"When I joined SHIELD I wasn't doing it because I wanted to be a hero or atone for my crimes. But as time went on I started to think that maybe...maybe being a hero isn't such a bad thing."Natalia Alianova Romanoff (legally changed to Natasha Romanoff) was born in 1978 to Russian nationalists somewhere in the old Soviet Union. Natasha's memories of her childhood are hazy, as she has commented in the past about remembering a good recipe for chicken soup, but little else. It is known that sometime before the age of 5, her parents were killed during a Soviet-era crackdown on dissidents, turning her into an orphan. Somehow she found her way into a top secret program run by the KGB, and became a top student at the Red Room training academy for KGB operatives and mercenaries. At age 14 in 1992, she attempted her first graduation from the Red Room, failing due to hesitation at killing. That hesitation was gone by a year later, when she successfully graduated and was essentially sold into the service of the criminal mastermind Taskmaster.
For the next six years Romanoff would serve as the personal assassin and spy for Taskmaster, learning even more about espionage, combat, and other necessary skills under his tutelage. It was around this time that she gained the codename of Black Widow, named after the poisonous spider of the same name. She was involved in several criminal enterprises, most notably working as an accessory to HYDRA in destabalizing governments around the world, something which she performed as late as 1999 in Argentina (though the action definitely left her with moral doubts). In that same year, she was assigned to steal experts and a cache of biological weapons from her former homeland of the Soviet Union by Taskmaster. Little did she know, however, that it was a set up by her employer to get her killed by SHIELD, as he felt she had become a liability. However, the actions of SHIELD agent Clint Barton spared her life, allowing her to be interrogated by Nick Fury. Learning of Taskmaster's duplicity, she helped SHIELD take down her boss, save agent Barbara Morse, and also exposed SHIELD director Wolfgang von Strucker as being complicit with Taskmaster. She then joined SHIELD as a special agent, working with Barton to take down more of their criminal enterprise.
She would spend the next decade atoning for her past sins, becoming one of the best deep cover agents in SHIELD's arsenal. Perhaps her most famous assignment in this role was posing as Tony Stark's new assistant, Natalie Rushman. Romanoff kept an eye on the ailing Stark, attempting to keep him focused on searching for a cure for his palladium poisioning. When her efforts failed following the attack in Monte Carlo, Romanoff called in Nick Fury for aid. She later helped stop the attack on the Stark Expo, single handedly taking down super villains Blizzard and Whiplash and freeing James Rhodes from their remote control. She was then assigned by Phil Coulson to serve as a deep cover shadow for Bruce Banner, ensuring that Thaddeus Ross stayed off his tail.
In 2012, Widow was ordered to "bring Banner in" once Loki and Taskmaster had stolen the Tesseract from SHIELD. She confronted the doctor in Calcutta, convincing him to come willingly and help SHIELD track the cube in exchange for a full pardon for what happened in Harlem. On the Helicarrier, she met Capt. Steve Rogers, newly unfrozen, and began the search for the Tesseract and Loki. It didn't take long for the God of Mischief to make himself known, showing up in Stuggart Germany. Natasha joins Cap and Clint Barton in capturing Loki, with an assist from Tony Stark. On the way back to the Helicarrier, they are intercepted by Thor, who tags along to take custody of Loki once the Tesseract is retrieved to be taken back to Asgard. On board the Helicarrier, Loki's initial interrogation by Jasper Sitwell goes nowhere, forcing Natasha to play duplicitous with the demigod. She pretends to be negotiating for the safety of herself and Barton, and eventually gets Loki to tip his hand about unleashing the Hulk. During the argument that follows over Phase 2, Natasha tries to defuse the situation, but a sudden explosion from Taskmaster and his team of villains causes Banner to lose control and transform into the Hulk. Widow is nearly killed in the ensuing chase, but manages to survive with help from Barton and Thor.
She joins with the rest of the Avengers in defending New York during the Chitauri invasion, and eventually is able to climb to the top of Stark Tower and find the device with the Tesseract powering the portal the aliens are pouring through. After keeping it open long enough for Tony Stark to fly an inbound nuclear missile through it, Widow shuts down the device and helps capture Loki for the final time. She is then allowed to take time off as the Avengers are disbanded. All too quickly though she is reassigned to a mission with Steve Rogers to board the Lumerian Star, a cargo ship hijacked by mercenaries. Surreptitiously, however, she is given the task of obtaining classified data concerning Project Insight that even Nick Fury can't get his hands on. She completes her mission, but is chastised by Rogers for acting beyond his orders.
After Nick Fury's apparent assassination, Romanoff confronts Rogers about why he was the one person that Nick Fury went to. Cap entrusts her with the data obtained from the Lumerian Star, and eventually Widow proves her worth by helping Cap escape from the Triskellion when he is being pursued by Brock Rumlow. Together the two trace the origin of the data to Camp Lehigh in New Jersey, where they find a remote video feed of the Red Skull, explaining the return of HYDRA. Natasha accompanies Cap back to Washington where they recruit Sam Wilson to their cause, stealing his exo-wing suit from a nearby Army installation. They are captured by Jasper Sitwell and the Winter Soldier shortly thereafter, but before they can be killed they are rescued by Maria Hill and Barbara Morse. Hill and Morse take the trio to a safehouse in a nearby dam, where Nick Fury is revealed to still be alive. Widow then helps Rogers take out the Insight Helicarriers, proving that Alexander Pierce is actually a Life Model Decoy in the process. However, the whole affair of SHIELD leaves her with a bad taste in her mouth, leading to her leaving the spy agency and traveling to Russia to try and find her parents.
However she is soon called back into service by the Avengers to try and take out the remaining bases of HYDRA, participating on the final assault on the base held by Baron Struck and the Red Skull. She helped evacuated an injured Clint Barton from the battlefield when they were confronted by one of Strucker's test subjects, Quicksilver, and calms the Hulk down with a mnemonic device called a Lullaby. Eventually Tony Stark captured a piece of technology from Strucker in the form of a scepter, though the Red Skull escaped from their clutches. Natasha was then present at the victory party at Avengers Tower a few days later, when Ultron was born and escaped with said scepter. Black Widow then helped track down Ultron when it became clear he was after stolen Wakandan vibranium held by weapons dealer Ulysses Klaue. Widow fought in Johannesburg against Ultron's copies, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, but was disturbed by the mental powers of Scarlet Witch, causing her to relive some of the worst moments of her training in the Red Room and with Taskmaster. She, along with the other Avengers, was taken to Clint Barton's safe house following the Battle with the Hulk in Johannesburg. There, she struggled to come to grips with her past, taking solace from her comrades.
She next flew to Seoul to try and retrieve Dr. Helen Cho from the clutches of Ultron, only to arrive too late. Widow engaged in a chase to try and stop Ultron from escaping with his new synthetic body, succeeding at capturing the body that will later become the Android Vision, but getting captured in the process. She was then taken back to Sokovia where Ultron reveals his evil plan, to build a Tesla Earthquake Machine that will tear the world apart. She uses Morse code to contact the Avengers and lure them back to Sokovia, where she is rescued. She then participates in the Battle of Sokovia, winning the day over Ultron. She remained active with the Avengers following this battle.
A year later, though, the continuing pressure against the super hero community came to a boiling point with the enacting of the Avengers Protocol following an incident with heavy collateral damage in Alexandria, Egypt. Understanding the mistakes that had been made in Alexandria, Sokovia, and other locations, Natasha surprisingly joined the side of Tony Stark in favor of the Protocols, wanting to work within SHIELD to make a difference still. This put her at odds with most of her other teammates though, despite her efforts to convince Steve Rogers otherwise at the funeral of Peggy Carter. She was later present in Vienna at the official signing of the Protocols, and barely survived when the conference was attacked by Bucky Barnes, aka the Winter Soldier. Following Rogers, Barnes and Sam Wilson's capture in Budapest, Black Widow then again attempts to negotiate a truce, unsucessfully when Stark and Rogers reach an impasse. Their argument is interrupted by the escape of Barnes due to the actions of Helmut Zemo. Widow fights both Bucky in an attempt to capture him and the Black Panther in an attempt to prevent his death, before Barnes escapes along with Rogers and Wilson.
