Chris Samnee, Mark Waid, and Matthew Wilson‘s thrilling, yet deeply personal run on Black Widow wraps after issue 12. In this final issue, all the layers of espionage, side switching, and of course, ghosts from the past have been pared down to a simple conflict: nature vs. nurture. Recluse, who was Natasha’s fellow student at the Red Room, and has continued its legacy with the Black Room wants six young Russian girls to use their assassin training to end SHIELD forever. On the other hand, Natasha wants to give them a chance at a normal life that doesn’t involve killing.
Samnee’s panel layouts are poetic per usual and drive the story from the small panels showing Natasha’s split second decision making to choose to possibly drown herself instead of killing one of the Black Room students to more fluid ones to ebb and flow like the water that floods the SHIELD base. But the content in the panels is just as powerful as he depicts Natasha’s pain and desperation through gritted teeth, lines on her face, and the physical bruises she gets from fighting the deadly assassin, Recluse. On many pages, Samnee and Waid go quiet and show her arduous journey through water, stairs, and ladders back to the light instead of telling about it with unnecessary exposition narrative captions or dialogue.
Wilson’s palette is mostly greys and blacks for water, the secret base, and the clothes worn by Black Widow, Recluse, and the Black Room girls. Like he has since issue one, Wilson uses reds for when the conflict goes up a notch, or Natasha is in physical danger. For example, her Widow’s Sting gauntlet erupts into sparks of red and orange when she deflects a killing blow from Recluse. Black Widow #12 isn’t all darkness and gloom thankfully, and Wilson places a bit of almost angelic light in the dank pits of a SHIELD base as the Dark Room recruits silently lift Natasha up back to the main level. The simple “Thank you” that Natasha gives them is probably the most appreciative anyone has been towards them ever and is a great way to break up the silence of the previous pages.
Finally, in Black Widow #12, Natasha realizes that the Black Room girls don’t need to be neutralized. They need a parent. So, the comic plays out as an extended custody battle between her and Recluse. (Their final fate is as charming as Matthew Wilson’s Malibu beach color palette even if it doesn’t involve Natasha getting a minivan and moving to a bigger place in the suburbs.) Recluse seems to have the upper hand with Natasha admitting in a wry line from Waid that Recluse is a better assassin than her. But she treats them as pawns in a desperate grab for control of SHIELD while Natasha treats them as human beings with free will and a need to be loved and touched. And the final few pages of the comic reveal that Natasha has this need too, especially after going deep undercover, being a fugitive from SHIELD, confronting her past, and all the other crazy things that Waid and Samnee have made her experience in their Black Widow run.
In Black Widow #12, Chris Samnee demonstrates that he’s just as good at drawing hugs as hand to hand combats, top secret bases, and Natasha Romanov being put through the general wringer. This run on Black Widow is a highlight in the career of one of comics’ great storytellers. Samnee, Mark Waid, and Matthew Wilson fill this comic with the themes of finding a family and redemption even if Natasha and the Red Room girls were trained otherwise.
The waterfall that Natasha scales during the climactic chase scene definitely ended up being a metaphor for my reaction to Black Widow #12.
Story: Chris Samnee and Mark Waid Art: Chris Samnee Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 9.5 Art: 10 Overall:9.8 Recommendation: Buy
Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review