I recognized her, of course. The Black Widow. I always wondered why they called her that. Until that day. Just like the deadly spider that devours its mate— this girl was just as ruthless. And just as quiet. It’s funny. You see super heroes on the news once in a while— hear them talk while they’re fighting— almost seems like they’re having fun. Not this one. All business. Serious as a heart attack. She was a woman with a goal. Woe to anyone— anything— that got in her way.

From Journey Into Mystery #517 by Scott Lobdell and Randy Green.

Natasha: It’s striking, isn’t it?
Remy: Natasha Romanov.
Natasha: I don’t believe we’ve met.
Remy: We haven’t. I just recognize you from your Time Magazine cover last year. LeBeau. Remy LeBeau.

And I recognize those questionable Champions fashion choices from 1976. It might have something to do with them getting George Tuska to draw this.

From Gambit: From the Marvel Vault, by Scott Lobdell and George Tuska.

MMMOBW 1: Natasha dissolves the UN Charter

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.

Description: A series of brightly colored blocky panels.  Black Widow is addressing the UN Security council, and hundreds of people are looking on, including most of the West Coast Avengers.

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's speech continues, and people of many nations continue to look on.

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.

Fury: Congrats, kiddo.
Natasha: Yes, congratulate me— for lying, cheating, and stealing in order to succeed.
Fury: I prefer to think of it as “spying”, Natasha. And ya do good work.
Natasha: Don’t I always? Isn’t that why— in one form or another— there will always be a Black Widow?

This final scene points out that Natasha, for all her expertise, has some moral misgivings about the things she does. It’s not something she revels in, not really, not deep down.

Keep in mind the multiple meanings of the word good. I think what Fury means is that she’s very good at her job. That she’s the best there is at lying, cheating, stealing &c. But I don’t think that’s what Natasha’s responding to, here. She does good work. The greater good. And that’s why there will always be a Black Widow.

Fin picspam.

From Journey Into Mystery #519, Scott Lobdell and Randy Green.

Confused? Let me break it down for you. Up until three days ago, there really was a Lottie Hederman…

I don’t know if I can quote the two pages of pure exposition, so let me sum up.

Lie #7. Lottie Hederman was an ex-Nazi who discovered that the internet was a place for angry racists to congregate.

Lie #8. She invented the persona “Ebon Flame” because on the internet anybody can be a hot chick.

Lie #9. Lottie even created a sockpuppet for her made-up son. Through her skill in sockpuppetry Lottie was able to become internet queen of the Freedomslight hategroup, MsScribe style.

Lie #10. When Freedomslight was about to strike, Natasha was dispatched to stop them. Through superdetective skills, she realized no one had ever seen Ebon Flame, and decided to impersonate her to draw out the real terrorist leader.

Lie #11. Natasha wages her own IRL sockpuppet campaign, alternating between her Black Widow and Ebon Flame identities. Eventually, she stages Ebon Flame’s “defection,” thus deflating a lot of Freedomslight’s ideological oomph. When Lottie, the real Ebon Flame, sees what Natasha has done to undermine her, she dies of shock.

Lie #12 Natasha then poses as Lottie to troll Agent Tenko into doing something stupid and revealing his true nefarious intentions.

Natasha Romanov: 1, Internet: 0.

Journey into Mystery #519, by Scott Lobdell and Randy Green.

Lie #6: Natasha was the little old lady all along.

Personally I love ridiculous spy disguises, the more totally unfeasible the better. It’s so much more fun than having her unbutton the top of her blouse and thereby get her way. One day, I hope she manages to convincingly disguise herself as a houseplant.

More intelligently speaking, this means that all the commentary on Natasha’s cold-as-ice smile comes courtesy Natasha herself. Which adds a whole other layer to it. Is this the way Natasha sees herself, or is it how she wants to be seen?

From Journey Into Mystery #519, by Scott Lobdell and Randy Green.

Lie #5: Agent Tenko does work for the FBI, but he’s not trying to stop Freedomslight, he’s trying to take over it!

It’s no coincidence that his plotline here sort of mirrors the flashback downfall of Ebon Flame. Cue that overquoted Nietzsche line, because the abyss is staring back. Natasha doesn’t just dance with death regularly, she dances with damnation. It’s a very real danger, letting the lies get to you. That’s part of why she needs to project that aura of unflappable self-confidence that is dialed up to 11 in these issues. If Natasha weren’t absolutely sure of who she is, really, it would be that much easier for her to lose herself, really.

From Journey Into Mystery #519, by Scott Lobdell and Randy Green.

Lie #4, there is no freedom in Freedomslight!

You didn’t believe all the “I just want to help people” crap, did you? Because that’s the most obvious plot twist in the book. The one where the bad guy turns out to be bad. Anyway, Natasha destroys the plot device gizmo, flashback over.

To level up the meta just a little bit: Ebon’s trajectory touches on that inevitable danger of deep cover. If you wear a mask too long, it begins to wear you.

From Journey Into Mystery #519, by Scott Lobdell and Randy Green.