How do I review a tie-in that conforms to none of my usual norms? Black Widow: Bad Blood isn’t a book or an audio drama. It’s a serialized experience that can be listened to as an audiobook or read in 15 chapters in an app. But it’s not really either. It doesn’t have a typical writing structure. A team of writers crafted each chapter like a tv series. It is its own experience.
But it’s a good one. I can start with that. The experience is an engaging, fun experience that helps to illustrate a flaw with so many tie-ins. This is a tight, lean work. There’s none of the useless fat so many of these books get lost in. This is old school to the point pulp.
The story couldn’t be simpler. The Black Widow gets attacked. She gets sick. She goes looking for answers. She teams up with The Winter Soldier. He was attacked too. They go looking for answers. They get them. Fights happen. Lots of fights.
To say this is a thin work sounds insulting. But really this is truly the most stripped down experience. It feels at times written a junior novelization level. This is not a work to experience for literary value. It’s built to be consumed on a commute or at the gym. It’s going for pure entertainment.
And it gets that hard. It’s about 6 hours in audio form but it shoots by because it’s a fun, gripping story. We’re invested in Natasha’s plight. And it’s not completely threadbare. We get a lot of flashbacks to her training. We’ve always got clear settings. We get a fun subplot about her guilt over ending a cover. There is texture. It’s just very simple and relentless. We’re moving to the next country practically each episode.
I think that’s underrated in adapting comics. Comics aren’t dense character laden works. They’re a bullet. And that’s why a lot of adaptations to prose falter. They get bogged down in details. They go at a slow pace. I don’t mind that but I really think there is a benefit to constantly moving. It’s something the just rereviewed Diane Duane penned Venom Factor trilogy crushed.
No this isn’t a creator specific work. But it’s like a Doc Savage book. It’s one of a line to be voraciously consumed. And seriously it’s brilliantly crafted. You don’t want to put it down like a classic serial.
As for going between print and audio? It’s seamless. You jump in within a few sentences switching modes. This is the perfect way to not stop the experience!
This isn’t any classic. But it’s damn good. Highly recommended.