In­ter­na­tional gal of mys­tery

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - READS - By AN­DREW A. SMITH

DE­SPITE her star turn in The Avengers, Black Widow isn’t get­ting a solo movie (yet). But she does have a new comic book, which she richly de­serves.

’Twas not al­ways so. Black Widow has a long his­tory in comics, one that un­til rel­a­tively re­cently would make her a rather sur­pris­ing can­di­date for her own ti­tle, much less a big role in an Avengers movie.

The first Black Widow – yes, there’s been more than one – was a char­ac­ter named Claire Voy­ant, who de­buted in Mys­tic Comics #4 in the sum­mer of 1940. That pre­cedes Won­der Woman, and pos­si­bly all other cos­tumed su­per-hero­ines. (Most “mys­tery women” in those days op­er­ated in evening gowns, high heels and domino masks. Se­ri­ously.)

Claire didn’t last long – only five ap­pear­ances – pos­si­bly be­cause she wasn’t a very nice per­son. Be­lieve it or not, this Black Widow worked for Satan, killing evil­do­ers on Earth and de­liv­er­ing their souls to hell. That isn’t a ter­ri­bly ad­mirable pro­fes­sion, al­though the end re­sult is bad guys get­ting just deserts.

Mys­tic was a ti­tle from Timely Comics, the pre­de­ces­sor to to­day’s Mar­vel Comics, where the next, and cur­rent, Black Widow made her de­but in an Iron Man story in 1964. She was still pretty un­recog­nis­able – but still not a very nice per­son.

She was a Soviet spy, and what is re­ferred to as a “honey trap”. Far from her cur­rent sta­tus as a black ops agent, Black Widow was orig­i­nally a femme fatale, com­plete with black evening gown, white opera gloves, furs, veil and a beauty mark, right where Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe’s was. Her Soviet mas­ters sent her over here to se­duce Tony Stark – not much of a chal­lenge in those days – and steal weapons-sys­tems plans.

Her name was Natasha Romanoff. Natasha was pos­si­bly the best-known Rus­sian girl’s name in Amer­ica, thanks to Natasha Fatale in The Rocky & Bull­win­kle Show, which pre­miered in 1959. And Romanoff was per­haps the best known Rus­sian sur­name, given that it was the fam­ily name of the last czar of Rus­sia, Ni­cholas II, who was ex­e­cuted in the Rus­sian Rev­o­lu­tion.

Natasha fi­nally saw the er­ror of her ways, and de­fected. (Her Soviet mas­ters try­ing to kill her for fail­ing prob­a­bly in­flu­enced the de­ci­sion.)

Af­ter hang­ing around Hawk­eye (whom she had pre­vi­ously se­duced) and the Avengers for a while, she went to work for S.H.I.E.L.D. and then later, abruptly, ran off to San Fran­cisco to be­come Dare­devil’s part­ner. It was at that point that she was fi­nally made an Avenger (1973), the third woman to be so hon­oured. (The first was found­ing mem­ber The Wasp, whom I hope we will meet in the Ant-Man movie, and Scar­let Witch, whom we will see in Avengers: Age Of Ul­tron, both pre­mier­ing in 2015.)

Along the way, Natasha had ditched the evening gown for a gen­uine su­per­hero suit, with grap­pling line and suc­tion cups to walk on walls. Not ex­actly Spi­der-Man, you’ll agree, but she was be­com­ing more like the su­per-agent we saw on screen in Iron Man 2 and Avengers.

That con­tin­ued in, of all places, a 1970 is­sue of Amaz­ing Spi­der-Man, where she adopted the skin-tight black leathers we know to­day. And over the years her ar­ma­ment has been up­graded, and even her name made more gen­uinely Rus­sian (it’s now Natalia Alianovna Ro­manova).

And her past has not only been ex­panded, but has changed mul­ti­ple times. In her first ap­pear­ance, she was the widow of a cos­mo­naut. Later, it was changed to where she had been a prima bal­le­rina re­cruited by the KGB. Some sto­ries even showed her fight­ing in World War II!

And so what? She’s a spy! Some of those pasts could be true, or none of them, or even a com­bi­na­tion thereof. Which is one rea­son I find her so fas­ci­nat­ing. She could be ly­ing ev­ery time she opens her mouth, and you’d never know, be­cause she’s very, very good at it.

I think it’s a shame that there is no Black Widow movie on the cur­rent Mar­vel Cin­e­matic Universe ros­ter, as I think the char­ac­ter has enor­mous po­ten­tial – es­pe­cially as played by Scar­lett Jo­hans­son, who has enor­mous range as an ac­tress. Well, we can hope. Mean­while, we have this new Black Widow ti­tle. The first is­sue shipped Jan 8 and the sec­ond, on Jan 22. Ac­cord­ing to Mar­vel, this ti­tle will de­pict the Widow seek­ing atone­ment for her bloody past in the dark­est cor­ners of the world.

“(Writer) Phil Noto and (artist) Nathan Ed­mond­son have one of those mag­i­cal cre­ative part­ner­ships that bring out the best in both of them,” said se­ries ed­i­tor El­lie Pyle, in a press re­lease.

“To­gether they bring you a Natasha who is un­set­tlingly hu­man in the midst of all the ac­tion and in­trigue you’d ex­pect.”

It’s not Scar­lett Jo­hans­son, but it’ll do! – McClatchy-Tri­bune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

black Widow first ap­peared in 1964, look­ing like a 1950s movie star. This is her sec­ond ap­pear­ance, in Tale­sof

Sus­pense#53. — Mar­vel en­ter­tain­ment

Inc./MCT

black­Wi­dow#2 will ar­rive two weeks af­ter the first is­sue. — Mar­vel en­ter­tain­ment Inc./ MCT

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