Widow's Kiss Conclusion by Joe Kelly and Gene Colan
One Sentence Overview: Captured by General Tskarov, Daredevil and the Black Widow receive help from an unsuspecting quarter when Tskarov's true intentions are revealed
This is a strange little issue, which is a partial shame as I think it's the last time we have Gene do a whole Daredevil story. However, it's neither the scripting or the artwork that has caught my eye this time. Weirdly enough, it's the lettering (step forward, Richard Starking). I feel bad saying it because, hey, there have been 369 issues that have passed by without me taking note of what's being scribbled in the speech bubbles and text boxes on the pages. But as soon as I come across an issue with a couple of typos, I'm up in arms.
That's right. There are three pretty obvious mistakes on the page, giving the impression that they may have rushed this issue out without either the letterer or editor having the chance to complete a proof read. Early on, two Russian characters have a chat and say, "So tell me methen". At first, I though methen must be some kind of Russian endearment. Then I realised it's just 'me then' without a space. I'll ignore the other (very minor) blooper I've spotted but the best one is Matt's new name for his old Russian friend. Yes, true believers, watch out for the wonderful, mysterious and presumably tinted 'Black Window'!
She's pretty powerful but can't really handle the might of that evil villain, Venetian Blinds. Apologies, Richard. Like I say, once in 370 issues isn't a bad strike rate, huh?
As the title emphasises, this has been a Tasha-centric story, allowing Joe to riff on his thoughts on the changes in Russia since the early 90s. He wrote about this well last issue and continues in the same vein here, revealing in the two mutants Tskarov has in his employ some reluctance to follow the evil General. To an extent, it's a 'needs must' scenario, though Mikhail is also looking for his sister, Darkstar (and is unaware that it's Tskaro, and not Shield, as the General has told him, who has the Russian hero locked away).
Why so? Well, Tskarov wants Darkstar's dark energy - perhaps if she really won't comply, the Black Window's own obviously dark energies would make up for it? (Sorry again, Richard) Indeed, the storyline and Tskarov's own character is very much reminiscent of the old style DD of Gene's youth - slightly bonkers science and rather outlandish scenarios.
Another trait from the days of yore is having the supporting cast get up to something goofy. And the goofmeister in charge is Franklin Nelson who, in a set up that would not be out of place in a farce, appears to be getting all loved up with Liz Osborn, but keeps getting distracted by other women in his life leaving messages on his answerphone. Liz eventually gets rattled and storms off, slamming the door. One of those who calls is his old secretary, Karen.
Whilst the tone is humourous, there are dark undertones here, because Karen is drunk. As any recovering addict will tell you, being out of control on one substance puts you at greater risk of consuming the one that is your particular bete noire. I don't know where Joe is heading with this but let's hope she doesn't go sniffing around for any needles...
Karen's state of distress is understandable. Last issue she demanded a gravely injured Matt go to hospital and get checked out. Matt ignored her and ran off after an ex-girlfriend. Well, that'll stoke the fires. It's not as if we, as readers, are sure that Matt's motives are honourable. Whilst he begins this issue locked up by General Tskarov, alongside the Black Window (that's enough of that joke now - blogger bosses), when Natasha is taken away, he suddenly becomes all moonstruck, pining after the "lingering heat signature where Natasha had been sitting".
Not only that, but the Widow plants not one but two smackers on his lips by story's end (once to pass on an implement to enable Matt to escape, the other time to, well, give him a big sloppy snog, as far as I can tell). Matt swaying between two women may be dishonourable but we've come long enough in his story to realise that his affections do vary (though he very rarily cheats) and this section does seem to reflect a valid aspect of his personality. Plus that injury's probably playing havoc with his emotional and physical equilibrium anyway.
The shot to the chest does restrict Matt's action sequences somewhat (no matter what that cover promises). However, he still manages to set off a few zany zingers when in the company of Ursa Major.
That frame reveals that Matt and the big bear aren't on opposing sides anymore, indicating that Darkstar's brother is becoming more attuned to the fate of his sister. And there are no real surprises in how things end here. There are some decent moments here but the overall storyline just feels a little flat.
Meanwhile on the letters page Circulation time again and in the late 90s, approximately 50,000 copies of DD are coming off the shelves of the comic book stores. That's still better than today (I think) but well down on figures the late 80s, reflecting the difficulty of the industry.
Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff
Rating: 4 out of 10