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The Worst Things Black Widow Has Ever Done

The Avengers, as we all know, are the "Earth's Mightiest Heroes." And to be deserving of such a title, they must each be of unimpeachable character, right? Well, not really. It turns out whether we're talking about the Marvel Cinematic Universe Avengers or the various iterations of the comics storylines, there's plenty of moral complexity to go around for the entire team. Iron Man is famously a reformed war profiteer and womanizer, the Hulk has a near-constant collateral damage problem, and even the living god Thor as well as the ultimate Boy Scout, Captain America, have done terrible things. And then there's the Avenger who openly admits to having "red on her ledger" — and sacrificed herself for the good of the universe in order to help balance her own karmic scales. We're talking, of course, about Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow.

At last, the long-awaited "Black Widow" solo movie has hit theaters, finally filling us in on the character's backstory and exploring everything that she might have to regret. It's a bit bittersweet, since we know she still dies during the events of "Avengers: Endgame," and Scarlett Johansson has confirmed that the "Black Widow" movie was her swan song as Natasha. But at last audiences can weigh the full accounting of Black Widow's heroics with her past misdeeds. Here, in celluloid and in print, are the worst things Black Widow has ever done.

She executed an innocent man

Recruited at an early age, Natasha is trained in many things in the notorious "Red Room" that turns young women into assassins known as "widows." She learns multiple languages, weapons training, several different languages, and even ballet.  And perhaps it's slightly unfair to count anything that happens in the Red Room, as she's subjected to several different types of brainwashing, but in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," we learn that she's still haunted by one of the institution's gruesome, final tests: the no-questions-asked execution of a hooded prisoner.

When the Scarlet Witch uses her "weird" powers to cause several of the Avengers to have psychotic episodes, haunted by either their biggest fears or regrets, Natasha flashes back to the moment she became a killer, amidst the harsh routines of the Red Room. And even though the life of a trained Russian asset was all she'd ever known, it was still an act of will to pull the trigger — an act that set her down a path that would haunt her for the rest of her life.

She beat up Spider-Man

While the Natasha Romanoff of the Marvel Cinematic Universe defects from the KGB to S.H.I.E.L.D./the Avengers and sticks with the hero side for the rest of her life, in the comics, her story traces a much more wandering path that sees her butting heads with the Avengers on more than one occasion before joining the team, and even running afoul of other Marvel heroes like Daredevil. In "The Amazing Spider-Man" #86, she gives your friendly neighborhood web-slinger a real run for his money in a story aptly titled "Beware... the Black Widow!"

In this issue, which takes place during her early days as a nefarious spy, Black Widow hatches a plot to steal Spider-Man's web-slinging technology for herself in an attempt to reimagine herself after her first, failed stint with the Avengers. She abandons her original, much more '60s costume for the outfit that would become her trademark skin-tight black getup, and gets the drop on Spider-Man more or less immediately.  She even takes a moment to mock him, saying that even (the then much less controversial) filmmaker Woody Allen could take Spider-Man in a fight. Of course, this being Spider-Man's comic book, he eventually wriggles free and regains the upper hand, chasing her away.

She abandoned her 'little sister'

As we learn in the "Black Widow" movie, the MCU version of Natasha didn't spend all of her childhood in the Red Room. For three years, she lived as part of a sleeper cell in suburban Ohio, essentially acting as a prop child to give cover to her "parents," operatives Alexei Shostakov and Melina Vostokoff. Old enough to be aware that it's all an act, Natasha's job is basically just to play along with her younger "sister," Yelena Belova, who's too young to understand that the group is anything other than a real family. When Alexei and Melina complete their mission to steal genetic research that would become crucial to the Red Room in the future, they flee in a plane to Cuba, where they are almost immediately separated from one another.

