Black Widow: Name of the Rose
Author: Marjorie M. Liu
Illustrator: Daniel Acuña
Publish Date: 2010
***Following Review Contains Spoilers***
I’m a huge fan of Marjorie M. Liu’s novels, so I was excited to see how her writing would translate into comics. While I generally enjoyed Black Widow: The Name of the Rose, I was disappointed with the direction the plot took and on the fence about how Liu chose to depict Natasha.
What I was most disappointed with was how easily I was able to predict what would happen throughout the story once Natasha was attacked on the street. When Natasha started alluding to more than one thing being taken from her, I knew that a baby would be worked in somehow. Despite suspecting this, it was still a huge let down when the baby came into the story as one of things motivating Natasha. It’s such an overused motivator for female heroines and I really wish that Liu would’ve went another direction.
The dead baby and dead husband motivators for revenge also felt like it took something away from Natasha’s character. Like they were trying to soften her up and make her more sympathetic to the audience. While this isn’t a bad thing, they did it in a way that was well worn territory. The interesting thing about Black Widow is that she’s rather morally ambiguous and has a lot of unsavory things in her past that she may or may not be trying to atone for. Giving her a purely moral reason to go after Imus, the villain, felt like a cope out on the character. I will admit, however, that this is the first time I’ve read something where her character is the main focus. So, maybe I’m wrong about her.
None the less, this still would’ve been a much more engaging story if Natasha had actually been forced to deal with the ramifications of her less than admirable actions. After all, despite her admitting she is rather happy in her current life, she still chose to keep a wireless device updated with information on everyone she comes across. Why would she choose to keep something like that updated? Why would she especially decide to keep it updated with information on her friends? Shouldn’t it have done something to her relationship with the people in her life to know that she had been keeping tabs on them? What does that say about her thought process and her ideas of the future? Why is everyone on the Avengers just like, “Yup. That’s Natasha. Oh well.”? Why is the only person who is threatened enough that they attack her Electra? And even then the woman just walks away after smacking Natasha around a bit. This was all extremely frustrating because these questions and motivations got pushed aside in favor of the dead baby and husband plot line. Yes, its kept hidden for most of the story that this is what is driving her but I’m willing to bet most people will have that aspect figured out long before the actual reveal.
Despite this, the story managed to keep me engaged the entire time. I just wish that Liu had chosen to concentrate on a different motivator for Natasha and given more gravity/attention to the fact that Black Widow was suddenly enemy number one.
As for Liu’s depiction of Black Widow, I’m honestly undecided. I liked the brief moments where she showed Natasha as cunning and merciless but sometimes the character just felt off for me. I did however enjoy the way she wrote Wolverine and the other few Avengers we saw.
Also, Daniel Acuna’s art work is just wonderful here. This was one of the most consistently well drawn volumes I’ve read in a while.
Overall, I enjoyed this enough that I’ll eventually pick-up X-23, Vol. 1: The Killing Dream by Liu in the future.