Natasha Romanov – the Black Widow – Marvel’s sultry spy. She has a heart of gold, a checkered past, and a particular set of skills. Created in 1964 by Stan Lee, Don Rico, and Don Heck, Black Widow was initially conceived of as a villain. But as is the way with Marvel she was eventually redeemed and made an Avenger.

Over the years she’s been a member of several team groups and partnered with the likes of Hawkeye and Daredevil. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that she was given solo outings of her own. Several short runs and one-shots would follow all of which highlighted her – let’s say feminine wiles – alongside her training as an assassin and spy. The Black Widow became a femme fatale – a highly desirable and highly dangerous anti-hero, always walking the line between what is right and what is expedient.

In their 2016 run, Mark Waid and Chris Samnee would highlight another feature of Natasha Romanov – her intellect and cunning. She conceives of plans within plans to deceive, manipulate, and decipher mysteries to thwart a multitude of nefarious plans. And of course, she kicks a lot of ass while doing so.

This 12-issue run consisting of two storylines – SHIELD’s Most Wanted and No More Secrets – follows Natasha as she is forced to deceive SHEILD, seemingly betray her allies, and go on the run to track down an enemy that seems to know all her secrets, while at the same time having to defend herself against another Black Widow, and attempting to save a group of girls from the same fate as she once suffered.

The series is highly stylized and propelled by Samnee’s dynamic artwork. Long, dramatic, expertly paced action sequences punctuate Waid’s tightly plotted story and serve to accentuate just how formidable the Black Widow can be. It’s very cinematic – someone should make a movie of this.

In the end, the character of Natasha Romanov is a complex one – born of trauma, filled with regret, and tinged with sadness. She is constantly searching for redemption and acceptance, but never compromises her beliefs to achieve it. Waid and Samnee never forget these key aspects while at the same time delivering an exciting action espionage drama with a badass heroine as its lead.

This article originally appeared as the introduction to episode 74: Black Widow.

The Collected Edition is a comic book podcast where the hosts discuss the famous and infamous runs and story arcs throughout the history of comics. Please subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, Sticher, IHeartRadio, and Spotify.