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Black Widow (Natasha Romanova)

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| real_name = Natalia "Natasha" Alianovna Romanova  
| real_name = Natalia "Natasha" Alianovna Romanova  
| identity = Publicly known
| identity = Publicly known
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| occupation = Adventurer, intelligence operative, former ballerina  
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| occupation = Licensed super hero, intelligence operative; former school teacher, fashion designer, ballerina
| place_of_birth = Stalingrad, former U.S.S.R.
| place_of_birth = Stalingrad, former U.S.S.R.
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| groups = [[Lady Liberators]]; formerly [[S.H.I.E.L.D.]], [[Avengers]], [[Queen's Vengeance]], [[Marvel Knights|Daredevil's Unnamed Super-Hero Team]], [[Champions (of Los Angeles)|Champions of Los Angeles]], and [[Communist Party (Soviet Union)|K.G.B.]]
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| groups = formerly [[Thunderbolts]], [[Avengers]], [[S.H.I.E.L.D.]], [[Marvel Knights|Daredevil's Unnamed Super-Hero Team]], [[Queen's Vengeance]], [[Champions (of Los Angeles)|Champions of Los Angeles]], [[Lady Liberators]], FSB, and [[Communist Party (Soviet Union)|K.G.B.]]
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| citizenship = Former citizen of the U.S.S.R., resident in United States of America under extended visa authorized by S.H.I.E.L.D.
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| citizenship = Former citizen of Russia/U.S.S.R., resident in United States of America under extended visa authorized by S.H.I.E.L.D.
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| education = College graduate
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| education = Unrevealed; intensive espionage training through Red Room Academy, others
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| aliases = Natasha Romanoff, Nancy Rushman, Laura Matthers, Oktober, Tsarina, Natalia Shostakova
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| aliases = Natasha Romanoff, Nadine Roman, "Nat," Tsarina, Oktober, Laura Matthers, Nancy Rushman, Black Pearl, Natalia Shostakova, Natuska, Czarina, others; impersonated Yelena Belova
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| relatives = Unnamed parents (presumed deceased); Alexi Shostakov ([[Red Guardian (Alexi Shostakov)|Red Guardian]], husband, deceased); [[Vindiktor]] (alleged brother, deceased)
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| relatives = Unnamed parents (presumed deceased); Alexi Shostakov ([[Red Guardian (Alexi Shostakov)|Red Guardian]], estranged husband); [[Vindiktor]] (alleged brother, deceased)
| height = 5'7"  
| height = 5'7"  
| weight = 131 lbs.
| weight = 131 lbs.
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| eyes = Green
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| eyes = Blue
| hair = Red-auburn (formerly dyed black)
| hair = Red-auburn (formerly dyed black)
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| weapons = Bracelets that contain both the "widow's line" which fires her cable, and the "widow's bite" which releases electric bolts to stun her adversaries with a charge of up to 30,000 volts. Her gloves and boots are equipped with miniature suction cups which enable her to cling to surfaces. Her belt contains plastic explosives.
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| weapons = Black Widow customarily wears two bracelets equipped to discharge the "widow’s bite," high-frequency electrostatic bolts of up to 30,000 volts, capable of stunning even a superhuman opponent at a range of at least 20 feet, shoot tear gas cartridges and act as a radio transmitter. The bracelets’ various functions are activated by galvanic sensors keyed to Black Widow’s wrist musculature. At times she carries plastic explosive discs equivalent to 4 pounds of TNT in her belt and uses automatic weapons and/or combat knives as necessary.
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| powers = The Black Widow has received a variant of the Super-Soldier Serum which has enabled her to remain in peak physical condition for the past several decades, as well as slowing her aging process to some degree.  
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| paraphernalia = Her costume is composed of a kevlar-like substance designed for maximum protective qualities, its fingers and feet lined with microscopic suction cups activated by an electrostatic charge, which allow her to adhere to any standard building material surface.  
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| powers = Government treatments have slowed her aging, augmented her immune system and enhanced her physical durability.  
| debut = Tales of Suspense #52 (1964)
| debut = Tales of Suspense #52 (1964)
| origin = Avengers #44 (1967), Daredevil #88 (1972)
| origin = Avengers #44 (1967), Daredevil #88 (1972)
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  main_image=BlackWidow.jpg
  main_image=BlackWidow.jpg
}}{{bio|
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bio_text=
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bio_text= [[image:BlackWidow-mini-Granov.jpg|left|125px]] One of the world's greatest spies and master of disguise, she's the legendary scarlet-haired '''NATASHA ROMANOVA''', the '''BLACK WIDOW!'''
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Natalia Romanova, known to most as Natasha Romanoff, is rumored to be a relative of the Romanoffs, the last ruling czars of Russia, but nothing else is known of her family. During World War II, a [[Nazi Party|Nazi]] assault upon Stalingrad set the building she was in on fire. A woman, possibly her mother, threw her into the arms of a Russian soldier named [[Petrovich, Ivan|Ivan Petrovich]] before being consumed by the flames.
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== ORIGIN OF THE BLACK WIDOW ==
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Ivan brought Natasha under his protection and soon had to defend her from her many enemies. In 1941, Natasha was sought by the Nazi [[Baron Strucker]], who presented her to the [[Hand]] to become their master assassin. She was saved from Strucker and the Hand by Ivan, the American [[Glossary:S#super-hero|super-hero]] [[Captain America (Steve Rogers)|Captain America]], and the Canadian adventurer [[Wolverine (James Howlett)|Logan]].
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[[image: blackwidow01.jpg|left|200px|thumb]]Born circa 1928, Natalia "Natasha" Romanova was apparently orphaned as a child when she was trapped in a burning building during an early attack on Stalingrad by enemy forces. Ivan Petrovitch Bezukhov, a Soviet soldier, found Natasha in the inferno and rescued her. Although Ivan kept a close eye on Natasha as she grew, by the late 1930s she had attracted the attention of Soviet intelligence, which began her training. In 1941, she was almost brainwashed into serving the ninja clan the [[Hand]], but was saved by Ivan, [[Wolverine (James Howlett)|Logan (James Howlett, later Wolverine)]] and [[Captain America (Steve Rogers)|Captain America]]. Following World War II, Natasha was recruited to become part of the Black Widow Program, a team of elite female sleeper agents. Among the Widow’s instructors was the [[Winter Soldier]], formerly Captain America’s sidekick Bucky (James Barnes); Natasha studied as a ballerina to cover for her true occupation. The Soviet state eventually arranged for Natasha to marry Alexi Shostakov, a champion test pilot. After a few years of a happy marriage, the KGB faked Shostakov’s death in a rocket test; grief for Shostakov drove Natasha’s resolve deeper and she continued her education with the Red Room Academy, finally being appointed the title of the Black Widow.
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[[image: blackwidow01.jpg|left|200px|thumb]]Under Ivan's care, Natasha grew to pursue her goal of becoming a ballet dancer and studied under [[Bolishinko, Oksana|Oksana Bolishinko]], a famous Bolshoi instructor. She fell in love with a Soviet test pilot named Alexi Shostakov but was grief-stricken when he apparently died testing an experimental rocket. Natasha decided that she would honor Alexi's memory by becoming an intelligence operative, not realizing that this was what the K.G.B. had hoped would happen when they informed her of Alexi’s death. She was instructed by the K.G.B. in their infamous [[Red Room Academy]] and under their training, she became their most skilled operative, a superb fighter and information-gatherer. The K.G.B. gave her the code name of "Black Widow," and quickly sent her into the field.
