth it if you're looking for some straightforward (if formulaic) female team-ups without the lighthearted whimsy of the recent Marvel Divas. Upcoming issues promise to include Doctor Doom and the Mole Man as villains, which seems almost random compared to more usual suspects like Nick Fury and Ms. Marvel.
If you ever wanted to see Natasha team up with Storm, stick around.
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