I posted a list like this a while ago but it deserves an update.
Most of their relationship is developed in Brubaker’s immense Captain America run. I usually recommend starting that book at the beginning (that is, Captain America v5 #1), but Natasha first appears in issue #27, and issue #25 is a decent starting point.
1. Available digitally as single issues: #616, #617, #618, #619.
2. Bucky appears in issues #15, #17, and #18.
3. This is a really brief flashback cameo.
4. You could also buy issues #9 and #10 individually.
† Denotes comics I particularly like.
The good Yelena stories are in the Itsy-Bitsy Spider TBP. Unfortunately, the Pale Little Spider MAX mini, which stars Yelena, hasn’t been collected.
The other two feature mostly as supporting characters. Monica Chang first appears in Ultimate Comics: Avengers, and then as a recurring character in Ultimates books.
Jessica Drew first appears as Black Widow in All-New Ultimates, and she has a few good moments in that book. But I’d recommend her earlier appearances as Spider-Woman to understand the character. She first shows up in the Ultimate Clone Saga, and continues to show up in Ultimate Spider-Man, then later joins the Ultimates when that book becomes Ultimate Comics: Ultimates. This TPB guide to the Ultimate Marvel Universe will give you the reading order.
For Claire Voyant, I recommend The Twelve.
Black Widow (2010) #1 – Comics by comiXology
Comixology is offering Black Widow #1 as a free download! This is the first issue of my most recommended Natasha stories, and a great issue to check out while you wait for the new series to drop next week.
Good question. Nothing mainline Marvel will show full nudity and swears get censored: it is all PG-13. Black Widow comics tend to be more mature in terms of their themes and violence, but they don’t break the basic Marvel rules. So, it depends on what you think your niece can handle and would enjoy. The target age for most comics is older than eleven, but not that much older.
The alternative to this is an “all-ages” line that skews a bit younger. The problem is that Marvel publishes much fewer of these comics, and so it’s way harder to find Natasha stuff.
So, that said, here’s some possible places to start, and some commentary that will help you decide what your niece might enjoy. You can always flip through a comic at the store to double-check the appropriateness level.
- Black Widow and the Marvel Girls. This is an all-ages series that features Natasha teaming up with various Marvel superheroines. The art is a bit boobtactular in places for an all-ages book, but the stories are simple and straightforward and often pretty cute.
- Black Widow: The Name of the Rose. What I recommend as a gateway book to Natasha, this is my favorite run on her comic, and it’s works pretty well as a starter book, too. This is a mainstream Marvel title with some intense if cartoon-y violence and a fairly significant (and also awesome) nude scene.
- Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread. This is the first volume of her most recent series, with two more volumes that follow after that. It’s a lot bleaker and more realistic-looking than Name of the Rose, and imo, not as good, but it is especially approachable for MCU fans and deals with a lot of the same themes and characters as she does in the movies. The tone and complexity level are pretty similar to Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
It’s easier to find more approachable Natasha comics if you’re willing to look at books where she plays a significant supporting role, so here are some recs for that, too.
- DeConnick’s Avengers Assemble run. This run features a lot of the movie characters, plus more women. It’s one of the more approachable and fun Avengers runs in recent memory. Natasha features most heavily in the Science Bros trade but she appears throughout the run.
- Nomad: Girl Without a World.This is a story that introduces Rikki Barnes, the Bucky of her universe that gets somehow trapped in another. It features Natasha in a mentor role, and there’s a harder-to-find team up that happens later. It also features Falcon and the Young Avengers.
Also worth mentioning is Black Widow: Forever Red, a YA novel. A sequel is coming!
I’d suggest Name of the Rose if you haven’t read it already, and I think the Edmondson/Noto stuff is a good follow-up to Breakdown, tonally. If you’re interested in learning more about Yelena Belova, I suggest Pale Little Spider, if it seems up your alley and you can actually find the issues.
For more suggestions, you can also check out my rec list. Happy reading!!
My general rec list includes places to start! I tried to pick comics that are easy to find, start their own stories, and don’t require much previous knowledge or comicsmarts— they’re also essential stories I think every Black Widow fan should read. You might not need this advice, anon, but I think some of my readers do: there’s no place in comics you have to start from and no reading order that can to force the Marvel universe to make sense. My first Black Widow comic was actually Daredevil v2 #2, then I read the Morgan and Grayson/Rucka stuff completely out of order, then I went back to the sixties Avengers comics and kept stabbing onward like this, haphazard, and I think I turned out okay.
Reading orders are only really essential for long runs where continuing stories get lost in renumbering. Things like Brubaker’s Captain America, where issue #50 leaps to issue #600, or Hickman’s Fantastic Four that becomes FF along the way. Black Widow hasn’t had any sweeping runs like that, so you’re generally good finding an issue #1 and proceeding to issue #2, or purchasing a trade you see in the book store that strikes your fancy.
Sure. Most of their relationship is developed in Brubaker’s immense Captain America run. I usually recommend starting that book at the beginning (that is, Captain America v5 #1), but Natasha first appears in issue #27, and issue #25 is a decent starting point.
I don’t do the pirate thing on this site, but there’s a buy-one-get-one thing going on at the Marvel store right now, so half of these comics can be free if you act quick.
1 Available digitally as single issues: #616, #617, #618, #619.
† Denotes comics I particularly like.