ďNow Thatís What I Call a Woman (Reprise)Ē
Writer: Richard K. Morgan
Artists: Goran Parlov (layouts), Bill Sienkiewicz (finishes)
Publisher: Marvel Knights
Another winning cover by Land and Ryan says it all Ö almost. Natasha and her blonde Schwarzeneggerian foe rub their guns against each other, but itís so much more complicated than that inside.
From the very beginning Morgan has foregrounded the feminist issues in this story. Natasha as a woman, one of a group of women who are beautiful and use makeup. Some of whom want to have kids. Women who have been used as tools and playthings. Women who know they have to wear masks to get what they want.
Because make no mistake, Natasha is all about masks. It is only with her few equals and trusted friends that she lets her real self out. And she is fiercely loyal to those few, and vengeful to those who hurt them.
Like Ellis in Ultimate Nightmare, Morgan is exploring a Soviet Union rotting from the inside out, riddled with capitalist corruption, as moldy and desiccated as an old piece of bread swarming with ants. Nat had thought herself long-removed from her cold war origin, but Morgan has dragged her back to it, made her face up and re-examine everything she thought was a faded memory.
Iíve employed the Maiden/Mother/Crone triad to explore earlier chapters in this story, and Iíll do it again here. Having survived the crucible that killed the other Widows, anti-mother Natasha escorts crone Ludmilla back to the states, who has one last bombshell to drop. We learn that the seemingly superficial cologne ads that riddled this story from the beginning have a direct connection to the plot, and to Natashaís autonomy. That shock doesnít distract her from the final loose ends that remain, though, namely North, the duo hired to trail her. Her vengeance hits them hard (though less punishment is meted to the lesbian partner -- because she indicates at least passing affection for women?), and then all thatís left is the big battle with the brute, the manís man who should have dealt with her from the start.
His only advantage, however, is a trick, and once Nat is onto the trick, well Ö the remaining loose ends will have to wait for the sequel. If itís as well-illustrated and cleverly plotted as this story was, Iíll be back.
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