Tag Archives: comics

Thundercats – HO!!

Image result for thundercats characters

I have been meaning to write a post about this subject for a while.  For those of you who have no idea what in the world I am talking about, no worries.  This blogger does not expect everyone to know everything about the things I enjoy, just as I hope no one expects me to know a thing about rocket science or the life span of a great white shark.  So hold on tight as I try to explain the subject of today’s post.   It might take a while.

Thundercats was a cartoon series which debuted back in the 1980s.  It focused on a species of humanoid cats.  The nobility among this race were called Thundercats, while the common folk were known as Thunderians.

I have always been a sucker for cats.  So when the series reran at odd hours during my childhood, I would scramble to watch the episodes.  To recap the general plot:  Thundera, the home of Thundercats and Thunderians alike, was a planet which somehow died.  Think Superman and Krypton; the core was unstable or something like that, and the planet went ka-blooey as a result.

A number of Thundercats and Thunderians escaped the planet’s destruction.  One such group of Thundercats included Cheetara, a character based on the cheetah; she could run 120 mph on a morning jog – and faster in combat.  There was also Tygra, based on the tiger, whose bolo whip could make him invisible to the naked eye.  He and Cheetara were hinted to be a couple.

Then there was Panthro, the strongest cat of the group; he was based on the panther.  There were the Thunderkittens, Wilykit and Wilykat, fraternal twins, sister and brother.  They were based on wildcats, but you could not be sure which kind from the look of them.

Jaga was the wise, Obi-Wan Kenobi magician/mentor in the group.  No one has any idea what kind of cat inspired his appearance.  And, last but most important, there was the young heir to the royal throne of Thundera – Lion-O, the future Lord of the Thundercats.  Yes, he was based on the lion.

Oh, yeah, and then there was Lion-O’s nanny, Snarf.  No idea what Snarf was based on; he was the only cat who walked on all fours most of the time.  The Thundercats walked like humans do, unless they had to climb or run up a steep mountain as fast as they possibly could.

Anyway, Lion-O and his escort, along with the convoy of ships following them, ended up under attack from a group called the Mutants.  The Mutants were humanoid animals, mainly resembling Lizards, Jackals, Vultures, and apes (these were known as Monkians).

The entire convoy except for Lion-O’s ship was destroyed.  The Mutants boarded their ship in the hope of recovering an ancient Thunderian weapon and the heirloom of Lion-O’s house:  the magic Sword of Omens.

Naturally enough, the Mutants were repelled.  But the ship was heavily damaged in the battle and would never make it to the Thundercats’ planned new world.  The best it could do was the third planet in a small solar system in a dinky galaxy.  (There was, apparently, intergalactic travel in the original Thundercats series.)

The trip was too long for the group to survive outside of suspension capsules.  Because he was the oldest, Jaga did not enter a suspension capsule, which could retard but not stop the aging process.  He piloted the ship to the Cats’ new home but died before the ship crash landed on Third Earth, a wild world with ancient secrets.

Lion-O was the second Thundercat to awaken from suspension, the first being Snarf.  Once he was awake, Lion-O realized he had grown to a full adult during his years of suspension.  The pod seemingly malfunctioned and did not slow his aging as much as it should have, since the Thunderkittens remained the same age as when they entered the pods – they were older than Lion-O.  He looks to be about thirty, if not slightly younger…

But his mind is all twelve year old boy.  Add a big dash of leonine pride to that, and you get the general recipe for the Thundercats series.

Third Earth at first seems hospitable enough.  But on an adventure out of camp, Lion-O runs into an ancient evil that has slept on Third Earth undisturbed for centuries:  Mumm-Ra, the ever-living mummy and self-proclaimed ruler of Third Earth.

Yes, this is kind of corny.  But there is a bonus point about this villain which I always liked.  Mumm-Ra could never stand the sight of his own reflection.  If soundly beaten in a fair fight by the Thundercats, he would retreat with dire warnings about how bad their next encounter would be.  If the Cats were hard-pressed, they would use any reflective surface that they could find to show him his own face.  The sight of how ugly he was would drive Mumm-Ra back to his black pyramid and into his sarcophagus, so he could regenerate and keep being “ever-living” – especially after the fright of seeing the evil etched into his own skeletal face.

Image result for thundercats new characters lynx-o, ben-gali, pumyra

Three new Thundercats were later added to the roster.  Lynx-O, a blind Thunderian based on the lynx, became the team’s living voice of wisdom; Ben-Gali, based on the Bengal tiger, became the team’s new weapons expert.  Lastly we had Pumyra, based on the North American puma or cougar.  She and Ben-Gali looked to be about as perfect a couple as Cheetara and Tygra.

To a child, the world of the Thundercats, even if it is odd, is wonderful.  I never needed any explanation for anything when I watched the series re-air as a small viewer.  When I was older and looked up the series, I left the incongruities of the stories alone.  What mattered to me were the characters and the morals they imparted during every episode – because in the eighties, every cartoon series had a moral in each episode.  Or very nearly every series had a moral in every show.  Such contemporaries of the Thundercats as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe or Transformers, for instance, had a moral to each story.

Characters in He-Man would lecture the audience directly at the end of every show, whilst Transformers let the moral lie in the story.  Thundercats followed Transformers in that regard, being only a bit preachier in the way the characters spoke to each other.  ‘Course, they were trying to teach a twelve year old future king who had grown to adulthood in his sleep how to be mature.   They had a pretty good excuse.

Even after Thundercats was canceled, there was still a fan base to appease.  I have no idea how many older children watched and enjoyed the series when it came out first, but there must have been enough.  After a while comic books were made to show the ongoing adventures of the Thundercats.

And, as the saying goes, it all went downhill from there.

I looked up the comics when I was trying to find out more about my favorite childhood series.  What I discovered in this search was utterly appalling.  Thundercats had begun life as an innocent children’s show, and I was not the only one naïve enough to have expected the comics to maintain that tone.  What I and other fans of the show found was that the innocence of the series had been ravaged and destroyed by the comic book writers.

After a few glances through the descriptions, I stopped reading, since I wanted to be able to sleep at night.  So I only know of a few things which I can say against the comics.  But it is enough.  If you are a child or have a child with you, stop reading here and/or send the child away NOW.

The writers for the comics had Cheetara captured at some point in their stories and raped by Mutants.  This was bad enough for me; Cheetara had been my favorite Thundercat growing up.  It got worse, I quickly found:  somehow, the two Thunderkittens had also been captured by Mumm-Ra in the comics.  The Ever-living Mummy then decided to use them as sex slaves – both sister and brother – for his personal amusement.

Reading this the first time, I nearly threw up on the keyboard.  Thanks to the reviewers on Amazon who had not been so fortunate, I knew that I never wanted to pick up a Thundercats comic book in my life.  But the knowledge has never really changed my opinion of these “stories” and the writers who created them.

And the thing is, these awful incidents in the comics were not only disgusting, they were illogical.  Throughout the TV series the Thundercats always made sure to keep tabs on each other.  They always came to the rescue if one of them ended up in trouble.  The idea that Cheetara could be captured, let alone raped, without the Thundercats making sure that the perpetrators suffered the consequences is more than slightly unbelievable.

This also makes the capture and corruption of the Thunderkittens impossible to consider.  The Cats made sure to take care of the Kittens; if ever they went missing, the adults would tear off after them.  That they somehow allowed the Kittens to be captured by Mumm-Ra and never tore the planet apart in at least an attempt to find them is totally out of character.

From left to right: Tygra, Wilykit, Lion-O, Wilykat, Panthro, Snarf, and Cheetara

From left to right: Tygra, Wilykit, Lion-O, Wilykat, Panthro, Snarf, and Cheetara

This was one of the reasons why I became worried about the new series which aired in 2011.  The new Thundercats TV show drew a great deal from the comics.  It added species which had never been in the original series, gladiatorial combat, and made the entire storyline far less sunny and happy-go-lucky.  It also subtracted Mumm-Ra’s vulnerability to his own reflection, replacing it with the vampiric weakness to sunlight.  Previously, Mumm-Ra had never had a problem moving around in the day time.  He is, after all, an ancient mummy, not a vampire!

I did enjoy some of the additions to the new series, readers.  But always in the back of my mind was the worry of just what the writers might pull from the comics for the series.  The darker tone of the show did not ease my fears.

Pumyra 2011

Pumyra 2011

The last straw came at the end of the first and only season of the new series.  This episode saw Pumyra turn on the Thundercats and join with Mumm-Ra, who apparently had taken her as his paramour in the bargain.  The fact that the writers would turn the originally sweet, innocent Pumyra into this was absolutely infuriating.  I was more than glad that the series died quietly after this episode.

Nevertheless, that does not mean that the writers are off the hook for what they did to this character – and that goes double for the comic book authors!  The original Thundercats series, the writers for the new TV show reportedly said, was “too much like a Sunday morning cartoon,” to be appealing to modern day audiences.

Well, duh!  That was the point!!!  That was what it was!!!!  No one in the 1980s had a problem with Sunday morning cartoons.  They especially did not mind if they had kids!!!!!

As for no modern audience being interested in the original series or “Sunday morning cartoons,” what are I and other fans like me – cat food?  We enjoyed the original series just fine the way it was!

And that is just the point.  These new writers did not want to reboot the series from its original foundation.  They wanted to change the premise of the story entirely.  Doubtless, the comic book authors felt the same way when they began crafting the comics for the Thundercats.

This really stuck in my craw, for one reason and one reason only:  the new writers felt the original show was too guileless – too innocent – to attract audiences today.  And I believe they are flat-out wrong in this indictment of the earlier TV series and others like it.  If you follow the in-crowd, you never try anything new.  So how will you know whether audiences today do or do not like and want “Sunday morning cartoons”?

But it is what this attitude highlights that I find most upsetting.  What is it with the urge in our “modern” age to destroy innocence?  From abortion to kindergarten programs which teach children about sex, it is horrifying to see just how far we have fallen in so short a span of time.  The world will rip apart the innocence of childhood and children as they grow up.  Why do we have to help it with comics like the ones about the Thundercats?  Why do we have to have television shows which do the same thing?

The answer is:  we do not need these things.  We really, truly, do not.  The fact that too many of us want to make them in order to be “hip,” “cool,” and to impress the people in the “right circles” is not a need.  It is following the crowd and supporting, ironically enough, the status quo which these mainstream moguls claim they want destroyed.

Marvel, DC, and most other “children’s entertainment” venues are doing this as we speak.  Even Disney is engaged in this disgusting game.  Disney has more than a few live action television shows which degrade boys and girls, making caricatures of the players in the stories and thereby the actors who portray the characters.  They are supposed to be funny, but I can tell you that I have never found even one thing comedic in the advertisements for these shows, let alone the actual episodes.

I do not know about anybody else, but I am absolutely fed up with all of this.  I am tired of the implication that I am backward, out of touch, and a rube because I like innocent pleasures and naïve kids’ shows.  As if any of the writers who have turned the art of professions meant to entertain children into lewd pap has the moral authority to tell me or anyone else that!

This has to end.  It has to stop.  Too many children have already been hurt by this.  They have grown into hurting adults who hurt their own children, either on purpose or in a search to find what they have been told is “ultimate freedom.”  These writers and others like them have sold children into slavery to ideas and misconceptions which have landed them in prison, in poverty, in disease, or in addiction.  And they have sold those children’s children into the same situations.  It has to stop!

