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The cover of Black Widow #1, Marvel Comics (2019). Clayton Crain/Marvel Comics

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Black Widow hunting down child killers is the Soska Sisters’ ‘feel-good story of 2019’

The grindhouse filmmakers tackle the Marvel Universe’s greatest spy when she has nothing to lose

Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Black Widow has been through a lot lately. First, a Hydra-aligned Captain America killed her in Secret Empire. Then the Russian deep state cloned her for use as an assassin. Then the clone got Natasha’s memories back, lead a revolution in the Red Room, and is now a free agent.

That’s where horror filmmakers Jen and Sylvia Soska (American Mary, Dead Hooker in a Trunk) come in, with their Black Widow. In the five-issue miniseries, the sisters bring their love of the grindhouse aesthetic to the greatest spy in the Marvel Universe, when she has no one to spy for but herself.

The Soskas have written for Marvel before, penning Night Nurse and Deadpool stories, but Black Widow marks their first miniseries. In the first issue of Black Widow, Natasha hasn’t yet revealed to the larger world that she’s alive. She’s not an Avenger, and SHIELD doesn’t currently exist. And so after helping out Captain America (he’s good now) with another imposter situation, she puts herself in the one place she knows will have the most people worth using her skills on. That is, Madripoor, the Marvel Universe’s biggest hive of scum and villainy.

At the end of the issue, Natasha was ready and set to hunt down the makers of a series of live-streamed snuff films. With issue #2 out this week, we chatted with the Soska Sisters by email about Madripoor, Captain America, and unleashing the Black Widow in a full-on revenge story.

Polygon: What made you think, “Our Black Widow book belongs in Madripoor?”

Jen Soska: We wanted Black Widow to be unleashed in a truly ruthless way that reminded readers just what a badass she is. I’ve always loved Madripoor. The craziest stuff can happen there. No matter how big or insane or brutal a story we could come up with, Madripoor made it feel right at home.

Sylvia Soska: When you want your character to go somewhere emotionally and physically, you need to give them the proper motivation. If Nat just killed whoever for whatever reason, it wouldn’t be fair to her character. She is motivated by a very feeling heart. She can’t save herself from what she has survived up until this point, but she can use that skill set to make sure no one survives her vengeance

It’s clear from your letter at the end of issue #1 that you’re lifelong fans of Black Widow. When did you first realize you loved the character, and how did you get involved in writing her?

Jen Soska: The first time I really got into her was when she was with Matt Murdock. He was my man! That being said, Black Widow was way too good for him and to him. She was his live in GF, unmarried, a big deal back in the day. Matt would always spiral downwards in his Catholic guilt mixed with need for justice and Nat was so even, so level for him. She grounded him. And she made him better. When she left him and went her own way, I went with her and, wow, was I happy I did. I stuck with Matt but I was grateful to his impeccable taste in women. He should’ve never let Nat go, but who can keep her? She belongs to no one.

From Black Widow #1, Marvel Comics (2019).
Natasha, on her way to Madripoor, in Black Widow #1.
Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Flaviano/Marvel Comics

Sylvia Soska: We started reading Marvel comics when we were nine years old because it had more female characters in it than the other comics on the shelf. We related to the characters on those pages — a lot of them we wanted to grow up to be more like. I’m am drawn to flawed, human characters who do spectacular things from challenging circumstances, and Widow was the survivor of child abuse and militaristic torture to make her the weapon that she is. She’s a survivor who never stays down from long. A lot of people can draw strength from that. I know that I did. These stories mean so much to me, when we write, we think of the impact our words will have.

[This] gig came from the editor who has gone to bat for us for all of our Marvel writing gigs, the wonderful Jake Thomas. He called us and said that Nat might have a break in her schedule and would we be interested in pitching a Black Widow story, but one that shows off the Black Widow as the lethal weapon that she is — something that encompasses what she’s been through and what she is — the first time the pitch didn’t make it, but a few months later, Nat had a break and we got to fill it!

How did you decide to bring Captain America in for the first issue and what did you want to say about Natasha by putting her beside him?

Sylvia Soska: It felt like the right juxtaposition for the two to be teamed up after he killed her. There’s a lot going on under the surface between the both of them. Cap is in full ‘no kill’ mode not just because that’s what he believes in, but he feels he needs to reinstate it to Natasha that he is not a killer. Neither of them are. But he’s wrong — they both are. Cap is against another Cap imposter [in the issue] — it’s bothering him. He can’t get away from what he did in his thoughts or even in his circumstances. Nat seems calmer on the surface but she’s ready to explode. There are very few things in her life that she can 100% rely on and most of those have been torn away from her. They are both in such similar headspaces and they both decide to double down on who they believe they are to get through it. Cap is not a killer. Widow is and she’s very comfortable with it.

Jen Soska: Nat has been “playing by the rules” for a while and with where the story goes it was vital to make people realize Avengers Black Widow and Shield Agent Widow are not truly who she is. Nat plays by her own rules but can effortlessly drop into any situation or scenario. Black Widow is a deadly double agent named after one of the least suspecting but most dangerous arachnids on the planet. I’d also like to point out Cap used to kill but he is adamantly against it here (and in general) because he is leading by example. Nat is dealing with been killed by a faux Cap and being resurrected as a clone. And not for the first time. We couldn’t not comment on how this has [affected] their relationship and her mind.

From Black Widow #1, Marvel Comics (2019).
Natasha and Tyger Tiger in Black Widow #1.
Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Flaviano/Marvel Comics

The Grindhouse aesthetic is already bleeding into the edges of Black Widow #1, a genre you have deep roots in. Will we see even more in upcoming issues?

Sylvia Soska: There are some truly jaw dropping visuals and story moments in this run. It goes from hardcore ultra violence to ripping your heart right out. We wanted it to be very cinematic. Hoping it becomes one of people’s favorite Black Widow stories so maybe it’ll sink a little into the films. Widow is very capable all on her own. Actually, when she’s by herself, she’s terrifying. Be prepared for Widow to really show off these next few issues.

Jen Soska: Oh, absolutely. Issue four is a real stand out for us. Black Widow is hunting down child killers, so, yeah, it’s going to get brutal, but I maintain it’s the feel-good story of 2019. You get to see the worst of the worst who usually escape justice in the real world get what they deserve at Nat’s hands. It’s going to be glorious. Madripoor will never be the same once we’re done with it.


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