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Out of the two types of MCU post-credits sequences, the Black Widow tag feels pretty consequential, as it ties the Disney+ streaming shows and theatrical Marvel movies together in a significant way. You may remember Val’s first appearance in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, wherein she approached John Walker (Wyatt Russell) about doing some work for her. At the time, Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson reported Val was supposed to debut in Black Widow when it was set for release in 2020—and was unaware whether or not this initial appearance would be kept. Turns out, her appearance did end up making the final version of the film.
Val’s info on Clint sets up Yelena to be a pretty critical part of the upcoming Hawkeye series on Disney+ that will debut later this fall. It’s a good thing Marvel’s most skilled marksman is going to have some help alongside him—in the form of Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop—as Black Widow proved Yelena is quite the skilled fighter. Clint will undoubtedly have his work cut out for him.
However, given Val’s previous appearance, Marvel likely has bigger plans for the character. While Valentina Allegra de Fontaine most notably holds the title of Madame Hydra in the Marvel Comics canon, speculation points towards her being less Hydra-oriented and more towards something else entirely. Enter: The Thunderbolts.
Introduced in 1997 by writer Kurt Busiek and artist Mark Bagley, the Thunderbolts initially seemed like a group of heroes who stepped in to protect Earth after the Avengers died. Yet, in a brilliant twist, it’s revealed that the Thunderbolts are a group of supervillains masquerading as heroes. The Thunderbolts are kind of like Marvel’s version of the Suicide Squad, as the title frequently explored themes of redemption and what it means to be a hero. This description certainly fits John Walker rather well, as the super-soldier operates with a darker moral compass than Steve Rogers or Sam Wilson. In the comics, Walker isn’t a part of the Thunderbolts (not yet, at least), but the MCU loves to take aspects of the source material and remix them to fit the screen best. After all, if the MCU will have an evil version of the Avengers, they’d certainly need their own bizzaro Captain America to lead them. [Ed note: There’s also speculation on Val setting up her own Dark Avengers, which had to replace the Thunderbolts in the Marvel Comics universe.]
Yelena and Natasha share a somewhat grey morality, which makes her a perfect fit for Val’s plan. As we learn, it sounds like the two have been working together for quite a while. It feels safe to assume Yelena and Clint will come to some sort of understanding in the Hawkeye series. But what if Clint decides to join Yelena in working for Val as part of an undercover operation to figure out the group’s true intentions? There’s some comic book precedent for this, as both Yelena and Clint end up in the Thunderbolts to expose the villains from within.
This isn’t the last time we’ll see Val, as both The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Black Widow have made it clear the shadowy new figure is here to stay—with a (perhaps) much, much larger role left to play.