Preview: Secret Empire: Uprising #1, by Derek Landy and J. Cassara.
I don’t believe in the current “Black Widow” series that Natasha has found out about Nadia yet. So this is the first time that they’ll be in contact where they know about each other and that they come from the same place. That is touched on in the story. The kind of training that Natasha is giving is the kind that Nadia basically fled.
The conflict for her is what is she willing to do? She’s run away and gotten a new life. Then this horrible event happens and she has to deal with getting pulled back in. That becomes part of the conflict.
Natasha has a history of being used as a mean mentor to teen hero-types in one-off ways. She taught shooting to the kids at the Initiative, she apparently told young Franklin Richards how to shank people in Hickman’s Avengers run, and even her relationship with Rikki Barnes in her Nomad stories had shades of this.
This is directly and obviously in conflict with Natasha’s own backstory and her personal mission. Over and over we see Natasha determined to save young women from the sort of exploitation she has experience with. The Samnee/Waid Black Widow run was all about this, and so was DeConnick’s work with Natasha in her various oneshots.
It’s pretty telling that the first kind of story tends to happen in books that aren’t really about Natasha, while the second kind of story happens in books that are. Obviously, Nadia should be conflicted about being drawn back into the grimness of a life she’s escaped, but Natasha should be just as conflicted, maybe more.
I feel that if Marvel’s determined to push the child soldier angle with Natasha’s backstory they should also really be reexamining her relationship with the teen hero community, both the “mean mentor” stories and the ones where she functions as a more kindly older sister figure. It’s not that this means Natasha can’t be brutal or manipulative or even hypocritical. Abuse is a cycle, and we saw in how she dealt with Yelena that Natasha’s own past makes it hard for her to draw the same lines normal people would. I just would like a story that explored that dynamic with some weight and nuance.
I don’t expect Secret Empire: Uprising to be that story, since it’s a one-shot beholden to the needs of so many other characters, and that’s fine. But maybe if Nadia sticks around we’ll get there eventually. Mostly, I mourn the lost arc of Marjorie Liu’s X-23 that would have featured Natasha.
SECRET EMPIRE: UPRISING #1
DEREK LANDY (W) • J. CASSARA (A)
Cover by MEGHAN HETRICK
A crucial SECRET EMPIRE tie-in that bridges issues #3 and #4! There’s a new order to things in the world, but it’s not one that everybody agrees with! So what is there left to do about it? The Black Widow has a dangerous plan—but to carry it out, she’ll need the help of the young heroes of the Marvel Universe—and it will require them to cross a line they never thought they would!