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== ENEMY OF THE WEST ==
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[[image: BlackWidow-Grey.jpg|left|200px|thumb]]In one assignment, Natasha helped American mercenary Danny French steal a unique energy globe from Project: Four, though French absconded with the globe, betraying their employer, munitions magnate Damon Dran. Subsequently, when
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Logan, his memories of their past relationship suppressed by [[Weapon X]], traveled to the USA following his recruitment by Canada’s [[Department H]], Natasha protected him from [[Hydra]] assassins, as did his former intelligence comrades [[Fury, Nick|Nick Fury]] and [[Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers)|Carol Danvers]]. Natasha and Logan ended up on opposite sides when he joined Danvers and pilot [[Thing|Ben Grimm]] to steal a Russian asset she oversaw, the top-secret Red Storm Project. She also trained fellow Russian operatives, including [[Titanium_Man_(Boris_Bullski)|Boris Bullski]], who became her partner in various assignments.
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When Logan resurfaced in America, now bereft of his memory, Natasha set out as the Black Widow to save him from a team of [[Hydra|HYDRA]] assassins. She soon encountered Logan again when he, [[Thing (Benjamin Grimm)|Ben Grimm]], and [[Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers)|Carol Danvers]] stole the [[Red Storm Project]] from Russia. Natasha pursued them but was ordered off by her superiors.
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After Russian scientist Anton Vanko left Russia to work with [[Iron Man (Tony Stark)]], Natasha’s superiors sent her and another operative, Boris Turgenov, to assassinate both men. When Turgenov stole Vanko’s [[Crimson Dynamo (Ivan Vanko)|Crimson Dynamo]] armor, both Turgenov and Vanko died in battle but Natasha escaped. Later, feigning repentance, she romanced Stark long enough to steal his experimental anti-gravity ray. With it, she performed several acts of sabotage against the USA until Iron Man deactivated the device. Her cover blown, she romanced and manipulated the outlaw archer [[Hawkeye (Clint Barton)]] into working with her, helping him enhance his archery arsenal with high-tech arrows. The pair attacked Iron Man, who deflected one of Hawkeye’s explosive arrows, its impact felling Natasha and ending the battle when Hawkeye rushed her to safety. While recovering, she persuaded Hawkeye to attack her superiors’ next target, Williams Innovations, but [[Spider-Man (Peter Parker)|Spider-Man’s]] intervention drove Hawkeye away. The idealistic Hawkeye’s growing influence upon Natasha led her to rebel against her communist superiors, who extorted her into returning to action with a new costume and weapons, but she and Hawkeye again failed against Iron Man.
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The Black Widow's first encounter with [[Iron Man (Anthony Stark)|Iron Man]] came when she was directed to slay [[Crimsom Dynamo (Anton Vanko)|Anton Vanko]], the creator of the Soviet Crimson Dynamo armor, who had defected to America. Natasha attempted to distract Tony Stark while her partner [[Crimson Dynamo (Boris Turgenov)|Boris Turgenov]] used the Crimson Dynamo to destroy Stark's plants. Turgenov and Vanko wound up perishing in battle, and Natasha remained in America to find some way of regaining the K.G.B.'s favor.
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== DEFECTION ==
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[[image: blackwidow02.jpg|left|200px|thumb]]After briefly being brainwashed into fighting the [[Avengers]], she returned to Russia and broke all ties with her former superiors. When she returned to the USA, she divided her time between freelance work for Nick Fury of [[S.H.I.E.L.D.]] and informal assistance on Avengers missions against the [[Sons of the Serpent]], the [[Ultroids]] and others. When she and Hawkeye were captured by General Yuri Brushov, she learned Alexi Shostakov still lived as the Red Guardian; he protested his employers’ dishonorable treatment of the Avengers and seemingly sacrificed his life to save them. Unaware Shostakov had again survived, a depressed Natasha retired from action before the Avengers could induct her as a full-fledged member, and she contemplated a marriage proposal from Hawkeye which gained more emotional impact after she briefly believed him dead; however, when Ivan Petrovitch resurfaced in the USA to again serve as her friend and confidant, Natasha’s spirits lifted and she broke ties with Hawkeye to pursue a solo vigilante career, fighting the Astrologer, Watchlord and others.  
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Since Tony Stark was still unaware that she was a K.G.B. operative, she continued to romance him so that she could steal a new anti-gravity device he had created. She managed to use the device to commit various acts of sabotage, even lifting entire buildings into the air, but Iron Man nullified the device and she barely escaped capture, now unable to trick Stark into lowering his guard.
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== PARTNER WITH THE DEVIL ==
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[[image: blackwidow03.jpg|left|200px|thumb]]Time-traveling android Mr. Kline arranged for Natasha’s path to cross [[Daredevil (Matthew Murdock)|Daredevil’s]] when he manipulated her into saving Daredevil from the [[Owl]]; Kline next framed her for murder via an android Scorpion duplicate, and Daredevil, as Matt Murdock, defended her in court. Natasha’s romantic interests in Daredevil grew, all in accordance with Kline’s plans to manipulate the present to achieve a desired future. Kline seemingly perished before further manipulating the two heroes, but they remained together as a crime-fighting couple, battling Daredevil’s enemies [[Gladiator (Melvin Potter)]], [[Electro (Maxwell Dillon)]], [[Purple Man]] and Mr. Fear in rapid succession. Accompanied by Ivan, Natasha and Matt left New York for California, where they were set against Damon Dran, now calling himself the Indestructible Man, who might have killed them had Danny French not sacrificed his life to stop Dran. Following an encounter with an embittered Hawkeye, Natasha and Daredevil briefly returned to New York to fight Magneto alongside the Avengers, who finally awarded her full membership; however, the team’s subsequent encounter with the Lion God made Natasha question her place in a team environment, and she left the Avengers to rejoin Daredevil in California, fighting [[Angar the Screamer]], Ramrod and several other superhumans mutated by [[Moondragon]] for use against [[Thanos]].
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[[image: blackwidow02.jpg|left|200px|thumb]]By luck, Natasha happened upon the new costumed crime fighter [[Hawkeye (Clint Barton)|Hawkeye]], who had been mistaken for a criminal by the police. Hawkeye was so taken with Natasha that she was able to entice him into an attempt at stealing plans from Tony Stark. Hawkeye fought Iron Man while Natasha watched from a distance, but when Iron Man deflected one of Hawkeye's explosive arrows, the force of the impact struck Natasha down, knocking her unconscious. Hawkeye fled the scene to help Natasha recover.
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== CALIFORNIA CHAMP ==
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After fighting alongside Daredevil against the terrorists of [[Black Spectre]] and Hydra, Natasha encountered another terrorist group, the Sword of Judgement and discovered their leader [[Agamemnon]] to be her long lost friend Andre Rostov, who was arrested after a clash with her and the Thing. Growing alienated from Daredevil since she felt he did not regard her as an equal, Natasha ultimately ended their relationship but remained in California. She found herself first among equals after chance brought her together with [[X-Men]] alumni [[Angel (Warren Worthington III)]] and [[Iceman|Iceman (Robert Drake)]], as well as demonic vigilante [[Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze)]], to help her fellow Avenger [[Hercules]] and [[Venus]] against their enemy [[Pluto]]. After Venus’ departure, the remaining heroes formed a new super-team, the Los Angeles-based Champions. Although the wealthy Angel was the team’s financier and biggest public backer, Natasha was unanimously recognized as the most qualified tactician and she agreed to become team leader, also embarking on a rebound romance with Hercules.
