Self Sacrifice And It’s Role In Comic Media

Tragic backstories, incredible feats, super powers and self sacrifice, those are the things needed to create any superhero. Whether they’re male or female, black or white or any shade in between, super powered people need those qualities to really be considered heroes. Which is something that I find kind of absurd, and I’ll tell you why, self sacrifice? Why is that on the list? Look at any superhero and at one point or another they have sacrificed themselves for the greater good, every single one. The really sad part is that some of them did it in terrible runs (Civil War II) or it didn’t really have any effect (Spider-Man). This also flies in the face of the death problem in comics. How someone can die and you just have to wait about a year before they’re back in printing. Everyone has done it, at one point or another. This week I’m going to take a look at some of the pointless sacrifices in modern comics and highlight some that I believe to be rightfully deserved.

Let’s start with the bad…

*This post will be photo heavy. I apologize in advance*

CIVIL WAR II

Let’s run down the body count of the heroes involved in Civil War II and what it meant:

War Machine: He sided with Captain Marvel and had his spine punched out of his body THROUGH his armour by Thanos. He died to give Tony and Carol a reason to fight.

Bruce Banner: Died by Clint Barton firing a specifically designed arrow through his head. He died to increase the stakes on both sides as Clint sided with Tony and She Hulk (Jennifer Walters, Bruce Banner’s cousin) sided with Carol.

Tony Stark: Died to allow Riri Williams to take up his position and add more diversity to the Avengers. He isn’t technically dead, just in a coma.

Rhodey’s Death at the hands of Thanos

Rhodey and Bruce’s deaths served no actually purpose except for to antagonize the sides against each other. In the original Civil War, Goliath (Bill Foster) was killed by the rogue Thor clone, Ragnarok, and both sides immediately stopped fighting. They held a funeral for him so they could pay their respects and refused to fight on the day of his funeral. Bruce was killed and the only thing that happened was Hawkeye went on trial for it, a trial in which he was acquitted.

Tony’s death served to introduce us to Riri and allow her the space to take up his mantle. Instead of Jarvis or Friday, she has a Tony Stark AI imbedded in her armour, which can also project a 3D model, that helps her with her tasks. Tony’s was the only death that served an actual purpose and like I said before, he isn’t actually dead.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN/ SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN

This one might confuse some, but I did like the Superior Spider-Man run. That being said, I also recognize that it was a completely ridiculous death and we all knew it wasn’t permanent. In Amazing Spider-Man #700, Otto Octavius succeeded in switching his and Peter’s consciousnesses. Otto was left in Peter’s superpowered younger body, and Peter was stuck in Otto’s older dying body. Before he passed, Peter instilled in Otto his sense of responsibility and his memories, swapping his place in the memories for Otto’s. Otto realizes the error of his villainous ways and vows that Peter is not leaving the City and it’s people in the hands of a villain. Throughout the beginning of the run you are led to believe that this change is permanent and that we are going to have to get used to this new Spider-Man, but that’s not the case. At the end of one of the earliest issues, we are shown a spectral Peter alive and fighting in Otto’s subconscious so that he might regain control of his body. While the whole run was great and gave us some great Spider-Man moments, for me, it felt like there was a giant ticking clock on every issue counting down until Peter regains control. Not really spoiler alert at all… he does, and Otto makes the final sacrifice to let Peter retain his body and duties as Spider-Man.

Peter instilling his values and beliefs on Otto Octavius prior to his death

Peter’s death appeared to be permanent, for all intents and purposes he was gone and he wasn’t coming back. I do believe that Marvel received a LOT of flack for this decision which is what prompted the return so quickly. I cannot say for sure, but normally someone isn’t returned to life so quickly after a run, it takes some time. Wolverine’s recent resurrection via the Space Stone, is a prime example of this.

SUPERMAN

The Death of Superman… What. A. PUBLICITY STUNT! I was a whopping 2 years old when DC Comics pulled this event out of their ass to sell more copies of their Action Comics title, over six million copies to be exact. It was ranked as the top selling comic in 1992 from any single publisher. Superman comic sales had been on the decline for several years following some very lackluster arcs and more interesting characters getting their time in the spotlight. The original idea was for Superman to marry Lois lane, but when the television show Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman produced an arc of the same type, the writing team wanted to do something different. They decided to kill the big blue boy scout which was completely unheard of at the time; this arc also marks the first inclusion of Doomsday into Superman mythology. DC Comics gave the writers and artists the go ahead and the death of one of their flagship characters was crafted. It involves Clark’s first encounter with Doomsday and his sacrifice to stop the monster. After going blow for blow across the majority of the United States, the fight ended up in Metropolis where the final few punches were thrown.

Superman’s Death

The arc ended with Superman and Doomsday both delivering a fatal blow to the other and the Man of Steel falling to his enemy. A funeral was held for him, his adoptive father suffered a fatal heart attack at the news, and he was buried under a massive monument to him. Thing is, he wasn’t dead. He was in a coma, where he remained until one of the imposter Supermen, claiming to be him reborn, stole his body and hid it in the Fortress of Solitude. This is also where we were given the Black suit fans were clamoring for in Justice League, as well as that God awful mullet that he sported for nearly a decade…but we just won’t talk about that. This death, like the others I’ve mentioned was just a pointless publicity stunt. There was NO WAY that DC Comics was going to kill one of their Trinity, and even if they did, not leave him dead. Before the end of the run, Superman is back to life and kicking ass with his Tennessee Tophat (mullet) in tow.

DESERVED SACRIFICES

JOHNNY STORM aka HUMAN TORCH

I will say, I’ve never really been a fan of the Fantastic Four. It has nothing to do with me disliking them or their powers, I just never got into their stories as a kid. I have seen all the movies… ugh. But when I heard of Johnny Storm’s death at the conclusion of the Three storyline, I was intrigued as to the circumstances and how it was handled. The basic rundown of the arc is that there were three events that the Fantastic Four needed to stop, due to these events happening simultaneously, they split the team. Reed and Sue were off doing their own mission and Johnny and Ben were left to deal with the Cult of the Negative Zone. The Cult had infiltrated the Baxter Building and opened a portal to the negative zone unleashing an Annihilation Wave through the portal at Johnny, Ben (currently de-powered) and the children of the future foundation. Franklin Richards managed to use his powers to kill the insectoids that had come through and with the help of the other children, they deduced the only way to close the portal was to do it from the Negative Zone side. Whoever wen through with that would never come back. Ben began to step through the portal saying he would be able to hold them off long enough to close the portal and for the kids to say bye to Reed and Sue for him. Johnny grabbed Ben and threw him back into the building, stepping through the portal and hitting the over ride to close the portal. As the portal closed the last thing the kids and Ben saw was Johnny igniting himself and declaring that he wasn’t scared of the million to one odds.

Johnny accepting the odds

Like I said, I was not as familiar with the Fantastic Four as i am with other heroes, but this is something that sticks. Johnny sacrificed himself to save his best friend, his niece, nephew, and a bunch of other children. Not to mention the whole universe! The Annihilation Wave numbered in the billions and would not be able to be stopped easily. Respect to the writers for this, it really helped to show that underneath his brash exterior johnny cares deeply. Johnny obviously didn’t stay dead, but his death lasted for a while.
*Following the reading of Johnny’s Last Will and Testament, wherein he asked Spider-Man to take his place on the team, Spider-Man joined the Fantastic Four and received his future foundation suit.*

Johnny’s final stand

BARRY ALLEN aka THE FLASH

Barry Allen is the fastest man alive, and it’s his speed that earned him one of the most memorable deaths in comics. During the storyline for Crisis on Infinite Earths, Barry was retired from being the Flash and living in the 30th century with his wife. As the Anti-Monitor began his attack on the multiverse, a series of natural disasters began occurring in the future. Barry returned to the 20th century to warn his friends that something was wrong because despite the futuristic technology created to stop them, the natural disasters continued to occur. As he arrived and was about to warn Batman, Barry was pulled into the Antimatter Universe by the Anti-Monitor. Barry was tortured by Psycho Pirate and forced to watch as the Antimatter cannon was prepared to fire at his universe. Barry managed to break free by using Psycho Pirate to turn the Anti-monitor’s servants against him. He began to run around the canon so fast that he was able to strip the outer casing off destroying the canon. Barry needed to run so incredibly fast to accomplish this feat, that he disintegrated and absorbed into the Speed Force. Barry’s sacrifice single handedly allowed for the heroes to triumph over the Anti-Monitor and win the battle. Due to him being absorbed by the Speed Force, there were no remains to bury. A funeral was held in his honour with a gravestone placed in new York City. Barry’s sacrifice was known the world over and served as the catalyst for Wally West (Kid Flash at the time) to take up his mentor’s mantle and become the new Flash.

