Black Widow: No Restraints Play – Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska & Flaviano (Panini / Marvel)

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Natasha was dead. Killed by one of her “friends” in the final battle to save America from the Hydra’s clutches, she died a hero. But the grave couldn’t hold the Black Widow forever and thanks to mortality being a flexible concept in the four colour realm, one whose boundaries are often stretched to breaking point, she returned to the world she left behind.  While it might not a permanent fixture in her reality, death has a habit of changing those who have felt its bleak touch and when the Black Widow came back, she was different and while she’s careful to mask it from those around her, she can’t hide the truth from herself. Consumed by rage and a near constant urge to find a way to vent it, Natasha heads to Madripoor to try and lose herself in its precarious and menace laden streets.

Bumping, quite literally, into one of Madripoor’s most infamous residents when trouble, unsurprisingly, comes calling for both of them, Natasha stumbles across an insidious scheme to kidnap children and torture them for profit on a dark web based site known simply as No Restraints Play. This discovery restores her purpose and gifts her a way to channel the fury that’s been eating her alive through the pursuit and destruction of those responsible for the site, regardless of the personal cost.  And in an orgy of unprecedented and completely warranted violence and destruction, the Black Widow is once again unleashed upon the world.

Even though it’s built around a number of tried, tested and too long in the tooth stereotypes of superhero stories, namely the fallen warrior given a noble quest, bringing those who would prey on the innocent and weak to justice and the journey of self-discovery, thanks to the heinous nature of the villain of the hour, a fast and frantic action packed plot with a sting in its tail, intensely detailed and (for comics at least) believable characters and forthright, cinematic dialogue, No Restraints Play is a powerful and involving yarn. Brought to life by the bright, colourful art of Flaviano that catapults the reader straight into the middle of the crowded, dangerous streets of Madripoor, No Restraints Play returns Natasha to the heroic fold and allows her to do what she does best in the way that only she can.  It’s true you know, the female of the species really is more deadly than the male… Tim Cundle

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