Natasha: We… had to know what Stalyenko was doing, Yelena. We had to stop him.
Yelena: There were other ways!
Natasha: Yes, there were, but… I wanted you to understand, finally, what it meant to be a spy. We are not like Daredevil or the others, Yelena, we are not heroes. We are tools. And tools get used.
I think this is maybe what Whedon was talking about when he said: “She’s not a hero, you know, and it’s something that I read and I feel bad that I can’t remember who wrote the book, but it’s in one of the books explaining ‘These guys are heroes, you are a spy. It’s a different thing, it’s a different skill set, and you don’t have their moral high ground or any of that good stuff’ and that just makes her so interesting to me.” Or, I hope so, anyway, because if he’s basing Avengers 2 script on the Grayson/Rucka stuff, he’s doing it right.
I’ve written about the spy vs superhero thing before, but it drills down to this. Natasha became a superhero to escape her old spy life, but she can never get all the way out. The skills that the Red Room taught her are what let her be an Avenger. And as long as that’s so, the line between who she is and who she was will always be murky, grey.
After all, she still wears her old codename.
From Black Widow: Breakdown #3, by Devin Grayson & Greg Rucka and Scott Hampton.