Yelena Belova first appeared in " Inhumans" vol. 3 #5 (March, 1999) but her background was only detailed in " Black Widow:Pale Little Spider" #1-3 (June-August, 2002). When 15 years old, Yelena was chosen for training as a potential Black Widow. Her predecessor Natalia Romanova was no longer loyal to Russia. Yelena trained for a decade in the Red Room, an academy for intelligence operatives. She came to view her trainer Pyotr Vasilievich Starkovsky as a father figure. Unknown to her Starkovsky was physically attracted to his student. Meanwhile Yelena started feeling inferior and inadequate to Romanova which she unconsciously idolized. Starkovsky was unwilling to compromise her trust by admitting his attraction. Instead he turned to the Fabrika fetish sex club which provided for him a look-alike of Yelena. Said look-alike, Petra, was made to look even further like Yelena and even given a Black Widow costume. Starkovsky wanted to be first dominated by Petra and her whips. Then to have sex with her. In both cases what he would like to do with Yelena. He shared every little detail about Yelena with Petra, even information supposed to be classified. Unbeknown to him Petra was becoming obsessed with her new Black Widow identity and was already psychotic. She lost control and killed Starkovsky during one of their sessions.
In the present day portion of #1, Yelena scored excellently on her latest tests. Instead of being happy she noted that Romanova had scored even better in the same tests. The fact that Romanova was four year younger when she passed the tests did not improve the way Yelena felt. She was then informed of Starkovsky's death. Val Dobrova and Maksim Kushikov Golitsyn of the Moscow Criminal Investigation Department were already investigating the case. However Yelena decided to investigate herself and assigned the autopsy to Captain Anzehlika Medvedev, an associate from the Red Room. Entering the Fabrika she was taunted by Nikki, its mistress/owner. She was then led to meet Petra, shocked to stare at a mirror image of herself.
In #2 (July, 2002), Nikki explained to Yelena all about her mentor's lusts. But reassured her that Petra was harmless. Meanwhile Petra had left the room and assassinated Golitsyn. In #3(August, 2002), Petra assassinated Dobrova as well. Yelena and Nikki soon discovered the bodies and were attacked by Petra. Nikki was knocked out first. Yelena found herself in a battle concerning which of the two was the real Black Widow. Shocked at first, Yelena decided on getting vengeance and went in for the kill, breaking Petra's neck. She proceeded to proudly accept the role of the new Black Widow. She remained unaware that Nikki was actually Captain Lubyev of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) and that the incident was partly orchestrated as her graduation test.
According to " Black Widow" vol. 1 #1 (June, 1999), Yelena became the first student in the history of the Red Room to surpass Romanova's score in their overall tests. She grew to view Romanova as a traitor and wished for an opportunity to face her predecessor. In "Inhumans" vol. 3 #5 (March, 1999), General Stalyenko assigned Yelena with the delivery of a certain device to Mr. Bixby, an American intelligence operative. The device was intended to neutralize the barrier protecting Attilan, main city of the Inhumans, from the outside world. She delivered the device and gave instructions for it to Bixby but had no further involvement in the conflict.
In "Black Widow" vol. 1 #1 -2(June-July, 1999), Yelena was assigned to retrieve the "Deathless Frenzy", a bio-weapon which been sold to Colonel Khan of Rhapastan. Learning that the "Americans" had assigned Romanova with the same mission, Yelena saw it as an opportunity to face her predecessor. She stalked Natalia all the way to Rhapastan but found herself ambushed by a number of soldiers. Yelena and Natalia briefly joined forces in incapacitating their attackers. But then Yelena declared her intentions to prove Natalia's superior and even threatened killing her predecessor. Natalia however soon managed to escape with a stolen truck and several written documents on the bio-weapon. She left Yelena to fend for herself against reinforcements arriving on the scene. But Yelena actually managed to stow away on the truck.
In the present portion of #2 (July, 1999), Yelena ambushed Natalia while the later was still driving the truck. The senior Black Widow drove the truck off a cliff and escaped to a waiting motorboat in the water below. Yelena was left behind but did manage to catch up to her rival eventually. Only to be knocked to the ground by Natalia. Natalia started delivering a lesson concerning how intelligence operatives should not follow orders blindly... only for SHIELD agents to seemingly shoot and kill her from a distance.
In #3 (August, 1999) it was revealed that Natalia was faking her death to get Yelena off her back for a while. The SHIELD agents were following her orders and were only using rubber bullets. The agents allowed Yelena to escape and she managed to reach Khan's camp. There she was captured on entry. Meanwhile Natalia infiltrated the camp successfully, posing as a nurse. While tending to the wounds of the various hospitalized soldiers, Romanova was actually vaccinating them against the bio-weapon. She also vaccinated herself and Yelena who managed to escape captivity on her own. Khan unleashed the bio-weapon which was intended to turn his soldiers into berserkers who would blindly attack any enemy target. Instead everyone was vaccinated in the immediate area of the camp... except Khan himself. While Natalia fought and defeated the berserker Colonel, Yelena prepared to shoot her rival in the back. Natalia stopped her in time and convinced Yelena to wait for a rematch. Yelena learned at least one lesson, faking her death while evacuating the area.
In "Black Widow" vol. 2 #1 (January, 2001), Natalia decided to teach a few more lessons to Yelena, orchestrating Operation:Validate with Nick Fury and SHIELD. They had Yelena drugged, captured and transported to the United States. There SHIELD somehow swapped the physical appearances of the two Black Widows. Yelena awoke in Romanova's apartment with Daredevil by her side. He acted as if she were Natalia. Confused but deciding to play along, Yelena found herself accepting Natalia's next SHIELD mission, the assassination of Yelena Belova. She encountered Natalia in her own form and seemingly shot her down. In #2 (February, 2001), Yelena in Natalia's body was fleeing from the authorities of New York City. Meanwhile Natalia in Yelena's form was alive and contacted Stalyenko (called here Stelyanko) for her next assignment. He noticed this Black Widow was not Yelena and arranged for her assassination. Yelena kept escaping SHIELD but collapsed under stress and confusion.
In #3 (March, 2001), Yelena was found by Daredevil who comforted her and reassured her sense of identity. He brought her to a meeting between Stalyenko and Natalia. There she found out Stalyenko had gone rogue and was only after profit. She overheard Stalyenko remarking about Yelena being an expendable pawn which could always be replaced by another Black Widow. Furious, Yelena attacked her former superior and helped Natalia bring down his operation. She then attacked Natalia for manipulating her. Natalia commended that the main lesson to learn was how the Black Widow role was not intended as a hero for the Russian people but as a convenient pawn for their leaders. The second lesson was that a life of espionage was not a game. SHIELD reversed the process and Yelena reclaimed her own body. She returned to the Red Room a bit wiser and more wary of her own superiors. She was not fonder of Natalia and resented her methods of teaching.
In "Black Widow" vol. 4 #1-6 (November, 2005-March, 2006), Yelena appeared retired from espionage. She had worked as a supermodel with million dollar contracts for a while. She invested her profits to a lingerie empire (earning 500,000 dollars every month), a couple of cable television channels (mostly focusing on porn) and private houses for her self in six different countries. The series had her spending time on her new Cuba house. She still regularly practiced Tai chi chuan (a Chinese martial art, mostly practiced for health reasons), box and her marksmanship. She threw a number of cocktail parties and through them befriended the local authorities, including the American commander at Guantanamo Bay. Her interest in Cuba was motivated by her business sense. She employed former prostitutes from Cuba as lingerie models. Their salary was much less than what an American model would demand but they still earned a small fortune by Cuban standards. The women escaped their misery at the streets and Yelena felt better about herself. She supplied medical supplies for local hospitals for the same reason. She got the medicine from the Miami black market though her suppliers kept asking for higher payment. Those were all given as background information.
In the present portion of #1 (November, 2005), Yelena encountered Natalia who was on Cuba for a mission. The local authorities were about to arrest Natalia. Yelena used her influence to rescue her "close personal friend" from arrest. She offered Natalia asylum at her mansion. In exchange she wanted Natalia to visit her suppliers in Miami and "convince" them to stop raising their prices. In #5 (February, 2006), Matt Murdock (Daredevil) was in Cuba, having escaped from the base of a shadow agency operating there. He made his way across a mine field at Guantanamo Bay. The commander of the base informed Yelena about a blind American fugitive which she recognized as Daredevil. She contacted Murdock and informed him that Natalia had been investigating the Cutting Corporation when captured. Yelena wanted someone to free her recently established ally.
In #6 (March, 2006), Yelena had Sally Anne Carter delivered back to the Cutting Corporation. Carter had been held prisoner there and was recently released by Natalia. Yelena and Daredevil sneaked into the facility behind Carter and followed her until learning where prisoners where held. They freed Natalia and explained how they located her. Yelena armed Natalia with a gun and knife, allowing her to get revenge on her captors. Yelena freed a hundred girls used as human guinea pigs by the Corporation. She captured twelve of the personnel involved in the experiments. Natalia convinced Yelena to evacuate the girls to somewhere safe. Yelena complied but had Natalia and Sally recuperate at her mansion until regaining their strength.
Major Story Arcs
In " New Avengers" #5-6 (May-June, 2005), Yelena was revealed to have joined SHIELD. She was part of an operation mining Antarctic Vibranium from the Savage Land. There she was discovered by a group of Avengers ( Captain America, Iron Man, Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman/ Veranke) and Wolverine. She ordered the agents serving under her to eliminate the Avengers, wanting no witnesses for her illegal operation. Spider-Woman tried to use her rank at SHIELD to order Yelena to stand down but the younger agent ignored her. Yelena joined her agents in shooting the Avengers with meager results. She was almost gutted by Wolverine but rescued by Captain America. Iron Man then managed to disarm the various agents by magnetically attracting all weapons from their hands to his armor. The other agents fled but Yelena was restrained by Cage. Spider-Woman explained that Yelena was a freelance level five agent who had no official business in the Savage Land. Her presence indicated the work of a covert SHIELD faction. Spider-Woman started interrogating Yelena on threat of torture. However the group was then attacked by Sauron. The Avengers and Wolverine evaded his fire attacks but Yelena was not as lucky. She fled into the jungle while enveloped in flames. She was later seen hospitalized, burnt and disfigured beyond recognition. A mysterious individual approached her and offered her a chance to avenge herself against the Avengers, those responsible for her loosing her livelihood and her pretty face. She accepted the offer.
In "New Avengers Annual" #1 (June, 2006), Yelena appeared mutated by AIM to a new Super-Adaptoid, apparently acting on commands by Hydra. She attacked the New Avengers and adapted the powers of the Sentry, smacking Sentry himself 36 floors off the ground the man was standing at. She was ten attacked by Ms. Marvel who managed to draw blood. Yelena was however recovering faster than Carol and also adapted Ms. Marvel's powers. A combined attack by Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman and Wolverine only allowed her to adapt their powers as well. She was then attacked by the recovering Sentry. She absorbed more of his powers and punched him away. Ms. Marvel by then figured what a Super-Adaptoid is and started leeching power off Yelena while fighting her. Yelena still managed to get the upper hand. Spider-Man then attached himself to her back and started a series of ineffectual but humiliating attacks on head and backside. The distraction provided enough time for Captain America to target Yelena with his shield and Spider-Woman to use her stings on the head of their opponent. Yelena collapsed disoriented but recovered withing minutes and grabbed Veranke by the throat. Yelena threw her aside just as Ms. Marvel used a "Fastball Special" to throw Wolverine at the Super-Adaptoid. This only resulted in Spider-Woman and Wolverine falling from a great height and having to be rescued.
By that time Iron Man had joined the battle with an army of all his former armors. She was able to adapt the powers of one armor but was confused at what to do with the rest of them. Yelena found herself slammed by all the Iron Man armors in a suicide attack. She was then trapped under their broken pieces. However her unbreakable skin protected her from most of the damage and her new healing factor repaired the rest of it. Sentry then awoke within Yelena an aspect of the Void which she had absorbed along with his powers. She collapsed struggling with insanity. The heroes started to interrogate her but Hydra and AIM decided to cut their losses and initiated a self-destruction sequence on the molecular level. Her body exploded and her remains disintegrated into a puddle of fluid.
In " Marvel Comics Presents" vol. 2 #5 (March, 2008), Yelena turned up alive again as part of the new vigilante team Vanguard (herself , Blade, Dominic Fortune and Micromax). In investigating the murder of Trenton Craft, Yelena recovered recording equipment from his apartment. In #6 (April, 2008), Dominic reported to Yelena his failure in capturing Stacy Dolan, the apparent murderer. In #7 (May, 2008), Dominic was again fighting Dolan when Yelena, Blade, Micromax and Retcon confronted her. In #8 (June, 2008), Yelena tried to convince her teammates to knock out Dolan first and leave the talking for later. Blade disagreed and Retcon determined that Dolan had shot Craft under mind control. That someone was Jafar Yoosuf who mind controlled the Thing and send him against them.In #9 (July, 2008). Yelena and the others were fighting a loosing battle against the Thing. Dolan located Jafar and interrupted the possession, freeing the Thing and ending the battle. In #10 (August, 2008), Yelena convinced the Thing to stop choking her. She stood by as Blade killed Jafar. Micromax later started telling them about his recent captivity during a mission in Pakistan. He was forced to reveal the existence of Vanguard to the enemies. The supposedly deceased Craft then entered the room. In #11 (September, 2008), Craft seemingly killed Yelena, the rest of Vanguard and Dolan. He had faked his death and wanted to eliminate all knowledge of his existence and survival. In #12 (October, 2008), it was revealed Retcon had given Craft the illusion of killing them. They effectively faked their deaths and went into hiding.
During the Dark Reign, Norman Osborn the leader of H.A.M.M.E.R. approached Yelena, and asked him to lead his newest squad of Thunderbolts. It was later revealed that this Yelena Belova was in fact Natasha Romanova!
The real Yelena Belova however was being held by Osborn in a special chamber and was released to really join the Thunderbolts. This plot point was hastily dropped and forgotten due to writer change-overs and the interference of the Siege event.
Powers and Abilities
Yelena originally had no superhuman powers. She was extensively trained in espionage and various forms of armed and unarmed combat. She was reportedly a master martial artist. She was an Olympic level athlete and gymnast. She had the strength of a woman who engages in intensive regular exercise. She is quite intelligent and a surprisingly skilled businesswoman. Her outfit was reinforced with Kevlar, giving her some resistance to bullets though the impact could still injure her. She wore a duplicate of Natalia's Romanova's wrist devices, enabling her to discharge electrical blasts as her "Widow's Bite".
As the Super-Adaptoid, Yelena adapts the powers of others around her. The limits of the powers she can adapt simultaneously remains unknown. The original Super-Adaptoid could adapt up the powers of up to eight individuals in his early appearances. This limitation was eventually abandoned as his memory grew in capacity. She was able to simultaneously adapt the powers of Luke Cage, Iron Man, Ms. Marvel, Sentry, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman and Wolverine. She can adapt superhuman powers, technological enhancements and a number of physical skills and abilities.