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After Natasha recovered, her superiors instructed her to avoid [[Stark Industries]] for a time and directed her instead to target [[Williams Innovations]]. She duped Hawkeye into assaulting that firm, but [[Spider-Man (Peter Parker)|Spider-Man]] intervened and Hawkeye turned back as he had begun to suspect his lover's true motivations. Natasha later sent Hawkeye out on a second attempt to steal Stark's plans. However, while Hawkeye was gone, she was kidnapped by the K.G.B. and returned to Russia. The K.G.B. designed a new costume for her and equipped her with her "widow's bite" and "widow's line". With these new weapons Natasha joined Hawkeye in battle against Iron Man in an attempt to destroy him, but when Iron Man shocked Natasha with an electrical blast Hawkeye disobeyed her orders to save her life once again. The K.G.B. then returned and stole Natasha away from Hawkeye.
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Following the Champions’ defeats of insane scientists Dr. Edward Lansing and Rampage (Stuart Clarke), she and Ivan, as well as the now-defected Alexi Bruskin, were attacked by several Russian super-agents, including Ivan’s son Yuri, using the Crimson Dynamo armor, and Boris Bullski, now Titanium Man; the Champions thwarted the Russians’ scheme of vengeance, and young Russian mutant [[Darkstar (Laynia Petrovna)]] defected to the heroes’ team. After battling many villains, the Champions ultimately disbanded due to conflicting priorities and personalities.  
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This time the K.G.B. brainwashed Natasha to ensure her loyalty to the state; in her next mission, she found herself allied against Hawkeye, who had become a member of the Avengers. Her love for Hawkeye allowed her to resist the brainwashing, and she finally turned against the K.G.B. She became an ally of the Avengers for awhile, aiding them against the [[Sons of the Serpent]]. She also proved instrumental in defeating the [[Glossary:A#alien|alien]] [[Ultroids]] who were certain the Avengers would not kill their leader [[Ixar]] because of their oath against killing, but Natasha forced Ixar to surrender, reasoning that as she was not an Avenger, she was not bound by their oaths.
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== NATASHA: AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. ==
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Natasha and Hercules remained together for a time, and she returned to occasional S.H.I.E.L.D. assignments. She assisted the Avengers on a few adventures, including their clash with the cosmic-powered Korvac; during that case Natasha realized how fleeting mortal relationships must seem to an immortal like Hercules, leading the couple to drift apart. She and the Avengers intervened when Daredevil was mind-controlled by Death-Stalker (Philip Sterling), and following Daredevil’s recovery, she fought alongside him against the Unholy Trio. After an Avengers roster shake-up orchestrated by [[Gyrich, Henry Peter|Henry Peter Gyrich]] excluded her, Natasha was captured by Viper but escaped and retreated into a pre-programmed S.H.I.E.L.D. persona, schoolteacher Nancy Rushman; when her true psyche was restored, she joined Spider-Man and others in rescuing the entire S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier from [[Viper]]. Abducted by [[Bullseye]] because of her status as Daredevil’s longtime ally, Natasha soon escaped and helped Daredevil defeat the insane assassin. Weeks later, Natasha rescued Ivan from Damon Dran, whose grudge was no less undying than he was, and Natasha fought several costumed mercenaries, including former Russian agent Iron Maiden, in the process.  
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On an assignment for S.H.I.E.L.D., Natasha discovered that Alexi Shostakov was still alive, and had been transformed by the K.G.B. into the costumed hero, the Red Guardian. She and the Avengers opposed the Red Guardian and his masters, and Alexi died in the battle. For a while Natasha abandoned her [[Glossary:S#secret identity|identity]] as the Black Widow, just as the Avengers were about to make her an official member.
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== DEATH BY THE HAND ==
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A chance investigation once more brought Natasha into contact with the Hand, who struck her down with a fatal poison. Daredevil’s ally Stone, of the Chaste, an order of warriors opposed to the Hand, mystically resurrected her. She joined the two men in battling the Hand, seemingly thwarting the ninja clan’s efforts to similarly resurrect Daredevil’s long-lost love, the assassin [[Elektra|Elektra Natchios]], who was nonetheless revived.  
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[[image: blackwidow03.jpg|left|200px|thumb]]Natasha finally decided to resume the Black Widow identity, but soon broke off her relationship with Hawkeye so that she could pursue a solo career. She adopted a new all-black uniform and became a vigilante, battling street gangs and organized crime in New York. Ivan had come to America by then, and he served as her chauffeur and confidant. Her new methods of operation brought her into contact with [[Daredevil (Matthew Murdock)|Daredevil]], and she soon developed both a professional and personal relationship with him, while into battle side by side as they fell in love.
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By now Daredevil had rekindled his relationship with an earlier lover, [[Page, Karen|Karen Page]], whose life Natasha saved during the Inferno crisis. Natasha was drawn back to Avengers duty during such major crises as the [[Acts of Vengeance]] and a series of attacks from [[Atlantis]] (orchestrated to restore the Elder God [[Set]]), and she gained a new, far different ally when she joined the Punisher against the Sunrise Society, a cabal with origins linked to World War II. After Russian dissidents manipulated her into crime using an LMD (android) version of Alexi Shostakov, Natasha revisited another piece of her past by reuniting with longtime friend Logan, now the X-Man Wolverine, to once more battle the Hand in Madripoor. Soon afterward, she rejoined the Avengers full-time when the team reorganized under a new United Nations charter, becoming Captain America’s deputy leader; between missions, she and fellow ex-Champion Darkstar battled Starlight, another former Russian operative who had once succeeded Shostakov as the [[Red Guardian]]. When Natasha’s long-dormant Oktober persona was activated, Iron Man helped her break her brainwashing.
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Natasha was less taken with Matt's law partner [[Nelson, Foggy|Foggy Nelson]], who was manipulated by the villain Mr. Kline into prosecuting her for the murder of the [[Scorpion (robot)|Scorpion]] (it was actually a robot of the Scorpion created by Mr. Kline). Although Natasha was proven innocent, she never truly forgave Foggy for the savagery of his courtroom assault.
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Despite her Avengers duties against the likes of Thanos, the [[Mole Man]] and others, Natasha still found time for occasional government work, as when she and Daredevil battled the telepathic Rose, who had slaughtered a number of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s ESPer agents. Soon afterward, she once more returned to Russia to investigate increasing activities of the nation’s mobsters, some of them perhaps once among her communist overseers, only to be caught in a battle between the decades-old vigilante Night Raven and his nemesis Yi Yang. Circumstances forced her to side with S.H.I.E.L.D. against Wolverine when the latter freed from S.H.I.E.L.D. custody the feral young woman [[Lynx]], who was briefly programmed with a false S.H.I.E.L.D. identity once used by Natasha herself. Nevertheless, Natasha’s heart was not in the endeavor, and when Wolverine found a safe haven for Lynx, she and Nick Fury toasted their mutual friend’s success.
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Matt broke up with his long-time love, [[Page, Karen|Karen Page]], so that he could be with Natasha, and the two of them moved to San Francisco to start a new life together. They fought against menaces such as [[Man-Bull]], [[Blue Talon]], [[Dark Messiah]], [[Angar the Screamer]], [[Ramrod (cyborg)|Ramrod]], [[Terrex]], [[Kraven (Sergei Kravinoff)|Kraven the Hunter]], [[Death-Stalker]], [[Owl]], [[Jaguar, el|el Jaguar]], HYDRA, and [[Dran, Damon|Damon Dran]], the Indestructible Man.  
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== AVENGERS TEAM LEADERSHIP ==
