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Black Widow: Deadly Origin #2: Review

Feb 2010
Paul Cornell, Tom Raney

Story Name:

(No title given)

Review & Comments

5 stars

Black Widow: Deadly Origin #2 Review by (January 3, 2012)
There are 2 stories almost certainly placed in the post-Alexei time. Wolverine #-1 (1997) features BW (in costume), Nick Fury and Carol Danvers of the CIA, Sabretooth and Hydra squabbling over Logan, who's just escaped from Weapon-X. Logan doesn't remember his past. He also gets a plane ride from Ben Grimm. There is a sort of sequel in Before the Fantastic Four: Ben Grimm & Logan #1-3 (2000), where the eponymous heroes again get involved with Nick, Carol and BW (this time not in costume, but using her married name Shostokova). Entering the Marvel age, BW's attempted seduction of Tony Stark corresponds to ToS#52 & #53. Her involvement with Hawkeye is from #57, #60 or possibly #64, in which she was given her 1st, Black Canary-ish, costume. I don't think she was actually in love with Stark. And she was manipulating Hawkeye, but she did eventually fall for him. The end of the flashback suggests BW is now freelance, not working for the Soviets as she was in the original stories. This may be purely to disengage the Marvel age from the Soviet era. In the present Clint Barton (now Ronin) and Bobbi Morse (Mockingbird) are in their reunited post-New Avengers: The Reunion relationship. Clint is obviously infected with BW's nanites. It seems the Icepick activation makes people near the infected targets want to kill them.

There may be a dearth of BW stories in the war and post-war Ivan and Natalia era, but there are several in the late 50's period or in the widening gap between Alexei's 'death' in 1963 and ToS#52, originally set in 1964. 2009's CA: Theater of War: America First was set in 1955 and involved Natalia as a Russian agent with Nick Fury and the 1950's Captain America. This is another reason why I think last issue's reconciliation between Natalia and the Soviets should be pushed back from 1956 to 1954. One point of interest in that book is the opening scene where Natalia is training other agents in a mockup of a US town, with someone playing Captain America. CA&B#624 has almost the same opening scene, but this time set in the more acceptable 1958. And this time Cap is played by Winter Soldier. Whether in 1955 or 1958, both scenes are later than the 50's Cap's published career in 1954. On the other hand America First does correctly have BW as a non-costumed spy. CA&B#624 has her non-costumed in the similar opening sequence, but as mentioned already it gives her the future classic costume later.

I am still left confused over when the Red Room Black Widow training took place. Khrushchev says it was Stalin's project. But here it is only mentioned after Natalia resumes working for the Soviets, which was after Winter Soldier gave her the longevity serum at the end of last issue. And that's after Stalin died in 1953. It would make more sense for the Red Room training to be the earlier regime under Taras and Logan described last time. Last issue certainly showed Stalin conspiring in Taras taking control of young Natalia. But in Wolverine: Origins #9 Taras hid himself and Natalia from someone, and it is far from clear that it wasn't from Stalin. The joint training and affair between BW and Winter Soldier was invented by Ed Brubaker in CA v5 #27 in 2007. Note that up to now none of the tales have shown Natalia wearing a BW costume. It is unclear whether she is wearing her trademark gear in 1 flashback in that issue. It is certainly true that she wears it in Captain America & Bucky #624, which shows more of this period, and ends with Winter Soldier being put into suspended animation to stop Bucky's emotions resurfacing. It is probable that the WS who calmly receives the news of BW's impending marriage in this issue is the emotionless version that is brought out of stasis just for missions. This issue continues to portray BW as the non-costumed character she was when we 1st met her in ToS#52. She supposedly didn't invent the classic costume until Amazing Spider-Man #86 and her solo series in Amazing Adventures. But from this point in her pre-history some appearances feature that 'future' costume.

I don't know exactly where the idea of Natasha as a ballerina was invented. In Marvel Fanfare #10 in 1983 (and the 1983 Handbook of the Marvel Universe) she was said to have excelled at dance in school, but also at lots of other things. But the 1986 Handbook said she was a ballerina. However the 2004 BW series claimed that the ballerina story was an implanted memory. Her earliest origin tales in Daredevil #88 and MF#10 suggest that she only took spy training after her husband 'died'. But 2007's Wolverine: Origins #9 started (I think) the idea that she began training as a young girl. Thus the current issue has 3 alternate pasts to reconcile. It suggests that she was given the ballerina memories as a cover story to hide her Black Widow training. And that Khrushchev had her given a set of housewife-only memories after she was decommissioned. Which allows her to 'become' a spy later. Note that her ballerina memories have her being 17 in 1957, which fits with her origin in DD#88, where she was very young in 1942. But her agent memories say 29, which tallies with last issue's birth date in 1928. But also note that both memories include living parents, which conflicts with her orphaned status described last time. In Tales of Suspense #64 she claimed that the Soviets were forcing her to continue spying for them by threatening her parents (and MF#10 repeated this). Thus this issue indicates that even her agent memories were tampered with to include fake parents.

