Black Widow's past is coming back to haunt her in a new Marvel limited series debuting September 4 in advance of the character's May 1, 2020 solo film.
In Web of Black Widow by writer Jody Houser and artist Stephen Mooney, Natasha Romanova's time as a Russian super spy is being weaponized to use against her now while working with the Avengers. According to the publisher, that will leave Black Widow questioning who she can trust - and with details about her past coming out, leaving her friends to question if they can trust her.
Mooney is coming to Web of Black Widow fresh off a run with the other top fictional spy James Bond, and he and Houser are aiming to "blow the doors off" with what they're framing as a primer for all things Black Widow.
Newsarama: Jody, how'd you come to be writing Web of Black Widow?
Jody Houser: I've been working with Marvel for several years now. Editor Sarah Brunstad reached out to me. I'd been focused on Star Wars since Spider-Girls ended, so it was fun to jump back into the super hero side of the Marvel pool.
Stephen Mooney: Widow is genuinely one of my all-time favorite characters, probably because I lean so much towards that femme fatale spy trope, so I was genuinely thrilled to be asked.
Sarah Brunstad got onto me asking if I’d be interested. She was a fan of the noir/thriller art style I’d used with Jordie Bellaire on our Dead Hand book with Kyle Higgins over at Image last year and reckoned it’d be a great fit for the type of tale she and Jody were looking to tell. I had to juggle some bits and pieces schedule-wise to make it work, as it started pretty imminently, but there was really no way I was going to turn it down. As I say, Widow is probably in my top three dream projects for Marvel, the other two being Cap and the X-Men. Jody has me covered on one of those other favorites, too…
Nrama: What do you think are the quintessential stories of Black Widow - the ones that best represent Natasha and inform you of the character for your story here?
Houser: There are so many great ones! I would say for the story I'm writing, Black Widow: The Name of the Rose by Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuña, and Mark Waid and Chris Samnee's run were both very informative.
Mooney: I started with the trades of Chris Samnee’s (alongside Mark Waid) Black Widow run, since it was freshest in my mind, and I’d consider it to be my personal favorite take on the character so far. An inch-perfect blend of espionage, action and intrigue, for my money.
I’m also a fan of the Marvel Knights stories that feature Nat and Yelena, as well as notable others like the stories that Bill Sienkiewicz and Goran Parlov illustrated. One of my favourite Widow stories of all time is from Uncanny X-Men #268, by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee. Cap and Wolvie team up with Nat to take on the Hand in Madripoor. That was nirvana to me as a kid.
Nrama: So what's your take on Black Widow - who is she, in terms of design, but also body language?
Mooney: It’s the way she moves, for me. Graceful and fluid, but bristling with kinetic energy, like a coiled spring. Always ready to go. That dancer’s training coupled with her unparalleled close quarters combat ability means she can stack up to pretty much any foe or scenario, and I like to play that physicality up. She’s also incredibly seductive when she needs to be, playing and preying on lesser peoples’ wants and desires. As to where she really stands, so many elements of her own personality are still a mystery, and that air of intrigue is so much fun to play with. Nat’s an incredibly quick study and is fiercely intelligent, if at times a little callous. All of these disparate factors add up to a damn cool and compelling character.
In terms of design, it’s hard to mess with the classic look and probably a bad idea to do so. I’ll be sticking pretty much to the design that Chris Samnee employed, with little tweaks here and there as directed by Sarah. If it ain’t broke, etc. The reason the classic black catsuit works so well is because it’s basically a silhouette, which makes it that much easier to read and follow. Simple and super effective. That said, I do get to play a little with Natasha’s original look from her initial appearances in the old Iron Man tales, which is lots of fun!
Nrama: In this new book, her past is said to be used in a way that makes some of her friends question their trust in her. Who would you say Natasha considers real friends?
Houser: If she told you, she'd have to kill you...
Nrama: Yikes. I guess you can't tell me either.
So, who else will be in this book - friend, foe, or something in between?
Houser: Definitely some of both.
Mooney: Well... I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say! I can say that some of the biggest guns will be present and correct. If there’s a prominent figure from Natasha’s past that you’re interested in seeing appear, chances are ye’re in luck…
Nrama: I've always thought it a deep contrast to have a spy be involved in a group super hero outfit like the Avengers. How do you think Natasha fits into the Avengers - and sticks out?
Houser: I think having a unique set of skills is always going to be an asset to a superhero team. The problem comes down to how much that set of skills can come into conflict with the overall morality of the group.
Nrama: Jody, Stephen seems like a custom fit for this kind of story. What's your take on what Stephen is bringing to this?
Houser: This is 100% a character that Mooney was born to draw. Working with him has been amazing so far, and I love a fun twist he threw into the first issue!
Newsarama: Stephen, this is quite a connection for you - going from Dynamite's James Bond to Marvel's Black Widow. How would you compare and contrast 007 with Natasha?
Mooney: Well, I think they both look great in a catsuit.
It’s funny alright, I do tend to end up on lots of espionage/noir-flavored titles, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t somewhat by design. I do love me some spies.
As for comparisons; both characters are completely driven, uncompromising, and at times, ruthless killers. Nat is maybe trying to temper that aspect of herself as she goes, but Bond, at times, seems to relish in it. I’d certainly have him as more sadistic than Natasha. They’re both (former, in Widow’s case) assassins, but Nat never took that little bit of glee from the work that James lets sneak into his aspect every now and again. Bond is far more of a thug; a blunt instrument, as M put it. Natasha is fluidity itself, finesse married with intent.
Nrama: How has it been working with Jody's scripts?
Mooney: Love it. Genuinely - Jody really knows how to write for an artist.
That may seem like a given, but it is not. The scenes are perfectly paced and give plenty of room for artistic interpretation. Just the right amount of information on the page. When I read the first script I was giddy with excitement as there’s so much in this story that’s simply gonna be fun to draw. That really fuels and maintains the relentless pace needed to produce these books on such a tight schedule and is invaluable to the artist.
All that aside – the story is excellent. It’s a treat to draw, frankly.
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals for Web of Black Widow?
Mooney: To blow the doors off. We want to add to the pantheon of great, memorable Widow stories, as well as providing a really solid story that people can point to as a great primer for the upcoming movie. Most of all though, we just want to do good work that will please and entertain as many Widow fans as possible. We’re off to a good start, I think.