REVIEW: The Avengers Prelude – The Black Widow Strikes #3 (of 3)

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Or – “I Really Dislike The Term ‘Starktech.’ “

For a while, while Bendis was writing Avengers (or perhaps Dark Avengers), the storyline included technology created by Tony Stark, Victor Von Doom and (I believe) Justin Hammer, colloquially known as “Starktech,” “Doomtech,” and “Hammertech.”  You’d think that in a world where EVERYONE is a multi-disciplinary sooper-geeeenius, that they’d have some more creative names.  What does this have to do with our Major Spoilers review of Black Widow’s story bridging her two movie experiences?  I don’t know.  But we’re OFF!

THE AVENGERS: BLACK WIDOW STRIKES #3
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Penciler(s): Wellinton Alves/Renato Arlem
Inker(s): Nelson Pereira
Colorist(s): Bruno Hang/Jay David Ramos
Lettere: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Editor: Bill Rosemann
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in The Avengers Prelude – The Black Widow Strikes #3:  Natasha Romanova, known to many as the Black Widow, has a problem.  Some of Tony Stark’s technology (the aforementioned “Starktech”, thus answering the question above) has been pilfered.  Tracking the missing weapons, the Widow clashed with rogue agent Sofia, who has a personal grudge against ‘Tasha, and who nearly succeeded in offing the Widow last time.  Thanks to Agent Phil Coulson, The Black Widow is back on tracks, but Sofia broke the camel’s back by murdering another agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. to taunt the Widow.  Things are about to get personal…

THIS ISSUE TAKES PLACE BEFORE THE AVENGERS MOVIE…

I have made a point of avoiding previous comic adaptations and movie-related tie-ins for a couple of reasons.  The first is my general dislike of adaptations, doubled in these cases by being a comic book adapted from a movie adapted from a comic book, and the second comes in the area of likenesses.  I think that Dark Horse’s Buffy books are the only titles that I haven’t dropped due to fluctuating likenesses, and I couldn’t even read the old Topps X-Files books because their Scully was all wrong.  I was happy to see that he first panel featuring the Widow (a full-page splash, even) worked both as an approximation of Scarlett’s face and as a decent rendering of Natasha Romanoff.  Sadly, the figure work and action sequences are a little bit stiff in the first half of the book, and Phil Coulson’s face never gets more than passable.  The mission involves a familiar-sounding billionaire (Richard Frampton, who apparenlty feels like you do) and the Ten Rings terrorist organization, which is a nice touch to Iron Man movie continuity.

EVENTS OCCUR IN COMIC-BOOK TIME.

The art takes a shift in the second half of the book (which is a shame, as the final panel of chapter one is the best Scarlett-as-Widow image in the issue) and Black Widow comes once again face-to-face (and boot-to-head) with Sofia in a very-movie inspired kung-fu battle.  It’s odd to see such care taken to make the art look as much like the movie Widow’s fist-fighting as possible, which both grounds the book in reality and makes the fight somehow seem LESS realistic.  Sofia’s motivation for defeating the Black Widow is a little too on-the-nose for my taste, and the end of the issue is somewhat abrupt, with a pat little moral of the story and a big-ass explosion.  Writer Van Lente did all that he could to make this feel cinematic, driven and squarely in the Marvel movie universe, but I’m a little disappointed in how it all turned out.  There’s some interesting parts of this issue, but the three-issue mini format didn’t really give them time to play out in a satisfying fashion.  The shift in art style was jarring for me (although both art teams do fine work), and it seems odd for Nick Fury to opine that Sofia wasn’t “worth saving,” no matter how well it sets up The Black Widow’s angsty final lines…

THE VERDICT: AN AVERAGE TALE WITH NO MAJOR MISSTEPS…

This issue does well with the concepts in play, and I’m certainly not annoyed or disappointed by it, but there’s nothing here that makes it feel like a crucial story to understanding the Black Widow.  As with so many adaptations, it’s the little touches that the actor brings to her role that make the cinematic Widow fun, and it’s hard to translate those intangibles into comic art.  They do an admirable job in making sure that this DOESN’T feel like an Avengers inventory story that they repurposed as a tie-in, which is nice, but it’s a relatively run on the mill spy tale with a personal grudge subplot tacked on to it.  The Avengers Prelude: Black Widow Strikes #3 has to serve more than one master, and ends up being neither fish nor fowl in a very inoffensive way, earning 2.5 out of 5 stars overall.  In many ways, it’s the ultimate example of a movie tie-in, designed to please fans of both the graphic and live-action Widow without irritation or unwanted questions…

Rating: ★★½☆☆