Top 10 BEST BLACK WIDOW VILLAINS – The Epic Foes of Natasha Romanov!


Hello and welcome to Comic Island! My name is Arden, and with the Black Widow movie coming out… one day, I thought it might be fun to take a good look at this character and see what her greatest villains are in her long and storied history. Before we get into these deadly death-dealers, be sure to subscribe to Comic Island for more fun Top 10 videos!

Number 10


First up is a pretty obscure choice in the world of Black Widow villains. Shanpdragon, real name Sheoke Sanada, was a then-new villain hired out to take on the Black Widow with an entire roster of other mercenaries in a really cool story called the Web of Intrigue. Though Snapdragon would return in later stories, she would never face Black Widow again. That’s a very small appearance relative to the other villains featured in this Top 10. However, one sort of recurring theme in this video is that exposure doesn’t trump execution. Meaning that a villain we see fight Black Widow a lot doesn’t necessarily beat a villain who battled Natasha Romanov in a really cool way.

And in the case of Snapdragon, that is how she secured a spot among my favourite Black Widow villain even though she barely qualifies as one. Because check out this amazing battle scene.

Snapdragon strikes!

It’s hard to convey the full brilliance of this scene outside of comic book form, but by using an infrared sensor, Snapdragon is able to just beat down Widow to a pulp in the dark. It’s one hell of a set-up, establishing that Natasha is going up against a level of force she hasn’t ever before, especially considering that Snapdragon is just basically a powerful underling in Web of Intrigue, setting up a bigger threat we’ll talk about a little later.

It is one hell of an accomplishment to just have one fight done so well that it basically makes Snapdragon one of my favourite Widow villains, but thanks to Ralph Macchio, George Perez, Al Milgrom, and Bob Sharen, this scene was so well executed it’s my all time favourite Black Widow fight. The use of darkness conveys how off-guard Natasha is taken by this scene, and how strong a fow Snapdragon really is. And, like any good villain, it makes Natasha’s eventual victory that much more impressive.

Number 9

Crimson Dynamo (multiple identities)

While I tried to avoid villains more commonly associated with other characters, since I feel the focus should be on those most exclusively tied to Black Widow should be considered in a Black Widow rogues gallery, but villains aren’t always exclusive, and in the case of Crimson Dynamo, there’s a lot to the shared animosity between these two. For one thing, a lot just works in this relationship. Natasha’s long ties to the Soviet Union and later Russia mean that her often being at odds with the various men who have been Crimson Dynamo over the years makes a lot of sense. Plus, unlike Iron Man, Natasha doesn’t have the benefit of a power suit, so I feel like it’s a much bigger challenge for her to take on the Crimson Dynamo.

Natasha has faced many iterations of the character, along with many versions of the suit. In at least one instance, the Crimson Dynamo has a personal history with her longtime contact, Ivan Petrovich Bezukhov. But more often than not, Natasha has no idea who is behind the armour or what the armour will be capable of in any given fight, and has to adjust her tactics and react accordingly as she figures this stuff out in various battles over the years. That makes for a great, reliably enemy, though it feels like the Crimson Dynamo never really makes for much more than a secondary threat in most Black Widow stories, as he is often working on behalf of a bigger villain or as part of some kind of villain team-up. As such, Crimson Dynamo makes for a pretty great Black Widow villain, but without any key moments or big story arcs between them, he also is hardly her greatest enemy, either.

Number 8


So yes, I tried to avoid including other character’s villains on this Top 10, but it is very hard to avoid in Black Widow. It also would be dishonest to exclude characters like Elektra or at least not float an honourable mention or two for characters like Viper and Bullseye. Because Natasha is so heavily associated with Daredevil, the original Champions, and the Avengers, she has often been at odds with a lot of different villains. Mostly, those battles have been one-offs and don’t generally involve any specific animosity directed at Widow over Daredevil or whatever group Natasha might be working with at the time.

