Black Widow is an interesting character. A spy trained by the KGB who went on to join Earth's Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers, her comics publication history finds her bouncing back and forth between hero and villain, femme fatale and relatable protagonist.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, played by Scarlett Johansson, she brings a degree of ruthlessness and professionalism to the Avengers (not to mention a female presence to a superhero team dominated by men), and has become an indispensable part of the superhero landscape.
Just because she's interesting doesn't mean there aren't parts of the Black Widow's personality and narratives that make no sense. Over the many years since her comics debut (plus her multiple appearances in blockbuster MCU movies), she's had all kinds of opportunities for nonsense.
This list is going to discuss those noticeable plot holes, unexpected developments, and confusing elements of her backstory that, upon reflection, just don't have any rhyme or reason. These can range from her history in the comics to her adaptation to the silver screen, from developmental processes at Marvel to directors hinting at plot points that never came to be.
These are 20 Things That Make No Sense About Black Widow.
20 She destroyed Hawkeye's family
Hawkeye and Black Widow have a long, painful history in the comics that seems to mostly revolve around Widow deceiving ol' Clint Barton. As shown above, this was their dynamic from early on in the comics, but things took a gruesome turn in the more modern Ultimates storyline, which found an alternate universe Widow betray their friendship in the worst way possible.
In this alternate timeline (Earth-1610, to be exact), both Widow and Hawkeye get promoted to the Ultimates, an all-star SHIELD team. But it quickly turns out to have been infiltrated by a traitor-- who could it be?
Spoilers: It was Black Widow all along! Black Widow from the Ultimates universe is a much more ruthless, manipulative, and violent version, and this manifests in the most painful way possible for Clint: she leads a black ops team that terminates his entire family. His wife Laura and his three offspring all perish in the incident, and Romanova even taunts her old teammate over it.
While this all may make sense in that alternate universe, fans of the MCU would only find cognitive dissonance reading this story.
It's just too weird to see arguably the closest of all the Avengers engaged in such a grisly conflict with each other. Hawkeye gets his revenge, but readers were still left bewildered.
19 She was the most hated Avenger on Twitter
Companies have all kinds of ways to track public opinion these days, and that definitely extends to social media networks like Twitter. In a study of Twitter's reactions to the MCU, researchers found that the most-disliked Avenger was none other than Natasha Romanoff.
The study was able to discern positive sentiments and negative sentiments, and found that about 3.5% of tweets about the character were negative. The hate shouldn't really surprise anyone given online fandoms' history with female characters, but at least there is still good news for Black Widow.
While she just barely beat out Hawkeye (by about 0.1%) for the title of most-disliked, she didn't earn the title of least-liked. See, the study also measured what percentage of tweets were positive, and Black Widow scored higher in that department than Thor, Nick Fury, and the Hulk. So Black Widow does have her share of fans, which makes sense-- she's a fun character, and a good counterweight to the gaggle of large white men that mostly makes up Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
We suppose we shouldn't really be surprised that a female character with an ill-advised romance plotline became the most hated Avenger on the internet, but the hate still doesn't make sense.
18 She fell for Bruce Banner
You knew this one was coming. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is not exactly known for creating engaging canonical love stories, but this relationship still ranks at the bottom of the barrel.
Fans were perplexed when, seemingly out of nowhere, Natasha Romanoff announced to Bruce Banner that she wanted him.
Following mild flirtations with Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, the only interaction Black Widow had really had with Bruce came during the first Avengers, when the Hulk nearly ripped her apart. Yet in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Widow suddenly wanted Bruce to smash her in a different way entirely.
Black Widow has never really had one true romantic interest, even in the comics, but this whole thing felt like writer-director Joss Whedon grasping at chemistry that just wasn't really there. Mark Ruffalo reportedly endorsed the coupling early on, but he was just about the only one, as even the characters within the films find the topic uncomfortable.
The relationship doesn't really go anywhere (other than awkwardness), but the thing that makes no sense is why it was started in the first place.
Natasha suddenly has feelings for the guy who almost fatally wounded her? Despite no prior romance or any real flirtation? It just doesn't work.
17 Her name
By now, just about everyone in the world knows the Black Widow's real name in the MCU. She goes by Natasha Romanoff (when she isn't using an alias for a mission) or "Nat" to those who know her very well. Yet in the comics, her name is slightly yet noticeably different.