Barry beginning to unravel the Anti-Monitor’s canon

Barry’s sacrifice is probably the most influential death in comics as a whole. His willingness to sacrifice himself to protect not only his friends and family but the entire multiverse is what cements Barry as one of the best heroes ever created.

Barry destroys the canon and dissolves into the Speed Force

*Following Barry’s death, he was absorbed into the Speed Force and became a bolt of Speed Force Lightning. This bolt traveled back in time and was the same one that struck Barry all those years ago giving him his powers. Yes. Barry gave himself his Flash powers.*

GREEN ARROW aka OLIVER QUEEN

Oliver Queen/Green Arrow has sky-rocketed into popularity with the show Arrow starring Stephen Amell in the title role. Most people don’t know how massively different the television Oliver and the comics Oliver are form each other. Television Oliver is much more of a Batman style, Dark and Brooding and very little humour. Comic book Oliver is much more outspoken, humourous and political. Ollie’s death may not have been the most glamorous or the most impactful but it still shows us a death done right. Oliver was recruited by the NSA and asked to infiltrate and eco-terrorist cell known as Eden Corps. After he earned their trust, he began a romantic relationship with the group’s leader Hyrax. Through his connections Ollie learned that Hyrax was loading abomb onto a plane bound for Metropolis. The yield of the bomb was large enough to destroy the City itself and everyone in it. Ollie boarded the plane and through a nasty firefight and battle with another undercover agent, Ollie was the only one alive. He attempted to disarm the bomb, but his arm became trapped in the device. Superman arrived on the plane and tried to help, but Ollie had triggered a fail-safe which would detonate the device if his arm was removed. As the plane neared Metropolis the only option appeared for Superman to dismember Ollie by ripping his arm off. Not wanting to become an amputee Ollie told him know and removed his hand from the device triggering the explosion. Superman was largely unharmed by the explosion but Oliver was completely vaporized. With nothing left to bury, a small ceremony was held in his honour with his son Connor firing an arrow into the air, where it landed marking Oliver’s final resting place. Connor decided to take up his father’s crusade and become the new Green Arrow.

Oliver refuses to let Superman rip his arm off

Oliver’s death was one of the events that didn’t affect many, but those it did, it hit hard. Hal Jordan, specifically, was hit very hard by Oliver’s death. So much so that when Hal went crazy and became Parallax, he used his power to bring Oliver back from the dead. This new Oliver lacked his soul, which was still in heaven and became very political in his vigilantism. Oliver may not be the most liked but he is by far one of the most left leaning heroes. His adventures had started becoming more and more about defending the disenfranchised and the downtrodden like Robin Hood, the character he was modeled after.

Death in comics is not permanent, or rarely is. Certain characters have remained dead for years, but most of them find their way back in one way or another, whether it’s a complete universe reset, Alien shapeshifters that kidnapped them years before, time travel or magic our Heroes tend to not stay dead for very long. I don’t mind when heroes bite the bullet and fall in their pursuit, I think it actually makes them more realistic. It shows that they aren’t invincible Gods that can shrug off any damage and keep going. That being said, if you’re going to kill of a character, do it for the right reasons and by God… DO IT WELL!

See you next week!

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“Whatever It Takes” – Avengers Endgame

I spent a large portion of the week waffling over two separate ideas for this week’s post and then my oldest friend Malcolm sent me a golden nugget that I could use… the new Avengers Trailer! Now for those who haven’t seen it, this isn’t a regular teaser like the last one they published, with all the heroes looking defeated, this is a full blown trailer! Check it out below:

Oh boy! So many goodies! Let’s dive in!

THE TRAILER

This one like the previous teaser starts with an exposition by Tony as he drifts through space following the defeat of the Avengers on Titan. He reminisces about how everything started with him 10 years ago (which we now know is false, thanks Captain Marvel) and how it’s going to end with him alone in space. He expands on how he has let Pepper down and hoped he would be able to pull one last amazing surprise out of the bag for her (implying his evading certain death on multiple occasions), but this time he sadly won’t.

While this exposition is going on we are shown black and white shots of Tony after he crashed during his initial escape from the Ten Rings in Iron Man from 2008. The interesting thing is that despite the rest of the shot being black and white, every instance of red is vibrant to show a great contrast.

Black Widow and Ronin/Hawkeye

We switch perspectives to see Steve’s beginnings with Peggy Carter voicing over saying ” The World has changed… none of us can go back. All we can do is our best… and sometimes the best we can do is to start over”. We are then shown shots of Steve in a support group for survivors of the snappening and a nice wholesome shot of Clint Barton (Hawkeye/Ronin) teaching his daughter how to shoot an arrow like him. This is a great shot that further highlights Clint as a family man and a nice Easter Egg to female Hawkeye (Kate Bishop) in the current Marvel comics. The final shot of Steve’s sequence comes from Peggy’s funeral where he was a pallbearer. Again, with keeping in the theme of Tony’s exposition, it’s in all black and white except for the colour red on the flag draped over Peggy’s casket.

Hawkeye training his daughter

Thor’s exposition comes accompanying black and white shots of Asgard, his father and him, and him watching as the other heroes disintegrate following the snappening. The colour red is again amplified in the bleak black and white frames.

We shift back to Steve saying that he has been telling everyone they should move on, but then he finishes with saying “…some do, but not us”. The colour returns to the trailer to show him sitting at a table in Avengers HQ with Black Widow and Bruce Banner. We see Scott Lang standing in front of his ex wife’s/ daughter’s home which looks like it hasn’t been touched in a while and staring at some missing flyers posted to the telephone pole.

Widow delivers a great line saying ” Even if there’s a small chance, we owe this to everyone who is not in this room, to try.” We are shown some various scenes of the heroes looking angered and resolved that they are going to try to set things right.

Steve responds by saying “We will. Whatever it takes”; which is echoed by Widow, Hawkeye, and Tony voicing over shots of them each individually. The Avengers theme blares through the trailer as we finally see the Avengers walking through the hangar at the Avengers HQ wearing their white Quantum suits. Cue the title card! The purple Avengers symbol is now being put together as the title ‘Endgame’ appears in a flash of purple light.

The final shot of the trailer shows Thor walking up behind Captain Marvel, her turning around and standing her ground as he calls Stormbreaker to him. When she smirks at him as he stands there resting on his hammer he looks up to the others in the room and says “I like this one”.

MY THOUGHTS AND PREDICTIONS

Oh boy. This trailer gets me super excited to see this movie! Although, for the first time in a LONG time, I will not be able to see it opening night. I’m going to have to wait a full 4 days before I’ll be able to see it! I digress…

First thing that’s very evident from this and the previous teaser is that despite having lost everything the Avengers are not going to let this slide. That should be evident, because they’re the Avengers, but this shows that while they may accept that they finally lost a fight, the war is far from over.

