Fury: Why are you asking about her?
Ulrich: I’m trying to put the pieces together.
Fury: The pieces… Natasha died four years ago.
Fury: Died. Dead.
Fury: The Avengers. A skrull thing. We kept it quiet at her request.
Daredevil: End of Days is a miniseries coming out now with the compelling premise of “everyone dies, Klaus Janson and Bill Sienkiewicz draw things.” In a future where comic book timelines are vague, Ben Ulrich is investigating the murder of Daredevil and the Kingpin— he tries to track down Black Widow, only to have Fury tell him she’s been dead for four years. It made me think of two very different Natasha panels, one written by Marjorie Liu, one by Richard K. Morgan.
You always knew. Across this flag-worshipping idiot glboe, fighting the shadow wars, this side, that side, both ends against the middle, noble causes and dirty little deals. Cracking your sinews at the edge of loss, breaking the bones and minds of those who lost the game to you. And all the time you knew that sooner or later it would come to this. No one plays forever and there’s only one way they let you cash out. But you always thought you’d die alone.
Imus: You can’t win by walking away, Natasha. I have the technology. And even if you take that away, I still have my memories. Enough to rebuild. There’s only one way to end this for good.
Natasha: Shut up, Imus. You’ll die one day. So will I. But unlike you… I’ll show some spine. And I won’t be alone.
Superhero comics are known for their contradictions, the way they bend back on themselves and change what came before. But there are also contradictions in the way certain writers approach certain characters, who are all supposed to be the same. And it’s rare that it stares you back so starkly as this.
It’s no surprise that I’m on Team Liu and not Team Morgan, but this really gets to the heart of what I felt was lacking from Morgan’s Natasha— mostly, the heart. It’s very easy to make her this sort of lone wolf figure, cold and removed. “Love is for children,” and all of that. But if you glance back through her history, there’s no way that adds up. She has always made these very strong, very human connections. Her loneliness is one of survival, not death. She’s cold, not because she doesn’t care, but because she cares so deep-down it’s hard to see it.
Of course, she could die alone, it wouldn’t be hard. But Morgan had Natasha rejecting her previous connections because he thought they made her weaker, and that’s always struck me as going backwards. There’s a tremendous strength she has, in being complicated, but not fundamentally broken. She treasures companionship and owns her desires.
In Morgan’s defense, Natasha didn’t die alone— she was rescued by women she’d previously saved. It was a nice twist, one I really appreciated. But I still don’t know how Natasha could see herself dying alone when she’s been there through the deaths of so many people she’s treasured.
All of which is to say, you think I’d be mad Bendis went and killed Natasha off-panel. But I’m not, because he made it clear that she didn’t die alone.
From Daredevil: End of Days #2, Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her #6, and Black Widow #5.
Bendis clarifies that though the story started in Avengers, the story involved the entire Marvel Universe. “It stars the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Moon Knight, Black Widow, it goes all over the place,” the writer says.