They were supposed to have been in a movie this year, but they’re still on the comic racks!  Your Major Spoilers review of Widowmakers: Red Guardian and Yelena Belova #1 from Marvel Comics awaits!


Writer: Devin Grayson
Penciler: Michele Bandini
Inker: Elisabetta D’Amico
Colorist: Erick Arciniega
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Editor: Sarah Brunstad
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: November 18, 2020

Previously in Widowmakers: Red Guardian and Yelena BelovaYelena has spent years trying to figure out who she is. Once she thought the Black Widow mantle was her destiny, but fate had other plans.  Now the past is catching up with her – and with Alexi Shostakov, a.k.a. the Red Guardian!  Alexi has worn many titles, including husband to Natasha, but while the Widow played her avenging games, the Red Guardian waited in the shadows.  Now a new day is dawning – and this time, no one will stand in his way.


We start our adventure with Yelena Belova, living her life in the city of Moscow, until she gets the email that she’s been waiting for.  After a quick flight to New York to meet a contact, Yelena is sent to break into a prison in the Antarctic (!!) and free a prisoner who has been kept there.  As she sneaks into the facility (wearing a white version of her Black Widow catsuit, which is an interesting look), we get a peek into her mind.  Yelena is dedicated to her homeland, considering herself Russian to the core, even when she’s living in or working for other countries, which adds to her shock when she finds the prisoner being held in the prison is… The Red Guardian, legendary hero of Communist Russia.  She helps him to get free, but leaves him behind to make her own escape, leaving the Guardian to gain his own revenge on the men who have been holding him.  She takes her money and uses it to take down an unethical venture capitalist (by donating all his money to charities), while Red Guardian emerges from the snowy wasted, the sole survivor of the prison.


Had ‘Black Widow’ come out in November as scheduled, I have to imagine that this book would feel more timely.  As it is, as much as I like the story here, but it’s a remarkably simple story that we’ve seen many times before.  Yelena’s voice-over is interesting, but she also speaks with a stereotypical Russian pop culture accent, which can be distracting.  The art is likewise a little bit on the bland side, delivering on the thrills and the action most of the time, but occasionally giving us very confusing moments and transitions.  The final sequence at the Met Gala is a shadowy mess of close-ups and mid-shots without the establishing images that might make it clearer, making for a muddy and hard-to-follow ending for an issue that doesn’t really go too far beyond okay.


All in all, Widowmakers: Red Guardian and Yelena Belova #1 feels like it doesn’t have a clear reason to be, other than to remind us of who Yelena and Alexi are, but it does okay within the boundaries of that expectation, earning 3 out of 5 stars overall.  I’m not certain that it’s worth five dollars, and the fact that it’s mostly setup for things to come in Black Widow’s home title is more than a little frustrating, but on it’s own merits, it’s a better-than-average reading experience with a strong moment or two for the protagonists.

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A Little Puzzling

On the one hand, I like the voice of the main characters, but this issue ends up being all setup for something that's happening down the line in 'Black Widow', which is frustrating for a five dollar book.

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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