However, one character that really stands out, and to be fair, is only ever sometimes a villain, would be Elektra. Not only have they battled at least a few times over the years, but due to their shared history with Matt Murdock, there’s a lot of underlying tension, history, and baggage between these two women that works well in informing any potential conflict between them. That’s all well and good, and it’s also important to have some recognition somewhere in this Top 10 for Natasha’s time with Daredevil. It was her early appearances in the Daredevil comics that sort of cemented Black Widow as a major Marvel character and a consistent presence in the comics.

In doing so, her and Daredevil have gained this long and complex history together, that not only informs a lot of Natasha’s overall history, but also has led to her sort of inheriting quite a few of Matt’s villains over the years. It makes sense – they have worked so closely together that they would share a great deal of enemies – and one such enemy that really stood out to me was Elektra, whose well-established abilities also make for a great threat to Widow, which is important for any villain, too. She’s a pretty good enemy for Natasha, but hardly the only one to have spun out of Romanov’s time working with Murdock.

Number 7

Molot Boga

Next up is another character that only appeared in one story, but it was part of a top-tier Black Widow series and Molot Boga has a lot going for him as a cool enemy of Black Widow. For one thing, his creators Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto do a great job at giving this guy this big presence and making him into a big and deadly threat against Widow must go up against. He’s got this whole religious motif going on and thanks to Phil Noto’s paintings, just has this phenomenal sense of power to him few other Black Widow villains have. I like how he also seems to have a connection with the Red Room and it gives him interesting ties to Natasha’s character, even if that’s mostly background stuff that sort of just establishes he’s easily at her skill level, too.

He has this great battle where he nearly takes out a plane, then even returns at the end of the story arc all remodelled with steel implants. He’s yet another example of how a good and memorable execution can trump an ongoing presence, to a degree, as Boga was one of the first villains I thought of when compiling my Top 10.

Number 6

Headmistress (Anya)

Natasha Romanov first encountered Anya as a young woman, back when Natasha was first being trained as part of the Red Room Academy. Years later, Anya would return as a head of something called the Dark Room, a similar academy that seemed a lot more keen on using children as assassins. As a result, Anya became the new head of this organization.

This has led to a couple of encounters. The first one was good but Anya and Black Widow fought very little. Anya first revealed herself with the Red Room Headmistress to a very injured Natasha, and they both decided to spare Black Widow even under the assumption that she would eventually return to face the Dark Room. She did, but there wasn’t much to any of that and still no meaningful fighting between Anya and Widow, just a whole bunch of angst and anger. I don’t think it would have been good enough to justify including Anya on this Top 10.

But then Anya returned in a later story and properly went up against Black Widow as a villain. It was a really well done part of the Chriss Samnee and Mark Waid run of Black Widow. Ultimatley, Anya was defeated and not killed in an extremely well done moment where Widow turned Anya’s own students against her. And that evokes everything great about these two. They have this shared history that ultimately took their characters in very different directions, but late in to the development of Black Widow’s character, she’s no longer this heartless villain. She would never brainwash a bunch of kids into becoming assassins like Anya did. Instead, Natasha showed these same children a side of herself that Anya sorely lacks and Widow might not even be willing to admit about herself to begin with. After all her time working at the side of Daredevil, the Avengers, and even Hawkeye, Black Widow has become a superhero, more than anything else.

Number 5


And here we have, at a shockingly high position, the last villain to only ever appear in just one story. It shouldn’t be too surprising to hear that a lot of Black Widow’s enemies are one-off villains. Aside from the fact that Natasha seems to work best in short series, guest appearances, or graphic novels, the nature of her work as a spy makes Black Widow share something in common with the Punisher in that a lot of Natasha’s enemies don’t tend to stay alive long enough to be a meaningful, recurring threat. The willingness to use lethal force means that a lot of villains only ever go up against Natasha once, and their deaths hardly ever bother Black Widow much at all, making them often pretty inconsequential, and often villains are not the focus of Black Widow stories. In fact, out of all the Black Widow comics out there in the world, only a handful of villain deaths have ever had an emotional impact on Natasha, or any sort of reaction at all.

