Marvel’s Black Widow from Spy to Superhero: Essays on an Avenger with a Very Specific Skill Set

First appearing in Marvel Comics in the 1960s, Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow, was introduced to movie audiences in Iron Man 2 (2010). Her character has grown in popularity with subsequent Marvel films, and fans have been vocal about wanting to see Black Widow in a titular role. Romanoff has potent appeal: a strong female character who is not defined by her looks or her romantic relationships, with the skill set of a veteran spy first for the KGB, then for S.H.I.E.L.D. This collection of new essays is the first to examine Black Widow and her development, from Cold War era comics to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

My daughters and I are huge fans of the Black Widow thanks to Marvel introducing a female character in their movies which are so full of testosterone you wonder how they don’t kill each other. Scarlett Johansson did such a great job she became a larger than life hero for my oldest daughter whose Autism sometimes makes her wish super heroes were real to protect her from those who treat her differently. Any time I can find something Black Widow related I jump at the chance to share it with her because there are so few really strong female role models.

 Reading this book made me want to sign every petition possible or protest outside Marvel Studios until Whedon makes a Black Widow movie. Her fans deserve it. She has such a rich history there is plenty of material to work with not to mention DC is coming out with a female centered movie (Wonder Woman, remember her?) so why can’t Marvel create one? Johansson has ALREADY established the character in multiple movies.

 These essays show her character’s intelligence, high skill level, strength but best of all her humanity because she wasn’t enhanced with special powers, magic or high tech suits of armor. She’s just a badass who through hard work, and some probable psych trauma with deep need of therapy, found a way to fight back through the injustices of the world. Something we could very much use in reality right now. She shows that women can be strong, intelligent and deserving of a place in this male dominated world.

 I like how each of the essays examined a different aspect of her character so you get this incredible depth of understanding you don’t normally see in the movies or comics individually. Not to mention they show how the perception of who she is and her place in the Marvel world has changed with time and social constructs.

 This is the perfect book to give Black Widow fans and women in general to remind us we have everything we need to be smart and strong inside of us.

  Thank you to Netgalley and McFarland & Co for allowing me to review this book.

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*synopsis and pic from

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