Disclaimer: I do not actually want to write comic books!! I know that it’s a pretty common goal for over-opinionated fans but I don’t actually think I’d be that great at it. But I do want to write about writing comics more than I want to write my term paper at present, so here’s a post brought to you with the power of procrastination.
— I’d get a good, distinct artist. Natasha is a character that shifts genres and identities, so I think a consistant aesthetic is the easiest way to set the tone. I guess my ideal choice would be someone Darwyn Cooke-ish, suited to heavy shadows and bright colors, dark without being gritty, stylish and a bit retro. It would have to be someone good at drawing civilian clothing, knowing how fashion works and what clothes say about a person, because appearances are essential to any spy story.
— I would do it more spy-fi than grim and gritty, with SHIELD sponsored trips to the savage lands, weird technobobbles, and miniature martinis and futuristic underground villain lairs. It’s not that I don’t love a good no-frills dirty knife yarn, but the MU is the wackiest place on earth and it’s right there, so you might as well use it.
— No flashbacks, no origins, no random trips to the Red Room. Overwhelmingly all her recent stories have been focused on who she used to be, on her past striking back. I think that’s fine and appropriate but it’s made her backstory exponentially more confusing instead of easy jump on new readers start here, like I think Marvel intended. I think it’s just time to move forward.
— So here’s the pitch, more or less: Natasha Romanova is the world’s greatest secret agent, that paradoxical thing, a world famous spy. On the one hand impossibly glamourous, impossibly beautiful, on the other hand most people who’ve met her don’t even know that they have. They say a lot of things about her, behind closed doors, in the databanks of various government agencies— that she’s immortal, that she’s a superhero, that she really does eat her mates, that there have been many of her over the years, many young women adopting the name and the face. One thing they all agree on, though, is that she’s the best. And so she never wants for work. Got a mad urban warlord so sneaky no government yet has been able to grab a picture of his face? She can take care of that. Or a cultish sect dabbling in old magicks and trying to bring the Romanov dynasty back to power? She can take care of that, too.
— So, the book would start off with Natasha as an established hero, longtime trusted Avenger, and occasional SHIELD operative, with some of her own operations going on the side. Things will devolve from there, because you can’t keep that many pots stirring without one of them exploding on you. I think I’d try to organize the book by “mission”, a lot of short three issue arcs at different glamourous locations, with the occasional interlude focusing on her personal life or lack thereof. Hopefully these would all stack one on top of the other, with the same sinister organization showing up over and over, whether Natasha realizes it or not.
— Speaking of, I’d try to develop her rogues gallery. I’d want to use established characters like Yelena Belova and that pesky Alexi, but also establish some new characters as an evolving threat. I think there’s a lot of room for a foe that is an absolute, true mercenary, with no particular grudge against her at all— forcing Natasha to examine how personally she takes her work, or doesn’t.
— More along those lines, I’d give her a supporting cast, or try to. Her SHEILD handler that she keeps secrets from but still needs to trust with her life, the old man she plays chess with every Saturday, rain or shine, little details and human connections that keep her going even as she needs to hide and deny so much.
— The Last Brainwashing Story. A few issues in, after setting up the basic facts of Natasha’s life, where she lives, the people who matter to her, and a healthy amount of asskicking, I’d have one of those new villains emerge and use some new and improved psycho-ray gizmos to take over Natasha and screw everything up: compromising her relationship with SHIELD and exposing some of those private operations she didn’t want people to know about. People die, it’s not a game, and things get messy. “Wow,” you say, “but isn’t that all you’re tired of seeing in a Black Widow story?” Yes, but this one is different, because the real story is how Natasha copes with the after, how she decides, right then, that she’ll never be used again. How she follows up on this, before and after every mission, getting extra training, consulting psychics, maybe alienating some friends with her single-mindedness, her determination. I’m fed up with this bullshit, so is she, and I’d want to show why, why her agency is so precious to her, and why she doesn’t mind showing her scary side to keep it hers.
Because that’s the theme, fellas: control. That’s what it’s always been about, right from the beginning. Who has control, who doesn’t, the lengths you’re willing to go to get it. And when you have to be brave enough to let go.