Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her – Richard K. Morgan, Bill Sienkiewicz & Sean Phillips (Marvel / Panini)

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As soon as I saw Richard K. Morgan’s name on the cover of The Things They Say About Her*, I knew I was going to fall hard for this book. I’ve spent the better part of the last two decades telling anyone who’ll listen, and everyone else within earshot, that Morgan is responsible for unleashing the greatest science fiction trilogy (Altered Carbon, Broken Angels and Woken Furies) ever written upon fandom and the world at large.

Morgan is, I’m not ashamed to say, quite possibly my favourite author, so I was already in a state of geek driven ecstasy before I even opened the cover, and putting Morgan’s story in the hands of the immeasurably talented Bill Sienkiewicz and Sean Phillips and having Natasha Romanov as the star of said story only increased my heart rate to a point that would trigger a cardiac event and, if left unchecked, would almost certainly induce an embolism. The surge of adrenaline that was pumping through my veins as I began to read the first page only became worse with each panel and how I made it to the end of the book without passing out from an overdose of unfettered joy is a mystery. The Things They Say About Her was everything that I hoped it would be and so much more besides.

In short, and without indulging in too many spoilers, The Things… is a tale of treachery, betrayal, double dealing, the awful things that men are willing to do to others in the pursuit of wealth and power that revolves around the dark world of espionage and political corruption and malfeasance. And caught up in the middle of this unholy mess of humanity at its worst, is the Black Widow who, directed by her conscience and the need to save one young life from the darkness that’s imprisoned it, sets out, with a little help from a couple of “friends”, to throw a spanner in the works and bring the whole thing (and it is a “thing” she finds herself battling) and those responsible for it crashing down. It is, after all, the sort of thing that she does very well and just like Logan, Natasha is the best at what she does.

Given a sumptuous, gritty, noir infused look, courtesy of Phillips and Sienkiewicz, that works in perfect partnership with the story being told, The Things They Say About Her hits every note and beat flawlessly thanks to its consummate, character centric narrative. By using Natasha as a blunt weapon fuelled by revenge and desire, Morgan humanises her in a way few other writers have managed to and paints a picture of a hero, who, despite her near superhuman levels of training and dedication, is still propelled by the same biological and emotional responses, and as such just as flawed and imperfect, as the rest of us are.

Uncompromising, brutal and unforgiving, The Things They Say About Her is every bit as addictive as the airport sold, beach bound page-turners of yesteryear and once you start reading it, you won’t be able to stop. The female of the species really is more deadly than the male… Tim Cundle

*This edition is a most welcome, and timely re-issue. The Things They Say About Her was frst published in 2005.

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