Okay, I loved this. Probably the best Black Widow arc I've read. All my favorite Marvel characters tend to be the ones who have no/limited super powers. Of these, Natasha Romanoff's stories all seem rooted in themes of memory, loyalty, and perhaps most interestingly, agency. Every bit of control she has over her life, including her body and mind, have been hard-won. The problem I have with her portrayal most of the time (even in her own stories), is the fact that despite her rich history, she's so often portrayed as this kind of one-dimensional, icy femme-fatale. I was happy to see that her character was explored more deeply here.
Cutting here for some (super minor) spoilers.
Liu does a fantastic job with her character. The overarching narrative shows a Natasha who is hard-bitten, competent, tough, and ruthless, but also deeply reflective. Instead of letting the pain she's endured close her off to the world, it grounds her in compassion and love. She's lived, loved, and suffered, and she's stronger and wiser for it.
Natasha knows how to manipulate and inflict pain, and even refers to it as an art. She makes no apologies for this. Cross her, and she'll wipe the floor with you. On the other side of the coin, her bonds with her friends and close allies are so strong that when she's in trouble and her loyalty is in question, they defend her viciously. This adds an awesome complexity to the characters and story.
Here's a quote from the lovely blogger at Fuck Yeah Black Widow over on tumblr that makes this point much better than I did, specifically commenting on the fate of poor Lady Bullseye:
"This is Liu’s Natasha at her most cruel, her most savage. More than any other modern writer, Liu really detached Black Widow from the perfectly programmed secret agent mythos; the cold, precise automaton. Liu’s Natasha is anything but unfeeling. What that means is: Natasha isn’t scary because she’s killed her own emotions. What that means is: she’s scary because she feels every second of this, but does it anyway."
Daniel Acuna's art is a perfect compliment to the story. It reads like a spy thriller, and the art has a beautiful action/noir feel to it. There's a little bit of the 30's, a little bit of the 50's and a little bit of modern fashion all mixed in to the clothing and presentation; a constant reminder that Natasha has been alive for almost 100 years. Gorgeous.
I could go on, but I feel like I've rambled enough. Goreadit.