Essential Avengers: Black Widow

Learn the secret history of the Avengers' deadliest member!

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By Jim Beard

Like her namesake, the Black Widow ranks as one of the deadliest of her species and a woman never to be underestimated -- or forgotten. She’s made her mark on many a man and criminal alike, but in the end she remains an enigmatic figure with a dark past and often times an even darker attitude. You may think you know the Black Widow, but what you know may simply be nothing but smoke and mirrors…

First Spinnings

One of Black Widow's earliest appearances

Born in Russia and raised by the Russian government to be a deadly secret agent, Natasha Romanova excelled in her studies and as an athlete and dancer. Bioenhanced in the “Black Widow” program, she graduated with flying colors and accepted assignments abroad, putting Natasha into direct conflict with American heroes Iron Man and Hawkeye. The Black Widow operated at first as a plainclothes operative, but soon adopted a costume and gadgetry to better suit her spider-like persona and codename.

The first assignments of the Black Widow and certain secrets of her origins may be found in MARVEL MASTERWORKS IRON MAN VOL. 2, BLACK WIDOW VOL. 1: HOMECOMING, MARVEL MASTERWORKS AVENGERS VOL. 3, BLACK WIDOW: THE STING OF THE WIDOW and MARVEL MASTERWORKS AMAZING SPIDER-MAN VOL. 9.

Teams and Tests

After striking out on her own, Romanova became romantically involved with the costumed crusader Daredevil, and entered into a long series of adventures alongside him. Eventually, the two drifted apart and ended their relationship, with the Widow moving on and taking part in the founding of the super hero team called the Champions, based in Los Angeles, CA. Romanova's talents and prowess also made her a prime candidate for Avengers membership and she went on to become not only a valuable asset to the team but also their leader for a time.

The Black Widow's stints as Daredevil's partner and lover, and as a Champion and an Avenger may be found in ESSENTIAL DAREDEVIL VOL. 3 & 4, CLASSIC CHAMPIONS VOL. 1 & 2, and MARVEL MASTERWORKS AVENGERS VOL. 11.

Too Many Widows

Black Widow: Super Spy

At one point, deep into her career, Romanova discovered another Russian agent who claimed the title of Black Widow and the privileges that came with it. Yelena Belova, a product of the same Widow Project as Romanova, became her bitter rival as the two women clashed furiously over the right to continue operating in the wider world. The original Black Widow came out on top, eventually, due to her long experience and heightened capabilities against any and all opponents.

The other Black Widow's first bit of troublemaking for Natasha may be found in BLACK WIDOW: THE ITSY-BITSY SPIDER and her origins may be found in BLACK WIDOW: PALE LITTLE SPIDER #1-3.

At the Center of the Web

The original Black Widow found herself in the middle of the so-called “Civil War” among super heroes and chose to fall in line with Tony Stark’s bold Superhuman Registration Act. When Stark appears to perish, Natasha became the acting commander of S.H.I.E.L.D, an incredible circumstance for a former Russian secret agent. The Widow also witnessed the tragic events surrounding the death of Captain America around this time, after which her former lover, Bucky Barnes, took up the famous shield. A newly-revived Avengers also coaxed her back to the team for a while.

Romanova now enjoys her own exciting solo career as the Black Widow and as a member of Steve Rogers’ covert Secret Avengers team. What the future holds for one of the most deadly women on the planet will only be limited by her drive for action and her taste for adventure.

The details of Black Widow's service during the Civil War era and after may be found in CIVIL WAR, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL. 1-3, and MIGHTY AVENGERS ASSEMBLE.

Black Widow and the Modern-Day Avengers

Present and Future Threads

Natasha Romanova now enjoys her own exciting solo career as the Black Widow and as a member of Steve Rogers’ covert Secret Avengers team. What the future holds for one of the most deadly women on the planet will only be limited by her drive for action and her taste for adventure.

The Black Widow’s more recent missions may be found in BLACK WIDOW: THE NAME OF THE ROSE, BLACK WIDOW: KISS OR KILL
, SECRET AVENGERS VOL. 1 & 2 and BLACK WIDOW: DEADLY ORIGIN.

Ultimate Black Widow

Ultimate Black Widow

The Ultimate version of Natasha also operated as a Russian agent and found her way not only into the high-profile Ultimates team, but also into Tony Stark’s heart. This Black Widow possessed a midnight-black suit of armor, provided by Stark, and cybernetic enhancements to make her a formidable opponent. She also operated as a traitor and her role in the murder of innocents and aiding an invasion of the United States led to her death at the hands of the Ultimate version of Hawkeye.

The Ultimate adventures of the Black Widow may be found in ULTIMATES ULTIMATE COLLECTION and ULTIMATES 2 ULTIMATE COLLECTION.

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