For Your Consideration: Marvel’s Black Widow Omnibus

Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger


by Robert Greenberger

Black Widow Omnibus

Black Widow Omnibus


The Black Widow hasn’t always been cool. In fact, when she first appeared, she was a stereotypical Cold War spy, slowly evolving into a costumed operative, before choosing to defect and become the heroine she is today. Her origins and background have been tweaked endlessly, but Natasha Romanova has proved popular and enduring, enhanced by Scarlett Johansson’s performance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Her solo feature, coming in May, has prompted Marvel to collect three decades’ worth of appearances in the 896-page oversized Black Widow Omnibus hardcover.

The material presented here is varied in style, content, and importance to the Widow’s life but is a vital glimpse into the evolving Marvel Age during the company’s seminal first decade. In this volume you will find Tales of Suspense #52-53, #57, #60, and #64; Avengers #29-30, #36-37 and #43-44; subplot pages from #16, #32-33, #38-39, #41-42, #45-47, #57, #63-64 and #76; Amazing Spider-Man #86; Amazing Adventures #1-8; Daredevil #81; Bizarre Adventures #25; Marvel Fanfare #10-13 ; Solo Avengers #7; Black Widow: The Coldest War; Punisher/Black Widow: Spinning Doomsday’s Web; Daredevil/Black Widow: Abattoir; Marvel Comics Presents #135; Daredevil Annual #10; Fury/Black Widow: Death Duty; and Journey into Mystery #517-519.

Given all this, her missing pairings from Marvel Two-in-One and Marvel Team-Up can be forgiven.

Tales of Suspense #52

Tales of Suspense #52


It all begins in Marvel’s most Cold War-centric series, Iron Man in Tales of Suspense, as Natasha arrives in America, accompanied by Boris (yes, Stan Lee or dialoguer Don Rico actually used Boris and Natasha, clearly he liked Rocky and Bullwinkle) to kill the defecting Crimson Dynamo. In her black dress and veil, she was the prototypical foreign spy, looking stylish thanks to Don Heck’s art. She was back four months later, romancing circus performer Clint Barton, sending Hawkeye out to kill Iron Man. When Natasha is injured he breaks off the attack and in #64, we see she’s ready to defect herself, perhaps explaining the adoption of a costume, wishing to stay with Hawkeye, who is ready to turn a new leaf and become a hero. (It should be noted she is not formally inducted into the Avengers as its 16th member until issue #111, 1973, a moment not included here.)

Avengers #29

Avengers #29


Less than a year later, she begins her long association with the Avengers, first under Stan and then Roy Thomas. We meet the Red Guardian, Natasha’s ex-husband, and watch her evolution into a resourceful heroine, gaining the trust first of Earth’s mightiest heroes, and then Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., a relationship that grows throughout this book.

Amazing Spider-Man #86

Amazing Spider-Man #86


Her growing popularity and background made her ripe for further exploration and as Stan prepared to launch two new anthology titles, he installed the Widow in one of those berths. Readying her for this new series, she received a John Romita-designed makeover, which was showcased in 1970’s Amazing Spider-Man #86. Here’s where the hair shifts from black to red and the familiar black uniform and wrist stingers are introduced. A month later, she debuted in Amazing Adventures #1-8 August 1970, courtesy of Gary Friedrich, John Buscema, and John Verpoorten. She lasted a mere eight issues but was used to address contemporary issues, as was the fad of the time. She tackled organized crime, poverty, and a dash of race relations.

Amazing Adventures #1

Amazing Adventures #1


It is here her longtime companion and father figure Ivan Petrovich is introduced. The series suffered from a merry-go-round of creators including the attractive team of Gene Colan and Bill Everett, along with Don Heck and Sal Buscema. Writers went from Friedrich to Maddy Cohen (a.k.a staffer Mimi Gold), Thomas, and Gerry Conway.

Daredevil #81

Daredevil #81


Surprisingly, she next turned up in Daredevil #81, where she would reside as partner and lover through issue #124, actually sharing the billing from #92-107. Conway told Back Issue!, “It was my idea to team up Daredevil and the Black Widow, mainly because I was a fan of Natasha, and thought she and Daredevil would have interesting chemistry.”

Bizarre Adventures #25

Bizarre Adventures #25


Her next significant appearance was a solo spy tale in the black and white Bizarre Adventures #25 (March 1981). Here, Ralph Macchio and Paul Gulacy moved her into espionage territory, which would be revisited again and again. Macchio and George Pérez teamed to execute a four-parter that finally saw print in Marvel Fanfare #10-13 (August November 1983). With inks or additional art from Brett Breeding, Luke McDonnell & Bob Layton, Joe Sinnott, Jack Abel, Al Milgrom, and John Beatty, we watch as Natasha returns to Russia, falls in love, watches him die, and is targeted for death before S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jimmy Woo arrives to help.

Bob Layton and Jackson Guice did a fine one-off short in Solo Avengers #7 (June 1988) before she began appearing in the company’s line of one-shot graphic novels. Her first appearances was in Black Widow: The Coldest War (1990) with a story by Conway and art by George Freeman, Ernie Colón; Mark Farmer; Mark Harris; Val Mayerik; and Joe Rubinstein.

Daredevil/Black Widow: Abattoir

Daredevil/Black Widow: Abattoir


Next up were Punisher/Black Widow: Spinning Doomsday’s Web (1992) by D.G. Chichester, Larry Stroman, and Mark Farmer; Daredevil/Black Widow: Abattoir (1993) by Jim Starlin and Joe Chiodo (here she’s in the white outfit, redesigned for her by Frank Miller a few years earlier); and Fury/Black Widow: Death Duty (1995) by Marvel UK editor Cefn Ridout and Charlie Adlard. It’s nice to have these little seen and long-forgotten graphic novels on hand.

Rounding out the book are a series of stories from the 1990s where you can see her connection to Daredevil remains strong and her work in Russia will forever haunt her. First up is a short story from Marvel Comics Presents #135 (Late August 1993) from Mindy Newell and John Stanisci and the backup from Daredevil Annual #10 (1994), by Newell, Sergio Cariello, and Rich Rankin. The latter has her investigating Matt Murdock’s death, one of many times that gambit has been used.

Journey Into Mystery #517

Journey Into Mystery #517


Finally, she took the lead in Journey into Mystery #517-519 (February-April 1998) as Scott Lobdell, Randy Green, and Rick Ketchum spun a tale involving a group of dissident Americans led by WW II survivor Lottie Eikenski, who operated them from behind the scenes known only as Ebon Flame.

There’s definitely a nostalgic touch to the first half of the book and some fine reading throughout, along with terrific artwork.

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