It's been a long wait for Marvel's Black Widow, but the first MCU Phase 4 movie is almost here at last.
The superhero flick is set to be released 15 months after its initial launch date (due to the Covid-19 pandemic), and fans are preparing to say farewell to Natasha Romanoff, with Scarlett Johansson stepping away from the role she's inhabited since 2010's Iron Man 2.
That doesn't mean that this is the end of Black Widow, though – and the movie's director has teased the possibility of a sequel if Marvel decides to greenlight one.
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Speaking to RadioTimes.com ahead of Black Widow's July 9 release, director Cate Shortland revealed that Black Widow 2 could be a thing. If Marvel decided to press forward with a follow-up film, however, it wouldn't involve Johansson's Romanoff.
Asked about the prospect of a sequel, Shortland said: "I think following a different character, yes. I think Scarlett is really happy that she’s leaving the party, you know, and she’s not the last to leave. She decided she wanted to go. And I don’t think she would want to come back at the moment."
Analysis: who would star in Marvel's Black Widow 2?
Spoilers follow for Avengers: Endgame.
The smart money is on Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova. The Marvel character has adopted the Black Widow mantle in the comics, so there's already a precedent that Belova will follow in her sister's footsteps and become the MCU's new Black Widow.
This possibility is strengthened further by the fact that Pugh's Belova will have a supporting role in Hawkeye's Disney Plus TV series.
Back in December 2020, Variety reported that Pugh would reprise her role as Belova. This isn't confirmation that Belova will assume the role of Black Widow following Romanoff's death in Avengers: Endgame, but it makes the most sense, given all of the above information.
There are other characters who have adopted the Black Widow pseudonym in Marvel comics.
A 1940s comic character called Claire Voyant actually preceded Natasha Romanoff (known as Natasha Romanova in the comics) as Black Widow, but she's unrelated to the superheroes who adopted the Black Widow mantle later in Marvel's history.
Monica Chang, Jessica Drew and Tania (surname unknown) have used the Black Widow name in alternate Marvel comic universes, too.
It's possible we could see one of these individuals become the new Black Widow, particularly if the MCU permanently becomes the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse (MCM) following the events of Loki, Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange 2.
However, Jessica Drew is getting her own Spider-Woman movie (per Variety) as part of the Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters (SPUMC), and it may be confusing to audiences if Marvel introduces more potential Black Widows, in the form of Tania and Monica Chang, into the equation.
We're confident, then, in saying that Pugh's Belova is the MCU's Black Widow-in-waiting, and it seems like it's only a matter of time before we get confirmation on this front.
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