After reading Guardians of the Galaxy: Rocket and Groot Steal the Galaxy and reading a Red Widow short comic story in Mockingbird: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary #1, I thought another Marvel prose book and another Red Widow story was a combination I wanted nothing to do with. It seemed like the anti peanut butter and chocolate combination. And throw in the fact that the newest Marvel prose book was Young Adult fiction, really meant Black Widow: Forever Red had not chance with me. But I decided it was my duty to at least borrow the book from the library. Though I doubted that it would be worth the time needed to read it. Would my assumptions prove correct?
Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl introduces us to Ava Orlova, a Russian girl, saved by Black Widow from Ivan Somodorov, the same monster who trained Natasha Romanoff at the Red Room as a child assassin. After her rescue where she expected to be bonding with her red headed hero, Ava was dropped off in the United States by Natasha at a S.H.I.E.L.D facility never to hear from her rescuer again, she thought. Ava runs away and strikes out on her own. But she is haunted by dreams of a boy and his life. Ava runs into the dream boy, Alex Manor at a fencing tourney at just the moment Black Widow reenters Ava's life. But sadly for the teens, Ivan Somodorov is also attempting to recapture Ava and exploit her special relationship with Black Widow. The international adventure the three charge into reveals secrets about all three heroes as they attempt to stop Somodorov from using his last Red Room experiment from gaining influence on the world's governments.
Here let me cut the suspense. I really enjoyed Black Widow: Forever Red. I found the new teen characters to be interesting and I wanted to know more about their backgrounds and struggles. I understood Ava's resentment at Natasha Romanoff for abandoning her to S.H.I.E.LD., but I also understand why Black Widow kept her distance from a girl who looked like and had a background similar to her. Alex is sprinkled in as the apparent normal teen pulled into the world of spies and secrets. But Alex also is more than what he seems. Finally, Stohl made me suitably tense by placing transcripts of a Line-Of-Duty Death Investigation between chapters. As a reader I knew someone died, but if it was a hero or villain...well that took time to be revealed.
Additionally, the book is one that Marvel Cinematic Universe fans are likely to enjoy. The books features Agent Phil Coulson as along with Tony Stark supporting the Black Widow in her investigations. And the transcripts feel like the Natasha Romanoff from Captain America: Civil War in her tone and attitude. So even if this book is not part of the MCU, it does lack the logo so its inclusion is not really confirmed to me, it is fully in the spirit of the cinematic offerings. And MCU fans are sure to feel at home in these pages.
I enjoyed Black Widow: Forever Red as both a book fan and a Marvel fan. My assumptions were truly turned on their head as I found Ava to be more interesting than her earlier appearance in a short comic story. And unlike the earlier prose contribution, the story was engaging, full of interesting characters and a very enjoyable read. Now I just hope that we might see more prose stories from Marvel when before I felt as if they were not needed. And I would be more than happy if Stohl took a turn at writing the next prose title.