The Black Widow isn’t the only Russian heroine coming to the MCU.
The newest posters for the upcoming MCU phase 4 adventure naturally highlight Scarlett Johansson as the master spy.
But the new Black Widow posters also add some mystery by keeping us guessing over who is playing the mysterious Taskmaster.
And they also shed some more light on the casting; it’s now clear Rachel Weisz will be Melina Vostokoff, and David Harbour is the Red Guardian, which hints at an appearance by the Winter Guard.
But who exactly are Melina Vostokoff and the Winter Guard?
Who is Melina Vostokoff?
Debuting in 1983’s Marvel Fanfare #11, Melina Vostokoff was one of several women trained by the Red Room, the branch of the KGB that created the Black Widow program.
While very talented, Melina was always in the shadow of the program’s star, Natasha Romanoff. This caused her to carry a massive grudge against the woman, and Melina broke away from the Russian government to become the mask-wearing Iron Maiden, a freelance mercenary.
Melina joined with other mercenaries in a hunt against the Widow that had them clashing majorly in a classic storyline. Melina has gone back to working for Russia while still trying to come out on top over the Widow.
The movie has Melina, played by Rachel Weisz, as a mentor to both Natasha and Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), aiding them in their battle.
A fan theory emerged recently that suggested Melina might be revealed as the Taskmaster. The armored costume and helmet do a good job hiding who may be under the suit.
However, that seemed to be debunked when the trailers showed Melina and Taskmaster together. Yet, even if she isn’t the Taskmaster herself, Melina might end up becoming an enemy of Natasha.
Who is the Winter Guard?
Another notable development occurred when David Harbour posted a picture of himself as the Red Guardian to his Instagram. Long known as the Russian version of Captain America, the Guardian role has been taken by several characters, with Harbour playing the original version of Alexi Shostakov.
But Harbour shared an interesting tidbit when he wrote “Ursa, Yelena, Nat, CD, Sputnik, I and all the rest of the winter guard look forward to sharing a popcorn bag and a big ole screen in a dark theater with ya on July 9.”
All of those characters are members of the Winter Guard, the Russian equivalent of the Avengers.
The team debuted in 1981, originally known as the Soviet Super-Soldiers. Led by Red Guardian, their numbers included Crimson Dynamo, the red-armored counterpart to Iron Man; Ursa Major, who had the power to transform into a super-strong bear form; Sputnik, a synthezoid much like the Vision; and super-powered siblings Vanguard and Darkstar.
When glasnost began in the early 1990s, the team was renamed the People’s Protectorate. After the Soviet Union collapsed, they were formally renamed the Winter Guard, and while their roster changes, they are always determined to protect their homeland.
Habour’s words indicate the Guard do exist in the MCU, perhaps as a secret program or Russia creating its own super-team to offset the Avengers. The name drops of Sputnik and Ursa Major would make it surprising if neither shows up in the film.
Who is Rick Mason?
The final poster focuses on O-T Fagbenle as Rick Mason, aka The Agent.
First shown in 1990, the Agent is the son of the Tinkerer, the notorious criminal genius who specializes in supplying super-villains with equipment.
A freelance mercenary but with a code of honor, Mason would work with SHIELD and still maintain a good relationship with his father. He eventually met his end at the hands of a mysterious foe while aiding Luke Cage.
Mason’s role in the film is being kept quiet as it seems likely he’s a source of intel for Natasha, aiding her in finding Yelena and her former mentors. Yet, that mysterious past can play into some drama for the film.
Indeed, the fact that the actor has barely been mentioned or shown in the marketing has fueled the theory he’s really the Taskmaster unless it’s another of the MCU’s infamous fakeouts.
It fits Marvel’s top super-spy that the new posters only add more mystery to her long-awaited solo film.
Black Widow premiering in theaters and Disney+ on July 9.