How do we stop it?

How was Sauron defeated in The Lord of the Rings?  Aragorn’s army did not stop him.  Frodo’s quest to destroy the Ring, which betrayed itself when Gollum bit off his finger, did the trick.  This demonstrates that, eventually, every tempest of horrors imaginable will end in its own defeat.

And just like Frodo, we can help it along.  We can show our children what innocent shows like the original Thundercats look like.  We can make sure they read good books, see good movies, and hear good music.  We can keep them innocent for as long as possible by making damn sure they are exposed to as little of that other stuff as possible.  The battle started when the Enemy went after our children, readers…

It is past time we fought back the same way.

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Book Review – Marvel Masterworks #3: The Avengers

Image result for Marvel Masterworks #3: The Avengers

Well, readers, we are back in the wonderful world of Marvel, as Stan Lee and his friends originally wrote it. Get ready for a jaunt into the Marvelous, original mainstream Marvel Universe!!! Here is the review for Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers, Vol. 3!!

As with Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers, Vol. 2, this book contains a collection of original comics from the early 1960s. There are ten issues in this book in all – plus an introduction straight from Stan “The Man” Lee’s pen. The language in these comics is better, in some ways, than it is today.

Now when I say “the language is better,” I am not referring to these old comics’ lack of profanity. That is certainly a point in these stories’ favor, but it is not the main point. What I mean is that the vocabulary used by the characters herein is wider and makes allusions to the classics. This means that the characters not only convey precisely what they mean to each other, and thereby to the readers; it also allows them to give the readers lessons in world history, myth, etc.

Yes, there is a great deal of contemporary slang in the stories in this book. But there is a great deal of contemporary slang in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, too, and only a few boneheads want to complain about that. The comics are not perfect, but they are better in several respects than today’s comics. The stories in this volume are real stories, the characters are really who and what they look like, and the artistry is well-done.

Is it quite as good as today’s artistry? Allow me to answer that with a question. Are comic books about art, or are they about story? Illustrations for a comic book should be high quality, of course. But if the art is the only thing in the comic book which is good, then the comic book is not worth very much, other than as a tableau showing off the artist’s talent.

The writers of the modern comics are more focused on the fleeting fads of the world than on good storytelling. The artists for the comics want to make a splash rather than help to tell a good story. The parts are all trying to get the credit for the same cake, and in the process they are destroying the recipe. This means that the finished product comes out looking more than a little unappetizing.

So, readers, we have to read these old stories. We have to learn the recipes in this volume. Because when the wannabes are finally driven from the kitchen, guess who is going to have to come in and clean up the mess. That is right – we are. And if we do not know how to bake the cakes, then we are going to make messes as big as this one which is about to blow up in Marvel’s collective face.

Below is a description of the comics that can be found in this Masterworks volume. Some details are missing, but that is intentional. A lot is getting mentioned here in order to whet your appetite for the main course. For those who would rather not do anything other than smell the aroma of the bread, then you had better stop reading right…now. Because, without further ado, here is the description I promised –

WARNING: Spoilers follow!!!

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In this volume, you will watch as Captain America and his “new Avengers” – Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch – are handed their first defeat. Tricked into damaging property by the Enchantress and accused of trying to elbow out the newest hero on the block, Power Man, the Avengers are forced to disband. And the ever-antagonistic Hawkeye is only too willing to lay the blame on Captain America!

However, Steve Rogers is not ready to let the Avengers’ torch gutter and die. While his team searches for new, legit work, he sets out to prove they were set up in “The Road Back!” He succeeds, naturally, and the Avengers are reinstated as heroes. But the team is rocked by another surprise when Cap throws in the towel and strikes out on his own!

Following this catastrophe, Hawkeye finds that leading a team is not as easy as he thought it would be. Wanda misses Cap’s presence along with Quicksilver. Even Hawkeye privately admits that he regrets Cap jettisoning free of the team – especially as the twins prove they are not that easy to order around.

Meanwhile, having found work training a boxer, Cap is making a living on his own for the first time since awakening from the ice. He likes the work but soon discovers that he cannot close his eyes without seeing his team. He misses them as much as they miss him.

Unknown to our four heroes, they are being watched. From his domain in the far future, Kang the Conqueror decides that the Avengers are finally vulnerable to his revenge! He kidnaps Hawkeye, Pietro, and Wanda to the 30th century and holds them captive…

But Kang has an audience besides us, for once. He is in the last remaining kingdom which he does not rule. No, this little postage-stamp nation is run by Princess Ravonna and her father. Both consider Kang to be evil and they despise him, Ravonna making no secret of the depth of her contempt for the Conqueror. Kang, though he rants against her, admits that he is unwilling to destroy the kingdom – because Ravonna has conquered his heart without half-trying!

Hearing on the radio about the Avengers’ disappearance, Cap makes tracks for the Mansion. Discovering that Kang is responsible for his friends’ abduction, he challenges the 30th century genius to transport him to the future as well. With Ravonna watching, Kang is only too happy to oblige…

And from here, it is all-out war, as Kang finally decides that he will take Ravonna and her kingdom by force!

After their adventure in the 30th century, the Avengers are lured to Latveria in the issue entitled “Enter…Dr. Doom!” Eager to challenge the Fantastic Four again, Doom wants a trial run before he squares off with Reed Richards and his family. He gets more exercise than he was bargaining on when the Avengers prove to be as mighty as the Four – maybe even mightier!

Next ish, the Avengers receive a distress call from founding member the Wasp. She tells them that Attuma has captured her and plans to destroy the surface world. He has built a machine which will induce tremors in the earth, causing tsunamis and floods which will destroy the human world. Once that is done, the Ghengis Khan of the undersea world plans to march onto what was once dry land to claim it as his own!

This plan goes about as well as you would expect. The Avengers whip Attuma, destroy his machine, and set him back several thousand sea-dollars, only to arrive home to another crisis. This one again involves the Wasp, who made it to the Mansion but has since disappeared!

Unable to stand losing her, Hank Pym returns to active duty on the team, taking the name “Goliath” in order to help find the love of his life. The Avengers soon meet with Wasp’s abductor: Tanaleer Tivan. Better known to most as “The Collector,” he captured the Beetle and decided he wanted a superhero team for his collection as well. His target: the Avengers!

The team breaks out of this problem and hits another snag. In rescuing the Wasp, Pym stayed giant-size too long. Now he is trapped at ten feet tall – and hating every minute of it.

Things go from difficult to worse in no time. Hawkeye is over-the-moon ecstatic when Cap tells him SHIELD has heard that Black Widow is alive and is returning to the U.S. He then gets angry when Steve points out that the Communists would only release her if they had managed to brainwash her again.

Unwilling to forget his love for Natasha, Hawkeye leaves the Mansion to find her. He does indeed meet up with the Black Widow – plus Power Man and the Swordsman! Natasha then reveals that she has been put back under the Reds’ control, and she wants Hawkeye to rejoin her in their service.

Well, Hawkeye still cares about Natasha, but he is not willing to join the Commies for her. Luckily, Cap was afraid the whole thing was a trap and dispatched Wasp to monitor the situation. She speeds back to the Mansion, but does not return until everyone else is captured. Only she and Goliath are still free to fight…

The last story sees Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch taking a leave of absence from the Avengers. Also, with Cap’s permission, Hawkeye takes on Widow and her stooges solo. He manages to best the Swordsman, his old mentor, but Power Man is not going to be nearly as easy to defeat….

Meanwhile, Hank Pym is desperately searching for a way to return to normal size. Hearing about an old colleague who has disappeared in South America, he heads there to find him in the hopes that the man can help reverse his condition. Instead, he finds a “Frenzy in a Far-Off Land!” ready and waiting to jump him!

Readers, I hope I have not spoiled these stories too much for you. I know they are “retro” and probably of interest to very few of you. With Marvel’s recent alterations, which they are hailing as the new Modern, most of you probably do not care to learn where the heroes we have seen on the big screen for the last decade and a half started.

But I believe that we need these stories now more than ever. Yes, they are kooky and silly, with a dash of weird in the bargain. They will not appeal to everyone; least of all will they appeal to Marvel’s blind Hierarchy of Seneschals.

Still, they are the germ of the stories we have now. Without them we would not have Chris Evans playing Captain America, or Robert Downey Jr. doing a bang-up job as Tony Stark. The cast of the films owe their careers to these characters, and to forget where these fictional heroes came from is just plain bad. It means we are forgetting ourselves with them. If our memory only goes as far back as yesterday, we will never be able to make a future.

Marvel is so determined to build a shiny “modern” future that it is rewriting its past, and not in a healthy way. The bosses at Marvel can make whatever changes they want. But in the end, they cannot change the past. They cannot change us. And that will be their undoing, not ours.

If we forget, however – if we allow what we have learned and remember to be wiped away – then we will be undone. By learning where Marvel came from, the company can one day be cleaned up and put back on the road to goodness and then greatness. This book will help us in that.

If we let it…

Avengers Assemble!

The Mithril Guardian

Captain America: Civil War – Steve Rogers/Captain America

Kitchen

Captain America: Civil War smashed its way onto theater screens May 6, 2016, readers. A resounding first punch for Marvel’s “Phase Three” films, Civil War is a great movie, one of their best.

But people – even those who worked on the movie – seem to have a hard time understanding the character arc of the lead protagonist in this film: Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America.

This is due to the inordinate attention paid to the comic book event which was the basis, at least in part, for the film. People cannot help confusing that story with the one found in the movie. In the comic book event, all superheroes (excluding the continually persecuted X-Men) were required to reveal their secret identities to the world and register with the government – the way that gun owners in Australia were forced to register their names and their firearms in the 1990s, prior to the Australian government confiscating the guns. (How is that working out for them these days, huh?)

At the beginning of the civil war in the comics, Cap refused to register. Iron Man was initially against registration as well. But after an incident where teen heroes starring in a reality TV show engaged a villain who subsequently obliterated half a town and killed sixty school children, Iron Man did a one-eighty degree turn and chose to support registration. (One would think the incident would say more for the stupidity of most reality TV shows than it did for superhero registration, but…. *Author shrugs.*)

Subsequent to these events, a number of superheroes – mostly Avengers and other, solo heroes – refused to register, rallying under Cap’s leadership. Meanwhile, the heroes who supported Registration chose Iron Man as their leader.

This led to a brutal superhero war wherein Captain America and Iron Man’s forces clashed several times. When caught, unregistered heroes were sent to prison with the criminals they had once incarcerated, while Tony Stark actually began recruiting villains to help him bring in Cap and his forces. (This was the start of Tony’s slide into becoming a loathsome villain, completing the Marvel writers’ intent to murder his valiant character.)

The final battle which ended the comic book civil war saw Steve and Tony beat each other bloody, nigh senseless, and almost to death. Concerned EMTs – civilians – finally leapt forward and pulled an irate Captain America off of Tony, since he was about to kill him…

And this is where the movie soars in comparison to the dismal comics. I cannot see Cap becoming so bent and twisted that he would be willing to kill Tony. Cap is too good, too pure of heart, too great a guy to fall into that trap. The ending in the movie, where he instead damages Tony’s suit so the billionaire genius cannot continue to fight, is much more like him than his actions in the comic book civil war.

It was this “fighting for the sake of fighting” that made me abhor the entire Civil War event in the comics. The Marvel writers, in their desire to “update” their heroes to please the academy’s Hegelian/Nietzschean complex, mauled the characters to the point where they were unworthy to be called heroes anymore. If Marvel had wanted to end the “mainstream” universe at any point, that was probably the time to have done it and gotten away with it.

The Captain America: Civil War film does greater credit to Marvel’s characters than the comic book conflict ever did. This is most true in regard to Steve Rogers. Though the directors and the president of Marvel Studios want us to think of Steve now as an “insurgent” who is no longer a “rah-rah company man,” the thing is that, after all these years, they still do not understand how to describe him. Cap was never a “company man.” But he was, is, and always will be “rah-rah America” for as long as he and the nation exist.

You cannot get anymore “rah-rah U.S.A.” than by calling yourself Captain America while dressing in a suit that bears the colors and symbols of the United States’ flag. So, Disbelievers, remember this: Steve Rogers is still “rah-rah America” – and long may he remain so!

Steve is not responsible for the civil war between the heroes in this movie. That inglorious liability can be laid right at Tony Stark’s iron shod feet – again. What happens in Civil War is that the politicians of the world have decided they can no longer tolerate having zero control over the Avengers. Thanks to the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, they think they finally have the ammunition they need to slap leashes and handcuffs on the heroes.

Make no mistake, readers; most politicians want only one thing – power/control, and lots of it. The way to get the most power is to control one’s fellow men. There are two kinds of “absolute” power which humans can exert over each other when they are in the government: the immediate power of life and death, and the power of slavery. The immediate power of life and death I am speaking of here refers to the actions and attitudes of characters such as Thanos, the Red Skull, and Ultron. Their power is the fact that they can kill anyone and everyone who gets in their way as soon as they arrive in these monsters’ paths.

This type of “will to power” is obvious, and so people can recognize it fairly quickly and easily. This makes these villains’ attempts at world domination/destruction hard to fulfill. If it is a choice between rolling over to die and fighting ‘til one’s last breath, most people will fight until they defeat the enemy or die in their tracks. “Give me liberty, or give me death!” as Patrick Henry so rightly said.

The power of slavery, no matter the quality of the velvet glove concealing it, is also the power of life and death. But this power is implemented more subtly than the first; it “looks fair and feels foul.” (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) By using this power – Saruman’s power – the political slave masters get to decide who lives and who dies; as well as when, where, and how these people die. So long as you are useful to those who run the State, you may live, to most appearances happily and freely. But once you are no longer useful due to age or health, no matter how bright or talented, the laws and the agencies that have enacted those laws will inexorably push you to their chosen exit.

Just ask the babies aborted every year around the world, or the elderly who are starved to death when their doctors (like Mengele) deny them the basic nutrition they need, thus dying horribly. They know what slavery is. Or ask those who are said to be “brain dead,” in a coma, or a so called persistent vegetative state, “unable” to recover. In spite of the many verified accounts we have of those who have recovered from these conditions, there are still those who will “pull their plugs,” for no other reason than despots of one stripe or another do not want to be inconvenienced with their care!

J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Orwell’s 1984, the film Soldier, and thousands of other stories repeat this warning to their audiences. You will even find this admonition in The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood if you are paying enough attention, readers!

And you cannot miss it in Captain America: Civil War.

Both these “absolute” powers I just described are faces of totalitarianism. At the head of every tyranny, you will find a small, cowardly bully. And as Cap said in The First Avenger: “I don’t like bullies. I don’t care where they’re from.”

So, in Civil War, when Ross and the U.N. try to hold the proverbial gun to Steve’s head and that of the rest of his team, telling them to get on their knees, Cap responds as he has always responded: “Not today.”

Tony, blinded by his remorse over the events in Sokovia during Age of Ultron, does not see the steel fist hidden under the velvet glove. Instead, he sees a way to assuage his guilt. He thinks it is a preventative measure when it is a dog collar synced to an electric fence. I hate to break his soap bubble, but here’s a newsflash, Tony: you are not a dog. Neither are the rest of the Avengers, nor are any other humans on the planet. A dog is a dog. A human is a human. There is no likeness whatsoever between the two species and anyone who says otherwise is selling something – typically poison.

Cap tries to explain this to him, but Tony will not listen. Why? Pain, fear, and guilt. Tony does not like carrying these around in his “man purse” (glare at Sam Wilson, not me!) on a daily basis. Remember what he told Pepper in The Avengers when Coulson showed up in their elevator? “Security breach. That’s on you [Pepper].”

Tony is used to shifting the blame. He is not accustomed to having a conscience, to having a moral sense which pricks him and reminds him of what is right and what is wrong. Up until the first Iron Man film, Tony was a playboy. That is, he was a grown man acting like an irresponsible college kid. He was playing around, living in his own little bubble, and as long as he was happy, the world was a beautiful place filled with rainbows and sunshine.

Cap does not have that problem because he grew up and “put away childish things” a long time ago. Even before his parents died, he was taking care of himself on the streets of Brooklyn. Despite being a short, scrawny, asthmatic, ninety-seven pound weakling, he essentially adhered to this motto: Sic semper tyrannis. That is the State of Virginia’s maxim, and in English it reads: “Thus always (or ever) to tyrants.”

Bullies in the schoolyard, the workplace, or in the home are all minor tyrants. Once they get into the government, they become Major Tyrants. But when these mini dictators tried to oppress Steve in order to bend him to their will, he told them to go shove it up their nose – even if they threw him in a trashcan, or beat him senseless and left him in a doorway afterward. He took care of himself the whole time he was growing up. And once he was on his own, he continued to take care of himself.

Now when I say Cap “took care of himself,” I mean that he behaved like the adult he was. He took responsibility for his actions; he lived with what he did right and with his mistakes. He made his choices and accepted their consequences, whether they were good or bad.

Tony is not used to doing that, and somewhere after The Avengers, he became even more afraid of growing up. That made him ripe pickings for Ross and the tyrants in the U.N. (Discounting King T’Chaka, who believed in the Sokovian Accords wholeheartedly. Poor guy must never have heard that, “When seconds count; the police are only minutes away.” The Avengers always beat the police to the problem – even in Nigeria.)

This is where Cap and Tony are so remarkably different. Steve still has no tolerance for bullies, wherever they come from, whatever suit they wear. Tony, on the other hand, had never been bullied because his father, his company, or he had always been the wealthiest and smartest – either with his tech or with his caustic, running mouth – man in the room. He did not know what a bully looked like until that cave in Afghanistan because he has never met one to which he was not a superior.

He never saw Loki as a bully, just as someone who was intellectually too big for his britches. He did not see Ultron as a bully; he saw him as a mistake he created and did not fix in an efficient and timely manner. And he does not see Ross, initially, as the loudmouthed bully the current Secretary of State is.

This explanation of the separate understandings of the two men who make the heart and brain of the Avengers’ team clears up everything prior to their last battle in the HYDRA base. In the case of that battle, it is started after Tony is shown footage of the Winter Soldier – a brainwashed and controlled Bucky Barnes – killing his parents.

We know from previous films that, to his masters, the Winter Soldier – whose modus operandi was “no witnesses” – was a lone wolf “fire and forget” tool that would accomplish any mission given him by the most direct and expeditious means, with the evidence of his work to be found on the world’s various obituary pages. The crash alone should have killed the Starks and allowed Bucky to retrieve HYRDA’s prize. Why, then, would HYDRA have placed cameras at the precise site on the exact deserted road to film this particular event – thus negating all the logistics reliable assassins and snipers are usually left to figure out themselves?

To do this would have meant that HYDRA knew precisely which road the Starks would choose, exactly when the Winter Soldier would strike, all the while employing a team of photographers to film this one operation.

Even for a whacked-out organization like HYDRA, that is too much disbelief to suspend. While I suppose it is plausible that HYDRA filmed all of Bucky’s missions for their records, thus initially explaining the footage, is it not more reasonable to think that Zemo manufactured the film (ala CGI) to achieve his desired effect of Tony’s rage?

This would explain the many different angles and particularly the close-ups we have of the Starks’ deaths. Those would have been added for “dramatic effect” by Zemo. It would not have been possible to get a good look at these “details” from any film if it were real – unless HYDRA dispatched an entire team of people to film the event. (While we are on this subject just where, EXACTLY, did Howard Stark get FIVE packs of a working Super Soldier Serum?!?! I thought they got rid of all the samples of Steve’s blood, the only possible source of a functioning serum!!!)

Seeing their deaths – especially the murder of his mother – presented to him in such a way sends Tony over the top. Watching them die understandably sends him into “rage mode,” closing off his reasoning and logic “circuits.” Because of this, he does not stop to calculate if HYDRA would go to such an extent to film their “ghost warrior” doing his job, and come up with the more plausible notion that Zemo manufactured the film to make him angry. Instead, he goes wild, attacking and trying to kill Bucky for a crime the other was forced to commit.

Cap prevents him from following through. In doing so, he is not just saving Bucky’s life. He is saving Tony’s soul. Whether he would ever admit it or not (and we can be fairly sure he would not), Tony went into full-on revenge mode. He was going to kill Bucky, for no other reason than to vent his feelings. Afterward, he could explain to Steve how he “had” to do it; how he “had” to get “payback” for the loss of his parents, and everything would be all hunky-dory.

That would have gone over like a lead balloon because it would have been a lie. Killing Bucky would not bring back Tony’s parents. It would not erase the evil HYDRA did to Tony through Bucky, or the wrong HYDRA did to Barnes. To be one hundred percent plain:

Killing Bucky Barnes would be murder. It would make Tony a murderer and no better than Zemo – and thus an easier pawn for Ross to manipulate as he pleased.

And Cap knew it. He also knew that Tony, carried off by his blind rage and pain, would not quit. He had to stop Tony to protect both his friends.

This is the reason why he disabled Tony’s arc reactor. Tony thought Steve was actually going to kill him, when the idea never even crossed his friend’s mind. Steve did not want to kill either of his friends, he wanted to save them both from the evil HYDRA and Zemo had done to them.

The only way to save them was to cut off the power to Tony’s suit and end the fight. So Cap did it. The suit still had enough power to allow Tony to move and walk around, but not the power to carry on a battle.

Then Tony acted truly immature, saying Steve was not worthy to carry and use the shield the senior Stark had made for him. That is a child’s behavior, which is unworthy of any adult. And some part of Tony recognized that.

If he recognized it, then Steve knew it ahead of him. That is why he left the shield behind, essentially saying with the gesture, “You want it? Here, take it. When you grow up, you can give it back. I can get along just fine without it. Because the shield doesn’t make me who I am; I make the shield what it is. When you figure that out, let me know.”

Steve is NOT renouncing the Avengers, his nation, his patriotism, his nature, his honor, or his friendship with Tony. He IS Captain America, with or without that shield. Tony – and a lot of other people, including the Russos and some of the actors in the film – have not figured that out yet. Or if they have, they have not said it for fear of losing future work in Hollywood. This is very sensible of them, considering the fact that they live and work within the confines of Looneyville, Left Coast, U.S.A.

This ending is why Captain America: Civil War is so superior to the comic book conflict of the same name, in my opinion. Cap remains Cap in this film; he never loses his moral center or compromises with the bad guys. He fights for his freedom and the freedom of his friends. Not just their physical, or bodily, freedom. He fought to save Tony’s soul, and he fought to save Bucky’s mind. And he won. Cap is the quintessential best friend. He will never abandon a buddy, even when that pal thinks he has been forsaken.