In the comic books, she is called Natalia Alianovna Romanova. She may still be a Nat in the comics (and she has also gone by her MCU name there, as well), but it's definitely not the same. Here's the really puzzling part: her MCU surname is technically a mistranslation.
Russian is a complicated language, and it involves the gendering of nouns. Unlike several other common languages, however, this practice actually extends to surnames. Male Russian surnames have different suffixes than female Russian surnames, and Romanoff correlates to the male version of the name, not the female.
The comics version, Romanova, would be the correct version of the name for a woman, and the one Black Widow would undoubtedly use, being Russian herself.
We don't know why the MCU stuck with the (slightly) incorrect version of the last name-- perhaps they thought "Natasha Romanoff" would be easier for American audiences to digest than "Natalia Romanova."
16 Her cure for mind control
Black Widow's fist can overpower the effects of an Infinity Stone - who would have guessed?
Early on in Marvel's Avengers, antagonist Loki uses a powerful scepter (given to him by Thanos) to control the minds of Erik Selvig and Hawkeye. Hawkeye turns out to be a major thorn in the side of the Avengers, causing a pitched battle on SHIELD's helicarrier. During this sequence, Black Widow and Hawkeye get into a fist fight, and Widow proves to be too much for the mind-controlled archer.
She bangs Hawkeye's head against a metal railing, and that cures the magical mind control. Easy.
It was only later revealed that Loki's scepter was, in fact, a container for the Mind Stone, one of the unimaginably powerful Infinity Stones. This makes it doubly implausible that Black Widow was able to combat the effects of Loki's mind control by doing nothing but punching. She later does the same to Selvig, and it's pretty clear that the whole "getting hit in the head cures mind control" thing was a plot device created to keep the story moving, no matter how nonsensical it may be.
For now, we just have to accept the fact that the magic of one of the most powerful artifacts in the Marvel universe was undone by a normal human's punches.
15 Her mission in Iron Man 2
The Black Widow is one of SHIELD's top operatives. She's a ruthless assassin, an expert manipulator, and one of the best there is at sniffing out secrets. So when you think about it, it doesn't make a lot of sense that she's given a mission where her whole role is to play the part of Tony Stark's secretary.
Nick Fury never really goes in-depth when explaining why he assigned the Widow to shadow Stark, because she's basically only there to keep an eye on Iron Man and evaluate whether he's a good fit for the Avengers initiative. She flunks Tony but passes Iron Man, and then Ivan Vanko starts messing stuff up so she goes and helps out.
Sure, Black Widow ends up being useful in stopping Whiplash, but you can tell she's really only there to introduce her character before the first Avengers film.
There's no other explanation why SHIELD would waste their top operative on playing Tony Stark's personal assistant. At least Avengers found her in the middle of an important mission interrogating arms dealers-- Iron Man 2 just has her babysitting Tony, hardly a task befitting her status. Any SHIELD spy could've done her job in Iron Man 2; it's that far below her paygrade.
14 She believes she’s a monster
Fans didn't like Black Widow's attraction to Bruce Banner because it felt contrived and sudden, but what really set people off came later in the scene, when Widow started to explain why she felt Bruce was a kindred spirit.
Natasha emotionally talks about her past, her grooming as a spy by the Red Room, which culminated in her getting sterilized (unable to have children). She compares this to the Hulk. Yeah, Black Widow can't have kids, and somehow she thinks this is comparable to turning into a weapon of mass destruction when you get angry.
Not only is it ridiculous to think that Bruce worrying about whether he'll destroy a city next time he gets angry is the same as Natasha not being able to have biological children, it's not very progressive. Widow referring to herself as a "monster" because she can't have kids is a pretty stereotypical, regressive internal conflict for a woman in the 21st century.
Feminists, understandably, took issue with this, and the backlash has been labeled as a reason why Joss Whedon briefly left Twitter (which he has denied).
Regardless, the backlash points to the real issue here: it just doesn't make sense for the character. Black Widow seems to be beyond any concerns of a stable life, and here she is weeping because she can't have kids? No way.
13 She should've been arrested after the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier
This applies to just about all of SHIELD, really. Captain America: The Winter Soldier finds Cap, Black Widow, the Falcon, and Nick Fury all working frantically to undo the damage HYDRA has done to SHIELD.
The problem is, HYDRA did all this damage by infesting the government agency from the inside, spreading its message and its loyal double agents throughout the whole organization. The bad guys come within an inch of shooting millions of people around the world, thanks to SHIELD's Project Insight arming helicarriers with orbiting guns capable of neutralizing a thousand targets a minute.
