How long has it been since the last Marvel Cinematic Universe movie? Let me remind you: the last official MCU movie was 2019’s Spider-Man Far For Home, so it’s been a whopping two years. That’s the longest period of time we’ve been without an MCU movie since its debut in 2008 (2009 was previously the only year without an MCU movie). So it’s good to know that the MCU movie train is starting to roll out in full force, beginning with July’s Black Widow film which focuses on the spytastic escapades of Natasha Romanoff.
We’ll be delving into spoiler territory for past MCU movies and perhaps for Black Widow itself, so here’s your warning:
Natasha Romanoff AKA Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson)
Just like 2019’s Captain Marvel, Marvel’s Black Widow movie takes place in the past, not in the present. This time, we’re going back to the time period between 2016’s Captain America Civil War and 2018’s Avengers Infinity War. During this point in time, Natasha Romanoff AKA the Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) was on the run from the authorities ever since she sided with Captain America’s anti-Sokovian Accords stance.
Yes, almost everyone knows that Natasha died in 2019’s Avengers Endgame, but the Black Widow movie takes place before all that even happens. To recap, Natasha first appeared in 2010’s Iron Man 2 as a SHIELD spy, before becoming an Avenger in 2012’s The Avengers. She later joined Captain America to take down HYDRA in 2014’s Captain America The Winter Soldier and helped defeat the rogue AI Ultron in 2014’s Avengers Age Of Ultron.
Even after appearing in all those films, we still don’t know much about Natasha’s past. However, the Black Widow movie will explore all that as she returns to her old family of former KGB agents and assassins to take down the still-operating and infamous Red Room program (which trained her in the first place all those years ago).
Now that we’ve established that, let’s meet the rest of Natasha’s estranged family, most of whom will make their debut for the first time into the MCU in the Black Widow movie.
Yelena Belova AKA Black Widow (Florence Pugh)
In the comics, Yelena Belova was the second person to take on the mantle of the Black Widow, as she was also trained by the Red Room program. She was originally sent to kill the original Black Widow, but she ends up becoming an ally and hero herself. Before that though, she was even transformed into a Super-Adaptoid by HYDRA at one point, but the less said about that, the better. Unlike in the MCU, Natasha and Yelena have never really been “sisters” in any way, except sharing the same Red Room training and origins.
In the MCU, however, things are different. It turns out that Natasha was once part of an undercover KGB family in the US (back in the 90s), which includes “father” Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian (David Harbour), “mother” Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz) and of course, “younger sister” Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh). In the present, things will have changed a lot since then, so Natasha will have to face a difficult reunion in the Black Widow movie.
It’s no secret that Marvel Studios is probably planning for Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) to be the next Black Widow moving forward, especially since the actress will be appearing in the upcoming Disney+ Hotstar series Hawkeye, which takes place post-Avengers Endgame (when Natasha is dead).
Alexei Shostakov AKA Red Guardian (David Harbour)
In the comics, there are multiple versions, or rather, various people who have carried the mantle of Red Guardian. What’s important to know is that Red Guardian is essentially the Russian counterpart of the USA’s Captain America. The most prominent person to be Red Guardian is Alexei Shostakov, who is the former husband of Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow back when both were still part of the KGB. Another vital piece of information to note is that the Red Guardian is traditionally the leader of the Winter Guard; who is basically the Russian equivalent of the Avengers (albeit with a freaking anthropomorphic bear named Ursa Major in their ranks).
In the MCU, David Harbour’s Alexei Shostakov is not a former husband to Natasha Romanoff, but as previously mentioned above, he was actually the “father” of Natasha’s undercover KGB family when she was younger. The dynamic will likely be different, as this version will likely be the closest thing to a real father that Natasha’s ever had. It will be interesting to see if there exists a Winter Guard in the MCU as well.
