REVIEW: ‘Widowmakers: Red Guardian and Yelena Belova,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Widowmakers: Red Guardian and Yelena Belova #1

Widowmakers: Red Guardian and Yelena Belova #1 is published by Marvel Comics, written by Devin Grayson, with art by Michele Bandini, inks by Michele Bandini and Elisabetta D’Amico, colors by Eric Arciniega and letters by Cory Petit. Yelena Belova has worn many hats. Spy, assassin, hero and villain, have all been just some of the titles she has worn. But with her life adrift, freelance espionage work is starting to drag on her. She finds herself wanting something more substantial to put her unique skills toward. But what? And better yet, for the benefit of whom?

As a long time Avengers fan, I have been aware of the existence of Yelena Belova for many years. Though that knowledge was mostly limited to her being someone the real Black Widow needed to periodically put in her place, and little else. With Widowmakers: Red Guardian and Yelena Belova #1 however, I was given a more nuanced look at a woman trying to find her way in the world. Figuring out what she was, and wasn’t comfortable with. And finding out just how much a person with her particular set of skills can do on the world stage.

The first thing that is likely to strike people about this book is how Grayson chooses to write his protagonist’s speech. Since Yelena has a running monologue throughout the story you get a lot of her thoughts. These are done in a style that imparts the sense that this woman is speaking in English to someone, but as a native Russian, it is not her first language. While I’m sure the Red Room trained her more than well enough to mask her accent Grayson has her speaking a style of broken English anyone will recognize. Phrases like “Is good.”, and other common grammatical errors made by foreigners are seen in her dialogue. This is never done to the point of making Yelena feel unintelligible, just very Russian. It also gives the narrative a relaxed feel to it. Like she is talking to someone she is simply speaking freely with.

Widowmakers: Red Guardian and Yelena Belova #1 opens with Yelena being given a job to break someone out of an old prison facility formerly run by S.H.E.I.LD. in Antarctica. Since S.H.E.I.L.D.’s collapse, there is no knowing what the state of the prison, or it’s inmates are in. But it’s worth a six figure payment to Yelena’s benefactor to recover them.

Throughout her meeting, and subsequent mission, Yelena takes stock of a lot of the aspects behind the running of the world. Who the players are, as well as their goals and motivations. And whether or not she is content to simply continue working for the highest bidder. Some of these musing ran surprisingly deep to me. While the overall plot of this book is fairly standard superhero fare, this running intellectual analysis of the world gave it something deeper to latch onto. And where Yelena finds her motivation by the story’s ending is thoroughly pleasing.

You may have noticed that during my discussion of the plot here I haven’t actually mentioned the other title character in this book. This is intentional. His placement in the story would be next to impossible to talk about without delivering substantial spoilers. Suffice it to say he is there, and his outlook on the world provides an interesting contrast to Yelena’s thoughts.

The art in Widowmakers: Red Guardian and Yelena Belova #1 does a good job relaying it’s action heavy story. And while artist Bandini does a great job of showing how skilled Yelena is, I feel the distance kept between the viewer and the action is often too much. I would like to see the camera brought into the thick of things. Really make the reader feel like they are in the middle of the action. As it is, I think the art just plays it a little too safe. Though there is a splash page that’s design is a standout for sure. A unique setup to rapidly show numerous enemies being dispatched in a short amount of space.

The colorwork here further reinforces the clarity of the art. Everything is brightly lite, and filed with a solidly chosen palette of colors. Even though much of the story takes place in a structure that would be coated in lots of institutional gray, colorist Arciniega does a good job substituting what could’ve been dull backgrounds with vibrant color splashes. Further adding energy to the story’s combat.

The final touch of for this book’s colorful appearance comes from Petit’s lettering. With the choice to have Yelena’s running monologue in black on a yellow background, these dialogue boxes always stand out upon the page. Delivering just a small, final touch of variety to the visual presentation.

When all is said and done Widowmakers: Red Guardian and Yelena Belova #1 delivers a story that is equal parts action and sociological musings. This is a significant amount more than I honestly expected when I started reading this book.

Widowmakers: Red Guardian and Yelena Belova #1 is available November 18th wherever comics are sold.

‘Widowmakers: Red Guardian and Yelena Belova ,’ Issue #1
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TL;DR

When all is said and done Widowmakers: Red Guardian and Yelena Belova #1 delivers a story that is equal parts action and sociological musings. This is a significant amount more than I honestly expected when I started reading this book.