Despite being passionate enough about her pretend sister's welfare that she steals a Cuban soldier's gun to keep a group of them away from Yelena, Natasha doesn't make any attempt years later to find out what's become of her, after she defects to America and joins the Avengers. As Yelena rightfully points out in "Black Widow," it's a strange double standard to be so protective of her new, super-powered adoptive family in the splintered Avengers when she seemingly forgot all about her Russian one.

She killed Jarvis

There's perhaps no version of Black Widow more nefarious than the incarnation of the character who existed in the pages of Marvel's Ultimate Universe.  In this world, the Avengers are known as "The Ultimates," and are revered as heroes and celebrities after saving Earth from the invading Chitauri.  But they quickly fall into disrepute and scandal as the international community becomes outraged by their role as an arm of the U.S. government, the Hulk's identity is exposed, and Captain America and Thor are framed for crimes they didn't commit.

Behind all of this is the nefarious Black Widow, as we learn in "Ultimates 2" #9. This version of Natasha Romanoff is engaged to Tony Stark, and is seen distracting him in bed when an evil alliance of supervillains called the Liberators make their big move against the Ultimates and the government. Just when Natasha's role as a traitor is revealed, Stark's beloved Butler Edwin Jarvis enters the room with an unfortunately timed breakfast for the couple.  In a sudden and casually cruel act of violence, the Black Widow shoots him in the head, killing him right in front of her shocked fiancé.

She pushed Bruce Banner off a cliff

In "Avengers: Age of Ultron," we learn that Natasha and Bruce Banner's relationship has grown significantly since she recruited him to join the Avengers during events depicted in the first "Avengers" film. In the midst of dealing with the evil robot Ultron's attempt to destroy the Avengers and all of humanity with them, Natasha and Bruce start to open up about their feelings for one another, and the mutual anxieties they share about continuing to live a life full of chaos and world-ending threats.  When Bruce calls himself a monster, Natasha shares a deep secret from her own past — she was sterilized in the Red Room, as childless assassins are naturally less morally conflicted ones, so she considers herself a monster as well.

Near the end of the film, Bruce is finally ready to run away with her, to let the rest of the Avengers handle the final conflict with Ultron and to start a new life together. Natasha seems to agree, kissing him passionately and saying "I adore you" — but then she shoves him off a cliff, adding, "But I need the other guy." The shock of the shove has the desired effect, transforming Bruce into the Hulk, and they both join the fight. While it's ultimately for the "right" cause, it's a pretty low move for Natasha to take away Bruce's agency when she knows more than anyone how much it kills him to become the Hulk each time.

Black Widow killed her best friend

In issue #20 of her solo Marvel Comics title "Black Widow," we learn a lot more about Natasha's time at the Red Room and her early days as an assassin. As a child, she made a friend named Marina that she would occasionally escape the Red Room with to watch ballet dancers at a school nearby. Years later, after they're grown, they're both sent to Cuba on a mission — one that involves Marina being embedded in a comfortable domestic life with a boyfriend and a cat.

After Natasha completes the mission at hand, which involves rather coldly executing a married pair of Cuban defectors, she's ordered to eliminate Marina as well, because she's grown too attached to her double life as a seemingly normal Cuban resident. Natasha guns down her closest friend while she's in the shower, and as an extra-cruel touch, also decides to shoot her beloved cat.

She killed Hawkeye's family

In the Ultimate Marvel universe, tormenting Tony Stark by conning him into an elaborate fake engagement, murdering poor Jarvis, and somehow releasing a sex tape from beyond the grave are still not even close to the worst act this version of Natasha Romanoff is capable of perpetrating. In "Ultimates 2" #7we see a mysterious figure later revealed to be Natasha gun down Hawkeye's wife and children, a crime she manages to frame Captain America for, devastating two members of the team at once in her overall plot to betray them.

It's an especially harsh move in the light of the special bond between Black Widow and Hawkeye in every other version of their stories — whether they're romantically involved, as they were in her first appearance in the comics in the '60s, or whether they're just deep friends, as they were depicted in the MCU, these two characters are almost always close allies. This is obviously and most definitely not the case in "Ultimates," as he eventually tracks her down and kills her in a hospital bed to avenge the murders of his innocent family.

Black Widow blew up an innocent child

As part of her defection to S.H.I.E.L.D. in the MCU, Black Widow and Hawkeye go after the head of the infamous Red Room, General Derykov, finally tracking him to Budapest.  We learn in "Black Widow" just how far Natasha is willing to go to get her revenge for her stolen childhood and do her part to destroy the Red Room. Unable to get a consistent visual on Dreykov as they prepare to blow up an entire building with him in it, the best way she can confirm he's there is the presence of his young daughter, Antonia. After hesitating briefly, the Black Widow gives the order to go ahead and watches the building burn. While the Red Room and its architect are unquestionably evil, is it worth it to sacrifice the life of another innocent young girl to end it? 

This decision ultimately comes back to haunt Natasha — not only does Dreykov survive unharmed and take the entire Red Room off the grid and make it harder to find as well as exponentially more powerful, Antonia survives as well. She's badly scarred, but is transformed eventually into the brainwashed, unstoppable fighter known as Taskmaster. In her willingness to sacrifice an innocent girl's life, Black Widow just managed to create more enemies for herself.

She tried to brainwash the Avengers

In her earliest incarnation, Black Widow sported a very different costume and a sense of loyalty that was a lot harder to pin down. Initially a Russian agent that waylaid Tony Stark with the help of a lovestruck Hawkeye, she defects and joins the Avengers for a time before seemingly re-defecting back to Russia, her lifetime of brainwashing re-activated by her communist masters. In "Avengers" #29, she joins forces with her fellow villains the Swordsman and Power Man.

They quickly subdue Hawkeye, who — despite being warned that she's no longer on the good side — follows his heart to track Natasha down, kidnap Captain America, and get the upper hand on Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch as well. Finally, Goliath and the Wasp arrive and free the Avengers, and Black Widow and her compatriots escape to cause problems for them another time. The problem with brainwashing is that it's pretty hard to wash out multiple decades of it at once, and then just move on with your life.

She tried to be a fashion designer

During a long run as a supporting character in the pages of "Daredevil," Natasha has a romantic relationship with Matt Murdock in San Francisco, and accompanies him as sort of a sidekick figure during his super-heroics as Daredevil. In the middle of ongoing battles with local villains, and run-ins with the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D., she tries her hand at a day job for the first (and only) time during any run in the comics and becomes a fashion designer.

This didn't sit well with fans, who found it somewhat of an insubstantial and sexist idea — Matt Murdock is a lawyer when he isn't fighting crime, and Natasha was seemingly capable of many more things herself in civilian life as someone highly intelligent (and someone whose background and interests never seemed to have much to do with designing outfits). Eventually the character, struggling with her lack of independence as Daredevil's sidekick — just as much as the biggest fans of the character struggled with the implications of the storyline — left Daredevil and San Francisco to strike out on her own again. 

Black Widow ate Spider-Man

In Marvel's fantastical and often humorous "What If...?" comic book series, the writers couldn't help but have fun with the literal implications of the Black Widow and Spider-Man's code names. In "What If...?" #34, they ask what would happen if the two spider-themed heroes got married — and Peter Parker does famously have a soft spot for redheads, as we know from his longtime relationship with Mary Jane Watson.

Just as female black widow spiders eat the male after mating, Black Widow picks her teeth with Spider-Man's bones in a brief story that appears in an anthology issue of the comic that also posed the hypothetical question "What if the Fantastic Four were bananas?"  However she goes about it, it's a strangely bloodless method of eating someone — in the aftermath, all that remains of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man are his skeleton and trademark suit. It's pretty grisly, but out of all the misdeeds and acts of villainy Black Widow has gotten up to in the various universes, timelines, and Marvel media, this one is by far the funniest.