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Black Widow: Deadly Origin #1: Review

Jan 2010
Paul Cornell, Tom Raney

Story Name:

(No title given)

Review & Comments

5 stars

Black Widow: Deadly Origin #1 Review by (January 3, 2012)
It is well known that the number of Marvel years since Fantastic Four #1 can't be as long as the number of real years since then. As current issues are always considered to happen in the present, the nominal date of FF#1 has steadily shifted further away from WWII. Even in UXM#268 in 1990 it was remarked that Natasha must be in her 60's. But no explanation for her seeming youthfulness was put forward. Captain America and Red Skull had been in suspended animation since WWII, Sub-Mariner was declared exceptionally long-lived, and the original Human Torch was an android. As far back as 1976 the problem of a youthful Nick Fury was solved in Marvel Spotlight #31 by saying that he'd been given a longevity serum called the Infinity Formula near the end of WWII. I believe this is the first time BW's age-resistance has been shown as due to any specific drug, although it has been suggested that she must have been enhanced somehow. Next issue Khrushchev will refer to it as the modified Soviet Super Soldier serum. But I don't think the treatment is related to Captain America's Super-Soldier serum, because it didn't give Ivan any super power. It might be a derivative of Fury's Infinity Formula. Next issue will include the phase where BW and Winter Soldier were lovers. You may also notice that the enemy agent in the opening scene comments that BW is the original. The fact that there are more Black Widows will also come to light next issue.

This issue now has Ivan reuniting with Natalia after the Taras episode, which explains why they were together in UXM#268. That issue also provides the shot of Captain America fighting ninjas of the Hand. The retelling of the tale in Wo:O#16 in 2007 revealed that there was much more going on than appeared in UXM. The 1st time round it wasn't specified what Ivan and Natasha were doing in Madripoor. Now we learned that Logan and Natalia were both working for Romulus with different missions. This required Ivan and Natalia not to be Russian agents at the time. I don't think anything more is known of Natalia and Ivan's freelance wartime and post-wartime activities. This issue picks them up in 1956 where Winter Soldier gives them the longevity drug. I notice that he is depicted here with a very crude prosthetic arm not seen elsewhere. Captain America v5 #11 says that the Russians kept Bucky on ice until 1954, when they were first able to fit a prosthesis. It would make more sense to me if this scene happened soon after that, before he got the more sophisticated arm seen in other appearances. This would still be after Stalin died in 1953, so Natalia and Ivan would feel relatively safe returning to Russia. And next issue I will find another reason to put this scene that early.

There was no claim in UXM#268 that Logan and Natasha had met before that. But she called him 'Little Uncle' before the flashback was over. However in Wolverine: Origins #9 in 2007 we learned that Logan met younger Natalia in an ambush in Russia. That issue introduced Taras Romanov into the saga. Logan had been sent to train with Taras, who had arranged the ambush so the 3 of them could appear to die, and go underground. Taras trained Logan for 2 years, and 'Little Uncle' Logan trained Natalia. But at the end of this period Taras set Logan up to be killed by Natalia as her final test. However Logan had actually been sent to kill both of them. He killed Taras, and then Logan and Natalia spared each other. Logan told Natalia she must now pretend to be dead too. It is this scenario that is partly replayed in this issue. Here it is stated to happen in 1940. Thus the 2-year period of training lasted from when Ivan gave Natalia to Taras in 1938. Natasha's training as an agent was of course mentioned as early as DD#88 and a BW story in Marvel Fanfare #10 in 1983. But it wasn't suggested then that the training started as early as 10 years old.

In her original origin in Daredevil #88 in 1972, Ivan found Natasha while looking for his sister in Stalingrad in Autumn 1942. This was during the siege of Stalingrad by German forces. I can't find any reasonable explanation why Stalingrad was in ruins in 1928. This issue mentions Imperialist forces, but I don't believe any such were causing havoc that late after the Revolution. Natasha was depicted in DD#88 as maybe 5 years old in 1942. This fit reasonably well with Black Widow being Daredevil's lover in 1972, and also allowed her to be seducing Tony Stark in 1964. However in 1990 in Uncanny X-Men #268 Chris Claremont threw a spanner in the works by having Logan meet Natasha as a young girl (looking maybe 10) in 1941. Later stories have built on this approximate age, and that is why Deadly Origin has backdated her birth to 1928. Ivan was invented as an older sidekick in BW's solo series in Amazing Adventures in 1970. And then DD#88 explained their relationship. Ivan accompanied BW in many adventures, including back in 1941 in UXM#268.

In this series, especially the 1st 2 issues, Paul Cornell ties together the scattered (and sometimes contradictory) bits of Black Widow's history. The Icepick computer refers to Black Widow as Natalia Romanova aka Natasha Romanoff. In her early appearances (from 1964's Tales of Suspense #52 on) she was called Natasha Romanoff (or sometimes Romanov). However in 1999 in the 1st issue of her 1st solo series (not counting the split-book Amazing Adventures) a Russian refers to her as Natalia Romanova (there may be other earlier instances of this). Russian surnames reflect gender, and hence she is Romanova not Romanov. Also her proper Russian name is Natalia (or Natalya), which has Natasha as a nickname (although these days Natasha has become a name in its own right). Stan Lee presumably chose Natasha's Romanoff surname to suggest a link to the Russian royal family. Here Taras points out that their shared surname doesn't actually imply any such link (though presumably in Communist Russia all Romanoff's would strenuously deny any connection).


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Black Widow: Deadly Origin #1 Synopsis by Rob Johnson

This series consists of a present-day story interspersed with flashbacks sequentially telling Black Widow's history.

This issue opens with an action sequence like the beginning of a James Bond movie, which appropriately won't have anything to do with the rest of the story. Two agents have stolen an experimental US plane. One reveals 'himself' to be a ringer - the real agent is being interrogated by the CIA. The other agent triggers a suicide bomb in his captured partner. The ringer switches off an image projector, and further reveals herself to be Black Widow. They fight, and then eject from the plummeting plane. But the enemy agent takes a suicide pill.

Now this is where the story really begins. A Russian computer activates something called the Icepick Protocol, which mentions Black Widow. Next we see BW's old comrade Ivan on the run in Volgograd. He calls Natasha to warn her about Icepick, but is killed before he can say much.

BW goes to Russia to be sure he's dead. She finds that the morgue has been invaded and Ivan's head has gone. A message has been scrawled in blood, saying that she is a traitor and everyone she loves will die.

At the end of the issue she is joined by James Barnes (Bucky, Winter Soldier and presumably at this time Captain America), who is referred to as a boyfriend.

The long flashback in the middle of the issue describes BW's early life, explaining her relationship to Ivan, and culminating in her first meeting with Winter Soldier.

In 1928 a soldier Ivan Petrovich is searching the ruins of Stalingrad for his sister when a dying woman gives him her baby Natalia Romanova. Ivan brings the girl up, but in 1938 he going away on military service, so he hands her over to Taras Romanoff. Stalin himself takes an interest, because Taras runs a special training school for agents.

In 1940 Natalia is being trained near Moscow by Logan (the future Wolverine), at the school run by Taras. She calls Taras her father, and Logan is 'Little Uncle'. She claims not to remember Ivan. (Logan also has his memory problems.) But then Logan kills Taras. 3 months later an AWOL Ivan finds Natalia surviving in the snowy wilderness. She coldly says she didn't try to kill Logan because she liked him better than Taras.

Ivan and Natalia go on the run. A montage of war-time scenes includes Captain America fighting ninjas.

In 1956 in Berlin Ivan is fatally wounded. Suddenly Winter Soldier pops up and offers them a chemical that will heal Ivan. It will also confer longevity. Ivan can have it as long as they both take it, and if they will return to working for the Soviets. Natalia accepts.

Tom Raney
Scott Hanna
John Paul Leon
Adi Granov (Cover Penciler)
Adi Granov (Cover Inker)
? (Cover Colorist)


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Black Widow
Black Widow

(Natasha Romanoff)
Captain America
Captain America

(James "Bucky" Barnes)
Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)
Ivan Petrovich
Ivan Petrovich

(Ivan Petrovich Bezukhov)

(James Howlett)

> Black Widow: Deadly Origin: Book info and issue index

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