Warning: Spoilers for both The Falcon And The Winter Soldier Episode 5 and the upcoming Black Widow.
After some teasing in the press this past week, Marvel fans were introduced to a surprise new character from the comics in today’s new episode of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier – Contessa Valentina “Val” Allegra de Fontaine.
The Contessa makes her entrance into the Marvel Cinematic Universe outside of the hearing room where John Walker – the US government’s choice to replace Steve Rodgers as Captain America but who took some super soldier serum and then brutally killed a combatant in broad daylight in front of a number of witnesses – had just been drummed out of the military. Despondent that he had no where to go, Val, in the form of a black trenchcoated Julia Louis-Dreyfus – introduces herself to him, handing him a blank business card and then saying she will be calling him.
So who is the mysterious Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine?
For the uninitiated, Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine first appeared in writer/artist Jim Steranko’s iconic run on the character of Nick Fury, Agent Of SHIELD. She first appeared in 1967, while Steranko’s stories were serving as one of two features in the anthology series Strange Tales. Later, Fury and his cast would be spun-off to their own title. A sexy Italian socialite, Val was recruited to the spy organization SHIELD where her beauty and her capability both caught the eye of SHIELD director Nick Fury and the two soon became lovers.
Interestingly, though, this was not originally supposed to be the first time that fans were to see Val in the MCU. According to Vanity Fair, Val will be making an appearance in the upcoming Black Widow film. The movie was originally scheduled to come out before Falcon And Winter Soldier aired, but is now set to premiere later this summer after having it’s release pushed back a number of times due to the pandemic movie theater shut down.
So what are we to make of her appearance here?
Thanks to Spider-Man: Far From Home, we know that SHIELD still exists in the post-Blip Marvel Cinematic Universe. And SHIELD head honcho Nick Fury feels that it is important enough to keep up appearances that he is in charge that he had the shape-shifting Skrull Talos step in for him while he appears to be off planet as seen in Far From Home’s mid-credits scene. And we have seen another Skrull show up at the end of WandaVision to tell the newly super-powered Monica Rambeau that an old friend of her mother’s would like to meet her. It is heavily implied that that “old friend” is Nick Fury. We also know that Nick Fury and Telos are the characters scheduled to headline the upcoming Secret Invasion series for Disney+, coming next year. So the meeting with Monica could be something that leads towards that series. And if Fury is getting ready to fend off some sort of invasion, well he is going to need all the help he can get.
Val showing up in Falcon And Winter Soldier to recruit John Walker on the surface suggests that she could be recruiting superpowered folks for whatever Nick Fury will be needing them for. Except that Walker’s instability does not make him a good candidate for Fury’s needs. Fury is going to want someone who can follow orders and Walker has shown to be unreliable in that department.
If anything, Val is most likely recruiting Walker – And probably others, we shall see – for some other reason. But for what? That’s hard to say. Picking through the character’s comics history we see that outside of serving for SHIELD, she also at one point was revealed to be a double agent in SHIELD, actually working for the terrorist organization HYDRA. At one point she even took the reigns of the group, assuming the leadership title of Madame Hydra. For that matter, this version of the character could possibly be related to the Power Broker, the mysterious criminal overlord who resides over the fictional southeast Asian island country of Madripoor, that the show visited a few weeks back.
Another possibility though, is that the Val we see here is not the real Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. In the comic book version of the Secret Invasion storyline, she had been replaced by an agent of a faction of the alien Skrulls who were planning an invasion of Earth. However, that wouldn’t explain why she would be attempting to recruit humans if she were a Skrull agent.
As usual, Marvel is playing their cards close to their vest, so the above is just speculation. We may get more of an idea after we see Val’s appearance in Black Widow this July. And of course, since the MCU television shows and films are going to be more interconnected, we’ll continue to get more of this storyline as Marvel’s Phase Four continues to roll out over the upcoming couple of years.