WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Web of Black Widow #2, by Jody Houser, Stephen Mooney, Triona Farrell and VC's Cory Petit, on sale now.
While Natasha Romanov may be a hardened, clandestine figure not known for revealing her more vulnerable side after years of harsh training and serving as the Soviet Union's most lethal assassin, Black Widow is a surprisingly romantic character. Of all the high-profile romantic partners she's had across the Marvel Universe, the biggest fan-favorite is perhaps Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier.
Years after Bucky had been recovered by the Soviets after diverting a bomb launched by Baron Zemo intended for the United States, costing him an arm, and leading him to be brainwashed to become the Winter Soldier. Periodically placed in cryo-sleep between conducting assassinations around the globe, Bucky emerged during the 1950s to train a young Natasha as she was deep within her own training in the KGB's Red Room. The professional relationship between the two covert operatives would quickly blossom into a romantic one before they were discovered, and Bucky was put back on ice while Natasha's training regimen intensified.
Just as Natasha had encountered Tony Stark in the opening issue of the new series, she crosses paths with Bucky here while infiltrating a private party in international waters thrown by a shady new cryptocurrency company on their yacht. After sneaking in to a private cabin guarded by a full security team, Natasha finds Bucky waiting for her, with her former lover attempting to appeal her to stand down and talk to him about his concerns for her.
For the past year, Natasha Romanov has gone through a pretty dramatic upheaval. After being killed by a twisted, Hydra-indoctrinated version of Captain America during the crossover event Secret Empire, a clone of Natasha was later awakened and given the original Black Widow's memories. As this reborn Natasha struggles to deal with her fragmented memories and usual path to redemption for the actions she committed working for the Soviet Union, her recollections of her past relationship with Bucky come flooding back as the two figures come to blows before they can really sit down and talk.
Even before Natasha's resurrection, her relationship with Bucky had been a tumultuous one. Bucky's mental conditioning since their initial relationship had grown deeper before his mind was fully restored, but Natasha's own memories of Bucky were purged for a time by one of Bucky's old foes. While Natasha gradually regained her memories, her untimely death during Secret Empire had severely impeded her progress to rediscovering herself and her past connection to Bucky.
Natasha and Bucky's recent encounter on the high seas doesn't bode well for those hoping for a romantic rekindling anytime in the near future. The two covert operatives are very much at odds, with their fight escalating to involve the entire security team on board the yacht before Black Widow uses a distraction to escape, long before she can even approach a reconciliation with Bucky.
The newly reborn Black Widow has been extremely driven, eschewing the chance to speak with those from her past life to instead focus entirely on whatever tasks she might have on hand in obsessive pursuit of her own redemption. With both Tony and Bucky failing to get Natasha to slow down, the former Soviet super-spy will undoubtedly find that leaving the ones that care about her the most in her wake may come with grave consequences in the future.