Warning: contains spoilers to Avengers #44!

The sinister Red Widow – Russia’s villainous replacement for Black Widow after she defected to join the Avengers – has revealed her terrifying endgame thanks to the Phoenix Force. One of the latest operatives of the Soviet Union’s Red Room, which trained and empowered the legendary super-spy and Avenger Black Widow, Red Widow’s mysterious past has so far made her larger goals hard to gauge. But in her battle with a super-powered Shanna the She-Devil, the Red Widow just revealed her desire to punish the weak by remaking the Earth to resemble her twisted childhood.

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Created by Jason Aaron and David Marquez for Avengers #10 (2018), the Red Widow was indoctrinated into the Red Room as a child and rigorously trained and sculpted to be the ultimate assassin, her body enduring unimaginable pain and suffering to the point of becoming a roadmap of scabs and scars. She was eventually made leader of the Winter Guard, Russia’s premier superhero team. She was later among those selected by the Phoenix Force to participate in the contest to be the next host, empowered with a fraction of its power to fight other chosen heroes and villains. The Red Widow viciously defeated both Howard the Duck and the Black Knight and faces Shanna the She-Devil in Avengers #44.

In the story by Jason Aaron and Javier Garrón, Red Widow attacked Shanna and her sabertooth tiger Zabu, interrupting her attempt to usher a ship full of passengers caught in the crossfire to safety. Dismissing Shanna’s attempts at heroism, Red Widow reveals that she believes the Phoenix should be used to burn away the weak and pathetic to help forge a stronger future for humanity which she’ll accomplish by making the world into a planetary Red Room.

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The Red Room takes in orphans and volunteers, stripping away their humanity and free will to make perfect soldiers who can fight back against their global competitors. The Red Widow is a walking testament of bitterness and anger, but also a fanatical believer in the process that created her. She shows her jealousy in comparing Shanna’s beauty to her own scarred body, and states that she seeks to surpass her purpose as a living weapon. Although Natasha Romanoff is considered one of the Red Room’s greatest accomplishments and failures, Red Widow becomes intoxicated by the power and possibility of the Phoenix into becoming her superior; a Red Widow with the power to assassinate planets and solar systems. Fortunately for Marvel’s Earth, Shanna’s title as the Savage She-Devil isn’t just a gimmick, and the Savage Land heroine fights back, proving that she will not go down easy.

The Phoenix Force tends to bring the darkness of its hosts to the surface, but generally by seizing on their strongest beliefs. While Red Widow’s true nature had been a mystery up until this point – and there was even a fan theory that she was a version of Natasha – this battle shows she’s a villain through and through, and one who, given ultimate power, would turn the whole world into a living hell. Considering the Phoenix’s history of death and destruction that has made it so feared throughout the galaxy, fans should consider it fortunate that Red Widow was unable to get further in the contest. Even as the Phoenix Force removes its power to be channeled into its new host Maya Lopez, aka Echo, Red Widow should be considered more dangerous than ever. Black Widow‘s villainous replacement was already a deadly foe, but now she’s had a taste of unlimited power.

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