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[[image: blackwidow04.jpg|left|200px|thumb]]When Captain America left active Avengers duty following internal ethical disputes regarding the Kree-Shi’ar War, Natasha became team leader, with the [[Black Knight (Dane Whitman)]] occasionally serving under her as field commander. Shortly after Tony Stark faked his death, Natasha and the Avengers faced a succession of enemy organizations such as the [[Grim Reaper|Grim Reaper’s]] Legion of the Unliving, Proctor’s Gatherers, Galen Kor’s Lunatic Legion and others, although internal team strife continued, culminating in the disbandment of the Avengers’ West Coast branch. Following a period of mourning when she believed Matt Murdock had perished in combat with ex-Hand operatives, Natasha considered pursuing a romance with Captain America, beside whom she clashed yet again with Damon Dran; ultimately, however, she abandoned the idea, perhaps trying not to repeat past mistakes. She accompanied Iron Man, back among the living, on a business trip to Russia, where her former student/partner Titanium Man (Bullski) attacked them and seemingly died in battle, though he would later return; Natasha also enjoyed a romantic interlude with Iron Man during this trip, but that relationship developed no further. When AIM reconstructed the Cosmic Cube, Ivan Petrovitch investigated on Natasha’s behalf, only to suffer serious wounds at the hands of Red Skull. While the Avengers defeated the Skull, Ivan may have died from his wounds, since he has not surfaced since. Natasha doubtless felt “the widow’s curse” had struck when circumstances soon afterward convinced the world that two more of Natasha’s dearest friends, Nick Fury and Captain America, had also perished. Both Fury and Cap, like Stark, later turned up alive and well.
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Natasha wanted to find a new career for herself beyond the day-to-day adventures she and Daredevil enjoyed, and attempted to become a fashion designer, but her career never took off, and her relationship with Matt became strained.
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When most of the active Avengers roster seemingly perished fighting Onslaught, Natasha tried to rebuild the team by seeking out new recruits (such as ex-Champions Angel and Iceman) and past members, but she ultimately gave up after repeated rejections and shut down the team, closing Avengers Mansion. She kept busy against old enemies and new, including terrorist units called Underground Militia and Freedomslight. She became increasingly obsessed with hunting down former Avengers foes, but while fighting yet another Russian ex-operative, General Tskarov, an encounter with Daredevil, who had revealed himself to be alive shortly before the Avengers’ disappearances, helped her deal with the survivors’ guilt that drove her. Shortly afterward, she approached two members of the new [[Thunderbolts]] super-hero team, MACH-1 and [[Songbird]], whom she recognized as Masters of Evil alumni Beetle and Screaming Mimi; rather than attack them as Avengers enemies, she encouraged them to follow the heroic example her supposedly dead teammates had set. She was lured into a trap by the armored Vindiktor, who claimed to be her long-lost brother in possession of their mother’s diary, but he apparently perished before his claims could be verified.
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Natasha left Daredevil briefly to accept an offer of membership in the Avengers after aiding them against [[Magneto (Magnus)|Magneto]], but she soon left them after determining from a battle against the [[Lion God]] that she did not fit into a team environment. Natasha and Matt reconciled for awhile, but after a lengthy romance, Natasha finally broke up with Matt because she felt he did not treat her as an equal in battle.
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Still on the West Coast, Natasha joined forces with [[Ghost Rider (John Blaze)]] and [[Archangel|Angel]] and [[Iceman]] of the [[X-Men]] when the [[Glossary:G#god|gods]] [[Hercules (Heracles)|Hercules]] and [[Venus]] were captured by the armies of [[Pluto]] and [[Ares]]. After having saved Hercules from a forced marriage, he joined the four heroes to found a new super-hero team, the Champions. Based in Los Angeles and bankrolled by the Angel, the team enjoyed modest success in their adventures. During this time, Natasha became involved with Hercules, but his perspective as an immortal made a long-term relationship seem unimportant. The Champions finally disbanded due to bankruptcy.
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== THE SECOND BLACK WIDOW ==
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When Natasha’s teammates resurfaced alive, the Avengers were reestablished, but Natasha did not return to full-time duty. She joined Nick Fury in a counter-terrorist operation in [[Latveria]] which, ironically, forced her to manipulate Wolverine, Captain America, Daredevil and others on Fury’s behalf. As if in atonement, she renewed her ties with Iron Man, helping him against Tuatara and the Espionage Elite; a second reunion proved less encouraging when Daredevil, drugged into insanity by [[Mysterio (Quentin Beck)]], fought her during a crisis revolving around a mysterious child he had entrusted to Natasha’s care. Her spirits rose when she and her fellow Champions alumni banded together once more to help [[X-Force]] against the death god Pluto. On a government assignment in Rhapastan, however, she confronted a far different legacy of her past: [[Black Widow (Yelena Belova)|Yelena Belova]], the latest graduate of Russia’s Red Room and a young woman desperate to prove herself Natasha’s better as the new Black Widow. Loath to see another manipulated as she had been for so long, Natasha arranged for her successor and herself to temporarily swap identities so that Yelena, as Natasha, could hear how her superiors considered her an expendable pawn. After bringing the Avengers and the Thunderbolts together to overcome [[Count Nefaria]], Natasha supported Daredevil’s short-lived efforts to form a new super-team to capture the Punisher, originally believed to be Nick Fury’s murderer. Despite recruitment endeavors, however, this vigilante group folded shortly after she and her teammate Dagger fought an army of renegade S.H.I.E.L.D. androids; ironically, she soon afterward worked with both Daredevil and Punisher against the European crime syndicate managed by the Brothers Grace. Months later, her pursuit of war criminal Anatoly Krylenko led to a clash with Hawkeye, whose pessimism regarding heroic activities now rivaled her own. While on S.H.I.E.L.D. assignment, she discovered the source of international charges against her to be yet another former lover, her husband Alexi, who had developed an obsession against her and political power with which to pursue it.  
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Although she and Daredevil had parted ways, the Black Widow was still well-known to Daredevil's enemies as a woman he had loved, and Natasha was captured by [[Bullseye]] to be used as bait in an attempt to slay Daredevil. However, Natasha escaped her bonds and aided Daredevil in defeating Bullseye.
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== LEGACY OF THE BLACK WIDOW PROGRAM ==
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Shortly after the Scarlet Witch’s insanity seemingly killed Hawkeye and again disbanded the Avengers, Natasha, weary of espionage and adventure, retired to Arizona but was targeted, as were other survivors of the Black Widow Program, by the North Institute on behalf of the corporation Gynacon. Natasha’s investigations led her back to Russia, where she was appalled to learn the previously unimagined extent of her past manipulation, and she discovered the Widows were being hunted because Gynacon, having purchased Russian biotechnology from Red Room’s successor agency 2R, wanted all prior users of the technology dead. After killing Gynacon CEO Ian McMasters, she clashed with operatives of multiple governments to help Sally Anne Carter, a girl Natasha had befriended in her investigations, whom she rescued with help from Daredevil and Yelena Belova. She soon returned the favor for Daredevil by reluctantly working with Elektra Natchios to protect his new wife, Milla Donovan, from the FBI and others, although Yelena proved beyond help when she agreed to be transformed into the new [[Super-Adaptoid]] by [[A.I.M.]] and Hydra.
