Natasha: Ivan, I got some water… the gangs left nobody alive. I can’t find a medic. Take this, I’ll try again.
Ivan: Just you from now on… proud of you, my little girl—
Winter Soldier: The comrade needs medical treatment. My superiors offer you both this chemical in exchange for your renewed loyalty. It will heal him— and increase both your life spans. But there is an extremely limited supply, comrades.
Ivan: Don’t… don’t..
Natasha: We say yes.
This aspect of Cornell’s Black Widow origin was something I really appreciated. It’s a good retcon because it touches on the same themes of the previous story— it’s still about how Natasha’s loyalty to those she loves allows the KGB to manipulate her into becoming a spy. But repositioning the story so that it’s Ivan, and not Alexi, escapes a big my love interest is dead!! cliché. And I think this version highlights the determination in Natasha’s character. We understand that it’s a poor choice, that she really has no choice at all, but it still feels like Natasha is making a choice. (Instead of just being brainwashed or tossed into a killing school at the age of five.) She still didn’t want to be a spy— it was something she was strung into. But better that then dead.
Could’ve done without the Communist Cyborg Formerly Known as James Barnes here, though. Almost worth it just for the totally gnarly (and not super continuity friendly) take on his arm. Almost.
From Black Widow: Deadly Origin #1, by Paul Cornell and John Paul Leon.