Marvel has certainly figured out how to market their characters since the release of the first "X-Men" film a decade ago. I don't recall where I read the article, but when the "X-Men" film was released the powers that be at Marvel were pretty upset that they didn't have sufficient or appropriate product available to support the demand of the moviegoers who dared venture into the comic shops. That is no longer the case. The best place to start with this fact in mind regarding the first issue of "Black Widow" is the end.
This issue is capped off with a six-page "Black Widow Saga" that outlines Natasha Romanoff's comic book history to this point. This is a nice addition to the book for folks who are going to stumble onto this character after seeing her portrayed by Scarlett Johansson in "Iron Man 2."
Acuña's art is as painterly as ever, which is both good and bad. Acuña manages to make his work look deceptively non-detailed, but a closer inspection reveals a massive amount of detail from divots in the bricks of the background buildings to scuff marks on the soles of Natasha's high heels. The detail is smoothed over by Acuña's style, giving this book a visual presentation unlike most other books on the shelves today. The downside of Acuña's style is that something such as the intestines of the Black Widow look pretty and almost flower-like as she lays on the operating table in this issue.
The story itself is suspenseful and engaging, but at the same time more than a little frustrating; Natasha is taken down a little too easily. Of course, without the takedown, this issue would have been woefully thin on plot, even though Liu does a stellar job of establishing the supporting cast for the Black Widow. Her encounter with the Black Rose is entertaining and revealing, and Liu made a great choice to open the book with that scene, which is cinematic and exciting.
This is a strong start to an ongoing series for a character that should be Marvel's flagship female lead. Liu channels the raw edginess of Rucka's work with the character while finding ways to honor, explain, and deepen the ties that have been established over the duration of the character's existence. This issue is mysterious and engaging, but the way the issue ends left me a little confused. One of Widow's friends seems to walk away from a fight he could win, and it seems slightly out of character, but I suppose more shall be revealed in the next issue as Natasha gets back on her feet.
I'm excited to have another Marvel series that I'm genuinely interested in reading. My first exposure to Natasha was through "Marvel Team-Up" #85. Later I would follow her adventures through "Avengers" as well as a series of miniseries, but this feels like a brand new beginning worthy of celebration.