Only time and the films will show us if Tony will ever grow up to understand what Cap did for him. By the end of Civil War, it seems he is headed in that direction. After all, he did not tear up Cap’s letter. He did not break the phone. He did put Ross on hold. If Tony could see through Loki’s murderous control of Hawkeye’s arrows, as well as overlook the hundreds of people Black Widow killed while she was a Soviet agent, then he should be able to realize that Bucky was in the same boat. Barnes was just used for a longer time and to kill more people – including Tony’s parents. All three were victims that night, and the sooner Tony figures that out, the better.

Until then, Cap is going to keep doing what he has always done. Whether T’Challa gives him a new shield to use until Tony returns the original or not, Steve Rogers is going to remain Cap. And every time the forces of evil move forward to claim territory, they will find Steve standing in the way, saying, “Now just where do you think you’re going?”

And when Tony finally calls, he will barely get past the words, “Cap, I need you…” before Steve is at the door asking, “What’s the situation?”

Captain America: Civil War is NOT the end of their friendship. Their friendship is NOT broken. It is strained, but the strain is on Tony’s end, not Steve’s. The minute Tony needs him, Steve will be there, and it will be business as usual again. Because Steve has already started the process of healing the rift Tony opened in their team by sending him the letter and the phone. When it is time for the Avengers to “reassemble” for Infinity War, the team will have fewer bugs to work out with each other – all thanks to Steve Rogers.

Can the comic book Civil War claim THAT, readers?

Frankly, I do not think it can. And neither can the writers at Marvel Comics. So, Marvel writers, you had better get up off your fannies and pay attention to the guys writing the film scripts. They actually know what they are doing!

Sic semper tyrannis!

The Mithril Guardian

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Thor Odinson

Okay, okay, settle down! There is no need for that much cheering! I know Thor has not been the center of a post on this blog before, and that may lead some to believe he is not well liked by yours truly. It is true that I have never been extremely fascinated with the Prince of Thunder, as others are. Why? Well….I do not really know. Thor just never caught my attention the way that other Marvel characters did. I like him – just not the way many of his fans do.

However, his strength, courtesy, and fierce fighting ability have always impressed me. From the time I saw him in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! to the couple of comics that made their way into my collection which featured him, I have respected Thor Odinson.

This made his first movie in 2011 a bit of a disappointment to me when I initially viewed it. Here is the Prince of Thunder, star of his very own movie, and he is acting like a spoiled child…? All I could think was, “This is not the Thor I have gotten to know. Why did they make him such a petulant baby?”

Kind of a scathing opinion, I know. But you Thor fans should be happy to hear that my attitude toward the first movie starring the Thunderer has softened significantly since that early viewing of the film. First impressions are often wrong, and mine was mistaken.

In contrast to his appearance in Thor, the son of Odin came out swinging (literally!) in Marvel’s The Avengers. THIS portrayal of Thor was much more enjoyable for me. Since The Avengers was on my ‘to watch’ list before Thor, it may explain my disappointment with the prior film. I did not realize how much Thor had had to grow and change before The Avengers.

The Dark World continued his story arc, and while the plot may have been a bit thin in places, it was a genuinely good showing for him. Anyone could have been fooled by Loki’s death scene; though we can rest assured that as soon as he is unmasked, the Trickster will be rubbing Thor’s nose in the fact that he was hoodwinked. Again. (Ouch.)

Regardless, Thor came out of The Dark World stronger than ever. He became a true prince, worthy not only of using Mjolnir but of ruling Asgard. How do I know this? The acid test is that Thor understands by the end of the film that being a king is not all fun and games. He knows now that there is “more to being king than getting [his] way all the time.” (Pardon The Lion King reference, readers, but it was begging to be done!)

And this brings us to Avengers: Age of Ultron.

WOW. Thor did very well in this movie. Understandably, he is shown to still be unfamiliar with Earth culture here. But Thor’s naturally limited knowledge of Earth and its cultures does not, after a point, interfere with his friendships. To start off, we will discuss the Avengers Thor seems closest to since the team reassembled sometime between The Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron.

First up, Cap. As was discussed at length in the post “Avengers: Age of Ultron – Captain America/Steve Rogers,” Thor and Cap are very good friends. This is especially interesting because of their different backgrounds. Thor and Steve share similar attitudes, it is true. They protect the innocent, fight for truth and justice (though Thor is a little more emphatic on the ‘fight’ part of that clause), they are each loyal to their values and friends, and they are both in positions of authority.

Where they diverge is that Thor, by his birthright, is heir to an entire realm. He could be a complete wimp (which he is NOT!), or a total fathead with an ego to rival Jupiter (which he almost was), and despite these flaws he would still be the rightful heir to the Asgardian throne.

Thor, however, has become humble enough to turn down his birthright, at least until such time as he cannot avoid taking it up. In contrast, Steve is a commoner. His parents were not rich or well-off by any stretch of the imagination, and he lived in very poor conditions – possibly even before the Great Depression.

Now, just for the sake of clarification, let me say that being a soldier is not the same thing as “following orders,” something Whedon had Cap say in The Avengers. A soldier is not a robot or a puppet, and his function is not to simply “follow orders.” If a soldier is stuck behind enemy lines, or is in some other way unable to get in touch with the guys in charge, then how can he “follow orders”?

Good soldiers are not reliant on orders a hundred percent of the time. They are trained to be true to a code of conduct, the center piece of which is usually patriotism (love of country), and the willingness to defend their fellow citizens against outside aggressors or – God forbid – internal threats.

Too many people today see soldiers as mere marionettes or war machines (sorry Rhodey). Not so. Soldiers are men trained to serve and protect at all costs – even that of their own lives. If you train soldiers to be machines that respond to commands instead of individuals with the brains to accomplish their missions when the situations they are in get worse every minute, then you do not have an army, navy, marine corps, etc. You have robots you can sacrifice at will.

Soldiers are human beings. And human beings are NOT robots.

Soldiers are the thin line of defense between regular civilians and the bad guys. They are asked to deal with horrible, terrifying situations no one should have to experience. But they respond to the call anyway, often without realizing that in doing so they are signing up to be expendable.

Even those who do realize they are agreeing to be “pieces in a game” (thanks, Peeta), will still sign up to be soldiers willingly. They sign the contract and agree to defend their otherwise defenseless fellow citizens. This is why soldiers, true soldiers, are loved by their nation. And this is why traitors are hated so bitterly, as much by the country they side with as the one they betray. A traitor is someone whose only interest is themselves and their own well being. Why should others trust and love them, when they trust and love no one except themselves? (Brutus or Benedict Arnold, anyone?)

The point of the discourse, readers, is that Cap and Thor are in reversed positions. Steve is a soldier; Thor is a prince. The age old order would state that Thor ought to be the man in charge. His is the birthright, and therefore the responsibility of leadership. Right?

In the opening sequences of Thor, the son of Odin would have agreed with that sentiment. But he has learned humility since then. Humility is not, as the popular notion would have us believe, a groveling or simpering attitude toward others. Nor is it excessive self-deprecation, i.e., a great chef may say that he is a simple cook to avoid getting a fat head. (And by saying this, the chef is getting a fat head; because he is making himself proud of his self-perceived humility.)

Real humility is what Thor has shown since he first appeared on the silver screen (in a good way) in 2011. He is a prince and a great warrior. But these things do not prevent him from making breakfast for his friends Erik Selvig, Jane Foster, and Darcy. His heritage does not prevent him from falling in love with a mortal woman, or admitting that he does not have all the answers. And his humility allows him to acknowledge that Cap is the better leader of the Avengers.

This all means that Thor, who already knew how to lead, has learned to follow. In the comics, Thor is reported to have said that not only is Steve the only mortal he will take orders from, but he will follow him to the “gates of Hades” if Steve is leading an attack on the place. (Guess who he would side with if he was in Civil War – and yeah, I know Thor’s clone was on Tony’s side in the comic book conflict. That just goes to show he was a FAKE!!!)

Cap and Thor’s friendship is not founded merely on a “you are better than me” mentality. It is based mostly on respect. Thor, along with anyone else who has half a brain, recognizes Cap’s moral authority over him and the rest of the team. For that reason he is quite amenable to Steve’s leadership and willingly defers to him. It is not about who has the better résumé or pedigree – it is about respect.

Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis had similar friendships between Earth humans and alien humans. Jack O’Neill, leader of the four man SG-1 team, commanded the respect of the Jaffa member of the group: Teal’c. That was why Teal’c joined the SG program, let alone followed Jack’s orders. In Stargate: Atlantis, Colonel John Sheppard commanded the respect of the Satedan warrior and former Wraith runner Ronan – who was not known to respect too many people prior to joining the Atlantis crew! And in Ultron, Thor and Cap show the respect they have for each other through dialogue, tag team tactics, and small gestures of mutual esteem.

This brings us back to the hammer lifting competition Hawkeye began, doesn’t it? What does Thor think of Steve since the latter budged his hammer? It gave him a start, for sure! But if Thor could warm to Vision’s ability to lift Mjolnir, I do not see him grudging Steve use of the weapon.

Does this mean he would have been able to accept Steve lifting the hammer during the after party at the Tower? A debatable point …. perhaps. It was a competition, and Thor was being razzed pretty badly by Tony and (to a lesser degree) by Clint. If Steve had lifted the hammer and proved beyond anyone’s doubt that he was also worthy, Tony and the others would never have let Thor hear the end of it. So Thor would have been in a “bit of spot,” as the British like to say, if Cap had lifted the hammer at the party.

This is, as I have said before, the reason that Steve left the hammer on the table. He budged it. Just touching the hammer should have let him know that he could lift it – a slight tingle of power (unbelievable power, at that), racing up his arms, the hammer vibrating with anticipation, the movement as it shifted in response to his slight tug…. He could lift it. Mjolnir let him know he could.

But doing that would allow everyone present, already poking fun at Thor, to howl with triumph as Steve lifted Mjolnir. Poor Thor would be sitting there, stunned, as the jeers and catcalls flew in joyous exultation when it was proved that he was not the sole beneficiary of Mjolnir’s loyalty.

Steve was not going to do that to Thor. As much as Thor respects him, Steve admires the Prince of Asgard in a similar way. So instead of raising the hammer and giving Thor a “there-you-go” smile, Steve just shifted it. Not enough for everyone to see – but enough for Thor to notice, to remind his friend not to get a swelled head. “Being worthy is a neat trick,” Cap essentially said, “but the enchantment says ‘Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall wield the power of Thor.’ It doesn’t say that you alone can wield it. Anyone who is worthy can use it. Even a kid from Brooklyn.” 😉

Then, to prove that he has no interest in using Thor’s toy, Steve lets it go, raises his hands in rejection, and walks away. Galadriel did something similar in The Fellowship of the Ring, except that she had to make a bigger point to Frodo. Anyone, even the mighty Galadriel, was susceptible to the One Ring’s incredible lure. But temptation can always be refused, as the Lady of Lothlorien refused it. In a similar way, Steve Rogers refused the temptation to take the “power of Thor” for himself.

With that subject ‘hammered’ to death, we will continue down the roster. It is interesting, as I noted in previous posts, that Thor would abandon the battle on Baron Strucker’s HYDRA base in Sokovia to bring the injured Clint Barton to the Aveng-jet. The last time we saw the two in The Avengers, they were arguing over who had first dibs on Loki’s carcass. And Thor still enjoys a good scrap, as all Asgardians do, so leaving in the middle of a fight for any reason is a notable decision of his.

In Ultron, Thor offers to take Clint back to the Aveng-jet for preliminary medical treatment. This is probably a nod to Thor’s original, secret alter ego in the first Marvel Comics: Dr. Don Blake. Thor’s secret identity in those stories as the lame American doctor of Scandinavian descent meant that he had extensive knowledge, as Thor or Blake, of medicine and healing. In other words, he was one hell of a doctor – even as the mighty Thor!

This made him invaluable in a life-or-death situation during the early comics, and the Avengers’ inability to reach Blake when Thor wasn’t present on Midgard often left the team scrambling to find a doctor at least half as capable as he was. It was rare that Thor/Blake had no idea how to help an injured Avenger, as shown in “Even Avengers Can Die!” for instance. (See the post on Marvel Masterworks #2: The Avengers for details on that comic book story – unless you hate spoilers, of course!)

You would think, readers, that when Hawkeye starts the hammer lifting competition in the Tower, Thor might have been inclined to verbally batter his irksome teammate. Conversely, Thor says, “Be my guest,” and gestures toward the hammer. This shows that he respects Clint – even when the latter is being something of a jerk – and is quite willing to humor him.

Thor also does not appear to be utterly bowled over by the revelation that Clint has a family. He seems a little surprised, perhaps, but also accepts Clint’s secret with more equanimity than Tony or Bruce. Cap is only a few seconds slower, as the revelation is a bit of a shock for him and hits him in the wounds Wanda reopened in the African boneyard.

Thor’s “easy” acceptance of Clint’s secret family may be due in part to the fact that his mind is primarily occupied with the vision Wanda showed him in South Africa. Although, considering the frown he shot at the billionaire genius when the other said, “This is an agent of some kind,” about Hawkeye’s wife, this may be a wrong assessment. Thor is much more polite and courteous than Tony ever has been in the film franchise. That would be the reason he shot Tony a “don’t be rude” look for smarting off in front of – and about – their mutual friend’s wife.

On a lighter note, it is funny to see Thor step on Lila Barton’s LEGOs, then try to hide the damage under the table. It seems Thor has finally met a girl who is unimpressed with him. Lila is not happy that her dad’s friend just broke her toy, and it is obvious Thor retreats an inch or two when Lila glares up at him. He is a mighty warrior, but how exactly does one apologize to a friend’s young daughter for accidentally breaking a toy one did not see? They do not really cover that in etiquette classes – Asgard’s or Midgard’s etiquette classes – and that makes Thor’s retreat a hundred percent understandable.

From what I know, Thor and Hawkeye have never truly been at odds with each other in the comics. Oh, I am sure they have argued – and if Clint never took verbal potshots at the Thunderer in the comics, then he was either very sick or unconscious. Clint will shoot his mouth off to anyone, friend or foe, no matter how powerful they are!

Despite this, Hawkeye and Thor are shown to have a fairly strong friendship in Ultron. Though he does not understand why Thor would help bring Vision to life in the Tower, Clint seems willing to believe that Thor would not activate the new being just for kicks. He is more dubious of Wanda’s opinions, but she can manipulate minds, as we know. She brought down the whole team, and Clint’s been on the inside of a “mind control thing.” That kind of thing leaves one naturally wary of trusting a person capable of messing with other people’s brains.

Still, this wariness was directed toward the Maximoff girl. If he had had the time, Clint might have asked Thor point blank, his expression somewhat perplexed: “Just what are you doing here, exactly? First you plan to choke the life out of Stark for building Ultron, then you turn around and help bring this new android of his and Ultron’s to life? There really should be a point to all of this.”

And Thor probably would have responded by shrugging in a “yeah, I know, but listen” manner and gone on with the explanation he gave in the film.

Thor and Clint’s friendship is not built on the same kind of respect that is the base of the son of Odin’s allegiance to Cap. Hawkeye and Thor are not peers; they have very little in common with regard to their backgrounds or skills. But Clint does respect the Prince of Asgard – and not because of his rank. He has a high opinion of Thor’s dedication to protecting the Earth, as well as his humility. You have to have some respect for a guy who is willing to abandon a battle midway through for your sake, readers. It is rather ungrateful if you do not, first and foremost; more to the point, it is stupid not to appreciate the gesture.

It is possible that Thor respects Clint precisely for his penchant for throwing jibes that are aimed as well as his arrows. Clint is a complete mortal – he has none of his teammates’ assets. Yet he still faces everything they fight against without complaining, even when he is injured. It is hard not to admire a guy who will take a pounding and pick himself up afterward to keep on fighting. Clint is not an incautious man. Thor learned that when he found out the archer had a family. But he is a brave man and Thor, like all Asgardians, holds courage in more esteem than any other characteristic.

Plus, it helps to have someone who is willing to say, “You’re getting a fat head, pal,” without showing fear of the possible repercussions. As Thor learned when Cap budged the hammer, Clint was partially right: the enchantment was not a trick, but the prince of Asgard was getting cocky and sliding toward old, bad habits. Clint probably knew deep down that he did not have a prayer of being able to lift or move Mjolnir. But he figured someone on the team did, and whether or not he suspected that person would be Cap, Thor still learned that he was not the only Avenger capable of lifting the hammer.

This was slammed home to him especially when Vision handed him the hammer Steve had so ceremoniously refused to lift a couple of days earlier. Thor is shown talking to the android on the balcony not long after this, while the team is gearing up for the showdown with Ultron.

We have no idea what they are speaking about, but Thor is arguably the one Avenger capable of outmatching Vision’s power. He also knows that Vision has just been “born.” Ultron went berserk after he was “born,” and that was despite J.A.R.V.I.S.’s best efforts to calm him down! Thor does not want Vision to follow the same path, so it would make sense that he would take special care to talk to Vision, making sure he had not just helped Tony Stark compound his first mistake.

Another mark of Thor’s growing friendship with Vision is the chat they have in the church in Novi Grad. Finally, Thor gets to talk about Mjolnir with someone who knows the weapon almost as well as he himself does! Cap, after all, never actually lifted the hammer. He knows it is powerful, but he does not know how “terribly well-balanced” it is or how to “avoid losing power on the swing,” and so on. Thor, not necessarily the most trusting Avenger, shows a great deal of faith in the Vision when he tells Cap and Tony not to worry about the android keeping the Mind Stone. It remains to be seen if he is right not to worry, of course, but it is quite the gesture on Thor’s part.

Thor’s relationship with Natasha and Bruce is not easy to determine right off the bat. Obviously, Widow should not have asked the Thunderer for a report on the Hulk’s job at the Sokovian HYDRA base. (Seriously, what did she expect?!?) Coming from a realm where it is still bad manners not to treat a woman like a lady, Thor certainly seems to hold Natasha in high regard as a friend and fellow warrior, to a lesser extent than he regards Sif. But the fact is that he’s known Sif longer than he has known Natasha. We know that Jane Foster holds his heart, but Thor appears to consider the Black Widow a good friend and capable teammate.

For her part, Natasha shows Thor a great deal of deference. She does not accept the challenge to lift Mjolnir, saying self-deprecatingly, “Oh, no. That’s not a question I need answered.” What she was saying, of course, is that she knew she was not worthy. She had nothing to prove in the competition and nothing to lose by avoiding it. That about sums up her friendship with Thor right there.

As for Bruce, I do not think Thor was very angry at him for helping to build Ultron. Most of his ire was directed at Tony, since he was the mastermind behind the plan. Besides, Bruce admitted that he had been wrong to help build Ultron. Instead of apologizing for building a “murder bot,” Tony defended his actions. Since Tony can talk almost anyone into doing practically anything, for that reason, Thor probably decided to let Bruce slide.

Considering the fact that Thor tried very hard to walk back what he thought was a compliment on the Hulk’s performance at Strucker’s base, it is reasonable to assume he is sympathetic to Bruce’s issues. He makes it clear that he respects the Hulk for the other’s strength. But he also respects Bruce for the strength it takes to control the “Beast.”

Thor’s friendship with Tony is somewhat rocky in this film. It was never the greatest to start with – which is Tony’s fault. Who went and knocked the Prince of Asgard off a cliff again? Oh, yeah: Tony Stark, the self-described “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.” Tony, as a Marvel fan, I have something to tell you. You are brilliant – unequivocally so. But you ain’t that bright!

Now, Tony and Thor actually have a lot in common. They were both “born to the purple,” and – for a certain amount of time – they were both idiots. No, Thor never sank to Tony’s lows, but he was still a monumental egotist.

The point where they diverge is in their separate reactions to their past sins. Tony has reacted by feeling guilty and trying to make up for the wrongs that he committed in the past. This has led to him making successively worse mistakes in his present. Thor, on the other hand, reacted by finding and then walking the straight and narrow road. Where Tony refuses to take correction when he makes a mistake, Thor is quite willing to listen when Cap, Hawkeye, or one of the others says, “Time to make a course correction, big guy. You’re slipping again.”

It might be that this is one of the reasons why Thor is so ticked with Tony for building Ultron. Making up for past mistakes is not possible. You can say, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me,” but then you have to live with the other person’s response and the consequences of your mistake. You cannot get even for the past, as a friend of mine says. “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery,” as Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda said. Tony is too busy feeling the weight of his past while fearing and peering into the future to see beyond the end of his own nose. Thor, on the other hand, knows the next half of Oogway’s admonition, “…today is a gift! That is why it is called the present!” and he therefore lives accordingly.

The reason Thor “doesn’t get” why Earth “needs” Ultron is because he understood that Ultron was not necessary. Earth had him and the Avengers as its champions. And if they fell, others would rise. Thor clearly has a great amount of faith in the human or ‘mortal’ race. Tony does not, and furthermore, he will not admit that. He tried to justify building Ultron, essentially disrespecting himself and all of humanity with the statement that Earth “needed” Ultron for protection from outside aggressors. That really got under Thor’s skin and made him angry.

Now unlike Tony, Thor did get a glimpse of future events when Wanda messed with his mind. He knows that the dancing of dead Asgardians in Hel was probably an illusion – but there was truth mixed in with the fantasy. That is what he goes to find when he searches out Eric Selvig and the “water of sight” after leaving the Barton farm.

But does this mean that Thor’s vision in the dream well changed his attitude toward Iron Man? After all, he helped activate the Vision.

No, I do not think Thor’s faith in humanity has been shaken just yet – if it ever will be. Thor understands that his vision was not a prophecy of destruction but a warning. He knows the future is not written in stone, that these “shadows” need “not remain unaltered.” Somewhere down the line, one simple act of kindness or goodness can upend an evil plan like that. (*Author snaps fingers.*) Thor realizes that his vision was a notice that he and his friends were being used. Through his dream he learned that things are about to get much, much harder. And they are going to get hard very fast.

This again highlights the differences in Thor and Tony’s reactions to past sins. Thor’s response to his vision was different from Tony’s reaction to his hallucination. He did not act in fear; he looked for answers. And when he found those answers, he pursued a specific course of action to prepare for the battle he knows is building somewhere on the horizon.

Thor realizes in the dream well that the Infinity Stones have something to do with the coming storm. Knowing what he does about the Infinity Stones, Thor recognizes that they have to be guarded. Locking them up in the basement on Asgard or the core of a dead, dark world are not good enough precautionary measures. These powerful rocks have an ungraciously bad habit of being discovered by the wrong people and then being used for destruction.

The Stones have to be hidden, yes, but they also have to be kept separate. And they need to be protected. This is why the Tesseract is in Odin’s basement, the Collector was given the Aether, the Nova Corps is keeping the Power Stone… and this is why Thor helped bring Vision to life. The Infinity Stones are powerful enough to wipe out and then remake the universe a number of times over when used together, according to Marvel lore. They cannot be entrusted to just anyone. (This, naturally, makes one wonder why Sif and Volstagg gave the Aether to the Collector. Whatever Loki has up his sleeve, it is going to be nasty.)

Thor saw Vision in his…vision. And he saw him as an ally. Learning about Tony’s latest science project, he recognized the android from his vision and helped bring the creature to life.

This is why he spends so much time with Vision prior to the battle in Sokovia. Thor wants to make sure that this new being understands the universe around him, his place in it, and the very important job Thor is entrusting to him. He is handing Vision the job of watching over his friends while he leaves to take care of other business. Essentially, he is entrusting the keys to his treasure vault (Earth and the Avengers), to a totally new being with zero experience. He does not want to hand that responsibility off to just anybody. Whoever he entrusts the Avengers to has to be of good character and a worthy person. Lifting Mjolnir kind of gave Vision the bulk of the necessary “street cred,” as it were.

But it was not enough. Thor trusts his hammer, but he also wants to interview the candidate. That is what I think he did at the Tower, in the church, and before he left Midgard. His questions, hurried as they may have been, were answered to his satisfaction nonetheless. This is the reason he tells Cap and Tony not to worry about the Vision. “He can lift the hammer, he can wield the Stone. It is safe with the Vision.”

Tony is not willing to do that sort of thing. Instead of relying on his friends, he tries to “control what won’t be,” to quote the Vision. Thor learned long ago that this is stupidity of the highest order. While he eventually mellows toward Tony again – perhaps remembering that, in the past, he was as capable as Tony of making similar, or worse, mistakes – he learned and changed. Maybe, just maybe, Thor hopes, Tony will learn, too.

Then the more impatient part of him adds, He’d better learn it soon, or I AM going to hit him this time around.

Well, readers, this is not the glowing report I was planning to write about Thor’s part in Age of Ultron, wandering off topic as I did. But Thor is not easy for me to write about. I enjoy him, but not as much as other characters. It is hard for me to get inside his head after a point.

Hopefully this article was still illuminating to some degree. I really did like Thor’s portrayal in Age of Ultron, and this post is my first post talking about him. So, without further ado, readers…

For Asgard (and Midgard)!!!

The Mithril Guardian

Captain America: Civil War, Trailer 1

 

The first trailer for Captain America: Civil War is out, readers! I have been thinking about this trailer a fair bit, obviously. This is not a prognostications post, like the ones I wrote for Age of Ultron. It is more of a free flowing speculation post.

I have to say that this Civil War trailer is very good, with lots of high-powered action. But it is also a painful thing to watch. I literally had to swallow tears watching it the first few times. Occasionally, it still leaves me depressed and upset.

For those out there who crassly sneer about this, reminding me unnecessarily that this movie is dark and going places the other Marvel films “feared to tread,” I have a reminder for you. It is not good to revel in another’s pain. We are too often tempted with that, sadly. I see no reason to cheer on the war of wills between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark.

As I have said before, I am firmly on Captain America’s side in this war. Tony has a rather lousy moral record; he has been known to socialize with weapons dealers like Ulysses Klaue, as well as being a debaucher and a self-centered jerk with an ego the size of the moon. He is not someone to support on matters of such importance.

In contrast, Cap has never faltered. His moral compass has never wavered, and despite the chatter on the Internet, I do not believe he ever will, even in Civil War. The Russos have actually supported my gut feeling, since they have stated the obvious: Cap’s sense of morality is part of his superpower. If it was just his super soldier serum which made him so interesting, he would hardly be more beloved than any other Marvel hero. And we all know that he is the most beloved of Marvel’s characters. Even Spider-Man falls just shy of the affection most Marvel fans have for Cap. Spidey is just easier to market than Cap is these days.

One of the most important things revealed in this Civil War trailer is that Cap does not want this war. Having never read the comics, I cannot vouch for those, but he does not want a civil war in this film.

What makes me so sure he does not want a Civil War? A little line which made it into the trailer. “I’m sorry, Tony,” Cap says. “You know I wouldn’t do this if there was another way. But he’s my friend.”

Cap does not say with these lines that he is throwing away his new friendships for his old one with Bucky. He is choosing both. He sacrificed his life to save the world at the end of WW II, and he will live with that sacrifice for the rest of his life. But Bucky’s life was stolen from him. And, in Civil War, people are trying to take his life away from him again. As his friend, Cap will not stand for that. He will not let Bucky’s life be stolen from him a second time, especially for a crime he did not commit.

Tony’s response to Cap’s statement, however, is absolutely horrifying. “So was I.”

Was. Was! Cap did not say, “You were my friend, Tony.” He said, “I wouldn’t be doing this if there was another way.” He is not rejecting Tony’s friendship; he is not discarding him or the Avengers for Bucky. He is trying to protect them all, as well as give his childhood friend a chance at making a new life for himself in relative safety.

But Tony does not see it that way. He is discarding Cap, along with his desire and attempts to keep them all together and free, rejecting his friendship. His three word line immediately made my throat constrict and my heart sink. Of all the mistakes Tony has ever made in the films, this has to be the utter worst. Cap understands that friendship and freedom trumps everything. Tony does not, and it is going to cost him.

From what we can see in this trailer, it appears that Bucky is framed for a murder, and thus he is being hunted down. This, along with some international incident following a battle involving the Avengers, will be what kicks off Civil War.

Well, I think it is possible that the international incident and Bucky’s supposed crime happen at nearly the same time. It appears that Civil War could open in medio res, or in the middle of things. Avengers: Age of Ultron did the same thing. If Civil War opens in the African market we have seen clips and set photos of, then the international incident may take place in Wakanda.

If that is the case, then “Bucky’s” target could well be Wakandan King T’Chaka, father of soon-to-be Black Panther T’Challa. T’Challa is said to “be in the beginning phases of taking on the Black Panther mantle” in Civil War. The title of Black Panther is passed down through the Wakandan royal line. Every ruler of Wakanda, as I understand things, has worn the title of Black Panther. The role of the Black Panther is similar to the role Cap played in WW II: protect the nation from outside aggressors.

Why?

Wakanda, from what I know of it, is a postage-stamp sized fictional African country in the Marvel Universe. It is highly advanced, more so than any first world country, because it is built smack-dab on top of the biggest – and possibly the only – deposit of vibranium on Earth. The Wakandans’ understanding of vibranium is what makes them such a technologically advanced nation.

It is also why they are xenophobic in their contact with the outside world. As we know, vibranium is the strongest metal on Earth (equaled in the comics only by adamantium, which is heavier and more easily acquired). In fact, for most of Marvel history, the world had no idea Wakanda existed until around WW II. Knowing how dangerous vibranium is, the last thing the Wakandans wanted was the metal falling into the wrong hands. They take it very personally when someone steals even a sliver of the metal. How Klaue made it out of Wakanda with as much vibranium as he had in Ultron borders on the magical; he should not have been able to get that much vibranium out of the country. No wonder they branded him “Thief” in such an unpleasant manner.

There is also a mystical element to the Black Panther mantle. Becoming the Black Panther, after having received the title properly, means that the person using the title gains all the strength, agility, speed, and senses of a real panther. T’Challa’s ability to keep up with – and apparently outpace – Cap and Bucky is probably related to this.

Also, T’Challa’s suit in the film should be made almost entirely out of vibranium. I do not know if it is an entirely vibranium suit in the comics, but it would make sense if it was. It is the strongest metal on Earth in the films; it is only reasonable that the Wakandans would use it to make a suit for the person charged with protecting their country and its deposit of vibranium.

In the comics and cartoons, T’Challa’s suit has claws built into the gloves. These claws are made of vibranium and are able to scratch through anything, just like Wolverine’s adamantium-coated claws. Vibranium and adamantium are two of the Earth metals that can harm the Hulk in the form of blades. T’Challa also has a series of vibranium daggers hidden in his suit in some cartoons. He may not have these in the film, but it is possible that he might have a set of vibranium daggers in Civil War.

If Bucky is blamed for T’Chaka’s assassination (or attempted assassination), then it would make sense for T’Challa to join up with Tony in Civil War. He wants justice, or revenge, for his father’s death. This means we will very likely see T’Challa facing off against Cap, and since vibranium is the only thing that can harm itself, it is possible that Cap’s shield will have some scratches put in it during the movie. However, since T’Challa is prince of the nation which owns all the vibranium on Earth, he can repair it once everything is sorted out at the end of Civil War.

I do not know exactly why Natasha has sided with Tony Stark in Civil War. I know she was on the pro-Registration side in the comics, but her motivations there are also a total mystery to me. Especially since she was apparently a non-combatant in the comic book war (how did that happen?).

The Russos have said that Natasha is trying to keep the Avengers from being disbanded. This makes sense, considering the fact that, if the Avengers were disbanded, she would have nowhere to go. Being an Avenger grants her a certain amount of immunity. At the end of Winter Soldier, she faced down the D.C. bureaucrats and told them how many buns make a dozen. They did not like that, and they have the power and ammo to bury her well below six feet under. So not only does being an Avenger give her purpose, it protects her from powerful people who see only her dark past and would gladly lock her up to die in the “Pit of Despair,” if you will. So siding with Tony would seem to her, perhaps, to be the best way to save the Avengers and herself. Self-preservation could very well be her motive for joining Team Iron.

That does not mean she is not conflicted during Civil War. She and Cap are good friends, and where Tony appears to believe that Cap is abandoning them all for his old war buddy, Natasha does not seem to share that sentiment. After all, she has been in Steve’s shoes. Her best friend was mind-controlled into helping Loki invade Earth. She would have gone through Hell to get Hawkeye back. Can she expect any less from Cap, who has proven that not only will he go through Hell to get Bucky back, but he will let Bucky beat him nearly to death as well?

As an added dilemma, Hawkeye sides with Cap in the upcoming war. The why is easy to guess: he worked for SHIELD only as long as his family was kept out of their files, and he has stayed with the Avengers in order to keep his wife and children safe. Someday he will have to let someone else have his job – one of his sons, or a stranger. But until that day he will fight to protect his family and the world they live in. Registering with the U.N. means that they will want to know everything about him. And it is hard to believe that the U.N. would not put his family in a database somewhere once they learned about them.

Clint does not want that. He will stand up to those in authority when they begin abusing their power, and these fictional Sokovian Accords are a blatant abuse of power. If the government can tell the Avengers who to target and who not to target, then they will end up with the same situation they faced in Midtown Manhattan in The Avengers. The World Security Council, likely a committee from the U.N., was quite willing to wipe out NYC with a nuclear warhead in The Avengers. Now that the latest weapons are people with super powers or “specific skill sets,” they are trying to make them the new “nuclear deterrents” completely at their command.

Except the Avengers are people, not weapons or tools. And people do not like being enslaved, under any circumstances.

Remember when I said that Clint had issues with authority in the comics? Well, it looks like he is about to take a very great issue with the government in Civil War. He has already proven he will break with his orders when he believes those orders are wrong. That is why Natasha is even alive, let alone an Avenger. And if he accepted SHIELD’s offer of a job only on condition that Fury erase his family from digital and analog existence, then Fury either wanted him in SHIELD very badly, or Clint is one hell of a negotiator. And by that, I mean he told Fury, “If you want me in SHIELD, then you had better make sure no one finds my family. Because if they do and something bad happens to them as a result, I will not only hunt down and kill those who hurt my family, but you, too.”

We do not get to see much of Hawkeye in this Civil War trailer, but I did notice two things about him in the brief scenes where he appears. One, when Cap and his team are apparently staring down Team Iron, Clint does not look happy. Neither does Cap, interestingly. Normally they each wear the expressions of men ready to wade into the fight fists swinging. This time, Cap and Clint both seem thoroughly sick at the idea that they will be going up against their friends and fellow Avengers. They do not want to, but their friends are not going to give them a choice.

Second, in one of the scenes following Team Cap charging into battle, two people can be seen running across what might be an airport tarmac. Since one of those people is holding a bow, it is safe to assume that person is Hawkeye. The second person is, on closer inspection, shown to be the Scarlet Witch.

This raises some interesting points. We know that Clint and Wanda established an understanding in Age of Ultron, but we also know her older brother died saving Clint’s life in the same movie. It is possible that Clint now feels responsible for Wanda, that he believes he should stay close to her and take care of her, since her older brother died to save him and is no longer present to see to her welfare. He might feel like he owes Pietro this and will therefore try to keep an eye on Wanda in Civil War.

Where this will lead, I can hardly guess. It has been suggested that Wanda may go a bit berserk in this movie. Elizabeth Olsen, the actress who portrays her, has dubbed Wanda a “wild card” and says the Scarlet Witch is “conflicted.” She says Wanda feels like she is connected to the Avengers, but at the same time, they are not her family. She certainly has a rapport of some sort with the World’s Greatest Marksman, and a bond with Captain America. And she has been an Avenger long enough now to get to know Falcon, War Machine, Vision, and Black Widow fairly well.

But they are not her family. In that respect, she is adrift in the world. Pietro was her anchor to reality, as she was his anchor to calm and reason. Despite the nobility of his sacrifice, she will feel Pietro’s loss keenly, and therefore may be inclined to leave the team. Also, Olsen hinted that the Scarlet Witch’s powers have grown since Age of Ultron. In the comics, this was one of the factors which led to her loss of sanity. Even with her brother alive, she ripped reality apart and rebuilt it. She also killed Hawkeye in this event. Twice.

All this could spell danger for Hawkeye in the upcoming film. Hopefully, Wanda will not roll off the deep end in Civil War and hurt him. Olsen’s statements, however, hint at some mental unsteadiness for the Scarlet Witch, and this opens some rather worrisome doors in my mind.

We also see in this trailer that Falcon is still “doing what [Cap] does, just slower.” In the trailer he says to Cap, “I just want to be sure we consider all our options. ‘Cause people who shoot at you usually wind up shooting at me, too.”

I think what Sam is really saying here is this: “Look, I am with you all the way. But are you sure there isn’t another way out of this mess? Because when things go bad, you won’t be the only one getting shot at. You’ve got me (and the others) watching your back. We’re going to get shot at, too, and we’re going up against the other Avengers at the same time. The Law of Averages says someone will get hurt or killed. You can’t make this decision based on sentiment and emotion. Have you really thought this through?”

Of course, Cap has. And barring a miraculous light bulb exploding into brilliance over Tony’s genius head, he has no other option but to go up against Iron Man. Sam and the others know that. If they choose to follow him, then they will all be in the same boat.

And, short of some unexpected betrayal in Cap’s ranks, this proves that Team Cap is made up of people just like Steve Rogers. Sam and the others on Team Cap all value friendship and freedom uber alles, or over all. They will follow Cap through Hell if that is where the battle takes them, because they are his friends. It will not be just because the U.N. wants to run their missions. It will be because they value Cap’s friendship, and friendship is based on loyalty, which means that you stay faithful to your friend no matter what. “And say my glory was I had such friends.” – William Butler Yeats

Then there is Bucky. Bucky is certainly an appealing, sympathetic character. And he is in an interesting – and precarious – position in Civil War. As a former HYDRA operative, Bucky naturally has an enormous amount of intel on the organization. In the hands of the U. S. government and the Avengers, this information could bring the plague-like organization down.

HYDRA has to know this. They also have to realize that the government, or the sensible people in it, would want Bucky captured and alive in order to gain all the information he has on HYDRA. There is no way, under normal circumstances, that U.S. military leaders would want Bucky dead. He is too valuable as an informant on HYDRA, even in his current beleaguered state.

Hence, it appears that HYDRA has assassinated someone in Civil War and pinned the murder on Bucky. They thereby instigate an international manhunt for him so that he will be brought in dead and useless to their enemies. It would be great if they could get him back and make him their tool again, but they might have already tried that and found him less than docile. Crossbones is said to taunt Cap with the fact that Bucky remembers him in a different trailer. To me, this suggests HYDRA has tried to get Bucky back and failed.

So that leaves them with only one option: eliminate him.

Sebastian Stan has been asked what Bucky will be like in Civil War, and he has said his relationship to HYDRA is a complicated one. That Bucky sort of owes them for saving his life. Not really, I think, since they simply saved him in order to turn him into a weapon. They stole from him, and while that certainly does not make them like his second family, it does mean they have a relationship.

This, of course, raises the question of what type of relationship. I do not believe it is a happy or a familial relationship. Bucky has turned his back on HYDRA and on being a weapon. However, even with his mind control and brainwashing broken, old habits die hard. He is not going to forget the skills HYDRA taught him. He simply cannot. They are built into his muscle memory; if he is fiercely attacked, even by run-of-the-mill thugs, his muscles will react automatically because of his training and years of experience as an expert assassin.

This also means that, like Wolverine, his instinctive reaction in a pitched battle will be to go for the jugular. As long as he keeps his emotions in check and maintains some rational control of himself in combat, Bucky should be able to keep his attacks from ending in the death(s) of his opponent(s). He can rationally choose not to follow through on a blow, making it a knock out or an injuring hit rather than a killing strike.

But he is not yet emotionally and mentally stable enough, it appears, to keep complete control of his instincts in such a conflict. If he is incensed to the point that his emotions and instincts override his rational thinking, anyone attacking him is courting death, the same way they would be if they sent Wolverine over a mental cliff.

This theory is given some credibility in the scene where Bucky goes to rip out Tony’s arc reactor. It does not matter that the arc reactor no longer supports Tony’s heart, it still supports his suit. And if it gets fried while being yanked out, it could short out the suit in such a way that Tony is badly injured or even killed. This could be what happens to Rhodey, though it is hard to tell from the trailer whether he is alive, dead, or injured and unconscious. (Someone suggested War Machine’s arc reactor was ripped out mid-air, because he is seen lying in a crater in the ground. It may be that the Scarlet Witch, Falcon, or even Vision is responsible for Rhodey’s apparent crash in that scene.)

There are probably several ways to take out Tony’s suit with Bucky’s particular skills and assets, while at the same time not hurting Tony. But Bucky’s immediate act is to go for the most vital place in Tony’s armor. His first instinct is for the jugular.

And thanks to HYDRA, he will be battling this instinct for the rest of his life. Just like Wolverine, his instincts can be tempered and controlled. However, due to his conditioning, he will remain highly unsociable and appear cold to others. He has experienced too much pain for mild annoyances like broken toasters and stubbed toes to set him off, but at the same time, he has also had much good ripped out of his hands.

And so his attitude in pleasant surroundings or events will remain gruff, distant, and always guarded. Past experience with HYDRA has driven home to him the fact that happiness is fleeting and fragile. It only takes one evil person to kill many, and he will always be on the lookout for evil, even if it does not show up. He knows it exists. He has seen it many times and he will therefore remain vigilant and ready for it to strike, something most civilians do not consider.

Thanks to HYDRA, Bucky knows safety is an illusion at worst, a veneer at best. It can be ripped away in seconds by a bullet or a knife. He is a target for both. He can be happy, but he will always guard that emotion carefully, so that if the world goes to hell in a hand basket, he will be ready for it.

This is the legacy of HYDRA’s manipulating him: in some respect, they will always own part of him. And there is absolutely nothing he or his friends/allies will ever be able to do about it.

All this leads to one point: Bucky will have to die in Civil War. Now since Sebastian Stan has a nine picture deal with Marvel, I do not think his death in Civil War would be real. It would probably be faked, so that he could go underground and try to make a life for himself. Doing this would get HYDRA and the government off his back – for a space, at least – and give him time to try and do something good with his life.

It would be interesting if he was “assassinated” in place of Cap, who in the comics was “killed” at the end of the Civil War story arc. (His “death” in the comics even made the actual six o’clock news.) He could wear Steve’s uniform and be “killed” in his place in Captain America: Civil War.

Who would “kill” him is open to debate; Hawkeye and Black Widow both have the skills to make sure the shot appeared real. Bucky could certainly pull off a convincing death scene after that. But Crossbones or Baron Zemo could be the ones who plan to assassinate Cap – though what they would gain by making a martyr out of him, I have no idea. This would mean the Avengers would have to somehow ensure the HYDRA bullet did not actually hit its mark, but make it appear that it did. I am sure they could all work something like this out, if the writers decided to go with this plot. It is how they saved Fury, after all.

Speaking of our villains, we have not seen Baron Zemo in any of the trailers so far. Since he is playing the HYDRA heavy, we all know where Crossbones will be in the movie: he is the muscle-bound goon and the public face for HYDRA’s foot soldiers.

People keep asking where Zemo is. I think the answer is rather obvious; he is the man behind the curtain. We know from The Winter Soldier that HYDRA did not simply infiltrate SHIELD. They wormed their way into the U.S. government. Senator Stern was a HYDRA man. And just because the World Security Council threw wine in Pierce’s face does not mean that the U.N. has the same spine. In fact, that scene was the first hint that anyone on the WSC even had a spine.

Zemo and HYDRA could very well be the force behind the U.N.’s Sokovian Accords. Cui bono – who benefits from a civil war between the heroes? Cap and Tony are not going to get much out of this war, which like all such conflicts, is anything but civil. The answer is as plain as day: in an Avengers’ Civil War, only their enemies benefit. And HYDRA is the main enemy for the Avengers in these films. They have the most to gain by registering the heroes and binding them in red tape.

It has also been revealed that Thunderbolt Ross will be the U.S. Secretary of State in Civil War. The Russos have said he has gone from hating the Hulk to hating all super-powered people in general. That is not a great leap of logic, really; Bruce and the Hulk were untouchable as long as they stayed with the Avengers. Bruce and “the other guy” helped save the world. Who could hunt down a hero like that without suffering a huge amount of political and popular backlash?

I would guess that Ross has it in for the Avengers in part because they shielded the Hulk and Bruce for so long. Though Bruce is once again on the lam, if he were to go back to the Avengers, he would still be “safe” at first base in popular opinion. So Ross’ interest in taking the Avengers down and putting them under the government’s thumb may be a tactical strike: take out the Avengers, and there is no safe haven for Bruce. Popular opinion, fickle as it is, cannot protect him if he has no base and friends to put a roof over his head and food in his mouth.

There is also the slim possibility that, in his hatred for the Hulk and now the Avengers, Ross has made the proverbial deal with the devil. He could now be a HYDRA man, too. In the “mainstream” comics and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon series, Red Skull briefly hid in the U.S. government as the Secretary of State Dell Rusk (Red Skull mixed up). If Ross is Secretary of State in Civil War, then it is quite a nod to these stories and could be a great hint at his role in the film. Ross may be doing the political heavy lifting for Zemo in the U.S. government, nipping at Tony’s heels and hemming the team in on all sides politically so Zemo and HYDRA can strike the finishing blow.

There is one last thing to say about this trailer. As with Age of Ultron, fans are trying to raffle off certain Avengers for death in Civil War. Whedon sideswiped everyone with Quicksilver’s noble sacrifice in Ultron, but it is getting increasingly hard to suggest which Avenger could die in Civil War. The four “main” Avengers in the film – Iron Man, Cap, Black Widow, and Hawkeye – all have contracts which bind them to several future Marvel movies. None of them could convincingly be killed off, unless Marvel wanted to play the “mostly dead” or resurrection cards on their film audiences. They would have to play those cards very believably; Coulson is so far the only character Marvel has seen fit to resurrect, and fans reacted by saying, “Well we knew he wasn’t dead!”

That leaves the other characters in a bit of a pickle, right? Maybe not. Tom Holland, our new Spider-Man, is contracted for three films beside Civil War. Anthony Mackie fought hard to get into the franchise; he will not be giving up his role as Falcon anytime soon. Elizabeth Olsen has no idea whether she will be in future films or not, though she has hinted that Wanda survives Civil War. People are suggesting that Vision will be in the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and I find it hard to believe that the writers would kill him off so soon.

I have no idea how expendable Rhodey is. That clip of him with his arc reactor ripped out does not inspire confidence in his survival. But it could be a trick of editing; he might survive after all. Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man has a sequel in the pipes, so he is not going to die. And T’Challa has a solo movie coming out in 2017.

Hawkeye’s family could certainly be killed in the movie, however. There is a precedent for this in Marvel’s Ultimate comics, in which Natasha Romanoff murdered his family in cold blood. It does not seem likely that she will be responsible in the movies if this were to occur, though as with all things, we cannot rule anything out until we see the film. Even if she is not the perpetrator, that does not protect Clint’s family. Of course, maybe Sharon Carter will be the one to die.

Although, someone did slow down the trailer at the part where Bucky goes to rip out Tony’s arc reactor and they read his lips to try and find out what he was shouting. Now, the fan who did this would not say what he thought Bucky was shouting, but he felt it confirmed Steve Rogers’ death. We all know Steve’s coming back in the Infinity War films, so it is possible that Cap’s death in Civil War is a set up. A set up Bucky and Tony might be in on. But we will not know what exactly is up until we see the film May 1, 2016.

So raffling off particular characters for death is rather foolish, in my opinion. It does not prevent me from wondering about who may die. I just cannot see any way to safely guess who the unlucky superhero might be.

Well, readers, time to go. These are my thoughts and speculations about Captain America: Civil War. More may be revealed in the forthcoming trailers, and Marvel may yet tip its hand. That is unlikely, but it is possible. So until the next trailer comes out…

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian

Stories Matter – Why Marvel Comics’ “Secret Wars” Is Not Marvel-Us

‘I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which “Escape” is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?’ (From J. R. R. Tolkien’s On Fairy-Stories, 1939, courtesy of www.interestingliterature.com)

I do not know how or why, but I have always been enchanted by stories. They are, to me, perhaps more than most other physical things in life. Stories are my biggest passion.   There are days I could forego lunch, a trip out of doors, or sleep if it meant a chance to read or see or hear a good story, which sometimes makes me wonder if I am not flaming crazy.

The above quote from J. R. R. Tolkien, taken from a post on Interesting Literature, is something I like to read to remind myself that I am not, in fact, crazy. I just happen to really like stories. Why? Well, why are some people passionate about surfing? Why are some people happiest while they are wood-working? Why are other people almost transported to another world while they are doing math?

We each have our talents, our passions. Stories and their characters are mine.

Escape was a word abused in Tolkien’s day as much as in ours. Then as now stories – whether they were fairy tales or great epics – were sniffed at by those who thought they had no worth.   “Oh, stories are good for little children,” they would – and will – snicker, “but once you are an adult, you don’t need them anymore.”

Uh-huh…. And when I reach adulthood, I can stop eating my veggies, right? I think several dozen fitness experts and dietitians would have an apoplectic fit if I pulled that stunt.

The thing I am trying to say, readers, and I may not be saying it well, is that stories matter. The characters in them matter. They always have and they always will, at least until time ends. Stories are avenues of escape.

But escape from what? Reality? Hardly. I may be addicted to stories, but I can tell you that they have not numbed me to reality in the least.

Stories are ways to escape the prisons forged out of despair, hatred, loneliness, and other evils. There are unfriendly things we have to deal with in this world if we are to survive it and discover our destiny. No one sniffs at the working mother whose husband buys her a ticket to the spa so she can get some down time, or the family that heads out to the park for an afternoon to kick a soccer ball around and enjoy each other’s company.

Yet begin talking about a story you enjoy, and you are suddenly accused of trying to escape reality.

I am no psychiatrist, no scientist, no sort of professional or “expert” whatsoever. But I know stories. I know they matter. I know because they are what make me happy, the same way a surfer is happy when he or she is out there shooting the curl. The same way a carpenter is glad when he planes a piece of wood or finishes a chair. The same way a mathematician receives untold pleasure in figuring out or making new numerical and formulaic puzzles. This is why I post about stories so much.

And this is why I have a problem with the direction the Marvel franchise is headed.

Marvel Comics is currently in the middle of some insane storyline called “Secret Wars.” The many alternate Marvel universes have collided with the “mainstream” – 616 – Marvel Universe which Stan Lee and his fellows created back in the 1960s. 616 Iron Man/Tony Stark and Nick Fury have been transformed into villains and have helped to bring this calamity about. Several characters from all the alternate universes are now struggling to survive alongside the 616 characters. The entire universe is in shambles. To top it off, Marvel is hyping an “All-New, All-Different” Marvel Comics line up for the next year (or more) with the roster for the Avengers completely rearranged – Miles Morales will be Spider-Man, Sam Wilson will still be filling in for Cap, Jane Foster will still be swinging Mjolnir and using the name Thor, and by now I cannot recall the other changes Marvel said were coming out.

I do not know who is alive in the Marvel Universe anymore, who is dead, which characters are wearing which superhero identities. My information is fragmented and despair-filled. The Marvel Comics currently in progress are not the Marvel Comics I enjoyed or, I think, that I could ever enjoy given who and what I am. In an alternate reality, I might. But not in this one, and this reality and the one that follows are the only ones that count.

Marvel knows that they can have all sorts of characters wear, say, Spider-Man’s costume, but the only character fans really want to see in the suit is Peter Parker. They know they can put anyone in the Captain America suit, but the only one who anyone truly wants to see holding the shield and standing up against evil is Steve Rogers. They know what works and they know what does not work. Why they have done what they are doing I cannot say. I only know that it has to stop, before irreparable damage is done to the characters they supposedly love as much as we fans do and, more to the point, which they are charged with protecting and strengthening.

They cannot be allowed to continue down this road, readers. If they do, there will be very little of what is good and right left in Marvel Comics for those who follow us in the near future. The films and cartoons based on their characters will suffer similar fates. For the comics are the roots of these newer forms of the tales and once the roots are poisoned the whole tree will die.

But why do I care about this, when there are so many more important things to think about, so many other calamities hitting the world and society? Well, why did Stan Lee care about this?

Why? Why did Stan Lee care? After the Second World War, all the comic book characters that were churned out for the U.S. soldiers and the kids back home in America were shelved. The comic book companies stopped producing stories for them; they started telling new tales with new characters instead. Though he may have lasted longer than some war-era comic book characters like Prince Namor and the original Human Torch, Cap was eventually put away as well.

Stan Lee saw it all happen. He watched Cap get shelved, along with all the other great characters made during World War II, after he had established his footing in the comic book world. He saw Cap, Bucky, Prince Namor, and others get set up on a high shelf by his bosses, because Cap and the others were “not needed anymore.”

Hah. For someone who is “not needed anymore,” Steve Rogers is awfully popular today, is he not, readers? Where would we (or Marvel, for that matter) be if Stan Lee had left Cap to collect dust on the shelves of Timely Comics, before he owned it and renamed it Marvel Comics?

Stan Lee liked Steve Rogers as much as any of us ever have. He brought Cap back because he knew we were always going to need him. He knew the suit did not make Captain America. Steve Rogers made Captain America. So Stan Lee made sure Steve could go on fighting for the nation he loved, inspiring generations of Marvel fans – outside and inside of the U.S. – to keep on fighting for what is right and true and good in this flawed, chaotic world.

He knew we would always need a rallying point, a character so thoroughly American that he could never consider giving up, not even for a moment. In the Avengers’ fourth issue, Stan Lee reinstated Steve Rogers in the fiction of the world. And we have reaped the benefits not only of Cap’s determination and strength but also of Stan Lee’s foresight and understanding of why we need great stories and great heroes.

And yet we are letting Marvel’s current hierarchy and their writers toss Steve around like a yo-yo.

Marvel knows I am displeased with the way they have taken their stories.  I have made no secret of it, sending them various notes showing my displeasure and suggesting how they might do things better since November/December of 2014.  But I am only one voice. I have no power with them, beyond what I have done.  They can, if they choose, ignore me easily. Odds are good that they will ignore me.

But they cannot ignore more than one voice raised against them in protest of their treatment of their characters.  They cannot ignore fans who tell them, “This stops here, and it stops NOW.”

You want to know something really funny about all this, readers?  Thinking about this post, about how to try and get my point across, I suddenly remembered Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  I recalled Steve Rogers speaking into a SHIELD microphone in the Triskelion, revealing to the World Security Council and the clean SHIELD agents that HYDRA had grown up right under their noses, and was planning to conquer the world through the agency that was supposed to protect humanity.

The part I specifically remembered was Steve saying, “The price of freedom is high.  It always has been.  And it’s a price I’m willing to pay.  And if I’m the only one then so be it.

“But I’m willing to bet I’m not.”

So maybe I am the only one who cares about what Marvel messes with in their comic book universe.  Maybe I am the only one in the world who cares about the characters as they were written and who wants to see that foundation built up, not torn down.  And if I am the only one who cares… then so be it.  I do CARE!!!

But, then again…maybe I’m not the only one.   I do not know.  I cannot know.

The U.S. Marines have a saying, “Is this the hill you want to die on?”  Not particularly. But if it is the hill I am forced to fight on, do not expect me to fight by halves.  A fight is all or nothing.  And if I have to die on this hill, standing beside the river of truth, well, you know – there are much worse hills out there on which to die.

So bring it on, Marvel.  I am willing to fight.

Are you?

The Mithril Guardian