Black Widow: What is the Red Room in Marvel Comics?

Marvel’s Black Widow movie is now streaming after its limited Disney Plus release and theatrical release earlier this year, and the film takes viewers to the Red Room – the secret training center where Natasha Romanoff was trained to be. the greatest assassin in the world.

still Black Widow

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

The Red Room was briefly sighted in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and he played a minor role in Captain America: Civil War, but the MCU version of the concept is, true to its nature, much more mysterious than even the Black Widow trailers conducted before.

The Black Widow movie delves deep into the MCU’s Red Room lore, with Yelena Belova, Melina Vostokoff, and Red Guardian all associated with it. But its Marvel Comics story goes even deeper, so we’re downgrading our Cold War files and digging into the Red Room story in Marvel Comics.

What is the red room?

red room picture

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

In Marvel Comics, the Red Room is a program designed by the fictional super-science division of the USSR Department X (not too different from the Department H and Weapon Plus programs associated with Captain America and Wolverine in Marvel Comics Canada and the United States. ) who was originally intended to train and cultivate the world’s greatest super-spy and murderer.

Let’s just say they were successful – but we’re getting ahead.

From the start, the Red Room was created as a result of Department X’s first creation of a Soviet super-spy and assassin, the Winter Soldier program. It was Department X that ripped Bucky’s seemingly lifeless body from the ocean after he and Captain America were apparently killed by disarming an experimental rocket. And it was Department X that rebuilt and reprogrammed him into Winter Soldier – the only one of its kind, in the comics.

The techniques that enabled Soviet scientists to clear Bucky’s mind and brainwash were quickly developed into a program designed to train young girls to become spies and adult assassins, while imprinting false memories of false lives in their minds – that of ballerinas at the famous Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. ballet company.

The Red Room also used their subjects with a version of the Infinity Formula, an experimental longevity drug that keeps those who receive it looking young for decades. That’s why, in the comics, Nick Fury and Black Widow (among others) have stories that date back to WWII while still remaining young and vigorous today.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Without a doubt, the most famous graduate of Red Room is Natasha Romanova, who was selected from among many candidates in the program to become Black Widow, the USSR’s first operational woman – and that perfect agent that we mentioned earlier. .

Like the others, Natasha received the false backstory and memories of a career as a ballet dancer. She was also placed in an arranged marriage with famous Soviet pilot Alexei Shotokov, himself the future Red Guardian.

Along with the Red Room, Department X attempted a similar program to create a male super-spy, dubbed the Wolf Spider program. However, the only graduate of the program, a man named Niko Constantin, became a thug and became an enemy of Black Widow, which led to the end of the Wolf Spider initiative.

As such, Black Widow often teamed up with Winter Soldier during the Cold War, with the couple developing a tense romance while working together. Black Widow also worked alongside American archer Hawkeye, whom she attempted to subvert to the Soviet cause (this story was originally told in the 1960s when defection to the USSR was a constant concern for the Soviet Union). America), although their relationship ultimately led to Natasha’s defection. in the United States herself, eventually becoming an Avenger alongside Hawkeye.

When Natasha defected, the Red Room program began training a new Black Widow to operate as a Soviet agent, which led Yelena Belova to take on the role (although she did not initially have received the Infinity formula with which Natasha had been dosed). Yelena worked for the USSR for a while, but she too defected and became something of a free agent.

However, Yelena was cloned by Department X, and many of her duplicates were also placed in the Red Room program – which they also secretly did with Natasha. When Natasha passed away and her clone was activated with her knowledge and memories, it set her on the path to destroying all the clones in the Red Room, seemingly ending Yelena’s life in the process – although she has returned from the dead and clones have appeared more than once before and since.

The Red Room in the MCU – upcoming spoilers for Black Widow

still Black Widow

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

The MCU version of the Red Room has a somewhat different story than its comic book counterpart, although things start out a bit the same with the facility serving as a place where young girls are trained to be the best spies and assassins of the world.

Unlike the comics, the MCU’s Red Room underwent a serious evolution after Natasha Romanoff first destroyed the program, being rebuilt as a sort of Helicarrier-type facility that flies and moves, hiding its location even in its agents.

While MCU Natasha Romanov isn’t an ageless Infinity Formula recipient with a career dating back to WWII, she does seem to share some of the story behind her comic book counterpart as a ballerina, though in the MCU, it seems like these are real memories of the Red Room lineup. methods for young women, rather than a falsely implanted backstory. And the MCU has also established that Natasha underwent medical experiments as part of her training and subversion as a spy and assassin.

We also know that at the same time that the Soviet government was running the Red Room program, Hydra was attempting to create her own super soldiers led by Bucky. But the subjects were unruly and out of control in part thanks to the unstable Super-Soldier formula they received, which was stolen from Howard Stark during the robbery that also led to his murder at the hands of Bucky. The subjects’ inability to be trained resulted in them being freeze-frozen by Hydra until they were all found and apparently killed in stasis by Baron Zemo decades later.

Now, in the Black Widow movie, the Red Room is directly in focus as Natasha’s MCU backstory is fully explored for the first time – including reuniting with the MCU versions of Yelena Belova and Red Guardian (which is more of a father figure in the MCU, rather than her ex-husband like in the comics), as well as Melina Vostokoff, who all have ties to the Red Room.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Yelena, like Natasha, is a subject and graduate of the Red Room program, while Melina is their predecessor as one of the Russian super-agents who still have ties to the Red Room. During this time, Red Guardian was somewhat of a mentor and father figure to Natasha in her youth.

Additionally, in the MCU, Taskmaster is the Red Room’s primary trainer and field agent, and his father (yes, his father) General Dreykov actively washes and controls the minds of program subjects with Taskmaster herself.

Unlike the comics, Bucky and Black Widow don’t share a direct link as much as a thematic link. In movies and comics alike, the success of the Winter Soldier program inspires the creators of Winter Soldier to create more super-espionage programs. But in the MCU, Winter Soldier is an agent of Hydra, who is in fact often in direct competition with Russian agents. This is why, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Black Widow has some clues about who and what Bucky is, but doesn’t have the same history with him.

With Yelena, Melina, Taskmaster, and Red Guardian all outliving Black Widow while Natasha dies in Avengers: Endgame, whatever the sequel to the Black Widow saga in the MCU, the Red Room and its participants will certainly be a key. . part of how the story unfolds.

The Red Room is a key plot point in some of the best Black Widow comics already.

Lisa M. Horner