Captain America in his Quantum suit with Nebula in background

It’s sad to think that this is going to be the last time we see the original Avengers on screen together. We know all of their contracts have officially run out. There may have been some back room extensions on certain contracts (Scar Jo and her Widow solo film), but Chris Evans has stated that he is officially done as Captain America. RDJ is amazing as Tony Stark but let’s be honest, Marvel can’t afford to keep him around much longer. We have Captain Marvel and Black Panther set to take over as the leaders of the team following the departure of the founding members. They will be joined by newcomers: Dr. Strange, Spider-Man, Scarlett Witch, Ant-Man, Vision and maybe Hulk will stick around.

One theme that is running throughout the Marvel comics is the belief that the Avengers are invincible. This belief is held by the population of Earth and even some of the Avengers themselves, that no matter what happened they will pull through because of who they are. The MCU has taken this concept and incorporated it into their version of the team.

Infinity War showed us that while they may be Gods among humankind, they are far from infallible. Thor’s hubris led to Loki’s invasion of Earth, Tony’s narcissism created Ultron and despite their best efforts, they could not stop Thanos from getting all the stones and causing the snappening. As I’ve said before, they may be down, but they are far from out.

Tony said it best in Avengers from 2012, ” You’re missing the point. There is no throne. There is no version of this where you come out on top. Maybe your army comes and maybe it’s too much for us, but it’s all on you. Because if we can’t protect the Earth, you can be damn well sure we’ll avenge it.

BONUS

Rocket and War Machine

My new favourite power couple from this trailer is Rocket and War Machine! I don’t know what they’re looking at in this scene, but if Rocket is smiling it’s either really really good or really really bad, there is no in between…

Avengers:Endgame is released on April 26, 2019. See you next week!

Gender Disparity In Comics – Why We Need More Female Characters

With the release of Captain Marvel this week, I thought it would be a good time to discuss a topic that has been a hot button issue for many fans over the years, female inclusion in comics. Both Marvel and DC have some great female characters that have become mainstays in their franchises; Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn, Captain Marvel, Squirrel Girl, Jessica Cruz Green Lantern and Thor (yes, Thor is a woman now) are all amazing female characters that have not really received their time in the spotlight. Wonder Woman received a phenomenal film directed by Patty Jenkins starring Gal Gadot; Harley Quinn was in the Suicide Squad portrayed by the amazing Margot Robbie; and now Captain Marvel is making her big screen debut starring Brie Larson. The only problem is that all of these films are very recent, as in within the past 6 years, which is a huge issue. There have been female led comic book movies in the past but they were few and far between and most were not well received. Women have been present in comics for decades and they’re only now being recognized as equal members of their respective universes? Why? I can’t answer for the past, but their modern inclusion has a lot to do with the movement of society to recognize women as equals. Which goes in part with the second (and probably the the bigger deciding factor, for studios at least) female heroes are becoming more and more popular, which in turn… means more money. And everyone loves money…

Captain Marvel – Carol Danvers

This week I’m going to dive into the evident lack of female characters and how that’s changing in big ways.

THE OLD DAYS

It’s not a secret as to what exactly female characters were used for in comics before the modern push of equality. With the exception of a few, like Wonder Woman or Susan Storm, they were mostly relegated into one of either two camps: 1. Eye candy for the male readers or 2. Love interests for the male superheroes. Let’s take a look at the DC Superheroine Power Girl as an example of the first camp.

Power Girl is a Kryptonian from an alternate reality. She is the cousin to Superman and goes by the name of Kara Zor-L. She is for all intents and purposes the alternate version of the main Earth Supergirl. She is known for having a busty figure along with a very skin tight, long sleeved unitard with a gaping hole on her chest. She first appeared in 1976 and was drawn by artist Wally Wood. When he first began work on her title, Wood was not happy with being relegated from a position he really wanted to work on Power Girl. He noticed that most of the editors weren’t even paying attention to the things he submitted, so he began to draw Power Girl with increasing cleavage size each issue to see how long it would take to get noticed. Power Girl grew in popularity and it took about 8 issues before someone finally commented on the size of her chest, at which point Wood stopped expanding her assets. She remained as her busty well known version for many years and became a sort of hallmark for female figures in comics. Eventually, in 1992 in an issue of Justice League Europe, Power Girl explains why she chose her revealing costume (the skin tight unitard with the “boob window”); she actually responded with a very body positive and progressive response “[It] shows what I am: female, healthy. If men want to degrade themselves by staring, that’s their problem, I’m not going to apologize for it. ” Despite some artists changing her costume and trying to draw her in more realistic proportions, the changes never seem to pan out. These changes are always met with criticism by fans and she’s always restored to her large chested unitard wearing self.

Power Girl – Classic costume

Any good story has a love interest, it’s a fact. The Godfather, Inception, Departed, Star Wars, Big Lebowski, even The Lion King all have love stories as apart of their overall narratives. Romance can help to serve as a resonant point for fans and allow them to connect to the material through either personal experiences or personal desires. The only issue with including romances in the likes of comics is that for a LONG time, most of the main characters were males. This didn’t automatically mean that all female characters have to be relegated to love interests, but looking at the demographic of the readers, they were. There are a lot of female comic fans, but the male readers far outweigh them and as such, the Publishers cater to the largest fan base. This meant having women with unrealistic body proportions relegated to love interests and damsels in distress. There is no one company that did this, Image, DC, Marvel, and Dark Horse are all guilty of the same thing. Sue Storm, Mary Jane Watson, Janet Van Dyne, Star Fire, Carol Ferris, even Lois Lane were all secondary characters that were meant to be love interests for their male hero counterparts despite being some of the smartest and strongest women in comics. Hell, Carol Ferris literally became a supervillain because of her love interest, Hal Jordan Green Lantern, and their on again off again romance. I’m all for a good love story if it’s done properly, but I’m not a fan of taking either established female heroes/characters or making new ones specifically to be a love interest. It’s 2019, come on.

LACK OF FEMALE CHARACTERS

Harley Quinn main title run

This goes hand in hand with the previous point of love interests. There was/is a disturbing lack of female characters in mainstream comics. For years, the only female member of the Justice League was Wonder Woman until they added Black Canary in 1969. Janet Van Dyne/Wasp was included in the initial roster of the Avengers but she was relegated to secondary fiddle to her husband, Hank Pym/Ant-Man. Now I will say that the Avengers did always include at least one if not two female members, but again, they VERY RARELY ever took center stage and were normally always tied up in some sort of love plot. One of the most popular female characters in modern comics, Harley Quinn, started as a sidekick/love interest to the Joker in the Batman Animated Series. Since her introduction in the show, she has grown massively in popularity and has her own comic line. As a former psychologist, her comics lean heavy into her battle with her own mental issues, her acknowledgement of these issues and her working to make herself healthy.

One of the major pushes in the last few years to bring gender equality into comics actually came from Marvel with their introduction of a female Thor. Thor Odinson, as an Asgardian, is veritably ageless, so the only way to have him stop being The God of Thunder was to kill him or have him lose his power. Marvel didn’t want to kill off one of their more powerful and popular characters, so they did what I think was the best thing, and had him lose his power. The inscription on his hammer reads “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor”, and in support of the modern feminist movement had Jane Foster, Thor’s former lover and terminal cancer patient, pick the hammer up and assume the title of Thor God of Thunder. Thor has gone on to have some great adventures, was asked to join the Avengers, and even made the ultimate sacrifice to protect Midgard. She was since brought back by Unworthy Thor and Odin because they felt she deserved another chance.

