Classic Comics Cavalcade #9: Super Spy Adventures In ‘Black Widow: Marvel Team-Up’

by Tony Thornley

Black Widow hasn’t always been the A-lister that she is today. For the majority of her existence, she was the sometimes feature in anthologies, a frequent guest star and team member, or- worst of all- the girlfriend. Black Widow: Marvel Team-Up is a perfect example of stories from that era, prior to Natasha Romanoff’s starring turns.

Cover by Al Milgrom

The collection includes 12 issues from all across Marvel history – Marvel Two-In-One #10; Marvel Team-Up #57, 82-85, 98, 140-141; and material from Marvel Comics Presents #53, 70, 93 (MCP usually featured two to five short stories in each issue). The creators include Chris Claremont (who writes most of the collection), Tom Defalco, Bill Mantlo, Roger Mackenzie, Jim Owsley, Marv Wolfman, Bob Brown, Sal Buscema, Steve Leialoha, Rick Parker, Clem Robins, Ben Sean, and many more.

Marvel Team-Up (MTU)and Marvel Two-In-One were two of Marvel’s most popular series through the seventies. MTU was actually the first Spider-Man spin off title, and gave the wall-crawler the reputation he has today of being the most connected character in comics. Two-In-One launched a couple years later, starring Ben Grimm, and both series fleshed out areas of the Marvel Universe that hadn’t really been explored.

In these stories, we got to see Natasha Romanoff cut loose, and drag the Thing and Spider-Man into her world. As with any collection like this, it’s definitely a bit of a mixed bag, even in the stories written by the same writer (looking at you Claremont). However, the six issue story that takes up the majority of the collection is a blast.

First in Marvel Team-Up #57 (by Claremont, Buscema and team), Black Widow and Spider-Man encounter the Silver Samurai mid-theft, after the Widow discovered a S.H.I.E.L.D. safe house that had been abandoned mysteriously without a trace. The duo stops the Samurai and prevents the collapse of a Manhattan high-rise. They end the story completely baffled by what they’ve encountered.

Then, nearly two and a half years later in MTU #82-85, the storyline gets picked back up when Peter Parker saves a strange young woman by the name of Nancy Rushman. Nancy is largely missing her memories, outside of some martial arts muscle memory that enables her to save Spidey a couple times. Most unusual of all is that Nancy could be the twin of Natasha Romanoff herself. Solving the mystery of Nancy Rushman will put Peter Parker up against Nick Fury, SHIELD, Shang-Chi, Hydra and a plot to destroy the entire US Government!

This story is a blast, and absolutely is worth checking out the entire volume just for these issues. It does fall into a lot of the overly wordy traps that much of Claremont’s work struggles with, but the art is great, and it’s a total thrill ride. It’s also interesting to see the cameo from then-President Carter giving a speech that’s eerily relevant for the horrifying climate crisis we’re currently experiencing today.

Also, it has the best thought bubble I’ve ever encountered in a comic.

Black Widow: Marvel Team-Up is available currently in print and digital editions, and is currently included in Comixology Unlimited.

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