Black Widow (Yelena Belova)

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Black Widow
Yelena Belova.jpg
Cover for Black Widow: Pale Little Spider #1 (June 2002) Art by Greg Horn
Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
First appearanceInhumans #5 (March 1999)
Created byDevin Grayson
J.G. Jones
In-story information
Full nameYelena Belova
Team affiliationsA.I.M.
Russian Federation
Notable aliasesWhite Widow, Crimson Widow, Super-Adaptoid, Pale Little Spider, Russkaya
AbilitiesPeak athletic condition
Extensive military, martial arts, and espionage training

Black Widow (Yelena Belova; Russian: Елена Белова; Ukrainian: Олена Бєлова) is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. She is depicted as a spy and was the second modern-era character to use the Black Widow name. She first appeared in Inhumans #5 (March 1999) and was created by Devin Grayson and J.G. Jones.[1] She was trained as a spy and assassin in the Red Room. Originally, Yelena was a foe of Natasha Romanova and was sent to kill her, but the two later became allies. She was also a member of S.H.I.E.L.D., Vanguard, and HYDRA; the latter organization changed her into a version of Super-Adaptoid. As Super-Adaptoid, she was one of the members of the High Council of A.I.M. She reverted to her original codename Black Widow in 2017.

Florence Pugh portrays the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe film Black Widow and will reprise her role in the upcoming miniseries Hawkeye (both 2021).

Publication history[edit]

Belova, the second modern Black Widow after Natasha Romanova (Natasha Romanoff), was initially a post-Soviet Russian spy of the GRU. She debuted briefly in Inhumans vol. 2, #5 (March 1999), and was fully introduced in the 1999 Marvel Knights mini-series Black Widow. A second miniseries also titled Black Widow and featuring Natasha Romanoff and Daredevil, followed in 2001. The next year, she did a solo turn in her own three-issue miniseries, also titled Black Widow (officially Black Widow: Pale Little Spider in the series' postal indicia) under the mature audience Marvel MAX imprint. The June to August 2002 story arc, by writer Greg Rucka and artist Igor Kordey, was a flashback to the story of her becoming the second modern Black Widow, in events preceding her Inhumans appearance.[2]

Fictional character biography[edit]

Belova is an amoral spy and assassin who was trained at the Red Room by the same spymasters who trained Natasha Romanoff, the first Black Widow. After the death of her trainer, Pyotr Vasilievich Starkovsky, she is activated as the new Black Widow and deployed to investigate. She apprehends and eliminates his killer, unaware that both his murder and the investigation were part of a ploy to get Belova to assert herself as the new Black Widow.[3] Believing herself to be the rightful successor to the "Black Widow" title, Yelena enthusiastically volunteers for a mission that will put her at odds with Natasha, although the meeting and confrontations between the two do not lead to a decisive battle. Natasha refers to Yelena as "little one" and "russkaya", meaning "Russian", and encourages her to find what makes her unique and her personal identity rather than blindly devote herself to her nation. Natasha later subjects Yelena to a cruel but necessary manipulation to shatter her illusions about the "Black Widow" title and teach her the reality of the espionage industry.[4] Belova eventually retires to Cuba, where she becomes a successful businesswoman and model.[5]

She is lured back, however, by the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D., and becomes involved in the agency's vibranium mining in the Antarctic Savage Land.[6] Shortly afterward, she barely survives an attack by Sauron, receiving severe burns and being subsequently approached with an offer for revenge against S.H.I.E.L.D. and the New Avengers.[7]

Belova is genetically altered by the terrorist organization HYDRA, as she had suffered debilitating and disfiguring injuries after her last encounter with the New Avengers in the Savage Land. HYDRA recruited her with the prospect of revenge and after hiring the services of A.I.M. transferred her mind into a new version of Super-Adaptoid. This body appeared as Belova had originally until it began to absorb powers, at which time it changed as the original did, though now yellow in color. Now equipped with the ability to copy all of the New Avengers' powers, she engages the superhero team in combat. She is eventually defeated by a combination of Tony Stark's 49 successive Iron Man armors—from the first, Tales of Suspense #39, to the then-current—and the Sentry's use of his Void persona, which she absorbs with the rest of the Sentry's powers and energy. When she is defeated, HYDRA disables her using a remote self-destruct mechanism they had implanted in her, rather than let her reveal intelligence to the New Avengers.[8]

She has returned working with a vigilante group, the Vanguard.[9]

