Natasha: Well, sometimes you have to disappear to get your life back.
Nick: My thoughts exactly. Still, lyin’ to all your friends? Lyin’ to Steve Rogers?
Natasha: I can lie just as well as you can, Nick… I was well trained in the art. Besides, this gets you what you want, doesn’t it?
Nick: If we’re gonna win this war, we need Captain America back. And if this doesn’t get Steve Rogers back into that uniform… I don’t know what will.
The idea that Natasha would fake Bucky’s death to manipulate Steve back into wearing wings on his head has never sat well with me. First, because Natasha is someone who pays attention more to the men behind the tights— codenames and disguises are more ephemeral.
But more importantly, this is the exact same schtick the Soviet Union pulled on Natasha to get her to accept the name Black Widow, and all the burdens and duties that came with it. They told her that the man she loved was dead, and she told herself that he would have wanted her to carry on for him. And that was the deception that ruined her. It weighs a lot.
Natasha has always been at her most ruthless and manipulative when she feels there is something worth saving on the line— her most stunning cruelties often accompany her most stunning acts of compassion. (See: Belova, Yelena.) So I can well believe that she’d take it upon herself to fake Bucky’s death, if that’s what she felt could save him. And I can see her taking credit for Nick Fury’s “take back the shield, Steve” scheme because guilt is a part of her curse. But look what she says, here— “it’s what you want,” not what she wants, not what Steve wants or what Bucky wants. It’s the classic Nick Fury dick move, really, all the more dickish because it might be for the best. But the big picture “we need a Captain America to win this fight, and this is how we can get one” is the exact sort of chessmaster politics Natasha is ever attempting to escape.
Fury has to be thinking about the tactical value of Steve Rogers Captain America, Natasha has to concentrate on the personal value of James Barnes Human Being.
(Incidentally, Brubaker has just announced he’s leaving Captain America with issue #19.)
From Fear Itself #7.1, by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice.