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Black Widow: Alexei's Tattoos Mean More Than You Realize

Contains spoilers for "Black Widow"

For years, Marvel fans have asked for a solo movie centered on Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). She's appeared as a supporting character or popped up in a cameo in "Iron Man 2," "The Avengers," "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," "Avengers: Age of Ultron," "Captain Marvel," "Captain America: Civil War," "Avengers: Infinity War," and "Avengers: Endgame." Up until this point, she's been the superhero equivalent of a bridesmaid without ever being a bride. That all changed on July 9, when Black Widow finally got the solo adventure she so richly deserves.

The movie accomplishes a great deal within its 134-minute runtime. It proves Natasha can save the day even without super-human powers. It gives her death in "Avengers: Endgame" more meaning by showing how much her found family within the Avengers meant to her. And it introduces a ton of fun, new characters that have the potential to pop up in other Marvel projects. If the "Black Widow" post-credits scene is any indication, Natasha's sister figure Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) will be seen again, but we also hope this film isn't the last time we see Alexei Shostakov, aka the Red Guardian (David Harbour). 

He's effectively the Russian version of Captain America, who believes he's on equal footing with Steve Rogers, and is essentially the walking embodiment of the Cold War. Plus, he has more than a few tattoos to show off his heritage. 

Alexei's bicep tattoo is a tribute to his daughters

When Natasha and Yelena break Alexei out of prison, we get a good look at the various tattoos he's acquired over the years. One of these will only make sense if you can read Russian. 

On Alexei's bicep, you might notice two roses. Underneath the flowers are the words "Наташа" and "Елена." Translated into English, these words are actually names: "Natasha" and "Yelena," respectively. This shows that all of these years later, Alexei always remembered the two girls who pretended to be his daughters while they lived in the United States. 

It's a vital Easter egg because Alexei, Natasha, Yelena, and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz) weren't a biological family. They were put together by villainous forces to spy on Americans, and after they escaped from Ohio, they didn't see each other again until the events of "Black Widow." It would be easy to assume Alexei didn't form an emotional attachment to his faux daughters, but as his tattoo attests, he always carried a part of them with him.

He carries a flame for his fake wife

If you look carefully, you may notice that in addition to the rose tattoo for his "daughters," he also has one of his "wife" — Melina. You have to look on his left-hand side right next to his neck. There's an image of a woman sporting a bob haircut, and there's no doubt about it that he's memorialized Melina on his skin. 

Out of all the tattoos featured on Alexei's body, actor David Harbour has said that Melina's portrait holds a special place in his heart. As he told Variety, "That was probably my favorite one because I love Rachel Weisz." That's likely a big reason why when they finally reunite, they flirt with each other like old high school sweethearts. 

Hopefully, the two rekindled their relationship when they went off together at the end of the movie. It would be awfully awkward if Alexei dated other women on the outside and had to explain why he has Rachel Weisz's face on his shoulder.

His knuckles spell out 'Karl Marx'

You might've also noticed Red Guardian has writing on his knuckles. No, he's not a Hells Angels member with "love" and "hate" on his hands. If you pay attention, you may realize what he actually has written across his fingers is "Karl Marx." Marx was a philosopher best known for writing "The Communist Manifesto," and his ideas played a significant role in the formation of the 20th century Russian Revolution. 

It appears Marx's ideology is alive and well in whatever prison Alexei was locked up in for so many years. As a symbol of the Soviet Union, it makes sense for Alexei to have tattoos celebrating Russia's history — and that's not even the only one he has on his body. In an interview with Inverse, actor David Harbour mentioned, "There's other stuff that's personal, stuff that's communist. He has a tattoo of Lenin on his belly, I don't know if you see it."

The Red Guardian getting Vladimir Lenin tattooed on his body and having Karl Marx's name on his hands is basically the equivalent of Captain America getting a giant tattoo of a bald eagle on his chest and having his knuckles read, "John Jay." We suppose that option's still available for John Walker (Wyatt Russell) to do. 

"Black Widow" is now available to watch in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access.