Did you know Natasha Romanov (Romanoff in the movies) isnt the only Russian agent to operate under the codename Black Widow? In the early 2000s, another agent designated as a Black Widow — Yelena Belova — made her first appearance, and she had Natasha in her sights from the get-go. Florence Pugh will be playing Yelena in the upcoming Black Widow solo film (watch the Black Widow Big Game spot here!), so theres no better time to meet the super-spy than now.For a quick breakdown of all characters in the Black Widow movie based on the first trailer, watch the video below!
From her origins in the Red Room to a strange, temporary turn as a supervillain, heres everything you need to know about the second Black Widow. These are the topics well be covering here:
- Who Is Yelena Belova?
- Yelena Belovas Origin
- Yelena Belovas Powers and Abilities
- Yelena Belovas Connection to Black Widow and the Red Room
- Florence Pugh’s Yelena in Black Widow
- Yelena Belova in TV and Games
Who Is Yelena Belova?
Belova, like Romanov, grew up and trained in the Red Room to become a master spy and assassin for Russia. The covert agency wanted a replacement for the Black Widow, whose loyalty no longer belonged to Russia alone, and began training Belova at a young age.A fierce fighter, master spy, and expert marksman, Belova considered herself superior to Romanov and was desperate to prove it. She was proud to bear the designation of Black Widow and believed she was the only one with the right to use it.
She was proud to bear the designation of Black Widow and believed she was the only one with the right to use it.
Yelena Belovas Origin
After graduating from the Red Room as the first agent with marks surpassing Romanovs, Belova was dispatched on a mission to retrieve a bio-toxin in the country of Rhapastan on her Russian superiors command. Romanov was on the same assignment on behalf of the U.S. government, and the two spies crossed paths for the first time in Marvel Knights: Black Widow #1 (1999) by Devin Grayson and J.G. Jones.I may lack your experience, Belova informed Romanov, but I am your equal or better in every other respect I have not forgotten what the Black Widow is at her core — a spy!
Yelena Belova Cheat Sheet
First Appearance:Inhumans #5 (1999)Creators:Devin Grayson and J.G. JonesAliases:Black Widow, Super-AdaptoidCurrent Team:The Red Room / RussiaRecommended Reading:Marvel Knights: Black Widow – The Complete Collection, Tales of Suspense: Hawkeye and Winter Soldier
Yelena Belovas Powers and Abilities
As a Black Widow, Belova has extensive training in hand-to-hand combat, improvised weapons, and knife work, and is a master of espionage and military operations. Shes also in peak physical condition.When she was granted the powers of the Super-Adaptoid, Belova could wield the powers and abilities of anyone she touched. Natasha Romanov and Yelena Belova
Yelena Belovas Connection to Black Widow and the Red Room
Belovas fate would be inexorably tied to Romanov. Shortly after the mission in Rhapastan, Romanov didnt stop thinking about the new Black Widow, and worked with S.H.I.E.L.D. on an unorthodox and seemingly cruel operation involving Belova in 2001s Breakdown storyline.Romanov kidnapped Belova and rendered her unconscious, and with the help of S.H.I.E.L.D. she switched faces with the Russian spy. Belova woke up with Romanovs face in a world believing she was Romanov — and a murderer. Romanovs motive? She needed to get close to Belovas handler, General Stelyenko, to get information on nuclear weapons hidden in the Hudson Valley. She also wanted to prove that Stelyenko had no interest in Belovas life or well-being, a trap that he easily walked into with Belova watching nearby.
Belova questioned Romanovs heartless mind game, and the red-haired Widow replied, I wanted to save you You think what I did was cruel, but it is nothing compared to the savagery of our business.
Yelena Belova would go on to take center stage in the final Marvel Knights: Black Widow limited series story Pale Little Spider, which focused on the murder of the man who trained her in the Red Room. Starkovsky was her mentor and the closest thing she had to a father. He instructed her in hand-to-hand combat in the Red Room program starting when she was just 15 years old. Belova was activated by the Russian government as the Black Widow to investigate his murder in Moscow, a complicated and sordid mystery that would eventually shed a harsh light on the man she thought she knew.
And then things got weird.
Belova showed up in the 2005 New Avengers comic series as a rogue S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Attacked by Sauron and horrifically injured, she accepted an offer from HYDRA and A.I.M. to be transformed into a superpowered villain with the same powers as the Super-Adaptoid. In return for her new life and abilities, she ferociously attacked the Avengers, taking on the powers of Earths Mightiest Heroes. She was overwhelmed by absorbing the Sentrys power, and just as she was about to reveal who sent her on her mission of revenge, HYDRA terminated her by detonating an explosive hidden inside her body.
Yelena Belova would return in her Black Widow incarnation after the events of Secret Empire in 2017. In the 2018 limited series Tales of Suspense: Hawkeye and Winter Soldier, Romanov, who had also returned from the dead, discovered that the Red Room had the technology to clone their agents and implant their memories into the new bodies. The clones of the Red Room operatives were destroyed, but with one last version of Yelena, complete with her memories, still alive.
Florence Pugh’s Yelena in Black Widow
With her origins in the Red Room and her prowess as a spy and assassin, one might think Florence Pughs version of Belova has the makings of a formidable but possibly sympathetic antagonist in the upcoming Black Widow solo film. (Its a pretty safe bet that she wont be an Adaptoid in the film!) But based on the trailers, it seems she’s a reluctant ally to Natasha Romanoff. Nat even calls her “sis”!A second Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe could also present some unique opportunities, especially considering Romanoffs fate in Avengers: Endgame. While its unlikely Belova would replace Romanoffs spot on the team, she could find herself in a role that was never explored in her comics iteration. You can never have enough super spies on your side, after all. And by the way, is that Natasha’s vest from Avengers: Infinity War that Yelena is wearing in the trailers? Yelena Belova in action.
Yelena Belova in TV and Games
- TV: The animated series Avengers Assemble featured Belova in the shows third season. She took on Black Widow when the Avengers investigated the Red Room, operated by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker. She defied Strucker and adopted the name Crimson Widow but remained an antagonist, appearing again in the fourth season.
- Games: Belovas crop-top Black Widow garb is used as an alternate outfit for Romanov in Marvel Ultimate Alliance and Marvel Heroes, and Belova herself appears as an opponent in Marvel Puzzle Quest and Marvel Avengers Alliance.
Only time will tell what role the character will play in the Black Widow movie, which will be released on May 1, 2020!
Kelly Knox is a freelance writer who also contributes to StarWars.com, DCComics.com, Nerdist, and more. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox to talk Star Wars, Dungeons & Dragons, and comics.