A homeless Ukrainian girl, a suburban American boy, and a world-famous superheroine save the world.
Eight years ago, Natasha Romanov rescued a little girl from Natasha's own evil father figure, Ivan the Strange, and promised the child she'd always be there for her. Then Natasha—the Avenger known as the Black Widow—vanished from Ava Orlova's life, leaving her in the questionable care of the government agency S.H.I.E.L.D. Now Ava is a fiercely independent teen living in the basement of a Brooklyn YWCA. Ava has free fencing lessons and her ongoing dreams of a mysterious tattooed boy she calls Alexei Manorovsky; what else does she need? When her best friend convinces her to join a fencing tournament, she chances upon both her tattooed dream boy and the Black Widow. The Black Widow insists Ava is in danger and must be protected; Alex Manor, entranced by Ava, demands to help. In the ensuing explosion-packed adventure, Alex spouts pop culture ("Fifty points for Ivanclaw"), all three protagonists get their own overwrought dramatic arcs, and cameos from Marvel characters such as Tony Stark and Phil Coulson enhance the fan appeal. Unfortunately, the plot development is largely incoherent, and worldbuilding feels phoned-in. The portrayal of Ukrainian culture owes more to Cold War comics than reality, and evil Ivan's mad-scientist bunker laboratory could be recycled from almost any other action-movie commie supervillain’s.
Fans of the Marvel Universe aren’t by definition stupid, and even though they will be jazzed by the schmaltzy heroic high jinks, they still deserve better than this. (Adventure. 11-14)