Coming off the banner year of 2019, Marvel is heading into 2020 with a film that's a bit of an oddity. Black Widow isn't the next film in the series, but a step back in time. It's not a prequel to the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, like Captain Marvel, but a film that is coming out of sequence, set somewhere between 2016's Captain America: Civil War and 2018's Avengers: Infinity War. This new Black Widow special look gives fans an idea of where exactly the film sits in the chronology, while also hinting at why it wasn't an important story until now.
For fans of Marvel's Infinity Saga, placing exactly where Natasha Romanoff's adventure takes place is an important part of the puzzle, because somewhere between Captain America: Civil War and 2018's Avengers: Infinity War, Natasha flipped sides. Black Widow was Team Stark in Civil War. Her need to state loyal to the US, considering the "red on her ledger," trumped her personal feelings about signing the accords. But when given a chance to arrest Steve Rogers and the others, she let them go. The last anyone sees her is when Tony, enraged over Rhodey's injuries, threatens her, saying that T'Challa told Everett Ross she allowed Team Cap escape, and the government is coming for her.
The next time Natasha shows up, she's side by side with Steve. They've been traveling together for a while. So what happened in between?
In her conversation with Yelena Belova, it seems like her trip home was very soon after that last scene. Chronologically, this means Black Widow falls directly after the events of Civil War and before the story told in Doctor Strange.
As for why this story now, there's a theory the Taskmaster isn't who Marvel suggests he is.
The trailers and synopsis suggest Romanoff, Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz) are facing off against Taskmaster (who may be played by Olivier Richters, who has been cast in an "undisclosed role"). The Taskmaster is a compelling antagonist to introduce for Phase 4, as he's someone who interacts with a lot of different superheroes throughout the comics, from Spider-Man to Disney's newly-acquired Deadpool.
But it's Natasha's question of "Who is this guy?" that caught conspiracy theorists' attention. When someone asks that in a Marvel film, it's usually followed by the reveal there's an assumption in the question that is wrong. If so, either it's not a guy, or it's someone Natasha knows well. Like another Black Widow, or maybe Hawkeye? Or possibly... Natasha's own clone.
Fans who want to undo Natasha's death in Avengers: Endgame are putting this theory forward. It could just be wishful thinking. But until fans find out who's under the mask, no one knows for sure.
Black Widow arrives on May 1, 2020.