The following is a video I made for my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It’s a video version of an article I wrote a while back. I added and removed a few details to the video. If necessary, I’ll do a follow-up. Enjoy!
We currently live in a golden age of villains. Between Thanos, Erik Killmonger, the Joker, and Walter White, there has been a veritable surge of complex characters who also happen to be compelling villains. While there’s still a place for the kind of pure evil that Disney villains have relied on for years, this trend in a more refined brand of villainy feels both refreshing and overdue.
I’ve written extensively on villains before. As a lifelong fan of superhero comics and movies, I’ve consumed, contemplated, and scrutinized hero/villain dynamics more than most. In doing so, I’ve noticed plenty of trends. Like most aspects of popular culture, it’s always evolving. Very few themes and details remain constant, especially when it comes to antagonists.
That said, there’s one trend in villains that has remained somewhat constant over the course of my lifetime. It’s also a trend that I see as intensifying, albeit in a subtle way. Some of it coincides with the growing complexity of villains in popular culture, but most of the trend precedes the current era of superhero-dominated media. If anything, superhero media helped accelerate it.
While most villains and heroes rarely identify with a certain political affiliation, it’s usually not hard to discern how most would vote in a contemporary election. I would even argue that it’s easier to surmise what a villain’s political leanings are compared to that of heroes. Take any villain from the past 10 years of movies, be they superhero or otherwise. Chances are a vast majority of them would identify as conservative.
Now, I understand conservatism is an exceedingly broad term. It has a dictionary definition, but as a political philosophy, there are many sub-sets, divisions, and variations. From fiscal conservatives to social conservative to neoconservatives, there are many wildly different ideologies that still identify as conservative. A few actively clash with one another.
Those complexities aside, there are some core tenants associated with conservatism and it’s those very tenants that make it such an effective basis for villains. Chief among conservative values is the idea that traditional norms, institutions, and values be maintained. Change isn’t actively dissuaded, but it is viewed with caution and suspicion. To be conservative is to affirm the status quo, to some extent.
That’s all well and good if the status quo is beneficial to everyone. It’s not so preferable for those who either fail to benefit or are actively screwed over by that same status quo. Since there has never been a society in history that has achieved perfect prosperity for everyone, regardless of their minority status, there’s bound to be people who get left behind.
In our own real-world history, we’ve seen people from those disaffected groups organize and fight the status quo to better their lives. That struggle has played out in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the movement for women’s rights, and the LGBT rights movement that’s still going on today. Those who oppose these movements tend to have, broadly speaking, conservative leanings.
Look at the groups that opposed the Civil Rights movement.
They all espouse rhetoric that would put them at odds with Superman, Captain America, and most other superheroes who value justice, truth, and peace. For some, their talking points sound like ideas that only villains in the mold of Lex Luthor would agree with. While not all of them identify as overtly conservative, the standard principles are there.
Anything too different from the status quo must be wrong or evil.
Anybody too different from the people everyone else in a society must be bad, evil, or devious.
Any idea, trend, or movement that is disruptive or deviant in any way is something to be opposed.
It doesn’t just manifest in superhero movies or underdog stories, either. Look at a movie like “Footloose.” In this story, the people who ban dancing are uptight, dogmatic, religious zealots who likely voted for Ronald Reagan in 1984 when this movie came out. They were the antagonists of that story and the kids, while not overtly liberal, dared to defy them.
It can even manifest subtly in other media. In kids shows like “Recess,” “Hey Arnold,” and “Rocko’s Modern Life,” the most common antagonists are uptight authority figures who have no tolerance for new ideas, big changes, or anything remotely fun. It’s hard to imagine any of these characters voting for someone who builds their slogan around change, reform, and reinvention.
They like things the way they are. Most of them benefit from the current system and will naturally seek to preserve their place in that system. While they won’t always see themselves as villains, it’s difficult for them to come off as heroes. You can only be so heroic when your side is closely aligned with predatory business practices, fun-hating religious zealots, and unabashed war-mongers.
That’s not to say it’s impossible for liberals to be villains too. It does happen and it can be done very well when done right. I would argue that Erik Killmonger in “Black Panther” was more in line with an extreme liberal revolutionary who didn’t just want to pursue change. I would make a similar argument for Ra’s Al Ghul in “Batman Begins.”
These characters didn’t just seek to change society from its current unjust state. They sought to violently destroy it and rebuild it from the ground up. That kind of liberalism exists in the real world and it can make for compelling villains.
However, the number of villains who align with the politics of Killmonger are far fewer than those who would align with the politics of Lex Luthor. In general, it’s easier to resist change rather than embrace it. It’s also necessary to some extent for those to resist change to be uptight authority figures who are okay with coercing others to maintain traditions. Logistically, the villains in many conflicts must be conservative.
Now, that’s not to say that villains will always lean conservative in popular media. What it means to be conservative changes over time. If you were to listen to conservative rhetoric 50 years ago, they would sound very different. They might even sound liberal by today’s standards.
The same goes for liberalism of previous eras. It hasn’t always been closely aligned with the politics surrounding minority rights, income inequality, or political correctness. The liberals of the 1920s would likely clash with the liberals of today. That’s just part of the ever-evolving nature of politics.
For the time being, though, being a villain in popular culture usually means being conservative to a certain extent. Conservatives are more likely to be the rich, greedy business people who would gladly burn down a rain forest or exploit slave labor to raise profits. Conservatives are more likely to be the rule-loving, fun-hating, curfew-enforcing religious zealots who wouldn’t mind electing theocrats with every election.
These types of individuals are far more likely to be villains in a story. At the very least, they’ll side or tolerate the villain. It’s easy to believe that those who side with the religious right and well-connected rich people will generally oppose a selfless, likable protagonist. From a narrative perspective, these kinds of villains are better in that we tend to root for heroes who oppose authoritarian bullies like that.
Again, it’s guaranteed that political and cultural trends will likely change what it means to be conservative, liberal, and everything in between. For the time being, if you were to bet on the political leanings of an antagonist, the odds are mostly in favor of that antagonist being conservative.
Trying to find flaws in the Marvel Cinematic Universe these days is like trying to find a flaw in Mr. Rogers. It’s pretty much impossible, unless you’re willing to be exceedingly petty. Even the most ardent critic can’t deny the success of this now iconic cinematic universe. Such a franchise doesn’t make over $7 billion at the box office by having many egregious flaws.
That said, the MCU is not without its shortcomings and I’m not just talking about underperforming outliers like “The Incredible Hulk” or outright failures like “Inhumans.” One such shortcoming, which I feel has not had sufficient scrutiny, has to do with romance in the MCU. As someone who is a lifelong comic book fan and an admitted romantic, this stands out to me more than most.
It only became more apparent with the upcoming a TV series starring Vision and the Scarlet Witch on the Disney+ streaming service. The romance fan and the comic book fan in me initially liked that idea because Vision and the Scarlet Witch are one of the Avenger’s most endearing and colorful romances in the comics. This is definitely one of those relationships that can carry an entire show.
However, given that this takes place in the MCU, the concept is already on a shaky foundation. While the events of “Avengers: Infinity War” established that these two characters are romantically involved, there’s little in terms of how that relationship developed. As a result, the tragedy that played out in the Battle of Wakanda had little dramatic weight.
It’s one of the few glaring flaws in an otherwise stellar narrative. However, the lack of romantic depth between Vision and the Scarlet Witch is only the most obvious symptom of a much larger problem that has been unfolding in the MCU since the days of “Iron Man” and “Thor.”
Some parts of that problem are pure logistics. Building a cinematic universe on the scale of the MCU requires a lot of moving parts and, as a result, romance was often a secondary concern. Kevin Feige and the creative minds at Marvel Studios opted to prioritize other aspects of character development. Given the MCU’s unprecedented winning streak, it’s safe to say those priorities were well-placed.
It’s only recently that the lack of emphasis on romance has caught up to the MCU. From having Thor break up with Jane Foster prior to “Thor Ragnarok” to horribly mismatched romance between Hulk and Black Widow, there’s a glaring absence of successful, well-developed romances in the MCU.
Even the successful romances, namely Tony Stark and Pepper Pots or Ant Man and Wasp, had much of that success unfold off-screen. At most, a movie would show them getting together or enduring a major conflict, but there would rarely be any moments that fleshed out the romance in a meaningful way. Every bit of development only centered around defeating a villain, which is good catalyst for romance, but not much else.
Now, we’re getting an entire show about a couple who were on opposite sides of the conflict in “Captain America: Civil War” and inexplicably together in “Avengers: Infinity War.” In terms of meaningful romance, this is not a trivial oversight. If someone didn’t know their romantic history in the comics, then they would be understandably confused as to why they ended up together.
It’s the same problem that the original “X-Men” movies made when developing the horribly flawed love triangle between Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Wolverine. The narrative in the movies relied too heavily on assuming peoples’ knowledge of the source material in lieu of providing an understandably reason as to why this romance is occurring. Again, that’s not a trivial oversight.
