After all these years Marvel has finally explained why Natasha Romanoff, the Red Room's greatest assassin, is given the codename Black Widow. Formed by Stalin himself, the Red Room was Russia's top secret school for training young female spies and assassins.
Although Natasha was their most prominent recruit, there were others to follow like the second Black Widow, Yelena Belova. In the comics, Natasha Romanoff was one of the Red Room's first recruits, selected by Stalin personally. Over the years, there have been many suggestions why the Red Room gave their girls that codename, usually based on the idea that the Black Widows are seductive assassins. According to urban myth, the Black Widow female always kills the male after copulating. While this is often the case, scientists have seen examples of male Black Widows surviving... either way, that is not where the name originates.
According to Jody Houser's The Web of Black Widow #1, the Red Room originally took up the Black Widow codename for a very different reason. The issue features a flashback in which the Red Room's services are hired by a client, with the young Natasha standing at her headmistress's side. According to the headmistress, the Red Room had called her "Black Widow" because of her small size and murderous skills. "Like the deadliest of spiders, easily escaping notice," she observed, "until it is far too late."
The Red Room's approach makes sense, since no reader will question the suggestion that children are often overlooked as potential threats, just as an unwary person walking through the jungle might not notice a small spider--until it bites and kills them. This approach is even used in the real world: in 1999, reports of a Mafia school for teenage killers in the Sicilian countryside training assassins was apparently recruiting girls at just 11 years old. It was only discovered after a spate of murders in the area, as the children practiced their skills (proving comic books aren't always as far-fetched as they might seem).
The comics have frequently toyed with the idea, with Black Widow and the Wolverine clone X-23 both trained as spies and killers from childhood. Of course, in the case of the Black Widow program, there's no reason it has to be an either-or. The codename would have been perfectly appropriate for the young Natasha Romanoff, before taking on a completely different meaning when she aged, and used the famous Romanoff beauty to get to her target.
That original, historic meaning - one that is frankly far more sinister and concerning - would have been forgotten in the mists of time. Only Natasha Romanoff would remember why she had first been called Black Widow. To read the new origin story for themselves, fans can check out the official credits for The Web of Black Widow #1 and plot synopsis below:
- THE WEB OF BLACK WIDOW #1 (of 5)
- Written by: Jody Houser
- Art by: Stephen Mooney
- Cover by: Jung-Geun Yoon
- BLACK WIDOW: YEAR ONE! One of Marvel Comics’ longest-running female heroes finally gets her due! Natasha Romanoff is the deadliest spy in the Marvel Universe and the beating heart of the Avengers. But when a mysterious figure starts exploiting her past, the Widow may have to go back to Black — and off the grid. Who can she trust in this web of deceit? And more importantly — can her friends trust her? Don’t miss the spy tale of the century!
The Web of Black Widow #1 is available now from your local comic book shop, or direct from Marvel Comics.
Source: The Guardian