Since her ongoing series debuted back in April, Marvel’s most prominent spy the Black Widow has been walking across a web of lies, deceit, double-crosses and murder. Although her adventures are far from the web-slinging hijinx of her fellow spider-named superhero, the Black Widow’s world is steeped in espionage, murder, subterfuge and danger. She’s fought on both sides in the war of “good versus evil”, and found that sometimes it’s best to stand on her own. In the debut arc of Black Widow, writer Marjorie Liu and artist Daniel Acuña have taken the red-haired Russian and put her at odds with both friend and foe, facing off against long-time friend Wolverine as well as Elektra – as seen in the cliffhanger to last month’s second issue. With three more issues until this inaugural arc’s conclusion, Marvel is already looking forward to see what’s next for the character.
Today, Marvel Comics announced a new creative team for the Black Widow series, beginning with issue #6 in September 2010. Writer Duane Swierczynski (Cable) and artist Manuel Garcia (Dark Avengers: Ares, Iron Man: Noir) take over as Natasha Romanoff’s handlers for her next engagement. In this new story-arc beginning in Black Widow #6, Natasha is in the sights – literally – of a military man named Nick Crane who suspects she caused his father’s death.
“Basically, it’s about a young 22-year old journalist whose father was running for Vice President before being mired in a sex scandal,” said Duane Swierczynski, the series’ new writer. “He left the race abruptly, and lost his life soon after. His son was quite devastated by this, which all occurred while he was in college. This young journalist began looking into the events surrounding his father’s death and the sex scandal, and things didn’t quite match up. With all the information he’d accumulated, he could tell someone was orchestrating things behind the scene – and that there was a femme fatale at the center of his father’s downfall that was also a catalyst in the deaths of other leaders and important figures. He believes this person is Black Widow, so in my opening issue we introduce the journalist, Black Widow and this unnamed femme fatale that may – or may not – be her.”
Black Widow has always existed in a grey area for the Marvel U. Although as of late she’s been seen at the side of Captain America and as part of the Avengers, her first appearance saw her working for the Cold War era Russian government, going head-to-head with Iron Man. Although it was later revealed she was brainwashed, her allegiances have proven to be fluid over time – showing she’s not one to follow lock-step with another no matter how charismatic they might be. When asked how he saw the Black Widow character, Duane Swierczynski said that her past informed her present quite a bit.
“For me, it’s the thing that motivates her,” said the writer. “She’s been controlled by the government and secret organizations in the past, and I think that informs choices she makes. What motivates her is to right wrongs, basically. She’s very well connected, and her list of exes would be a Who’s Who in the Marvel Universe, allowing her to move much more easily in both the superhero and spy worlds.”
Incoming artist Manuel Garcia sees a golden opportunity coming onto this series, for a variety of reasons.
“I think Black Widow is an important book for Marvel right now, with Natasha appearing in the second Iron Man movie. I also think the Marvel editorial team was brilliant choosing Daniel Acuña and Marjorie Liu to be the creators of the series (they're knocking it out of the park!) and also for choosing Duane to follow on their footsteps as the book's new writer, and every single of you that may not know him, believe me, he is a REALLY good writer… so of course this is a book I wanted to draw, and that this group of people working together are as tight and in sync as we can possibly be. “
Garcia comes onto this book straight from doing the Iron Man Noir miniseries which wraps up this summer, but he’s no stranger to spies – having done several issues of Mystique years ago.
“In Black Widow, I really want to draw and "give life" to the kind of stuff you could find in a James Bond movie: powerful cars, beautiful women, hi-tech architecture and weapons... I think the more “realistic” or “serious” approach of the last Bond movies is a good reference to keep in mind when I start drawing the book!”
Although the change-over to a new creative team just six issues into an ongoing series might seem unusual, the incoming writer explains that it’s going to work out well – and there won’t be a dramatic sea change. “Marjorie’s arc will conclude neatly – there’s not much unfinished business,” said Swierczynski. “I’ve read the first issue and all of the scripts, and I’m loving how dark and brooding the story is. Marjorie shows that it’s not a friendly, safe spy world out there and that’s what Black Widow is to me. People bleed. People die. Especially in Black Widow.”
For Garcia, following in the footstep of the first Black Widow artist Daniel Acuña made him very cognizant of his goals for the series.
“Well when you have an artist as important and great as Daniel is, and you have to follow him on a book, the best you can do is to run in the opposite direction as fast as you can!” Garcia said with a laugh. “I will try to follow my own personal approach to the character, and also not to look at Daniel's stuff too much, because that would probably depress me. I’ve been a fan of Daniel's work for the last... maybe fourteen or fifteen years, so I'm not going to try to follow his approach to the characters, mostly because I would probably fail!”
Swierczynski, who recently finished up his run on Cable, comes to the Black Widow with an already abundant line of work both inside and outside of comics. When asked what made this a project he wanted to fit into his workload, he admitted it was a sweet spot for him.
“I am a huge fan of spy fiction and espionage, “ explained Swierczynski. “From novels, to comics and also real-life espionage throughout history. I’m actually the co-writer of a book called The Spy’s Guide: Office Espionage with H. Keith Melton, which is basically how to use spying techniques against co-workers. And my novel Severance Package is about a spy outfit that decides to clean house. “
“This whole world fascinates me,” he continued,” and Black Widow is firmly entrenched in that world. I’ve been following the character since Greg Rucka’s run about a decade ago, reading both the new material and going back to older stories. So when the chance came about for me to write it, it was a no-brainer.”
Manuel Garcia echoed the adoration for the character, portraying her as less a super-hero and more super-spy.
“I think Natasha is the perfect femme fatale,” explains Garcia,” as deadly as she is beautiful. She isn’t really a superhero, I see her more as a "super-spy". I mean, you shouldn’t be sure about which side she has chosen or who is she working for… As a spy, I think Natasha could be lying all the time, and that makes her a very interesting character, full of grey areas and shadowy motives.”
The Black Widow is more prominent now than ever before, with her appearing in the Captain America comic series and to the wider public in the Iron Man 2 film. But despite her being pulled in several directions at once, Swierzynski have a big plan in store for the character and her series.
“I’m aware of all of her interactions and appearances in upcoming titles, and it will have impact here and there… but essentially, the Black Widow title is her own adventures, which we are building up to something big – with a crossover of her own in the not-too-distant future,” said Swierzynski. “The idea is for this series is to definitely interact with the rest of the Marvel U, while still giving her a place to establish her own identity more.”
What do you think of the new creative team?