Female Thor a.k.a. Jane Foster

As I said, there has been a large influx of prominent female characters in comics but they’re not all being given their own titles. Sure we have the staples like Harley Quinn, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, and Spider-Gwen; but most are still just background characters. In the MarvelNOW! publications, they had an amnesiac named Tamara Devoux assume the title of Captain Universe when the unipower made it’s way to her and chose her as its avatar. She had been in a coma for 10 years and had no memory of how she came to be in that state before becoming the embodiment of the universe itself. She became one of the most powerful forces in Marvel Comics and she wasn’t given her own title? Really? Come on…

BIG CHANGES

In recent years, major and independent comic companies alike have made a huge push for gender equality in their published works. While the top individual comic sales are predominantly male centered titles like: Batman, Action Comics, Amazing Spider-Man, Venom, and Return of Wolverine; the top 10 most purchased graphic novels and collections of 2018 feature a large amount of female led titles. Of the top 10 graphic novels in 2018, 5 of them featured women in lead roles. Saga, which earned itself 3 spots in the list is an epic space fantasy series published by Image Comics. In fact, all of the top graphic novels of 2018 are published from the same company, Image comics. Saga is the story of two characters on opposite sides of a galactic war that find love and risk all odds to raise a child that could end the conflict. It has received amazing reviews with Comixology giving it a 5/5 as well as Comicbook Roundup giving it a 9/10. It won a total of 13 awards from 2013 to 2018 with several others going to Fiona Staples for her artwork and to Brian K. Vaughan for his writing.

Saga vol. 1

Not only are we seeing more female led comic titles, but there are more and more female creators being added to existing titles as well. Creators like Kelly Thompson, Gail Simone, Seanan McGuire & Joëlle Jones are all making huge strides in the industry and delivering some great content that fans love. Margaret Stohl has been working on Captain Marvel since 2016 and her work has been regarded as some of the best the character has seen since G. Willow Wilson created her. Wilson is actually currently heading up the run of Wonder Woman for DC Comics and has been killing it with her stories in their Rebirth initiative.

For those who might not be interested in the print form, we are also seeing a large influx of female led movies and female created movies. Wonder Woman by Patty Jenkins was one of the best comic book movies in the past 10 years and her highly anticipated sequel should garner just as much praise. We are finally getting a Captain Marvel movie which releases tonight across North America starring Brie Larson who made news recently by calling for more equality in the interviewer selections by the press for their exclusive film interviews. We are also getting another addition to the DC Comics movie universe with Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) which just finished principal photography and is going into full production mode very shortly.

New 52 Wonder Woman

Despite the strides studios have made recently, we are still a far way away from true equality in comics and comic media. We need to purchase more female led/created content so that the studios realize that that type of material is not only wanted, but highly sought after. Hopefully soon, we can get the studios to update their some of their archaic thinking and move towards the elimination of gender disparity in comics.

That’s all for this week! See you next week!

Cyclops – A Fallen Hero Reborn

Recently in Marvel Comics, Cyclops, famed leader of one of their most popular properties, The X-Men, has had a rough go. This week I’m going to dive into Cyclops as a character as well as what caused him to stray from his path as a hero and turn him into a fascist militant leader of Mutantkind.

Let’s start off with a rundown of his origins and his fall from leader to criminal.

Scott Summers aka Cyclops, first appeared in X-Men of September 1963, he was created by the dream team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

*Despite the length, this will be a brief rundown of important events in his  past that I believe led to his downfall and redemption. *

ORIGINS

Scott Summers was born to Maj. Christpher Summers of the U.S Air Force and his wife Katherine Ann. He was the oldest of their sons, his younger brother, Alex Summers, is known as Havok. One day, while on a flight with his family, a Shi’Ar Empire scout ship appeared and in an effort to hide their presence, set the Summers’ plane ablaze. Katherine took her two boys and strapped them together on the only available parachute, pushing them out the door of the plane. As the parachute deployed, some of the falling debris caused the parachute to catch fire. As they plummeted to the ground, Scott utilized his optic blasts to slow their descent. Upon impact with the ground he suffered a head injury that removed his ability to control his optic blasts. Unbeknownst to the two Summers boys, their parents were teleported onto the Shi’Ar ship before their plane went down. Their mother was also pregnant with another child at the time of their abduction. The third Summers boy, Gabriel, grew up to be known as the villain Vulcan.

Scott and Alex parachuting to safety

Scott and Alex suffered amnesia as a means of coping with the event and were hospitalized where they were looked after by Nathaniel Essex aka Mr. Sinister. Essex took an interest in Scott and believed him to be the stronger of the two. He arranged for Alex to be adopted separately to cause Scott to become emotionally vulnerable. One night while experiencing a nightmare, Scott opened his eyes and destroyed the roof of the building with his optic blasts. He then passed out and fell into a coma for a full year. When he awoke and recovered he was placed in an orphanage in Omaha Nebraska called State Home of Foundlings. Essex continued to experiment on Scott for his formative years and well into adolescence, continuously intervening if anyone ever came close to adopting him. Essex, disguised as a specialist, actually crafted Scott’s first pair of Ruby Quartz lenses.

After an accident where he lost control and obliterated a crane causing it to drop its load. An angry mob believed Scott tried to kill them, despite him saving them from the dropped debris. He was chased out of town and fled on a freight train. Scott fell in with a bad crowd, in particular Jack Winters aka Jack O’Diamonds, a notorious thief who wanted to use Scott’s abilities for crime. When Scott refused Jack would beat him until he agreed. Charles Xavier and the FBI tracked Scott and rescued him from Jack with Xavier offering him a full ride to his School for Gifted Youngsters, and the first member of the X-Men.

Classic suit

Scott was a natural leader but lacked the social skills to bond with his teammates. He fell in love with his teammate Jean Grey but was unable to express his feelings for a long time. Eventually Jean revealed she had a crush on Scott and the two of them began to date. Following the apparent death of professor Xavier, Scott was named Trustee of his Estate and ordered to continue his teaching and running the school. Xavier was revealed to be alive and in a subsequent mission Scott was reunited with his brother Alex who joined the X-Men as Havok. The team went through an overhaul and new members Storm and Wolverine were added to the roster.

THE PHOENIX SAGA

Arguably one of, if not THE most prominent X-Men arc, The Phoenix Saga sees Scott’s long time girlfriend Jean Grey become the cosmic entity “The Phoenix”. Without getting into too much detail, after a successful space mission, the X-Men are returning to Earth and must pass through a solar storm. Jean is possessed by the cosmic Phoenix Force and becomes the embodiment of the Phoenix, and uber powerful entity with cosmic level destructive power. The Phoenix then goes a little off the rails and decides to eat a sun, the Shi’ar Empire is having none of this and wants to kill her. The X-Men then battle with the Imperial Guard of the Shi’ar Empire to protect Jean/Phoenix from them. Realizing that she could never control the darkness inside of her, the Phoenix sacrifices herself on the moon leaving no trace of herself. Scott fell into a deep depression as he believed the love of his life was gone forever.

ROAD TO HIS DOWNFALL

Scott came out of his depressive state and met a woman named Madelyne Pryor, who bore an incredible resemble to Jean. Madelyne was a clone of Jean sent by Nathaniel Essex to seduce Scott and bear him an offspring that Essex could use for his own ends. Scott and Madelyne were married and she eventually bore him a child which was named Nathan Christopher Charles Summers aka Cable.

When Jean is discovered alive at the bottom of the bay in Jamaica where the Phoenix had first emerged, Scott packed his things and left his home in Anchorage with Madelyne and his son to be with Jean. When he met with Jean she explained that she believed the X-Men had strayed form Xavier’s dream for the team Together they founded the X-Factor with other original X-Men members and worked to help young mutants master their powers.

Eventually Scott and Jean are married and begin a life together while both remaining active members of the X-Men. After a particularly taxing battle involving Apocalypse and some Skrulls, Scott sacrificed himself to help stop Apocalypse. He was eventually found alive by Jean and his son Nathan in a village in Egypt. They helped to restore his psyche and cleanse Apocalypse’s influence from his mind. Scott began to grow more militarized and grimmer than he was before his death. He sought out counseling from new X-Men recruit Emma Frost, which only served for him to partake in a telepathic affair with Emma . Jean and Scott took a break and both contemplated on their relationship. Jean was killed by John Sublime who had taken control of Xorn and attacked the X-Men. As she died, Scott apologized for what he had done and how he had hurt Jean. Jean, seeing Scott’s sincerity, told Scott to move on and live his life without her. Scott and Emma Frost formalized their relationship and Scott found happiness for the first time in a long time.

Following the events of the House of M story line and “M Day”, mutants became an endangered species the world over. Scott and Emma opened the doors of Xavier’s school as a refugee camp for any mutants, no questions asked.

Militaristic Suit

Shortly after M-Day, The X-Men saved the city of San Francisco from a rogue mutant known as Goddess. As a thank you, the mayor and people of San Francisco offered the help re-establish the X-Men in their city. Scott and Emma took the offer and closed Xavier’s school relocating to a new compound in San Francisco. It was also during this time that Scott’s mentality moved from the ‘defend mutants at all costs’ to ‘kill or be killed’. Scott also formed the lethal covert team, the X-Force, and put Wolverine in charge as the team leader.

In the Utopia story arc, Osborn and his Dark Avengers were forced to stop rioting in San Francisco between mutants and humans following some devastating media footage depicting a mutant baby blowing up a small town. The Dark Avengers began abducting mutants and taking them to their Alcatraz facility where their powers were being siphoned into “Weapon Omega” aka Michael Pointer/ Guardian. Scott, appalled at what was going on, had Magik teleport the entire X-Force onto Alcatraz island where they did battle with the Dark Avengers and Dark X-Men to buy Magik time to teleport all the prisoners away. At the conclusion of the arc, Scott has ‘M Asteroid’ raised out of the pacific (where it had crashed several years before) and declared it Utopia, the home of all mutantkind. Magneto joined the X-Men on Utopia swearing his allegiance to Scott stating that he had done what both Magneto and Charles never could, unite all of mutantkind.

Scott believed it was his duty to protect mutantkind at any cost and he became ever more militaristic and dictator-like to protect those living in Utopia. When the villain Bastion opened a time portal allowing sentinels through in an attempt to kill Hope Summers (Scott’s daughter from an alternate future) Scott ordered the X-Force to get Hope to Utopia at any cost. In the end it cost both Nightcrawler and Cable their lives to get Hope to safety and stop Bastion. Out of guilt for Nightcrawler and Cable’s death, and the countless other mutants who died, Scott disbanded the X-Force and buried his son. Several long time X-Men members began to resent Scott for his militaristic attitude and blamed him for the deaths of fellow teammates. When a massive Sentinel was sent against Utopia, Scott and Wolverine got into an argument about how to defend the island. Scott believed that it was every mutant’s duty to defend their home, even the children. Logan believed that the older X-Men and X-Force members should defend the island and the children should be evacuated. This led to a bloody battle between Logan and Scott, which resulted in Logan, and several other members who agreed with him, leaving to go back and re-open Xavier’s school that had been closed when the X-Men relocated to San Francisco.

SCOTT’S DOWNFALL

AVENGERS VS X-MEN

Scott was training Hope very aggressively and refused to give her an answer as to why. She grew angry and flared up with the power of the Phoenix Force. Meanwhile, across the country in New York, Nova crashed to the ground and when they Avengers found him all he said was “it’s coming”. The Phoenix Force was once again burning a path through the cosmos on it’s way back to Earth. After Captain America asked Wolverine about the Phoenix, Wolverine told him and the rest of the Avengers about Hope Summers. After seeing Hope’s ‘Phoenix Power’, Scott became convinced that it’s arrival would herald the salvation of mutantkind. So, when Captain America and the Avengers showed up to Utopia demanding Hope as a precaution against the coming threat, Scott attacked Captain America.

Scott attacks Captain America

After seeing Scott blast Captain America into the ocean, a SHIELD Helicarrier uncloaked and the Avengers invaded Utopia. Hope seeing what she had caused, and fearful of the Phoenix Force, fled. Eventually, the X-Men surrendered to the Avengers, who then began making plans to apprehend Hope and take her into protective custody. Scott and the X-Men teleport away and begin their search for Hope before the Avengers. Scott goes to Westchester in an attempt to convince Wolverine to switch sides and recruit any other mutants to fight for their own kind. Hope flees to the moon in hopes to reduce the damage the Phoenix Force could cause should it find her on Earth. The Avengers and Scott discover her location and both head to the moon. Scott brings Colossus, Emma Frost, Magik, Namor and Wolverine. The Avengers arrive shortly before the Phoenix and another fight breaks out with Iron Man trying to make a weapon to defeat the Phoenix. He inadvertently causes the Phoenix to split into 5 pieces, with each piece possessing one of the X-Men. Unable to defeat the X-Men, the Avengers regroup to come up with a new plan while the “Phoenix Five” take Hope back to Earth to “prepare her”.

Phoenix Five

With the power of the Phoenix, the Five begin reshaping the world to make it better. They outlaw wars and provide the necessities of life to everyone under their rule. The Avengers oppose them and even convince Hope to come with them, which prompts Cyclops to declare “No More Avengers”. Namor tracks the Avengers to Wakanda and went to confront them on his own, when he is beaten, his portion of the Phoenix Force leaves him and enters the others, strengthening them. The Avengers hide Hope in K’un L’un (home of the Iron Fist), in a different dimension, to buy time to come up with a plan. Colossus and Magik get into an argument and knock each other out, further strengthening Scott and Emma. Scott uses his immense power to break the dimensional barriers and enter K’un L’un to get Hope back.

Hope, appalled at what her father has done, banishes him to the moon. This pushes Scott further over the edge, knowing he could win if he had more power, he returned to Utopia to find Emma. Though he is unable to attack her, the intervention of Professor Xavier and the Avengers ignites another battle. As the battle rages, it begins to turn in favour of the Avengers and X-Men who are trying to stop Scott and Emma. Scott knocks Emma out and absorbs her portion of the Phoenix Force. As the sole owner of the Force, Scott goes insane and becomes the Dark Phoenix. When Xavier tries to shut his mind down, to end the fight, Scott loses control and kills him. Hope and Scarlet Witch manage to exorcise the Phoenix Force from Scott and use it’s power to “restart mutantkind”. They reignited the X gene on the planet allowing mutants to be born again.

Scott kills Xavier

MILITARISTIC REVOLUTIONARY

Scott was imprisoned for his actions in the Avengers vs. X-Men story line and remained there for some time until mutant hating humans killed his only friend and fellow mutant. Magneto and a small team destroyed the prison and broke Scott out, setting him on his new path. Scott went around liberating unjustly imprisoned mutants, helping them to master their abilities and offering him a spot on his new team. As he rescued more and more people, the citizens on the street started calling him a revolutionary and sporting signs and shirts saying “Cyclops was right”. This brought him into conflict once again with the Avengers who attempted to bring him in for his past crimes. Scott fled with the help of some other mutants and returned to Westchester and the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning.

Cyclops vs. Wolverine

During the Incursion events leading up to Secret Wars Scott revealed that he was in possession of a phoenix egg and was willing to use it if necessary. At the battle of the final Incursion, when Earth-1610 (The Ultimate Marvel Universe) is on a collision course with Earth-616 (Main Marvel Universe) Scott uses the Phoenix Egg. At the battle of Manhattan Scott bonds completely with the Phoenix Force, now in full control of it’s power, Scott uses it to obliterate the forces of Earth-1610 and the Children of Tomorrow. As the Worlds are lost, Scott is transported onto the Illuminati’s Life Raft where he survives the smashing of the two universes and the subsequent emergence into Battleworld.

As the heroes on the life raft are forced to fight the Cabal on Battleworld, God Doom arrives to quell the fighting. When Scott attempts to use the full power of the Phoenix Force to destroy Doom, Doom shrugs off the hit and proceeds to snap Scott’s neck, killing him.