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Damon Dran, one of Natasha's enemies from her days with Daredevil, captured Ivan in order to lure Natasha to his island, where he set an army of female combat specialists against her. Dran intended to send an agent impersonating the Black Widow to infiltrate the [[S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier]] and assassinate [[Fury, Nick|Nick Fury]], but Natasha defeated his agents, warned Fury, and saved Ivan from Dran before S.H.I.E.L.D. bombed Dran's island.
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More battle-hardened than ever, Natasha sided with Iron Man during the so-called “civil war” prompted by the USA’s Superhuman Registration Act, although Captain America and many other longtime friends were on the issue’s opposite side. Following Cap’s apparent assassination, she was unexpectedly confronted by the Winter Soldier, who blamed Cap’s death on Iron Man. Natasha joined Iron Man’s latest Avengers team, but she remained dubious about the reliability of some of her new teammates.
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The Black Widow was once more embroiled in the schemes of the Hand when she attempted to prevent them from stealing the body of their master warrior, [[Kirigi]], from the morgue. The Hand struck Natasha down with poisons that killed her, but [[Stone (Chaste)|Stone]] of the [[Chaste]] restored her to life. She joined forces with Daredevil and Stone against the Hand when they attempted to revive [[Elektra]]. Natasha guessed at the time that Elektra had been successfully revived, but kept this from Matt for his own good.
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After [[Norman Osborn]] rose to power commanding the agency H.A.M.M.E.R. in place of S.H.I.E.L.D., Natasha took an assignment from what was seemingly Nick Fury and infiltrated the ranks of Osborn’s Thunderbolts black ops squad, masquerading as Belova. However, the "Fury" giving Natasha orders was an [[Glossary:L#LMD|LMD]] controlled by Osborn who hoped to flush the real Fury out of hiding. The Widow narrowly avoided capture when her ruse was exposed. Natasha aided ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. Director [[Hill, Maria]] Maria Hill in transporting the hard drive containing a back-up of Tony Stark’s consciousness used to revive him after he wiped his mind to guard knowledge of the Superhuman Registration Act database from Osborn.
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When Natasha learned that Oksana Bolishinko, her old instructor, was in America at the Russian Embassy, she broke her way into the premises, seeking to apologize to her mentor for abandoning the ballet to become a spy. Oskana replied that Natasha was not the only pupil of hers who had been stolen away by the K.G.B., and that she accepted that espionage was Natasha's true calling.
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Russian agents then created a [[Red Guardian (LMD)|Life Model Decoy]] (LMD) of Alexi Shostakov, which they used to dupe Natasha into believing her husband was still alive. With threats of terminating Alexi, they coerced her into performing acts of espionage for Russia against the U.S. Upon gaining the desired technology, the Russians revealed the truth and tried to kill the Widow, but with the aid of Ivan, she defeated them and destroyed the LMD.
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Natasha later joined forces with Iron Man to prevent the Russian sleeper agent code named "Oktober" from launching nuclear missiles which would have caused World War III. Unknown to Natasha, she herself was Oktober, and succeeded in launching the missiles. Fortunately, Iron Man prevented them from being detonated and aided Natasha in capturing the K.G.B. agent responsible for Natasha's reprogramming. The Widow also worked alongside Daredevil against the murdering [[Glossary:T#telepathy|telepath]] known as [[Rose (unrevealed)|Rose]], who had targeted other telepaths, including several members of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s [[ESPer]] unit.
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Natasha eventually returned to the Avengers and assumed the mantle of leadership, usually managing the team's operations from [[Avengers Mansion]] while allowing the [[Black Knight (Dane Whitman)|Black Knight]] to lead in the field. During this time she also became attracted to Captain America, but wound up sleeping with Tony Stark instead. Her tenure as the Avengers' leader came to a sorrowful end when most of the team was apparently slain battling [[Onslaught (entity)|Onslaught]]. Unable to rebuild the Avengers roster herself, and threatened with legal action from the [[Maria Stark Foundation]], the Black Widow allowed the Avengers to dissolve.
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Considering herself to be the last Avenger, Natasha embarked upon a personal mission to bring down all of the Avengers' former enemies, including the [[Grey Gargoyle]] and [[Masters of Evil]]. She again encountered Daredevil at this time, who was concerned with her mental state as he witnessed her obsessive hunting of the Grey Gargoyle. Natasha's presence in Daredevil's life again complicated his relationship with Karen Page, which at that time was still being rebuilt. Although Natasha was willing to rekindle their relationship, she acknowledged that Karen was the woman Matt loved and nobly allowed them their space. Later on, she even offered to assist Karen after she had been framed for murder by [[Mister Fear|Mr. Fear]].
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Natasha was also the first person to correctly identify the former members of the Masters of Evil who had adopted the guise of the heroic [[Thunderbolts]]. She attempted to turn [[MACH-IV|M.A.C.H.-1]] and [[Songbird]] against [[Baron Zemo (Helmut Zemo)|Baron Zemo]] before he could make his move, inspiring them by telling them how Hawkeye, [[Quicksilver]] and [[Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff)|Scarlet Witch]] had redeemed their own criminal identities, but Zemo set his plan into motion before they could reach a decision.
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[[image: blackwidow04.jpg|left|200px|thumb]]The Avengers finally returned and resumed their operations, but the Black Widow has only occasionally assisted them on missions, still feeling responsible for the team's disbanding. Instead, she has focused on her espionage work. Natasha has accepted several more assignments from S.H.I.E.L.D., such as impersonating the terrorist leader Ebon Flame in order to shut down her organization, [[Freedom's Light]]. She also had Iron Man assist her in infiltrating the forced-labor camp for scientists run by Tuatara under the [[Mandarin]]'s direction.
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Natasha came close to learning some truths about her past when she was led into a trap by a man named Vindiktor, who claimed to have a copy of Natasha's mother's diary. This turned out to be false, but as Natasha fought him, he claimed that he was her brother. Unfortunately, Vindiktor died during their battle before Natasha could ascertain if he was telling the truth.
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Natasha crossed Daredevil's path again when he attempted to slay Baby Karen, believing the infant to be the Anti-Christ. Natasha saved the child, but was badly beaten by Daredevil in the ensuing fight. Karen Page ultimately died protecting the child, and Matt went to Natasha to be consoled and to explain his earlier actions to her. Natasha reconciled with Matt, revealing that she still loved him, but noted that they had grown too far apart to become a couple again.
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Recently, Natasha became aware of the presence of another Black Widow, a younger woman named [[Black Widow (Yelena Belova)|Yelena Belova]] who had also been trained at the Red Room. Yelena was obsessed with being the sole Black Widow; the two Black Widows first encountered each other while attempting to retrieve the Endless Fury bio weapon created in Rhapistan, which exploded violently. Natasha later had herself and Yelena trade appearances through plastic surgery to help teach Yelena that her superiors considered her expendable.
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Despite the presence of the other Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff remains one of the world's most accomplished hand-to-hand combatants, and is quite possibly the most skilled espionage agent alive, still in high demand with S.H.I.E.L.D. Her most recent S.H.I.E.L.D. assignment has been to trace the whereabouts of the [[Tinkerer]] during a plot to investigate the financing of super-villains in America by foreign nations, possibly [[Latveria]].
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Current revision as of 04:40, 20 April 2010

