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Marvel Graphic Novel #61: Review

Apr 1990
Gerry Conway, George Freeman

Story Name:

Black Widow: The Coldest War

Review & Comments

2.5 stars

Marvel Graphic Novel #61 Review by (April 21, 2021)
Review: The thing that immediately jumps out is the art: on the cover Natasha looks like the Joker’s sister (or vintage Annie Lennox on a bad day) and it doesn’t get any better on the inside, as she becomes a stony faced hag. The story is not all that interesting as we can already guess that Nat is being played and that isn’t really Alexei. And it is longer than it needs to be with the UN breaking taking up way too much time for a plot point that isn’t very important. The story is also marred by a number of typos: “Red Gaurdian,” “overide,” “Alexi” and “Alexei” alternating, etc. but the worst are in the dates: though the story is linear, we start in February 1988, jump back to Feb 1987 then to April 1988 then back to Feb 1987 for the remainder of the book. Trying to read the tale in this order will only cause a headache. The project appears to be an attempt to catch Natasha’s story up to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 but it appears to be the same old Cold War tale with a two-page epilogue tacked on announcing that things were now different. Doesn’t really work for me.

Comments:Marvel Graphic Novel”—Cover; if the numbering system had been maintained this would be #61. The account of the first appearance of the Red Guardian is from AVENGERS #43-44 (1969) Multiple inkers worked on this volume: Mark Farmer, George Freeman, Mark Harris, Val Mayerik, Joe Rubinstein, Ernie Colon.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Marvel Graphic Novel #61 Synopsis by Peter Silvestro

 Aboard a yacht at a Manhattan marina, a businessman named Pound is selling a computer disk full of top-secret tech to a bad guy named Sterling. Black Widow intervenes and seizes the disk but Sterling’s clients step out of the shadows and open fire; Sterling and Pound are killed but Natasha escapes. She swims to shore where she is picked up by Ivan Petrovich; on the way to the next destination, they spot a gray limo that has been following them and Ivan speeds off, losing their pursuers. They arrive at a Senator’s classy penthouse party where Nat passes the disk to her SHIELD contact, the washroom attendant. They are then accosted by their pursuers, a couple called Zamatev and Katrinka who are accompanied by a couple of KGB goons. Nat and Ivan subdue the goons and Nat dangles Zamatev over the balcony’s edge and he quickly shows her a photo—of Mikhail Gorbachev and Nat’s late husband Alexei Shostakoff….

At a quieter meeting in Nat’s home, we are reminded that Alexei was the USSR’s Red Guardian and he was killed in action in China. Zamatev and Katrinka show Nat and Ivan film that reveals Alexei survived the disaster in China and was restored to health in Moscow; now the Soviets want Nat to undertake a little task for them in exchange for Alexei’s continued care: the theft of a memo from UN headquarters. Nat throws them out then spends the night thinking about it. She calls Hawkeye for advice but when Mockingbird answers she hangs up. She goes out to find Daredevil but seeing Karen Page in his apartment prevents her from talking to Matt when she finds him. She calls Zamatev and Katrinka and tells them she will do the job….

Natasha cases the UN building as a tourist then returns that night to dodge the guards and filch the memo. When she returns to Zamatev and Katrinka, they spring a surprise on her: they didn’t want the memo, they just wanted to get the Black Widow on tape breaking into a secret facility to hold against her. Now they tell her what they really want: the control chip for the master matrix for SHIELD’s latest version of the Life Model Decoys. She agrees to do it on one condition: that she personally deliver the chip to Alexei, punctuating her requests with violence against her foes….

The next day, Natasha enters SHIELD HQ by one of their secret entrances, moves past all sorts of traps and defense protocols, takes down guards when necessary, and faces a huge android in the lab. She beats it in a fight while bantering with its creator, Dr Gorff who once made a pass at her while drunk. Nat then nabs the chip and departs with Ivan Petrovich whisking her away….

Natasha flies to Moscow with Zamatev and Katrinka, carrying the chip in a briefcase wired to explode if it is tampered with. She recalls a romantic tryst with Alexei on the way. At the lab, she is greeted by Alexei—who knocks her down and destroys the detonator, allowing the KGB Agents get the microchip. This Alexei is a Life Model Decoy and when the new chip is installed, he becomes the most powerful version of the Red Guardian (No. IV) and is ordered to eliminate Black Widow and Ivan Petrovich. There is a battle while the LMD, which retains Alexei’s memories, mocks Natasha who fires her Widow’s Sting first at the LMD and then at the electrical wires overhead, electrocuting her giant foe. Nat and Ivan escape to Red Square where the damaged Alexei LMD catches up to them. It proceeds to beat Natasha severely but when it grabs her in a bear hug, she reaches to the back of its neck and removes the microchip whereupon it collapses. Katrinka orders Natasha’s arrest but Nick Fury arrives with the KGB officers who arrest Katrinka for her unauthorized project. Nat and Ivan go home….
Epilogue: Three years later, Natasha and Nick Fury meet in a park where Nat tells Nick that she was contacted by Zamatev, part of the new post-Soviet government, asking her to come home to dance. She exults in her new freedom….  

George Freeman
Lovern Kindzierski
George Freeman (Cover Penciler)
George Freeman (Cover Inker)
George Freeman (Cover Colorist)
Letterer: Ron Munz.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Black Widow
Black Widow

(Natasha Romanoff)

(Matt Murdock)

(Clint Barton)
Ivan Petrovich
Ivan Petrovich

(Ivan Petrovich Bezukhov)

> Marvel Graphic Novel: Book info and issue index

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