Publisher: Alterna Comics
Writer/Artist: Bret M. Herholz
Release Date: February 3rd, 2016
As Tommy Scott from the band Space once sang, “the female of the species is more deadly than the male.’’ As a gender we’re easily seduced and manipulated by the charm and beauty of the opposite sex, as logic is negated when they cast their spell over us. At least that’s the case in DIARY OF THE BLACK WIDOW, the latest reissue from the impressive Alterna Comics. This is a timeless tale of the battle of the sexes – and the woman is very much the one in control, at least for now.
We don’t know our central character by name, but it’s evident from the first frame that she isn’t prepared to tell it to us either. As a murdering seductress of wealthy halfwits, we know from the outset that she’s careful about who she discloses such information to, even if that’s the expense of the reader. This is a woman who has dedicated her life to murdering the opposite sex for her own gain, and reaping the rewards from the terror she’s caused. This issue documents her back story; from a little girl studying chemicals and how to sever the male anatomy, to an adult career vixen murdering husbands for their inheritance, we learn her riches to further riches story, and the pile of bodies she’s left in her wake to get there. However, when Detective Inspector gets suspicious, she feels exposed for the first time in her life. Can he expose her as the cold blooded killer she is, or will he succumb to her batted eyelashes and sweet smiles?
Bret M. Herholz showcases his wonderful writing ability and dry sense of humour absolutely splendidly here. He has a knack for crafting playful, oddball dialogue – and most of it is laugh-out-loud funny, even if it is sardonic smitten males. However, reading the story as a man, I found the satire of our gender hilarious: it won’t please any men’s rights activists, but women should enjoy it for how it empowers them to an extent, while self-deprecating males should be able to identify with the self-mockery of our species – and those who read for the sheer joy of reading will have a great time with the dialogue.
However, this isn’t exactly a pro-feminist emblazonment I’ve maybe led you to believe so far. The see-saw of gender equality does find some balance through the fact THE BLACK WIDOW isn’t as smart as she thinks she is. You can’t help but feel it’s only a matter of time before she’s exposed, as the clues are only hidden through the blind stupidity of the male characters. Overall, this is just a funny, playful poke at gender stereotypes.
It should also be noted that Herholz also illustrated DIARY OF A BLACK WIDOW, in additional to writing it. At first glance, the art appears to be very sketchy – and it is, in a way. It’s by no means the most pleasant to the eyes, but that’s not to say it isn’t impressive: part of its beauty lies in how abstract it is, the sheer devious emotion he manages to insert into the eyes and facial expressions of our murderer is outstanding – and quite chilling.
DIARY OF THE BLACK WIDOW is a murder mystery without the mystery of finding the culprit. The mystery lies in finding out whether the law enforcement smarten up enough to see what’s right in front of them. And it’s great.
Final Rating: 7/10