How is anyone who only saw “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War” supposed to buy into the relationship between Vision and the Scarlet Witch? The movies only establish that they’re together. They don’t establish why, how, or what they went through in establishing their relationship. Everyone is just left to assume, which is rarely a good strategy for developing meaningful romance.
Even if the relationship between Vision and the Scarlet Witch were entirely platonic, it would still be quite a stretch to believe that they have a genuinely intimate connection. It’s possible that the upcoming show will help develop that connection, but there’s no getting around how underdeveloped it has been to this point.
The same could be said for other relationships throughout the MCU. Some are so underdeveloped that when intimate moments do occur, they rarely have much impact. Captain America’s relationship with Peggy Carter in his first movie probably had the best foundation, of all the MCU romances, but that only made him kissing her niece, Sharon, feel downright wrong. Haley Atwell herself has said as such.
Romance, even among fictional characters, requires some level of chemistry to go along with the narrative. While that can be difficult to fit into a single movie, it’s not impossible. Movies like “Man of Steel” and the first “Spider-Man” movie were able to establish the necessary chemistry with only a handful of scenes. Such scenes have been absent or underdeveloped in the MCU.
Ironically, the most fleshed out romance in the MCU is between Starlord and Gamora, two characters who aren’t an endearing love story in the comics. I would even argue that the scene in which Starlord sacrifices himself to save Gamora in the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie shows more romantic depth than any other MCU movie to date.
It didn’t take much to show that Starlord and Gamora have chemistry. From their first interactions to the many challenges they overcame over the course of two movies, they developed a powerful connection that just isn’t there for Vision and the Scarlet Witch. That connection is part of what made the events between them in “Avengers: Infinity War” so heart-wrenching.
That same sentiment just wasn’t there with Vision. We knew from the events of two previous movies that Starlord genuinely loved Gamora. We understood how strong it was by the time Thanos entered the picture. There’s none of that present with Vision and the Scarlet Witch. When they face a similar situation, it just doesn’t have the same impact.
It probably helps that Guardians of the Galaxy was a relatively obscure series before the first movie and has little history of iconic romances compared to the Avengers. However, it does show that the MCU is capable of meaningful romance. It just seems incapable of applying it to the more notable couples from the comics.
While such flaws haven’t stopped the MCU from succeeding on so many other levels, it still ensures that Vision and the Scarlet Witch have an uphill battle in terms of proving their romance is more than an assumed contrivance. It’s certainly not impossible, but there’s a lot to develop in terms of chemistry and depth.
Given on how “Avengers Endgame” played out, it may not matter how poorly past romances have been handled. However, the impact it has had in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies shows that there is a place for romance in the MCU. Perhaps Vision and the Scarlet Witch can be part of that with the upcoming show, but it has lot to overcome before it can be the iconic romance that the MCU needs.
In this golden age of superhero movies, Spider-Man occupies a special place. Aside from being one of Stan Lee’s most famous creations, this franchise has undergone many triumphs, failures, scandals, upheavals, and everything in between. No matter where it stands among other franchises, Marvel just isn’t Marvel without Spider-Man.
The first “Spider-Man” movie helped revolutionize the superhero genre alongside “X-Men.” It’s not unreasonable to say that the Marvel Cinematic Universe wouldn’t exist without that first movie. That’s why when Spider-Man entered the MCU with “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” it carried a lot of weight.
With “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” both the standards and the stakes are higher. This movie is coming off the historic success of “Avengers Endgame” and is poised to close out Phase 3 of the MCU. It’s tasked with building on the foundation of its predecessor and dealing with the dramatic aftermath of the battle against Thanos. That’s a tall order for any franchise.
At the same time, it feels like Spider-Man has to be the franchise to pull this off. Between its special place in the genre and its cast of emerging stars, including the inherently lovable Tom Holland, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” feels like the only movie worthy of such a task. It has everything going for it. The question remains. Does it succeed?
In my humble opinion, I say it does, but not without some major flaws.
In terms of the big picture, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is a quality Spider-Man movie that checks a lot of boxes, both for the franchise and for the MCU. It seamlessly weaves itself into the evolving narrative of the MCU in wake of “Avengers Endgame.” The first five minutes of the movie touch on the lingering aftermath of that climactic battle. It even injects some of that trademark MCU humor into some heavy moments.
On a more personal level, Peter Parker’s story builds upon the drama of Tony Stark’s death in “Avengers Endgame.” Throughout the movie, Iron Man’s presence looms large. Spider-Man is essentially stuck in the shadow of another hero who really affected his journey as a character in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” It makes for plenty of dramatic moments that guide Peter throughout the story.
In terms of it genre, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” even succeeds in maintaining the increasingly high bar that Marvel Studios has set for its villains. While Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio won’t rank as highly as Josh Brolin’s Thanos, he proves himself a daunting foe who doesn’t just test Spider-Man. He comes very close to breaking him.
I would even go so far as to say that Gyllenhaal’s take on Mysterio is worth the inflated ticket price. He makes “Spider-Man: Far From Home” work on multiple levels. I would argue that he’s the primary reason why the movie succeeds, despite its critical flaws.
Now, this is where I’m probably going to diverge from the those who have given this movie such glowing reviews. I may even upset some of my fellow Marvel fans who recoil at the idea of an MCU movie faltering. However, I believe the flaws are there and are being overshadowed by factors beyond the scope of the movie.
To me, the biggest failure of this movie isn’t in how it tells Spider-Man’s story. It’s in how it develops Peter Parker’s story. The battle between Spider-Man and Mysterio is beautifully developed. It’s what happens when Peter is out of his mask where the story stagnates and it has everything to do with Zendaya’s character, “MJ.”
I put “MJ” in quotes because she is definitively not Mary Jane Watson, Spider-Man’s most famous love interest in the comics and the character that Kirsten Dunst portrayed in the first three Spider-Man movies. That’s not the issue, though. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” established her and Peter’s friends as something very different from the comics. It wouldn’t be the first time the MCU made such changes.
The problem with MJ, Peter, and their shared role in “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is how poorly their romantic sub-plot plays out. It’s not a trivial sub-plot, either. A good chunk of the plot involves Peter following this elaborate plan to tell MJ how he feels about her. On paper, it’s pretty romantic. In practice, it’s a catalyst for too many cringe-worthy moments.
There’s no polite way to say it. The romance between Peter and MJ in this movie is awful. I won’t say it’s as awful as the nonsensical babble we saw between Peter and Gwen in “Amazing Spider-Man,” but it’s pretty close and for the high standards of the MCU, it’s just unacceptable.
While “Spider-Man: Homecoming” did an admirable job of establishing the dynamics between Peter and MJ, it falls incredibly flat in “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” In fact, if you didn’t see “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” Peter’s efforts to get with MJ seem more obsessive than romantic. At one point, he becomes downright vindictive when someone else tries to get with her. It does not reflect well on Peter.
MJ isn’t much better. Zendaya is a great actress, but she comes off as flat and unemotional throughout this movie. Say what you will about Kirsten Dunst’s portrayal of Mary Jane, but she still displayed a wide range of emotions throughout three movies. Zendaya’s tone and facial expressions barely change throughout this movie.
In essence, there’s no real chemistry between Peter and MJ. Given how critical this relationship is for the plot of the movie, that’s not a trivial oversight. It frames their actions and their decisions as something petty and selfish. There’s never a sense that Peter and MJ make each other better. If anything, they’re liabilities to one another.
In both the comics and the previous movies, this is not how the romantic sub-plots play out. While Spider-Man’s relationships have always complicated his efforts to be a better superhero, they ultimately make him stronger. They make his decision more heroic and his triumphs more satisfying. In “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” the romance was more a handicap than a challenge.
Compared to how other romantic sub-plots in the MCU, Peter and MJ’s is by far one of the weakest. It’s established that they’re attracted to one another. That’s the critical first step in any romantic sub-plot. However, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” skips the part where they actually start caring for one another before they develop deeper feelings.
Again, that’s not a trivial oversight. Compare that to other relationships like Starlord and Gamora, Pepper Potts and Iron Man, or even Thor and Jane Foster. It starts with attraction. The characters flirt and tease one another. Then, at some point, that flirting turns into genuine care. They show concern and emotion when they see one another in danger. From there, deeper feelings emerge.
None of that happens with Peter and MJ. Their interactions lack drama, which limits the personal stakes for Spider-Man’s battle against Mysterio. It helps that there are other personal stakes besides MJ that guide this struggle. If anything, those stakes would be a lot more powerful if the sub-plot with MJ were completely removed.
As bad as this romantic sub-plot is, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” still works because so many other elements of the movie are well done. Mysterio is a great villain who really capitalizes on the post-Thanos landscape of the MCU. Peter’s supporting cast, from his teachers to his Aunt May to his best friend Ned, all get a chance to shine. They help give this movie the right impact.
