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Characters In Black Widow That Are More Important Than You Realized

It's been a couple of years since we were introduced to an entirely new part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. "Black Panther" showed us Wakanda, and "Captain Marvel" brought in the Skrulls, but most of Marvel's offerings since then — "Avengers: Endgame," "Spider-Man: Far From Home," WandaVision," and "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" — have played primarily within the bounds of the world of the MCU as we know it, while "Loki" seems to be playing another game altogether. 

The long-awaited "Black Widow," however, explores a part of the MCU to which we've only heard vague allusions over the last decade of Disney dominance. Not only does "Black Widow" once again fundamentally alter the landscape of Earth-199999 (are there still brainwashed assassins secretly in hiding all over the world, even after the Snap and the Blip?) but it tosses an entire family of new characters into Marvel's box of toys. And as always, most of these characters have their origins in the pages of Marvel Comics, meaning that careful examination of them can lead us to potential insights about what they might do next.

Sadly, we will not be covering the film's primary heroine, Natasha Romanoff, since we happen to know exactly where her story goes. Less sadly, the primary villain, General Dreykov, will also not be discussed, as he is actually one of the MCU's few original characters (and probably won't be returning anytime soon). On that note, spoilers lie ahead, so watch "Black Widow" before you read on!

Yelena Belova

Natasha's adopted sister and presumptive replacement is an interesting case when it comes to predicting the future of the MCU. We know Yelena is scheduled to appear in Disney's upcoming "Hawkeye" show, an appearance that's directly set up by the post-credits scene in "Black Widow." Given that "Hawkeye" is also introducing the character of Kate Bishop, Yelena could be added to the Young Avengers lineup that Disney is clearly preparing. Her comic book character, however, has mostly been used as Natasha's rival and enemy, and Natasha is dead. Yelena has some loose ties to the X-Men franchise thanks to brief associations with characters like Micromax and an eventful trip to the Savage Land, and she would, strangely, fit right in alongside AIM and the Super-Adaptoid in "MODOK," but it's unlikely either of those connections will bear fruit in the MCU.

One thing that could be in the works, however, is an MCU version of the Thunderbolts — a team of supposedly reformed villains who have had several comic book incarnations since their debut in 1997. Yelena was indirectly part of the Thunderbolts during the "Dark Reign" storyline in 2009 (though she turned out to be Natasha in disguise), and it's been speculated that Julia Louis Dreyfus' Valentina Allegra de Fontaine could end up being the Nick Fury to the Thunderbolts' Avengers. In that case, given that Yelena and Valentina are already working together, Yelena joining the Thunderbolts roster alongside U.S. Agent would make a ton of sense.

Alexei Shostakov

While Yelena is a relatively recent addition to the ranks of Black Widow's supporting cast, Alexei Shostakov is a significantly older character, dating back to 1967. His first and most iconic appearance came in "Avengers" #43-44, a two-part story by legendary Marvel writer and editor Roy Thomas, which introduces the villainous Soviet super-soldier known as the Red Guardian. This is the version of the character that inspires David Harbour's Alexei and the crimson suit he squeezes into, and at least in the comics, he does indeed fight Captain America. 

"Black Widow," however, makes a dramatic, if welcome, change to the relationship between Alexei and Natasha. While in the movie he serves as an absentee father figure to Natasha and Yelena, in Thomas' story, he's actually Natasha's long-lost husband, whose death — faked to spirit him away to the super-soldier program that turned him into the Red Guardian — had driven her to become the Black Widow.

Of course, by the time this reveal occurs in the comics, Alexei has already died for real, killed in an explosion after sacrificing himself to save Natasha and Captain America. He's still alive at the end of the movie, though, and if the MCU has further plans for him, they probably have something to do with Ronin, a mysterious alias that has been adopted by, among others, Clint Barton — whose time as Ronin inspired the "Endgame" version of Hawkeye — Maya Lopez, who will also appear in the "Hawkeye" series, and a life model decoy of Alexei himself.

Melina Vostokoff

Rounding out Natasha's surrogate family in "Black Widow" is her mother, Melina Vostokoff. Introduced to the comics in 1983, Melina, like Yelena, was originally a Black Widow villain, the resentful Russian agent known as Iron Maiden. In her first appearance, she's one of a group of assassins sent to kill Natasha, and she turns out to be by far the most formidable. Unlike her film character, this version of Melina wears a powerful suit of armor that Black Widow is completely unable to break through, and she likely would have finished Natasha off then and there if not for the timely interference of Jimmy Woo. It's an extremely minor connection, but since Woo, played by Randall Park, has turned up a couple times now in the MCU, it's possible that they could end up interacting. It's certainly more likely than Marvel adapting the Femizons, a group of female Captain America villains who wanted to conquer the world and create a matriarchal utopia, and who Melina was part of during their debut in 1991.

In truth, Melina is an obscure and infrequent character with little in her history to extrapolate from — even her relationship with Black Widow was basically dropped after that first appearance. However, in 2018, Iron Maiden briefly showed up again in the pages of "Invincible Iron Man," clashing with Riri Williams, aka Ironheart. With an Ironheart series in the works, it is theoretically possible that Melina could make her way to that corner of the MCU.


Of all the new MCU characters introduced in "Black Widow," by far the most notable in the world of comic books is the superhuman mimic known as Taskmaster. Conceived by acclaimed writer David Michelinie, Taskmaster first appeared in "Avengers" #195 in 1980, where he claimed to have photographic reflexes and could perform the same feats as every member of the Avengers. He's been part of the Marvel Comics landscape ever since — his extreme versatility as a villain has allowed him to show up in a wide range of comics over the years, primarily as a teacher and trainer for criminals, supervillains, and even the occasional hero. While he's never been strongly associated with Natasha Romanoff, he has connections with a host of other characters, including the recently introduced U.S. Agent.

