Phil Noto is an exceptional artist and takes on all aspects of the craft: pencilling, inking and colouring. In doing so he utilises these facets in developing specific parts of the story or emphasising themes. You will notice instantly that every scene is different in tone and feel, with ethereal warmth in personal reflection, and dynamic violence in depicting action. The book begins with an incredible suicide bomber scenario, which is superbly drawn. Widow charms her way into preventing mass destruction but it is a little confusing. I am unsure of the motivations of the bomber as he seems to want to escape his current predicament, but when Natasha effectively surrenders him to the police, he threatens her. He says he will reveal her identity to his employers and there is no escape, even though that is his exact request to her. Either way he is effectively dead or imprisoned so there is no actual evasion. It makes little sense but effectively starts the Widow secret past storyline, and gives us this panel:
Noto draws a delicate picture and uses a fine white highlighter to provide distinction of the bomber and his surroundings. They also provide the vigour of the scene with movement lines, because otherwise the colouring would just blur the picture. Saying that, the shading of blue and red is brilliantly utilised in providing perspective and lighting of a night-time panel. It is incredible how the colours bring out the creases of his shirt and details of his face. The Black Widow symbol finely drawn in white, is a lovely final touch. The daylight scenarios are portrayed somewhat differently, the characters are precisely inked in black but the backgrounds are quaint shades of green, yellows and red. Natasha’s hair is always bright red and the shading pervades the borders of her head into the background. It’s a delightful personal touch of Noto’s colouring.
The action sequences of this comic are presented through dynamic panel sequences. As Romanov takes out the lights, the confrontations happen in deep red colours, and you can see how she moves quite clearly. Her limbs break through panels as do the accentuating white lines, depicting swift expert takedown measures. It is a beautiful effect and gives you an appreciation of how Noto toys with the inking and colouring of his work. The final scenes are more immersive and meditative and his art is reflective of that. We lose the definite outlines and the colours merge with each other, as our thoughts dissipate with the light headiness of a glass of wine. She brings the pain to her malefactors and then reflects on her own torment buried deep inside.
These two accentuations are reflective of Black Widow’s current persona, which seems to be the status quo for a long while now. Even the Avengers movie is up to date with this continuity, which is saying something about her lack of focus especially with the reboots. It has been gratifying watching her relationships with Jessica and Clint evolve in Avengers Assemble, but it is time to explore Natasha Romanov in more detail. Hawkeye has firmly established the down and out hero narrative as a solid comic trope. Even Captain Marvel was of similar ilk as its deeply introspective, deriving its strength from personal relationships and everyday activities. Nathan Edmonson appears to be approaching it from a similar angle but with a subtle nuance: Natasha surreptitious past.
The themes of shame and penance run throughout the book, well demonstrated by Natasha’s short notice missions for no personal gain. Her self-pitying is not crippling as she has come to terms with her unfortunate expert skill set. It must be at least the third step on a road to recovery, but forgiveness will prevent her reaching that goal. Interestingly she still seems to engage in incredible violence and potential homicide in order to achieve a greater good. This is quite the common theme amongst the vigilante hero tropes. Surely the road to redemption involves a cessation of these immoral actions, and Natasha should remove herself from this world in order to forgive herself. It is difficult to argue her vindication strategy given that we are unknowing of her apparently heinous indiscretions. Widow almost takes pleasure in slyly breaking the fourth wall in delivering this non-revelatory revelation. It is a taunt to the reader to keep our interest and if Edmonson delivers his narrative well, this disclosure will be the catalyst to taking this title to unexpected heights. Either way Phil Noto will ensure success through the deliverance of the plot, especially with the excitement of subterfuge and empathy of a deeply repentant Black Widow.
“No one will ever know my full story”