Compared to other Spider-Man movies, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” definitely exceeds the quality of the two “Amazing Spider-Man” movies that came before it. I would also say it’s slightly better than “Spider-Man 3,” albeit barely. If I had to score this movie, I would give it a 6 out of 10. It’s great, but not amazing.
For the MCU, especially after “Avengers Endgame,” the standards for a great superhero movie have never been higher. This movie met many of those standards, but a major flaw in a key sub-plot kept it from exceeding those standards. While I doubt this will hinder the franchise, I believe it’s a flaw that will only get worse if it’s not addressed in the sequels.
If you see the mid-credits scene, then you know what I’m talking about.
Starting an epic journey is a daunting challenge. Keeping people engrossed in that journey for over a decade is exceedingly difficult. Ending that journey in a way that’s dramatic, appropriate, and satisfying is damn near impossible. Despite those insane stakes, that’s the primary goal of “Avengers Endgame.” It attempts to cap off the story that began in 2008 with “Iron Man.”
Without spoiling the many dramatic details of this three-hour cinematic experience, I can safely confirm that it did. “Avengers Endgame” achieved that seemingly impossible goal of completing a decade-spanning story that included 22 movies, a cast of top-notch actors, and one talking raccoon. It’s one of those feats that shouldn’t be possible, even with Disney’s deep pockets, but Marvel Studios pulled it off.
It isn’t hyperbole to say that “Avengers Endgame” is a historic cinematic achievement that fundamentally changes the standards for just how bold a movie can be. All the praise from fans and critics alike that this movie has garnered is well-earned, but still doesn’t do justice to what this movie achieved.
It’s not just another step in the ever-expanding saga that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This movie does not set the stage for another sequel or lay the groundwork for the next big battle between the Avengers and the next Thanos-level threat. The movie is true, polished ending that manages to beautifully encapsulate the scope and scale of the story it told.
As a life-long comic book fan and a fan of superhero media, going back to the days of Saturday morning cartoons, this movie was both satisfying and impactful. I came out of the theater with my heart still racing and my mind still reeling from what I just witnessed. Part of me was sad. Part of me was elated. In all, though, I felt like I’d completed a journey alongside these beloved characters.
Even if you’re not a fan of comics and only know these characters through the movies, “Avengers Endgame” still succeeds in terms of raw storytelling. Years of world-building and character development really come to ahead in this movie. The shared journeys of characters like Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Bruce Banner provide plenty of dramatic weight to everything that happens.
Make no mistake, though. A lot happens. This movie will test your bladder almost as much as it tests your heart. There are so many characters to juggle and many of them have their own arcs. Tony, Steve, Thor, and Hawkeye are all in wildly different places throughout the story, literally and figuratively. Coming together again in a cohesive plot takes time and effort, something the Russo brothers do not shy away from.
As a result, “Avengers Endgame” is very different structurally from “Avengers Infinity War.” Whereas “Avengers Infinity War” played out like unfolding battle with Thanos leading the charge, “Avengers Endgame” is very much a reaction to the aftermath of that battle. To say it left some traumatic scars would be the understatement of all understatements.
There’s no getting around it. Thanos won and the Avengers failed. Before anyone can even contemplate undoing the damage, these characters have to adjust to a world that has been decimated on an unimaginable scale. Processing, exploring, and reacting to that decimation is a big part of what makes that final showdown sufficiently epic.
That means are sizable parts of this movie that don’t involve Hulk smashing things, Captain America fighting Hydra agents, or Iron Man blowing stuff up. “Avengers Endgame” puts much more time and energy into character moments and interpersonal drama, which were fewer and less developed in “Avengers Infinity War.” However, none of this time ever feels wasted or drawn out.
It helps make that final showdown all the more meaningful. It’ll get you to cheer, gasp, cry, and cringe every step of the way. I can even attest that there are moments in this movie that got the people in the theater out of their seats and cheering. In all my experience with superhero movies, I can’t remember the last time a movie got people that emotional.
There’s a lot I can say about how “Avengers Endgame” succeeds in making the emotional investment of the past 22 movies pay off. I don’t think I need to belabor how important this component was in making this movie work in a satisfying, climactic manner. While the movie succeeds in this critical aspect, there are other noteworthy details.
In terms of pure entertainment value, it is not as great as “Avengers Infinity War.” I would even argue the first “Avengers” movie had more spectacle and was more cohesive, overall. There were times when “Avengers Endgame” felt somewhat chaotic, due to all the character arcs it had to balance. While it managed to juggle them all effectively, there’s only so much that can be done to keep that narrative concise.
It’s also worth noting that some character narratives were managed better than others. I won’t cite specific characters for spoiler reasons, but they fairly obvious within the first hour of the movie. I’m sure fans of certain characters will be conflicted by how things play out, but I doubt those same fans will be too disappointed.
Fans of the distinct humor that often shows up in Marvel Studios productions will also have plenty to laugh at. Granted, the bleak circumstances of the movie make that tricky, but moments are there and they never feel too forced. They’re not quite as numerous as they are in other MCU movies, but given the various plots of the story, I’d say there’s just enough to balance the overall tone.
There are some other flaws within this movie, but the extent of those flaws is never more than minor. It would require an extreme level of pettiness and nit-picking to use those flaws to undercut the movie. “Avengers Endgame” is not perfect, nor does it try to be. Its primary goal is to end this era of the MCU and it does so beautifully.
The ending will leave many with tears in their eyes, both from joy and sorrow. There’s equal amounts of tragedy and triumph. Certain characters get a happy ending. Others must deal with loss and tragedy. Overall, it’s a perfect blend of satisfying conclusion and bittersweet finality. It reinforces the notion that these characters are true heroes.
For a movie that begins under such bleak circumstances, the ultimate conclusion really solidifies “Avengers Endgame” as an incredible cinematic experience. If I had to score the movie, I would give it a 9 out of 10. It hits all the right dramatic notes, evokes all the right emotions, and succeeds on a level that few could’ve imagined 11 years ago.
Like Captain America himself, this movie was willing to do whatever it takes to complete this superhero saga for the ages. Moving forward, it’s hard to say what will come of the MCU, especially in wake of the Disney/Fox merger, but it’s safe to say that “Avengers Endgame” has set a bold new standard for just how great a superhero movie can be.
As I write these words, I am anxiously awaiting the premier of “Avengers Endgame.” I have my ticket and detailed plan for how I’m going to take in this historic movie that promises to break so many box office records. Just as I did with “Avengers Infinity War,” I wrote a sexy short story to celebrate this momentous cinematic achievement. Enjoy!
It seemed like just yesterday, but it had been nearly 11 years since that fateful day. Iron Man, a generic superhero movie starring a troubled actor in Robert Downey Jr., debuted and gave rise to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Few could’ve imagined that one movie would’ve spawned the biggest movie franchise in cinematic history. Even fewer could’ve imagined it would ultimately lead to a movie like Avengers Endgame. Allen Marco was among those select few, but the rise and dominance of the MCU had a more personal impact for him.
On the day Iron Man premiered, Allen was reeling from a potent combination college burnout and a broken heart. Early that morning, he learned that his ex-girlfriend, who he’d been dating since high school, had been cheating on him. He thought they’d been going through a rough patch. Apparently, she’d been trying to break up with him for months.
He was so devastated that he planned to spend the day sulking rather than seeing Iron Man with his older brother, who was in town to help an old roommate move. Whether by fate or luck, his brother sprained his ankle and couldn’t go. Rather than throw away his ticket, he convinced Allen to take his roommate’s sister, Ashley.
Initially, Allen refused. Then, his brother insisted that he take her out as a favor, claiming Ashley had been a recluse since getting booted from the university’s championship swim team. She’d become a constant nuisance for her brother and all his friends, by default. Allen’s brother never could’ve imagined that coaxing him into a date with his roommate’s sister would spawn a love that had blossomed as well as the MCU.
“Here we are,” Allen said as he pulled into the parking lot of the same movie theater where that love began, “eleven years later, we’re back to where it all began.”
“I know,” Ashley said distantly. “Amazing, isn’t it? Three Iron Man movies, three Avengers movies, three Thor movies, three Captain America movies…”
“Don’t forget Black Panther, Ant-Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy,” he pointed out.
“I haven’t. I doubt I ever will. How could I when you proposed to me after the first Avengers movie? Or when I told you I was pregnant after seeing Age of Ultron?”
“It feels like a movie, in and of itself…albeit a cheesy one,” Allen said with a laugh.
“I’d still see it,” Ashley said, laughing as well and casting him a loving smile.
As he parked their car in main garage, Allen continued to marvel – a fitting term, given the context of their relationship – at how far they’d come. It was early in the morning, just after sunrise. The theater wasn’t even open, nor was the strip mall around it. There were practically no cars in the garage, but that was sure to change as Marvel fans gathered for the premier. It wouldn’t be the first time, either.
