Her career stretches back to the 1960s and she’s one of Marvel’s earliest reformed villains turned hero, but Black Widow has never been a headliner. Despite the example of Modesty Blaise, there were only derisory attempts to imprint her on the wider public consciousness until the new millennium, and then with no creative continuity. It’s tempting to suggest that would have remained the case had those producing the Avengers film not required a greater character diversity. With a second film imminent a new series was launched, and this became the Black Widow’s most sustained run in over forty years.

Nathan Edmondson’s take on the Black Widow is that she applies her former spy and assassin’s skills on the open marketplace, but only involves herself in cases that meet her ethical criteria. Her targets have to be true villains, and the money earned is spread into trust funds benefiting the families of those she’s killed. This is as a form of atonement for what she now considers previous wrongdoing. His individual approach extends to S.H.I.E.L.D., for whom the Widow sometimes works, depicted as a hidebound bureaucracy.

Phil Noto’s artistic vision is equally distinct. He produces the complete art, using fewer lines than traditional pencilling, and filling in detail when he applies his muted colour. The featured artwork is an excellently paced sequence showing her infiltrating secured premises, but broken down into some unconventional small images that nonetheless supply a narrative. The light saturation leading to a washed out quality is standard, with figures sometimes highlighted against such backgrounds.

There’s no great sophistication to Edmondson’s plots. They’re linear, and perhaps not as suspenseful as he intends, but that’s the problem with establishing early exactly how competent the Black Widow is. They are well paced, though, diverting with a slight noir quality. The first three chapters are individual tales while the remainder of the book is one long story extended over three chapters with the Widow dragged all over the world. This isn’t as satisfactory, and while still looking stylish thanks to Noto, a lack of real surprises results in a less pithy read. It eventually introduces a new threat, one with a long reach, and that occupies the companion volume The Tightly Tangled Web.