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Best Black Widow comics of all time

Black Widow #3 variant cover
Black Widow #3 variant cover (Image credit: Jen Bartel (Marvel Comics))

After 11 years of being the co-star of someone else's movies, the MCU's Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johansson) is getting a movie of her own. But if you're like us, one may not be enough. Thankfully, there are comics.

Coinciding with the theatrical debut of Marvel Studios' Black Widow, Newsarama has come up with a definitive list of the best Black Widow comics out there - and that's a lot of ground to cover, considering Natasha Romanoff debuted in Marvel Comics all the way back in 1964's Tales of Suspense #52.

While we're in the midst of one milestone for the Black Widow, there's also another on the horizon - this August Marvel Comics will celebrate Black Widow #50, with issue #10 of her current ongoing title taking on legacy numbering to reflect its status as the 50th issue of a Black Widow solo comic, counting all her various titles over the years.

If you're ready to celebrate Black Widow's MCU milestone and her upcoming comics' milestone, we've got the comic goodies you need right here as we count down the best Black Widow stories of all time.

1. Black Widow: The Itsy-Bitsy Spider

Black Widow: The Itsy-Bitsy Spider

Black Widow: The Itsy-Bitsy Spider (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

'The Itsy-Bitsy Spider' has all the makings of a great spy story and a great superhero story, making you wish that writer Devin Grayson had gotten to do more with the character than two short limited series.

The beauty of this arc (besides the effective but never overbearing realism of J.G. Jones's art) is how tight of a grip Grayson has on the themes of the character and the world she inhabits. 

With her own secret identity wrapped up in the subterfuge of her present and the mysteries of her past, Natasha Romanoff struggles to figure out who she really is as another graduate of the Red Room seeks to claim the mantle of Black Widow for herself. 

Without Black Widow, who is Natasha Romanoff? That's the question that Grayson seeks to answer at the crossroads of existential crisis and unreality.

And she does so with aplomb. When 'The Itsy-Bitsy Spider' isn't delivering on thrilling action sequences, it takes the time to ruminate on the character at the center of the story in meaningful ways even if Natasha isn't a woman of all that many words. 

From the dark reflection trope present in Natasha's face-off with the other Black Widow Yelena Belova to the real-world grounding of the plot, it's clear to see how this would stand the test of time and become a major inspiration for the current film.

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2. Black Widow: The Name of the Rose

Black Widow: The Name of the Rose

Black Widow: The Name of the Rose (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

How do you stand with gods and against all forms of monsters when you don't have any powers? In 'The Name of the Rose', Natasha Romanoff answers that exact question.

Unpowered characters in superhero universes often require an added degree of suspension of disbelief, but Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuna's opening arc to their 2010 series will likely have you wondering why Black Widow even needs the Avengers. Liu takes a neo-noir approach to the character as her life is turned upside down when the secret that she's been keeping tabs on all of her friends and enemies makes her an enemy of the state.

What's great about this story is that despite it being a uniquely Black Widow story, it blends seamlessly into the Marvel Universe, showing where Natasha stands not just with Bucky Barnes, Logan, and Tony Stark, but with characters like Elektra as well.

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3. Black Widow: Homecoming

Black Widow: Homecoming

Black Widow: Homecoming (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

There is no shortage of stories that force a hero back into action for one last job, and Homecoming is that story for Black Widow.

Richard Morgan, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Goran Parlov craft a story that leads Natasha into an investigation of her past to discover who is killing graduates of the Red Room program that made her. And for what it's worth, Morgan makes some attempt to examine what it means for Natasha to be a woman in the male-dominated world of espionage and superheroes.

Bill Sienkiewicz's moody stylization is always a treat, but he is reined in a little bit here as he shares the spotlight with more traditional superhero artists in Goran Parlov. Still, the two match up nicely for a consistent read.

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4. Black Widow: Breakdown

Black Widow: Breakdown

Black Widow: Breakdown (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

A follow-up to a later story on this list, 'Breakdown' follows Natasha Romanoff and Yelena Belova in something of a Face/Off scenario that writers Greg Rucka and Devin Grayson wisely wait until the final chapter to fully reveal.

Scott Hampton's painterly artwork lends to the sort of dreaminess of the story, helping the writers keep the secret of the plot hidden from readers for as long as possible. The tangled web that the two Black Widows weave is an interesting one and the whole creative team uses it to great effect.