Alexei Shostakov wasn't the only Red Guardian. Like Captain America it is a title that has been passed on. There was a WWII Red Guardian introduced in Namor Annual #1, and there have been successors, including in teams like the Winter Guard. The Alexei Shostakov version debuted in Avengers #43 in 1967. The 1st ever flashback to Natasha's past in #44 revealed how she was told he died, and was then recruited as a spy. It has never been stated that Alexei, or any of the other Red Guardians, had been given a Super-Soldier serum. However Alexei was depicted as an equivalent of Captain America. And something must have kept him going in the decades that are now considered to pass before the Avengers issues. Khrushchev says that Ivan and Natalia have been given the Soviet Super-Soldier serum. But as I mentioned last issue, the drug they took only seems to keep them young, not enhance their abilities. This issue we see mentions of multiple Black Widows, the Red Room, and Natalia's conflicting memories. It was in the 1st Black Widow mini-series in 1999 that we first heard of the Red Room as BW's training ground. It suggested there that Natalia was the only person who earned the title Black Widow. The Red Room is still going, and Yelena Belova wants to take over the title because she beat Natalia's training record. That idea was given a twist in another BW mini-series in 2004, which explained that the Red Room produced multiple Black Widows. This was repeated in Captain America v5 #27. Either way our BW is now often spoken of as the original.

Black Widow has obviously not immediately taken up the offer of help from James Barnes at the end of last issue. This is the first we've heard of a Russian armoured troop called the Federal Dynamos. They seem to be a pool from which the better-known Crimson Dynamos are chosen. This will be confirmed in the Darkstar & the Winter Guard limited series. The Winter Guard are successors to an earlier group the Soviet Super-Soldiers. I don't think any of these were created using the Soviet Super-Soldier serum that Khrushchev mentions.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Black Widow: Deadly Origin #2 Synopsis by Rob Johnson

Black Widow (Natalia Romanova aka Natasha Romanoff) breaks into the Russian bunker housing the computer that initiated the Icepick Protocol last issue, which led to the death of her old friend Ivan. She defeats an armoured guard, one of the Federal Dynamos.

Entering the control room, she persuades the technicians to let her access the computer, where she discovers the secret of the Protocol. She had long ago been infested with nanites, which she has passed on to anyone she spent a lot of time with.

The final scene has Clint Barton having breakfast with Bobbi Morse, when the Icepick Protocol activates his nanites and Bobbi attacks him with her cutlery.

Meanwhile we are treated to the next stage of BW's history. Last issue we left Natalia Romanova and Ivan Petrovich returning to work for the Soviets in 1956 after receiving a longevity drug (which also saved Ivan's life).

Now it is 1957, and Natalia meets military test pilot Colonel Alexei Shostakov. When he asks what she does, she gives conflicting answers. In one version she is a single 17 year old ballerina. In another she is 29 and a Black Widow agent trained by the Red Room, and romantically involved. In both scenarios her parents are alive.

6 weeks later Natalia is telling her lover Winter Soldier that she's going to marry Alexei. Ivan comes to see her, and she confesses she doesn't understand her memories.

In the next scene its 1963 and Alexei has supposedly died testing a rocket as part of the moon race. Natalia is now his widow. She's forgotten about her Black Widow training, and thinks she was an ordinary housewife. But now she feels an urge to become a spy to get back at the West which she blames for her husband's death. And she has an inexplicable feeling that she'd be good at it.

Apparently Krushchev had disbanded Stalin's Red Room/Black Widows program, and had tried to give Natalia a normal life. But now he accedes to her request to become a spy, but sends Ivan to watch over her. Then we see that Alexei isn't actually dead. He has been turned into the Soviet super hero Red Guardian.

We now enter Marvel time, a few decades later. Natasha has spent the time wooing wealthy Western technologists, who always seem to die, earning her the nickname Black Widow. Now she's become involved with Tony Stark, but he makes it out alive.

A year later and Natasha is using Hawkeye (Clint Barton) to get at Stark. Ivan and Tony both worry that Natasha is still confused.

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)

(Clint Barton)
Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)
Ivan Petrovich
Ivan Petrovich

(Ivan Petrovich Bezukhov)
Pepper Potts
Pepper Potts

(Pepper Hogan)
Red Guardian
Red Guardian

(Alexi Shostakov)

(Clint Barton)
Winter Soldier
Winter Soldier

(Bucky Barnes)

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

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