by Nathan Edmondson (Writer), Phil Noto (Artist)

The Story: In and out of a mission, one does not mess around with Natasha Romanov.

The Review: Formulas are somewhat hard to judge. While many books can be called out for using the same plotlines and the same methods for a long period of times, there is always a certain usefulness to regularity. Adding consistency to a book, a formula can be played with, subverted or twisted around in order to make it more entertaining or daring, yet not all writers can pull it off.

While Black Widow is a decidedly young title, the formula is already set in place, for good or ill. Natasha accepts a mission, run the whole thing and then return to her apartment as her development with the cat advance a tiny bit. While this approach might become somewhat problematic in the long run for this series, the immediacy does serve its purpose in developing the character and the title all the while. However, does the third issue show cracks in the regular proceeding, or does Nathan Edmondson provide plenty of qualities for the book to thrive?

In some ways, while the formula is played just a bit around, there are some improvements in this issue which does show that the writer does have ideas for the character. Opening straight on a mission, this issue skips around the introduction of some of its elements in favour of putting the character right in the middle of the action. Juggling development, explanations and a good touch of mystery to the tale, Edmondson is able to keep the readers on their toe without sacrificing any other aspects of this issue, balancing things out rather beautifully.

One the better aspects of this issue, which is woven very well with the tale being told is the characterization of Natasha Romanov. Integrating her narration to the action and to the atmosphere of espionage, urgency and tension around, her personal views manage to push forth a very vivid analysis of who she is, how she perceives herself and what she do. Never making it so her dialogue gets in the way of the story, her actions stands up to this as well, with the tale being divided in two sections, namely the mission and her apartment life. The way she envision the drama of her neighbour, how she helps her, her morality to what happens around her and quite a lot of other important factors makes this as much about Natasha as it is detached from the character.

Of course, characterization, themes and deviation from the formula cannot help a story that is weak at its core. Thankfully, the quality of this story is mostly up to par, with a tale that isn’t the most original, yet it is one that is delivered with a good level of confidence. Dividing the tale by including a high level of espionage action and the personal life of Natasha, Edmondson does so with an elegant balance, pushing forth the focus on the mission without neglecting the other aspect. Never forgetting the nature of the series, there are twists, a good deal of violent actions and an eventual resolution bringing up the nature of the title and the personal mission of the Black Widow. Playing around with his pacing and with his structure, there are quite a few surprises in how the premise is given and played around with, which does help with readers expectations. For a done-in-one, this is quality stuff, even if it doesn’t reinvent the building blocks of the espionage genre.

What’s also of high quality is the artwork of Phil Noto, who seems to be quite at ease here. While his panelling isn’t as inventive as in previous issues, his visual pacing and his sense of progression is still top notch, delivering the tale with impeccable timing. Cooperating with the script in a very natural way, the rough edges of his style serves as a major bonus to the story, adding a certain dirtiness which accord itself very well with the themes and the tone of the issue. The action, the characters and many of the other elements, despite the blurriness on display at times, are all concise and detailed well enough to make them explicit in their roles and their utility to the plot, which adds even more to the issue.

Where Noto seems to shine a bit more, though, is with his approach to colors. Meshing everything together in a seamless fashion, the illusion of jungle and wildlife is perfect, with a good shading and a number of palettes that simply mix themselves together in superb fashion. Despite all this, the traditional contrasts are still present, with warm and cold colors used to represent violence, night and a good number of other important elements, letting them play against each other to bring an important focus on the tone.

The Conclusion: Bringing in a very well told tale with good characterization, beautiful art and a superb colorization, the creative team behind this series deliver another good issues. If this series can stay at this level of quality, this could very well become one of the better titles Marvel currently publish.

Grade: B+

Hugo Robberts Larivière