 

Universe
Marvel Universe

Real Name
Natalia "Natasha" Alianovna Romanova

Aliases
Natasha Romanoff, Nadine Roman, "Nat," Tsarina, Oktober, Laura Matthers, Nancy Rushman, Black Pearl, Natalia Shostakova, Natuska, Czarina, others; impersonated Yelena Belova

Identity
Publicly known

Citizenship
Former citizen of Russia/U.S.S.R., resident in United States of America under extended visa authorized by S.H.I.E.L.D.

Place of Birth
Stalingrad, former U.S.S.R.

First Appearance
Tales of Suspense #52 (1964)

Origin
Avengers #44 (1967), Daredevil #88 (1972)

One of the world's greatest spies and master of disguise, she's the legendary scarlet-haired NATASHA ROMANOVA, the BLACK WIDOW!

Contents

ORIGIN OF THE BLACK WIDOW

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Born circa 1928, Natalia "Natasha" Romanova was apparently orphaned as a child when she was trapped in a burning building during an early attack on Stalingrad by enemy forces. Ivan Petrovitch Bezukhov, a Soviet soldier, found Natasha in the inferno and rescued her. Although Ivan kept a close eye on Natasha as she grew, by the late 1930s she had attracted the attention of Soviet intelligence, which began her training. In 1941, she was almost brainwashed into serving the ninja clan the Hand, but was saved by Ivan, Logan (James Howlett, later Wolverine) and Captain America. Following World War II, Natasha was recruited to become part of the Black Widow Program, a team of elite female sleeper agents. Among the Widow’s instructors was the Winter Soldier, formerly Captain America’s sidekick Bucky (James Barnes); Natasha studied as a ballerina to cover for her true occupation. The Soviet state eventually arranged for Natasha to marry Alexi Shostakov, a champion test pilot. After a few years of a happy marriage, the KGB faked Shostakov’s death in a rocket test; grief for Shostakov drove Natasha’s resolve deeper and she continued her education with the Red Room Academy, finally being appointed the title of the Black Widow.

ENEMY OF THE WEST

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In one assignment, Natasha helped American mercenary Danny French steal a unique energy globe from Project: Four, though French absconded with the globe, betraying their employer, munitions magnate Damon Dran. Subsequently, when

Logan, his memories of their past relationship suppressed by Weapon X, traveled to the USA following his recruitment by Canada’s Department H, Natasha protected him from Hydra assassins, as did his former intelligence comrades Nick Fury and Carol Danvers. Natasha and Logan ended up on opposite sides when he joined Danvers and pilot Ben Grimm to steal a Russian asset she oversaw, the top-secret Red Storm Project. She also trained fellow Russian operatives, including Boris Bullski, who became her partner in various assignments.

After Russian scientist Anton Vanko left Russia to work with Iron Man (Tony Stark), Natasha’s superiors sent her and another operative, Boris Turgenov, to assassinate both men. When Turgenov stole Vanko’s Crimson Dynamo armor, both Turgenov and Vanko died in battle but Natasha escaped. Later, feigning repentance, she romanced Stark long enough to steal his experimental anti-gravity ray. With it, she performed several acts of sabotage against the USA until Iron Man deactivated the device. Her cover blown, she romanced and manipulated the outlaw archer Hawkeye (Clint Barton) into working with her, helping him enhance his archery arsenal with high-tech arrows. The pair attacked Iron Man, who deflected one of Hawkeye’s explosive arrows, its impact felling Natasha and ending the battle when Hawkeye rushed her to safety. While recovering, she persuaded Hawkeye to attack her superiors’ next target, Williams Innovations, but Spider-Man’s intervention drove Hawkeye away. The idealistic Hawkeye’s growing influence upon Natasha led her to rebel against her communist superiors, who extorted her into returning to action with a new costume and weapons, but she and Hawkeye again failed against Iron Man.

