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Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s hyped cameo opens the door to a dark future of the MCU

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Who is Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine?

[Ed. note: This story contains major spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 5.]

Even before the The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premiered in March, creator Malcolm Spellman teased a major cameo in episode 5. Now the introduction’s been made: Veep and Seinfeld actor Julia Louis-Dreyfus is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. Very important detail: This marks the second The New Adventures of Old Christine veteran after Clark Gregg to join the MCU.

“There are characters in our series who I would love to see partnered with like — it’s a very, very grounded character — partnered with one of the big world-shakers like Thor or someone like that,” Spellman teased to Rotten Tomatoes earlier this week. “The personality is so strong, it’s the episode 5 character. I’d love to see that character with Thor.”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Image: Marvel Studios

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier marks the first appearance by Louis-Dreyfus in the MCU, but likely not the last; according to Vanity Fair, sources close to Marvel productions have said Val is set to appear in the upcoming Black Widow (which, if it weren’t for COVID-19 lockdowns and release date relays, would have been the formal theatrical introduction of the character). Could there be more Val in the future?

Spellman’s would clearly like to see her in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder. But whatever happens, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier sets up Val as a kind of anti-Nick Fury, recruiting John Walker’s disgraced “Captain America” for an unspoken initiative that could use his more violent instincts. The MCU’s could follow the comics almost anywhere from here, from a new Nick Fury to an old Black Widow to a full resurgence of Hydra. But it starts with Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine.

Who is Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine in the comics?

“Who are you working for now, Contessa,” Nick Fury asks Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. “I work for myself now. I know who I am,” she answers, in Secret Warrios #3, Marvel Comics (2009). Image: Brian Michael Bendis, Jonathan Hickman, Stefano Caselli/Marvel Comics

Well, depending on when you ask this question, she’s either an Italian jet-setter turned long-time SHIELD agent or ... Madame Hydra.

First introduced by Jim Steranko in 1967 for a Nick Fury and Captain American crossover story, writer Steve Englehart brought Valentina into Captain America comics proper in 1972. She’s a minor enough character with a long enough history that the MCU could pick up almost any aspect of her adventures and take a big swing.

Valentina dated Nick Fury for a bit while she was a SHIELD agent. (Pro tip: Don’t date your coworkers if you belong to an organization where 50% of the employees are sleeper agents.) She ran an all-female secret agent team for a while — perfect to tie in to Black Widow. It’s eventually revealed that her Italian heritage was a cover story and that she was really a Russian operative — hello again, Black Widow. And the last thing she did in Marvel Comics continuity was to defect and become a senior leader of Hydra, taking on the frequently used name “Madame Hydra,” until she betrayed Hydra to another clandestine international spy operation. If the Marvel Cinematic Universe wanted Hydra to raise its serpentine head again, Valentina could be a way to do it.

Or, the MCU could go in a completely different direction that doesn’t have anything to do with the stuff comics writers have done with Valentina before. We’ll see her again in Black Widow, but don’t expect the movie to let us know what’s happening next with the character — the long-delayed feature film is actually set years before the events of Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

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