For Your Consideration: Marvel’s Black Widow: Web of Intrigue

Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger


by Robert Greenberger

Natasha Romanova has been, perhaps, the hottest woman in the Marvel Universe. Stan Lee and Don Heck first introduced us to her as a veiled figure in black, a prototypical villainess during the height of the Cold War. She partnered with the criminal archer Hawkeye and took on Iron Man without much to show for it. Over time, though, she remained popular and when she was made over in Amazing Spider-Man #68, her new John Romita-designed bodysuit made her something new. She continued to straddle the line between hero and villain until she wound up a full-fledged agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and an Avenger.

Black Widow: Web of Intrigue

Black Widow: Web of Intrigue


She even briefly headlined her own series in a revival of Amazing Adventures with some stunning Gene Colan artwork but it faded away. Still, she was intriguing and continued to make appearances and even earn herself some high-profile projects. Several of those from the late 1970s and early 1980s were collected in Black Widow: Web of Intrigue which was a 2010 hardcover. At long last, a paperback edition is being released and well worth a look.

Bizarre Adventures #25

Bizarre Adventures #25


Chronologically, the first of these stories to see print was a 22-pager, “I Got the Yo-Yo… You Got the String”, which ran in glorious black and white in Bizarre Adventures #25, cover dated March 1981. Written by Ralph Macchio, it features stunning wash work from Paul Gulacy, who excels in this format, playing with shadows and form.

Macchio’s story is pure espionage as no one is as they appear and the mission is not what the Widow is told it is. There are plenty of twists and turns in what is a one-off.

Marvel Fanfare #10

Marvel Fanfare #10


Macchio was particularly fond of the character and just prior to this, he was recruited to dialogue a different Widow story, one started in 1978 but not printed until Marvel Fanfare #10-13 (December 1983-March 1984).

In Modern Masters, plotter/penciller George Pérez explained, “It was a lot of fun at the time because I was plotting it myself. I forgot who was going to be scripting it – it probably was Ralph Macchio even then.

“For whatever reason, I just never finished it. Finally, when they decided to schedule it and Ralph asked if I would finish it, I said fine. So I did a new opening scene—I had to rush through the last part, which is why it seems a little on the rough side—but I penciled that opening scene in the first issue after I had come back to finish the story.”

When Pérez returned to Marvel, it was to pencil the aborted JLA/Avengers project so was disinclined to give the Widow material his full attention. Still, the four-parter was another intricate espionage story, kicking off with an extended recap of her origin, as it was known at the time. From there, she goes undercover in the Soviet Union, where Natasha falls in love with a “fellow” defector only to see him killed by KGB agents. Matters quickly escalate and the Widow finds herself allied with S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jimmy Woo in a desperate attempt to save her trainer/mentor/father figure Ivan Petrovich, who was kidnapped and brainwashed by Damon Dran, aided by Snapdragon, who has a grudge against the Black Widow. And not for the last time, someone impersonating the Widow complicates matters.

Macchio’s dialogue is solid and Pérez has an army of inkers making his pencils look strong, including Joe Sinnott & Jack Abel (as J.J. Sinnabel), Bob Layton, Al Milgrom, John Beatty, and Brett Breeding.

Black Widow: The Coldest War

Black Widow: The Coldest War


As Marvel’s album-sized graphic novel program wound down, the Black Widow took the spotlight in Black Widow: The Coldest War in another one-off courtesy of writer Gerry Conway, penciller George Freeman, and inkers Freeman, Ernie Colon, Mark Farmer, Mark Harris, Val Mayerik, and Joe Rubinstein. Conway’s adventure raises the possibility that the Red Guardian, once married to Natasha, may still be alive. That possibility is used by the KGB to force the Black Widow to betray America and in the course of the adventure, confronts her Avengers allies and her then-current lover, Daredevil. The inconsistent art mars a relatively interesting story.

Currently the Black Widow is safely in the hands of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee in print and Scarlett Johansson on screen but it’s always fun to look back at earlier interpretations by some of comics bets storytellers.

Purchase

Black Widow: Web of Intrigue

Classic covers from the Grand Comics Database.

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