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Fuck Yeah, Black Widow

Fallaces sunt rerum species

Здравствуйте from FYBW, your one-stop tumblr shop for Black Widow news, no-prizing, and oversaturated .gifs. Some MCU, mostly comics. Often overwritten. Always overthinking.

Black Widow created by Lee, Rico and Heck & is © Marvel Entertainment.

• On a snowy night in Prague, Natasha must fight her way out of disaster alongside the WINTER SOLDIER!
• Meanwhile, Isaiah has business of his own in London, but a simple plan gets complicated.
• Nathan Edmonson and Phil Noto continue their uninterrupted run on one of the most acclaimed books of the year.

Whatever Happened to Yelena Belova?

Bixby: Wait…that’s it? You didn’t even tell me your name. Who are you?
Yelena: I’m the Black Widow.

Yelena Belova came into comics in 1999, after a decade of pouches and ediger, contemporary replacement heroes. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the miniseries which crashed Yelena to Natasha also returned her to the 1970 all-blacks and half-bouffant, after near to two decades of short, angular hairstyles. Yelena had her middriff bare, Yelena used rifles instead of gadgets, Yelena was very 1999. She was also post-Soviet, young and hungry. Natasha was getting older, getting old; that 1999 mini saw her pass a birthday unremarked and unremembered. It also gave her an archfoe, something she hadn’t had for a while.

Yelena Belova was all these hard worn comic book trope: the edgy nineties replacement, the dark mirror. But because she was the Black Widow, none of that was colored in binaries. Natasha didn’t want to defend her codename— she wanted to save Yelena from it. Yelena wasn’t only the villain— she was also the wronged.

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Dran: Miss Natasha, you come here, I hope, with some knews for me.
Natasha: Damon Dran?
Dran: Yes, old friend. And you have endangered my life coming here, Black Widow.
Meanwhile, some thirty feet below, in a concrete bunker built by Damon Dran…
Danny: Uh-oh… the sounds’ve stopped next door… Dran must be finished… which means I haven’t got much time left. When Tasha and I broke into Project Four, we were acting under orders… orders we didn’t really understand… and because we followed those orders, sixteen men died… I’ve carried that guilt for years…

Damon Dran dates back to the Conway/Colan days of Daredevil and Black Widow; he was the vague mastermind behind Project Four. Infiltrating Project Four was Natasha’s first mission, and she knew what she was doing, and she didn’t know what she was doing. Danny French was her partner on that mission, and neither of them thought about what the mission was, only executing it. They didn’t know Damon Dran was behind it all, until he returned and started stuffed them into these armored seat-belts he seems really fond of.

Dran would use Project Four to turn himself into the Indestructible Man. He later kidnapped Ivan and attempted to frame Natasha for the assassination of Nick Fury, and then after that he ran into something named Americop.

The Project Four flashbacks are interesting because even some decades later we don’t have much on panel that shows us when she was bad. We have her training, and her childhood, but not Black Widow: Soviet Agent. The old Natasha has some of her innocence, still, and because of that innocence she is quick to anger, violent, not cold combat methodical. She is good at fighting and accomplishes her mission, but she is not good at questions, trusts where she shouldn’t, and more people die. Dran only emerges years later, after Natasha has learned to ask better. (People still die, though. Danny French sacrifices himself like most men who get mixed up with Black Widow during the Bronze Age.)

The current volume of Black Widow has been building a world around Natasha, giving her a new apartment, new villains, a new supporting cast. I think this is smart—it keeps the book approachable and gives it space to grow its own stories without running up into seventeen Avengers tie-ins. I am, moreover, pretty sure only a small percentage of readers saw this Damon Dran reveal and immediately recalled his appearance in Marvel Fanfare #13. But everything has a past, and it doesn’t always hurt to be reminded.

From Black Widow #5, by Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto, & Daredevil and the Black Widow #93 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan.

Avenger Black Widow is one of the best bets, as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who has already proven herself on-screen, and with a spy skill set that can break superhero cinema out of the usual origin-story rut…But instead of being seen as powerful and dynamic characters who could lead their own films, a double standard is applied to superheroines. The men lead, and the women support, no matter how powerful their characters are. Marvel head Kevin Feige has actually repeatedly expressed happiness at how his company has handled female superheroes. He is perfectly happy to have the female characters support the men, rather than feel pressure over the company’s very recognizable exclusion of female stars: “I’m very proud of the way the Marvel movies handle the female characters […] as opposed to feeling the pressure of ‘When are you doing a female movie?’”

Intentional or not, Feige’s words express a palpable disinterest in the female superheroes audiences clearly want to see. In the same interview, he blows off the idea of a Black Widow solo movie with that same old standby: “If we had a great idea, we’d do it.”

The fact is that if Feige desired it, it would happen — and the Marvel head has a history of making his desires a reality. “It became a secret dream” of his “to have a second bite at the apple” when Hulk crashed and burned in 2003. In five short years, Bruce Banner was back for The Incredible Hulk — another film that missed the mark, before the character finally hit, four years later, when Mark Ruffalo took over in The Avengers. That time, Feige made it happen, and poor returns on Marvel’s investments didn’t stop him.