Black Widow, Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto

Or, that time I was deceived into reading more of Black Widow than I cared about (two trade paperbacks of it) because the art was so beautiful. I really cannot say enough about Phil Noto’s art. It’s dreamy and watercolory, and if I had one takeaway from this book aside from “please stop perpetuating harmful myths about domestic violence” (about which more later), it would be that I need to find every comic Phil Noto has illustrated and put it straight into my brain pan.

Black Widow
EVERY PAGE IS THIS BEAUTIFUL

Further investigation on the Marvel website has revealed that Phil Noto draws like he’s running out of time and that therefore you can find his work both in the ongoing Black Widow comic (though I don’t advise it) and in what I am sure is the greatest comic of all time throughout all of history, POE DAMERON COMIC.

I feel like those capital letters did not adequately convey my enthusiasm to read a whole entire comic about Poe Dameron, so I will let John Boyega’s beautiful sunshine face say it for me.

Black Widow
get a room tho y’all

The only way I could be more excited for POE DAMERON COMIC would be if it were the story of his space adventures with Rey and Finn. I have been given to understand that is not the premise and I should shut up about that anyway because there will be no further space adventures of Poe and Rey and Finn until practically 2018 and what’s the use of dreaming of things you can’t have.

Sigh.

Anyway.

Black Widow follows a very expectable comic story arc, in that Natasha has mini-missions to complete every issue in service of a greater mission, which is to Atone for her Wrongs (these are not specified in the first two volumes, which is what I read). This is fine. It’s monster of the week in comics form, and the adventures are reasonably engaging — nothing to write home about, but not every comic has to be.

Regrettably, we don’t get to see Natasha being very good at her job, nor particularly proactive about how she gets shit done. Mission after mission goes south because of bad intel or poor planning on her part, and it’s framed as bad luck a la the “This looks bad” recurring joke in Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye. But whereas in Hawkeye it fits into a broader character arc for Clint, it’s hard to know in Black Widow what we’re supposed to make of it. Is Natasha The Most Competent (which is how I conceive of the character) and just having a lengthy run of bad fortune? Is she Medium Competent and this is what life is like for Medium Competent Spies? It would help so much to see one mission that goes exactly as planned — cf. how Captain America: The Winter Solder opens with a successful mission that lets us see how this unit is supposed to operate, before everything goes to hell.

We also get scenes of both Daredevil (a former romantic partner) and the Punisher (er, not) explaining to Natasha why she’s doing things Wrong and how a person on the side of Righteousness would behave. In Issue 8, she runs into the Winter Soldier, who kills someone for hurting her because he looooooooves her. None of it’s egregious, but cumulatively, and in a comic with a female lead and a male creative team, it rubbed me the wrong way.

Black Widow
“I also killed all your friends, but not for that reason. Them I just killed cause they were evil.”

Then on top of that we have this small subsidiary plotline in which Natasha’s neighbor is being beaten by her husband, and Natasha’s always all “oh Ana you should leave him,” and then in Issue 3 she’s fed up with it and she threatens the husband with bodily harm if he continues his wicked ways. I get it, right, like there’s been some question in this comic (from dudes, it literally is all dudes who have been expressing this concern) about whether Natasha’s in the right place morally. Since we don’t yet have enough information to adequately evaluate that question as it relates to all her Missions, this incident with the neighbor exists to show a straightforwardly disinterested Good Deed by Natasha. A classic deployment of the Pet the Dog trope.

Black Widow
Can we not?

Except that “you should leave” with no further follow-up is a hella simplistic and unhelpful response to intimate partner abuse, and by assaulting this dude and then peacing out for two months or whatever, Natasha’s creating some A+ conditions for him to retaliate against his wife. I guess the scene works if you don’t know anything about domestic violence, but it’d be super swell if people who don’t know anything about domestic violence could take a break from writing about domestic violence. Because, breaking news alert, if you do not do your due diligence prior to writing about a complex issue, you most likely will end up reproducing harmful stereotypes.

In sum: A three-star comic docked a star for sexism. Maybe let a lady write Black Widow next time? (There already is a next time, and the creative team is all male still. #comics)

Who here has read POE DAMERON COMIC? I need reports! Is it as good as I am imagining?