Appearing in "The Woman Who Never Was!"
Synopsis for "The Woman Who Never Was!"
Spider-Man plummets from the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, his body numb from being hit by the Silver Samurai's energy sword. Inside the massive aircraft, the Black Widow, Nick Fury, and Shang-Chi are battling a horde of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents hypnotized by the Viper. Quickly, the Black Widow fights her way to a porthole and leaps after Spider-Man. As she falls, she snags his ankle with a wrist cable, and then she attaches another wrist cable to the Heli-Carrier. Although the strain on her body is terrific, she manages to hold on to both Spider-Man and the Heli-Carrier, and then she swings Spider-Man up toward the aircraft. But then the Silver Samurai slices through the conduit that the Widow's cable is attached to, and she begins to plunge toward the ground. Looking death in the face, the Black Widow reverts to her Nancy Rushman persona and screams in terror. Fortunately, Spider-Man's swing carries him to the Heli-Carrier, where he clings to the hull. Gouging a handhold, he braces himself against the sudden jerk as the cable holding the Black Widow tightens. He holds firm, but the effort leaves him barely conscious.
Meanwhile, the Viper and the Samurai head for the Heli-Carrier's bridge, where she orders Clay Quartermain to seal all security bulkheads and flood the ship with knockout gas. The hypnotized S.H.I.E.L.D. soldier obeys her orders, and seconds later, as Fury and Shang-Chi are leaving the storeroom after defeating the S.H.I.E.L.D. squad, steel walls suddenly box them in and their enclosure fills with gas. Shang-Chi holds his breath, but Fury, still wearing Boomerang's costume, says that a single drop of gas anywhere on the skin will put a person out for a week. Confident that Spider-Man and the Black Widow have fallen to their deaths and that Fury and Shang-Chi are helpless, the Viper tunes in the President's address to Congress. Practically all the high officials of the United States government are in attendance, and the Viper smugly declares that before his speech is over they will all die. She will crash the Hell-Carrier into the Capitol Building and grind it into rubble, leaving America leaderless. Into that vacuum, she continues, will step her "revolutionary brothers and sisters." But her gloating abruptly ceases when Fury and Shang-Chi smash through the door into the room. They escaped the trap through a maze of airtight passageways that only Fury knew about, which were designed for just such a situation. Shang-Chi quickly knocks out several S.H.I.E.L.D. troopers, but Fury has only one narco-dart left in his gun, and he uses it on Clay Quartermain.
Unfortunately, the almost equally skilled Quartermain gets off a shot that wounds Fury in the shoulder. As Shang-Chi heads toward the Silver Samurai, he sees Fury fall in a pool of blood. Then, as the President's speech begins on the viewscreen, Spider-Man and the Black Widow smash through a window into the room. Faced with three powerful opponents with only the Silver Samurai on her side, the Viper nevertheless states that not even death will defeat her. In her hand, she holds the computer control module that operates the entire Heli-Carrier. She orders the Samurai to hold the three battlers at all costs. The Widow tells Spider-Man to tackle the Samurai while she goes after the Viper. Spider-Man, afraid the Widow will revert to Nancy Rushman again, tells Shang-Chi to follow her. He will handle the Samurai himself. Shang-Chi, hoping Spider-Man knows what he is doing, leaps after the Widow. Spider-Man rams into the Samurai, and in the ensuing battle Spider-Man deftly dodges the energy sword. All the while, the President's speech continues, as he describes the seriousness of the continuing oil crisis. Spider-Man finally blinds the Samurai with web fluid and knocks the sword from his hand, but the Samurai grabs Spider-Man and tries to break his neck. Spider-Man twists free, adheres out of reach to the ceiling, and knocks the Samurai unconscious with a powerful punch. As the Black Widow steals through darkened passageways in the Heli-Carrier, her mind switches back and forth between her two personae.
With each passing minute, she remembers more of her past life. She recalls how, while on a "personal mission to the Far East," she uncovered the Viper's plans but was captured before she could warn Nick Fury. The Viper tortured and interrogated her for days, but despite her best efforts, the Widow refused to talk. A careless guard allowed her to escape, but the ordeal regressed her mind into the alias of an unassuming schoolteacher that she used long ago. Without Spider-Man's efforts, she might have stayed in that 'safe" character forever, she muses. Suddenly Shang-Chi places his hand on her shoulder, saying he is there to help. She replies that she must work things out alone, and he recognizes her inner conflict as similar to the one he has had to face himself after leaving his father's house in Hunan. Suddenly the Viper appears and shoots at the Widow. With incredibly fast reflexes, Shang-Chi dives in front of her and takes the bullet himself. The Widow looks up from his prostrate form as the Viper declares haughtily that she meant to kill the Widow. This, she continues, she will do after she has "taken care of business." Then she presses a switch on her hand-held control module and turns off the Heli-Carrier's main engines. When she ascends to the upper deck, she hurls the module over the side, saying that without it the engines cannot be restarted. As the Widow clambers after the Viper onto the hub of one of the massive airship's rotors, the engines slowly come to a halt and the skycraft begins to descend.
As Spider-Man uses his web fluid to stanch Fury's wound, they notice that the engines have stopped. Fury says that the Viper probably booby-trapped all the bridge command systems and knocked out the vortex beam. Their only chance is to rewire the main trunk lines, which fortunately lie behind a nearby reinforced-steel bulkhead. Spider-Man slowly peels back the covering, and he and Fury set to work. Fury says his left arm is useless, so Spider-Man will do most of the physical work. Atop the Hell-Carrier, the Viper gloats that its trajectory has been precisely planned to smash it into the Capitol Building. Then, explosive charges will destroy it and its target, killing the "war-mongering leaders of this corrupt nation." The Widow replies that many innocent lives will be lost in the ensuing chaos. She has seen children starve in the ruins of Stalingrad, she says, and men freeze solid overnight, so she knows how extremely precious life is. As Fury and Spider-Man work frantically, not certain of what they are doing but hoping for the best, the Widow and the Viper continue to battle atop the rotor maintenance platform. Although the Widow is nearly exhausted and psychologically crippled, her will to win and her fighting skill soon prevail. The Viper leaps at the Widow a final time, but just then Spider-Man and Fury restart the engines. The Widow ducks and the Viper leaps off the platform. She grabs hold of the edge, and the Widow grips her hand to pull her to safety. In her younger days, says the Widow, she would have simply let her fall. Just then, the rotors start to spin. The force they generate in arresting the Heli-Carrier's fall whips the Viper out of the Widow's grasp, and she falls to oblivion. The powerful blasts of air from the carrier's rotors shake the Capitol Building and all inside as the aircraft halts its plunge just inches above the Capitol dome, and the government is safe.
The next morning, with everything under control and the hypnotized S.H.I.E.L.D. agents under sedation, Nick Fury, his left arm in a sling, shakes Shang-Chi's hand in gratitude. Fury asks how he managed to survive the Viper's bullet, and he replies that he simply deflected it with his wristband and pretended to be dead. He knew that the Widow needed the opportunity to find her true self, so he did not interfere in her battle against the Viper. On the Heli-Carrier's hull outside, Spider-Man and the Widow part company. She admits that as Nancy Rushman she had briefly fallen in love with him, but this relationship certainly cannot continue. Spider-Man knows this, and quickly spins a hang-glider parachute for himself and descends to the city below. Long ago, muses the Widow, she fought for her personal freedom. Now she has learned yet again that if she wants to be free, she must also be alone.
- Jimmy Carter is depicted as the President of the United States. This should be considered a topical reference per the Sliding Timescale of Earth-616.
- While taking a bullet for the Black Widow, Shang-Chi recounts how he did the same for Dr. Petrie. That happened in Special Marvel Edition #15.
A flashback in this story affects the chronology of the following characters:
- Flashback, Page 10, Panesl 3-4 - Black Widow is knocked out before she can warn Fury about Viper's plot.
- Flashback, Page 10, Panel 5 - Black Widow is brought to Viper for brainwashing.
- Flashback, Page 10, Panel 4 - Viper takes Black Widow prisoner.
- Flashback, Page 10, Panel 5 - Viper brainwashes the Black Widow.
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