My only complaint is these restraints. I’d like them a little tighter, please.
In 1999, Gail Simone, with the help of a few other fans, compiled a list of female characters who had been raped, killed, tortured, depowered as a plot device within superhero comics. She called it, “women in refrigerators.” You see: violence against women is far more likely to have a sexual context than the gobs and gobs of violence against men in superhero comics. Sometimes it’s even drawn to titillate— I’m reminded of Ultimate Wasp’s cannibalized corpse, her still-perky breasts.
Women in refrigerators is a memification of the superheroic glass ceiling. With one obvious exception, the most a superheroine can hope for, thanks to factors of history, is the upper B-list. Any reader will tell you: that’s where comic book characters go to die. Characters who are well-liked but don’t sell comics on a regular basis are the perfect crossover-fodder, see also the curse of the Giffen League. That’s why, when it comes to summer blockbuster finale deaths, Steve Rogers became a saint and Janet Van Dyne (my personal top Avengers leader) became an afterthought. Basically, Women in Refrigerators is a memetic way of saying that women will be harmed in service to a male-driven narrative far more often than a female-driven narrative will throw dudes under the bus.
I repeat what you probably already know because Marjorie Liu decided to put Natasha in a refrigerator. And she didn’t go halfsies: she put Natasha naked tied-up in the hands of the enemy. Inside a refrigerator.
It amazes me this is still getting notes. Hundreds and hundreds more notes a year after the fact, even! With months of hindsight I don’t feel this essay is my best work (always the case, no?) but I must have struck at a nerve.
You can buy this scene in TBP format, with larger arc attached. It is the first story I’d recommend for people new to Black Widow comics. It’s pitched as a jump-on point, explains her still-current status quo, and it’s also my absolute favorite.