While Friend from Foe is being marketed as a two-part arc spanning this week’s The Punisher #9 and Black Widow #9, it is actually a single done-in-one from the perspectives of both titular characters. (As such, it seemed appropriate to treat these issues as one complete story and combine reviews into a single overview.) Taken captive by Crossbones after his recent encounter with the new Howling Commandos, Frank Castle finds himself dropped onto an oil tanker in the middle of the ocean. There he meets Natasha Romanov, who’s come to the tanker with SHIELD’S help, tracking the activities of the mysterious organization known as Chaos.
With the tanker wired to explode, Frank proceeds to take out Crossbones’ men to ensure his escape while Natasha interrogates her target for intel, leading these two capable killers to personal and professional conflict. The emotionally invested Natasha completes her mission and quickly gains control of the situation, hijacking Frank’s plane and dropping him off on her way back to Los Angeles. Frank ends up in a nondescript jail cursing the Avenger and Natasha gets a call from Isaiah’s captor, ending their begrudging team-up and setting each character up for the next leg of their respective stories.
With the scripts of both issues following the same events, they vary only in terms of tone and exposition through the use of first-person narration, as well as the distinct visual styles of Gerads and Noto respectively. Noto’s muted palettes and soft lines bring a completely different sensibility to the violence from Gerads’ sharper, stylized character anatomy and minimalistic panel composition. Gerards’ style is as perfect for Punisher’s story as Noto’s is for Black Widow’s, and there’s a certain novelty in seeing how they each approach these same scenes and action sequences without feeling repetitive or gimmicky.
Overall the use of this dual perspective is an entertaining one on the part of Edmondson. While I typically see this kind of multiple perspective gimmick used in massive crossover events, I appreciate the decision to use it on such a small, self-contained storyline. Readers don’t need to pick up one issue to understand the events of the other, but readers of both titles will still appreciate seeing the story unfold from Frank and Natasha’s very different perspectives. Unnecessary, sure, but a welcomed little twist, nonetheless.
Neither issue particularly stands out on its own, but together The Punisher #9 and Black Widow #9 make for an enjoyable done-in-one adventure.