Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto combine to provide just another day in the life of Natasha Romanova in the pages of "Black Widow" #5. Independent of the Avengers and only tangentially connected to S.H.I.E.L.D. in this operation, Black Widow is on the trail of a terrorist branded the Mad Monk, who prefers to think of himself as the "Hammer of God."
The realistically charged art from Phil Noto is nothing short of amazing with always instantly recognizable style. His characters are remarkably expressive, despite an unparalleled economy of lines, and they flow through the panels, all the while retaining their unique appearances. Tori Raven, Widow's informant, is recognizable to the reader throughout "Black Widow" #5 despite her attempts at disguise. Noto's Widow is athletic and confidently attractive without being a caricature of breasts and buttocks. In fact, at no point in the issue does Widow even have her zipper down below the top of her sternum. If nothing else, Marvel should be collecting this series into a handbook for future generations of artists under the title of "How to Draw an Awesome Black Widow." Noto colors his own work, which allows the artist to strip out excessive line work or leave it in for effect and atmosphere and effect.
Edmondson leaves readers perched on the edge of their seats, dropping a cliffhanger on the last page of "Black Widow" #5 as the readers are left to try to solve the puzzle Natasha finds herself trapped within. On the journey to that point, though, readers learn about Black Widow's network, her reactions to the events around and her determination to make things right, if only for her own peace of mind. Edmondson's Widow is a woman of action, always on the move and always getting things done, making connections and following leads. The writer keeps "Black Widow" #5 right on the edge of the fantastic while filling it with a fast-moving plot. This comic would entertain fans of the "Die Hard" series or the Avengers film, and, like John McClane, at no point is Natasha ever truly out of her element.
Edmondson and Noto have done a solid job keeping this series valid in the initial full-court press of double-shipping issues. Quality has been topnotch and the stories have been substantial. Edmondson might be trying to stay out of Noto's way a bit, but the two really do a fine job collaborating. Five issues in, however, it feels like the story is just wheeling to the runway for take off now. The cliffhanger leaves me anxious for Natasha and looking forward to "Black Widow" #6.