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Black Widow: Who is the Red Guardian and What is His Possible Future in the MCU?

[Note: The following article contains spoilers for Black Widow]Marvel’s long-awaited Black Widow has finally arrived. While the movie answered a lot of questions about Natasha’s whereabouts after the events of Captain America: Civil War, it left a bunch of new queries for the audience. One of the most prominent one being – who is the Red Guardian? And does he has an important role to play in MCU phase 4?

For folks who want to know more about the character, whether it’s where he came from in the comics or where he might be going in the MCU, we’ve got you covered with a handy guide to all things Red Guardian, from the Black Widow movie to the comics to his alleged Captain America beef.

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Who Is Red Guardian in the Black Widow Movie?

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Image via Disney

If we take a look at the character from Marvel Comics, there have been many incarnations of the Red Guardian. The one we witnessed in the Black Widow movie is Alexi Shostakov, played by David Harbour, who is past his prime and serving his time in prison in the film. He is revealed to be the Soviet Union’s answer to Captain America, because every superpower nation wanted its own super-soldier back then. He received the Russian version of the Super Soldier Serum and became the Red Guardian. He went on various military missions and was successful, and was highly regarded by the Soviet public as a hero. During his military career, he meets General Dreykov (Ray Winstone) and unknowingly becomes a super-powered henchman for him.

However, after the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, Alexei was no longer sent on combat missions and his suit was taken away from him. Therefore, he agrees to go undercover for Dreykov out of desperation, thinking he might get his costume back after the mission.

He is sent to the US with a fake family, consisting of Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz) as the mother, Natasha Romanoff (Ever Anderson), and Yelena Belova (Violet McGraw) as the children, with him acting as the father. He is successful in the mission, and after he returns back he is double-crossed by the General. Alexei is imprisoned in the Seventh Circle Prison for years until Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) and Yelena (Florence Pugh), now grown up, bust him out of jail. They are then reunited with the mother of the fake family, Melina, and the four of them set out on their quest to rescue other Black Widows from the clutches of the evil General Dreykov.

Who Is Red Guardian in the Comics?

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Image via Marvel Comics

The comics story of the Red Guardian is quite different from his silver screen counterpart. Red Guardian first appeared in 1967’s Avengers #43, written by Roy Thomas and drawn by John Buscema. Alexei was exceptionally skilled as a test pilot for the USSR, and was married to Natasha Romanova, a famous ballerina back then.

Alexei became a member of the infamous KGB organization and went on a number of dangerous missions. KGB faked his death, to induct Natasha into their Black Widow program, while secretly training him to become Russia’s Captain America. While it is not clear if he received the super-soldier serum in the comics to gain superhuman strength, stamina, and agility, the movie counterpart shows to possess all of them, hence indicating he went through the same process as Captain America to become the Red Guardian.

There are a few things common between the movie and comic book iterations, both of them share a rivalry with Captain America. While in the comics, it takes the form of jealousy, so much so that Alexei kidnaps Black Widow along with KGB spies, just to fight against Captain America to prove he’s better, in the Black Widow movie he considered him to be a contemporary. We are not even sure if the movie Red Guardian ever faced Captain America for real, as indicated by the arm wrestling scene in prison when one of the inmates proves him wrong. The two super soldiers did wrestle it out in the comics. The outcome was really surprising, as he gives his life to save Captain America and Black Widow.

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Will Red Guardian Return in the MCU?

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Image via Disney

David Harbour says there are currently no definite plans for the future of his character in the MCU. In an interview with Collider’s Editor-in-chief Steven Weintraub, he just says there is “some chatter around certain things.” He also claims there are a lot of branches in the current phase, such as Marvel’s Eternals, but he is not involved in that branch. The filmmakers were just really focused on Black Widow, and though the possibilities are endless, they didn’t really tell him what’s next for the Red Guardian. But that doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t anything coming up for the character, after all, Marvel Studios loves their secrecy almost as much as their returning characters, so what might he get up to next? We’ve got some theories.

Though we didn’t get to see any interaction between the Red Guardian and Captain America in Black Widow, we might be heading towards a similar scenario where the Red Guardian might try to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Alexei has a soft spot for his so-called family, and his inability to save Natasha during the events of Avengers: Endgame could push him into a grieving state.

Black Widow showed the Widows escaping with Yelena, Melina, and Alexei after the destruction of the Red Room in the grand finale, and with a whole team of young women looking for guidance, maybe he will become a father figure for them, helping them to forge their own destinies. Another fan-favorite theory after the film’s post-credits scene is that Alexei might join Yelena in hunting Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), who she believes is responsible for Natasha’s death (thanks to a little coaching from Contessa Valentina Allegra) – or, alternatively, that he may attempt to draw Yelena back from her assassin instincts since Natasha sacrificed herself for Clint Barton’s life.

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Image via Disney

There are also theories that Alexei’s Cap callout might payoff… with him actually meeting a different version of Captain America. We know from The Falcon and The Winter Soldier series that there was another individual who took up the mantle of Captain America in the past, after being given the super-soldier serum: Isaiah Bradley. Maybe he met Isaiah in the confrontation he mentioned while in prison to other inmates. Fans might even witness Alexei square off against the new Captain America, aka Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie).

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe slowly unfolds into a plethora of new movies and TV series, one thing is for sure, there will always be something exciting waiting for the fans at the end. Marvel head Kevin Feige recently said that there won’t be any multi-movie contracts for the MCU actors anymore. This hints at a diversion from their earlier tactics, where they used to sign them for multiple appearances in movies and shows that had already been planned out in a series. Let’s hope that this new happy-go-lucky approach of the MCU will impress the audience, and they’ll continue on their victory march introducing new characters for the fans to relish on-screen.

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