Allen still remembered pulling into the same garage 11 years ago, driving that beat-up old Buick he should’ve gotten rid of years ago. He was in such a rotten mood that day. It didn’t help that it was pouring rain and he had college finals to worry about. Seeing any movie, let alone Iron Man, felt like a chore.
Then, he saw Ashley. That moment had an impact almost as great as that first post-credits scene where Nick Fury teased the Avengers. It sparked an intrigue that only grew and expanded over time.
“This is bigger than any other Marvel movie,” Allen said. “I know I said the same thing about Infinity War, but this is different and not just with respect to who I fought to get these tickets.”
“You don’t need to tell me, Allen,” said Ashley. “I had to cash in several favors at the office and make several promises to my boss in order to get this day off.”
“It’s still worth repeating. They’re saying that Avengers Endgame is the end of an era. Everything that’s been building since that first movie 11 years ago…that movie that brought us together…culminates with this.”
“You hoping it inspires a similar culmination with us?” she teased.
“That’s just it. It doesn’t have to. Our love culminated years ago on our wedding day. This movie means something else.”
Upon turning off the engine, Allen undid his seatbelt and set the keys aside. He then reached over and grasped the hands of the woman who’d become the love of his life after 11 eventful years. Looking at her and recalling how far they’d come, it seemed like a journey worthy of any superhero.
Meeting Ashley was like Robert Downy Jr. getting the part of Tony Stark. It just fit so perfectly. He’d been a fan of superheroes since he was a kid and Ashley had grown curious about them, thanks to her comic book loving brother. Seeing that first Iron Man movie together wasn’t just thrilling from a pure movie-going standpoint. Experiencing it together acted as a catalyst for a deeper connection, one that ultimately blossomed into something every bit as vast as any cinematic universe.
“Ashley, before I met you, I honestly didn’t know what it meant to love someone,” Allen said, giving her hand a warm squeeze to convey the depths of his affection. “In some ways, I was like Tony Stark or Thor in the first movie…thinking the world worked a certain way, but not seeing the flaws that were right in front of me.”
“I’d say you were more like Starlord, at least in terms of dance skills,” Ashley said with a slight tease, “but I haven’t forgotten. It’s not like I was in a good 11 years ago, either. I might as well have been Erik Killmonger in Black Panther.”
“And like those characters, we needed something to jar us out of our stupor,” he went on. “We needed something to help us realize that we’d been going about things all wrong. It might not have involved an infinity stone or a magic hammer, but it was every bit as powerful.”
“Did you really just compare us to Mjolnir?”
“Why not? It was enchanted to respond only to the worthy. That’s not too different from love. Many try hard to seek someone’s love, but sometimes it’s just not there and trying to force it only results in frustration.”
“Kind of like how I reacted to getting booted from the swim team,” Ashley added.
“They were harsh lessons…the kind every hero learns in these movies. We just had to learn ours together.”
Allen reached over and caressed her face, lovingly trailing his fingers down her cheek, just like he’d done at their Avengers-themed wedding six years ago. Ashley smiled and blushed almost as much as she’d done on that fateful day, unable to contain the joy that he often evoked in her. It didn’t just make him worthy in a Thor sort of way. It affirmed what he’d come to know about their relationship and love, in general.
“Before you, I thought love was something that just happened naturally.” Allen said distantly. “You find someone you like, you follow a few simple rules, and you just wait for it to blossom. It wasn’t magical or extraordinary. It was just part of the process.”
“Not exactly romantic, but not entirely flawed, either,” Ashley said.
“Every superhero usually sees their world in a similar way, assuming they know how it works and making every excuse when it doesn’t. Then, something comes along that hits you like an invading alien army, a treacherous sibling, or killer robot. You can’t make excuses. You have to see what you once refused to see…accept what you didn’t want to accept.”
“And what did you see in me?”
Her tone became more serious as well. The way she looked at him was so different compared to that fateful day when they saw Iron Man. It wasn’t immediately clear what they’d found together, but the signs were there.
In his wife’s eyes, he saw the memories of that day play out in perfect detail. They approached one another at the theater, uncertain and confused. They weren’t sure what to make of one another. It was hardly love at first sight. Then, they watched the movie and it got them talking.
One moment, they were walking out of the theater, talking about how foolish Tony Stark was to reveal his identity at the end. The next, they were sitting at a fast food restaurant across the street, talking about whether Iron Man being a superhero made him a champion or an enemy of defense contractors. Before they knew it, they’d spent all night together, engrossed in conversation.
From that conversation, a spark emerged. Allen could still see traces of that spark in her eyes, even after 11 years, a wedding, full-time careers, and a beautiful baby boy they’d named Stanley. What happened that night sent them on a hero’s journey of their own. To some extent, it was beginning all over again with Avengers Endgame.
“I saw in you how wrong I’d been…how stupid I’d been, even,” Allen said.
“That’s not fair. I didn’t even believe love existed before I met you. How stupid is that?” Ashley argued.
“Not believing is better than being wrong,” he told her, “and believe me, I’d been very wrong. With every girl I’d been with, I kept pushing to hold onto this feeling I thought was real love. Hell, I thought if I wasn’t pushing, then it wasn’t real.”
“That’s not stupid, Allen…misguided, but not stupid.”
“Call it whatever you want. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised when it all went wrong. I was like Hulk trying to lift Thor’s hammer, frustrating myself and everyone around me by trying to force something that just wasn’t there.”
“God, my heart still skips a beat when I think of that scene,” Ashley snicker.
“With you, it finally became clear. Being in love is like being worthy. It’s only there when you realize how strong it is…how deep it runs.”
“Keep going and I’m going to break down like I did at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy 2.”
“After 11 years, it’s worth remembering and even celebrating. Just like nobody thought we’d get a movie like Avengers Endgame, we never thought we’d find a love as deep as ours.”
Allen leaned in closer, now cupping her face with both hands. The past 11 years had been a profound journey, not unlike that of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From heartbreak and despair to love and fulfillment, he and Ashley had come a long way. Avengers Endgame marked both the completion of one journey and the start of another.
“Coming back to this theater, complete with non-refundable tickets, I marvel at everything we’ve achieved together,” he told her.
“Marveling at our love,” she said to him, “that’s just so fitting.”
“We stopped assuming we knew what love was supposed to be. We followed our own rules, forging love on our terms. And damn it, it worked. It couldn’t have worked better if Steve Rogers himself had blessed it.”
“Even my brother was surprised by how hard I feel for you.”
“That’s because shared in that journey. We dared to argue and disagree, but we always assembled when it counted. It was never just about me or you. It was always about us…together.”
“Together,” she repeated.
It sounded like a speech that Captain America would give before the final battle against Thanos. To anyone else, it would’ve been a needlessly melodramatic comment from someone who’d seen the first Avengers movie six times in theaters. To Ashley, the woman he’d met the day the Marvel Cinematic Universe began, it was the most loving sentiment any man could express.
She affirmed her appreciation of that sentiment in the form of a passionate kiss. Snaking her arms around his neck, he pulled him in close and shared with him the same gesture that had capped off that fateful first date. That kiss had been on a whim, but it ended up inspiring something far greater. Captain America would be proud.
As she kissed him and he kissed back, Ashley undid her seatbelt and deepened the embrace. Unlike his old Buick, their SUV had much more room and much greater comfort. It allowed Ashley to slip out of the passenger’s seat and join him on the driver’s side, straddling his waist and grinding her pelvis against his, inspiring another reaction that was far more basic.
Allen did not avoid it. He embraced it with her, slipping his arms around her waist and feeling up her favorite Captain Marvel shirt. In doing so, he found out that she wasn’t wearing a bra, which effectively communicated her intentions.
“Ashley,” Allen gasped, abruptly breaking the kiss.
“Yes, my marvelous husband?” Ashley replied in a deep, seductive tone.
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’re attempting the same sexy stunt we pulled after seeing the first Thor movie,” he pointed out.
“It’s not my fault seeing Chris Hemsworth shirtless made me so horny,” she teased. “Plus, you did park the car in this garage…early in the morning…with nobody else in sight.”
“Well, I wasn’t planning on something shady, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“Allen, you parked in the exact same spot you did on our first date. You think I missed the subtext?”
Allen smiled and blushed, as he often did when Ashley surmised his intentions. She knew him so well. There was rarely any ambiguity, especially when it came to their sex life. Just like their first date, the spark came from a Marvel movie.
Their first time together had come the night the Incredible Hulk premiered, just a few months after Iron Man. That only lit the fuse of their passion for one another. Over the years, they’d explored it in many other ways, some of which included role playing and Black Widow themed lingerie. He was also fairly certain that their son had been conceived the night they saw Guardians of the Galaxy.
By parking in the same parking spot he had nearly 11 years ago on their first date, Allen expected to evoke plenty of emotions. He didn’t assume it would turn her on to the point where she’d want to have sex in the car – something they’d done more than once, including on the night the first Thor movie premiered – but a part of him had hoped it would.
“Well, we’ve got plenty of time to kill before we start camping out,” Allen said, as though it were the most logical thing in the world.
