WRITER: MELANIE SCOTT | PUBLISHER: DK | RELEASE DATE: APRIL 2ND
Dorling Kindersley have for the past several years been the go-to publishers for some incredibly detailed reference books about superhero characters, covering both DC and Marvel’s heavy hitters. And they’ve supplied us with some lavish year by year volumes and character guides too. One could wonder where, other than updating the existing volumes every couple of years (usually after a big universe-shattering event) where on Earth – or Earth 2 they could possibly go next.
How about some of the characters not usually in the spotlight? Not ones so obscure that nobody knows who they are – but those intriguing secondary characters who’ve been around since the silver age. How about arguably Marvel’s most intriguing female character, the epitome of mystery and their ultimate villain turned hero – Natasha Romanoff, AKA the Black Widow, a firm favourite among fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a character who’s been around since the U.S.S.R sent her to bedevil industrialist Tony Stark and Iron Man during the Cold War of the early sixties.
Since then, she has abandoned her long dresses for a mask and a cape, mask and costume, been involved with Hawkeye, joined the Avengers, changed costume in the seventies and has retrospectively had her shady background as a spy filled in, making her one of their most three-dimensional characters. But with a lot of her past being revealed in more recent years, tracing her story isn’t as easy as you might think, and wouldn’t lend itself to DK’s usual format of a brief origin, followed by features about weaponry, allies, and crucial issues. It’s all so fragmented and confusing.
For Black Widow: Secrets of a Super-Spy, DK have wisely abandoned this format and have adopted a more straightforward approach in dealing with this character. Not as based on pictures as their previous volumes, but still lavishly illustrated all the same, this takes the form of an actual biography – a novel with graphics, not a graphic novel. All the key events of Romanoff’s tempestuous life are here, in their chronological order which helps us make sense of this unique superspy turned super hero. From her birth in 1928, we learn of her childhood as an orphan, becoming essentially the property of the State, her Red Room training, false memories implanted in her brain, what she did in the Cold War before being sent to the decadent West.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a lightweight volume, this lady’s life rivals anything Ian Fleming created for Bond. It’s an essential volume in deciphering the past of this particular femme fatale.