Ben: And Clint used to be a thief, right?
Jess: Mmm-hmm.
Ben: Who would hold that against him now?
Natasha: Yes. Yes. This is all very Fifty Shades of Hawkeye. Clint was a circus sharpshooter once too. And now Jess has snagged herself a clown.

Natasha, you dated Clint during his petty criminal/circus sharpshooter days. You also dated someone who ran around World War II with his underwear on the wrong side of his pants. Literally zero room to judge.

From Spider-Woman #17 by Dennis Hopeless and Veronica Fish.

Maybe I read it wrong, but isn’t Weeping Lion supposed to be about Nat’s age as well? If he was in the back seat on her first kill and they were about the same age, his almost teenager appearance makes no sense. One more reason I despise this run. Yes, comics are notoriously lacking in continuity, but this was just bad writing. You can’t have someone born in 1928 fighting a kid from that era who is still a kid… Lazy, lazy writing.

The flashback in this issue looked pretty 50s-ish. It’s definitely curious timeline-wise, but maybe we’ll get an explanation. We don’t know where Ilija’s powers come from, either, at this point. If we don’t get an explanation, I’m sure I’ll be able to no-prize it, but I’m going to hold off and see where it’s going.

I think we have very different ideas of lazy writing. I don’t think any of the storytelling in this book can be called lazy.

Once again, another fabulous issue! But again, the similarities between Recluse and Yelena are still a little too close for my comfort. Natasha even calls Anya “little one” which was always her pet name for Yelena! Which is also weird because I thought Nat and Anya were supposed to be the same age??? Anyway, I do want to see more of Recluse, she seems like she could be a really interesting character this series!

I don’t think “little one” is really a specific to Yelena— it’s a way of mimicking a generic Russian diminutive in English and so it gets thrown into Natasha’s dialogue a lot. Rooskaya/Русская is a much more specifically Yelena nickname. As for Natasha and Anya being the same age, I don’t really think it matters in this context: Anya is marginal compared to Natasha and they both know it. 

Re: the similarities with Yelena, it doesn’t bother me that much because those Yelena stories happened more than fifteen years ago, and if comics don’t actually repeat themselves, they do tend to rhyme. As someone who does like and care about Yelena, I don’t know that I would want her at the center of a story about bringing the old style Soviet Red Room back into its old child-trafficking glory.

Because Natasha doesn’t react to Anya the way she did to Yelena— she was cruel and twisted with Yelena but never lost sight of their shared victimhood. But Anya wasn’t part of the Red Room, was always an outsider, and the way to defeat her is to keep her out, to close the circle. The stakes have changed: for Natasha real victims are the girls that Anya is making, not the person Anya has made herself into.

What do you think about Ivan coming back (in flashback) in this latest issue? It seemed that in your latest essay about him you seemed pretty happy with the idea of him never showing up again.

Ivan’s probably the most important and consistent supporting character Natasha’s ever had, and so it would probably be a mistake to cut him out entirely. This is especially true of Natasha’s early years— I don’t think backgrounds for Natasha make sense if they don’t include some space for Ivan. He was a huge part of her story for more than a decade and also a demonstrable non-invented, non-false memory implanted person who interacted with not just Natasha but also other major figures in the Marvel Universe, especially Daredevil. So to explain a good bit of Natasha’s character you also have to explain why she was attached to Ivan for so long, and what he meant to her. Or, at the very least, leave room for possible explanations.

I do think the role he played in those old stories is dated and it’s nowadays unnecessary for an overprotective paternalist to be her constant companion, always telling Natasha she’s being too stubborn or too free. I don’t think it’s awful for her to have an overprotective paternalist figure in her life that she nonetheless appreciates and cares for. Plenty of women have fathers they love but do not agree with, and that does not make them weak.

The issue is that Ivan doesn’t really need to be alive for him to function as a distant and complicated figure in Natasha’s past. And also that making him a sexually assault robot was a bad idea that makes him much harder to use going forward. I’m not opposed even to Ivan coming back to life, just opposed to delving back into that terrible idea.

But the appearance in Black Widow #6 was really interesting, mostly because it complicates some of the stuff we know (or thought we did) about him:

Headmistress: For this mission, you’ll be playing the role of a wife in mourning. Yinsen is a very private man. He emerges very rarely from his laboratory.
Natasha: Then you do you know for certain he’ll be at this particular cemetery?
Ivan: How indeed.
Natasha: Who asked you, pig?
Headmistress: Never mind Ivan. He’s merely pitching in to help with transport. Let’s just say we’ve given him reason to be there.

When Ivan’s relationship with Natasha was first fleshed out, primarily in Daredevil, he claimed that Natasha’s espionage career was the one thing he didn’t know, the one part of her past he did not understand. But as Natasha’s stories moved away from street-level heroics and focused more on espionage, Ivan became involved with the spy stuff, too. In Champions he became a weapons expert who was strongly implied to be ex-KGB himself.

I always thought that made a lot of sense, or that it at least would help explain why the Hand and other spy groups were apparently chasing a tiny child accross the world. The Red Room’s particular interest in Natahsa makes sense if she was Ivan’s ward, especially if he wouldn’t give her up. That follows the basic outline of Deadly Origin pretty closely. Ivan adopted Natasha when she was very young, unknowingly handed her over to a Russian Murder Orphange, regretted it and broke her out, and lived on the run for many years until Natasha volunteered to join the Red Room to save his life.

It could also work with the more streamlined MCU-version of her backstory: Ivan found Natasha in a burning building when she was a very small child, and raised her for a few years, before turning her over to the Red Room, willingly or unwillingly.

This would give Ivan a reason to insert himself into Red Room business at every opportunity. A “reason to be there” as the Headmistress might say.

But of course, in this flashback, Natasha doesn’t seem to know Ivan very well and certainly doesn’t like him much. It doesn’t make sense if he’s the surrogate father figure we know him to be from the earlier comics. But Deadly Origin maintains that the Red Room manipulated a lot of her memories, which might cause her to not recognize Ivan. Another explanation is just that she was so young when she last saw Ivan she doesn’t remember him that well. A third explanation is that the “rescuing baby Natasha from a fire” story is just total bullshit Ivan made up later. Remember, we never see that scene told from Natasha’s point of view, only Ivan’s.

In any case, it’s interesting to think about how Ivan and Natasha got from where they are in the flashback to their Bronze Age status quo. When did Natasha begin to trust him? Did they help each other escape? &c, &c. This isn’t stuff I need the story to address because it’s compelling enough as an open question, but it is the kind of thing I like to obsess about on my nerd blog.

just from the end of BW #5 im a little concerned that the natasha-is-tony’s-mother theory is correct somehow?? but maybe they are just teasing us… who knows

I still think it’s pretty unlikely. The bioparents story is one of the biggest mysteries of Iron Man over the past few years and I doubt it’ll be revealed incidentally by a Black Widow villain as part of a larger Black Widow plot.

Plus, the “Black Widow is Tony’s mother” thing is something Newsarama made up because they couldn’t think of another female character who is old enough. It hasn’t been foreshadowed at all in Black Widow, and I kind of doubt readers would think the final page of this week’s issue meant “Tony is Natasha’s son” if it hadn’t been for that article.

Marvel isn’t trolling us; we are trolling ourselves.