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Quote1 This will be my legacy -- a new, united empire, rising from the ashes of these islands... and the ashes of you who are foolish enough to oppose me. The choice is now yours... die swiftly fighting or slowly in flames? Quote2
Ronin[src]

History

Early life[]

Alexei Shostakov (Earth-616) from Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Vol 2 19 0001

Alexei Andreovitch Shostakov (Russian: Алексей Андреевич Шостаков) was one of the Soviet Union's most acclaimed test pilots. Because of his extraordinary skill, Shostakov was chosen for the most secret and dangerous flight tests for the Soviet Union. However, the Soviet state-controlled news media greatly publicized certain other missions of his, and Shostakov was decorated as a Hero of the Soviet Union. Shostakov was also successful in his private life, having married the equally famous ballerina Natalia (familiarly known as Natasha) Romanova.

It was decided at the KGB that the Shostakovs would make particularly good special operatives. While Alexei was away from home on a mission, he was informed of the state's new plans for him and told that from then on he could have no contact with any of his past friends and acquaintances, or even his own wife. Meanwhile, a Soviet official told Natalia that her husband had died in the explosion of an experimental rocket he was testing.

Distraught, Natalia Shostakova said that she wanted to do something to be worthy of the memory of her heroic husband. The KGB had anticipated her reaction and was able to immediately put her into training to become the spy known as the Black Widow. Eventually the Black Widow, who was again using her maiden name, defected to the United States.[6][7][8][9]

Red Guardian[]

The KGB trained Alexei to become the second Red Guardian, a special costumed agent who was intended to be the Soviet Union's counterpart to Captain America. During the years of his training, Shostakov became a cruel, ruthless man, very different in personality from what he was while living with his wife.

The People's Republic of China developed a device called the psychotron, which could induce mass hallucinations. This gave the Red Chinese a weapon against which the United States and the Soviet Union had no defense, letting them conquer one of these superpowers, eliminating it as a rival and threat.

However, the Red Chinese needed a means of bringing psychotrons within range of the countries they intended to conquer. They realized they would need the submarines of one nation to carry the psychotrons near the shores of the other. Deciding that the Soviet Union would help them conquer another country, the Red Chinese government informed the Soviets about the psychotron and their plan to conquer America.

Meeting the Avengers[]

Intrigued at the idea of so easily ending their rivalry with the United States, the Soviet Union sent a high-ranking military officer, General Yuri Brushov, and Shostakov, now known as the Red Guardian, to the secret military base in China where the prototype of the psychotron was kept. Brushov was to determine the effectiveness of the machine, and the Red Guardian was to protect both him and it. For this assignment, the KGB made the Red Guardian subject to orders from Colonel Ling, the head of the Red Chinese military base; the Red Guardian had had no previous contact with Brushov.

The Black Widow came to the base on a mission for S.H.I.E.L.D. and was captured. Her then current lover Hawkeye followed her, along with fellow Avenger Hercules. The Red Guardian captured Hawkeye and lured Hercules into the psychotron, where he was beset with hallucinations. The Red Guardian then unmasked before Hawkeye and the Widow, and she realized with horror that he was her husband. The Avengers, led by Captain America, arrived at the base, and the Red Guardian saw his long-awaited opportunity to prove himself the superior of his American counterpart, and the two fought.[10]

Captain America was defeating the Red Guardian when Ling electrified a grid that the captain was standing upon, rendering him unconscious. The Red Guardian was outraged at Ling's action. The Black Widow escaped and climbed toward the nerve center of the psychotron to destroy it. The Red Guardian, who still loved her, tried to stop Ling from killing her, but Ling shot him instead. The Widow used her electronic "widow's bite" to destroy the psychotron, thereby also starting explosions and fires in the complex. Ling saw Hercules carrying the unconscious Captain America to safety and, determined on vengeance, aimed a laser gun at the Captain.

However, the dying Red Guardian would not allow Ling thus to kill a brave but helpless opponent, and with his last energy, shoved Ling's gun aside. The laser beam hit some gas pipes, and the resulting explosion and fire triggered an eruption of the supposedly dead volcano upon which the base had been built. The base, including the Red Guardian and Ling, was consumed in the resulting catastrophe, while the Black Widow and the other Avengers all returned safely to the United States.[11]

Russian agents then created a Life-Model Decoy of Alexei Shostakov, which they used to dupe Natasha into believing her husband was still alive. With threats of terminating Alexei, they forced to perform acts of espionage for Russia against the United States. Upon gaining the desired technology, the Russians revealed the truth and tried to kill the Widow, but with Ivan Petrovich's help she defeated them and destroyed the Alexei LMD.[12]

The Red Guardian's likeness was used by two different incarnations of the Legion of the Unliving. He was first used against the Avengers as a pawn of Death and the Grandmaster.[13] Later, he appeared in a Legion gathered by the Grim Reaper's supernatural powers.[14]

