Black Widow is finally set to be released this summer, but Marvel’s first new movie since 2019 may be more than just a Natasha Romanoff flashback. The upcoming film is set to introduce a bevy of new comic book characters to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, the enigmatic Taskmaster, and David Harbour’s Alexei Shostakov (aka, The Red Guardian).
Along the way, it might just be the first story to officially bring mutants into the MCU. Here’s how.
Russia’s Mightiest Heroes — In anticipation of Black Widow’s long-awaited release, David Harbour recently revealed on Instagram that the film features the Winter Guard, a Russian team of superpowered beings his Red Guardian belongs to in the comics. The actor wrote, “Ursa, Yelena, Nat, CD, Sputnik, I and all the rest of the winter guard look forward to sharing a popcorn bag and a big ole screen in a dark theater with ya on July 9🕷.”
Why does this matter? Well, several of the members of the Winter Guard are also mutants in the comics. Let’s dig a little deeper into the history of Russia’s mightiest heroes.
The Winter Guard in the MCU — Established in their comic-book appearances as Russia’s equivalent of the Avengers, the Winter Guard has counted multiple mutants within its ranks over the years. That includes Darkstar, Sibercat, and Vanguard (who later assumed the Red Guardian mantle in the comics). Ursa Major, who can transform into a bear, is another mutant member of The Winter Guard specifically name-checked by Harbour.
Harbour’s mention of the Winter Guard, as well as several of its members, strongly suggests the team will appear in Black Widow. To be clear, there’s been no official confirmation that’s actually the case, and Harbour could simply be making a reference to his character’s comics backstory (or just trolling fans a bit). But that seems unlikely, especially given that he mentions several new characters specifically.
For the moment, it seems likely the team will show up in some form. It’s already rumored Black Widow will set up future MCU appearances for both Pugh’s Yelena and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Contessa Valentina, so it’s not unrealistic to think the film could also establish other comic book characters in the MCU.
Of course, even if some of the team’s mutant members do show up in Black Widow, it’s impossible to know if they’ll actually be mutants. Marvel managed to bring Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch into the MCU years before it had the rights to show X-Men onscreen. But now that Marvel has those rights again, it’s only a matter of time before we see some mutants.
After all, why go to the trouble of rewriting a character’s backstory if you don’t have to?
The Inverse Analysis — Ever since it was first announced that Disney was acquiring 20th Century Fox, Marvel fans have been busily speculating as to when (not if) the studio will introduce mutants to the MCU. Many believe Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff will have a role to play in that process thanks to her upcoming appearance in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (due out next year), while others believe such a game-changing introduction will happen down the line in another MCU project.
If the Winter Guard does show up in Black Widow, however, then it’s entirely possible this next Marvel film will act as the first real step towards mutants taking their place in the MCU.
Black Widow will be released in theaters and on Disney+ July 9, 2021.