And we’re back with our recurring feature titled RED LEDGER, where staff of MCUExchange convenes to say something nice and constructive about things in the MCU that people haven’t been necessarily kind to. Today, we’re all about Brutasha aka the much-maligned romance in Avengers: Age of Ultron between Bruce and Natasha.

I honestly think that this relationship gets more flack than it should. Yes, Natasha has been used as a potential love interest for nearly every member of the Avengers, which has been very annoying. But when looked at on its own, her relationship with Bruce does make a lot of sense.

Out of all of the members on the team, they are the only two that consider themselves “monsters”. Bruce for his obvious hulk-out reasons, but Natasha because of her literal “red ledger”, ie the choices she’s made and the truly terrible things that she has done. They are the only two members of the Avengers whose skills and abilities are not heroic. They aren’t proud of what they can do, in fact, their abilities are something that they hate about themselves. Their attraction to each other can be easily understood when considering this shared background. Their connection could actually be felt as far back as their initial meeting in the original Avengers. When you go back and watch this scene, it would be hard to argue that there isn’t loads of sexual tension. So while many felt that their storyline came completely out of left field in AOU, it actually makes sense when you consider their characters and motivations, as well as the passage of time between films. They feel that they are the only ones who truly understand each other. – Kevin Carter, Editor

Romances in action films often feel incredibly forced. But after several years of reflection, I don’t think the relationship between Bruce and Natasha fits that stereotype. While you may think it’s a bad pairing or executed poorly, it didn’t necessarily come out of nowhere. Remember, Agent Romanoff is the only person Fury trusts to recruit Banner. And in Avengers: Age of Ultron, this develops further with her interactions with the Hulk. Their relationship also allows us to see these two incredibly strong characters be incredibly vulnerable. We see how their lack of choice over having a family effects them emotionally. – Alex Lurie, Feature Writer

In Avengers: Age of Ultron, we are treated to one of many side plot lines, this time a romance. The Tony/Pepper relationship was touched on a bit in the first film, but “Brutasha” was a more important plot point. We get to see why a woman who sees herself as a monster and a man who turns into a literal monster would be romantically interested in one another, despite being quite the opposites. This relationship was a payoff for what was set up in The Avengers, though it didn’t really hit like Marvel wanted to. Given that, I give Marvel Studios major props for referencing the romance again in Captain America: Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok, and Avengers: Infinity War. Overall, while not nearly one of the most compelling stories (or romances) in the MCU, quite a bit of the initial criticism was unfair, and now that some time has passed, I hope this romance can be seen for what it is: an interesting study of the connection between these two characters that didn’t quite work as a romance, neither for the audience nor for the characters. – Curtis Johnson, Feature Writer

The relationship between Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanoff was quite a surprise in Avengers: Age of Ultron. As bizarre as it was, it did make sense. We got to see the Avengers from a new perspective, as they weren’t random people getting together for the first time anymore. It felt like this group of unique individuals has worked together for some time and it can happen that some people develop feelings for another when spending a lot of time fighting HYDRA. At first, I also felt that the romance was forced but after a few rewatches I realized the thematic direction Joss Whedon was going for. He wanted two emotionally damaged individuals to help each other. They had a unique connection that would make them bond over their dark past. In a way, the awkwardness on screen is just a reflection of the characters. This is not really a classic romance, as we are witnessing two people try to see if they even have a chance. We already see the cracks as they have very distinct personalities. Natasha is very straight-forward in her approach while Bruce’s introvertive nature sees him trying to keep his distance so he would not hurt her. It may not be the greatest romance on screen but that was pretty much the point. – Joseph Aberl, Editor

I don’t even know why we have to do a Red Ledger on them. Natasha has had sparkly interactions with many characters, but none made sense other than her thing with Bruce. Who else can be a better love interest for the most lethal spy in the MCU than a sweet scientist with anger issues? Not only are they great regularly, but Nat’s relationship with Hulk is also quite sweet. “The sun’s getting real low, big guy” scene is beautiful. So good it carried on as a joke in Thor: Ragnarok. Heck, I guess the only couple that works better than Bruce/Natasha is Steve/Bucky, and that’s saying something. I can’t even tell what’s better: If we saw them together in future movies or if they never actually gave us that and just kept teasing it. – Tiago Fiszbejn, News Writer

You may think that it was forced, unwarranted, or maybe even flat-out unsettling but you can’t deny that Joss Whedon‘s own star-crossed lovers is easily one of the bolder pairings in the MCU. Bruce Banner is certainly not the first person I would’ve liked to see Natasha have a romantic relationship with given her more meaningful experiences with Steve and Clint in previous films but within the vacuum and confines of Age of Ultron, I think their brief love affair works. It’s the old adage of two screwed up people finding peace in one another’s defects and failures. Star-crossed lovers doomed to fail from the get-go who still stubbornly follow their hearts. We’ve had experiences in life where we relate to that notion. The MCU has always been about finding the human experiences in larger-than-life situations and the romance of Bruce and Natasha is a prime example of that. – Charles Villanueva, Editor-in-Chief

Do you have something nice to say about Brutasha? Let us know in the comments below!