The United States government attempted to have Natasha handed over to the government of Bulgaria in exchange for having Madame Hydra (Viper) released to the United States. Natasha once again crossed paths with Daredevil and the two of them worked with S.H.I.E.L.D. to bring down the people behind the effort to have her turned over to the Bulgarian government. Natasha came face to face with Alexei, her husband thought to be dead. Alexei had orchestrated the whole affair in an attempt to swipe at Natasha. Natasha confronted Alexei along with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and the Avengers at her back. Alexei was taken into custody.[15]

Alexei Shostakov (Earth-616) from Widowmaker Vol 1 3 001

Ronin[]

Alexei later resurfaced as the assassin Ronin as a member of the Dark Ocean Society. He recruited a young girl with illusion powers to be his new Fantasma, and outfitted a number of troopers with duplicate armor and powers of the Supreme Soviet members Vostok, Perun, and Crimson Dynamo. Alexei and the Society were defeated by Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Mockingbird with help from Fantasma after Nat convinced her to switch sides. He was then taken into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody.[16]

Meeting Yelena Belova[]

Alexei was kept in a S.H.I.E.L.D. prison outpost in Antarctica. After S.H.I.E.L.D. fell, it was sold to Justin Cask, who turned it into a super soldier training area. Alexei refused to join the “American pigs” and remained imprisoned until he was rescued by Yelena Belova, who had been hired by Cask to break prisoners out as a test against his security team. However, Yelena betrayed Cask and teamed up with Alexei to escape. Alexei briefly split from Yelena to exact revenge on Dr. Durst for torturing him, and successfully escaped after the building exploded.[3]

The Ties that Bind[]

Alexei joined a cadre of Black Widow's enemies who pooled resources to get Black Widow off the grid. Knowing that killing her was next to impossible, they created a memory implant and injected her with it, forcing her to forget her past and allowing her to settle down with a husband and a son as an architect in San Francisco. Alexei originally wanted no part of the plot, having put his hatred for Nat far behind him, but joined the cadre to secretly find a way to rescue her. However, the group's leader Weeping Lion got impatient during the simulation and sent his men to kill her. When this caused her to regain her memories and reunite with her allies, the cadre resorted to attacking her. During the fight, Alexi saved his former wife taking a bullet from Madame Hydra meant for her.[17]

Winter Guard[]

Alexei reunited with Yelena to steal four hard drives containing records of an old military operation he assigned to called Operation Snowblind, which was to was to steal and destroy records linking the USSR to corruption. Alexei completed his mission in retrieving the drives, but submitted fakes to be destroyed and hid the real ones, which he now hoped to recover with Yelena to leak to the Russian people. The two's first couple of heists caught the attention of the Winter Guard, who Alexei was able to elude them by sabotaging Crimson Dynamo's suit and sowed dissent by falsely claiming to have a mole on the team. Unfortunately, when he arranged to retrieve the final drive from Dracula, Dracula had invited the Winter Guard as well, hoping to play both sides. Alexei was able to convince Dracula to give him the drive, but once he had it, he betrayed Yelena, leaving her behind to deal with the Guard while he fled with his quarry. Vanguard and Red Widow caught up with Alexei at Lukomorye State Park, and despite being outclassed by Alexei, they managed to destroy his case containing the hard drives. Alexei left for Madripoor empty handed.[18]

Thunderbolts[]

Yelena later reached out to Alexei and informed him of Bucky Barnes's new Thunderbolts team's mission to raid the Red Skull's castle in Argentina. Eager to bring an end to fascism, Alexei joined the Thunderbolts mid-mission while wielding the Red Guardian Shield, which he obtained through unknown means. Alexei was subsequently invited to the team's roster and they were successful in destroying the castle and killing Aleksander Lukin, Red Skull's host body.[19]

During their final offensive against the Red Skull, Alexei traveled with the Thunderbolts to the Red Skull's remaining hidden base in Latveria and singlehandedly took out the base's defenses before getting knocked out. He regained consciousness just in time to recover the Contessa's head and teleport with the rest of the Thunderbolts just as Doctor Doom destroyed the base with an energy blast, which killed the Red Skull instead. Back at Thunderbolts Mountain, Alexei recovered from his injuries and arm wrestled with U.S. Agent as the Thunderbolts discussed their next targets.[20]

Attributes

Abilities

The Red Guardian was a superb athlete with remarkable agility, who was trained in many forms of unarmed combat by the KGB. The Red Guardian was also a superb pilot, considered the best in his field.[21][22][23][24][25][2]

Paraphernalia

Equipment

On his belt the Red Guardian wore a disc, which, when detached from the belt, he could hurl as a weapon. Special magnetic devices inside the disc and belt caused the disc to return to the Red Guardian after he had thrown it.

Weapons

See Also

Links and References

References

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