Characters Appearing: Black Widow, Hawkeye, Ivan Petrovitch
Amazing Adventures #5-8 (Black Widow)
Issue(s): Amazing Adventures #5, Amazing Adventures #6, Amazing Adventures #7, Amazing Adventures #8 (Black Widow stories only)
After the surprisingly decent first half of this series, things take a disappointing turn when Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway take over the writing.
Plotwise, it's a more straightforward story than Freidrich's "relevant" one, with a loon called the Astrologer...
...getting a gang to kidnap a doctor who is developing synthetic blood to eliminate the need for blood donations. Nothing wrong with that. But a number of weird elements are introduced.
Most notable is the change for Ivan, the Black Widow's chauffeur. He's given an actual personality (he loves old action television shows)...
...and a history (he's been with the Widow since she was a little girl, and he was a soldier at Stalingrad), all of which is fine. But he's suddenly also a beefy action hero himself and he starts accompanying the Widow on missions. The risk of upstaging the Widow is real here; she's a non-powered but highly trained fighter, but now putting her on equal footing with her chauffeur in a battle situation is kind of a humiliation. This was also a rare title with a female lead; giving her a male partner dilutes that.
There's also a shift towards showcasing the Widow's sexiness, with at least one scene per issue of the Widow in a state of undress (compared to no such scenes in the previous 4 issues; the closest is that "Eyes front, Ivan" scene i posted in the entry for those issues, which is much, much tamer).
(Shower scene above provided for academic interest only! I am resisting posting ALL of the similar scenes even thought it would make for a stronger case.)
The Black Widow is a woman in a skin-tight black leather outfit.
For titillation purposes, it's really not necessary to also see her coming out of the shower, etc. This is a very common problem for stories with female leads - and not just in comics - where there's an attempt to strike a balance between the interests of the feminist audience and the audience for nekkid women, and that's not an easy needle to thread. I fall into the former camp, so i was pretty impressed with the previous issues and disappointed to see the slide here.
Finally, and most weirdly, is the introduction of a "Widow's Curse". It start's when a boy that was helping the Black Widow against the Astrologer's gang dies. Then she brings up the death of her husband. Then, fighting the Astrologer, she accidentally kills him. Later, in the final story, the bad guy is again killed (by his own actions).
These deaths give the Widow a complex that makes her think that everyone she comes in contact with will die, and it also causes hesitation during her battles. To be generous, this could have been an attempt at giving the Widow her very own Marvel Hanguptm, and a tie-in with her name, but the end result is making the Widow more unnecessarily emotional and ineffective.
There is still that sort of brute-force feminism that shows that Thomas and Conway were at least trying to do the right thing.
The final story, unrelated to the first three, has the Widow rescuing Ivan from a wild Kirby-esque villain called the Watchlord...
...who is a Catholic anti-communist with telekinetic powers, which is certainly an interesting idea although there is not a lot to do with it in half an issue. The fact that Ivan is playing the role of hostage, and the fact that he gets knocked out during the subsequent fight, mitigates some of my complaints above. But then the story ends with the Widow completely at the mercy of the Watchlord and only saved when the actions of the villain himself cause a rockslide that kills him.
Cameo by Clint Barton, who the Widow briefly considers going to for support but then sneaks away before he sees her.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP puts Hawkeye-Goliath's appearance here before Avengers #88.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Black Widow: The Sting of the Widow TPB
The Astrologer storyline was inspired by a severe blood shortage in NYC at the time...but all the O-negative blood in NYC stored in one place? Speaking as a Red Cross employee, UH UH. That stuff gets shipped out to hospitals as soon as possible; it doesn't have a long shelf-life.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 3, 2013 5:35 PM
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