Widow's Kiss Part 2 by Joe Kelly and Ariel Olivetti
One Sentence Overview: Having been shot by the Black Widow, Daredevil refuses to recuperate and instead goes after his ex-lover, convinced there must be a cogent reason for her actions
A few years ago, someone I was working with scared me somewhat when he started yakking about all the nuclear physicists and specialists that Russia had let go of due to the end of the cold war. His insinuation was that they would offer their services to the highest bidder, whoever and wherever that was, in order to obtain similar employment. Well, I'm not really sure that any of that was based in fact but one of the main aspects of the Widow's Kiss storyline appears to be a partial commentary on the afterlives of those brought up in the USSR and adapting to life post Glasnost.
As such, the Black Widow is presented as a highly ambivalent character here, bouncing between her former lover and the ex-KGB agents who have taken an interest in the millions being made in computer software. One's initial instinct is to back Natasha's loyalty to Daredevil but seeing as the final pages of the last issue ended with her shooting Matt at point blank range, that's a little difficult at present. Here, she insists that she deliberately shot to deflect the bullet off the ribcage (something she refers to as 'Tirgenov's Gambit' - which as far as I can tell is a fictional set up). Well, that's certainly takes a lot of nerve, especially as she then informs Matt that only two people have ever survived such an ambitious shot.
Hmmm. It also doesn't help that, whilst new artist Ariel Olivetti generally draws the bullet wound just below the chest, his illustration of the entry wound on the opening splash page makes it look like it was a direct hit on the heart.
But, of course, Natasha hasn't returned to her old comrades. Rather, this gambit reveals the utter ruthlessness of her post Avengers character - that she will use whatever means necessary to take down the bad guys, even if it means expending one of her oldest friends. Ironically, it's Daredevil's survival that kind of blows Natasha's cover. Having shot DD in order to gain the trust of the bad guy in charge, General Tskarov, Tasha is invited into the inner circle of whatever it is these villains are up to. (I do like her conversation with Tskarov over the incident, with the General noting that her ruthless actions make her "as heartless as your namesake".)
However, when and injured Daredevil rises from his sick bed and suddenly turns up, having been tipped off by Shield (for who Natasha is presumably working), the General is suddenly much less trusting of Ms Romanoff (or as she is more grammatically correctly described here, Ms Romanova). Hence she ends up alongside Daredevil in captivity, where an intriguing conversation takes place with Natasha maintaining her disloyalty whilst tapping out in Morse Code the real reasons for her actions (see above).
One might think that having been shot in (or near) the chest might put Daredevil out of action. But, hey, this is the man without fear (and possibly the man without pain). He doesn't even fear the potential break up of his relationship with Karen - dashing off despite her insistence he go to hospital.
Once again it highlights Matt's willingness to put what's important in his emotional life in order to be the hero. Yet his actions also seem very undermining to Karen and not a little cruel. As he swings towards confronting the Russians, Matt realises that Karen is "one hundred percent, incontrovertibly right" but that doesn't stop him leaving her.
As noted earlier, Ariel Olivetti's the new penciller in town - though we do have one more issue of Gene to come. Ariel's work is a little reminiscent of Steve Dillon with his clean looking characters (a quick search for his newer work shows an artist who has really adapted his style to something quite classy looking). He has fun with a talking bear (Ursa Major - which, as astronomers will know, is the name of the constellation that looks like a large bear)...
...and also a pretty freaky looking Black Widow, as imagined by a delirious Daredevil.
Overall, though, this storyline isn't overly compelling (maybe I'm just not that into espionage) - though we've still one third of the story to go and perhaps it'll make more sense once that's done. That said, Joe's characterisation of the Black Widow is good, giving her a dark, uncertain edge and leaving Matt in doubt whether he can trust one of his oldest friends. And there continue to be some sharp lines of dialogue that stand out on the page.
Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff
General Tskarov/Snow Wolf
Ursa Major/Mikhail Ursus
Rating: 4 out of 10