DEFECTION

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After briefly being brainwashed into fighting the Avengers, she returned to Russia and broke all ties with her former superiors. When she returned to the USA, she divided her time between freelance work for Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. and informal assistance on Avengers missions against the Sons of the Serpent, the Ultroids and others. When she and Hawkeye were captured by General Yuri Brushov, she learned Alexi Shostakov still lived as the Red Guardian; he protested his employers’ dishonorable treatment of the Avengers and seemingly sacrificed his life to save them. Unaware Shostakov had again survived, a depressed Natasha retired from action before the Avengers could induct her as a full-fledged member, and she contemplated a marriage proposal from Hawkeye which gained more emotional impact after she briefly believed him dead; however, when Ivan Petrovitch resurfaced in the USA to again serve as her friend and confidant, Natasha’s spirits lifted and she broke ties with Hawkeye to pursue a solo vigilante career, fighting the Astrologer, Watchlord and others.

PARTNER WITH THE DEVIL

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Time-traveling android Mr. Kline arranged for Natasha’s path to cross Daredevil’s when he manipulated her into saving Daredevil from the Owl; Kline next framed her for murder via an android Scorpion duplicate, and Daredevil, as Matt Murdock, defended her in court. Natasha’s romantic interests in Daredevil grew, all in accordance with Kline’s plans to manipulate the present to achieve a desired future. Kline seemingly perished before further manipulating the two heroes, but they remained together as a crime-fighting couple, battling Daredevil’s enemies Gladiator (Melvin Potter), Electro (Maxwell Dillon), Purple Man and Mr. Fear in rapid succession. Accompanied by Ivan, Natasha and Matt left New York for California, where they were set against Damon Dran, now calling himself the Indestructible Man, who might have killed them had Danny French not sacrificed his life to stop Dran. Following an encounter with an embittered Hawkeye, Natasha and Daredevil briefly returned to New York to fight Magneto alongside the Avengers, who finally awarded her full membership; however, the team’s subsequent encounter with the Lion God made Natasha question her place in a team environment, and she left the Avengers to rejoin Daredevil in California, fighting Angar the Screamer, Ramrod and several other superhumans mutated by Moondragon for use against Thanos.

CALIFORNIA CHAMP

After fighting alongside Daredevil against the terrorists of Black Spectre and Hydra, Natasha encountered another terrorist group, the Sword of Judgement and discovered their leader Agamemnon to be her long lost friend Andre Rostov, who was arrested after a clash with her and the Thing. Growing alienated from Daredevil since she felt he did not regard her as an equal, Natasha ultimately ended their relationship but remained in California. She found herself first among equals after chance brought her together with X-Men alumni Angel (Warren Worthington III) and Iceman (Robert Drake), as well as demonic vigilante Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze), to help her fellow Avenger Hercules and Venus against their enemy Pluto. After Venus’ departure, the remaining heroes formed a new super-team, the Los Angeles-based Champions. Although the wealthy Angel was the team’s financier and biggest public backer, Natasha was unanimously recognized as the most qualified tactician and she agreed to become team leader, also embarking on a rebound romance with Hercules.

Following the Champions’ defeats of insane scientists Dr. Edward Lansing and Rampage (Stuart Clarke), she and Ivan, as well as the now-defected Alexi Bruskin, were attacked by several Russian super-agents, including Ivan’s son Yuri, using the Crimson Dynamo armor, and Boris Bullski, now Titanium Man; the Champions thwarted the Russians’ scheme of vengeance, and young Russian mutant Darkstar (Laynia Petrovna) defected to the heroes’ team. After battling many villains, the Champions ultimately disbanded due to conflicting priorities and personalities.

NATASHA: AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

Natasha and Hercules remained together for a time, and she returned to occasional S.H.I.E.L.D. assignments. She assisted the Avengers on a few adventures, including their clash with the cosmic-powered Korvac; during that case Natasha realized how fleeting mortal relationships must seem to an immortal like Hercules, leading the couple to drift apart. She and the Avengers intervened when Daredevil was mind-controlled by Death-Stalker (Philip Sterling), and following Daredevil’s recovery, she fought alongside him against the Unholy Trio. After an Avengers roster shake-up orchestrated by Henry Peter Gyrich excluded her, Natasha was captured by Viper but escaped and retreated into a pre-programmed S.H.I.E.L.D. persona, schoolteacher Nancy Rushman; when her true psyche was restored, she joined Spider-Man and others in rescuing the entire S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier from Viper. Abducted by Bullseye because of her status as Daredevil’s longtime ally, Natasha soon escaped and helped Daredevil defeat the insane assassin. Weeks later, Natasha rescued Ivan from Damon Dran, whose grudge was no less undying than he was, and Natasha fought several costumed mercenaries, including former Russian agent Iron Maiden, in the process.

DEATH BY THE HAND

A chance investigation once more brought Natasha into contact with the Hand, who struck her down with a fatal poison. Daredevil’s ally Stone, of the Chaste, an order of warriors opposed to the Hand, mystically resurrected her. She joined the two men in battling the Hand, seemingly thwarting the ninja clan’s efforts to similarly resurrect Daredevil’s long-lost love, the assassin Elektra Natchios, who was nonetheless revived.

By now Daredevil had rekindled his relationship with an earlier lover, Karen Page, whose life Natasha saved during the Inferno crisis. Natasha was drawn back to Avengers duty during such major crises as the Acts of Vengeance and a series of attacks from Atlantis (orchestrated to restore the Elder God Set), and she gained a new, far different ally when she joined the Punisher against the Sunrise Society, a cabal with origins linked to World War II. After Russian dissidents manipulated her into crime using an LMD (android) version of Alexi Shostakov, Natasha revisited another piece of her past by reuniting with longtime friend Logan, now the X-Man Wolverine, to once more battle the Hand in Madripoor. Soon afterward, she rejoined the Avengers full-time when the team reorganized under a new United Nations charter, becoming Captain America’s deputy leader; between missions, she and fellow ex-Champion Darkstar battled Starlight, another former Russian operative who had once succeeded Shostakov as the Red Guardian. When Natasha’s long-dormant Oktober persona was activated, Iron Man helped her break her brainwashing.

Despite her Avengers duties against the likes of Thanos, the Mole Man and others, Natasha still found time for occasional government work, as when she and Daredevil battled the telepathic Rose, who had slaughtered a number of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s ESPer agents. Soon afterward, she once more returned to Russia to investigate increasing activities of the nation’s mobsters, some of them perhaps once among her communist overseers, only to be caught in a battle between the decades-old vigilante Night Raven and his nemesis Yi Yang. Circumstances forced her to side with S.H.I.E.L.D. against Wolverine when the latter freed from S.H.I.E.L.D. custody the feral young woman Lynx, who was briefly programmed with a false S.H.I.E.L.D. identity once used by Natasha herself. Nevertheless, Natasha’s heart was not in the endeavor, and when Wolverine found a safe haven for Lynx, she and Nick Fury toasted their mutual friend’s success.

