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When I read the first volume of Thompson and Casagrande’s Black Widow run last week, I was taken with the masterful way in which the Black Widow is imbued with brand new purpose. This second volume builds on the solid foundation set up in Ties That Bind by seeing Nat and Yelena build up a team to take on San Francisco’s brand new supervillainous cult leader.
Sidekicks and Helpers
Several characters make up Natasha’s A brand new character, pickpocket Lucy, is swept up with the volume’s big bad, Apogee. Her position is one of increasing danger, but increasing opportunity for heroics, too, as Lucy finds herself in possession of powers threatening to burn her out. It takes awhile for her to click with Nat and Yelena but once it happens, the chemistry between the three is the stuff dream team-ups are made of. She goes through a hell of an arc over these five issues, from an overcautious pickpocket who tries to steal Natasha’s wallet to an overeager pickpocket who steals every panel she’s in.
Another recruit to the Widow Gang (nobody calls it that) is an established Spider-Character! It’s none other than Spider-Girl herself, Anya Corazon. Anya is about the most excited person in the multiverse when she’s approached by Natasha, and that makes for what has to be the most adorable panel I’ve read since Giant Days:
She nerds out way too hard at this, and Nat’s rooted-in-reality self-control somehow makes the ENERGY BURST THAT HORRIFIES PEOPLE IN THE BACKGROUND makes it all the better. Casagrande’s attention to detail is, as ever, the stuff dreams are made of. I can’t get enough out of Anya’s spy-work for the Widows, either:
Another little helper makes an appearance by the end of the volume, and at the nick of time! Let’s just say Thompson is drawing from previous titles she’s worked on for Marvel–to great success. I need to read more of her work, and badly.
Fight Sequences to Astound
The volume opens with Natasha engaging in a phenomenal fight with a superpowered brute – the first of many. “If you want to break a giant’s hands, you have to really want it. I really want it,” she quips as she turns the poor giant into sludge. There’s plenty of those quips, the (by now) signature Marvel snark. It’s not done in the occasionally annoying way some of the MCU movies and many comics tend to use it. Kelly Thompson nails the wryness of an experienced spy who has seen too much, whose internal voice seems intent on making light of most things as a coping mechanism.
There Must Be Some Way To Get Through This
Coping, keeping it together – Thompson revisits the ways to do that time and again. Nat is proficient, she is deadly, and she is traumatized beyond measure, following the events of Ties That Bind. Some of the finest panels in this entire volume are quiet moments of contemplation as Natasha processes what has been done to her—the violation, the genuine love felt, the grief of loss.
Seeing her freeze up and space out, lost in memory – Thompson’s Natasha Romanoff is raw, wounded and all the more dangerous for it.
The Dismantling of a Burgeoning Cult
Apogee himself is an interesting one – we don’t see much of him until the climax but his cryptic utterances frame quite the mystery. He weaponizes superpowers but what gave him the organizational structure to do so? Might he be a pawn in someone else’s game? Something tells me that he’s a first clue to a puzzle that might very well unravel both Natasha and her team, and San Francisco itself. His minions are quite the pushovers, though:
Ugh, Casagrande, your action sequences are a masterstroke of dynamism in art. Speaking of…
Art for Art’s Sake
Rafael de Latorre’s guest artwork for #6 fits shockingly well with the style Elena Casagrande dictated over the course of Ties That Bind. He sets up the four-part story of “I am the Black Widow” with admirable skill. His action sequences might not have quite the same energy of Casagrande’s but they do the Widow justice. Elena Casagrande, for her part, does magic! Some lovely perspective work, for example, pops up into #7:
I’ve been converted into an absolute fan of Casagrande’s art and will hunt down anything and everything she’s ever worked on. Some of the later issues are a collaboration between her and Latorre, and they are no less impressive than their individual works. As a result, I found not a single sloppily drawn panel, not a single piece of interior art that didn’t leave me impressed.
What graphic novel should I review next? Let me know in the comments below!