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The Marvel Girls: Widow's Peak

Writer Paul Tobin examines the rise of a femme fatale in BLACK WIDOW & THE MARVEL GIRLS

BLACK WIDOW & THE MARVEL GIRLS #1 cover by Salva Espin
By Jim Beard

Poised to scale new heights with her appearance in the upcoming "Iron Man 2" feature film, the Black Widow stands as one of Marvel's most fascinating females-and a mystery waiting to be solved.

BLACK WIDOW & THE MARVEL GIRLS #1, the first in a four-part limited series beginning this December 2, not only spotlights the growth of Natasha Romanoff as a secret agent and super hero, but also her interactions with other leading ladies of the Marvel Universe.

"We really wanted to do two interweaving themes with the title, the first of which was to see Natasha during four distinct time periods of her career," says the series' scribe, Paul Tobin. "We take a look at her early KGB years, her S.H.I.E.L.D. years, her life as an Avenger, and finally her freelance years. Then, within that context, we also wanted to see her relationship with other women in the Marvel Universe.

"She's a rather contentious character, so it's been fun exploring how she plays off such other women as the Enchantress, the Wasp, Ms. Marvel, and Storm."

BLACK WIDOW & THE MARVEL GIRLS #1 preview art by Salva Espin
The inaugural issue explores the Widow's formative days as a Russian spy, training and toiling for her mysterious masters and honing the skills with which she'll later make her mark on the world.

"Her fighting spirit and determination are really the focus of the first issue, as well as just where that belief in herself stems from," Tobin explains. "Her early years in the KGB 'Red Room' training facility were not nice, of course. There is no room for 'C' students within that program."

The Black Widow debuted in 1964's TALES OF SUSPENSE #52, quickly impressing the Invincible Iron Man as a woman not to be trifled with. Alluring and deadly, Natasha brought much from her Red Room training to her first encounters outside her native Russia, as revealed in BLACK WIDOW & THE MARVEL GIRLS.

"Natasha doesn't make anybody's 'kindest soul in the Marvel Universe,' list, and the gentle side of her personality doesn't rank very high either; a lot of the reasons behind this are how she was treated in the Red Room," Tobin notes. "One thing the Red Room years never took away from her, though, is that she does have a belief in fighting for what's right. It's just a brutal path to get there."

BLACK WIDOW & THE MARVEL GIRLS #1 preview art by Salva Espin
BLACK WIDOW & THE MARVEL GIRLS #1 also features Amora, the witchy, wily Enchantress, scourge of both the Asgardian deities and the people of Earth. It may seem an unlikely team-up, the Widow and this sultry sorceress, and Tobin promises more than a few bumps along this particular road.

"Teaming the Enchantress with anybody is rather strange," he admits. "She's not really an individual who plays well with others. It's been somewhere in the realm of a couple thousand years since Amora has been in anything even close to an equal relationship. When series editor Nate Cosby and I decided the Enchantress was going to co-star in the first issue, we knew that anything like a traditional 'team up' was nonsense. That ain't how Amora does her thing."

When one seeks to encompass the combined beauty, brains and bodaciousness of the Black Widow and the Enchantress, only the most capable of illustrators will do. BLACK WIDOW & THE MARVEL GIRLS #1 claims such an artist in the personage of Salva Espin. Tobin says it's all about one thing with Espin's work: personality.

BLACK WIDOW & THE MARVEL GIRLS #1 preview art by Salva Espin
"Salva is especially good with expressions, one of those all-around artists that can give you a glimpse of not only what a character is doing, but their thoughts while they're doing it," the writer praises. "For a character writer like myself, that opens up a wealth of storytelling aspects.

"Beyond that, when I write down, '- and then things blow up,' Salva channels Krakatoa and puts it on the page, and I like that."

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