“Red Widow: First Strike” (10 pages)
Writer: Margaret Stohl
Artist: Nico Leon
Colorist: Andres Mossa
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
In Mockingbird’s 50th Anniversary Of SHIELD #1 one-shot, we get the debut of Marvel Comic’s Red Widow!
The landscape changes as Black Widow’s rich and complex history has the veneer reworked. Ava Anatalya Orlova is an Ukranian orphan by Russian mafia interference brought to the U.S. under S.H.I.E.L.D. custody for half a decade. She is a teen disillusioned with the American Dream but more so with the infamous super-spy Natasha Romanova.
The plot has parallel sequences contrasting the two leads: rich world vs. poor world. Ava and her friend Oksana are at the mercy of a system that doesn’t easily allow for foster families eating scraps in a food kitchen in NYC; Natasha infiltrates the most elite of parties in HK. Ava has the fighting spirit kick in when she has to resuce her friend Sana from a Russkiy creep; Natasha has to be on the lowdown with her killer moves. After Ava feels the adrenaline rush, she ponders that whole other side of her and attempts to fill in the gaps of her patched past. Natasha easily gives into expert combat mode, relishing every moment and ready to proceed with the next mission. it’s inevitable that the two will cross paths sooner than later.
The narration easily distinguishes each character: Ava is young in appearance and attitude, exhibiting adolescent angst. Natasha is a seasoned veteran despising the lifestyles of the idle rich and begrudgingly playing dumb. Ms. Stohl’s novelist skills are quite apparent.
Nico Leon emulates Humberto Ramos’ style. The characters are lean and angular. Natasha’s body language determines her capabilities but she is not presented as a vamp. Ava and Sana are two typical teens more preoccupied with making ends meet than make-up and jewelry. The manga portrayal of a young girl is an ingenious way of diversifying his sketches and presenting art-within-art. The modified Widow symbol for Ava is akin to an arachnid’s appendages in geometric form.
Andres Mossa delivers dark tones all around. It is safe to speculate that this goes with the nature of the story itself. Ava’s world is quite bleak whereas Natasha’s life is constantly perilous. The white in Ava’s costume is the opposite of flashy.
Travis Lanham is a dodgy fellow: he plays with white and red: Ava’s inner thoughts are red-lettered with white boxes (just like her costume) whereas Natasha’s are the total opposite. Masterful!
All in all, I feel this short story would be better presented as prose. No coincidence her: Ava’s tale is meant to be extrapolated in the upcoming novel Black Widow: Forever Red. The match has been struck: there is red-hot excitement and anticipation for this brand new Marvel property.
Representing all the points in Red Widow’s symbol, I give this story 10.5 out of 14 (75%).
Tags: Andres Mossa, Margaret Stohl, Marvel Comics, Marvel Entertainment, Nico Leon, Red Widow