Maria: Geez, that guy really is a great motivator— I’m jealous.
Natasha: Director Hill—
Maria: Relax, Romanov. If I wanted you arrested, you’d be doing that weird thing you do with your thumbs to get out of handcuffs by now. You might be on the outs with SHIELD officially, but this one is as off the books as they come. So for as long as Sharon, Steve and I are willing to look the other way— consider this a momentary truce. I just wanted to see how our savior’s doing.
Natasha: Frail. But motivated. You really think he’s got no shot?
Maria: Don’t joke. Everyone loyal to Denz got gassed before iPhones happened. At best, he’ll come up with a few hundred amateurs who were trying to avoid getting drafted into the other two armies. I could give them all Hulkbuster armor suits, and they’d get themselves killed setting off the airbags.
Natasha: So why go through all the trouble?
Maria: Two words— coordinated air strikes. Wait, is that three words? Doesn’t matter. Point is, SHIELD can’t help a butcher like Novoty beat HYDRA. But good old, loveable General Denz? Hero freedom fighter? Him we can drop a lot of bombs for.
Natasha: And when that helps Navoty take back his country?
Maria: This is not the house we live in, Nat— we can’t tell the neighbors what to make for dinner. Novoty might be the most underrated of history’s greatest monsters, but it’s him or the Red Skull. Of the two— which do you think shows up at our door first?
This is just about the first time we’ve seen Natasha outside of her own book since the universe reset. Bigger than that, it’s the first time we’ve seen Natasha interact with Maria Hill since she quit SHIELD at the end of the Edmondson/Noto run.
Spencer’s Maria Hill is even more of a jerk than most other versions, and she seems to lord her moral ambiguities over Natasha here, treating Natasha as almost naive. It’s at once very different from the dynamic they had in the Natasha’s last book, and very much the same classic asshole Maria Hill.
It makes sense: Natasha quit SHIELD to get away from missions like this one, to keep herself from becoming a necessary evil. But Maria Hill won’t quit SHIELD, or can’t. But the ruthless pragmatism that led to Natasha’s double betrayal is also something that’s keeping her out of prison. Maria can still use her.
(This is all complicated a bit by Nazi Steve’s moralizing voiceover, which I’m honestly not sure how to read. I wonder if Natasha’s going to appear more in this book or if this was just a one-off thing…)
From Captain America: Steve Rogers #7, by Nick Spencer and Jesús Saiz.