When Franklin and Reed Richards remade the multiverse Cyclops was resurrected along with all the other heroes and villains where he joined the X-Men once again. While his team was responding to a call on Muir Island, Scott came into contact with some trace remains of the Terrigen Mists. The Mists had been released by Black Bolt and his brother Maximus to spur the creation of more Inhumans, the only downside, the Mists are fatal to Mutants. When Scott was exposed to the mists, he began to die. He collapsed into the arms of Emma and pleaded with her to help him. He pleaded for it ” Not to end like this” before dying in her arms. Wracked with grief Emma used her powers to make a mental projection of Scott still alive and well. This projection of Scott was able to reverse the effects of the mists and stood down a large contingent of Inhumans. The projection of Scott was killed by Black Bolt, Leader/King of the Inhumans, and was mourned as a hero by the X-Men and the mutant community as a whole.

Scott’s Headstone on the School grounds

RESURRECTION

Teenage Cable from the not too distant future returned to the current timeline and paired with Paul Douek from Stark Industries to find a way to bring his father back. Utilizing leftover energy from the Phoenix Force, the duo were able to resurrect Cyclops. Scott needed time after his resurrection to examine the points in his life that led to his downfall and reflect on his choices and actions. During his reflection he was visited by Magneto who delivered some hard hitting advice, which helped Scott to realize his error and what he had become before his death.

Scott’s inevitable downfall came from him constantly seeing that the pacifist approach of Charles didn’t work. While Charles would advocate for action when necessary, he preferred words to fists. Watching the love of his life die (repeatedly), being betrayed by his father figure and having to bury his own son, Scott slowly lost his grip on his moral compass. He began to think that everything could be solved with the proper application of force and that by showing Mutants as a strong people, they would be respected. While his tactics worked sometimes, most of his actions caused people to distrust mutants less and less, causing them to become violent and Scott to respond to their violence in kind.

Scott’s Resurrection

Scott began to see himself as the only person actively working to keep mutants safe and felt he needed to resort to aggressive tactics to maintain that strength. He lost long time allies like Beast and Wolverine because of his inability to see the faults in his actions and caused the death of dozens of fellow mutants in his militaristic ideals.

Scott realizes the error of his past actions
Scott admits his faults

Deep down Scott is a good person, he’s flawed, but that’s what makes him such a compelling character. You need people like Superman and Captain America to always be the voice of reason and to fight the good fight, but flawed characters that make very real and relatable mistakes are more compelling and draw more comparisons to real life. For all his bluster and grand standing, at his core Scott is a good man who wants to do the right thing. He tries to keep control so he can always see the outcome and never be surprised; even though that doesn’t always happen. He knows that Xavier’s teachings won’t work in the long run but neither will militaristic action and he’s constantly trying to find a balance between the two in order to etch out a place for his people in the world.

There you have it! Cyclops’ fall and rebirth into the hero he once was! See you next time!

Aquaman – King of the DCEU

Last night I was out with a couple friends enjoying a double feature for one of their birthdays. We took in the new addition to the Transformers Franchise Bumblebee and the newest addition to the floundering DCEU, Aquaman. While I immensely enjoyed Bumblebee, it’s by far the BEST Transformers movie, I had a few more reservations for Aquaman. After the disappointing Justice League and the terrible Batman V. Superman, Wonder Woman was the only thing keeping the DCEU afloat, until the king of the seven seas arrived.

Directed by James Wan (of Saw fame), this movie was the first salvo in the soft reboot currently underway from Warner Brothers and their DCEU. This review will be spoiler free but I will discuss several key aspects of the film and their relation to the source material.

STORY

The first thing I have to say and it can be taken a slight negative for the film, the story is all over the place. While they make it work for the film, they basically took the first five collected issues of Aquaman’s New 52 comic run and made it into the plot for the film. The main pull is the Throne of Atlantis story line which has already been made into an animated feature as part of the DCAU (DC Animated Universe). The story centers around King Orm (Aquaman’s half brother) a full blooded Atlantean and his bid for the throne of Atlantis. Wan’s film is a very ‘Shakespearean’ tale of family betrayal and political trickery with a healthy dose of comedic undertones. Arthur Curry (Aquaman) fresh off his defeat of Steppenwolf with the Justice League has decided to become the unofficial protector of the seas. This brings him into conflict with a particular group of pirates. These pirates have been operating with maximum casualties for quite some time and Aquaman has had enough. Those familiar with the storyline for the Throne of Atlantis arc will be able to see what will happen before it does; however, Wan and co. have worked enough subplots into the mix to provide some surprising turns wherever they can.

Left: Nereus and Xebel Forces; Right: Orm and Atlantean Forces

CAST

Jason Momoa returns as Arthur Curry (Aquaman) for his second foray into the DC comics world. He builds on his persona established in the Justice League and we are shown his origins with a great exposition at the opening of the film. As the film progresses we are also shown why he holds Atlantis in such low regard and refuses to help them in any capacity. It allows for a great heroic origin as Arthur goes from occasional vigilante to the full blown hero we’ve been waiting for.

Amber Heard straight up knocks it out of the park as Mera. There is a particular scene in the middle section of the movie where you really get to see why Mera is such a respected warrior and queen in the comics. She brings a very authoritative quality to the role which helps to balance out Momoa’s ‘bro take’ on the classic clean cut Atlantean king. Her arc through the film is one we’ve seen before in plenty of other works; however, Heard makes it her own and shows that Mera is worthy of her own movie.

The standout star for me is Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as David Kane/Black Manta. At the beginning of the film we are shown a ruthless Kane as he and his pirate crew work to hijack a submarine. Through a turn of events he is left alone and blames Aquaman for it. This sets him on a path of revenge that has him crafting his Black Manta persona through the entirety of the film. When he finally confronts Arthur and Mera in Italy, he has emerged fully as the supervillain that has plagued Aquaman since his first appearance in Aquaman #35 from 1967. Abdul-Mateen II delivers a dark and gritty performance in an otherwise fairly light-hearted film which helps to cement Manta as someone who will continue to appear in future DC films.

Black Manta

Patrick Wilson gives us our main villain by his portrayal of King Orm/Ocean Master. A conflicted ruler who just wants to do right by his people, Wilson brings a certain gravitas to the role that helps to establish Orm as a force to be reckoned with. Wanting to preserve his people and their way of life he has grown tired of the mistreatment of the oceans by the surface world and he is through playing nice. Wilson’s protrayal of Orm helps to provide some sympathy for the young ruler but ultimately helps to give a villain you can’t help to love.

Other notable members of the cast are Nicole Kidman as Queen Atlanna, Willem Dafoe as Vulko, Dolph Lundgren as King Nereus and Temuera Morrison as Tom Curry.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Despite 90% of the film taking place under water and in front of a green screen, Wan manages to deliver some stellar shots. One scene which appears to be a continuous shot (in the vein of the various Marvel Netflix series’), really showcases Wan’s keen eye. He created a living and breathing world at the bottom of the ocean that makes you believe in the might and magic of the fictional kingdom of Atlantis. As I said before in my review of Black Panther, I’m not a cinematographer and don’t pretend to be, but I can tell what shots look amazing and help to convey the emotion and feel of the scenes, and in that regard, Wan knocks it out of the park.

Amber Hear (Mera), James Wan (Director), Jason Momoa (Arthur Curry/Aquaman) and Willem Dafoe (Vulko)

COSTUMES

The costumes in this film were perfectly done. Each character has a costume that directly references back to their comic roots and helps to provide a great feel for the overall tone of the film. I was extremely giddy when Arthur finally dons his orange and green comic accurate costume at the climax of the film. Mera’s costume is a direct recreation of her comic source material and Orm/Ocean Master’s full purple and silver battle garb is a perfect counterbalance to Arthur’s orange and green. Black Manta and the Atlantean soldiers take the cake for costume design. Giving us a great armoured and vibrant colour scheme for the costumes of the Atlanteans, Kym Barrett, worked closely with Wan to bring his vision to life. Manta’s costume was heavily influenced by the source material while adding a very apparent Atlantean touch to it to provide a truly menacing character.

