Red Guardian, Black Widow

From Russia With Love

Red Guardian:We’re family. We fight with you!

Black Widow (2020)

Spies live solitary lives. Any friend could be a traitor, family could be handlers playing the part, random passersby could be assassins waiting to get the drop on you. A spy must be on guard and always prepared for inevitable betrayal. Black Widow usually lives this way, but has allies she can rely on when times are tough. Yelena Belova and the Red Guardian fill this role in Black Widow

They may be Natasha’s allies in the movie, but Yelena Belova and the Red Guardian have a storied history in the comics. So who are they? What is their connection to Black Widow? Are they friends or foes? Let’s find out.

Yelena Belova: Who is the Second Black Widow?

Black Widow: “I should have gone back for you. How many others are there?

Black Widow (2020)

Yelena Belova debuted in Inhumans #5 in 1999. She was created by Devin Grayson and J.G. Jones.

As a young girl, Yelena was kidnapped and brought to a secret facility known as the Red Room. She was trained as part of the Black Widow Ops Program, a project that created highly-trained super soldiers loyal to the Soviet Union. Yelena excelled there and became the program’s second best trainee, surpassed only by Natasha Romanoff.

Yelena was activated when Black Widow defected to the United States. She began assassinating the Soviet Union’s enemies, soon attracting Black Widow’s attention. Yelena believed that she deserved the Black Widow title because Natasha was a traitor. Natasha defeated Yelena and mentally tortured her to drive her from the spy business.

Yelena retired, but soon returned to espionage, stealing the codename Black Widow. She constantly switches between anti-hero and villain. One week she’s working for S.H.I.E.L.D., the next she’s teaming up with The Thunderbolts. Her most frequent employer is the mad scientist organization A.I.M.

Yelena and Natasha have the same Black Widow training. She is an expert at hand-to-hand combat, firearms, driving, infiltration, and assassination. Following a disastrous mission, A.I.M. placed Yelena’s brain into a robot called the Super-Adaptoid. This mechanical menace allows Yelena to copy her opponents’ superpowers, making her an equal match for entire teams of Avengers.

Beauty and The Beast’s Julie Nathanson voices Yelena Belova in Avengers Assemble. The show renamed her Crimson Widow to avoid confusing viewers. Little Women’s Florence Pugh plays Yelena in Black Widow. The smart money says that she will take over for Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow if Yelena survives the movie.

Red Guardian: Who is the Soviet Super Soldier?

Red Guardian:If I am to accomplish my purpose, by destroying Captain America, I must surpass him in every way!

Avengers #43

The Red Guardian debuted in The Avengers #43 in 1967. He was created by Roy Thomas and John Buscema.

Alexei Shostakov was a combat pilot who became famous during the Battle of Stalingrad. He was the poster boy for the Soviet Air Forces and was briefly considered to pilot the Vostok 1, losing at the last moment to Yuri Gagarin. In his private life, he was married to famous ballerina Natasha Romanoff.

As the Cold War began, the Soviet Union realized that they needed their own loyal superhero. They faked Alexei’s death and began training him as a super soldier. He was also shocked to learn that his wife was a deadly assassin. Alexei quickly completed his training and took on the mantle of the Red Guardian.

Red Guardian was dispatched to China to protect a Communist super weapon that the Avengers were trying to destroy. Red Guardian defeated most of The Avengers before squaring off with his counterpart Captain America and his traitorous wife Natasha. After a fierce fight, Red Guardian sacrificed his life to save Natasha from a Soviet assassin.

This was not the end of the Red Guardian. Several other people have taken up the identity. An android based on Alexei’s brain patterns was also created. This robotic Russian took on the identity Ronin and rebuilt the Red Room to train a new generation of Black Widows before it was destroyed by Daredevil and the Avengers.

Red Guardian has strength, speed, agility, and durability equal to Captain America. He is also a martial artist with a signature weapon called the “Belt Buckle Disc” that can be thrown around like Captain America’s famous shield. Unlike the shield, the Belt Buckle disc is equipped with magnets that let Red Guardian control its trajectory mid-flight and retrieve it from a distance.

Red Guardian debuted in Avengers Assemble, where he was voiced by Troy Baker. He next appeared in Marvel Future Avengers, voiced by Fred Tatasciore and Satoshi Mikami. Stranger Things and Hellboy star David Harbour is set to play Red Guardian in Black Widow.

Didya Get All That?

Red Russians ready to fight alongside Romanoff.

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