For all the superheroes and villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s never a shortage of regular (seeming) people working for the world’s various government organizations. In fact, one of the MCU’s latest additions to the clandestine ranks is Contessa Allegra de Fontaine, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus of Seinfeld and Veep fame. If you’ve kept up with Marvel movies, you know that Fontaine just keeps popping up in one hero’s story or another.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier marked the first appearance by in the MCU, but not the last; she also popped up in Black Widow’s mid-credits sequence where she recruited Florence Pugh’s Yelena into her service. And now she’s back again in the Black Panther sequel. So where’s it all going?
[Ed. note: This story contains major spoilers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.]
Fontaine’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever appearance is the most substantial role yet for Louis-Dreyfus’ time in the MCU, but it rides the same line of subtly sinister that she’s already captured so well in her first two cameos. In the movie, Fontaine is the new head of the CIA and the direct boss of her former husband Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), who’s been secretly passing along information to Wakanda ever since Shuri saves his life in the first movie.
In her quest to help the United States obtain Vibranium, Fontaine spends most of this movie as an enemy of Wakanda, suspecting them of sabotaging other country’s attempts at mining the mineral. She and Everett ultimately aren’t too consequential to the plot, but in the grand scheme of things, this seems like little more than a pitstop for Fontaine as she moves toward her next appearances and her larger ambitions.
As dedicated Marvel fans know, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier sets up Val as an anti-Nick Fury, recruiting John Walker’s disgraced “Captain America” for an unspoken initiative that could use his more violent instincts. The MCU could follow the comics almost anywhere from here.
Who is Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine in the 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 America 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 also ran an all-female secret agent team for a while. It’s eventually revealed that her Italian heritage was a cover story and that she was really a Russian operative — that doesn’t seem to be the way the MCU is going, but who knows!
The last thing Valentina 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 also 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. Her next confirmed appearance is in see her again in 2024’s Thunderbolts, which will, in theory, see her oversee a team of less-than-noble, Avengers-adjacent fighters. Confirmed for the team are Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), John Walker (Wyatt Russell), Red Justice (David Harbour), Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko), and Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). Could Black Panther’s Everett Ross or another member of Wakanda be along for the ride?
Don’t even bother guessing: if there’s anything we know for sure about the MCU iteration of Valentina, it’s that she can basically do whatever she wants, wrangle whoever she wants, and pop up anywhere.