Strike: We strip the mind down and reveal its core, the reptilian brain— a much finer machine.
Natasha: Reptilian? As in lizards and snakes? Sounds… chilling.
Strike: How so? Tell me, Agent Widow— wouldn’t you like to be rid of the clutter of memory and emotion— to be a more effective espionage agent? Let’s move on to section six: Agent Hazzard. His raw material was splendid. He had all the proper… childhood traumas. We were able to take that pathos, bypass the inhibitor systems, the guilt… and hone him into the perfect soldier, capable of anything. You see, Natasha, Agent Hazzard… is very much a reptile.
Remember when I was basically going through every panel of Brubaker’s Captain America run and writing paragraph upon paragraph of overthinking it? I’m doing it again but with Nocenti’s Daredevil. For a lot of reasons, but mostly because I find it interesting.
This issue (Nocenti’s first writing credit on the title) opens with a villain monologue, then cuts to Natasha’s reaction. Of the story’s major players, Daredevil is actually the last to debut.
I’ve talked a bit about how control, or lack thereof, is a recurring theme in Natasha’s stories. But it’s not a simple control-good! / no-control-bad! dichotomy. There are no easy goods and bads, and to be an agent, by definition, is to sacrifice some of your own self-determination to act in the service of some greater cause. Compare this with being a super-hero. In the 616 to put on gaudy colored tights is to become both man and symbol. To take up a mask is to conceal your identity and move beyond it. But the superhero wears her own colors, acting almost as an individual writ-large instead of as a part in a large machine. Superheroes do not have bosses.
What Dr. Strike proposes to Natasha, what he’s wired into Hazzard, is a sort of total control. Complete dominance over emotions, of guilt, of all these things that get in the way of being a supremely effective field agent. But it’s also a complete sublimation.
Notice also when Strike refers to Black Widow as Agent Widow and when he calls her Natasha. Notice also that he never calls Hazzard by his first name— Jack.
From Daredevil #236, by Ann Nocenti and Barry Windsor-Smith.