Long before joining the MCU in Black Widow, Yelena Belova briefly transformed into one of the Avengers’ most powerful villains.
WARNING: The following contains minor spoilers for Black Widow, which is now screening in theaters and available for streaming. Disney + Premiere access.
Weather Black widow has pushed the titular super-spy hero to the forefront of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, she is far from alone. In the film, Natasha Romanoff is joined by fellow Red Room alumna and surrogate sister, Yelena Belova. While the movie saw her operate as a mind-controlled assassin for the Red Room before joining Natasha, her comic book counterpart has led a much more rugged life.
Although she has recently started associating with Natasha in the comics, Yelena has frequently operated as an antihero and outright villain. And in 2005 New Avengers Annual # 1, Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel transformed her into the Super-Adaptoid, a being with the power to replicate the powers of anyone close to her, even an entire team of Avengers.
Yelena’s life was never easy, but things got worse for her than ever after an unfortunate encounter with the Avengers and Sauron in the Savage Land. During the conflict, Yelena was horribly burned by Sauron’s flames, and she was offered a chance for revenge as she recovered from her injuries. A team of AIM scientists worked tirelessly to rebuild Yelena’s body into the new Super-Adaptoid so that she could wage a one-woman war against the Avengers.
When she attacked the Avengers, Yelena left the Sentry defeated in record time, empowered by her abilities. He then turned his attention to Carol Danvers, who was the first heroine to realize what they were up against. Before she could warn the rest of her team, Yelena just tossed Carol aside, stole her powers, and also stole those of Luke Cage, Wolverine, and Spider-Woman. Among all her powers, Yelena had the Sentry’s immense Superman-style cosmic powers, Danvers’ equally impressive list of powers, and Wolverine’s healing factor, among others. Where Yelena is usually human, this skill set briefly transformed her into one of the strongest characters in the Marvel Universe.
Now, with no possibility of stopping the Adaptoid close, the team was left wondering how to stop her from as far away as possible so as not to give her more abilities to turn against them. As Yelena streaked across the sky beating one hero after another, Spider-Man and Iron Man realized the same thing about her powers. Just as Yelena had stolen the Sentinel’s powers, she also stole those of its darker half, the Void. Realizing that this was essentially a time bomb for her, the Avengers simply stalled until the Void revealed itself.
After so long struggling with the Sentinel’s power, Yelena found herself faced with the very real consequences of having them. the vacuum. Over the years, the Sentry has fought, buried, and come to accept the Void, but has never escaped it. Of course, Yelena wasn’t going to be able to either. Visions of distorted beings and the sound of their broken voices drove Yelena to the brink of insanity, leaving her in such a distressed state that her handlers decided to remotely deactivate her. Although this apparently killed her at the time, she would later appear alive, still as an AIM operative.
In other circumstances, Yelena’s superadaptoid powers could have made her a tremendous asset as a hero. However, autonomy remained out of Yelena’s grasp in this life. While Yelena eventually died during a Secret Avengers mission, a large part of her lived through a clone who psychically received her memories, and has taken a more heroic turn thanks to her relationship with Natasha. However, the warmth of the human connection was denied to Yelena here, where she was simply another pawn for the masters of espionage in the Marvel Universe.
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