Natasha: …You’re still here.
Ana: That stray is sticking around, thanks to you.
Natasha: A lonely neighborhood for a cat, I suppose, Ana.
Ana: Yes. A lonely neighborhood, for all creatures. But this one waits for you, I think.
Natasha: I can’t let you in, I’m sorry. That’s one mistake I won’t make twice.

I think a lot has been made of Natasha’s commitment to loneliness, to what degree she is or is not a broken, solitary bird. In the case of this panelset, though, I think it is wise to remember the context. She’s just come back from a mission where she defeated the bad guy, but not before he killed some acquaintences of hers, people she seemed to like and genuinely wanted to help. Natasha stands in violent spaces, and people who keep too close do get hurt. That is the nature of her name: a black widow brings death to her lovers. Natasha has done bad things and holds that part of her regret close, but she is also fundamentally a survivor, and that carries its own guilt.

That Natasha feels this, and sees herself in some stabbing instances as a curse and a danger to the people around her is, to me, more proof that she’s working than proof that she’s broken.

Natasha names the cat Liho, in Slavic mythology the name of a creature of bad luck, ill will, misfortune. Black cats live in fairytales and often appear as omens, or at the side of witches. Liho is bad luck, and it is bad luck to be around Natasha. Misfortune is literally waiting for her. There’s a Russian idiom— не буди лихо, пока оно тихо— that means something like “let sleeping dogs lie.” Don’t trouble until trouble troubles you.

The thing is, of course, that Natasha is trouble walking. She can’t stick to the mission, she can’t keep her hands and feet inside the vehicle, she has to do better, has to help, has to keep trying. So of course, she eventually lets the cat in.

From Black Widow #2, by Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto.