Marvel Platinum: The Definitive Black Widow – Stan Lee, Don Rico, Steve Englehart, George Perez, Ralph Macchio, Cullen Bunn, Devin Grayson, Don Heck, John Romita Sr., Rob Layton, Luke McDonnell, J.G. Jones & Peter Nguyen (Marvel / Panini)

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Evolution is a natural state of being for all living things, and for the most part, long-standing comic book characters follow the trend sent by the biological laws of the real world.  They change and in doing so become fully rounded, three dimensional, free thinking players in a four colour universe, but few have adapted to the changing face of history to the extent that, or as well as, the Black Widow has. Known by a number of different names, Natalia Romanova, or as she’s more commonly known these days Natasha Romanoff, has risen to prominence in the Marvel Universe the hard way and left a mountain of bodies in her wake. International assassin, Soviet super spy, Avenger, SHIELD agent and impossible problem solver extraordinaire, Natasha has been every variation of hero and a couple of shades of villain during her storied five decades. She’s even partnered and gone toe to toe with, and nearly beaten, Captain America. But those are other tales for another day. Today is all about The Defintive Black Widow and the stories and adventures that helped to shape and mould a bone fide comic book legend.

From her fledgling days as a cold war era femme fatale sent to beguile, charm and bamboozle Tony Stark in an attempt to steal capitalist secrets and technology to her role as an undercover, world saving superhero, The Definitive Black Widow is the all points, and everything in between, guide to the life and times of Natasha Romanoff. Heartbreak, bone crunching and sinew snapping action, torture, mystery, espionage, treachery, love lost, labours won and so much more help to chart Natasha’s story in The Definitive Black Widow. And while her introduction to the Marvel pantheon is slightly stilted, stiff, a little uncomfortable and archaic, she soon leaves her “of its time” original origin far behind and settles far more assuredly into the Red Room trained, hard as steel and far more deadly than any male persona that has become part of her established mythology.

Artistically the book never dips below a ten as the frantic, squeeze as much colourful shenanigans onto the page as physically possible work of Don Heck that introduced Natasha in Iron Man, gradually, throughout the course of the book, morphs into the darker, more thoughtful and emotively detailed art of Peter Nguyen that closes The Definitive Black Widow. Story wise, the tales on offer that capture everything that Natasha is follow, change and adapt to her character as she moves through the decades.  This is Natasha’s story as told by the writers and artists who made sure that she became far more than the secondary, two dimensional character she could so easily have been and made sure she changed the face of comics forever. The Widow may weave a tangled web, but it’s one that you’ll be happy to become ensnared, and lose yourself, in…  Tim Cundle

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