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Black Widow Features Another Russian Mutant, And You Totally Missed Him

Contains spoilers for "Black Widow"

Natasha "Black Widow" Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) made her Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in 2010's "Iron Man 2," and holds the dubious distinction of having to actually die in "Avengers: Endgame" before getting a movie of her own. As such, now that "Black Widow" is finally here, she's not about to stand in anyone's shadow ... unless, of course, you count her "sister," Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh). 

Meanwhile, the prominent male characters in "Black Widow" tend to be undermined by their own particular faults and vices, and no one make this more evident than David Harbour's Alexei Shostakov, aka the Red Guardian. Alexei is a frustrated, fallen Soviet super-soldier who's at least as strong as the original Captain America (Chris Evans), but has none of the prestige. Natasha and Yelena's flawed father figure has ended up in a heavily guarded gulag prison complex, where his former superhero identity is a matter of ridicule and new challengers keep challenging his strength. 

Though Alexei's prison scenes start out as character-establishing buffoonery and transition into high-octane action pieces, they also contain a fairly interesting Easter egg. In fact, the Red Guardian is serving time with a pretty notorious Russian mutant.

Ursa Major might still return in the MCU

While in prison, the Red Guardian entertains himself — and, presumably, the inmates smart enough to avoid getting involved — with a series of arm-wrestling contests, in which he beats his opponents with embarrassing ease. The most momentous of his victories comes when a hulking fellow prisoner, played by Olivier Richters, challenges him. 

If you've seen the movie — or just have a general idea of how these things tend to go — you probably know how this ends up for the big dude, though the casual brutality with which Alexei dispatches him is rather extreme. However, perceptive viewers may have noticed that Alexei calls his massive opponent "Ursa," which is a pretty strange name ... unless you're up to date with your Russian Marvel superheroes. 

The name is quite likely a reference to Mikhail Ursus, aka "Ursa Major," a Soviet-era Marvel mutant who can transform into a hulking, super-powered bear, and has been a fixture in the country's superhero game over many years. Interestingly enough, his comic book backstory has seen him as a prisoner in a gulag, as well as an associate of Black Widow's Red Room. Though he doesn't show up in his bear form in "Black Widow," these connections make it incredibly likely that Richters' "Ursa" either is or will become the were-bear superhero. Since the Red Guardian survives the events of the movie, the door is open for a future meeting between the two — and if it ever comes to that, things might get a whole lot hairier.