For Those Who Came In Late: We’ve been looking at the career of Marvel’s Black Widow in recent weeks, leaving off with the final outings in her misguided super-villain career alongside the love-addled Hawkeye the Marksman…
The next time Marvel fans saw the Black Widow, it was only in flashback in AVENGERS #16, as prospective Avenger Hawkeye recounted seeing her gunned down by Communist agents as payback for trying to defect to the West:
As it turns out, the Widow wasn’t dead after all, and had been whisked back behind the Iron Curtain for some serious brainwashing, which seemed to have taken effect:
Although even early on, there were signs that Natasha was struggling to regain control:
And sure enough, in AVENGERS #30, the Widow is able to break the brainwashing and change sides in the middle of Hawkeye’s battle with Power Man and the Swordsman:
Throughout the next couple years of THE AVENGERS, the Black Widow was a frequent associate of the team, although she never quite made the official roster, and it wasn’t for Hawkeye’s lack of trying:
Before a vote can be taken, the Widow disappears again, with the Avengers assuming she’d once again switched sides to the Soviets, when in actuality she’d taken on a mission for Nick Fury and SHIELD:
The Widow’s backstory got even stranger in AVENGERS #43, when the team encounters the Soviet super-guy known as the Red Guardian, who’s revealed to be — wait for it — Natasha’s husband:
The Red Guardian doesn’t stick around too long, though, as he takes a bullet protecting Natasha, while she destroys the Commies’ newest weapon, the ominous-sounding “Psycho-tron”:
Later, a recovering Natasha reveals what prompted her to get into the espionage business in the first place: love for the husband she wrongly believed to be dead:
Which, I guess, is why she was the Black Widow. See how it all comes together?
After trying to adjust to a civilian life, Natasha soon finds herself drawn back into action, a decision that doesn’t sit well with boyfriend Hawkeye:
The next time we see the Widow, it’s in AVENGERS #63, when she calls Avengers Mansion for help just as a frustrated Hawkeye has decided to give up his bow, feeling useless as an Avenger.
Taking Hank Pym’s growth serum and the new name of Goliath, the former Hawkeye rescues the Widow, but things remain rough between the two of them, ending bitterly:
Despite her long run in AVENGERS, readers learned the most about Natasha Romanoff in, of all places, the pages of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #86 (July 1970), in “Beware the Black Widow,” by Stan Lee and John Romita.
Within, readers are caught up to speed on Natasha’s origins and history, including the death of her husband and why she left Hawkeye — sorta…
For this new chapter in her life, Natasha decided a new look was in order, and looking at the horrible original costume, it’s hard to disagree.
It’s not clear why Natasha got fixated on giving Spidey an ass-whupping to kick off her new life, but regardless, that seems to be the plan.
The Widow soon finds Spider-Man and attacks, and for minute or so, gives Spidey a run for his money (although to his credit, he had just come from a world-class beatdown at the hands of the Kingpin).
It doesn’t take long before Spidey’s had enough, and puts the Widow out of business pretty quick.
Once she realizes she’s out of her league, Natasha exercises the better part of valor and gets out of there.
So how does she wind up as a card-carrying Avenger? Come on back next week and find out.