Natasha: It’s my fault you had to come help save the world.
Jessica: You keep saying that, but I’d like you to name one signigicant contribution I’ve made to this world saving. Standing around looking uncomfortable while other people argue doesn’t count.
Natasha: Right now you’re piloting a ship full of brilliant scientists to safe—
Natasha: What do you want me to say, Jess? Do you want me to apologize that your nervous breakdown P.I. fantasy had to come to an end? We left you alone for months to get your head straight— but time’s up. You’re an Avenger. Avengers don’t get to be normal. Not while the sky is on fire. We don’t get to run around alleyways beating up D-listers with Ben Urich. And we don’t have the time to teach Porcupine how to be a hero.
Jessica: I know. That’s why I quit.
This sequence in Spider-Woman #10 highlights how Natasha’s relationship with the Avengers has changed over time. Remember, back in Avengers #111 Natasha quit the team because she thought she could accomplish more as a street-level hero. After Onslaught, Natasha suffered from pretty severe survivor’s guilt that prevented her from re-joining the team until after Civil War. Her connection with the Avengers franchise since then has been built up for obvious editorial reasons, but it’s interesting to step back, and see how this has impacted Natasha’s character arc.
Because Natasha hasn’t just been ascendant with the Avengers, lately, the Avengers have been ascendant. And Natasha is drawn to things she puts higher than herself, causes that play to her own sense of service and selflessness. She’s a lone wolf, but a team player.
When she comes to Jessica like this, she’s just quit SHIELD and her own sideline mercenary business because they drew her into dark places. It’s clear she sees the Avengers now as emblematic of her righteous choices, the good she has done that no one can take away. It’s also how she knows Jessica: someone who has been through a similar slate of shit, and someone Natasha wants to find the same shreds of contentment she’s found. I think, after reaching out to Jess and trying to make her feel like part of the team, especially in Secret Avengers, it probably hurt Natasha’s feelings that Jess decided to ditch.
But it’s not like Natasha to say that. Natasha bosses around the people she cares about, instead. I love the potential of this relationship, the way they could challenge each other, the way there’s something at stake here for two women the world has taught to be lonely, the different ways they wear their wounds. Jess is trying normal, Natasha is weaponizing her exceptionalism, and neither have been 100% successful. I hope Natasha makes an appearance in the next volume of Spider-Woman, when the world isn’t ending, and maybe they come to the understanding they don’t, here.
From Spider-Woman #10, by Dennis Hopeless and Natacha Bustos.