“And you did clean out the back yesterday,” she added, “including that mess Stanley made last week.”
“And I made sure it stayed clean when we dropped him off with your parents,” he said, “so if you want to start fantasizing about a shirtless Chris Hemsworth again…”
He let his words trail off, allowing Ashley to fill in the blanks, as only she could. He could tell by that sultry grin that she was already picturing Chris Hemsworth’s muscular body. That was okay with him because she knew he pictured Scarlet Johansson in a skin-tight catsuit during those same moments. Such lurid thoughts, inspired by 11 years of movies, had the desired effect.
Their excitement for Avengers Endgame had triggered an excitement for one another.
Their passions had been ignited.
They had time, energy, and 11 years of anticipation to build on.
“The back seat…now!” Ashley said in a voice as assertive as Thanos.
Like a couple of horny teenagers, he and his marvelous wife eagerly crawled into the back of the SUV. Before she even reached the seat, Ashley undid her pants and pulled them down, revealing that she was wearing that sexy Black Widow themed thong he’d gotten for their anniversary. He didn’t think he could get more turned on by the prospect of sex with his wife in a car on the day an Avengers movie premiered. Once again, Ashly found a way to raise the bar.
By the time they reached the back seat of the SUV, her pants were at her ankles and Allen was removing his Avengers-themed shirt. While he didn’t have the same build as Chris Hemsworth or Chris Evans, he liked to think he kept up as anyone without superpowers could. Ashley certainly appreciated his efforts, helping him remove his shirt before pulling him into her loving grasp.
She wasn’t subtle about her intentions, either. She threw her legs around his waist and latched onto his shoulders, pulling him onto the seat with her where she kissed him passionately, using plenty of tongue and making those seductive noises that got his blood flowing in all the right directions.
Even with such escalating arousal, it was tricky to maneuver within the confines of the back seat. However, an SUV was more spacious than his old Buick. Having not forgotten how he and Ashley managed to make love in that old car on the night of the Thor movie, he followed a similar approach to that fateful night.
“Feeling worthy, yet?” Allen whispered into her ear, doing his best Thor impression.
“Yes…very worthy,” Ashley replied, doing her best Jane Foster impression.
Those were the exact same words they’d said on that night. Also like that night, he channeled his inner superhero, laying her down on the seat so that her head rested right up against the passenger window. Ashley seemed to appreciate that approach, kissing him harder and pawing his chest and back intently. He matched her growing passion, reaching up her Captain Marvel shirt and fondling her breasts.
A heated make-out session continued, not unlike the many they’d shared when they started dating. Whether it was excitement over Avengers Endgame or just general horniness, he and Ashley felt 10 years younger. They were all over each other, kissing and fondling one another, building up both arousal and passion. Soon, the whole SUV felt 10 degrees hotter, making their remaining clothes feel unbearable.
“Mmm…take it off!” she moaned through muffled kissing. “Please, Allen…I’m hotter than Hulk’s temper.”
“Be calm, my love,” he assured her. “I’ll get you out of those clothes. And unlike Hulk, nothing will get ripped.”
True to his word, Allen got his beautiful wife out of those itchy clothes, pulling her shirt up off over her head and removing her panties. She had already broken out into a light sweat after all the foreplay, making her naked body glow in the early morning sun. She was such a beautiful sight, more so now than she was 11 years ago.
He wanted her so much. He wanted her like Thanos wanted the Infinity Stones. It didn’t just show in his admiration of her body. It also showed in the large bulge that had formed in his pants. Ashley, never one to fall too far behind in intimate moments, noticed as well.
“Your turn, my hulking stud!” she teased.
With reflexes that would’ve made Quicksilver envious, Ashely reached up and undid his pants with ease. Allen couldn’t slip out of them and his Iron Man boxer shorts fast enough. Upon kicking them off, he slipped back into his marvelous wife’s embrace, their naked bodies pressing together on the narrow seat.
More kissing and foreplay followed. Sweaty skin touched sweaty skin, her breasts pressing up against his chest in the increasingly-steamy confines of the car. Allen could feel how much she wanted him, her body aching for his as much as he longed for hers. In most intimate moments, they preferred to drag out the naked fondling, but the one unfolding before them demanded more urgency.
“You ready to assemble, my love?” Allen teased.
“Yes, my avenging lover!” Ashley gasped intently. “Please…assemble!”
With a confident grin and a bravado second only to Tony Stark, Allen got grasped his wife’s thighs, hitched her legs over his shoulder, and aligned his hulking manhood with her wet entrance. Then, using whatever leverage he could in the confines of the back seat, he thrust his body forward and entered her. In that instant, their flesh assembled.
“Oohhh Allen!” Ashely moaned. “My hero!”
“Mmm…speak for yourself,” he said with a grunt.
For a moment, he savored their intimate union, soaking in that hot, moist feeling around his member. The desire now burning with the intensity of a Hulk-led rampage, Allen followed those desires further, moving his body and establishing an intimate rhythm. Ashley eagerly supplemented his efforts, grabbing onto his shoulders and arching her lower body in accord with every motion.
Through their shared goal of expressing the love, their sex became an act of teamwork. The Avengers would be proud. Together, he and Ashley rocked the SUV, the rhythm of their passion building more sweat and heat. The windows were already fogging up. The air grew sticky and muggy with the scent of sex. It was similar to the ambience they’d created on their first time together. After 11 years and 21 MCU movies, it was every bit as satisfying.
Just like that fateful night years ago in the back seat of his dirty car, he and Ashley made the most of the intimate setting. They drew it out like a battle scene in an Avenger movie, going at it from every angle they could. Channeling his inner Nick Fury, he made use of all the intel he had on his wife’s proclivities.
She liked it when he nibbled around her neck.
She liked it when he grunted like the Hulk in her ear.
She loved it when he squeezed her butt and held her waist up so that he could thrust into her at just the right angle.
“Ooh yes!” she exclaimed. “By Thor’s hammer, just like that! Smash that pussy…just like that!”
Allen gladly reciprocated. She knew his kinks just as well, namely how she hooked her legs around his waist, just as Black Widow did to Justin Hammer’s henchmen in Iron Man 2. The extra leverage even allowed her to hold her up in his arms and bounce him along his cock, rocking the car even harder. It also allowed them to really draw out their sex, as if to show how good they’d become at making love to one another. It definitely showed in terms of passion, stamina, and pleasure.
It got so intense and energetic, more so than most lovers could hope for after 11 years together. It was a testament to the love they’d assembled, growing and blossoming like the MCU had over the years. Avengers Endgame was supposed to be the final chapter in that saga. For their love, it was just another milestone.
“Allen…my marvelous husband…I’m close,” she panted in the midst of their heated movements.
“Me too, Ashley,” he grunted. “I’m so…so close.”
“Let’s…do it together. Let’s…truly…assemble!”
Her choice of words couldn’t have been more perfect. It gave Allen even greater motivation to carry his lover to that special threshold and beyond. With their naked bodies in an upright position, him bouncing her pelvis up and down to work her womanhood along his manly length, he pulled out all the stops. He kissed, caressed, and stimulated her until that euphoric feeling washed over them.
Finally, in an instant as powerful as Thanos’ famous snap in Avengers Infinity War, Ashely climaxed in his arms. As soon as he felt that intense throbbing in her lower body, along with the extra tightness that came with it, he crossed that special threshold as well and joined her in the ecstasy.
“Oohhh assemble!” they both exclaim.
It was an odd, but fitting proclamation. Their love began thanks to the Avengers movies. Now, on the eve of the biggest to date, it culminated once more.
Their shared release was uniquely satisfying. Allen felt his love tremble in her arms, throwing her head back and raking her nails down his back as the sensations coursed through her. He admired the sight as he took in the hot flood of sensations that erupted within his core, spreading from head to toe like a ball of blissful fire. The heat of their ecstasy, as well as the heat they’d made together, had caused much of the windows to fog up. Even though the car had stopped bouncing, the scent of their lovemaking lingered heavily in the vehicle.
“I love you, Ashley,” said Allen.
“I love you too, Allen,” Ashley replied. “After 11 years, 21 movies, and a fondness for superhero movies that everyone in my family finds weird…our love has come so far.”
“Like Iron Man…like Thor…like Captain America,” he pointed out.
“Except their journeys are ending. Ours is still going…and growing.”
“God, I love how you tie our sex life into superhero movies.”
“I wasn’t just referring to our sex life, but it still works!”
They shared a joyous laugh. Allen then kissed his wife again, deepening their embrace, their naked flesh remaining wondrously entwined. Just 11 years ago, it was hard to imagine being so in love with someone. It was just as hard to imagine that an entire cinematic universe based on superheroes could grow to such heights. On both counts, he and Ashley saw that it was both possible and achievable.
Now, on the eve of the Avengers final battle, they celebrated those achievements. They still had plenty of time to kill before getting in line and waiting for the premier of Avengers Endgame. Thankfully, they also had the love and passion to do plenty of avenging in the meantime.