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5. Black Widow: Web of Intrigue

Black Widow: Web of Intrigue

Black Widow: Web of Intrigue (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

'Web of Intrigue' might be the oddest inclusion on this list but not every character has been blessed with a four-issue arc penciled by George Perez, found in the Marvel Fanfare anthology series.

The story itself is fairly standard fare for what we've seen from spy characters in superhero comic books over the years. Black Widow is tasked with tracking down Ivan Petrovic, a former father figure to Natasha, and we learn more secrets of her past.

Ralph Macchio certainly overdoes it with some of his captioning, especially considering he's blocking out Perez's stellar work, but it's not hard to see a solid blueprint for future Black Widow stories. Perez, for his part, is practically infallible, and one of Macchio's captions perfectly describes his linework as he notes that Widow moves "with a grace that belies her deadly intent."

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6. Black Widow: Encircle

Black Widow: Encircle

Black Widow: Encircle (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

At her core, Black Widow is a problem solver, and 'Encircle' finds her in a particularly prickly predicament: her friends on the Secret Avengers have just died and all she has to do is try to get them back in a personal time travel device.

This issue is mostly played for laughs, linking Natasha up with the Marvel Universe's chief time travel abuser Beast at the start to lay out her best possibility for success. Ultimately, she's successful but the fun of the issue is watching Natasha use her wits as well as her strength to solve a complicated time caper.

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7. Black Widow: Deadly Origin

Black Widow: Deadly Origin

Black Widow: Deadly Origin (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

When you've been in the spy game as long as Black Widow has, you're likely going to deal with some villain or another attempting to kill everyone you love on a pretty regular basis. That's the simple setup for Black Widow: Deadly Origin, but it betrays the real draw of the book: Tom Raney and John Paul Leon.

The two artists split up the book between past (Leon) and present (Raney). Despite having fairly different styles, they both work well with writer Paul Cornell's script to show how Natasha has changed over time.

Leon's strong linework makes the past feel immutable and unchanging in stark contrast to Raney's looser lines that brim with potential. Almost as if to say: the past may have happened but the present is what Black Widow makes it.

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8. Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread

Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread

Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Long-running stories often have the difficulty of needing to reconcile different iterations of a character over time, and 'The Finely Woven Thread' does just that for Black Widow.

Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto establish a new foundation for Natasha. Her past still weighs heavily on who she is as a person, but the most important thing is always the task at hand. The creative team communicates this with a series of one-and-done adventures to open this arc that emphasizes Natasha's strengths. Black Widow is more than just a pretty face with a tragic past - she's someone who can get the job done and get it done right.

Phil Noto's work here is breathless and Black Widow's costume adds a level of contrast to his pages that can sometimes be missing. The result is a comic where the protagonist never blends into the background unless she wants to, and that adds to the espionage feel of the book.

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9. Black Widow: SHIELD's Most Wanted

Black Widow: SHIELD's Most Wanted

Black Widow: SHIELD's Most Wanted (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

It's hard not to love everything that creator Chris Samnee does, and 'SHIELD's Most Wanted' sees the superstar artist, along with his Daredevil writer cohort Mark Waid, try to bring even greater depth to Natasha Romanoff's history.

Black Widow is forced to go rogue and she's got SHIELD on her tail while learning of the existence of the Dark Room, a reincarnation of the Red Room that seeks to privatize the deadly assassin and highly skilled mercenary sector. Like so many great superhero stories, it's exciting to see how Natasha rises to the challenge even without a familiar support system around her.

And did we mention that Samnee's work is excellent? It's old news to mention the Alex Toth influence on his work, but it is fully on display here and it is an absolute joy to see.

Read our review of Samnee & Waid's entire Black Widow run.

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10. Black Widow: Widowmaker

Black Widow: Widowmaker

Black Widow: Widowmaker (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

The MCU has touched on Black Widow and Hawkeye's globetrotting past but 'Widowmaker' explicitly sheds some light on that relationship at least as it stands in the comic books.

Someone is assassinating other assassins and they are using one of Hawkeye's old codenames, Ronin, to do it. Their next targets? Black Widow and Mockingbird (comic book Hawkeye's former wife). This Widow, Mockingbird, and Hawkeye together to put a stop to it - in a story that is lighter in tone than you might think, owing to the work of writer Jim McCann.

And artist David Lopez does a good job selling the mix of superhero and spy action across the book so it doesn't feel like a guest-starring role for Natasha despite a healthy dose of Hawkeye, Mockingbird, and the sexual tension between exes. 

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