The heroes of the movie manage to stop this plot, but it doesn't excuse them from the fact that they created a weapon that could so easily destroy so many lives.
The fact that the weapons immediately fell into the wrong hands, not to mention that those wrong hands were traitors they had worked alongside for years, doesn't exactly put Black Widow, Nick Fury, and the rest of SHIELD in a sympathetic light.
Black Widow somehow manages to convince a government investigation that she and SHIELD should still be trusted to save the world, but her explanation that they're the best qualified candidates doesn't really hold up. If an agency had come seconds away from a war crime unlike any else the world had ever seen, would you let the members of that agency stay free?
12 She’s a ballerina - kind of
Superheroes tend to have a lot of wacky side jobs in the comics, to protect their true identities. It was also a way for the writers to add some flavor to the character, giving them some unexpected vocation in the real world. Black Widow seems to have gotten the short end of that stick, though, as her cover jobs leave a bit to be desired.
Case in point: Natasha Romanoff is canonically a highly trained ballerina. In a part of her backstory that even made it into Avengers: Age of Ultron, Natasha was trained to be a ballerina as part of her advanced secretive KGB training.
Ballet was part of Widow's cover identity, which at this point is almost a parody of a Russian stereotype. A Russian spy whose alter ego is a ballerina? Come on. It gets worse from there, though-- in the comics, Widow later realizes that her memories of being a ballerina were actually false implants put into her brain by her Soviet masters.
These memories were put in her mind to make sure she stayed loyal, so who knows, maybe her flashbacks in Age of Ultron to her days as a ballerina were false, too. Honestly, we don't know which version is worse, the Russian stereotype of being a ballerina/spy, or it being a lie all along-- all we know is that it doesn't make sense.
11 She lifted Mjolnir
At this point, when you factor in all their "What If?" storylines, who hasn't lifted Mjolnir? Well, the Black Widow from Earth-23223 has, and she put it to good use.
What If? Age of Ultron #3 (which is a real mouthful of a title) finds Black Widow in Latveria, working with the Falcon to stem an invasion of Frost Giants from Jotunheim. These Asgardian creatures, and the Midgard Serpent Jormungand, threatened to destroy the world, so Widow went on a retrieval mission to find Thor's hammer, Mjolnir. Then, somehow, she lifted it.
Anyone who knows Black Widow knows this doesn't really make sense. As a character, she isn't even really interested in it (saying "that's not a question I need answered" in the film Age of Ultron). On top of that, it's more than a stretch to think she'd be worthy to wield the power of Thor and become the new Goddess of Thunder with her checkered past and morally ambiguous attitude.
Even in a "What If?" narrative, it just doesn't make sense.
The story concludes with Widow and heroes from other realities banding together to fight Ultron, but it's not really cool to see Widow with Mjolnir. It's mostly just odd.
10 She tried (and failed) to become a fashion designer
Natalia Romanova has always had a degree of glamour about her, achieving her missions with as much style as possible. Seen above entering her "fashionable" apartment in New York, she's always had an eye for the chic things in life. This ended up coming back to bite her when she entered into a relationship with Matt Murdock in San Francisco.
This storyline was just about the only time the Black Widow genuinely fell in love, and her infatuation with Daredevil was so powerful it actually frightened her. Compounding that issue was the fact that while he seemed to be thriving, she was not.
To go along with her nighttime activities of vigilante justice, Widow had tried to break into the fashion industry in San Francisco. The problem was, she had failed.
That's right, the Black Widow, feared scourge of the Marvel espionage world, couldn't crack the fashion design scene. This didn't really make sense for her character, but the writers were trying to create a conflict where she felt inferior to Daredevil, like she was losing her true self. She didn't like how she felt like a sidekick to Daredevil at night and Matt Murdock during the day, and this all eventually led to them breaking up.
Who knew fashion would be the thing to thwart the Widow?
9 She had a kid with Captain America
Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow is an interesting take on the Marvel universe. The animated film finds the Avengers after suffering a brutal defeat at the hands of Ultron, and they hide their children away from the world to keep them safe. Most of the original team has passed on, except for Iron Man and Hulk, who train the children to become heroes in the fight against Ultron, who has taken over the world.
Black Widow only appears in flashbacks in the film, but even so one fact sticks out as odd: her son is James Rogers, the film's main character.