Every Wednesday, a new batch of comic books comes out to bring a badly-needed dose of awesome to a world that can never have too much. Not all of them are generic superhero comics. Not all of them are cheap kid-friendly comics full of talking animals and princesses, either. However, they all contribute to the overall awesome in their own unique way.
This week has more going for it than most. While new comics are certainly a joy to fans of superhero media, the upcoming release of “Avengers Endgame” is, by far, the bigger event. I would go so far as to argue that it’s the biggest event in the history of the superhero genre. However, that event wouldn’t be possible without the comics that birthed these iconic characters.
This week, one character is destined to stand out over everyone else and he’s definitely not a hero. He is Thanos, the Mad Titan who brings death, destruction, and wrath wherever he goes. He brought the Marvel Cinematic Universe to its knees in “Avengers Infinity War.” He’s done it more than a few times in the comics as well. However, “Thanos #1” dares to tell a different kind of story.
In this story, Thanos is still the death-loving, power-mad titan he’s always been. A good chunk of the narrative is spent reinforcing this in ways as brutal as anyone would expect of the Mad Titan. That brutality is important, but not just to Thanos. This story is more about Gamora than it is about him.
“Thanos #1” isn’t just some extended flashback that reinforces how menacing Thanos is or why he’s one of Marvel’s greatest villains. This is Gamora telling her story about how she became the most dangerous woman in the universe under his guidance. It’s definitely a story worth telling and writer, Tini Howard, doesn’t gloss over the gruesome details.
Through Gamora, we see that Thanos isn’t just a cruel, mass murderer. He really is mad on many levels. There are times when he kills with a goal in mind. While that goal isn’t always logical, he does show that he knows how to employ tactics and he knows how to lead other killers into battle.
Then, there are the times when he just kills because he is not a stable mind. It doesn’t matter if it costs him valuable soldiers and crew members. He kills for the same reason other people collect Star Wars toys. He’s obsessed with it. In the same way some fans can never have too many Darth Vader action figures, Thanos can never have too much death.
Howard does plenty to flesh out this side of Thanos. By reinforcing the extent of Thanos’ madness, it makes Gamora’s role a lot more meaningful. That meaning is important because Thanos shows, time and again, that he’ll kill anyone and everyone without a second thought. Whether it’s an entire planet of pacifists or his own crew of murder-happy minions, he does not hesitate for a second when that murder itch strikes.
However, he does hesitate when he encounters Gamora. It’s not out of compassion or pity, either. Something about her stands out that sets her apart from the countless victims Thanos has killed throughout the cosmos. It’s not immediately apparent. It’s also substantially different than what we saw in “Avengers Infinity War,” but the underlying theme is the same.
It still carries dramatic weight and the artwork of Ariel Olivetti nicely captures that drama. Gamora, who narrates the story, doesn’t portray herself as an impressionable victim who was eager for a power-hungry madman to corrupt her. She was, by and large, just a young girl trying to escape a massacre with her family.
She didn’t come from a warrior culture. She didn’t have a violent streak in her. She was, by all accounts, just an ordinary alien woman who wanted to live peacefully in the only world she’d ever known. For her to become the most deadly woman in the universe, she had to be forced down that path and molded in the most brutal way possible.
It’s yet another testament to just how devious Thanos is, both in the comics and the movies. He’s not just capable of leading a team of murderers from one slaughter to another. He’s also capable of turning an otherwise innocent woman into one of the most deadly killers in the universe.
“Thanos #1” is one of those comics that came out at the best possible time. Thanks to the events of “Avengers Infinity War” and the upcoming release of “Avengers Endgame,” the extent of Thanos’ villainy has become a major component of the superhero genre. He is the standard by which other villains are measured now and, like the movies, Gamora is part of that story.
Despite the differences between Thanos in the movies and Thanos in the comics, they share a common link through Gamora. She is an integral part of his journey, as a villain. She embodies just how much Thanos’ cruelty can shape and mold those around him. She is who she is because of Thanos and, as much as she hates it, he defines her.
Gamora’s story is not a pleasant one, but “Thanos #1” proves that it’s worth telling. At a time when all things Marvel are fueled by all things Thanos, the timing couldn’t be better for such a story.
What can be said about the Marvel Cinematic Universe that hasn’t already been said, affirmed, or celebrated? I know I’ve said plenty about it, both in glowing terms and with real concern. Being a fan of superhero comics and the superhero genre, in general, I don’t think I can add much more to the near-cosmic status of this cinematic achievement.
The support of the fans and the billions made at the box office speaks for itself. Say what you will about Disney’s desire to exploit fandoms out of their money. They know how to give the people what they want. Between the recent success of “Captain Marvel” and the insane expectations surrounding “Avengers Endgame,” it’s hard to imagine this decade-spanning franchise ascending to greater heights.
I believe it will, though. I also believe that part of that ascension will involve pitting the Avengers against the X-Men in a clash that is sure to rock the foundations of the MCU. I know that’s somewhat of a reversal of my previous opinions, but recent events have led me to reconsider my position on the Avengers fighting the X-Men.
This isn’t just me, a passionate fan, speculating on what I think will happen once “Avengers Endgame” and the Disney/Fox merger is final. We already know that the X-Men and Fantastic Four are scheduled to arrive in the MCU at some point. It’s the impact they’ll have that’ll set the tone for the future of the MCU and there are already rumors about that impact swirling.
Now, all internet rumors should be taken with the smallest grains of salt, but according to We Got This Covered, a site with a mixed reputation at best, the top brass at Marvel Studios are already plotting a future Avengers vs. X-Men movie. If true, in whole or in part, it would be a bold move, even by the lofty standards of Marvel and their Disney overlords.
It would definitely be a gamble, that’s for sure. That’s because the Avengers and X-Men have clashed in the comics before. There was even a major crossover event entitled “Avengers vs. X-Men” back in 2012. While I won’t get into the specifics surrounding that event, I will go on record as saying that it’s not one of those iconic Marvel stories that fans hold dear.
In fact, “Avengers vs. X-Men” is probably the most controversial and divisive story Marvel has told in the past 15 years. It’s not just because it pitted two iconic superhero teams against one another for reasons that weren’t properly fleshed out. It marked the point where heroes fighting other heroes officially got old.
It doesn’t help that the MCU already had a major clash like that with “Captain America: Civil War.” It helps even less that “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” burned fans out even more on the topic. However, by the time Marvel and Disney get around to making an Avengers vs. X-Men movie, I believe the time will be right to tell this story.
Right now, the MCU is in a bit of a transition. “Avengers Endgame” is set to conclude the story that began with “Iron Man” back in 2008. The arrival of the X-Men and the Fantastic Four in the MCU hasn’t even begun yet and the powerful voices at Marvel Studios have already indicated that they’ll be starting from scratch.
Whatever form their arrival takes, it’s sure to take the MCU in new directions. However, I believe an Avengers vs. X-Men movie would unite the new aspects of the franchise with the old. It would act as a catalyst, of sorts, to connect the stories of the present to those in the past. If done right, it could carry the MCU to heights that Thanos himself couldn’t have achieved.
While I am not a fan of how the conflict played out in the comics, I believe the likes of Kevin Feige and Laura Shuler Donner could craft a superhero battle for the ages that will leave fans like me excited for another decade. What follows are my top five reasons why I believe Marvel and Disney should pursue Avengers vs. X-Men movie.
I concede there are many who don’t share my sentiments. I welcome any comments arguing to the contrary. For now, though, this is why I believe such a movie would fit perfectly into the cinematic marvel that is the MCU.
Reason #1: It Would Highlight (And Confront) The Discrepancies On How The World Approaches Superpowers
As soon as the X-Men arrive in the MCU, they’ll be faced with a frustrating double standard. Spider-Man has superpowers that he uses to swing around New York City, fight bad guys, and save the day. In general, he’s celebrated as a hero, along with most of the Avengers. The X-Men use their superpowers to do the same, but are labeled dangerous threats. What gives?
There are a lot of political and logistical reasons for this. Unlike other heroes, the X-Men are mutants. They were born with their powers. They’re part of an emerging sub-species that may or may not render homo sapiens extinct. That scares ordinary people more than some kid who just got superpowers in a random accident. How does society and established superhero teams deal with that?
It’s a relevant question and one the Inhumans failed miserably at addressing. Part of what made “Captain America: Civil War” such a compelling movie was that it didn’t avoid the complexities of this issue, acknowledging how difficult it is to hold people with superpowers accountable. That conflict was never fully resolved. In an Avengers vs. X-Men movie, the stakes would be even higher.
Unlike “Captain America: Civil War,” however, neither side can leave the conflict unresolved. Mutants will still emerge. People will superpowers will continue to exist. It puts iconic heroes in difficult positions that they can’t punch, stab, or smash their way out of and that often brings out the best and worst in these iconic characters.
