Photo Devian Arts
Photo Devian Arts

There's nothing like car chases and exploding cloud-fortresses to get you weepy about the mighty force of sisterhood, eh? Black Widow, the latest showing from Marvel Studios's ambitious Phase 4 rollout, is the first to bring two sister assassins together to helm one of the franchises's box office behemoths. Although the prequel was conceptualized, in part, as a way to right the wrong of Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson)'s eternal sidelining over the course of 10 years in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Widow ends up a story primarily about family: who makes them, why we fight with them, and why we'll die fighting for them. Initially convinced she deserves to be alone, Natasha learns by movie's end that she has, of course, never really been alone at all. It's a sweet, if kitschy, moral to the story.

Yet it's not Natasha herself but Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova, Natasha's long-lost sister, who ultimately makes the final product worth the price of admission (or $29.99 on Disney+). Pugh plays the tragicomic former brainwasheé with a degree of complexity that Johansson is (and was) rarely given the room to fill out. One moment breezy and ruthless as she tears apart her sister's performative posing, she just as quickly darkens when Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour), the girls' one-time adoptive father figure, admits he was bored with their peaceful undercover life in Ohio. She's upset that anyone could argue her childhood wasn't “real;” she remembers it as the one authentic joy of her life. Only when Alexei begins to speak-sing the words to “American Pie” does the light slowly return to her face.

Yelena Belova Early Life

Yelena Belova was born in the Soviet Union in 1988-1989. After her parents died she lived with her new adopted parents Alexei Shostakov and Melina Vostokoff, along with her adopted older sister Natasha Romanoff. They then moved to the United States of America to Ohio while they were on a deep undercover assignment. One day, in 1995, while playing in the backyard with Romanoff, she scraped her knee and started bleeding. Vostokoff came and helped her up and the three went inside. After dinner Shostakov came and delivered news that the family had to leave within the hour. As they drove away S.H.I.E.L.D. as well as the local police attempted to arrest them but Shostakov resisted them with a gun. Vostokoff, Romanoff, and Belova boarded a plane while Shostakov rode on the outside.

Photo Walt Disney
Photo Walt Disney
Pain and suffering is every day and we are both still a trained killer. Except I'm not the one that's on the cover of a magazine. I'm not the killer that little girls call their hero."

Yelena Belova to Natasha Romanoff

Who is Yelena Belova in comics?

Photo Preview World
Photo Preview World

Yelena Fyodorovna Belova was created by Devin Grayson and J.G. Jones for Marvel Comics. She first appeared in Inhumans Vol. 2, #5 in 1999. She trained in the Red Room, was messed with by the Black Widow Ops Program, and she was often in direct competition with Natasha. They did not grow up as part of a sleeper spy family (like they do in the movie) but their paths were definitely intertwined and rivalry ran deep.

Yelena went on to appear in several Black Widow stories, though over the years she proved to be an antagonist on more than one occasion. She often came under the sway of A.I.M. and also attacked the Avengers themselves. She is one of a very select few characters in the comics (in non-alternate histories) who has taken the actual title/code name of “Black Widow.” After Natasha, Yelena is the most well-known of them by far.

In terms of the comics, Yelena is currently dead, or as “dead” as anyone ever is in comics. Secret Avengers Vol. 2 #15 killed her off in 2014, but if that death lasts we’ll rip all of the pockets out of our vests. There is surely going to be a yearning from all corners of the world for more Yelena stories, because Florence Pugh shows up as the character in Black Widow and says, “Hey nice movie you have here, I’m gonna steal it.” Yelena is bound for a resurgence in the comics due to her big-screen success, and we're talking about the real Yelena, not one of the clones of her that has been boppin' around in the last few years.

Who plays Yelena Belova?

Photo IGN
Photo IGN

Florence Pugh has spoken to Comic Book, where she confirmed she would be stepping into the role.

She said: "First of all, I think when I came on board there wasn't even any conversations of whether there'd be this scene or that scene or a future Yelena.

"Going forward, I think the most wonderful thing and the scary thing is that, obviously, I've got major shoes to fill.

"It's just been really wonderful seeing all the ways that Scarlett's changed conversation about her character. And I think for me, whatever future there is, I would love to, I suppose, follow in her footsteps in that way."

What is Yelena Belova’s personality?

"I've never had control over my own life before, and now I do. I want to do things."

Yelena Belova

Having grown up in the Red Room, Yelena is a cynical person with a sarcastic very deadpan sense of humor, with a bit of bent moral compass as she notably had no problem holding a civilian at gunpoint and stealing his car to get away from pursuers, much to Romanoff's chagrin. Despite this, Yelena does have a strong sense of right and wrong, having no problem with helping Natasha take down the Red Room and free the Widows being held against their will. Having felt abandoned by her family, Yelena notably has a strained relationship with her adopted parents and older sister.

Despite this, Yelena still cared and loved them, admitting to Melina Vostokoff that to her she will always be her mother, and telling Alexei that he meant everything too her as a child. After destroying the Red Room, these bonds started to mend as the makeshift family came together. Yelena also shows a love for dogs, telling Natasha that she always wanted one and eventually buys one years later.

What are Yelena Belova’s abilities?

"Yelena, you went on to become the greatest child assassin the world has ever known. No one can match your efficiency, your ruthlessness."

