So far, both issues of Black Widow wrestle with dark subject matter that’s hindered by the fact that this is a mainstream superhero comic.
You have to give the Soska sisters major props for dealing with abuse (even sexual) toward women and portraying Natasha as a protector of her gender. And where better to find rapists and abusers than in Madripoor? If you’re looking for a feminist take on John Wick, there are some scenes that will scratch that itch.
Alas, tonal inconsistency sinks #2, just like the previous. That, and poor plotting. And iffy characterization. But for now let’s focus on tone. Many pages are deeply upsetting due to the subject matter. There’s even a scene were we witness a mutilated child who escaped from a torture yacht for online spectators (Videodrome, anybody?). Horrific stuff.
Problem is, Black Widow falls back on goofy dialogue and villains because ultimately, this is a superhero book. In order to take this seriously, the tone has to be kept relatively at the same pace or it feels disrespectful. It’s great that a series is tackling such present, very real evils. But don’t mix it in with Taskmaster and Sabretooth goofin’ on each other.
Natasha herself, as a character, is another darker element. While eviscerating limbs, she’s admitting to herself that she enjoys the thrill of killing — and that’s pretty raw stuff — for the first three thought bubbles. Like Deadly Class, the main character’s vulnerable thoughts go on for so long in such overwritten fashion, it becomes emo. Yet another element that doesn’t help tonally.
Unfortunately, the plotting is also jumbled. This arc so far feels less like a cohesive structure and more like a list of people, locations, and scenes the creative team wanted to cram in. Natasha says she wants to take out all traces of a torture network, so she jumps around wherever she can find enemies with no definitive plans. There’s also no clear boss villain to challenge our hero.
Flaviano’s art isn’t the most detailed or polished. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is hard to say. It’s in an odd middle ground where it’s not quite cartoony or dynamic. Perhaps it’s best to describe his art as a more energetic, less moody Gabriel Hernandez Walta.