Reason #2: It Would Raise The Stakes Surrounding Mutants In The MCU
In many ways, a clash with the Avengers would be the best way to show just how big an impact they’ve had on the MCU. Once the Avengers take notice, there’s no ignoring it anymore. Neither mutants nor the X-men would be able to operate in their own little niche of the MCU. They would have to play a larger part in a world that has already incurred a lot of damage from super-powered beings.
This sort of step is necessary in the overall narrative surrounding mutants in the MCU. It would be their coming out party, so to speak. It would show how far they’ve come and how much farther they have to go in terms of gaining legitimacy in the MCU. The X-Men, especially, have a lot to gain and a lot more to lose.
Unlike the Avengers, they can’t fall back on their reputation of having saved the world from Ultron or a Chitari invasion. They’ll be this upstart superhero team fighting to protect a group of vulnerable minorities who may or may not present a clear danger to those around them. It’ll be their chance to show that they belong on the same stage as the Avengers and the MCU will be better because of it.
Reason #3: It Would Intensify Rivalries And Ruin Friendships
There are plenty of rivalries in the comics that haven’t yet made their way into the MCU. Some are more prominent than others. The recent arrival of Captain Marvel lays the foundation for an especially big rivalry between her and Rogue, which would certainly add more personal stakes to an Avengers vs. X-men movie.
Beyond rivalries, the comics are full of friendships and connections that run quite deep. Wolverine had close personal ties to both Captain America and Black Widow in the comics. Storm has an extensive, albeit flawed, relationship with Black Panther. A number of X-Men have even been Avengers at some point.
Any clash between the Avengers and X-Men is sure to complicate every friendship and rivalry the two teams may have. Some of those connections will take time to develop. It’s very likely that the next phase of the MCU will probably focus on that in addition to integrating mutants into the MCU. An Avengers vs. X-men movie could simply act as a boiling point where it all comes to a head.
Reason #4: It Would Complicate What It Means To Be A Superhero (In A Good Way)
To some extent, the Avengers were lucky that Marvel Studios couldn’t use the X-Men in the early days of the MCU. In a world without mutants, being a superhero was less complicated. They just needed to use their powers and abilities in a heroic way. Then, they had to assemble and show that they could win wars against invading aliens.
The presence of an entire race of super-powered people, many of which are not inclined to be superheroes, adds a huge complication to the path towards heroism. The fact that mutants have powers presents them and non-mutant heroes with a conundrum.
Are mutants who don’t use their powers to be heroes irresponsible?
Are mutants who choose to use their powers for heroics on the same level as those who got their powers through another means?
These questions don’t have clear-cut answers. In a world where superpowers exist, mutants are a huge complication and the X-Men are on the front lines of it all. They try to inspire other mutants to do what they do while protecting those who choose a different path. They do so knowing that it only takes one mutant using their powers irresponsibility to do a lot of damage.
In an Avengers vs. X-Men movie, the very merits of being a superhero will suddenly be up for debate. That debate won’t likely be resolved with civil conversation and intelligent discourse. Whenever someone like Wolverine and the Hulk are involved, it’s a given there’s bound to be plenty of stabbing and smashing.
Reason #5: It Would Create New Opportunities For Better Villains (With Better Motivations)
Every clash between superheroes comes with a cost. “Captain America: Civil War” effectively divided the superhero community, which made them ill-prepared when Thanos arrived in “Avengers: Infinity War.” The comics followed a similar theme. After the original Civil War event, the entire world became vulnerable to a Skrull invasion.
A battle between the Avengers and X-Men will create a new host of vulnerabilities. For villains, it’s a golden opportunity to establish themselves in a world that is suddenly crowded with superheroes. While Thanos, Loki, and Killmonger all raised the bar for villainy, they couldn’t have emerged without the right opportunity.
With mutants, there aren’t just new opportunities. There are entirely new dynamics at work. It’s no longer a world in which superpowers are just complicated accidents. They can happen in individuals simply by being born. Within those dynamics, new kinds of villains with entirely new motivations can emerge.
Good villains are every bit as critical as good heroes, more so today than in previous eras. If the MCU is to continue to dominate, it needs to nurture the development of those villains while also creating vulnerabilities for them to exploit among heroes. An Avengers vs. X-Men movie would accomplish both.
There are probably other reasons I could list as to why I feel Marvel Studios should make this movie. There are probably plenty of other reasons why they shouldn’t. With the future of the MCU once again set to change after “Avengers Endgame,” the possibilities are vast. With the inclusion of the X-Men, and all the complications that come with them, it’s poised to evolve in bold new ways.
Soaring to new heights, venturing into uncharted territory, and achieving greater things always requires a great deal of risk. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll only get what you’ve always gotten and that’s just not enough for some people. For Marvel Studios, the gold standard by which all other movie studios are measured, it has to take those risks in order to expand its dominance into another decade.
A movie as big as “Avengers: Infinity War” or as diverse as “Black Panther” had high stakes on top of higher aspirations. They had to keep raising the bar that Marvel Studios had already raised to unprecedented heights. Those movies both succeeded and raked in record profits, but even those movies never faced challenges like the ones faced by “Captain Marvel.”
Without a doubt, this movie will go down as one of the riskiest movies Marvel Studios has ever made, which is saying something for the same studio that made an “Ant Man” movie. It’s not just because “Captain Marvel” is Marvel’s first female-led superhero movie, nor is it because DC set a pretty high bar with “Wonder Woman.”
“Captain Marvel” arrives with more baggage than any other superhero movie not associated with Joel Shumacher. In some respects, it’s coming out at the worst possible time. This is an era where gender politics are on a hair-trigger and features an actress who has been outspoken on where her political affiliations lie. It’s like bringing a tank of gasoline to a growing wildfire.
The context of this movie and its politics are already well-documented and I’ve made my opinions on it known. Beyond the politics, the heated gender debates, and coordinated efforts to tank this movie, there’s still one critical question that overrides all the baggage and burdens.
Is “Captain Marvel” a good movie?
Having seen it at a midnight showing in which the theater was quite packed, I can say in my humble opinion that yes. It is a good, entertaining movie. It doesn’t deviate too far from the Marvel Studios tradition of making superhero movies that are fun, entertaining, and heartfelt. However, “Captain Marvel” ends up achieving much more than that.
Before I go any further, I want to make a few comments about the heated politics surrounding this movie. I’m not going to focus too much on them, but I’m not going to avoid them, either. I get that some people will go into this movie with certain expectations and look for any excuse to justify those expectations. This is my response to those specific individuals.
No, this movie is not laced with radical feminist undertones.
No, this movie does not denigrate men or a specific race of men.
No, this movie does not make overtly political statements.
No, Carol Danvers is not a Mary Sue who is never allowed to fail or be wrong.
Yes, the movie is entertaining and fun in the tradition of good superhero movies.
Yes, the movie is respectful of the history and personality of the character.
Having said all that, I understand that there are a number of people who may disagree with every one of those statements. However, after seeing the movie and having time to digest all its high-flying details, I believe that doing so requires a level of outright pettiness that obscures just how good this movie is.
This movie does not have the luxury of expanding on a character who was previously introduced. Unlike Black Panther, Carol has nothing to build on when the movie starts. However, things move quickly once the action gets going. We find out early on that Carol is in a difficult situation, but tenuous situation. In addition, that situation helps further the world-building that is so distinct of the MCU.
We learn more about the Kree in the first 20 minutes of this movie than we have in any other Marvel movie, to date. They’ve been mentioned before in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but who they are and what they’re like is firmly established in “Captain Marvel.” Their iconic rivals, the Skrulls, are also introduced and it’s here where the movie really shines.
If you’re not familiar with the history of comics, it’s hard to overstate how critical the Kree/Skrull war is to the cosmic side of the Marvel universe. This massive war is something that Carol finds herself in the middle of and her role in it evolves over the course of the movie. Without getting too heavy into spoiler territory, it’s safe to say that this evolution is what helps make her Captain Marvel.
Carol’s story isn’t just about her seeking to fly higher, further, and faster. Through both flashbacks to her past and struggles in the present, her journey from being a loyal Kree warrior to Captain Marvel feels personal, even as it moves the story forward. At first, it feels like the story is on a predictable path. However, that changes, thanks largely to Carol’s the supporting cast.
This is where Samuel L. Jackson’s role as Nick Fury and Ben Mendelson’s role as Talos really complements the story. Their choices and their actions put Carol in a situation where she comes to some difficult realizations and has to make difficult decisions. In doing so, she becomes the hero that she needs to be, both for this movie and for the MCU.
It’s not unlike the evolution that other characters like Tony Stark and Thor have undergone. They start off with one particular outlook on their world. Then, they find themselves in a situation that undermines and even shatters what they thought was right and true. Rather than avoid the unpleasant implications, they confront them. That’s what heroes do and that’s what Carol Danvers does.
