Earlier this month, I was contacted by the fine folks behind the upcoming Serial Box publication Marvel’s Black Widow: Bad Blood, and when offered the chance to read the first couple of chapters I jumped on it. Readers… Let me tell you something, I was super sad that I got to the end of my allotted review chapters because I had become so engrossed with the novel that I didn’t even realize I was coming up on the end. It was outstanding.
What makes Marvel’s Black Widow: Bad Blood so great is also what made shows like The Mandalorian outstanding. With an overarching plot in place, they hired individual writers to pen different chapters rather than relying on the traditional one book, one author format we’ve been accustomed to since childhood. Just like The Mandalorian incorporated different directors for the individual episodes, they honored the plot and plot points that had been decided upon since the early phases of planning. But by allowing different authors the chance to create their vision, the book truly became the best version of itself.
Marvel’s Black Widow: Bad Blood utilizes a writers room format, similar to television and film. Marvel’s official description for the show is below:
Someone has stolen the Black Widow’s blood. Now she must find them before it’s too late. As Natasha Romanoff follows the trail across the globe, she discovers she wasn’t the only target. Whoever is responsible stole Bucky Barnes’ blood, too. And one thing is certain: anyone who wants the blood of the Widow and the Winter Soldier needs to be taken down, and fast. Despite a tangled web of shared history stretching back to their Red Room days, Barnes and Romanoff must join forces, confronting the demons of their past as they race to protect their future. A single drop of blood could be all it takes to save the world—or destroy it
The series is narrated by Sarah Natochenny (Ash Ketchum in the Pokémon). The all-female writing team, led by Lindsay Smith (Serial Box’s The Witch Who Came In from the Cold; Orphan Black: The Next Chapter), includes writer Mikki Kendall (Swords of Sorrow and Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists), poet L.L. McKinney (A Blade So Black), screenwriter Margaret Dunlap (Black Panther’s Quest and Marvel Rising: Heart of Iron), and Taylor Stevens (Vanessa Michael Munroe series). Note, the first two episodes will go live on its April 28 release date.
The intent is to create “bite-size” episodes that readers can enjoy in two formats; reading and listening. This review was done reading the chapters, but an audiobook format is also a great option if that’s your preference. Serial Box is available on Google Play and the Apple App Store, and through the Serial Box website.
The book grabs you right out the gate. You automatically know you’re in the world of Marvel, even if the world of Marvel is just our world with superheroes. Personally, I enjoy imagining a multiverse where we exist and these heroes exist. Maybe something similar to Marvel’s 1985, but without the murderous psychotic break. With this novel, you are provided with more than enough visual framework to imagine a rich world ripe with heroes who would defend our honor.
The work I read was authored by Lindsay Smith and Taylor Stevens for the first two chapters titled “Blackout Protocol.” They do such an amazing job of bringing you into the present with contemporary references like the Theranos scandal. It’s just small, subtle references like this that make you aware that Bad Blood exists in our world and in our present. Small things like that really help my imagination to absorb the material and create mental pockets that allow me to imagine this existing in our modern society.
I really enjoy what Serial Box and the Marvel’s Black Widow: Bad Blood team has accomplished here. They worked together to create a cohesive and imaginative product that could change the way we consume novels going forward. While the one author tradition is likely going nowhere at any time in the near future, I would love to see more of these works created. Serial Box has done an outstanding job of taking a topical and timely hero and then mixed that with a topical and timely story. It’s the ability to blend their vision with the vision of multiple writers that make this adventure enjoyable.
The quarantine has created a good amount of spare time for us all. There’s no better time to check out Marvel’s Black Widow: Bad Blood than the present. It’s gripping, paced appropriately, features the cameos fans love to see, and provides an interesting foray into this relatively newer form of novel. I can’t recommend it enough and I will have the chance to talk about this book further on an upcoming episode of my 3rd & Nerd podcast on Stitcher and iTunes.
If you’re on the fence about it, you can check my interview with writer Margaret Dunlap, who wrote the Panther’s Quest story for the Avengers TV show on Disney XD. That season was outstanding, so it’s no surprise to see her being afforded more opportunities to write for Marvel. That interview takes place April 29th, 2020. I’ll be talking to Margaret Dunlap about the challenges and joys of writing for a series like this.
If you’re a Marvel fan or a Black Widow fan, this book is extremely welcome to the Marvel lore. If you are a casual fan looking to get into Marvel, this book isn’t so deep that the casual fan would become lost. All the material is framed in a way that introduces it properly to the reader, folks aren’t left to guess who or what something is. In that way, it’s a pretty inclusive and beginner-friendly book.
If you’re a diehard Marvel fan and you really enjoy Black Widow, this is a book you’ll return to again and again. The book explores Natasha’s relationship with the other characters in the novel while not detracting from the overall story. It’s obvious the authors know the character’s history while adding to the Marvel lore. And with cliff-hangers throughout, you’ll be hooked in no time.
Even folks who aren’t necessarily a huge fan of Black Widow will find this book compelling as it moves forward. It’s designed to draw the reader in and keep them there. I truly can’t wait to finish this book and talk to author Margaret Dunlap. But while you wait for that interview you should head on over to Serial Box and pick up Marvel’s Black Widow: Bad Blood and give it a go. I promise you’ll enjoy it and it’s not like you don’t have the time. No excuses! Pick it up!
The first season of Marvel’s Black Widow: Bad Blood is available for purchase now on Serial Box ($9.99). The first two episodes are up now and following episodes will be released weekly.