Long ago, when Europe stood divided and the Cold War raged on, 28 orphan girls were recruited by the Red Room Academy to become the world's greatest spies and the deadliest assassins. Natasha Romanov was one such girl. Little did they know, back in the 1930s, that she would be both the Red Room's greatest achievement and their greatest failure. For those of you who don't know, this isn't the tale of an Avenger, or of Black Widow, nor of a traitor. This is the story of a young girl and her fight for freedom against the notorious Red Room.
Entering the Red Room
28 girls, Natasha included, were destined to be trained as virtually undetectable sleeper agents and infiltrate China and the West through the Red Room's Black Widow Ops. However, such a dark road will forever be littered with dark and evil deeds. These young girls were filled with false memories of them training ballet at the Bolshoi Theatre. Although they were,practiced in the performing arts, both to reinforce their front as well as to make them 'unbreakable', their training was not only in leotards and tutus.
Natasha and the others were put through daily hand-to-hand and weapons training (which would often use living targets), as well as training in tactical skills and acrobatics. At times, two of the girls would even be pitted against each other- only one would leave alive. This was what the Red Room taught them: fight for your country, or die in its name. This terrible training was all an attempt to create the deadliest women on Earth. These young girls would even be brainwashed into believing in their cause, while at night their wrists would be chained to their bed to prevent escape. They were trapped, with no way to escape- and no desire for freedom.
Natasha Romanov: Super Soldier
However, not every single child chosen had what it took- some had to be 'discarded', disposed of, when they were no longer worthy of the Red Room. It was Natasha's failed escape that caught the attention of the Red Room's leaders that stopped a similar fate befalling her. They entrusted her physical wellbeing in the hands of the biochemist, Lyudmila Kuprin, whose treatment ensured that the women would appear young for decades, as well as giving them superhuman resilience and health. Among Natasha's many instructors following her initiation into the Black Widow ops was the infamous Winter Soldier.
To further indoctrinate the young Natasha, the Soviet state even arranged for her to marry Alexi Shostakov (Red Guardian). It was the KGB' staging of Alexi's death that drove Natasha to continue her education with the Red Room Academy, and to earn the title Black Widow. But the Black Widow she became was not the hero we all love, but a villain more fearless and deadly than any other ever created.
Her ledger after that became stained crimson and would never become clear. It was only when Natasha's superiors sent her to exterminate the famous Tony Stark and her unlikely alliance with a certain Clint Barton that the indoctrination of the Red Room Academy began to unravel- though not before seducing both future Avenger to achieve her own goals. But in the end it would be Hawkeye saving her life, as well as his growing influence on the assassin, that would eventually lead her to rebel against the organisation she once killed and would have died for.
Black Widow and Hawkeye
It was after Hawkeye saved her life that she began to fall for the young archer (that sort of stuff kind off puts things into perspective, wouldn't you agree?) She began to defect from the Soviet Union as her growing love for Hawekeye weakened her loyalty to her country. Of course, her employers weren't happy. They sent men after her, gunning her down and sending her to hospital. It was after this incident that the vigilante Hawkeye joined the Earth's mightiest soldiers. However, the Red Room Academy wasn't prepared to loose their most skilled operative. They captured and brainwashed Natasha and ordered her to destroy the Avengers, the team she was fighting so hard to join. But, it seems Natasha was destined to fight for the good guys, because with the Avengers' help, she managed to free herself from the effects of the brainwashing.
After that, many tried to manipulate Black Widow's mind but, after going through so much and finally having a cause she chose to fight for (The Avenger's Initiative), she was no longer susceptible to brainwashing. After so many decades of having her mind destroyed and reassembled, Black Widow was finally free from the clutches of the Red Room Academy, permanently.
We all know of epic battles, of heroes vs villains, of great man fighting mad men, but what greater battle is there to retell than that of when the character is both the hero and the villain? That's why the story of Black Widow and her battle for freedom is just so amazing. The Red Room Academy created her as a villain, but she lives on in the hearts of fans as one of the greatest heroes and, after what she went through, she really deserves it, wouldn't you agree?