'Black Widow' trailer reveals a major change to Red Guardian from the comics

David Harbour's character has gotten a noticeable upgrade. 

Black Widow, the first film in the MCU’s Phase Four, sees Natasha Romanoff getting back to her roots, returning to Russia following the events of Captain America: Civil War, where she’s reunited with her “family” of trained killers. The latest Black Widow trailer sees Red Guardian ready to swing back into action, but with a few upgrades from his comic book counterpart.

While the previous trailer played up Red Guardian for laughs, the new one shows him in a heated fight against an unknown assailant. He grabs the guy’s hand, breaks it, and throws him mercilessly across the snow. And he does all of this with only one arm. It seems that Black Widow went ahead and gave the character super strength, possibly changing his trajectory in the film.

David Harbour plays the Red Guardian.
David Harbour plays the Red Guardian.

Red Guardian was first introduced in 1967 in Avengers #43. The moniker has since been taken up by several characters, including Aleksey Lebedev, Dr. Tania Belinsky, and Josef Petkus among many others. The hero was created by the Soviet Union to serve as its very own Captain America, but in the comics he’s sort of an inferior bootleg of the original. That doesn’t seem to be the case in Black Widow.

In an interview with The Wrap, David Harbour, who’s playing the Alexei Shostakov version of the character, confirms as much about his basic backstory, saying that “he was the Captain America of his day for Russia.”

It’s possible that Harbour’s Captain America comparison is about more than a reference to being a “great hope” for his country. Perhaps the MCU version of the character will have superhuman abilities closer to those of the first Avenger. In the comics, he was given an inferior, Soviet-made version of the super soldier serum, but the new Red Guardian seems to be legitimately badass.

Red Guardian Black Widow
Red Guardian breaks a guy's hand, sans suit. 

It’s possible that in the MCU’s version of the story, the Soviet scientists were a bit more capable, and managed to give Red Guardian largely the same abilities bestowed upon Captain America. This wouldn’t be the first time Marvel has altered a character’s backstory, and it’s really only a slight tweak.

The MCU’s version of Alexei Shostakov has clearly been out of commission for a while, but there’s no reason he couldn’t clobber someone with one arm if he had super strength. It might even explain why he would want in on the mission. In any case, we can expect Red Guardian’s super strength to play a major part in what’s shaping up to be an intensely action-packed movie.


Black Widow hits theaters May 1, 2020.