Almost twenty years ago now, Marvel launched an imprint for comics with a hard PG-13 rating that allowed their creators to think outside the box. It was called Marvel Knights, and it facilitated some good stories aimed at an older readership without crossing the line into excessive profanity and the like (that happened in MAX, which started a few years later).
The Black Widow was an excellent choice for a Marvel Knights series, as the first issue of her 2004 miniseries demonstrates.
She’s definitely operating outside normal Avengers parameters here (I think she was between Avenging stints at this point). She’s not above killing to defend herself or others, which normally I’m against, but it fits her character and her checkered background.
Issue #1 sets up a situation where Natasha’s past is coming back to haunt her, which seems to be a pretty standard type of plot for her…but again, it suits the character. And it’s nice to see that even when she’s on the run, she’s willing to leap into action to save an innocent when she could just as easily walk away.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe may not know how to give Black Widow her own movie, but comic books have already proven she can carry a story. For Widow fans, this one’s worth a look (just not the younger Widow fans).
Writer: Richard K. Morgan
Artist: Bill Sienkiewicz
Cover: Greg Land
Publisher: Marvel Comics
How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Black Widow: Homecoming (TPB)
Appropriate For: ages 15 and up