Marvel Phase 4: Florence Pugh Is the New Black Widow. Here's Why It Matters

Yelena Belova is more than Natasha's rival. 

Like it or not, Black Widow will probably be the last time we see Scarlett Johansson in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thankfully, Marvel Studios also seems set to introduce Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) to carry on the moniker of Black Widow in Natasha Romanoff’s place into the MCU’s Phase Four, Five, and beyond.

With Yelena’s introduction, the implication is that there are many like Natasha. The Black Widow name can be passed down and doesn’t belong to any specific person. Sure, the MCU is doing it backwards, what with Natasha having died in Avengers: Endgame, but Captain Marvel proved that timelines are irrelevant so long as they eventually connect to the present. With Yelena, a piece of Natasha lives on. But who exactly is Yelena Belova and how does she fit into the MCU? Let’s dive in.

This sets up Yelena as Natasha's rival. 

Marvel Comics

Given the decades of Marvel comic book history, Yelena is a relatively newer character. Unlike Natasha, Yelena is a post-Cold War era Russian spy who made her comic book debut in 1999’s Inhumans #5 and, like her predecessor, she was trained specifically to become a spy and assassin.

In fact, Yelena often claims that her skills are far better than Natasha and it’s established that the younger woman is very competitive, especially when it comes to showing up Natasha, her proposed rival. While Natasha was a reformed Black Widow agent and eventual hero, Yelena is the opposite. She is still very much an active spy, loyal to Russia and the Black Widow program, and is hellbent (at first anyway) to beat Natasha and prove her superiority.

A little bit of that rivalry is shown in the footage from Black Widow, which debuted exclusively during Marvel’s Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con. In the sneak peek, Yelena is prepared for a full-on showdown and the pair fight each other inside a bar before sitting down to share a drink.

Interestingly, Yelena calls Natasha “sister,” possibly implying that she isn’t simply her spy rival, but also a blood relative (or maybe it’s just a term of endearment). The change in their relationship would be a welcome change from the comics and one that could indicate how Yelena comes to join a new incarnation of the Avengers.

Yelena introduces herself as Black Widow.

Marvel Comics

After all, what better way to introduce a new version of Black Widow than to have Yelena appear following the death of her “sister”? While we never learned anything about Natasha’s family in the MCU films (only in Endgame was it even revealed that her father’s name was Ivan), Yelena’s introduction and assumed inclusion in Marvel’s Phase Four would help to expand on this. It would also provide a deeper connection between the characters and establish Yelena in future films. Though they dislike each other, Natasha and Yelena will most likely set their differences aside and fight alongside each other to defeat Taskmaster, the film’s antagonist.

Additionally, Yelena was trained in the Red Room, the home base for an organization that indoctrinated spies and assassins, preparing them for the field while also experimenting on them. We got a brief look at the Red Room during Natasha’s flashback/hallucination in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but we could learn a lot more in Black Widow.

And with Yelena poised to become the new Black Widow, Marvel Studios could be opening up a plethora of new and exciting storytelling avenues spun out of the horrors of the Red Room and the super spies it created.

Black Widow hits theaters May 1, 2020.