Spy. Assassin. Superhero. – Marvel Comics’ Black Widow has been all these things and more since she first debuted in 1964. Created by Stan Lee, Don Rico, and Don Heck, the Widow started out as an undercover agent, plaguing Iron Man and Hawkeye on behalf of Mother Russia. She soon defected to the United States, becoming an occasional ally of the Avengers, before eventually signing on as a fully-fledged member of the famed superhero team.
Since then, Black Widow has repeatedly proven herself a true hero, risking her neck on behalf of the entire planet. Along the way, she’s earned the admiration of numerous costumed adventurers and even former targets Iron Man and Hawkeye consider her a trusted friend. Black Widow is now firmly entrenched on the side of the angels, which doesn’t mean she necessarily should be. Indeed, for all the remorse she’s shown and the many selfless feats of heroism she’s performed over the years, there’s still a lot about Black Widow that her peers (and fans) are probably too eager to absolve her of.
It’s not just her dark past, either – plenty of things Black Widow has said or done since renouncing her villainous ways are more than a little suspect. On top of that, there’s also quite a few aspects of the character stemming from real-world sources – namely, the comic book creators and filmmakers overseeing her exploits – that are flat-out problematic, too.
Here are 20 Things Wrong With Black Widow We All Choose To Ignore.
20 Her Relationship With Bruce Banner
Fans were left scratching their heads when writer-director Joss Whedon played matchmaker for this unlikely pairing in Avengers: Age of Ultron. True, opposites often attract – and they don’t come much more different than a reserved super spy and a shy, geeky scientist. However, the relationship between Natasha and Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk, always seemed a bit forced and came out of nowhere. In fact, the Hulk had attacked Black Widow in the previous Avengers film.
With Whedon seemingly the only person involved genuinely sold on Natasha and Bruce as lovebirds, it’s not hard to see why Marvel Studios effectively swept the relationship under the rug going forward!
19 She Has A Man's Name
As a highly experienced espionage operative, Black Widow has gone by a number of aliases over the years. Nevertheless, Marvel Comics’ continuity has established that her real name is Natalia “Natasha” Alianovna Romanova. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, however, Natasha goes by “Romanoff” not “Romanova”, a last name she has adopted on various occasions over the years in the comics – and one that doesn’t translate flatteringly if you’re familiar with her native tongue.
See, surnames in Russia have different endings based on whether a person is male or female. “Romanova” is the correct, feminine way to render Natasha’s family name – whereas “Romanoff” is the masculine form, meaning that in the MCU, she has a guy’s name!
18 She Used To Be An Assassin
We’ve touched on this already, but seriously: Black Widow used to eliminate people for a living! Sure, she’s haunted by her actions – and she’s committed to atoning for the “red in her ledger” – but even so, she was basically given a free pass for a lifetime of morally dubious behavior when she defected.
Now, we’re not saying we think Black Widow should be booted off the Avengers, forced to sever ties with S.H.I.E.L.D. and thrown into prison. Frankly, she’s far more useful to both organizations on the front lines than cooling her heels in a jail cell. However, Natasha escaping even the slightest legal ramifications for her crimes – even when her Red Room brainwashing is taken into account – doesn't feel right either.
17 Her Accent
As you’d expect from a super spy of her caliber, Black Widow is fluent in several languages, including English. What’s more, her ability to blend in unnoticed is so great, that she can presumably affect a flawless US accent when operating undercover in the United States. However, when the Widow’s not on the clock and letting her hair down with her fellow Avengers, we’d imagine she reverts to a mode of inflection that reflect her mother tongue – but not if the Marvel Cinematic Universe is anything to go by!
As portrayed by actress Scarlett Johansson in the MCU, Natasha speaks with a spot-on US accent, regardless of whether or not she’s out in the field, which indicates that’s just the way she talks. If that’s the case, it represents the only weakness in Johansson’s otherwise sterling interpretation of the character.
16 She Wiped Out Hawkeye's Family
This entry doesn’t apply to either the mainstream comic book version of Black Widow or her big screen counterpart. Instead, it’s concerned with the incarnation of the character who starred in Marvel’s Ultimate imprint, which reimagined the publisher’s iconic heroes and villains, unfettered by decades of existing continuity.
Here, Black Widow isn’t the sinner-turned-saint fans are used to. On the contrary, she’s an unrepentant traitor who betrays her teammates without batting an eyelid. Before being neutralized by Tony Stark, Ultimate Black Widow frames Captain America as a traitor, outs Bruce Banner as the Hulk, and winds up with innocent blood on her hands. Most heartbreakingly of all, Hawkeye’s wife and children count among her victims. Readers were unanimously outraged, even after Hawkeye exacted bitter revenge against his former black ops partner.
15 She Equates Her Infertility With Being A Monster
If anything in Avengers: Age of Ultron caught viewers more off guard than the Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanoff relationship, it was the revelation that Natasha was sterilized by the Red Room. Apparently, this was done in order to make her a better operative, as Black Widow becoming a mother had the potential to instill in her conflicting loyalties and emotions that her employers’ considered undesirable.
Of course, being rendered chemically infertile is an intensely personal and sensitive issue for any woman, but it’s really not something she should beat herself up over. Indeed, many fans objected to Natasha likening her inability to conceive children to the Hulk’s status as a monster, due to the outdated, sexist overtones it conveyed.
14 Her Mission In Iron Man 2
A common criticism of Iron Man 2 is that it sacrifices a streamlined plot in favor of a cluttered narrative designed to set up future Marvel Cinematic Universe instalments. This includes the subplot involving Black Widow, who is introduced as Tony Stark’s assistant Natalie Rushman, an identity she assumes to keep tabs on Stark and evaluate his suitability for the Avengers Initiative.
Scarlett Johansson is a lot of fun both disguised as Natalie and unveiled as Black Widow, but her role in Iron Man 2 doesn’t really make sense. Think about it: why would Nick Fury assign one of his best agents to babysit Tony Stark, when another, more junior asset could just as easily have handled the mission?
13 Her Son
Animated flick Next Avengers: Heroes Of Tomorrow is built upon a cute premise: mentored by Iron Man, the Avengers’ kids take over from their parents as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The film features a main roster made up of Torunn (Thor and Sif’s daughter), Azari (Black Panther and Storm’s son), Henry Pym Jr. (Ant-Man and the Wasp’s son), and James Rogers, son of Captain America and Black Widow!
In fairness, the concept of a superhero who combines Cap’s peak athletic prowess and strong moral ideals with the Widow’s knack for espionage and pragmatic approach to ethics is undeniably cool. However, it's hard to picture Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanova shacking up, given that their close relationship is presented as being very much platonic in most media.
12 She's on Team Iron Man in Civil War
A big part of Black Widow’s deal is that she’s a double agent capable of switching her allegiances on the fly. It’s highly in-character when she jumps ship from Team Iron Man to Team Cap in Captain America: Civil War. What's more difficult to come to grips with is why she didn’t side with Steve Rogers from the get-go!
After all, it’s not like she and Tony are that tight. They get along well in the Avengers movies – despite her spying on him in Iron Man 2 – but that’s about it. On the other hand, Natasha and Steve were partners for several missions set between The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and clearly developed a strong bond. It’s a little strange she didn’t rally to his cause as soon as everybody started choosing teams.
11 She's Worthy To Lift Mjolnir
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the idea that a woman might prove worthy to wield Thor’s hammer-- Jane Foster makes a fantastic Thor. However, this particular woman shouldn't be able to do it – even if it was only within the non-canonical confines of a What If…? story.
True, the criteria for worthiness the God of Thunder’s dad Odin had in mind when he first laid the enchantment upon Mjolnir are vague at best. Based on the esteem attributed to combat prowess in Asgardian culture, Black Widow might well be in with a shot here. But at the end of the day, Natasha is a spy – something the All-Father would likely take a dim view of.
10 Her Arrow Necklace
In the comics, Black Widow and Hawkeye used to be an item – in fact, it was her feelings for Marvel’s resident pro archer that were partly responsible for her defection. That’s not how things panned out in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though. There, Natasha and Clint are depicted as BFFs and nothing more, as Clint already has a wife and children who live safely off the grid.
This makes the arrow necklace Black Widow wears in Captain America: The Winter Soldier a highly questionable choice of accessory. It seems like directors the Russo Brothers meant to imply a more intimate connection between the pair, which Marvel Studios might have promptly overruled when the Clint and Natasha romantic subplot was dropped in Age of Ultron.
9 She Wasn’t Arrested After Captain America: The Winter Soldier
To quickly recap, at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, dozens of sleeper agents working for Hydra are exposed within government espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. A key element of our heroes’ mission to foil Hydra’s plot sees Black Widow upload all of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s classified files onto the Internet, including completely unrelated state secrets!
As you’d expect, a high-profile enquiry into the whole affair subsequently takes place, and Natasha confidently states that she won’t be arrested for her actions. According to her, she and fellow operatives like Nick Fury are simply too indispensable to imprison. This doesn't really hold up, however. After all, Hydra was able to infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D. right under Nick and Natasha’s noses – so they’re not quite as good at their jobs as she likes to think.
8 Her First Superhero Costume Was Completely Impractical
When Black Widow first appeared in the pages of Tales of Suspense, she didn’t really have a costume in the traditional sense – just civilian clothes with a veil draped over her head. It wasn’t long before she graduated to proper comic book attire, although not to the outfit you’re probably thinking of.
Before donning her familiar form-fitting black bodysuit, Black Widow first kitted herself out in a flamboyant costume that included a mask, cape, and fishnets. Not only was it an extremely unattractive ensemble, it was also an insanely impractical sartorial choice for a super spy! Yes, we’re dealing with an escapist genre that largely eschews realism – but even by that standard, this costume was a bad idea, especially compared to her more sensible catsuit.
7 She Keeps Secrets From Captain America
As shown on multiple occasions in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Widow and Captain America make a highly effective team. However, for a partnership to truly prosper, you need to have trust between both parties – and thanks to Natasha, that’s never going to be an option.
We see this early on in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Natasha demonstrates that her loyalty ultimately resides with Nick Fury when she opts not divulge to Cap the covert mission parameters she has received from their one-eyed superior officer. Of course, Black Widow has also stuck her neck out for her fellow Avenger time and time again since then, and the genuine respect and affection they share isn’t in doubt. Does Captain America really trust her, deep down, considering her penchant for keeping secrets?
6 Her Hulk-Calming Lullaby
Being teammates with the Hulk is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the Green Goliath is an invaluable ally in a scrap, while on the other, he poses a real threat to his supposed friends once he runs out of enemies to punch.
It stands to reason that the Avengers would develop an efficient means by which the Hulk can be calmed down until transforms back into his rational alter-ego, Bruce Banner. Even so, the whole “Sun’s getting real low” lullaby ritual employed by Black Widow in Avengers: Age of Ultron to soothe the Hulk doesn’t really stack up. How come? Well, it would be wildly dangerous to test and implement, for one thing!
5 Her Martial Arts Can End Mind Control
Marvel Studios has done an exceptional job of realizing a largely cohesive shared universe on the big screen. That said, it’s impossible to deny that Marvel hasn’t made the odd misstep, often simply because it hasn't planned far enough ahead. The moment when Black Widow breaks Loki’s hold over Hawkeye’s mind in The Avengers is a prime example of this.
When the movie was first released, fans didn’t blink when Clint snapped back to reality after Natasha cracked his noggin against a railing. Then we learned in later films that Loki’s staff actually housed the Mind Stone – which means that the Widow’s basic martial arts grapple was powerful enough to overcome an Infinity Stone!
4 She's A Damsel In Distress In Age Of Ultron
Despite her lack of superpowers, Black Widow is one of the most dangerous women in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, capable of going toe-to-toe with otherworldly opponents and winning. Her hyper-competent, self-reliant nature is a welcome departure from the helpless “damsel in distress” female archetype that pervades the superhero genre. Or at least, it was-- until Avengers: Age of Ultron.
In Earth Mightiest Heroes’ second outing in theatres, Natasha devolves from a resourceful super spy to a powerless prisoner forced to wait for a man to rescue her. It goes without saying that this is just plain wrong – and fortunately, Marvel Studios has seemingly learned from this mistake in the Widow’s subsequent MCU appearances.
3 She's A Sidekick In The MCU
This entry thankfully concerns itself with something more and more fans are thankfully not ignoring any longer: that Marvel Studios has to-date relegated Black Widow to sidekick status. Despite being the most prominent female character in the MCU, having proven she’s more than ready (on multiple levels) to headline her own solo film, one has yet to materialize.
This is set to change, however – in January 2018, work commenced on a movie script that would elevate Black Widow from supporting player to lead protagonist. There’s no confirmation yet on a release date for the film, but with director Cate Shortland officially onboard to call the shots and casting well under way, it won’t be long until it arrives!
2 She Was Going To Abandon The Other Avengers
A big part of Black Widow’s characterization in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – particularly during her early appearances – is how desperate she is to atone for her past sins. We’re not privy to the exact specifics of what Natasha’s crimes were, but based on comments made by Loki in The Avengers, it’s some pretty bad stuff.
We believe her when she claims to crave redemption – until the very next movie in the franchise, Age of Ultron. How can we take her comments after Natasha suggests she and Bruce Banner bail on their teammates and go on the run together? That’s hardly going to help her to clear the red in her ledger!
1 She Lets Bruce Off The Hook Too Easily
Bruce Banner effectively dumps Black Widow at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, going into exile off-world rather risk the danger continuing their relationship would pose. He’s gone for several years, before arriving back on the scene in Avengers: Infinity War, where he and Natasha exchange little more than curt greetings.
Admittedly, their reunion comes at a time when the fate of the universe was hanging in the balance – not an ideal time to discuss your break-up. All the same, Black Widow should have had been allowed a brief moment to take her one-time beau to task for bailing on her. Hulk or not: you don’t get to break up with your girlfriend over the phone without consequences!
Did we miss any problems with Black Widow that everybody chooses to ignore? Let us know in the comments!