James Rogers is the son of Black Widow and Captain America, giving him obvious credibility as the team's leader. The problem is, it just doesn't make sense that those two would have become a couple. Both Widow and Cap have well-established love interests, and they don't include each other.
Weirding us out even further is the fact that their son is named after James "Bucky" Barnes, also known as the Winter Soldier. Widow actually has had a relationship with Bucky in the comics, so the fact that she hooked up with Cap but named their son after her ex is two degrees of awkward too many.
8 We're stilling waiting on a solo movie
It's time to face the facts. While we're happy that Black Widow is finally going to get a standalone movie all her own, the truth is it should have happened much sooner.
As we've already discussed, Black Widow isn't the favorite Avenger among MCU fans, but as we've also already discussed, that's mainly because she was introduced in about as lackluster a manner as possible (in Iron Man 2, of all things). Black Widow has been an admirable supporting character in the MCU, but she should have gotten her own starring role in Phase 2, not shunted all the way after four Avengers movies.
Marvel has just begun meeting with female directors interested in leading the charge on the solo film, so we don't really know what form the story is going to take. There's plenty of interesting stuff to choose from: Black Widow has a rich comics history and backstory, from her time as a Russian spy to her dealings with SHIELD.
With the MCU in dire need of diversity in their protagonists, it makes no sense that she's had to wait this long for her own movie. The fact that it took this much time can perhaps be blamed on former Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter, who apparently flat-out stated that he didn't believe female superheroes could sell.
7 The arrow necklace
Marketing a superhero movie can be tough. You have to be able to straddle the line between the teasing the fans with little to no information and giving away the game before the movie is even out. Or, if you're Scarlett Johansson and directors Joe and Anthony Russo, you can imply something is way more important than it actually is.
In a podcast that the media quickly scrutinized, the Russo brothers said that the necklace that Black Widow wears throughout Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a nod to her relationship with Hawkeye, which makes sense given that it's in the shape of an arrow.
Johansson and the Russos never actually said that the necklace points to a romantic past, but they certainly insinuated it.
"Her relationship with Hawkeye will become very clear in Avengers 2," said the Russos. "We thought it would be nice to have something that was a little bit personal for the Widow," said Johansson, who also added, "she’s still a woman and that she has her interpersonal relationships in life outside of work.”
Yeah, that would appear to be setting us up for a romance - except in Avengers: Age of Ultron, it's revealed the two characters are just friends, and the Widow is also friends with Hawkeye's wife. Who wears a necklace representing their married best friend's weapon of choice?
6 She was Team Iron Man in Civil War
Captain America: Civil War was always meant to split the Avengers straight down the middle, dividing them into either Tony Stark or Steve Rogers supporters. Surprisingly, Black Widow picks Tony Stark's side.
This struck a lot of fans as somewhat odd, given her history in the MCU. By the time Civil War rolled around, Widow had spent considerable time with the Avengers, and with Tony and Steve specifically in Iron Man 2 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This may sound like she would be evenly split between the two, but as anyone who has watched those movies will tell you, she's much more important in The Winter Soldier and seems to have a much more personal connection with Steve than with Tony.
SHIELD has already been dismantled by this film, so her loyalty there is a non-issue. Widow has always been comfortable working outside the law, so going against the US government shouldn't be a problem. She's already said she doesn't try to get emotional about "regime change," so leaving the Avengers can't be too big a deal for her.
On top of everything else, she changes her mind and helps Cap in the end anyway, so why does she side with Tony in the first place at all? Once again, it feels like Widow's character got sidelined in service of the plot machinations, in ways that just don't make sense for her.
5 She’s a member of the Avengers, despite her past
Going hand in hand with the fact that she should have been arrested by this point, if the Avengers were a real group devoted to justice, Black Widow would likely never have been allowed to join.
Let's start with the comics: in the mainstream Marvel continuity, Black Widow isn't just an enemy spy. She's also an assassin, and is responsible for an uncounted amount of political terminations, just by the time she first meets any superhero. Then, when she finally does enter the world of the Avengers, she spends several storylines actively trying to destroy Tony Stark, among other heroes.
This is all eventually revealed to be an effect of the Red Room, brainwashing Black Widow to hate truth, justice, and the American way, but even so, it's borderline irresponsible to put someone like that on a team of the strongest heroes in the world.
Even in the movies, it's not much better.
Her spy/assassin past is never really elaborated on, but she also has a habit of lying to her teammates-- Tony Stark and Steve Rogers especially.
