So recently I read a nice collection of Memorable Moments of Marvel Women. The write-ups are definitely worth a read, but from my totally-biased lifeguard throne I’m gonna have to call a “where’s Natasha?” partyfoul. I’ll assume this was an omission of ignorance rather than a refusal to admit her copious awesome, because the one disease I can cure and the other I will never understand.
In that spirit I have decided to start a new feautre, Memorable Moments of Black Widow in which I highlight historic moments of Natasha’s superhero career and then blather on about them with my usual teal deer panache. First up is a trip to X-men of the early 90s.
Natasha: Distinguised ladies and gentlemen of the general assembly. As chairperson of the Avengers, I have been asked to order immediate and complete withdrawl of our active roster from the nation of Genosha. I have also been instructed to formally apologize for ignoring the United Nations sanctions placed upon our membership— which would have barred us from an active role in the cessation of hostilities between human and mutate forces of that country. In effect we have been ordered to turn our backs on the citizens of Genosha… to turn a deaf ear to the cries of its children… and blind eye to the continuing slaughter of the entire race. I am hear to tell you the Avengers will not— we cannot— take part in the politics— one could even say the cowardice— that appears to have gripped the hand of this august assemblage.
Natasha was actually Avengers chairperson for more than fifty issues during the first half of the nineties. It’s an accomplishment that often goes unsung becuase it was the first half of the nineties. Plotlines ranged from Teen Tony to incomprehensible X-overs to the interminable Sersi/Black Knight/Crystal lovetriangle, and through it all they wore leather jackets. But Natasha was shown to be a competent leader. She took up chairing the team when Steve took a leave of absence. She kept the job even after he came back.
This sequence takes place during a major Avengers/X-man crossover, Bloodties, which as you can tell had something to do with Genosha, where a Magneto-inspired civil war was rumbling which the UN refused to deal with on the basis of muties suck. As chairperson Natasha was in charge of political fallout and inspirational speechgiving, do or die, and this is what she delivers.
Natasha: I will, however, tender an apology… to all the citizens of the world. On behalf of everyone to call themselves an Avenger, I apologize for perhaps losing sight of who we are— and why we do what we do— what we stand for, what it means to assume the mantle of “earth’s mightiest heroes.” Over the years we allied ourselves first with the United States government— and later with the United Nations— because we felt it would facilitate our efforts. But being heroes, being Avengers, is not supposed to be easy. In our haste to do good, perhaps we forgot that. Being an Avenger means having the courage to make the though choices… and the strength of conviction to act upon those choices. From this day forward, people, the Avengers are out of politics. And back in the business of avenging. Thank you.
Natasha had throughout the eighties and nineties identified herself more closely with SHIELD, and she acted as an occasional proponent of government-sponsored superhero work. The apology, the entire speech, is personal— she is admitting her mistakes. It’s probably the harderst and most courageous thing a leader can do.
This was a unilateral decision by Natasha. She was cut off from the bulk of her team. The Avengers were divided on the issue of the UN charter— it wasn’t something they wanted to throw away casually. But all of those who saw Natasha speak was sure that she did the right thing.
From Uncanny X-men #307, by Scott Lobdell and John Romita Jr.