Of course, all of this is complicated by the fact that, as it turns out, Taskmaster is a very different character in the MCU. The powers are the same, but the person in the mask is very much not — instead of former SHIELD agent Anthony Masters, it turns out that Taskmaster is the revived daughter of General Dreykov, first mentioned by Loki in the original "Avengers" movie. Between the sheer breadth of Taskmaster's comic book history and the fact that "Black Widow" put an entirely new spin on the character, it's difficult to make predictions. But given Taskmaster's comic book prominence over the last four decades, it's hard to imagine she won't have a significant role to play.

Rick Mason

From one of "Black Widow's" most prominent additions, we move to one of its most obscure: Rick Mason, the man Natasha hires in the film to acquire supplies and equipment for her. He doesn't have a huge role, but his arrival in the MCU raises some interesting questions considering the Marvel Comics character with the same name. For one thing, in the comics, Rick Mason is the son of Phineas Mason, a genius inventor and supervillain known as the Terrible Tinkerer (yes, really). Despite the silly name, the Tinkerer actually has a long lifespan in the world of Marvel — his original appearance can be traced back to the second issue of "Amazing Spider-Man," and he's still trying to ruin the webslinger's life nearly 60 years later.

Rick, in contrast to his father, is a mercenary who goes by the much more subdued nickname of "The Agent," and he's never been associated with Spider-Man. In fact, his comic book appearances don't even number in the double digits. Six of those appearances, however, came in 2009 in the pages of "Ms. Marvel," the last time Mason was seen and certainly his longest storyline. That version of Ms. Marvel was Carol Danvers, now known as Captain Marvel, but it might be more likely to see Mason popping up in the area of the upcoming "Ms. Marvel" Disney+ series, if only because it seems as though "Black Widow" might have a thing for setting up the television side of Phase Four.

Thaddeus Ross

You've already met Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross in the MCU, but it's worth going over his previous appearances and the potential that still exists for him based on his comic book counterpart. "Black Widow" marks William Hurt's fifth film portraying Ross, though his most recent cameos in "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Avengers: Endgame" are brief. Prior to that, he's the man who presents the Sokovia Accords to the Avengers in "Captain America: Civil War," and the man who commits himself to hunting down the ones who don't sign. "Black Widow" takes place directly after the events of "Civil War," and Ross' role is basically the same one he had back in 2016 — find the rogue Avengers, including Natasha, and bring them into custody. As ever, he proves thoroughly incapable of doing this.

Let's not forget, however, the film in which Ross makes his MCU debut: 2008's "The Incredible Hulk," the original "Thaddeus Ross can't catch the superhero" movie. Ross is a major character in the "Hulk" comics and at one point transforms into a gamma-irradiated monster in his own right, becoming the Red Hulk. This could potentially still happen in the MCU — in "Black Widow," Natasha mentions that Ross has recently undergone a triple bypass surgery, and his deteriorating health could lead him to take drastic measures. With the 2022 "She-Hulk" series bringing back "Incredible Hulk" villain Emil Blonsky, aka the Abomination, it would be a perfect time to return Ross to his red roots.


The deepest cut among the cast of "Black Widow" is Oksana, played by Michelle Lee, the woman who frees Yelena from the Red Room's control immediately after Yelena fatally stabs her. She's not onscreen very long, but it's an important enough role — and a distinctive enough name — that we got curious and did some digging. It turns out that, improbably, there are three characters named Oksana who have appeared in Marvel Comics. The first one, Oksana Sytsevich, is probably not relevant here — she was the wife of the Spider-Man villain called the Rhino. The other two, however, have direct Black Widow associations.

In the late 1980s, Marvel released a 20-issue run of comics called "Solo Avengers," which featured Hawkeye as the main character in the primary stories and various other Avengers in short secondary stories. In the secondary story for "Solo Avengers" #7, Black Widow briefly reunites with Oksana Bolishinko, the woman who trained her as a ballerina prior to Natasha's recruitment by the KGB. It's Bolinshinko's only appearance in the comics, but it could have been where Lee's character got her name. A more interesting theory, however, is that the name refers to Oksana Davis, a minor character associated with Ava Orlova, the Red Widow. Orlova's story has mostly been limited to a pair of novels by Margaret Stohl, but she starred in a secondary story in "Ms. Marvel" #12 as recently as 2016, so it's not insane to think that somebody at Marvel could have plans for her.

Valentina Allegra de Fontaine

In the penultimate episode of "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier," Julia Louis-Dreyfus made her delightfully surprising debut as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. While she doesn't play a major role in the Disney+ series, it was apparent that she was being set up for something bigger in the wider MCU, a notion that's essentially confirmed when she shows up in the "Black Widow" post-credits scene. All we really know about her so far is that she's recruiting. She gives her card to John Walker in "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" and is the person who renames him U.S. Agent, and we've now learned that she's sending Yelena after Hawkeye. As previously mentioned, all this has led to speculation that Valentina is gathering a team that may or may not be the Thunderbolts, positioning herself as the new group's answer to Nick Fury.

That's appropriate because the comic book version of Valentina is primarily associated with Fury, having been a SHIELD agent and Fury's love interest almost since her first appearance in 1967's "Strange Tales" #159. She's also had a relationship with Captain America and a rivalry with fellow agent Sharon Carter. Her true manipulative nature, however, became known during the 2009 "Secret Warriors" storyline, where she briefly becomes Madame Hydra before revealing that she was actually a sleeper agent for the shadowy organization known as Leviathan. In other words, as a potential villainous version of Nick Fury, there couldn't be anyone better.