“The Trench” which are an ancient race of Atlanteans since mutated into a cross of humans and Angler Fish, were truly horrifying and provided some very terrifying scenes.

Trench Drone
Trench Swarm

MUSIC

The score for the film worked extremely well to create and translate the mood and feel from the shots to the viewers. There were a couple of misfires with some of the music, in particular a horrible cover of ‘Africa’. In a movie of fantastical underwater civilizations and wondrous technology, it felt out of place and a cheap way to bring a small laugh from the audience. With the exception of that small misstep the music fit the film really well and even the inclusion of a Greta Van Fleet chart topper worked to immerse the audience in the world of Aquaman.

ACTION

It’s hard for me to accurately describe the action in the film. It’s not that it wasn’t apparent or well done, it’s just that the majority of it was done using CGI. For obvious reasons they needed to use CGI to convey the 360 degree combat that the Atlanteans and the other kingdoms of the sea are fluent in, not to mention their amazing powers, it just left me a little wanting. The up close and personal action scenes with Arthur,Mera, Manta, the Atlanteans and Orm were very well done and choreographed, but they were few and far between. There is a big CGI slugfest of a fight at the climax of the film that delivers on the building tensions throughout the run time and showcases the various kingdoms of the sea beautifully. I’m not sure if Patrick Wilson and Jason Momoa went to trident combat training, or if there even is such a thing, but their work with those tridents is nothing short of mesmerizing.

Arthur and Orm before ‘Ring of Fire’

OVERALL

As someone who has seen every comic book movie to come out since the release of the Dark Knight in 2008, I can say that this is (in my opinion) the best DC movie since Nolan’s trilogy. While I did thoroughly enjoy Wonder Woman, the villain just didn’t capture me like Orm and Manta do. I love Gal Gadot and think she’s perfect for the role of Diana, but Momoa knocks this one out of the park. I would rate it as the top DCEU movie and overall I would give it a solid 9.0/10. Shazam and Wonder Woman 84 are going to have to really step their game up to even come close to this gem that Wan delivered. I highly recommend that if you’re a fan of the character or any of the cast listed that you go and see the film. If this is the first salvo in a new and improved DCEU, then the MCU could be getting a run for their money.

Aquaman movie poster

See you next time!

Secret Empire – Captain America’s Greatest Betrayal

“We were supposed to be heroes. We were supposed to stand for something. It’s hard to say when it all started going wrong, but at some point, we let the fight become about us, not the world we’d sworn to protect. We found ourselves divided, and under siege. So many threats, so many dangers but the one that would end us, was the one we trusted the most.

Funny how the world can change in a day. How something so horrible can sneak up on you so quickly. And Stark was right. We’d won so many times against impossible odds. We started to take it for granted. Started to believe we were destined to come out on top. But something felt different this time.

We’d been pushed beyond our breaking point, slowly, methodically. And just as we were thinking we’d almost survived it, they struck the real blow.

As the battle began, there had already been suspicions. Whispers. Some knew who it must be, Hydra’s New Secret Leader. There was only one person who could’ve orchestrated all this, after all. Even still, they refused to believe… Until they saw it with their own eyes.

And so we fought. We fought because we believed we were right… And we fell because we were wrong.

We thought we were there to stop him, but the truth is… We were right where they wanted us to be. They had made plans for us… Found ways to turn our most powerful against us, again and again.

Later, when the stories were told, they’d all remark on the same thing.. how quickly it happened. We thought we were so strong, so unbeatable. That we could never collapse so quickly. So completely. So when we did, all we could do was watch it unfold, helpless as the day we were born. And with the world slipping away around us, we gazed into the face of our enemy, finally seeing them for what they really were.

They were stronger.

They were more powerful.

In that moment…They were worthy.”

Victorious Cap lifts Mjolnir

This was the moment, the moment when all the readers of Marvel Comics and the heroes contained within knew, that the world they knew had changed forever…

Captain America has been one of the most stalwart comic characters in all of history. He never wavered in his beliefs and he could bring out the best in everyone regardless of circumstances. So why did Marvel use this opportunity to make him evil? To answer that we have to go back to the prelude to Secret Empire.

HOW IT HAPPENED

The First thing you have to understand is that the history that we know since the beginning of Marvel Comics publication, was in fact false. The Nazis and Hydra were the victors of WWII. Captain America was a double agent trained by Kraken and Madam Hydra to act as the Allies’ saviour while secretly providing the Axis with information that could be used to win the war. This worked for pretty much the entire war before Cap’s double nature was discovered, and resulted in a much different world than we know. The ace in the hole was this, The Cosmic Cube. Now after the allies had driven Cap away, they had discovered the Cosmic Cube and its reality warping powers. (The Cosmic Cube and the Tesseract from the MCU are two VERY different artifacts).

Following his exile from Allied territory, Captain America had arrived to Japan high up in the mountains and entered a cave where he was greeted by his father figure/trainer Kraken. Kraken explained that this was where Hydra had begun and where it will continue its legacy. Captain America is led inside where he sees a pool and an old man stirring the waters. He is shown a vision of the allies preparing the Cosmic Cube to alter history and he is told that by submerging himself in the pool he will be protected from the change. Kraken went on to say that he would wake up in a world unfamiliar to him but that he would retain all of his memories and ideals.

As the allies began their change, Captain America submerged in the pool and was bombarded with memories and history that collided with his own. He awoke in a world where the allies had won and where he had been lost in the arctic for 70 years following his foiling of Red Skull’s final plan.

Now while there were various ticks and nods to Cap’s true nature through the beginning of the run by Nick Spencer. If you read the culmination of the previous 2016 event titled Avengers: Standoff! Cap’s change came as less of a surprise (Red Skull influenced the sentient Cosmic Cube ‘Kobik”, to rewrite Cap’s history making him a champion of Hydra as it restored Cap to his youthful appearance). In the first issue of Marvel’s new Steve centered comic run titled Captain America: Steve Rogers,is when his allegiance alteration is confirmed. In the final panels of Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 (July 2016), Steve pushes his longtime ally Jack Flag from an airplane to fall to his apparent death, Rogers then turns to Dr. Selvig and says “Hail Hydra”.

Cap’s official turning point

WHAT CAME AS A RESULT

The opening to Secret Empire showed us one of the most complete and utter defeats of the Marvel heroes we have ever seen. The Guardians of the Galaxy, The Ultimates, Hyperion, Quasar, Captain Marvel and her Alpha Flight Space Program are trying to stop a Chitauri invasion of Earth and are fighting a losing battle. While they can beat the Chitauri en masse, the aliens just keep coming in endless waves. Iron Man and Iron Heart are attempting to repair the planetary shield to stop the invasion but they are not having any luck. The Defenders, Uncanny Avengers and some of the X-Men are attempting to quell a breakout from the Supervillain rehab center Pleasant Hill, with some success. One of the SHIELD helicarriers has gone missing and Hydra forces are waging a large attack against SHIELD all around the globe.

Nitro (the supervillain famous for starting the Civil War event, the REAL one, not the MCU version), exits the facility and proceeds to detonate himself in downtown New York City causing massive damage. The rest of the villains are teleported away while Baron Zemo and Blackout drop the entirety of the island of New York into the Darkforce dimension bringing on an endless night. The President then awards Steve Rogers (the Director of SHIELD) control over the United Stated military to help combat these threats. Once Steve has the power of the United States Armed Forces behind him, he sets his plan into action. He activates the planetary shield locking Captain Marvel and the ‘heavy hitters’ outside the planet at the mercy of the Chitauri. He crashes the missing helicarrier, now filled with Hydra soldiers, into another helicarrier and uses the hypnotic suggestion of Dr. Faustus to cause the defending SHIELD agents to become hypnotized and unwilling to fight. Iron Heart and her Tony Stark AI realize that the next target would be Washington D.C and have all the heroes rally there to defend it. Hydra sieges the city in an attempt to destabilize the government and the spirit of the American people. Steve Rogers, Now Hydra Supreme Commander, arrives and asks the Avengers to stop fighting and join him. When they refuse, his army moves in and attacks. He uses undisclosed methods to take out Thor, Vision and Scarlet Witch while the rest of the heroes are slowly beaten, one by one. As he stands victorious above them he reaches down and lifts Mjolnir high into the air. 