I’m obviously giving away what happens to Rose, a powerful telepath who enjoyed being a profoundly violent serial killer. This is all part of what might be my favourite Black Widow graphic novel, Daredevil/Black Widow: Abattoir. Don’t let the story name fool you, either, Rose is robustly a Black Widow villain, far more so than she is an enemy of Daredevil. Natasha is forced to spend a lot of time with Rose, watching the brutal way this women forces other people to slaughter one another using her telepathy. It’s raw, totally awesome stuff, and then Rose takes Widow through her dark history and how the telepath came to be, and as such, Natasha becomes so overly familiar with the woman, that by the time Rose is finally (and to be fair, rightfully) killed, Romanov breaks down in tears. The events of this comic get a huge reaction from this character I’ve never seen before. Best of all, it feels absolutely true to Natasha’s character and was totally, completely, robustly EARNED.

As I said before, by and large, execution beats exposure. Rose was never a huge character, but she left a huge impression on me in spite of her limited appearances, and I’ve seen her mentioned as a cool Black Widow villain before, on other sites. I think even though her role in Natasha’s life was small, she’s one of the best Black Widow villains out there.

Number 4

Black Widow (Yelena Boleva)

Yes, I’m sure this one is no surprise to most of you. Yelena Boleva, like a couple of other characters we’ve talked about today, is a fellow graduate of the Red Room. However, unlike other assassins, Yelena is significant in that she was the first person to graduate with higher scores than Natasha initially did. That’s why Yelena initially became the new Black Widow and it informs a lot of Yelena’s need to prove herself superior to Natasha in the early days. Out of all the Black Widow villains out there, Yelena is most easily defined as Natasha’s outright rival.

They have a very competitive relationship, sometimes Yelena can be counted as an ally, other times as an enemy. Her status as a freelancer and general loyalty to Russia means that she can’t always be counted on as a friend, but isn’t always outright hostile to Yelena, either. I like complicated characters such as this that don’t fit the traditional villain model, and the shared history between Yelena and Black Widow makes her a compelling character to play up against Natasha. It’s worked well in a number of stories over the years, including one that stands out where Yelena joined with AIM during Natasha’s time with the Secret Avengers.

Yelena was initially #1 on this Top 10, but lost a few parts in this ranking because though Yelena is absolutely one of the most frequent Black Widow villains, she has a few traits that gave me pause. For one thing, it’s really not all that exciting to have yet another Marvel villain just be an evil version of the same superhero. For another, Yelena is hardly always a villain to Natasha. Finally, Yelena just doesn’t have that emotional resonance with Natasha that some other villains do. At the end of the day, Yelena’s just another opponent to Natasha, while three other villains have more of a personal history, in my view, with Black Widow.

Don’t get me wrong, Yelena is a valuable part of Black Widow history and ranks very high on this Top 10 for a reason. I think it’s smart of the MCU to use her as a potential future Black Widow and a major character in the Black Widow movie. Yelena is also distinct enough that she’s not just a carbon copy of Natasha, either. This is well observed by another character in their second encounter, who comments that Yelena views herself as a sort of Russian patriot and superhero, giving her a sense of determination and self-righteousness that Natasha doesn’t have. Natasha, in spite of her long history with working with superheroes, and like I said I very much behaves like a superhero, especially these days, has never really viewed herself like that, and never really been comfortable with that label. It speaks a lot to the differences between Natasha and Yelena, and why there is value in having two very different Black Widows.

Number 3

Red Guardian/Ronin (Alexei Shostakov)

And now we get into a character that’s a real heavy hitter in the life of Natasha Romanov. Though Natasha has only battled Alexei a handful of times, he is one of the most most common villains you will see in any given Black Widow comic due to the frequency in which he shows up in flashbacks. For those that don’t know, Red Guardian is a sort of Russian equivalent to Captain America, and Alexei Shostakov is Natasha’s ex-husband, a man who used to carry on that mantle.

His early brainwashing and attack on Natasha along with the Avengers is an essential part of how Black Widow came to be working on the side of the heroes and SHIELD. As such, his behaviour and attack on Black Widow weighs heavily on Natasha’s heart, especially in her early days but even in comics published as recently as last year. Alexei and his separation from Widow really affected her life on the whole, and that personal touch has made him a very strong villain when he’s shown up again in later stories.

