Valentina Allegra de Fontaine has been causing trouble in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She might not appear as deadly as Thanos or Kang, but Fontaine is a master of manipulation, who seems to be controlling the MCU whether the heroes know it or not.
Fontaine, who is played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, recently appeared in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which revealed that she is now director of the CIA. Her power is rising, and this is just the beginning, but who is Director Fontaine, and what is she up to?
What is Fontaine’s role in the comics?
Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine was introduced in Strange Tales #159 (1967). At the time, Strange Tales was publishing a feature called Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., which took heavy inspiration from James Bond and the spy movie craze of the 60s. Although S.H.I.E.L.D. had been introduced by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Dick Ayers, it was writer/artist Jim Steranko who took the feature to its creative heights. It was during this era that Fontaine was introduced, initially as a student at S.H.I.E.L.D.’s spy school. When Fury tells her that the spy business is no place for a woman, Fontaine flips him over her shoulder. A pretty a memorable way to make a first impression.
Subsequent appearances fleshed out Fontaine's story, revealing that she was an Italian noblewoman who joined S.H.I.E.L.D. after her parents were killed during a political uprising. Fontaine joins Fury on many of his espionage adventures, and the two eventually become a couple.
Fontaine serves as an invaluable S.H.I.E.L.D. agent for years, and enjoys an on-again off-again relationship with Fury, until everything changes in the 2009 series Secret Warriors. Remember all that stuff about her being an Italian noblewoman? That was a lie, Valentina Allegra de Fontaine isn’t even this spy's real name. In fact, to this day, we still don’t know what her real name is. Fontaine was, in fact, a sleeper agent the whole time, spying on S.H.I.E.L.D. and Fury for years.
For a time it looked like Fontaine's allegiance was with the terrorist organization Hydra. Fontaine even led the group as Madame Hydra for a time, but she later betrayed them as well, as she worked for a shadowy organization known as Leviathan. Fury is crushed by the news, as he still has a soft spot for his former sweetheart. Since this reveal, Fontaine has served as an espionage antagonist within the Marvel Universe. She currently sits on the ruling council of a secret society known as J.A.N.U.S.
What is Fontaine’s role in the MCU?
Fontaine was introduced in the Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier in the episode ‘Truth’ where she approaches the disgraced Captain America replacement John Walker. She introduces herself as Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, but is cagey about who she works for and what her purpose is. She promises Walker that working for her will be one of the best decisions he’d ever make, and gives him her business card. Curiously, the card is blank.
Fontaine is then seen in the season one finale ‘One World, One People.’ During that episode she gives Walker a new outfit, which appears to be a darker version of his Captain America uniform. During a conversation with Walker’s wife, Fontaine implies that she has been orchestrating recent political conflicts. Fontaine tells Walker that the world no longer needs a Captain America, and they now need a US Agent. She then departs, promising that they’ll be in touch.
Fontaine is next seen in the post-credits scene for Black Widow. Interestingly, Black Widow was supposed to be Fontaine’s introduction to the MCU, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Widow experienced numerous release delays, and wouldn’t hit theaters until July 2021. This meant that Fontaine’s appearance in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier preceded her planned debut in Black Widow by a few months. Despite the switch, Fontaine’s appearance in the Disney+ series still worked as an effective introduction to her character.In Black Widow, Valentina approaches Yelena Belova at her sister Natasha’s grave, making a snide comment about being allergic to the Midwest. It’s revealed that Belova is one of Fontaine’s agents. Fontaine then gives Yelena her next assignment, which is a hit job on Clint Barton. Fontaine entices Yelena by telling her that Barton is responsible for the death of her sister Natasha. Of course, if you saw Avengers: Endgame, then you’d know that Fontaine was misrepresenting the circumstances of Natasha’s noble sacrifice.
Yelena’s assignment plays out in the Disney+ series Hawkeye. Fontaine is not seen in Hawkeye, but her influence can be felt, as it is she who assigned Yelena to kill Hawkeye in the first place.
What role did Fontaine play in Wakanda Forever?
Valentina Allegra de Fontaine made an unexpected appearance in the film Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, her biggest appearance in the MCU to date. When Shuri and Okoye seek out their friend Everett Ross for intel, the CIA agent mentions a new director who is watching him like a hawk. Later on in the film, we learn that Fontaine is the new director of the CIA. The situation becomes more awkward when it’s revealed that Fontaine is Everett’s ex-wife. Ross and Fontaine’s marriage is a new piece of lore that was not present in the comics.
In Wakanda Forever, the CIA has been trying to get their hands on Vibranium, and used a tracker developed by an MIT student named Riri Williams. This was done without Williams' knowledge, and the CIA kept her identity secret, hoping to limit the number of people who would have access to Vibranium. When Williams is kidnapped, Fontaine and the CIA initially suspect that Wakanda was behind the abduction.
When Fontaine finds Kimoyo Beads at the scene of the abduction, she recognizes them as the preferred communication device of the Wakandans. Knowing that her ex-husband has a special relationship with the Wakandan royal family, Fontaine bugs the Kimoyo Beads. As she predicts, Ross finds the Kimoyo Beads, and uses them to secretly communicate with the Wakandan royal family.
In other words, Fontaine is a few steps ahead of everyone the entire movie. She eventually tells Ross that she has been listening in to his unsanctioned conversations with the Wakandans, and knows he had given them classified information. Although Ross and Fontaine never find out about Namor and the Talokan kingdom, they do know that Wakanda wasn’t behind Williams abduction or the attack on a CIA research outpost.
Fontaine knows, but she doesn’t care. She had been hoping the recent attacks would give the United States an excuse to destabilize Wakanda and raid their Vibranium supply. Fontaine then has her ex-husband arrested for treason, though Ross is rescued by Okoye during the film’s final act, and is presumably taken to Wakanda for asylum.
At the end of the movie, Shuri makes a comment to Riri about clearing up the misunderstanding with her abduction, so it seems like Wakanda is no longer being targeted by the authorities – at least for now. But even if the Wakandans aren’t suspects in Riri’s abduction or the destruction of the research outpost, it’s clear that Fontaine has big plans for Wakanda.
What is Fontaine’s next move in the MCU?
Remember when Nick Fury was recruiting the Avengers one by one in the early MCU films? That seems to be similar to what Fontaine is doing, except she appears to be building a team of anti-heroes. We’ve already seen her approach John Walker and Yelena Belova. Fontaine’s next confirmed appearance is the 2024 film Thunderbolts, which will feature the team of the same name.
In Marvel comics, the Thunderbolts are traditionally a team of supervillains who are working in a heroic capacity. Multiple versions of the team have existed over the years, usually consisting of anti-heroes or outright criminals. The current version of the group is made up of heroes who work for New York Mayor Luke Cage.
Judging by the roster, the cinematic Thunderbolts appear to be going the anti-hero route. The team will include Red Guardian, Black Widow (Yelena Belova), Winter Soldier, U.S. Agent, Ghost, and Taskmaster. Director Fontaine will oversee the group, serving as a dark mirror to Nick Fury and the relationship he had with the Avengers.
Of course, it’s entirely possible we’ll see Director Fontaine again before the release of Thunderbolts. There are rumors that she’ll be seen in the 2024 film Captain America: New World Order, but at this point nothing has been confirmed.
Still have other questions about the end of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever? Check out Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ending explained