Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr Comics aren’t always easy to read. Actually, for the most part, they’re extremely complex and difficult to understand (unless you have Wikipedia pulled up on your computer as you read them). They typically require a lot of background knowledge on characters and arcs that a lot of superhero fans probably don’t have. Let’s say you love Black Widow, from the MCU films. You know about her on-screen character, but you want to learn more about her comic character. If you went to a comic book shop and bought the first Black Widow comic you saw, chances are you’d be a little lost. That’s where our ComicsVerse reading guides come into play. With this Black Widow essential reading list, you’ll be well equipped to head over to your LCBS or Comixology and start your Black Widow comic collection. BLACK WIDOW: DEADLY ORIGIN Miniseries Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment If you don’t know much about Black Widow’s comic origins (and don’t want to read the really dated stuff), this is a good place to start. The 2009 miniseries features two main storylines: one set in present day and one from Natasha’s past. The modern storyline is your typical end-of-the-world disaster plot that honestly isn’t all that exciting. You can pick up most any issue of AVENGERS and get generally the same story. It’s not bad — just a little bland. Because of that, I recommend reading this series solely for the flashback scenes. The flashback scenes do an excellent job showing a general overview of Black Widow’s early life and later career. These scenes cover her relationship with her mentor Ivan, her introduction to the Western superhero lifestyle, and her various romantic ventures. You can get a lot of what writer Paul Cornell elaborates on in the miniseries by reading Black Widow’s older comics, but those aren’t always enjoyable for today’s fans. DEADLY ORIGIN will give you enough of Natasha’s backstory to allow you to read and understand her later series without having to Wikipedia her character profile every other page. TALES OF SUSPENSE #52-3, #57, #60, #64 Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment If you’re not dissuaded by the idea of returning to the golden age of comics, TALES OF SUSPENSE #52 should be on your to-read list. This comic came out in 1964 so be prepared for some overt sexism, a really dated Iron Man suit, and lots of cheesy dialogue. Still, if you’re willing to put up with all of that, these issues are a good way to become familiar with Natasha’s earlier incarnation. It isn’t perfect, but it’s what we got. The later issues (#57, #60, #64) mark the beginning of Natasha and Hawkeye’s long and complicated relationship. If you’re a fan of the famous AVENGERS film ship, you might want to check those out. AVENGERS #29-39 Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment We can’t really have a Black Widow ultimate reading guide without mentioning the Avengers. For most Marvel film fans, Black Widow is a pivotal member of the on-screen Avengers. While that’s true for the movies, it isn’t necessarily true for the comics. It took a long time for the Avengers (and S.H.I.E.L.D.) to trust the ex-KGB agent. While she initially met and tried to join the prestigious team way back in AVENGERS #29-39, her efforts weren’t successful. These ten issues are pretty dated, but I decided to add them to the list because they illustrate the divergence between her on-page and on-screen character. The MCU Black Widow is tame compared to this version of Natasha. DAREDEVIL #81-124 Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment As strange as it might sound to most fans, Black Widow has a long history with the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. While Bucky and Hawkeye are still her two greatest loves, Matt Murdock was one of her most loving partners. The two met when a mission forced the unlikely duo to work together. They soon became an item and, for a while, they had a stable relationship. The over forty-issue arc in DAREDEVIL details their developing romance and its eventual deterioration. Even if you’re not interested in Daredevil and Natasha’s relationship, writer Gerry Conway knows how to write a comic. The storyline is interesting, and he does a great job rounding out Natasha’s character. If you like Marvel comics (and I’m assuming, since you’re here, that you do), this arc is worth a read. CHAMPIONS (1975) Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment Before the modern version of the Champions (a.k.a. Marvel’s iteration of the Teen Titans), it was a team of seemingly random heroes that Black Widow somehow managed to herd together. Not wanting to conform to the requirements of other superpowered teams, Natasha decided, in her typical hard-headed fashion, to make her own team. She pulled together Hercules, Angel, Ghost Rider, and Iceman and founded the Champions. CHAMPIONS isn’t a perfect series, but it does do a few things right. It shows readers Natasha’s leadership