Alexei Shostakov to Yelena Belova

Like Black Widow, Yelena does not possess any superpowers. What she does have is expert training in espionage, marksmanship, and various types of combat, all of which makes her just as much of a lethal weapon as her older “sister.” In the film, she and Natasha will need all of their skills if they hope to free the remaining Black Widows in the Red Room from the control of the nefarious Taskmaster, the film’s main villain. Belova hugs Natasha Romanoff

The family flew to Cuba and with their mission over the family was then separated. As soldiers attempted too pulled them apart Belova clung to Romanoff as her older sister held the soldiers a gunpoint after taking ones weapon. Shostakov then came and comforted them telling them that they were “the toughest girls in the world” and that everything would be alright, the two were then sedated. After a few years, Belova was sent to the Red Room and became a Black Widow, going on multiple assignments.

Belova's stories

Belova on a mission in Morocco

In 2016, Belova was sent to Morocco on an assignment with a team of Widows to retrieve the substance known as Red Dust: a cure to breaking the mind control that kept the widows all under Dreykov's orders and rule. The team managed to locate the target holding the cure: a former Widow named Oksana. Oksana managed to evade them but Belova caught up to her and, after a brutal fight, managed to fatally wound her - but not before Oskana managed to free Belova by spraying her with the dust.

Belova is freed by the Red Dust

Freed, Belova was horrified what she had done but Oksana told her to free the other Widows. Determined to keep her promise, Belova cut out the tracker in her skin and went dark. However, realizing this would only last so long, she came up with the idea to send the vials of the Red Dust to Natasha Romanoff who was now an Avenger, figuring she would have the resources to keep the Red Dust safe.

Belova confronts Natasha Romanoff

Photo Walt Disney
Photo Walt Disney

Belova went to Budapest, Hungary to Natasha Romanoff's old apartment and waited for her there. When Romanoff arrived, Belova confronted her at gunpoint, unsure if they could trust each other fully. When Belova refused to put her gun down, a confrontation happened. After the two choked each other with a curtain, Romanoff called for a truce in Russian, marking an end to their fight.

Belova tells Natasha Romanoff about the Red Room

After that, Belova asked about the "bullet holes" on the wall, and Romanoff informed her that they came from arrows. Belova then told Romanoff about the Red Room still being active, and Romanoff reacted in a shocked manner, recalling that she had killed Dreykov. Belova asked her how she killed Dreykov and whether they found his body, but Romanoff replied that there was no body to find, since the bomb was too destructive.

Belova escapes with Natasha Romanoff

Soon, Black Widows surrounded the apartment, and Belova and Romanoff were forced to escape by way of the rooftops. After reaching the ground, Belova spotted a Widow that had fallen and had tried to kill Romanoff against her will before getting knocked out. She then told Romanoff that she was right about the mind control and the Red Room still being active. After Romanoff jumped on a motorcycle, Belova jumped on behind her and the two tried to escape from the Widows.

Belova continues to escape with Natasha Romanoff

In order to escape faster, Belova hijacked a car, to Romanoff's displeasure, and jumped inside. As Romanoff drove them through the city, Belova asked what plan Romanoff had to evade the Widows, but told Romanoff her plan wasn't good after she said she'd drive them away. In order to get rid of a Widow pursuing them, Belova opened her car door, causing it to hit a pole and fly into the Widow, knocking her out. They were then attacked by Taskmaster, who shot explosive arrows at the car, causing it to topple over.

Belova and Natasha Romanoff catch up

Belova and Natasha Romanoff went off to a store, where Belova commented on Romanoff's fighting stance and calling her a poser. However, Romanoff disagreed. Afterwards, the two went out for dinner and caught up on each other's lives during the time they were separated.

Belova rides with Natasha Romanoff

When they were finished with dinner, Romanoff and Belova drove off in a car to meet Romanoff's friend in order to get help. While on the way, Belova was told by Romanoff that she liked her green vest.

Belova meets Rick Mason

Belova and Romanoff arrived in Norway and Belova was promptly introduced to Rick Mason, Romanoff's old friend from S.H.I.E.L.D.. Mason supplied Romanoff and Belova with an aircraft, in which they took to go and find their adopted father.

Prison Breakout

Belova fires a missile at Seventh Circle Prison

Belova and Natasha Romanoff flew the aircraft to Seventh Circle Prison in Russia and coordinated with Alexei Shostakov to escape from imprisonment. Hovering above the prison, Belova used her missile launcher to create an explosion, allowing Shostakov to break out. When Romanoff jumped off the aircraft to help Shostakov get past the prison guards, Belova stayed in the air and waited for them to come back.

Flight to St. Petersburg

Belova with Natasha Romanoff and Alexei Shostakov

After rescuing Alexei Shostakov, Belova and Natasha Romanoff were told that they needed to ask Melina Vostokoff about Dreykov's whereabouts, as he didn't know. The three then flew to St. Petersburg and landed at Melina Vostokoff's farm.

Belova speaks with Melina Vostokoff

After reuniting with Melina Vostokoff, Belova and Romanoff sat down for dinner with her and Shostakov, who had changed into his Red Guardian suit. Belova mentioned how she thought their family was real even though she knew what the history was behind it, with the rest agreeing.

Why is Yelena Belova the next Black Widow?

In the 2017 comic Secret Empire, Yelena assumed the role of Black Widow after Natasha's death, showing there is precedent for this to take place.

Similarly, Yelena is a trained Black Widow assassin within the Red Room, which also exists in the comics, though usually Yelena and Natasha are depicted as adversaries who are forced to be allies.

However, one moment in the film suggested there will be a clear future for Yelena: with Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

In the post-credit scene, Countess Val (Julia Louis Dreyfus) enlists Yelena in a new job: to kill Clint Barton, claiming he murdered Natasha.

Fans will know from Avengers: Endgame that Natasha sacrificed herself so Clint could return to his family if they were able to defeat Thanos and reverse the effects of the Blip.

They were able to do this, and so Clint was returned to his home, but Natasha's life remained sacrificed.

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