Black Widow Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread written by Nathan Edmondson and art by Phil Noto
Natasha Romanov, former KGB-trained assassin now known as Black Widow, is trying to make up for her past sins. In addition to working with the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D., she does free-lance assignments. She has an accountant to manage the finances and get the jobs. The money goes to families she hurt in one way or another. The stories here mostly focus on her free-lance work. The jobs are varied and very shady, often requiring the killing of evil people (which she is okay with). Sometimes plans go south or the target isn't exactly what she was told, so she has to improvise. A couple of times improvisation costs her the fee, which the accountant balks at because of all the expenses they have to maintain an international spy. These stories are stand-alones and work to give some character depth to Black Widow. They also have fun action sequences. And there's a bit of Black Widow's home life, dealing with a neighbor and a stray cat trying to become her pet.
The last half of the book is devoted to a job she does for S.H.I.E.L.D. An embassy in America is blown up, which could be construed as an act of war, but really the target was one person in the embassy. Black Widow has to follow a trail of clues across the globe which pits her against an extremely difficult opponent. This story was more interesting to me than the first half's stories.
The art looks more like water colors than like typical comic book art. The shift suits the more somber mood of the book. Happily, Black Widow herself is not drawn as some pin-up girl who doesn't know how to zip up her shirt (though two of the alternate covers in the back of the book do treat her that way). She is much more realistic and thus easier to take seriously as a character. She does bleed and she doesn't always win but she always does what she thinks is right. I look forward to more of her adventures from this creative team.