Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto's "Black Widow" #6 continues its tradition of solid storytelling, even in a quiet issue that isn't the book at its absolute best. A less flashy issue than some previous installments with slightly rougher work from Noto actually reveals how strong the basics are when it comes to both Natasha as a character and Edmondson and Noto's approach to the book.
Since its first issue, this "Black Widow" series has been focused on visual storytelling rather than heavy handed narration, featured tight stories that could stand on their own and revealed both small and big things about Natasha. This is a fantastic approach, but it was only a matter of time before an issue hit that couldn't quite hang with the rest. This is not the most exciting or revelatory of "Black Widow" issues. Though we begin with Natasha captured, the beating she gets and the way she escapes are not particularly innovative or intriguing -- more paint by numbers. There's some serious plot development with her longtime enemy Damon Dran (The Indestructible Man), there's just not much to wow readers here. It's also some of Noto's more rushed looking art, comparatively.
Edmondson's laconic approach to Natasha still feels right, and this piece of her story feels in sync to her larger arc, but I admit that seeing Hawkeye appear for a few panels in this issue had me aching for Natasha to team up with someone so that readers could see another aspect of her. Based on this issue, it sounds like that may be exactly what Edmonson intends, and I think it would be a nice change of pace. If he can maintain the integrity of this book while still exploring more unseen facets of Natasha, it would add some nice dimension to the book.
Noto's art, while still beautiful, emotional and wonderfully atmospheric, is a bit rougher around the edges than in previous issues. Likely a testament to the strain of doing full art for a monthly with no breaks, the book would probably benefit from a built-in hiatus. Issue 6 finds layouts a bit less inventive, line work a bit looser, and details a bit less precise. That said, it's still quite lovely and incredibly well nuanced for a character of Natasha's actions-speak-louder-than-words personality. Compared to other books, the art and storytelling still stands out as superior, but finds itself lacking when stacked next to previous "Black Widow" issues.
Edmondson and Noto have done a fantastic job overall of establishing the series, and who the Black Widow is within that context, but this issue definitely suggests it may be time to spin the dial and change things up. With a solid base now established, it would be a missed opportunity not to see other shades of Natasha under Edmondson and Noto's direction.