Frankly, her conduct is much more morally gray than would seem to befit the mainstream superhero team of a Disney-owned franchise.
4 None of her romances in the comics happen in the movies
On top of Black Widow having a bewildering, awkward romance with Bruce Banner, she doesn't get to have any of the love interests she was known for in the comics.
Black Widow is somewhat different in the comics, only occasionally a part of the Avengers. This is reflected in her adventures involving heroes like Hawkeye, Daredevil, and Spider-Man in their own solo series. Like any other comics character with as long a publication history, Black Widow has plenty of former lovers, but Bruce Banner isn't one of them--and we're not likely to ever see her most important comics romances on screen.
Hawkeye, Daredevil, and the Winter Soldier were the most important love interests Black Widow had in the comics, and Daredevil is the one who trumps them all. Since Widow has gone back and forth as a hero and villain in the past, several of her former lovers were just marks she was manipulating. This wasn't the case for Daredevil, as she loved Matt Murdock so much she worried she was losing her own identity.
Unfortunately, we'll likely never get to see Charlie Cox's Daredevil and Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow hook up on screen, as the film MCU and the Netflix MCU are unlikely to ever cross in any meaningful way. Not only that, there hasn't been any on screen hint at romance between her and Hawkeye or Bucky Barnes, either.
3 We still don’t know that much about her
When you really think about, the MCU's Black Widow is a puzzle that has never really been solved. Looking back at all her film appearances starting with Iron Man 2, her past is alluded to, but never explicitly stated.
We know that she became a Russian spy after a gruesome training period, and that she became a member of SHIELD (and thus the Avengers) after Hawkeye encountered her on a mission. That's really all we know.
Whereas other Avengers get whole origin films, Black Widow is an enigma even to most of her teammates.
Even her personality is inscrutable, as she tends to drop jokes and information without revealing much about herself, slipping away from any real vulnerability or emotion.
It would be easy to clear up all this confusion with a standalone movie, but Marvel Studios hasn't gotten around to that yet - though it should soon change. As it stands, Black Widow's standing as a supporting character has prevented her from ever really communicating the depths of her personality to the audience.
While the comics were able to explore her psyche, the movies have stayed hands off. This is somewhat frustrating for fans of the Widow, as even films that feature her more heavily have only given us small tidbits.
2 The comics can't decide if she's a hero or villain
The problem with trying to keep up with mainstream comic book continuity is that characters often switch hands between writers who have very different ideas about how they should develop - especially since most comic book characters have been around for so many years. Every superhero character tends to suffer from this phenomenon at one point or another in their publication history, and Black Widow is no exception to the rule.
Natalia Romanova started her comics run as a distinct antagonist, a spy bent on the destruction of Iron Man. She continued her run as a villain until the Red Room's brainwashing was undone and she became an Avenger.
This would seem to line up with the film continuity, and the revelation of her true, moral character was a good one. This more heroic incarnation is considered the true Black Widow in the main Marvel continuity, but that doesn't mean there haven't been plenty of returns to her villainous form.
Even disregarding alternate universes where she destroys entire families at a time, Black Widow has had relapses into her old morally gray nature.
Not helping this confusion is the fact that she was recently cloned in the main continuity, and it isn't really clear where the clone lies on the moral spectrum.
1 Natasha isn’t the only Black Widow
While the MCU has stuck with one and only one Black Widow, in the comics things are a bit different. It turns out that "the Black Widow" is something of a title that can be earned by female spies and assassins, and more than one has tried (and succeeded) at achieving that title.
There's Yelena Belova, another recruit from the Red Room who takes on the Black Widow moniker in an effort to demonstrate that she's better than Natasha ever was. There's also Monica Chang, who along with taking the Black Widow title in the Ultimates universe is also Nick Fury's ex-wife. And let's not even talk about Natasha's clone.
All this creates a mix that is pretty difficult for the average comics reader to keep up with. Is the current Black Widow Natasha Romanoff, or has she passed on? Is the clone of Natasha technically now the Black Widow? What's going on with this Yelena Belova character? And is Monica Chang even alive anymore in the Ultimates universe?
This kind of confusion tends to arise when comics creators start introducing more and more characters that share the same codename. While the MCU still thankfully only has one Black Widow, that may change in future installments, as a large-scale shakeup is reportedly planned for the cinematic universe.
What else doesn't make sense about Black Widow? Let us know in the comments!