How could I be on the tenth, the TENTH Rogue’s Roulette article and only attempted to bolster the file of foes for one female foiler of the fiendish (Storm) in lo these many months? Thinking about it, very few of our splendid superheroines have any rogues gallery at all to speak of. A rogue’s gallery isn’t just a list of characters who have battled our hero in the past, their characters with a history of repeated-conflict that may or may not have a personal element to it. Off the top of my head, beyond who I listed for Storm, I can think of Wasp and Whirlwind, Invisible Woman and Malice, Jessica Jones and Purple Man, She-Hulk and Titania, Captain Marvel and (ugh) Marcus Immortus . . . am I forgetting anybody here? That’s like one rogue a piece outside of Storm. Everybody else I could think of the villain was really more the enemy of a team (e.g. Morgan Le Fey for Spider-Woman and/or Scarlet Witch is arguably part of the Avengers rogues gallery or even the Defenders, so this was disqualified). So these aren’t really even rogues galleries per se, so much as arch enemies. Come on Marvel! Let’s give these gals a bit more to do. One villain just isn’t enough to keep a major superhero busy regardless of their gender identity. Time to step it up! Oh wait! I know who I forgot . . . Black Widow and Red Guardian. Yeah, that’s another single villain, not a gallery, but c’mon! Natasha “Black Widow” Romanov is now one of the most well-known super ladies of the Marvel Universe thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If anybody deserves a solid rogue’s gallery it’s Natasha. That’s it body politic, it’s time for Black Widow to get the full Rogue’s Roulette treatment!
Black Widow has been a prominent figure in the 616 since she debuted in 1964 as a nefarious agent of the Soviet Union, manipulating Hawkeye into committing treason as she tried to steal Tony Stark’s (Iron Man) secrets. All that changed over the years as Natasha realized the error of her ways and defected from the Soviet Union. This set up her one rogue relationship as the target of a Soviet Captain America knock-off and ‘Tasha’s ex-husband Red Guardian. When it comes to Natasha’s personal pantheon of enemies, that’s about it. She’s partnered with Hawkeye, Daredevil, and Winter Soldier/Captain America (Buck Barnes), led the Champions of Los Angeles and the Avengers, and served with S.H.I.E.L.D. and at least one incarnation of both the Heroes For Hire and the Thunderbolts, but in all that time the Widow has managed to succeed in acquiring only one major foe. As Black Widow is currently the face of tail-kicking ladies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, she needs to have that preeminent position reflected in her printed exploits. It’s high time to redress this mistake!
In setting up my crafty consignments for a cadre of criminality that can bedevil our dear Ms. Romanov, I think a miniature-scale analogy to amaze may be in order. It may not be mind-blowing to many, but I really think of Black Widow as less super hero, than super spy. I’d say that ‘Tasha is the James Bond of the Marvel Universe and I wouldn’t stutter for a second on that point. I know Nick Fury started out in that role, but he stopped being an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and became Colonel Fury, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. a looooooooooong time ago. I don’t think Fury has really been analogous to James Bond since Steranko left the character. Incidentally this was pretty close to the same time that Black Widow’s presence as a hero started to be felt more frequently throughout the Marvel SAGA. Reflecting on the Super Spy solution, the James Bond formula if you will, Bond typically finds himself up against tyrants bent on destabilizing the world for their own gain, for behind the scenes conquest and corruption. It is with this in mind that I’ve picked a perfect pair of profligates to pit against our proud heroine.
Our first malignant mastermind is Baintronics CEO Sunset Bain. If you aren’t familiar with Ms. Bain don’t expect a dressing down from the fan boy central command. She’s a fairly obscure figure. Sunset is most well known for making Machine Man‘s life a bit miserable. She’s also given Tony Stark a rough time once or twice and has occasionally used the moniker Madame Menace when she’s gotten her hands dirty. In the future world posited in the Machine Man 2020 mini-series, Sunset was the employer of that era’s Iron Man. (2020 is a mere five years away now. Yikes!) I see Sunset as a mastermind in the same mold as robber baron type Bond villains such as Elliot Carver or Dominic Greene. By controlling the financial stakes of the world’s economies and the criminal underworld alike, Sunset Bain is out to act as a global puppet master and it’s up to the Black Widow to stop her robot-fueled schemes of domination!
The next designated evildoer with whom we suggest ‘Tasha match wits is Maggia maestro Count Luciano Nefaria. Readers may recall Nefaria from his exploits making life miserable for Moon Knight and Echo, being responsible for the death of an X-Man, and for his numerous battles with the Avengers. As a master criminal with fresh schemes ever ready to be hatched and a penchant for dispatching underlings to eliminate any obstacle to his goals, the Count already looks poised to pose a challenge for Black Widow. Mind you, we aren’t talking about just any underlings. Nefaria employs mere mobsters to carry out his operations, however, he also has a penchant, common of many in the Bond-ian tradition of employing colorful and deformed heavies to act as his principal enforcers. The Ani-Men, the Lethal Legion and Death Squad have all been known to serve Nefaria. What bizarre group will the Count bring together to execute his next plot? While we’re bringing in bonus baddies to block Black Widow’s biting battle against the Count we would be highly remiss were we to forget that Nefaria’s daughter is none other than Whitney “Madame Masque” Frost. Madame Masque does not always get along well with her fiendish father (far from it in fact), but her relationship to the man creates the potential for further complications, for plots and counter-plots and more layers of intrigue than a parfait that Black Widow will have to overcome. Of course nothing we’ve touched on thus far takes into account Nefaria’s powers . . . did we neglect to mention them? Nefaria has ionic powers similar to those of Wonder Man and Atlas. Following an ill-fated effort to reform the Lethal Legion, Nefaria invested in himself and came out as an ion powered dynamo, possessing super strength, the speed of a hurricane wind, a frame that can brush off a blow from Thor’s hammer, eyes that project laser beams, and the power of flight. When Black Widow takes the Nefaria family down she will have more than earned her place as an A-List Avenger.