So far, there are three big things that separate Yelena from Anya to me:
- Anya is explicitly a contemporary of Natasha’s, so she represents the old ways, the old ideology. She isn’t a post-Soviet construct or a late-nineties commentary on Cold War superheroes. Note that to defeat Anya, Natasha has to go “old school” and back to her roots. The childhood relationship they share also offers a level of personal connection and grudge.
- Natasha saw Yelena as the product and victim of the same system that destroyed her own life. So he goal was always to save Yelena from that system, though she went about it in pretty terrible, twisted ways sometimes. Anya, however, is trying to recreate that system, and bringing all the worst elements of the Red Room back under her direction. She’s a foil to Natasha because she isn’t a victim, and I have to think Natasha’s reactions to her will be colored by that.
- Yelena’s overwhelming motivation and sense of identity were bound up in the codename Black Widow. She wanted to be the legend Natasha was. Anya has her own codename, and while she’s still determined to beat Natasha, I don’t think she wants to be Natasha quite the same way that Yelena did.
As far as the mythology is concerned the last bit might be the most important. Yelena’s attachment to the Black Widow codename made her really hard to use outside of specific Black Widow stories. These days Marvel has embraced the idea of multiple Hawkeyes, Wasps, Captain Americas, &c, but in the early 2000s they did not. And being pigeonholed as “the knock-off Black Widow” imo probably led to a lot of her bland later appearances and weird attempts at rebranding, like when Bendis made her a Super-Adaptoid. So hopefully there will be less impulse for Marvel to do really dumb things with Anya because she’s starting from a less superficially redundant place.
But in terms of this current story I hope to see more of the other things that make her new, like her dynamic with her mother or the spy organization she controls. Stuff that doesn’t feel like a Yelena rehash.
And just in general, I too love the current run but my one complaint would be the lack of existing characters. It’s early going, obviously, but I’d love to see more of Maria Hill or Isaiah, or have Black Rose show up, or something. #WheresLiho #Liho2k16
She was last seen riding off into the sunset with Natasha pre-Secret Wars:
Her whereabouts after the 8-month All-New All-Different timeskip are currently unknown. Rest assured, FYBW is looking into this situation. #liho2k16
I feel you. Part of the problem is that Natasha does tend to isolate herself when she’s in trouble. It’s something we’ve seen over and over again, born from wanting to keep people from her dangers as much as a determination to go it alone. That impulse is always going to be there in her stories, I think, which is one of the reasons why developing supporting characters that stick around has been difficult. The other reason is that she hasn’t ever had a very regular series for things to carry over from.
So, here’s some words of optimism. We’re dealing with a specific plot element that’s isolating Natasha, not a totally random status quo change. Since Natasha is actually getting a regular series now, the chances are there will still be Black Widow solo stories even after this initial arc resolves. The more that happens the more chances there are to see old cast members return.
Plus, I don’t think we’re totally losing her mythology even if she’s being cut off from her normal contacts. The tumultuous relationship Natasha had with SHIELD in the previous volume is definitely being toyed with, and Maria Hill is mentioned in the solicit for issue #2.
Still, though: bring back the cat. #liho2k16