WIDOWMAKERS: RED GUARDIAN & YELENA BELOVA #1/ Script by DEVIN GRAYSON/ Art by MICHELE BANDINI/ Ink Assists by ELISABETTA D’AMICO/ Colors by ERICK ARCINIEGA/ Letters by VC’S CORY PETIT/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
Once, Yelena Belova was meant to become the Black Widow. Trained in the same Red Room protocols that turned Natasha Romanoff into the world’s deadliest spy, Yelena was meant to kill the former Russian agent after she defected to the United States and became an Avenger. She fought both with the Avengers’ greatest enemies and alongside the Avengers themselves, all while trying to fulfil her mission and prove her worth.
She failed. The government that created her has passed into history. The Russia she was meant to represent is not far off.
What place is there in the world for the soldier of a fallen army, whose only loyalty is to a dream now dead? It is a question Yelena has sought answers to in mercenary work, doing the dirty work of rich men who can afford a Widow. Rich men like Justin Cask, who recruits her to break into a former SHIELD black-ops site in Antarctica to rescue one Dr. Durst from whoever took over the site after SHIELD shut down.
Unbeknownst to Yelena, the same base holds another man, who, much like her, is a relic of Russia as it once was; the Red Guardian. He once dreamed of starting a new Russian empire but now he mostly dreams of his ex-wife; the same woman who put him behind bars… Natasha Romanoff!
There’s something oddly surreal about reading Widowmakers: Red Guardian & Yelena Belova. This comic was meant to come out several months ago, along with the Black Widow movie. Its general theme is centered around two characters who were trained to be symbols of a government that has been largely discredited and dismantled on the world stage battling against their own obsoleteness. Its opening speech includes a monologue about the rich playing games with ordinary people who don’t realize their lives are a gameboard. It is, at the same time, dated and a product of its time, yet timeless and unintentionally relevant to the here and now.
Ignoring that accidental relevance, Devin Grayson is in fine form, trying to update the new Black Widow character she co-created roughly 20 years ago for the modern Marvel Universe and give her a new purpose apart from trying to kill Natasha. Yelena is the true focus of this issue, with Red Guardian being a secondary character who doesn’t show up until the book is two-thirds over, despite receiving top-billing in the title. (Typical Yelena – always second, even in her own story!) Ignoring that, the issue is a fantastic character study of Yelena and it does set her up in an exciting new role that would be an interesting series, if it were to happen.
Michele Bandini has a good sense of visual storytelling and the action flows well enough. The problem is that there is a lack of depth to the inks on some of the pages and Yelena seems less heavily defined and inked then the soldiers she is fighting against. Perhaps that’s meant to be some effect of the white stealth suit she’s wearing but, if so, it’s not executed well. The colors by Erick Arcinega are oddly muted, even considering the action is largely confined to an Antarctic military base. All in all, the artwork for this issue is serviceable, though not outstanding.
Fans of Devin Grayson and Yelena Belova will want to pick this up, but there’s little to recommend it to anyone else. It’s a good, but not great comic, which doesn’t seem to hold much significance except to those mapping out the current history of Black Widow and everyone tied to her. A blurb at the end suggests Red Guardian and Yelena will be showing up soon in Kelly Thompson & Elena Casagrande’s new Black Widow title, which may retroactively make this comic more relevant.