Alexi Alanovich Shostakov (Red Guardian)

All the attention in the first trailer of Black Widow goes to David Harbour, who’s one of the most promising addictions to the cast. As Natasha brings back her old team together, she breaks out of some kind of prison Alexei Shostakov, who later tries, despite the pounds he gained in his years of inactivity, to put back his old suit as Red Guardian. We see him battling Taskmaster during the trailer, so it’s more than likely that he won’t just be a comic relief; what we don’t know is if his relationship with Natasha will be the same as the original one, as they used to be married in the comics. Let’s take a look.

Born in Moscow, in the USSR, Alexi Shostakov became famous in the entire nation during World War II, as he joined the Soviet Air Force and distinguished himself as one of the finest pilots in the army. Shostakov participated to many battles, destroyed many planes of the Luftwaffe, and had a pivotal role in freeing the skies above Stalingrad and Kursk. After such an exploit, it was only natural that some officer noticed the young pilot, and Shostakov was taken under the protective wing of Colonel Karpov, who trained him personally and honed his skills. When the Korean War started, Shostakov was entrusted with piloting the experimental MiG-15, and even with that he collected a number of important victories against US Air Force, with the media glorifying him as the new Soviet hero. The government wanted to make him the public face of the glorious global revolution to come, so they arranged things so that he married Natalia Romanova, an equally popular ballerina. The two were happy together, and lived the life of heroes of the people, until Alexi was recruited by the KGB: seeing him as particularly fit for special operations, the secret services ordered him to cut ties with every friend or relative from his civilian life, his wife included, and arranged things to fake his death. While Natalia, wanting to honor the “death” of her heroic husband, was trained as a spy in the Red Room, Alexi became a reliable and proficient secret agent, losing much of his humanity to the missions he was assigned to. When, in the 1950s, the United States tried to resurrect the myth of Captain America, Nikita Kruschev decided to do the same, choosing a successor to Aleksey Lebedev, the WWII Red Guardian; Alexi Shostakov was among the top candidates, and eventually he was chosen over another formidable pilot, Yuri Gagarin, who was sent to the space program. From that day, Shostakov began an even more intensive training, that transformed him into the new Red Guardian, fiercely loyal to his country, without a single doubt clouding his obedience.

As the Red Guardian, Shostakov served his country all around the world, becoming a nightmare for the enemies of the revolution and distinguishing himself as one of the most acclaimed Soviet heroes in history. When the scientists of the People’s Republic of China developed the Psychotron, a machine that could cause mass hallucinations, they decided to use it to conquer the United States, but they needed the Soviet submarines to bring it within range. The Soviet government sent to the secret base in China General Yuri Brushov, to verify the effectiveness of the Psychotron, and Red Guardian, as a protection to both him and the weapon; for the entire duration of the mission, Red Guardian would have been subjected to the orders of the head of the base, Colonel Wai Ling. He proved to be an extremely efficient protector, as he immediately discovered and captured a spy from S.H.I.E.L.D.… who happened to be the Black Widow, his ex-wife, who had defected to the United States years before. To save her, also her lover Hawkeye and his fellow Avenger Hercules came, but Red Guardian defeated and captured the first, and lured the second into the Psychotron, leaving him prey of his hallucinations. As he faced his prisoners, Red Guardian unmasked himself, revealing to Natalia that her husband was still alive, something that obviously came as a shock to her. Soon, the rest of the Avengers came, led by the original Captain America: finally, Red Guardian had the chance to prove himself superior to his American counterpart, a fight he had been waiting for since he had completed his training. As the two were fighting, Colonel Ling electrified the platform Captain America was standing on, knocking him out: Red Guardian was outraged by this ally, as he wanted a honorable fight… but then Black Widow escaped custody, and moved to destroy the Psychotron. Only when he saw Ling aiming his gun at the Widow, Shostakov realized he still loved her: for the first time in his life, his loyalty was truly challenged…

Alexi Shostakov is a patriot and a brave soldier, fiercely loyal to his country and firmly believing the ideals of the Glorious Revolution. As the Red Guardian, he’s a superb athlete and martial artist, one of the finest combatants in the world, and he uses with absolute mastership a magnetic disc modeled on Captain America’s shield; he’s also an extremely talented pilot, thought to be the best in the world. Made cruel and even vicious by the missions he had to carry on for his government, Red Guardian still maintains a strong sense of honor and of righteousness: maybe, somewhere deep inside him, there’s still something of the old hero Alex Shostakov that survived the conditioning of his training…

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