Lie #3: the American dream. (Also every government ever.)

Meet Ebon Flame, the leader of Freedomslight, a group of so-called “Urban Terrorists” who plot against the kyriarchy. Their plan is to end tyranny of the elected minority by stealing some SHIELD mind-wiping macguffin. Lottie, bless her sweet lil’ heart, is dragged into Ebon’s web of militant idealism, and begins to see that Natasha just might be more brutal than the people she’s fighting against. Here’s another conversation between Ebon and Natasha.

Ebon: Why do you fight on their side? Them. The American government! You were born in Russia! I would think…
Natasha: No, you don’t think. Or you would know it is not a government I seek to defend. Rather, the people that live here. People who should be free from living in the shadow of so-called revolutionaries such as yourself!
Ebon: Those are the very people we’re trying to help— to liberate!
Natasha: I don’t see it that way.
Ebon: Don’t you understand?! All we’re asking for is the right to be heard! We fight because we have to fight! But believe me when I say— we don’t want to hurt anyone.

You meet the strangest people on internet dating sites, I’ll tell you.

Would I have been smiling? I mean, if I were the one setting off explosions— leaping clear of fireballs— preparing to stand alone against an army of well-prepared soldiers? No. But then, I’m not Natasha Romanoff. I’m not the Black Widow.

I think this brief Journey Into Mystery story was the only time Natasha used this costume. Check out the hourglass symbol on her footpads. Rock.

From Journey Into Mystery #518, by Scott Lobdell and Randy Green.

I was wrong. Probably like everyone else she’d ever met— I underestimated her. It was a lot like watching a spider weave its web. If you’re not a spider, it just looks like a bunch of stray strands attached from one corner of the room to the next. But to the spider? She sees it from the very beginning. She knows how it’s going to turn out.

This passage shows how useful these third-person perspectives can be, especially with a protagonist like Natasha, who should be one step or several leaps ahead of the game at all times. I mean, I love seeing her pushed to her limit, but stories like this, where she holds all the cards and you don’t even know the game she’s playing, can be a lot of fun, too.

Because Natasha doesn’t have powers. She can’t fly or throw trains. We could theoretically do the stuff she does. Except we really, really couldn’t, and sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of how fundamentally extraordinary she must be.

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

Lottie: She sat exactly where you’re sitting now. She explained that since she was Nancy Rushman the bank teller— I, as the other hostage they pulled from the bank, must have been insider. At first I thought she was teasing me. I mean, how absurd. But as I smiled— tittered, actually— she just held me in that ice cold stare of hers…until I confessed.
Tenko: “Confessed”? I’m confused. You were the insider?
Lottie: No, Agent Tenko. I told her about… my son.

Lie #2. Lottie’s son has fallen in with a bad internet crowd. A bad internet crowd circa 1998, so you know this is serious.

I also like the idea of Natasha being so hyperbolically intimidating she can just stare at people an her eyes radiate icy confession beams.

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

Goon on the Previous Page: Who?! Who are you?
Lottie: She didn’t answer him. Instead she just smiled at him. A smile of ice. The type of smile that freezes the blood in your veins.

Lie #1: Of course, there is no such person as Nancy Rushman. When civilian lives are really in danger, Natasha breaks cover and takes down all the armed robbery goons like it’s nothing. Lottie’s narration is camping a bit too close to Lake Melodrama, but that’s pretty typical for this era of comics.

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

The old woman in the previous panel is named Lottie Hederman. She’s a witness to a robbery (this robbery) and has agreed to be interviewed by FBI agent Carter Tenko. Lottie’s just describing how a bunch of armed goons showed up to rob First Trust (cute, huh) National Bank, where she works. How they kidnapped a new teller named Nancy Rushman.

Nancy Rushman is a semi-recurring identity of Natasha’s, invariably representing her total opposite. Someone timid, friendly, and unremarkable. The Rushman identity usually works in typical “female” service fields— she’s a bank teller here, previously an elementary school teacher. In Iron Man 2, she uses “Natalie Rushman” as a cover whilst she plays Tony Stark’s executive assistant.

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

The truth? You want to know the truth about what happened? I don’t know that I can do that. I don’t know that there is a truth.

This is the first panel of the story— before we learn who this woman is, or who she’s talking to, we get something about the truth, the whole truth, and how we should expect anything but.

It’s a common theme in spy fiction but one that doesn’t get applied to Natasha all that often. There’s the obvious deceit of her ill-suited codename, and the duality inherent in the ruthless compassion of her personality. And yeah, there’s often a play on expectations with Natasha. If she’s walking down the street alone at night in the wrong part of town, it’s the wrong part of town that should be afraid. Inversion of genre tropes, Buffy Summers 101. But few Black Widow stories are really about lies the way this one is.

And a spy, in the fundamental, fictional sense, is someone who lies in order to discover the truth.

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