By Ben Morse
In 2011, terror overtakes the Marvel Universe as Fear Itself envelops its heroes and villains.
To delve deeper into what lies at the root of this climactic event, each week in Fear Files we will speak with Marvel’s biggest creators about exactly what frightens the premiere heroes and villains whose lives they guide.
From a young age, Natasha Romanova has been trained to suppress her own feelings and become a focused operative with her eyes only on achieving her goals. On June 29 in FEAR ITSELF: BLACK WIDOW #1, the Soviet super spy faces a city in turmoil thanks to The Serpent, but also her own repressed emotions and fear of embracing them. We spoke to the book’s writer, Cullen Bunn, on what scares the Widow…
Marvel.com: What is The Black Widow most afraid of?
Cullen Bunn: As we kick off FEAR ITSELF: BLACK WIDOW, Natasha is already in a very dark place—a breeding ground of guilt, anger, and fear. All her life, she's been trained to push these emotions deep down, to channel any fear she might be feeling into cold-blooded efficiency. While she might not recognize it, she's afraid of what happens when those emotions are so overwhelming that they overshadow her own professionalism. That's where she is to some degree. She's using her anger and fear to help her get the job done, sure, but she's in danger of losing control. She's greatly concerned about those who would use times of mass fear, of mass chaos, to create more terror. If fear goes out of control, it just continues to breed, throughout the world and within herself.
Marvel.com: How does she find herself defined by the people she cares about and who surround her in this regard?
Cullen Bunn: The people she cares about are a catalyst for the Widow's state of mind in this story. By her very namesake, The Black Widow is cold, ruthless, and deadly. The people she cares about have been hurt. They're in danger. But the Widow is dispatched on an important mission, and she can't be there to support her friends. The nameless, faceless masses she's struggling to save become a proxy for the people she cares for deeply. Woe to the people who would hurt them.
Marvel.com: You say she's afraid of forming attachments because it might affect her professionalism, but on some level is that an excuse for her being afraid to lose people?
Cullen Bunn: I think so. I mean, we all make dozens of excuses each and every day. Oftentimes, those excuses are defense mechanisms to protect us from failure or from being hurt. The Widow is no different than you or me—except for her ability to break every bone in our bodies in the blink of an eye. She's sealed herself off over the years, played the role of the cold-blooded assassin who doesn't want anyone getting in her way. In the end, though, she's afraid of losing the people she cares about. She's afraid of being unable to protect or save them.
Marvel.com: Her relationship with Bucky is probably among the most significant and lasting romantic attachments she’s had in some time if not ever—how is she different as a result of being with him?
Cullen Bunn: In Bucky, Natasha has found someone—finally—she feels she can trust completely. In many ways, she found a kindred soul in him. This puts a few cracks in the wall she's built around herself. But it also puts her at risk, too.
Marvel.com: When confronted with a situation like Fear Itself where you’ve got a mass panic among civilians, how does The Black Widow respond? Does she acknowledge that some of these people look to her as a hero and attempt to inspire or shrink away from that burden and fall back on her training to operate behind the scenes?
Cullen Bunn: She definitely feels she can do the most good behind the scenes. She feels the plight of the masses, but her inclination is to cut to the root of the problem as quickly—as lethally—as possible. In terms of the trouble she's facing in France, it means she can't rush to the aid of every individual, at least not if she wants to help the public at large.
Marvel.com: What is the Black Widow’s worst nightmare?
Cullen Bunn: I think the Widow fears that everything she does—that everything she's done in her life—is for nothing. She's given up any semblance of a normal life. She's given up—figuratively or literally, depending on your point of view—her humanity. For many years she sealed herself off completely from the people around her. More recently, she's even given up some of the security of being emotionally shut off by letting people get through to her. And deep down she's afraid that all the sacrifices she's made are pointless. A single bullet can change everything, even in a "normal" world. In her world, a madman—or madwoman—with a finger on a trigger or a button or a cosmic death machine or a magic hammer can wipe the slate clean in a matter of seconds. The Widow is charging full speed ahead into all manner of terrible threats. She's been setting that pace for years. But it's almost like running a race that you might not only lose, but someone could just yank the finish line, the other runners, and even the finish line off the map.
Natasha goes up against perhaps her greatest challenge to date in FEAR ITSELF: BLACK WIDOW #1 by Cullen Bunn and Peter Nguyen on June 29.
For more information on Fear Itself, visit the official event page.
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