skills and her ability to work in as a member of a team. It also shows her short-lived relationship with Hercules, which mirrored the brief shelf-life of the team. BLACK WIDOW (1999) Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment For the sake of brevity (and your wallets), I’m skipping ahead to Black Widow’s more contemporary storylines. A lot happens in Natasha’s life between 1975 and 1999, but none of it’s really necessary for a first-time reader. For now, let’s focus on Black Widow’s first solo series, which debuted in 1999 under the Marvel Knights banner. This short miniseries focuses on Yelena Belova, who’s pretty much Natasha’s twin. Equipped with the same training, the same sleek black suit, and even the same codename, Yelena’s mission is to become the new Black Widow — killing the old one in the process. The series introduces one of Natasha’s greatest villains. Although it isn’t a particularly old series, it’s become a classic in Natasha’s comic history. BLACK WIDOW (2001) Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment After the success of Natasha’s first solo series, Marvel was keen on putting out another miniseries with the same heroine and the same villain. This one, however, didn’t garner quite the same excitement, mostly because it’s ridiculously insane. In the series, Natasha surgically swaps her and Yelena’s faces. Overnight, Yelena becomes Natasha and Natasha becomes Yelena. Not surprisingly, chaos ensues. If you’re not willing to suspend some serious disbelief, this series probably isn’t for you. But, if you enjoy weird comics as much as I do, I highly recommend giving this one a shot. You might also want to pick this one up if you enjoy traditional comic book art. Scott Hampton hand painted every single panel, making this one of the most artistically memorable books on the list. BLACK WIDOW (2010) Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment In 2004 and 2005, Black Widow had two other solo series that, if you have additional time, are fairly good. They don’t really touch on many unique aspects of Natasha’s character which is why we’re jumping ahead to her 2010 solo series. Writer Marjorie Liu and artist Daniel Acuna completed the first and more successful arc in the series. Liu’s intimate and emotional characterization of Black Widow offers a stark contrast to the coldness many writers typically associate Natasha with. While Natasha is no shrinking violet in the 2010 series, she does show a softer side of herself that readers rarely get to see. Paired with Acuna’s raw, saturated artwork, this series is a poignant and passionate rollercoaster. Every Black Widow fan needs to read this series at least once (or maybe three times). BLACK WIDOW (2014) Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment If you frequent comic shops and comic cons, chances are you’ve laid eyes on an issue or two of Phil Noto and Nathan Edmondson’s 2014 BLACK WIDOW solo series run. Phil Noto’s legendary covers for the series created the quintessential Black Widow “look.” Unlike a lot of artists, Noto was able to give Natasha a definitive appearance (from facial features to hairstyle) that barely wavered from panel to panel. The 2014 Natasha became the Natasha of comics. Compared to Noto’s stunning artwork, Edmondson’s writing is, admittedly, a little lackluster. The series chronicles Natasha’s assassin career outside of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers. It reads like your typical serial-style spy novel. While that aspect of it may not be phenomenal, Noto’s art makes up for any shortcomings. BLACK WIDOW (2019) Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment During the SECRET EMPIRE comic event, Hydra Captain America killed Black Widow with a shield to the neck. What was a very dramatic scene became considerably less dramatic when Natasha reemerged in TALES OF SUSPENSE toting a brand new body. Like most deaths in comics, Black Widow’s didn’t stick. Within a few months, she was back at her old spy game in the recent 2019 solo miniseries BLACK WIDOW. Written by the Soska sisters, this solo series (thus far) delivers everything anyone could ask for in a Black Widow comic: violent action scenes, deep, semi-depressing introspection, and one of the greatest Patch homage’s ever. Natasha always shows off her bad-ass side in her solo series, but the Soska sisters pay special attention to that aspect of Natasha’s portrayal. Although a little gory at times, the series makes sense. Natasha’s an ex-assassin who was killed by one of her closest friends’ lookalike (and then resurrected by the Russian government). Of course she has some pent up anger. Earth-616 is a Big Place Black Widow is an extremely popular character in Marvel comics. Because of this, we couldn’t possibly list every single comic series that she stars in on our Black Widow essential reading list. If you’d like to learn even more about Natasha’s character, beyond her origins and solo series, the ever-expanding world of Marvel comics awaits you!