Check out the latest version of the Red Guardian (who is now called Vanguard for some reason, though this isn’t Alexei Shostakov anymore) and the Winter Guard below:
Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz)
This one is a bit more complicated, as she is a lot more obscure than Red Guardian or Yelena Belova. In the comics, Melina Vostokoff is a KGB agent who goes by the name Iron Maiden. She stands in the shadow of the Black Widow’s reputation, which is why she hates Natasha and would jump at the opportunity to kill her. She gets her name, Iron Maiden because she wears a metal mask to conceal her face.
In the MCU, she was the “mother” of Natasha’s undercover KGB family and apparently a product of the same Red Room as both Natasha and Yelena. Not much is known about this version of the character, but there are speculations that she might actually turn out to be the movie’s mysterious antagonist, Taskmaster. We’ll have to wait and see.
The MCU version probably won’t look like the comics version though (see below), who looks like a cross between Doctor Doom and Colossus of the X-Men.
Taskmaster AKA Tony Masters???
Taskmaster is an iconic Avengers villain in the comics, due to his ability of photographic reflexes, which allows him to mimic the fighting styles and movement of any individual. However, in the comics, Anthony “Tony” Masters is the real identity of Taskmaster, and he’s pretty much a mercenary similar to the likes of Marvel’s own Deadpool or DC’s Deathstroke.
Speaking of Deadpool, he has a unique relationship with the Merc With A Mouth. During the events of 2006’s Civil War crossover, Deadpool helps Taskmaster regain his reputation as a merc, and ever since then, they have had a bizarre sense of respect for each other, despite still hating each others’ guts.
The MCU version will most likely be different. We still don’t know who will be playing the villain or if the person inside the mask will even turn out to be Tony Masters. Speculation is rife that the MCU’s Taskmaster could either be Rachel Weisz’s Melina Vostokoff, another man/woman or someone else entirely new. It’s hard to say at this point, considering that I haven’t watched the film.
Still, it’s a shame that the MCU’s Taskmaster looks so generic in design. It would’ve been nice to see the character’s classic orange and blue caped costume from the comics translated to live-action. At least it looks like he’ll still be wielding his iconic sword and shield combo.
His classic look (see below) might look garish when translated into live-action. However, if you look closely at the live-action version (see above), he/she still has some orange and blue hues here and there, which is a nice touch by the costume designers.
Rick Mason (O-T Fagbenle)
In the comics, Rick Mason is another relatively obscure character. He’s a SHIELD agent, but what makes him interesting is that he’s the son of the Marvel supervillain Tinkerer AKA Phineas T. Mason. In case you forgot, Michael Chernus played the role of the Tinkerer in 2017’s Spider-Man Homecoming in an unremarkable role as one of the goons in Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) AKA The Vulture’s group of villains.
The current fate of the Tinkerer is unknown in the MCU, but it will be interesting to see his son, Rick Mason (O-T Fagbenle), appearing in the Black Widow movie. The MCU’s version of Rick Mason is someone who was previously romantically involved with Natasha Romanoff in the past.
Even the cover to his own graphic novel looks as generic as his codename (The Agent).
Dreykov (Ray Winstone)
This character doesn’t exist in the comics, but Dreykov will be the head of the Red Room in the MCU. So, yeah, here’s another antagonist in the Black Widow movie.
Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt)
General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) last appeared in 2016’s Captain America Civil War as he presented the Sokovia Accords to the Avengers. He’s one of the oldest supporting characters in the MCU, having first appeared in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, in which he created the Abomination and is the father of Betty Ross (who was the girlfriend of Bruce Banner AKA Banner and was portrayed by Liv Tyler). In the Black Widow movie, he is the United States Secretary of State and not just a general in the army anymore.
In the comics, he eventually turned into the Red Hulk, but I don’t see that happening in the MCU anytime soon. Look at how they’re treating the Hulk himself, and you’ll see what I mean.
With a She-Hulk Disney+ series on the way, Thaddeus might find himself getting gamma before we know it.
Marvel’s Black Widow is slated to premiere in US cinemas and Disney+ on 9 July 2021. In the meantime, check out the latest poster and trailer below: