Monthly Archives: February 2015

Prognostications for Avengers: Age of Ultron, Part 4

Whew – was it just me, or did that last Age of Ultron trailer, which came out during the final college football game of the year, skate on the edge of being extremely depressing?

The trailer has very little to add to the speculation we impatient fans have been tossing around for, like, years. For the most part, it is a big exercise in frustration – although it does succeed in giving some of us an adrenaline rush!

I have to admit that this Age of Ultron trailer has largely left me speechless. I am not sure what I can say about it or the movie it hypes. But I have been thinking about it, and the film, a fair bit, and I do a have a few theories to put out there. So, once again, if you are a dedicated fan who wants to know what happens in Age of Ultron only when you see it in theaters (and, later, on DVD), then read no further. If you are one of those fans crawling up the walls trying to guess what is in the pipes for our favorite heroes, here are my theories for where things might go.

Speculation #1: The Avengers in this trailer all seem to be quite willing to tear each other apart. Or, at least, Thor, Tony, and Bruce are.   So far Cap, Widow, and Hawkeye are the only Avengers we have not seen mixing it up with their teammates. However, a glimpse of the middle of Age of Ultron previewed at an event sometime last year hints that Tony and Cap are not feeling too chummy with each other during Age of Ultron.

This trailer shows us old footage of Thor lifting Tony up by the throat, but adds the little tidbit that, before this happened, Thor was chastising Tony for meddling where no man should. While I cannot say that picking Tony up by the jugular was a good way to emphasize his point, the thing is that Thor nailed this one. If I were a member of the Avengers – even if I was only their janitor – and I heard that Tony was building or rebooting an AI to take over the Avengers’ job, I would have told him, “This is a very, VERY bad idea!” (Not that he would have listened to me, of course. Since when has anyone been able to tell the great Tony Stark what he should and should not do?)

The trailer, however, has A LOT of new footage of Tony and the Hulk bashing each other to pieces in the middle of a city. Some people – including me – think that the Scarlet Witch might be the cause of this battle. The reason I feel this way is because, near the end of the new sequence where Tony is battling the Hulk in his Hulkbuster suit, Big Green turns to the screen and we see that one of his eyes is swollen and kind of red. This indicates one of two things. One, Tony hit him in the eye really, really hard. Two, Wanda hexed the Hulk to go on a rampage.

Either theory could be true. But right now, we cannot say for sure. What might be said for sure is that Widow and Hawkeye appear to be the only Avengers who are not angry at a particular teammate. This may be a presumptuous conclusion, but so far they do not seem inclined to start a fight with anyone on their team as Thor, Tony, and Bruce Banner/Hulk do.

Speculation #2: Widow is most certainly getting more screen time in this trailer, and it seems she will be getting a fair amount of limelight in the upcoming film. The new trailer shows pictures of her walking into what must be a fight, carrying some very heavy artillery (for her, at least, it is heavy artillery), as well as a sequence that shows her getting thrust onto an operating table when she was younger. It would seem that we will definitely get to travel with her down memory lane for a glimpse of her dark history, a past that may be darker than even she recalls.

We also get a look at her evolving friendship with Bruce and the Hulk in this new trailer. It appears that, while she and Bruce may have started out on the wrong foot in Calcutta, they have smoothed things over by now. Judging by the fact that she is standing so close to Bruce when Ultron crashes the Avengers’ party, it looks to me like she might have become his unofficial battle partner/handler.

That does not mean they are romantically engaged. It is a possibility, of course, but something about that idea just does not add up for me. Bruce and Widow were never anything more than friends in the comics (as far as I know). Also, Betty Ross, Bruce’s first girlfriend, is still a part of the MCU to the best of my knowledge. I do not think it would be all that healthy if Bruce started to date Widow while his old girlfriend was still out there waiting for him. But I am not in charge of Marvel Studios, so what do I know?

Regardless, Widow’s friendship with Bruce and the Hulk has apparently strengthened to the point that she can calm him down. It remains to be seen whether or not she is the one who ends the Hulk/Hulkbuster battle in the city or not, but I would say the odds are pretty good that she might be the reason the Hulk cools off.

Plus, it is cute to hear her say in the trailer, “Oh, boy.” Yeah, no kidding, Widow! Everybody duck, Big Green’s coming through!

Speculation #3: Andy Serkis gets a brief, though more detailed appearance in this trailer than he did in the previous ones. When I first saw him in the earlier trailers, I could not even name him. I saw him and I thought, “Is that Strucker? No, it can’t be – this guy doesn’t look anything like him. But he looks awfully familiar. Who is he?”

Now, for you Serkis fans out there, I am sorry if this offends you. You will just have to keep in mind that I have not seen Andy Serkis playing anyone but Gollum before, and that when he has been interviewed on television, he has appeared entirely different from the character we see in the new Age of Ultron trailer. So I apologize to everybody (including Mr. Serkis) for not recognizing him immediately. If anything, his makeup artist is to be applauded for making him so unrecognizable that he can hide in an Age of Ultron trailer and a few peons will not know him.

So, now that I know this is Andy Serkis dressed up as the vibranium-obsessed Ulysses Klaw, I can at least tell where he is in it.

Speculation #4: Another scene in the new trailer that has sent the Internet into a tizzy shows an African woman in a cave taking off her coat. The scene has me totally baffled. At first, I was not even sure that the person in the shot was a woman. My first thought was, “Is that a young Black Panther? No way, it’s a woman – wait, is it?”

My next thought was, “What does this have to do with Age of Ultron anyway?” And that thought has not left my mind. The scene is a throwaway in my opinion, and it ruins the flow of the trailer, leaving this viewer with more questions than answers. Some people think the mystery woman might be part of the Black Panther’s all-woman bodyguard corps. For now, that is the only answer to the riddle, though my question still stands: What is this scene even doing in a film that shows the Avengers battling an intelligent AI called Ultron, since it appears totally unrelated to all the previous trailers’ contents?!?!? Only viewing the film will tell….rats…

Speculation #5: Near the end of the trailer, we see a shot of Thor getting lit up by lightning. Some theorize that, since the scenery around Thor is Asgardian, this might be the part of the film where he runs back to Asgard after Wanda has shown him a vision of what is to come. Some have even suggested that, since his hammer is not visible in this scene and it appears that he is not generating the lightning but is, instead, being hit with it, Thor’s powers are being taken from him. Again.

I am not sure I buy that theory. It is a possibility, to be sure, and we are still not certain that the Avengers will not be scattered hither and yon across the Marvel Universe by the end of Age of Ultron. But I think this scene is more likely a shot of Wanda messing with Thor’s mind. How else could she scare him back to Asgard in the first place but by bedeviling him with visions of his home being torn apart? But we cannot be certain what is going on in this scene until we see the movie. Sorry, guys.

Speculation #6: There is one thing that has bothered me since I found that clip showing Tony and Cap chopping wood. It is not the scene itself but its setting: The Avengers have clearly been whipped at this point in the film and are taking a breather somewhere in Middle or Suburban America. The problem I have with this scene is the house itself: Who owns it?

I have a few theories. The first is that the Avengers have shown up on some suburbanite family’s doorstep, beaten and bloody, and asked for asylum. This idea, however, has a big flaw in it. After all, if the Avengers have just had their fannies handed to them on a platter by Ultron at this point in the movie, what couple in their right minds would let the Avengers bunk down and hide in their house, possibly bringing a hoard of human-hating robots down on theirs and their children’s heads? It is possible that they might shelter the Avengers despite the risk, but I think most parents’ immediate reactions would be, “Not on your life!”

The second idea I had is that a member of the Avengers set up the house as a refuge, in case something happened and the team had to go underground. The problem with this is that I cannot see Tony selecting a house in a small-town neighborhood as a team hideout. It is inconspicuous, quiet, and simple – the exact opposite of Marvel’s cinematic Tony Stark.

Likewise, Bruce has not had a place all his own since he became the Hulk. He was on the run until Tony invited him to Stark/Avengers’ Tower to play in the lab with him. While Bruce’s fortunes may have improved because of that, I still do not see him having a house, even as a worst-case scenario hideout for the team. Cap and Widow are both more comfortable in the city; the chances of either of them having a house as a refuge for the team that is in the middle of a small town are slim to nil.

If they have to, Cap and Widow will fade away into the lesser known areas of a city or another such place. Houses in the suburbs are not things they automatically call to mind when they decide to disappear. And Thor stays wherever anyone lets him stay here on Earth; his real home is Asgard, so there is no way he has the house. I am not even sure he thinks in terms of Plan A and Plan B to Z and beyond, like the other Avengers would.

That leaves us with the one Avenger we know next to nothing about: Hawkeye. If the house behind Tony and Cap does in fact belong to him, then that could mean four different things:

One: If Marvel’s Ultimate comic book line – which the company started to get Hollywood’s attention – is as strong an influence on the MCU as I think it may be, this might be the house Hawkeye’s family lived in. In the Ultimate comics, Hawkeye was married and had three young children; he worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. and was partnered with Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent senior to him. Just after the Ultimates – this comic line’s alternate Avengers – were formed, Hawkeye’s wife and children were brutally murdered. The deaths of his family left Hawkeye suicidal and easily angered; his attitude only got worse when Widow was revealed to be the murderer of his family. He later killed her when she was in the hospital recovering from injuries sustained after she had betrayed the Ultimates.

While it seems Widow is not going to be traveling down that road in the MCU (the audience loves her too much for the writers to do that, I think/hope) this does not mean Whedon could not have found a way to retell this incident in Age of Ultron. After all, in The Avengers, we can account for Hawkeye’s whereabouts while he was under Loki’s command only twice before he arrived on the Helicarrier, where Widow snapped Loki’s control over him: the time where he learned Selvig needed iridium and the theft of said metal from Stuttgart, Germany. Besides those two incidents and the Helicarrier, we have no idea where Hawkeye was or what he was doing for the majority of the film.

And we all remember Loki threatened to have Hawkeye kill Widow “in every way he knows [she fears]” during The Avengers. I do not think Loki would be above having Hawkeye lead him to his family’s house so that he could kill his family while Hawkeye stood by and watched. Knowing that worm, we could also surmise Loki would think it was a lot of fun to just stand back and have Hawkeye murder his family himself, as Lorelei had a man shoot his own wife on her orders in the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Also, a photo has been posted on that shows Tony, Thor, and Cap all standing on the porch of what appears to be the same house where Cap and Tony went out to chop wood. Their expressions each border on horrified. They could be listening to anyone, but there is an outside chance they are listening to Hawkeye tell his gruesome story.

This is one theory I really hope does not pan out, readers. I am not sure Disney would let such a story into one of their movies, but Whedon could very well have written this whole scenario into Age of Ultron. I hope he did not, but the thing is that it is a possibility I have been considering for some time now, and it deserves a mention.

Two: The other theory is that this is Hawkeye’s house, but his family is still alive and using the place. I do not know how likely this theory is – Hawkeye only had a family in the Ultimate comic line; other alternate versions of the character occasionally have him married to his “mainstream” ex-wife Mockingbird, and occasionally he has a son named Francis. (Hawkeye’s full name is Clinton Francis Barton, so that’s where his son gets his name.) Some versions of the character have a daughter instead, but I will not go into those; they are too confusing and ugly.

If this theory is the true one – and I have to say I like it better than my first idea – then it would explain why there are so many people on the porch behind Cap and Tony while the two are out chopping wood.

Three: Another option with regard to the house possibly belonging to Hawkeye is that it might be his childhood home. This would tie in with the original comics pretty well; “mainstream” Hawkeye grew up in rural/suburban Iowa. His father was not the greatest, being prone to drinking and abusive to Hawkeye, his mother, and his older brother. If the house is Hawkeye’s childhood home, then that explains how he would own it and why he would bring the Avengers there. Why on earth would he go back to such a place except in the worst of circumstances? If the team just got kicked in the teeth, there would be no better place to hide them then in the very home Hawkeye tried to forget.

Four: The house may be Hawkeye’s childhood home, but he may not be the one who owns it. Remember that brother I mentioned a moment ago? I do not know if Charles Bernard “Barney” Barton was ever in the Ultimate comics, but he is a feature of Marvel’s “mainstream” comics. In the “mainstream” comics, he and Hawkeye had a falling out years ago, then seemingly reconciled just before Barney was killed.

However, Barney survived the incident and was kept on ice by the very same villain who was supposed to have killed him. Ten or twenty years ago, the writers for the “mainstream” comics brought Barney back, this time as a direct antagonist for Hawkeye, though the two have again seemingly buried the hatchet. (Yeah, sure. I still do not buy the easy solution to that feud. Marvel enjoys complicated reconciliations too much these days to let things go that quietly.)

If Whedon decided to play around with this story instead of the Ultimate comics’ story (not likely, but possible) then it could be that Barney lives in the house with his own family. Whedon might have written it so that Barney is the one with a family and Hawkeye is not; he could easily have written the story so that the two brothers do not see eye-to-eye, while leaving Barney still willing to take the Avengers in for a short period of time.

Of course, all these theories could be completely and totally wrong. In that case, I can honestly say that I think I would be largely relieved; some of these theories are things I would be happy to have not come true, readers.

Speculation #7: Two other possible explanations as to who owns the house where Cap and Tony go out to chop wood are these: the house is a former S.H.I.E.L.D. safe house Fury tells the team about, or Maria Hill purchased the place on the off-chance that the Avengers might someday need an inconspicuous hidey-hole to assemble where they could lick their wounds in peace.

Either of these theories seems more plausible than the ones I detailed above. We have no idea what Fury shows up to tell the Avengers; it could very well be that he wants to give them a list of S.H.I.E.L.D. safe places to hide, as he did in the “mainstream” comics’ Civil War story arc (which will be, apparently, the premise for 2016’s Captain America: Civil War).

Maria Hill may work for Tony now, but there is no way in heck that she would abandon her S.H.I.E.L.D. training. I think she would probably rather stop breathing than being a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, at heart if not in fact. It would make perfect sense to her to buy a place where the Avengers could lay low until they were ready to enter the public eye again.

A third option in this direction is that the house belongs to Erik Selvig. This seems unlikely, but it is possible, I think. Still, we cannot know anything for sure until we see the movie later this year.


Wow…. That was some serious speculating, readers. Some of it probably counts more as mere hype and questions rather than conjecture, but this Age of Ultron trailer did not have enough new material for me to write a lot about. I had better sign off now, before my fingers fall off with exhaustion.


The Mithril Guardian


Reckless Caring

How scared Chyna had been that night, risking so much for a girl she had never seen. Scared less of Vess than of this new thing that she had found in herself. This reckless caring. And now she knows it is nothing that should have frightened her. It is the purpose for which we exist. This reckless caring. – Intensity by Dean Koontz

Spotlight: Zoids – The Shadow Fox

Today’s Spotlight! is focused on yet another zoid, but this one is not from the series Zoids: Chaotic Century. This zoid – the Shadow Fox – is from the sequel series Zoids: New Century Zero.

If you can remember a post I wrote a looong way back called “Ready…Fight!”, that article sketched an outline of New Century Zero’s general plot and cast list. You will also recall that I said New Century Zero is not my favorite Zoids series. That has not changed, but just because I dislike the series does not mean I do not like the zoids which populate it.

The Shadow Fox was one of the New Century Zero zoids I really liked. In New Century Zero, the Shadow Fox was a zoid built by the villainous Backdraft Group in order to give them a zoid capable of matching the Liger Zero’s power. The Backdraft put their best pilots in the Fox’s cockpit, but none of them were able to keep up with the zoid’s immense potential. Until Brad Hunter – a member of the Blitz Team and partner to the pilot of the Liger Zero, Bit Cloud – stumbled onto the base where the Backdraft was testing the zoid, the Group thought they would have to wait forever to find someone capable of piloting the Fox.

The Shadow Fox is a highly maneuverable zoid, with the cockpit positioned in its head, underneath its orange-red eyes. Its speed and agility make it the perfect zoid for pilots who favor close combat or sniping attacks. Brad was able to use the machine gun attached to the Fox’s back (see the above photo for details) to take down an opponent’s zoid with one shot. And he was shooting through a metal panel when he did that! Though he favors sniper battle tactics, Brad has used the machine gun’s full capabilities in battle. Even when it is not used in close proximity to the Fox’s target, the machine gun can be a very effective weapon.

The Fox also comes equipped with smoke vents. When activated, these vents release clouds of billowing, black smoke, rendering a midday battlefield briefly pitch-dark. The Fox’s armor blends in perfectly with the smoke, and its muffled joints make the zoid’s movements hard to track. In contrast, an enemy zoid lost in the smoke will stand out like a firework display when its pilot decides to try and shoot at the area where he thinks the Fox is – only to miss and be shot by the Shadow Fox, which was nowhere near the position the enemy pilot believed it was.

The Shadow Fox’s most devastating weapons, however, are its Strike Laser Claws. When given the command that doubles as the attack’s name, the Shadow Fox’s forepaws and foreleg joints will begin to glow with yellow light as the zoid charges at an opponent. Jumping into the air, the zoid will draw back one foreleg (which foreleg depends on whether or not the pilot is right or left-handed, since a trained zoid only moves in concert with its pilot in a battle), and swipe at the nearest exposed part of the opposing zoid’s body.

The end result of this attack is devastating for the enemy zoid. One Strike Laser Claw attack is enough to knock down many different types of zoids immediately. Other, more powerful zoids might not fall simply due to this attack, but the damage done by the Strike cannot and should not be underestimated. The only other zoid which possesses a Strike Laser Claw attack is the Liger Zero; the Shadow Fox possesses this ability because the Backdraft Group wanted it to match the Liger power to power. Brad tested this theory before stealing the Shadow Fox from the Group in broad daylight and found that yes; the Shadow Fox can stalemate the Liger Zero’s ultimate move, without even suffering a scratch in the process.

If zoids were real machines/animals and I had the money to collect them, then the Shadow Fox would definitely be one of the zoids I would want to acquire. It is no wonder Brad stole the zoid from the Backdraft Group. Apart from the fact that they destroyed his Command Wolf and owed him a replacement, the Fox was worth having either way!

Until next time!

The Mithril Guardian


Despereaux looked at his father, at his gray-streaked fur and trembling whiskers and his front paws clasped together in front of his heart, and he felt suddenly as if his own heart would break in two. His father looked so small, so sad…

Forgiveness, reader, is, I think, something very much like hope and love, a powerful, wonderful thing.

And a ridiculous thing, too.

Isn’t it ridiculous, after all, to think that a son could forgive his father for beating the drum that sent him to his death? Isn’t it ridiculous to think that a mouse could ever forgive anyone for such perfidy?

But still, here are the words Despereaux Tilling spoke to his father. He said, “I forgive you, Pa.”

And he said those words because he sensed that it was the only way to save his own heart, to stop it from breaking in two. Despereaux, reader, spoke those words to save himself. – From the “Fourth Book” of The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo

The Tale of Despereaux

“No, wait,” said the princess. “Roscuro,” she said to the rat.

“What?” he said. Tears were falling out of his eyes and creeping down his whiskers and dripping onto the dungeon floor.

And then the princess took a deep breath and put a hand on her heart.

I think, reader, that she was feeling the same thing that Despereaux had felt when was faced with his father begging him for forgiveness. That is, Pea was aware suddenly of how fragile her heart was, how much darkness was inside it, fighting, always, with the light. She did not like the rat. She would never like the rat, but she knew what she must do to save her own heart.

And so, here are the words that the princess spoke to her enemy.

She said, “Roscuro, would you like some soup?” – From the “Fourth Book” of The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo

Happy Saint Valentine’s Day!!!

Who would give a law to lovers? Love is unto itself a higher law. – Boethius, 6th century philosopher

To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love. – Jane Austen, English novelist

Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another. – George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), English novelist

‘Tis better to have loved and lost

Than never to have loved at all. – Alfred Lord Tennyson, English poet

We loved with a love that was more than love. – Edgar Allan Poe, American writer

Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same. – Emily Bronte

Love is all we have, the only way that each can help the other. – Euripides, Greek playwright

Absence diminishes mediocre passions and increases great ones, as the wind extinguishes candles and fans fires. – Francois de la Rochefoucauld

Who so loves believes the impossible. – Elizabeth Barrett Browning, English poet

First love is only a little foolishness and a lot of curiosity. – George Bernard Shaw

There is only one happiness in life,

To love and to be loved. – George Sand (Aurore Lucile Dupin), French novelist

Love is the emblem of eternity; it confounds all notion of time; effaces all memory of a beginning, all fear of an end. – Germaine de Stael, French novelist

Love is love’s reward. – John Dryden

Dean Koontz: The City

Whenever I enter a library, a bookstore, or a book aisle in a chain store, I feel very at home. I think that, if it were possible, I would even live in a library. Books have been my friends for most of my life, and I cannot help loving them any more than I can help loving the wind or the sunshine. They are part of me, just like the soil I was raised on.