During the Dark Reign storyline, Quasimodo researched Yelena Belova for Norman Osborn.[10] Yelena Belova appeared to join Osborn's Thunderbolts.[11] However it was eventually revealed to be actually Natasha Romanova in disguise, acting as a double agent for Nick Fury.[12] She believed she was disguised as Belova on Fury's behalf, planted for Osborn to find and invite into the Thunderbolts. However, Osborn revealed to her that he had tricked her into taking on Belova's appearance in order to get her to do his dirty work.[13] After Natasha's escape from the Thunderbolts, Osborn then revealed the true Yelena in stasis to Scourge and warned him that she could be his replacement on the team.[14]

The real Yelena is later freed from stasis by members of A.I.M. who install the female Adaptoid on the High Council of A.I.M. (alongside Andrew Forson, Graviton, Jude the Entropic Man, Mentallo, Superia, and an undercover Taskmaster) as the Minister of State in Bagalia (a country populated by supervillains).[15]

After the death of the original Black Widow at the hands of Captain America's Hydra doppelganger then defeat at hands of the real Captain America in Secret Empire, Yelena began to reassume the Black Widow identity once again, but now to honor the late Natasha. Sometimes during the world's restoration from Hydra's mess, Yelena travels around the world to assassinate the world's infamous generals and Hydra's remnants, which caught the attentions of Natasha's former lovers Winter Soldier and Hawkeye.[16][17]

Powers and abilities[edit]

Black Widow is in peak athletic condition. She also has extensive military, martial arts, and espionage training.[18]

As a Super-Adaptoid, she was mutated by material synthesized from the Super-Adaptoid where she could adapt the powers of anyone around her like Luke Cage, Iron Man, Ms. Marvel, Sentry, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, and Wolverine in rapid succession.[8]

In other media[edit]


Yelena Belova appears in the Avengers Assemble animated series, voiced by Julie Nathanson.[19] She is introduced in the third season, Avengers: Ultron Revolution, as the second incarnation of the Black Widow following Baron Strucker reactivating the Red Room and Winter Soldier programs. In the episode "Seeing Double", she is sent to abduct Bruce Banner and bring him to Strucker's Siberian base so he can transform him into the Winter Hulk. However, the current Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff intervenes and fights Belova after learning of her involvement in Strucker's schemes. With Captain America and Iron Man's help, the three Avengers defeat Belova, Strucker, and the Winter Hulk, though Belova escapes.[20] She returns in the fourth season Avengers: Secret Wars, now calling herself the Crimson Widow. In the episode "Prison Break", she, Zarda, and Typhoid Mary attempt to break out of the Vault, only to be defeated by Captain Marvel and the Wasp. In "Why I Hate Halloween", Belova and Crossbones are sent to retrieve former Hydra scientist Whitney Frost from Hawkeye. After fleeing from Dracula's vampire army however, the villains are apprehended by the Avengers. In the series finale "House of M", Crimson Widow accompanies the Red Skull, Crossbones, and Typhoid Mary in confronting Frost as Madame Masque alongside the Avengers.

Marvel Cinematic Universe[edit]

Florence Pugh promoting Black Widow at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con

Yelena Belova appears in live-action media set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, portrayed by Florence Pugh. This version is a sister figure to Natasha Romanoff, both of whom were trained in the Red Room together as Black Widows.[21][22][23]

  • Pugh first appears in the film Black Widow (2021).[24] Director Cate Shortland said that Romanoff would be "handing [Belova] the baton" in the film, which would "propel another female storyline".[25] Scarlett Johansson, who portrays Romanoff, said Belova would stand on her own in comparison to Romanoff, while Pugh said there was a "generational difference" between the two, noting, Belova is "unapologetic, and confident in herself, and curious ... and emotionally brave".[26] Additionally, Pugh stated Belova "knows exactly how to function in the areas in which she has been trained, but she has no clue how to live as a human being," calling her "a lethal weapon but also a bit of a kid".[27]: 4 Yelena was originally going to be an adversary of Natasha and Yelena was trying to dethrone her.[28] Violet McGraw portrays a young Yelena.[29]
  • Pugh will reprise her role in the Disney+ miniseries Hawkeye (2021).[30]

Video games[edit]

Motion comics[edit]

  • The Yelena Belova incarnation of Black Widow appears in Marvel Knights - Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D., voiced JoEllen Anklam.[19]
  • The Yelena Belova incarnation of Black Widow appears in Marvel Knights: Inhumans, voiced by Sarah Edmondson.[19]


Yelena Belova appears in New Avengers: Breakout, written by Alisa Kwitney.[37][38] This version is Natasha Romanoff's former friend and roommate from the Red Room program. After joining a rogue faction of S.H.I.E.L.D., Belova comes into conflict with Romanoff and the Avengers while overseeing a covert mining operation in the Savage Land.


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