By the end of “Captain Marvel,” it’s easy to root for Carol. As she realizes her true power, she becomes the kind of hero that fits right in with the Avengers. The source of that power is not something she inherits or pursues. True to her comic book origins, her high-flying aspirations lead to an accident that comes close to destroying her. Also like the comics, it renders her vulnerable in unexpected ways.
Throughout the movie, Carol is guided and often frustrated by her limits. Some of those limits are things she puts on herself. Some are limits that others impose on her. Overcoming such limits, be they her own emotions or the actions of others, is the true strength of her character. It’s a strength that anyone, regardless of race, gender, or anything of the sort, can respect.
That’s not to say there aren’t flaws in that journey, along the way. In terms of a superhero origin movie, I would not put “Captain Marvel” above the ranks of “Batman Begins” or “Iron Man.” The movie does feel somewhat congested in several areas and the pacing, especially in the early parts of the movie, are a bit erratic.
There’s also an issue with villains in this movie, to the extent that they’re vague. Both the Skrulls and Jude Law’s, Yon-Rogg, aren’t going to give Thanos or Erik Killmonger a run for their money. Even the presence of a young Ronan the Accuser feels like a missed opportunity. While Carol has plenty of fights to pick in this movie, the lack of a major villain is somewhat glaring.
However, this doesn’t keep “Captain Marvel” from succeeding in the ways we’ve come to expect from Marvel Studios. The distinct bits of humor and tone are definitely there. The use of 90s nostalgia, from grunge rock to Blockbuster, works at every turn. The choice of music is spot on for every scene. Like “Captain America” and “Wonder Woman,” the time and place fits perfectly with the story.
By nearly every measure, “Captain Marvel” checks all the right boxes, in terms of a quality product from Marvel Studios. Again, it is possible for someone to single out certain scenes as proof that the movie is trying to make a political statement. However, I would argue that you could find similar scenes in movies like “Wonder Woman” and even “Deadpool.”
At the end of the day, if you’re really determined to hate this movie and label it as some sort of hit piece against a particular race or gender, you’ll find multiple excuses. However, it still requires a level of pettiness that requires someone to actively look for a reason to be offended and there’s already too much of that in this world.
If you watch “Captain Marvel” with the sole desire to be entertained and see the MCU evolve before your eyes, this movie will deliver in all the right ways. If I had to score this movie, I would give it a 4 out of 5. It’s a fun ride with a few bumps along the way, but is ultimately satisfying by the end. On top of that, the post-credits scene help further build the excitement for “Avengers: Endgame.”
Also, no matter your politics, the Stan Lee tribute at the beginning of the movie is beautiful.
What is happening to villains these days? That’s an entirely reasonable question to ask. Over the past decade, we’ve seen a remarkable shift in how we approach villainy in movies, TV, comic books, and video games. I’m not just talking about the superhero media, either. However, that happens to be the most visible manifestation of this change.
As a long-time fan of both superheroes and quality villains, I welcome this change. At the same time, I’m curious about where it’s leading and what it means for the future. Villains are as old as storytelling itself. From the Bible to “Star Wars,” these stories work best when there’s villainy to oppose the unfolding narrative. Villains have always evolved alongside the heroes that oppose them, but that evolution seems to be accelerating.
I’ve discussed the unique journey that villains undergo and how they set themselves apart from heroes. Traditionally, a villain’s primary purpose was to both oppose the hero and highlight how heroic they are. The sheer malice of characters like Lex Luthor help contrast the pure selflessness of characters like Superman. It’s easier to appreciate those heroes knowing they have to deal such malicious opponents.
Then, something remarkable happened. Audiences began demanding more of their villains. It wasn’t enough to just have a villain oppose a hero. People began wanting villains who were understandable and even relatable to some extent. Ironically, they wanted a villain they could root for.
That helped lead to characters like Walter White from “Breaking Bad.” His impact was so profound that I even called his influence the Walter White effect. However, I think there were others who paved the way for Walter White. If I had to pick one villain that helped kick-start this trend in villainy, it would be Heath Ledger’s Joker from “The Dark Knight.”
From this portrayal of villainy, the emerging state of villains emerged and it may very well set the tone for the future. On the surface, this version of the Joker wasn’t too different from the one who had existed in the comics for years. He’s dangerous, destructive, murderous, and callous, like many villains. Unlike most, though, he does what he does with a laugh and a smile.
What made this version of the Joker so memorable was the principles behind his madness. To him, society is corrupt and people aren’t inherently good. As such, he seeks to point out how laughable it is when others try to save it. Batman’s crusade against crime is the biggest joke of all, which helps drive their rivalry.
It’s a philosophy that few other than terrorists and extreme nihilists would buy into, but it’s one that’s understandable to some extent. We don’t have to agree with them or their methods. We just have to see their twisted logic. They can’t just be standard James Bond villains whose motives are indistinguishable from fascists, communists, or terrorists. There needs to be something more personal at work.
We saw plenty of that in 2018’s biggest movies. From “Black Panther” to “ Avengers: Infinity War” to “Incredibles 2,” the villains all had something personal at stake. Erik Killmonger saw his villainous actions as heroic. He wasn’t out to just take over Wakanda. He had a vision in mind that felt justified to some extent, especially to those familiar with real-world historical injustices.
Thanos raised the bar even more in “Avengers: Infinity War.” He never tries to come off as a hero, but he never sees his actions as villainous, either. In fact, when heroes like Dr. Strange call him out, he frames his desire to cull half the population in the universe as mercy. For him, it’s simple math. Half a population is better than no population at all.
These motivations, as devious they might be on paper, have some semblance of merit to it. Both Thanos and Killmonger think they’re doing the right thing. That significantly impacts how the heroes in their stories go about thwarting them, although I would argue that one story was more complete while the other remains unresolved.
In “Black Panther,” T’Challa doesn’t just stop at defeating Killmonger. He actually sees some of his enemy’s points and takes steps to address them. He doesn’t revert things back to the way they were. Wakanda doesn’t return to the same isolated state it had been at the start of the movie. Instead, he seeks to find a middle ground. That, I would argue, is the new template for how heroes defeat this kind of villain.
The resolution in “Avengers: Infinity War,” however, is not as clear. That’s largely due to the story not being complete. There is a sequel planned, but at no point in the three-hour spectacle did the Avengers attempt to prove Thanos wrong. They only ever tried to stop him. That oversight has not gone unnoticed by audiences.
This, in many ways, sums up the new dynamic between heroes in villains. It’s no longer enough for heroes to just defeat their adversaries. It’s not even enough for villains to be exceptionally devious. There have to be larger principles at work. It can’t just be reduced to general greed, ego, or bullying.
Thanos seeks to kill have the population because he believes that it’ll prevent the complete extinction of all life.
Erik Killmonger seeks to empower oppressed minorities to right past injustices.
Dr. Doom seeks to conquer the world because a world under his rule is the only one free of suffering and want. That’s actually canon in the comics.
It’s makes crafting compelling villains more difficult, but at the same time, it opens the door to more complexity. On top of that, it demands that audiences think beyond the good versus evil dynamic that has defined so many stories, going back to the days of fairy tales. It’s a challenge that some are certain to fail. Some already have, sadly.
It also sets the tone for future forms of villainy. How that villainy manifests is impossible to predict, but given the current trends, I think there’s room to speculate. At the heart of this emerging villainy is the idea that the current system just isn’t working. It’s so bad that the only viable option is to destroy and rebuild it. There’s no room, whatsoever, for reform.
This is where the heroes will have to evolve, as well. They can’t just play “Super Friends” and save the day. They have to actually make meaningful changes to move society forward. King T’Challa did that at the end of “Black Panther.” Other heroes need to be as willing. Otherwise, they won’t be able to call themselves heroes. They’re just defenders of a status quo may not be working as well as they think.
It’s an ideological struggle that parallels many real-world struggles. People today have less and less faith in established institutions. As a result, more people are falling sway to populist rhetoric that promises to break down the current system entirely. By and large, people today aren’t content with just preserving things as they are. They seek more meaningful change.
That presents a serious problem for heroes and a golden opportunity for villains. Historically, heroes haven’t been able to effect change beyond a certain point. Some of that is for logistical reasons. A hero can never create a functioning utopia without ending the story completely, which is something major media companies cannot have. There’s too much money to be made.
Logistics aside, the future of villainy will have plenty of raw materials to work with and plenty of societal angst to draw upon. Heroes who save the day, but do little else won’t be able to call themselves heroes in the world currently unfolding. Villains who have a real vision with understandable motivations will find themselves with more supporters than before.
It’s no longer taboo to root for the villain, especially when the heroes don’t confront the flaws in their rhetoric. In what seems prophetic now, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” may have put it best when Ultron stated:
“I’m sorry, I know you mean well. You just didn’t think it through. You want to protect the world, but you don’t want it to change.”
That’ll be the key to the future of villainy, change in a world that resists too much of it happening at once. It’ll make for some complicated villains, but it will definitely make the struggle of heroes even harder. However it plays out, I believe it’ll be worth watching.