Eight years ago, Scarlett Johansson made her Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in Iron Man 2, and fans have been demanding a solo Black Widow movie ever since. There's no question that Black Widow can carry her own story, and Johansson has more than proven that she can handle the spotlight. And yet Marvel didn't seem to be seriously considering a Black Widow film until Wednesday, when screenwriter Jac Schaeffer was reportedly signed to write the movie.
Now, we should point out that this is not a confirmation that the Black Widow film has a green light, but Marvel wouldn't have bothered to hire Schaeffer if it wasn't a strong possibility. We can also infer that Black Widow will probably survive her appearances in the next two Avengers movies (unless they're going prequel). That's good news, but if Black Widow is going to get her own solo franchise, she needs a storyline worthy of the big screen.
Fortunately, there's no shortage of tales that can be drawn from. And who says that there only has to be one Black Widow?...
Black Widow: The Itsy-Bitsy Spider
Nearly 20 years ago, writer Devin Grayson and artist JG Jones redefined Black Widow in a stunning three-issue series called "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider." That story introduced Yelena Belova, a young spy who was determined to take the title of Black Widow from Natasha Romanov. The conflict between the two Black Widows plays out against the backdrop of a mission with broader implications for the Marvel universe. This one is such an important chapter for Natasha that it seems like an obvious choice for her first or second movie. Plus adding Yelena to the mix would give the MCU another strong character for future films.
Black Widow: Web of Intrigue
Can Black Widow pull off a James Bond-style adventure? Oh yes, and she did it 35 years ago in Ralph Macchio and George Perez’s "Web of Intrigue." It's a very '80s storyline that would have to be updated for the big screen and for the current state of the MCU, since the movies have yet to acknowledge the return of S.H.I.E.L.D. on the TV side. The short recap of this story is that Natasha is targeted by six world-class assassins to keep her out of the way while her doppelganger plots to kill Nick Fury. That's actually the perfect reason to keep Natasha's fellow Avengers from helping her in the MCU; if there's a fake 'Natasha' embedded with the team, then the real Natasha would have a harder time getting her friends to believe her.
Hawkeye & Mockingbird/Black Widow: Widowmaker
We wouldn't want Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye to be left out in the cold, since he and Natasha have a long history in the comics and in the MCU. The "Widowmaker" storyline by writers Jim McCann and Duane Swierczynski (alongside artist David Lopez) found Hawkeye and his ex-wife, Mockingbird, teaming up with Black Widow to investigate the murder of a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent before realizing that both Natasha and Mockingbird are also on the killer's list of targets. Until Marvel Studios stops pretending that the MCU TV series don't exist, it's not likely that we'll see Adrianne Palicki reprise her role as Mockingbird. This story could be remixed to exclude Mockingbird, but we'd much rather see Palicki appear as well.
Black Widow: Kiss or Kill
In "Kiss or Kill," writer Duane Swierczynski and artist Manuel Garcia crafted a tale in which Natasha is framed for the murder of a United States senator. In addition to dealing with the CIA and a batch of superhuman assassins, Natasha also has to contend with the senator's son, who desperately wants to expose her as his father's killer. It's a very tight, self-contained adventure that barely needs the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe at all.
Black Widow: Homecoming
"Homecoming" offers a darker, almost Jason Bourne-like take on Black Widow, as she briefly retires from the spy game before an attempt on her life forces her to go back to the one place she desperately wanted to avoid: Russia. Novelist Richard K. Morgan and artist Bill Sienkiewicz were behind this story, and it's one of the more brutal Black Widow tales that Marvel has ever weaved. If this was ever made into a movie, it would probably earn an R-rating.
Black Widow: S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Most Wanted
This is the most recent Black Widow story on this list, but it’s got the over-the-top action that would make it a slam dunk as a movie. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee came up with some incredible sequences in "S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Most Wanted," including Natasha's dramatic escape from a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier. The MCU's take on S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn't been seen on the big screen since the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, so it's unlikely to return here... but the concept of making Black Widow appear to be a traitor to the U.S. government is still an enticing idea. This story also introduced the enigmatic Weeping Lion as Natasha's new nemesis. If you're looking for great comics to read, this is a good starting point for Black Widow.
Black Widow: Name of the Rose
This is yet another story in which Natasha is framed as a traitor by enemies outside of the government. But what makes "Name of the Rose" stand out is that Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuña incorporate many of Natasha's closest allies like Iron Man and Wolverine in the race to clear her name. Black Widow's side of the story could easily work on its own, but considering the recent Disney and Fox deal, getting Wolverine to appear in a Black Widow movie isn't as far-fetched of an idea as it used to be. And it would be oddly fitting if Black Widow's first-ever solo film reintroduced one of the most popular X-Men in a supporting role.