This article contains nothing but Avengers: Endgame spoilers. TURN BACK NOW!
As the culmination of a decade of movies and the capstone of a phenomenon that started with the first Avengers movie, Avengers: Endgame’s focus was rightly on wrapping up the stories of the original six Avengers brought together by the Chitauri invasion. And nobody’s fate was more tied off than Black Widow’s – Natasha sacrificed herself to give Hawkeye the Soul Stone and give the Avengers a shot at saving an incalculable number of people.
But…doesn’t Black Widow have a solo movie coming out? We admit to being a little perplexed by the choice to have her die. How could Marvel put out a Black Widow solo movie with the star lying dead as disco in a Voromir valley? Examining the history of the MCU and the comics adjacent to the stories in it, we’ve got three ideas.
This one seems the most likely, and is all but confirmed. Black Widow had a lot of red in her ledger to balance out, and every red mark is a potential story. Both Avengers: Age of Ultron and Agent Carter gave us pretty deep looks at the Red Room, the Soviet assassin training program that turns little ballerinas into super-spy killing machines. In Agent Carter, we got a persistent nemesis out of it in Dottie Underwood. Age of Ultron showed us Black Widow’s past, some of what she overcame when Natasha was convinced to defect from the Red Room program by Hawkeye. When she left Russian employ, she joined SHIELD and became one of its most decorated agents.
Marvel could easily point the camera at an episode from her history as a super spy and find more than two hours of material in it. The easy availability of other Red Room operatives gives her a nice foil and potentially sets up more long-term spy infrastructure in the MCU. They could even bring in Yelena Belova, the blonde, evil Black Widow that many (us included) thought inspired Natasha’s look in Infinity War, as a potential arch-nemesis. And who knows, maybe we could finally see what happened in Budapest.
There’s a lot made of what the other original Avengers are doing after the five year jump at the beginning of Endgame. Captain America is leading a recovery group getting over the snapture. Iron Man is married with a kid. Hawkeye is pointedly not married and on an international killing spree. Hulk is Smart Hulk. Thor is The Dude. But aside from a chat with Steve Rogers right before Ant-Man returns, Black Widow’s reintroduction is mostly spent as stage setting for the wider Five-Years-Post-Snap universe. There’s no obvious radical change in her life.
Except for the fact that she’s basically been serving as leader of the Avengers, and appears to have been for the last half decade. Not that anyone particularly wants to see someone filling out budgets and personnel paperwork, but we haven’t really seen the everyday team dynamic of a regular Avengers team in the MCU yet. We also have Black Widow running spy ops around the world, plugging into ongoing recovery operations dealing with the disappearance of four billion people (and helping Captain Marvel deal with the interstellar fallout), tracking international criminal syndicates, and email chatting with a space raccoon.
There is so there. It could be a de facto Avengers movie, one that better explores the trauma of the post-snap world. It could be crazy spy stuff that taps into her mysterious past. The point is, there is a world of possibilities.
THE HARDCORE COMICS ROUTE: A RESURRECTION
There was a shocking amount of Secret Empire in Avengers: Endgame. Secret Empire was the abysmal summer comics crossover where a Hydra traitor version of Captain America turned the world fascist. The time travel conceit of the heists enabled us to get a lot of comedic mileage out of most of the references – Cap telling Sitwell “Hail Hydra,” hot Cap-on-Cap action, etc. However, the one thing they pulled from the comic that wasn’t played for laughs was Black Widow’s death.
But any good comics writer can take dirty garbage water and turn it into lemonade, which is what Matthew Rosenberg did in Tales of Suspense. The book paired Rosenberg with artist Travel Foreman to see Hawkeye and the Winter Soldier traveling the world trying to unravel the mystery of a red-haired assassin taking out ex-Hydra high command. Eventually, after several murders and a great deal of comic hijinks, they find out the truth: the Red Room has been cloning key agents and uploading psychic backups to keep their agents in the field. And Natasha is one of them.
This is, admittedly, the least likely of all these possibilities. The story itself would need considerable work in order to put the focus on Black Widow (it is her movie after all), but the concepts introduced here could very well be the mechanism they use to resurrect the Natasha we know and love. Unless all of the time travel stuff plays into it, which we wouldn’t rule out, either.
This story is bonkers, absurdly fun, and capital-C Comics to its very core. It has spy murder, Hawkeye being a hyper-capable doofus, buddy action, stellar art from Foreman, Skids (as in Rusty and Skids), a giant talking bear, and a climax that prominently features an army of preteen ballerinas kicking Hydra agents in the junk.
Of course, Marvel would need to find a way to put the focus a little more firmly on NatashaIt would also be wildly out of character for movie Hawkeye – but who cares. Movie Hawkeye’s personality consists of “has a family” and “is friends with Natasha” right now. Giving him something to do would be fun. Putting Ursa Major on screen would be amazing. Nevertheless, Marvel has other plans for Hawkeye at the moment, with his Disney+ TV series set to see him pass on the mantle to Kate Bishop.
There’s currently no release date set for the Black Widow movie, but we expect that will change soon enough. The full schedule of upcoming Marvel movies can be found here.