Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Penciler: Elena Casagrande
Inker: Elisabetta D’Amico
Colours: Jordie Bellaire
Release Date: 23rd February 2022
Unequivocally crammed full of pulse-pounding pugilism and featuring a truly chilling cliffhanger of a conclusion, it is easy to see why Marvel proudly publicised issue #14 of Black Widow as being part of an “Eisner-winning series”. For whilst this third instalment to Kelly Thompson’s “Die By The Blade” arc certainly contains a few brief pauses in its awesome action, even these exchanges between the likes of Yelena Belova and Winter Soldier, or the Host and Living Blade, are simply dripping with both tension and menace; “That was not our arrangement. If you, break this deal, you will not be happy… In the end.”
Leading the charge for much of this adrenalin-infused adventure is Natasha Romanoff’s nail-biting battle with “a villain worth dying for” through the various claustrophobic corridors and ventilation shafts of the Golden Gate Gala charity event. The sheer chemistry between the titular character and her sword-wielding arch-nemesis from Madripoor is absolutely palpable, mainly due to it being made crystal clear straight from the ‘get-go’ by the “ruthless predator” that this hectic confrontation will be a fight to the death.
Similarly as suspenseful though, is the comic’s surprising revelation that the unlawful auction of endangered species which the Black Widow and her team thought to thwart is actually a sale where the ultra-rich can acquire their own captive super-powered humans. This shock twist is tremendously well-penned by Thompson and creates plenty of apprehension as Lucy Nguyen must join forces with the twin “socialite siblings” Liv and Lars to escape their imprisonment before they’re all carted off with Spider-Girl to their new owners.
Helping to sell this sense-shattering storyline are Elena Casagrande’s dynamically-drawn layouts and Elisabetta D’Amico’s impressive inks. The creative dynamic duo do an incredible job of depicting the sheer pace of this book’s fight sequences by combining some oddly-angled panels with plenty of well-pencilled pictures featuring all sorts of motion blur effects. In addition, the scene portraying Romanoff patiently working her work through a series of oppressive air-vents, all the while trying to contact her fellow costumed crime-fighters so as to concoct a new plan of attack, will doubtless cause many a bibliophile to literally hold their breath just in case their excited exhalation betrays the Avenger’s physical presence to the nearby Living Blade.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]