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The X-Axis by Paul O'Brien (

Black Widow: Pale Little Spider #1

The Max imprint has a third BLACK WIDOW miniseries. It's particularly welcome this week, since it means I can point out over here to see what Kordey can do when he's working on sane schedules. The difference between this and New X-Men is night and day. It helps, of course, that Kordey seems more comfortable with this kind of material. But nonetheless, it's better artwork in every respect.

Greg Rucka is writing this series, and what he's produced here is something closer to a police procedural than anything else. Lieutenant Colonel Starkovsky of the GRU is found dead in an S&M club, strapped into a leather harness and shot through the head. His protege Yelena Belova - the second Black Widow - is packed off to join the police investigation and find out what Starkovsky was up to with her personnel file.

This is the first Widow mini to feature Yelena exclusively, but the original Black Widow's presence is felt throughout, since Yelena's main character trait remains her desperation to prove herself as the equal of her predecessor, and not merely an impostor who's been given a codename she isn't quite sure she deserves.

Yelena has been presented in an increasingly sympathetic light over the last two miniseries (the second one consisted almost entirely of Natasha and SHIELD tormenting her for no good reason), and she makes an effective protagonist here. Rucka has nailed her character, and despite this being a Max book, the S&M material isn't gratuitous - it's not particularly explicit, and it ties properly into the character's own confused sense of identity. In fact, of the Max books so far, this may be one of the ones which relies least on shock value.

Much better than it sounded in the solicitations (not that it sounded bad there). If you pick up one Igor Kordey book this week - and you really should - then you know which one.

Rating: A+