AVENGERS TEAM LEADERSHIP

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When Captain America left active Avengers duty following internal ethical disputes regarding the Kree-Shi’ar War, Natasha became team leader, with the Black Knight (Dane Whitman) occasionally serving under her as field commander. Shortly after Tony Stark faked his death, Natasha and the Avengers faced a succession of enemy organizations such as the Grim Reaper’s Legion of the Unliving, Proctor’s Gatherers, Galen Kor’s Lunatic Legion and others, although internal team strife continued, culminating in the disbandment of the Avengers’ West Coast branch. Following a period of mourning when she believed Matt Murdock had perished in combat with ex-Hand operatives, Natasha considered pursuing a romance with Captain America, beside whom she clashed yet again with Damon Dran; ultimately, however, she abandoned the idea, perhaps trying not to repeat past mistakes. She accompanied Iron Man, back among the living, on a business trip to Russia, where her former student/partner Titanium Man (Bullski) attacked them and seemingly died in battle, though he would later return; Natasha also enjoyed a romantic interlude with Iron Man during this trip, but that relationship developed no further. When AIM reconstructed the Cosmic Cube, Ivan Petrovitch investigated on Natasha’s behalf, only to suffer serious wounds at the hands of Red Skull. While the Avengers defeated the Skull, Ivan may have died from his wounds, since he has not surfaced since. Natasha doubtless felt “the widow’s curse” had struck when circumstances soon afterward convinced the world that two more of Natasha’s dearest friends, Nick Fury and Captain America, had also perished. Both Fury and Cap, like Stark, later turned up alive and well.

When most of the active Avengers roster seemingly perished fighting Onslaught, Natasha tried to rebuild the team by seeking out new recruits (such as ex-Champions Angel and Iceman) and past members, but she ultimately gave up after repeated rejections and shut down the team, closing Avengers Mansion. She kept busy against old enemies and new, including terrorist units called Underground Militia and Freedomslight. She became increasingly obsessed with hunting down former Avengers foes, but while fighting yet another Russian ex-operative, General Tskarov, an encounter with Daredevil, who had revealed himself to be alive shortly before the Avengers’ disappearances, helped her deal with the survivors’ guilt that drove her. Shortly afterward, she approached two members of the new Thunderbolts super-hero team, MACH-1 and Songbird, whom she recognized as Masters of Evil alumni Beetle and Screaming Mimi; rather than attack them as Avengers enemies, she encouraged them to follow the heroic example her supposedly dead teammates had set. She was lured into a trap by the armored Vindiktor, who claimed to be her long-lost brother in possession of their mother’s diary, but he apparently perished before his claims could be verified.

THE SECOND BLACK WIDOW

When Natasha’s teammates resurfaced alive, the Avengers were reestablished, but Natasha did not return to full-time duty. She joined Nick Fury in a counter-terrorist operation in Latveria which, ironically, forced her to manipulate Wolverine, Captain America, Daredevil and others on Fury’s behalf. As if in atonement, she renewed her ties with Iron Man, helping him against Tuatara and the Espionage Elite; a second reunion proved less encouraging when Daredevil, drugged into insanity by Mysterio (Quentin Beck), fought her during a crisis revolving around a mysterious child he had entrusted to Natasha’s care. Her spirits rose when she and her fellow Champions alumni banded together once more to help X-Force against the death god Pluto. On a government assignment in Rhapastan, however, she confronted a far different legacy of her past: Yelena Belova, the latest graduate of Russia’s Red Room and a young woman desperate to prove herself Natasha’s better as the new Black Widow. Loath to see another manipulated as she had been for so long, Natasha arranged for her successor and herself to temporarily swap identities so that Yelena, as Natasha, could hear how her superiors considered her an expendable pawn. After bringing the Avengers and the Thunderbolts together to overcome Count Nefaria, Natasha supported Daredevil’s short-lived efforts to form a new super-team to capture the Punisher, originally believed to be Nick Fury’s murderer. Despite recruitment endeavors, however, this vigilante group folded shortly after she and her teammate Dagger fought an army of renegade S.H.I.E.L.D. androids; ironically, she soon afterward worked with both Daredevil and Punisher against the European crime syndicate managed by the Brothers Grace. Months later, her pursuit of war criminal Anatoly Krylenko led to a clash with Hawkeye, whose pessimism regarding heroic activities now rivaled her own. While on S.H.I.E.L.D. assignment, she discovered the source of international charges against her to be yet another former lover, her husband Alexi, who had developed an obsession against her and political power with which to pursue it.

LEGACY OF THE BLACK WIDOW PROGRAM

Shortly after the Scarlet Witch’s insanity seemingly killed Hawkeye and again disbanded the Avengers, Natasha, weary of espionage and adventure, retired to Arizona but was targeted, as were other survivors of the Black Widow Program, by the North Institute on behalf of the corporation Gynacon. Natasha’s investigations led her back to Russia, where she was appalled to learn the previously unimagined extent of her past manipulation, and she discovered the Widows were being hunted because Gynacon, having purchased Russian biotechnology from Red Room’s successor agency 2R, wanted all prior users of the technology dead. After killing Gynacon CEO Ian McMasters, she clashed with operatives of multiple governments to help Sally Anne Carter, a girl Natasha had befriended in her investigations, whom she rescued with help from Daredevil and Yelena Belova. She soon returned the favor for Daredevil by reluctantly working with Elektra Natchios to protect his new wife, Milla Donovan, from the FBI and others, although Yelena proved beyond help when she agreed to be transformed into the new Super-Adaptoid by A.I.M. and Hydra.

More battle-hardened than ever, Natasha sided with Iron Man during the so-called “civil war” prompted by the USA’s Superhuman Registration Act, although Captain America and many other longtime friends were on the issue’s opposite side. Following Cap’s apparent assassination, she was unexpectedly confronted by the Winter Soldier, who blamed Cap’s death on Iron Man. Natasha joined Iron Man’s latest Avengers team, but she remained dubious about the reliability of some of her new teammates.

After Norman Osborn rose to power commanding the agency H.A.M.M.E.R. in place of S.H.I.E.L.D., Natasha took an assignment from what was seemingly Nick Fury and infiltrated the ranks of Osborn’s Thunderbolts black ops squad, masquerading as Belova. However, the "Fury" giving Natasha orders was an LMD controlled by Osborn who hoped to flush the real Fury out of hiding. The Widow narrowly avoided capture when her ruse was exposed. Natasha aided ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Hill, Maria Maria Hill in transporting the hard drive containing a back-up of Tony Stark’s consciousness used to revive him after he wiped his mind to guard knowledge of the Superhuman Registration Act database from Osborn.


Contributors: MikeFichera, WSST and Lordmagnusen

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