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!

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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!

Modern Villains & The Complexity They Represent

2018 has been an amazing year for movies. No contest. One of the greatest things that came around this year in particular is that the villains being chosen for movies are not the classic villain. While some do have a “Take over the world because I want to” vibe to them, most of them are compelling and interesting characters. They represent an alternative way of thinking and while they might choose the wrong path they aren’t necessarily wrong. Let’s look at some of the great villains from movies this year. 

THANOS

The biggest movie event of the year, and probably the last 20, was Avengers: Infinity War that premiered on April 27, 2018. The last 10 years of Marvel films have been building up to this event and it paid off (for the most part) extremely well. The big bad in this movie was the Mad Titan Thanos, but this Thanos was MUCH different from his comic book counter part. In Marvel Comics, Thanos is evil for the sake of it. He doesn’t have any real ulterior motivations other than wanting to be reunited with Lady Death, whom he has fallen in love with. Thanos thought that if he could prove to her that he deserved her love she would admit that she belonged with him and they would finally be united in love. Yes, comic Thanos wants to bang a busty skeleton and that is why he kills half the universe. While this does work to make a great villain to have the Avengers go up against, the maniacal overlord trope has been used and abused so many times in film that something else needed to be done, enter the Russo brothers.  

Until they directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Russo’s main directing credit came from the paintball episodes of Community. With their success at crafting (arguably) the best Marvel movie to date, Kevin Feige gave them the reigns to bring Thanos to the big screen. The Russos dove into their work and brought us a mad titan that you could sympathize with. In the MCU, Thanos begins his quest to get power sure, but having the power wasn’t his goal it was a means to an end, he wants to bring the universe back into balance. His main argument is that he is the only one who can see that eventually life will cease to exist if left to prosper unchecked. We find out that this is what led to the downfall and extinction of his home planet. He states that the universe only has a finite number of resources and that those resources are being used at an alarming rate. So, to ensure the longevity of life, a culling must take place. 50% of the entire universe, chosen indiscriminately to ensure fairness, needs to die to ensure life continues.  This draws an interesting parallel to our own planet where we are using resources at an increasingly fast pace and Global Warming will become inevitable in less than 50 years unless we do something about it. The redeeming quality of Thanos, is that he knows he is also part of the problem and he is willing to sacrifice himself if it means the universe spins on. 

KILLMONGER

On February 16, 2018, we were introduced to the nation of Wakanda through Ryan Coogler’s epic film Black Panther. Having been introduced to T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War, his solo film was where Black Panther was really allowed to shine. Part of what made the movie so great was its compelling villain, Eric “Killmonger” Stevens also known as N’Jadaka. Now Killmonger spent the first good portion of the movie manipulating his way into Wakanda proper before executing his plan. He attempted and succeeded in a coup of the throne by exploiting his right to challenge the king to one on one combat for the throne. While he missed the official day where all the tribes were permitted to present a challenger, his cousin T’Challa accepted his challenge. Killmonger was a vicious fighter and had been trained by the CIA to work as a black ops member to destabilize foreign governments. He racked up over 2,200 confirmed kills and decorated his body with ceremonial “crocodile” markings for each life he took. When Killmonger defeated his cousin and assumed the throne his first act after ingesting the heart shaped herb for himself was to burn the garden where it was grown. His second order was to arm the “Dogs of War” Wakanda had stationed around the globe so they could arm the disenfranchised descendants of the African people to take control. Having grown up in the slums of Oakland California after his father, prince N’Jobu was killed by the king T’Chaka for betraying the people of Wakanda, Killmonger knew the conditions his people’s descendants were living in. Wanting to end the subjugation of his people he believed that the only way to accomplish this task was to create a series of coups around the globe and arm the revolutionaries with Wakandan tech, which is way more advanced than the rest of the world.

His belief in the ability and requirement of the Wakandan nation to end their ruse of appearing as a third world country and assume their rightful place as rulers of the world, caused a shift in the people of Wakanda. While some like the Border Tribe allied with Killmonger, most didn’t agree with his way of thinking. When T’Challa returned and took his throne back, he agreed that it was time for Wakanda to step out of the shadows and take a more active role in the affairs of the world. In the end, Killmonger was right even if he went about it the wrong way, and his people took their place as major players in the affairs of the world. 

GRINDELWALD

Say what you will about the second installment of the Fantastic Beasts franchise, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, but the villain Gellert Grindelwald, played by the great Johnny Depp, stands as one villain you can’t help but sympathize with.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

The movie starts nearly immediately after the first one ended, I believe there has been a few months of time that passed but nothing has really changed. We start with the American Ministry of Magic holding Grindelwald in a cell before the British ministry representatives arrive to transport him to Europe for his crimes. They never specify what his crimes are but it appears he is like most of the mafia bosses in history, linked to many crimes without direct evidence to place him there. While his followers do utilize the unforgivable curses to their full extent and with wanton disregard for the muggle population, Grindelwald doesn’t use any of the curses himself. It also appears in the film that in certain circumstances, the 1920’s Ministry of Magic condoned Aurors utilizing the killing curse to stop large threats to the Wizarding World.  Now none of this really has anything to do with Grindelwald but it is important to know because of how the movie plays out. The reason that you sympathize with Grindelwald comes at the climax of the film. Grindelwald is hosting a massive congregation of witches and wizards from across Europe in order to recruit them to his side. While most people think Grindelwald is just a Voldemort analogue, they could not be more wrong. While Voldemort wanted to extinguish muggles and all muggleborns because he viewed them as dirty or unclean, Grindelwald wants to control them.  He understands that in the beginning there will be death and that is the price they must pay for their ultimate goal which is harmony through wizard rule. Now while this definitely sounds “Take over the world villainy”, give me a moment to explain…

The movie takes place in the 1920’s which comes on the tail of the ending of the First World War. Now we learn that the wizarding world didn’t take part in the war in any capacity but countless witches and wizards were killed because of it through collateral damage. Grindelwald provides a vision to his congregation at the end of the film that predicts WWII and the dropping of the atomic bomb. He goes on to say, that if left to their own devices, muggles could destroy the planet within the next 20 years and calls for witches and wizards from all countries to ally with him to bring the muggle world to order to stop unnecessary death.  This causes a lot of the congregation to ally with him and chant his name in unison, which is something he relishes in. It’s obvious Grindelwald is an egomaniac, but being an egomaniac doesn’t mean he was wrong in his beliefs. 

There you go, three fine examples of how modern films are moving away from traditional villainy and giving us more complex villains. As I’ve said before, while some of them went about it the wrong way, none of them were wrong in what they thought.  See you next time!