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Yelena Belova: Everything You Need to Know About the New Black Widow

In 2012, the world was introduced to Natasha Romanoff, AKA Black Widow. Finally, after eight long years and plenty of male-centered Marvel movies, she’s getting her very own film. Now, Marvel is introducing their second Black Widow as the complex anti-hero Yelena Belova- but who is she? 

Her portrayal

Florence Pugh, who plays Yelena in Black Widow, has amassed quite the following in recent years thanks to her incredible talent in films like Little Women and Midsommar (not to mention her bubbly persona, as shown in her popular Instagram cooking show that’s basically pure sunshine). Now, she brings her wide range of skills to the Marvel universe.

Her role in the movie

In an interview with Empire, Black Widow director Cate Shortland revealed that Scarlett Johansson (who plays Natasha Romanoff) will be “handing [Florence Pugh] the baton” to “propel another female storyline.” Official character descriptions for the movie describe Yelena as a fiery assassin searching for closure on her secret history with the Black Widow. However, when her life is threatened she must become allies with “the very person she blames for a lifetime of torment- Natasha Romanoff.” She’s complicated, broken, and hurt, and doesn’t know how to deal with any of it- all she knows is how to do her job. “She’s a lethal weapon but also a bit of a kid,” Pugh commented in the same press release. The film deals with Natasha’s “history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger,” so it only makes sense that Yelena makes her onscreen debut. 

Her first appearance

Yelena was introduced in Marvel Comics Inhumans Vol. 2 #5 (1999), created by Devin K. Grayson and J.G. Jones. 

Her backstory

At only 15 years old, Yelena was chosen to train at the Red Room (the same program that trained Natasha), when it was decided that Natasha was no longer loyal to Russia. She studied under Vasilievich Pyotr Starkovsky, who became obsessed with her as she grew up. He paid another woman, Petra, to dress up as Yelena, who later killed him. Yelena killed Petra to avenge her teacher and accepted her role as the Black Widow. She was the first Red Room student to receive better marks than Natasha, and becomes eager to prove herself as the superior- and only- Black Widow.

Her powers

While Yelena was trained in the Red Room, she never went through the Black Widow program. This means that she never was chemically enhanced for vitality like Natasha was, so she was to rely on her skills and abilities from training. 

After avoiding female-centered superhero films for years and killing off the first female hero of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (don’t get me started on how dirty they did Natasha in Endgame), it’s relieving to know that at least the Black Widow torch won’t be extinguished just yet, and Yelena seems like the perfect complex female character to take it. 

Hi! I'm an editorial intern at Her Campus and Senior Editor at HC Pace! I can recite Gilmore Girls lines from memory and you can find me wherever books, dogs, or concerts are.
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