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Black Widow: The Name of the Rose Paperback – July 6, 2011
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The Name of the Rose graphic novel captures the five-part Black Widow mini-series, where the Widow faces one of her toughest challenges, one that will assault her on a myriad of levels, physical, emotional, and mental, and that will nearly kill her. And that will resurrect people and events that she thought were long buried and forgotten.
The series begins with the Widow being sent a faded black rose and a ribbon. She has some inkling as to what they mean but will not tell even her closest friends and associates. This is her mystery and her fight and she will pursue it alone, on a quest that takes her all over the world as well as to decades in her past. There are some good interactions between the major players in this mini-series, including gems like:
Wolverine: Just a flesh wound, right?
Black Widow: Bleeding stumps are flesh wounds. What I've got is a scratch.
And a lovely bit very reminiscent of a scene in the Avengers movie where Natasha ... well, I won't say any more. This mini-series also understands that, at heart, the Black Widow is first and foremost, a spy, and that continues to have ripple effects through her entire life even after she has, in theory, given up the profession.
So what didn't I like?
- Natasha got taken out far too easily early in the mini-series.
- Based on personal experience, you don't get your abdomen sliced open, then stitched up again, then immediately go out and get into a fight.
- The motivation of one of the secondary villains was, frankly, a bit suspect.
- You really have to suspend your disbelief when it comes to how the major villain found out a crucial bit of information.
Note: I'm being vague because I don't want to spoil anything here. These are all fairly minor issues, though, and just require a bit of the usual "willing suspension of disbelief." Overall, the graphic novel is very good and it really gets to the heart of Natasha's character, as well as offering plenty of mystery, action, mood, and even a little romance and fun. I can recommend it unreservedly if you're a Black Widow fan or if you just like an enjoyable moody mystery and an indomitable character.
So when I saw this download on special, I jumped at the chance to try and get to know the character a little better. The graphic novel collects issues 1 to 5. Naturally the story revolves around Natasha's past . All spies have secrets in their past that no one, not even their closest friends, know about. At some point, a villain will discover these secrets and that spy will have to go on the run from everyone (mainly to protect them) while they track down and deal with that villain. So the plotline isn't that original but it works because you get to find out about your hero's past.
Marjorie Liu is a novelist by trade, and the layered plot shows off those skills. She also does a really good job building up all the Marvel characters that are in Black Widow’s life. Captain America (Winter Soldier version), Wolverine, and Tony Stark all ring true.
The initial impetus of the story is well-done, cycling quickly up into the action regarding the attack on our heroine. However, I had to ask myself, if the eventual baddie really wanted her dead, why not kill her then? It’s a complaint I (and several other readers/watchers) haven whenever a hero ends up totally in the villain’s clutches. I have a hard time understanding why a villain wouldn’t take care of business at that moment.
The “bug” the Black Widow carried bothered me too. Sure, she’s a spy and not from America, and she has a checkered past, but she’s resolved all of that, right? At least, I’d thought so. And I seemed to be more put off by that revelation that the heroes. You can’t just dismiss that as “that’s what she does.” Tony Stark at least would have known with all the tech he deals with. And I think Wolverine might have smelled the bug on her.
After the initial action, things kind of slow down and take a step back. Black Widow pursues her villain, and along the way we get to know more about her, but I’m not sure that her loss really deepens the story enough. It would be enough for another character, but I just can’t see it with the Black Widow because there has been so much history there. The emotional scars would have shown up somewhere along the way. Especially with the way she’s confronted about her reluctance to hold a child.
Although I was a little jarred by the subject matter, Liu is an excellent storyteller. There’s enough interaction between the characters, the back and forth between the Widow and Bucky – especially with them being lovers, that I bought into that particular emotional journey.
Daniel Acuna’s art is fantastic. I don’t know what the medium was that he used, but it almost looks like watercolors, bright and liquid. His panel breakdowns are very well done, and I ended up going back through the book just to look at the art after I’d finished reading.
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The art is outstanding.Read more