RAMIFICATIONS

This turn for the The Captain left a sour taste in a lot of fans mouths. Not only did they take one of the greatest heroes in all of comics and turn him into a Nazi, they also ripped down everything he stood for just to get some more sales and provide even a small semblance of competition to DC Comics with their Rebirth Initiative.

The bit that really stuck with most fans was the blatant disregard for the original creators of the character. Joseph Henry “Joe” Simon born Hymie Simon and Jack “King” Kirby born Jacob Kurtzberg, who created the character, were both of them members of the Jewish faith, both of their families having experienced persecution at the hands of the Nazis in WWII. By turning their creation of a man who stood for what was right and fought for the little man, literally against the Nazis, into a Nazi commander who took over the world, showed blatant disrespect to them.

Steve Rogers as Supreme Commander of Hydra

With all the backlash that Marvel experienced after writer Nick Spencer affirmed that this was not some trick, and that this was the original Captain America, they were (in my opinion) forced to rectify the situation. I won’t spoil what they did, but it kind of just sugar coated the entire ordeal and really ended up making the entire event a terrible run. Not only did they sugarcoat the run, but they kept the Hydra Cap! He still exists in the main Marvel universe (Earth-616) and is going to stir some shit up later on, they foreshadow that at the end of the run.

There’s a lot of things that I’m not a fan of with this event but one thing I can say for sure is that despite its flaws, it’s incredibly well written. The exposition and character development in this story is top notch, and as made evident from the opening speech of this post which was taken directly from Issue # 0, it delivers some hard hitting dialogue.

Cap vs. Cap

When all is said and done, the main betrayal of Captain America is not to any one hero, his long time friends and allies or the universe as a whole, it was to the fans and the legacy of the character. Marvel has worked very hard to rectify this situation and bring the faith of the fans back. I know that, personally, I haven’t purchased any Marvel comics since the release of Secret Empire because of how far out in left field they took it. I will be purchasing in the future, especially the new Moon Knight run but with their new Legacy imprint, I feel like they’re finally listening to the fans and going back to what worked for them for decades.

Hydra Cap armoured for battle

That concludes this post! check back soon for my review of Aquaman and Bumblebee!

Avengers: Endgame – Trailer Breakdown & Plot Prediction

Earlier this morning we were gifted with an early Christmas present, the new Avengers trailer! Originally it was supposed to be released on Wednesday earlier this week; however, due to the untimely death of past President George H. W. Bush, it was pushed to today to accommodate his televised funeral service in Washington. I was not familiar with his policies and and acts as president of the United States  but from what I understand he did a lot of good for the country and he will be sorely missed.

Onto the trailer!

Ever since the ‘snappening’ at the end of Infinity War, fans have been speculating as to what will happen to the defeated team. With Ant-Man and the Wasp, we were shown a probable solution to the Avengers’ problem of dealing with a fully powered Thanos with all the Infinity stones, Quantum Time Wells. In the post-credit sequence of Ant-Man and the Wasp, original Wasp (Janet Van Dyne) was coaching Scott on what to look for in the Quantum Realm. One of the anomalies that she cautions against is Quantum Time Wells, which (I think) is how the Avengers are more than likely going to beat Thanos. 

Let’s breakdown the trailer…

We start with a lonely Tony recording a voice message in hopes that Pepper will one day see it and know that in his last moments he will be thinking about her. He states that his oxygen will run out by the next day and power a few days after that, but he wants her to know that in his final days she was all he could think about. Which shows a lot of personal growth for Tony, ever since we were first introduced to him in 2008’s Iron Man he has been a fairly narcissistic person. Pepper was the one person that he could care about and who he wanted above all to protect. 

Tony recording the message for Pepper

The title card for Marvel Studios got a bit of a redo since the ‘snappening’ and now shows the title discarding into dust much like some of the heroes did after the snap.

We are shown Thanos’ armour arranged on a stand to represent a scarecrow as Thanos walks through a field of alien plants still wearing the damaged gauntlet. Apparently after Thanos murders half of the life in the universe he decided to become a farmer?

Thanos scarecrow

We are shown some exterior shots of the Avengers compound while Widow is summarizing what Thanos did to a startled Bruce Banner. We see a shot of a now beardless and groomed Cap shedding a tear for either Bucky or his friends and allies. Banner is amazed at everything that happened and see all the people they lost as their faces begin rotating through a wheel on the holo-screen in front of him.

Cap sheds a tear for the fallen

We get a shot of the empty Avengers compound and then more shots of the survivors from the ‘snappening’ as they mourn their friends and loved ones. We get a nice voice over from Captain America as he states that they all lost someone either friends or family and that they all lost part of themselves when it happened. 

Ronin

We cut to a shot of a hooded figure cleaning a bloody sword on their sleeve while Widow watches in a town somewhere in Asia. The figure removes their hood and mask to reveal Clint Barton who has adopted his Ronin alias. Cap’s voice over then says “This is the fight of our lives” as we see him looking at the picture of Peggy Carter he keeps in his compass. Inside of a Quinjet, Widow turns to him and says that their plan will work while Steve says ” I know it will, because I don’t know what I’m going to do if it doesn’t”.

Cap in Quinjet

We then get the title card for the movie where the avengers “A” is being put back together from broken stone on a purple background. The Avengers title appears on the screen with the subtitle “Endgame” appearing out of a purple flash. The final shot of the trailer shows us Scott Lang arriving at the Avengers compound and talking to the security camera asking to be let in. He introduces himself as Ant-Man and that they would remember him from the airport in Germany. Cap stands up with a determined look in his eyes asking if it’s an old message with Widow stating “No, this is at the front gate”. We then get a purple title card stating April 2019 with the ‘A’ in April as the Avengers ‘A’. 

April 2019

My prediction of the plot is as follows:
Scott Lang arrives along with Clint who has assumed the Ronin persona to the Avengers compound where Captain America and Black Widow are thinking up a counterattack. He explains how everyone (Hank, Hope & Janet) were wiped out and he needs to get them back. Cap and Widow will then explain what happened with Thanos and they will take some time coming up with a plan.
Tony is floating in space in the Milano (Peter’s ship from Guardians of the Galaxy) but without any fuel or knowledge of how the hip works/to fix it, he is set to drift in the void between Titan and Earth. He will be found by Captain Marvel who is answering Fury’s call from the post-credit scene in Infinity War. They return to Earth where the remaining Avengers and those that survived the ‘snappening’ are formulating their plan. 
Thanos is a farmer? and he is happy at what he has down knowing the universe will spin on. Though he knows something isn’t quite right.
The remaining Avengers decide to use Quantum Time Vortexes to go back in time to the battle of New York from the first Avengers film. Tony poses as a SHIELD security agent in order to help break Loki out so he can tell them where Thanos is. The original avengers and the new squad ally together during the battle of New York. The new squad are responsible for protecting the city while the original crew head through the wormhole to confront Thanos on the Chitauri station when he doesn’t have any of the stones.
In the climactic battle the portal will need to be closed . The original crew will still be fighting Thanos and they’ll make the sacrifice to hold the line while the new squad closes the portal to Earth, stranding them in Chitauri space. Cap and Tony will make a final stand against Thanos with both dying in the fight. With Thanos being defeated and not lasting to get both the power and space stones, the other stones are then returned to their rightful places and the timeline is reset. 

There you have it! My breakdown of the trailer and my prediction of the plot. I am super excited for this film and hope that it’s going to be even better than Infinity War was! See you next time!