Editor's Note: Black Widow: Deadly Origin #3 arrives in stores tomorrow, January 13.
The third issue of Deadly Origin sees Paul Cornell delve even further into the Black Widow's past, whilst also providing some surprising revelations for the character in the present day.
I like what Cornell is doing with the character of the Black Widow in this series. By thrusting her into a plot that's centred around her relationships with the many different characters that she's interacted with in the past, he's demonstrating both her significance to the shared continuity of the Marvel Universe as a whole, and her versatility as a character in her own right.
This issue alone features scenes that show Natasha engaging in super-espionage, playing a fantastical superhero role, interacting comfortably with some of the MU's more grounded street-level characters, and even venturing into the realms of science fiction (with the issue's closing sequence). I can't think of many other characters that can move so easily between such different worlds, and I couldn't help but be surprised by Cornell's almost casual demonstration of how comfortably the Black Widow (so often pigeonholed as little more than a second-tier superspy character) is able to do so.
Another impressive element of the book is that the potential complexity of such a far-reaching web of character relationships is avoided, thanks to Cornell's ability to condense the Black Widow's many different roles and relationships into brief and easily-understood chunks of backstory.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that these flashback sequences are illustrated by John Paul Leon, whose artwork continues to be one of the main reasons to pick up this book. In addition to the kind of visuals that we've seen from him in the first two issues, this chapter features new elements, too--such as a fantastic recreation of those old Daredevil comics in which the Black Widow teamed up with DD in San Francisco, a scene that's enhanced by Matt Milla's authentically vivid colour palette. Tom Raney's present day artwork remains well-rendered and easy to read (aside from one or two minor problems with the choreography of the opening action scene), but personally, I'm finding Leon to be the real star of this book.
The closing pages of the book provide the best kind of cliffhanger ending: one that's unpredictable and surprising, yet in retrospect perfectly logical--and one that almost seems obvious, given the subtle clues that we can now see that Cornell has worked into the story. It promises an explosive and emotionally-charged finale to this miniseries, which has not only been an enjoyable romp in its own right, but also seems to be accomplishing some excellent groundwork for the recently-announced Black Widow ongoing series. Let's just hope that that forthcoming book sees its creators turn in work that's at the same level of quality that Cornell and his artists are providing here.
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