At the Battle in the Budapest Airport, Widow is once again on the side of Tony Stark, though this time forced to take up arms against her longtime friend Clint Barton. She eventually corners Captain America and Barnes before they can board a Quinjet bound for Siberia, but rather than capture them she covers their escape and protects them from T'Challa. Afterwards, Stark informs Ross of what Natasha did, but Widow is unrepentent, even after Tony gives her a few hours notice before Ross demands her arrest. Natasha reveals that, somehow, she had gained information concerning the whereabouts of the Hulk (which many of the people around Tony did not know) and left on that note, last seen disappearing into a crowd in London. There is rumor that she has again joined up with Steve Rogers and his group of Secret Avengers, but that has been officially disavowed, and Romanoff remains officially at large.
At some point during this period, however, Natasha Romanoff had been replaced by a Skrull infiltrator. Her activities during this time are unknown, but it is known she joined with the rest of Earth's heroes in fending off the Second Chitauri Invasion, likely out of self-preservation as two of her Skrull counterparts impersonating Thaddeus Ross and newly installed Secretary of Defense Steve Danvers were also exposed. However, she died during the onslaught of the Black Order, leading to her cover being blown as well. The current whereabouts and fate of the Black Widow remain unknown.
In the alternate timeline of Infinity War, Natasha was never exposed as a Skrull, having been disintegrated by Thanos during the assault on his orbital platform. She was assumed by the Earth's population to have died in the assault on Thanos and treated as a hero. What happened to the real Natasha Romanoff is unclear, but it is likely she died before the coming of Galactus in 2039.
Powers & Abilities
- Master of Deception & Espionage: With training from the elite KGB "Red Room", tutelage under the master criminal Taskmaster, and a long association with SHIELD, Romanoff is likely the most skilled master spy on the face of the Earth. As such, she is often able to lure her opponents into a false sense of security to obtain vital information from them, interrogating them without them knowing.
- Expert at Hand to Hand Combat: Widow is highly adept in several different martial arts and utilizes an improvised fighting style that highlights speed and effective counters over power.
- Master Marksman: Widow has been shown to be a highly skilled marksman, likely made better by her close friendship with fellow SHIELD agent Clint Barton.
- Electric Stingers: Widow carries a series of devices for incapacitating her opponents, in particular a wrist mounted gauntlet that can shoot small electric discharge discs she refers to as "stingers." She has also been known to use a tonfa like weapon that has a similar effect.
- Master Computer Hacker: Due to her training with SHIELD and the Taskmaster, she is one of the best known computer hackers on the planet, surpassed likely only by Tony Stark and (perhaps) Leila Davis.
Compared to other members of the Avengers, Widow is generally regarded as one of the "weak" ones, and thus is more likely to be the concentrated point of attack versus her heavy hitting counterparts. While she is far more athletic and skilled than any average opponent she comes across, she is still more vulnerable, relatively speaking, than her super-powered compatriots.
Internally, she has been known to have something of a trust problem with people, concealing her motives to the detriment of her relationships and missions. Nick Fury and Clint Barton are likely the only individuals that Natasha trusts implicitly, though Steve Rogers is also likely near that list as well. She has something of a blind spot when it comes to her upbringing and the actions of her past with Taskmaster, though she seems to have moved on from that somewhat.
Black Widow appears in the following films within the Earth-11584 continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In all cases, she is portrayed by actress Scarlett Johansson.
- Iron Man 2 (2010)
- Black Widow (2010)
- The Avengers (2012)
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
- Captain America: Civil War (2016)
- Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
- Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet (2019)