Alexi Alanovich Shostakov (Russian: Алексей Аланович 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 Alexi 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.
The KGB trained Alexi 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.
Captain American 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.
Russian agents then created a Life-Model Decoy of Alexi Shostakov, which they used to dupe Natasha into believing her husband was still alive. With threats of terminating Alexi, 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 Alexi LMD.
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. Later, he appeared in a Legion gathered by the Grim Reaper's supernatural powers.
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 Alexi, her husband thought to be dead. Alexi had orchestrated the whole affair in an attempt to swipe at Natasha. Natasha confronted Alexi along with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and the Avengers at her back. Alexi was taken into custody.
Alexi 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.
Powers and 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.
The Red Guardian possessed the normal human strength of a man of his age, height, and build who engaged in intensive regular exercise.
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.
- 25 appearance(s) of Alexi Shostakov (Earth-616)
- 9 minor appearance(s) of Alexi Shostakov (Earth-616)
- 5 mentions of Alexi Shostakov (Earth-616)
- 23 image(s) of Alexi Shostakov (Earth-616)
- 4 quotation(s) by or about Alexi Shostakov (Earth-616)