This brings me to another Dean Koontz book I read, The City. I discovered it during the same trip to the library when I picked up Relentless. What attracted me to The City, however, was its setting. The City is described as a “coming-of-age” story, but it is the decade wherein the events of this Koontz’ story are set that caught my attention. The City is set in the turbulent 1960s in the U.S., a time I am not very well acquainted with because: a) it occurred before I was alive, and b) so much has been written and said about the ‘60s that I am wary of trusting any book or story that claims to tell those who read it “exactly what happened in the ‘60s and what the ‘60s mean to current times.”

Mr. Koontz is an author I trust, and so I picked up The City in the hopes that he could, in a roundabout way, educate me about that time period. The story was not entirely as in-depth about the events in the ‘60s as I had expected/hoped, but that is because it is a story, not a history book or a manifesto of some sort. And despite this vagueness about actual events, the story’s tone suits the times just fine.

The focus of The City is Jonah Kirk. At the beginning of his first person narrative, Jonah states, “For as long as I have been alive, I have loved the city. It is a love that has been reciprocated.” (I may not have the exact words; I no longer have the book with me. Apologies, therefore, for any misquote! 😊) Jonah tells his story in the fun, rambling way I have come to associate with oral story tellers. They do not start off with, “’It was a dark and stormy night when I was born.” They jump feet first into the interesting stuff, usually by saying something like, “I was playing baseball when I was twelve and ended up socking the neighborhood bully in the jaw.” They give you the goods and then fill in the details. Jonah is no exception.

Right off the bat, Jonah gives the reader an apparently impossible statement, hooking them immediately. Though The City lacks the rollicking suspense and humor of Relentless, this does not make it any less interesting. Where Relentless grabs the reader in a headlock and races said reader into the end zone like a human football, The City has the suspense tempo of an afternoon fishing trip, or the subdued strength of a story told beside a campfire. Before the reader knows it, they are having trouble breathing waiting for the hammer to drop on Jonah’s world – and for the mystery of the city’s “love reciprocated” to be totally revealed.

I will not spoil The City for you, readers. This is not a story I would characterize as horror fiction; it has its creepy moments, but nothing scary enough to keep the children awake in bed, throwing their flashlight’s beam all over the room looking for monsters. Relentless was more frightening in many ways than The City. Also, The City is actually a very good, entertaining, “coming-of-age” novel, better than many others I have read.   All in all, I was impressed with it and I think I can recommend it highly to whoever would like to pick it up.

Dean Koontz may specialize in horror fiction these days but, at least in this little corner of the world, he has earned himself the admiration of one who usually prefers swashbuckling romances to stories of the undead and demons. I raise my sword to him in salute to him.


The Mithril Guardian

The Law

“The law – ”

“Ma’am, I respect the law. We need it, but we don’t have any more protection than we can give ourselves. There ain’t an officer of any kind within a hundred miles, and even if they were around, they can’t act until after the fact, ma’am. After your horse is stole or you’re dead, they can hunt down those who done it, but you’re just as dead as if there was no law. Any man who steals my horse has bought hisself a ticket.” – The Cherokee Trail by Louis L’Amour

The Cherokee Trail

Before the war, she knew of this only as a vague place called the West. It was where people went and so few returned. The East she knew was a place of established families, businesses that had been in operation for many years, children whose great-grandparents had been young together, and it had been a good world in so many ways, a safe world.

That was not true here. Everything was new; everything was building. It was rough, hard, and unpolished. The law was around but never in the way. Men were expected to handle their own difficulties, and courage was the most respected virtue, with integrity a close second. Many a man whom you might call a thief with impunity would shoot you if you called him a liar or a coward. – The Cherokee Trail by Louis L’Amour