Whether as some sort of robot duplicate, which I counted as part of his character history, or as Ronin, Alexei is always a powerful presence when he shows up because of his long and emotional history with the Black Widow and her origin story. Though, over the years, Natasha has kind of learned to deal with him, to a degree. It feels like by the time he returned as Ronin, she easily came out on top, having come a long way from her earliest days as a character.

That only makes me feel more certain he belongs her though, as the Red Guardian is such an essential part of Black Widow’s history. It makes sense to me that Red Guardian will be a major character and likely some form of antagonist in the Black Widow movie. Alexei will be played by David Harbour, too, who I really like and think will do a good job with this. Unlike in the comics, the MCU version will have him be more of a father figure instead of her husband, which is fine – so long as there’s some sort of emotional connection there is what’s important. This is a cool villain and one of the more important ones out there in the history of Black Widow, yet I still feel we haven’t covered her greatest enemies… just yet.

Number 2

Indestructible Man (Damon Dran)

So we’ve covered Yelena, a character that is pretty easily Natasha’s greatest rival, but if she has an arch-enemy, it’s probably Damon Dran. Black Widow has faced this man on three different occasions, making him one of her most consistent enemies. For whatever reason, all three of these stories happen to be some of my favourite Black Widow comics. First Widow went up against Dran back in her earliest days of working with Daredevil, where Damon first started to hate Natasha.

He came up with a complicated revenge scheme that involved hiring Snapdragon and a bunch of other villains, before finally returning years later with Molot Boga in tow for yet another awesome plan of revenge. If you’re paying attention that means Widow’s adventures battling the Indestructible Man are so good that some of his henchmen are cool enough to have made it onto this Top 10.

He’s been a really well used character, and speaks a lot to how effectively something like that works. I say that because his powers aren’t all that exciting – thanks to some experiments, he’s effectively unkillable, which makes for a great recurring villain but isn’t the most exciting superpower out there. What is exciting is his ability to find amazing foes for Natasha and come up with really cool plans of revenge. I really like this villain and think he is Natasha’s greatest and most consistent ending. Only one villain, in my opinion, topples Damon Dran, and that’s because only one villain has managed to exact a level of devastation on Natasha’s life that Dran could only ever dream of.

Number 1

Ivan Petrovich Bezukov

This one is rough. Go back and read just about any old comic featuring Black Widow, or even any comic flashing back to her earliest days working with the superheroes, and you’re going to see Ivan sooner or later. This man is by far the closest thing Natasha has to a father, having been her handler since her earliest days working as a spy. He was with her when she first defected from the USSR, he was there throughout her early time working at the Daredevil’s side, and he was even a big part of her leading the first iteration of the Champions.

Ivan was there, through thick and thin. He cared about her, looked out for her, and went to great lengths to ensure her well being. Over time, he sort of faded away, kind of disappearing from Natasha’s life, only to eventually return, forcibly made into a cyborg and Natasha’s enemy. Now, aside from the kooky and colourful cyborg bit, that betrayal always felt sort of inevitable to me, even from those early comics where they were working together.

Natasha’s life is that of deceit, betrayal, and espionage. Her real name isn’t even Natasha, so her always being on Ivan’s side and always being able to count on him never felt like a real guarantee, and sooner or later, that story was going to end badly. If he wasn’t going to turn on her or be forced to turn on her, he was going to be violently killed, instead. It felt like that was always going to happen eventually.

What really makes the difference is how it was handled. Ivan’s final form may look a little goofy but don’t let that fool you. His betrayal was handled perfectly in the limited series Black Widow: Deadly Origin, and I feel writer Paul Cornell and the artists did a great job really pulling Natasha through the emotional ringer thanks to this story. I’ve never seen her more devastated than when she basically had to kill Ivan, but, given this character’s history and how he was with her since the beginning, it feels well deserved.

It was very well done and speaks a lot to the kind of life Natasha was raised in and knows little else. This was the closest thing to a familial attachment she had, and she had to kill the man with her bare hands. Given the sheer presence of this character in Widow’s early days, it’s hard to believe she’ll ever face an enemy that can have this kind of emotional effect on her ever again.

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