The Black Widow, as imagined by most of the Marvel writers thus far, has been something of an odd character. She's too good to simply throw away but, so far, she hasn't been good enough to stand on her own, so she's been a long-running major supporting player on Iron Man, the Avengers, Daredevil, and Captain America, in turn.
The Name of the Rose graphic novel captures the five-part Black Widow mini-series, where the Widow faces one of her toughest challenges, one that will assault her on a myriad of levels, physical, emotional, and mental, and that will nearly kill her. And that will resurrect people and events that she thought were long buried and forgotten.
The series begins with the Widow being sent a faded black rose and a ribbon. She has some inkling as to what they mean but will not tell even her closest friends and associates. This is her mystery and her fight and she will pursue it alone, on a quest that takes her all over the world as well as to decades in her past. There are some good interactions between the major players in this mini-series, including gems like:
Wolverine: Just a flesh wound, right?
Black Widow: Bleeding stumps are flesh wounds. What I've got is a scratch.
And a lovely bit very reminiscent of a scene in the Avengers movie where Natasha ... well, I won't say any more. This mini-series also understands that, at heart, the Black Widow is first and foremost, a spy, and that continues to have ripple effects through her entire life even after she has, in theory, given up the profession.
So what didn't I like?
- Natasha got taken out far too easily early in the mini-series.
- Based on personal experience, you don't get your abdomen sliced open, then stitched up again, then immediately go out and get into a fight.
- The motivation of one of the secondary villains was, frankly, a bit suspect.
- You really have to suspend your disbelief when it comes to how the major villain found out a crucial bit of information.
Note: I'm being vague because I don't want to spoil anything here. These are all fairly minor issues, though, and just require a bit of the usual "willing suspension of disbelief." Overall, the graphic novel is very good and it really gets to the heart of Natasha's character, as well as offering plenty of mystery, action, mood, and even a little romance and fun. I can recommend it unreservedly if you're a Black Widow fan or if you just like an enjoyable moody mystery and an indomitable character.