Tag Archives: Dr. Strange

Avengers: Infinity War – A Review, Part 2

Avengers: Infinity War (2018) News - MovieWeb

Whoo! Last week this blogger did a quick rundown on the (minor) issues she had with Avengers: Infinity War. Having covered those irritating incidents, we can now dive into what was truly enjoyable about this film. And there is a lot to like (warning – there will be spoilers 😉 ).

On a technical level, the film is pretty close to flawless. It never loses track of its story. It doesn’t wander off into the hinterlands or backtrack into the ancient past; neither does it throw flashy special effects in a viewer’s face, hoping to dazzle them with movie magic. No, the movie is a self-contained story that proceeds in a straight line at break neck pace. Ten years of cinematic storytelling have been building up toward this moment, this ultimate battle of good versus evil. It’s been comparable to water building behind a dam until it reaches capacity and bursts.

While this blogger hates the Mad Titan with more passion than Loki or even Thunderbolt Ross, I have to admit that his disproportionate amount of screen time here was necessary. Until now, we have never seen Thanos in action. We have heard the rumors, the horror stories, and have gained some vague idea of what he is capable of accomplishing.

But it all pales in comparison to the truth. Thanos is the single scariest villain in the MCU to date. He is as charismatic as a snake and has a tongue like honey. Trying to reason with him or tell him that he is wrong is like trying to tell a tidal wave to stop. It doesn’t work due to his arrogant certainty that he is right and the rest of the universe is wrong. He wants to be God, and has convinced himself – more or less – that he is, in fact, a deity.

No where is this better demonstrated than with the portrayal of his chief henchman, Ebony Maw. Maw practically worships Thanos and, by extension, death. The only member of the Black Order to receive decent screen time, Maw exhibits a chilling, slavish reverence for the Mad Titan. His speeches about how those whom he is going to murder on his master’s behalf have now had meaning injected into their previously “pointless” lives highlights the evil he and Thanos are perpetrating on innocents throughout the galaxy. It is a scary nod to what some people in real life who followed Hitler or Stalin believed about them and their bloody aims.

Avengers Infinity War deaths: Did [SPOILER] die or is it ...

Of course, this means that watching Maw get blasted into space was one of the most satisfying moments in the entire film. That was a good scene! I wonder if he found the meaning in his formerly pointless life upon being forcibly ejected into hard vacuum…

Probably not – or at least, not the kind that he was expecting. 😉

Speaking of good scenes, the heroes had plenty of those as well. While the majority did not receive as much screen time as I would have liked, the time they got was used well. This is most true, in my opinion, with regard to Vision and Wanda. They had some of the best scenes in the film. While they play second fiddle to Thanos, their tune is just as impressive (if not moreso) than his was or can ever be.

The trailers didn’t lie; despite the split in the team and the threat of the Accords, Wanda and Vision are dating by Infinity War. Apparently Cap and Tony have been arranging for the two to have some “alone time” in different parts of the world for a few days/weeks for the past two years. Vision turns off his tracking tech and disappears to be with Wanda, giving her a break from being on the run with the rest of the Secret Avengers. At the end of the agreed upon time, he goes back to being an official hero and she returns to being an outlawed heroine.

Their relationship is very, very well presented. Though Paul Bettany has made some joking comments about it (i.e. “I’m an android, [Olsen is] a witch – how does this work…”), that attitude never shows in their performances. They absolutely nailed Vision and Scarlet Witch’s romance in this movie, and they should receive awards for their work. I doubt they will, but they really, really should! 😀

Tony, too, did well in this film. He starts out hemming and hawing over the fact that he was wrong and “broke up the band” in Civil War, but the fact that he deliberately looks the other way when Vision goes to meet Wanda suggests he’s realized that the signing the Accords was a really bad idea. The fact that he also flies off to handle Thanos solo (more or less on purpose) only goes to show that he still hasn’t quite relinquished his irritating tendency to think/say/act like he can “fix” everything with his genius.

3 characters most likely to die in Avengers: Infinity War ...

But as the battle escalates and the true extent of the threat becomes more and more apparent, his arrogance melts away. Faced with the fact that his nightmare is real – and far worse than he thought – Tony rises to true heroism in his personal battle with Thanos. It’s a great moment (and a terrifying one), when the Mad Titan almost kills him. Strange’s bargain almost seems to be a cheat, as it interrupts Tony’s transformation and seeming achievement of the pinnacle of heroism.

It is, however, nothing of the sort. While Tony has reached a great height, his work is not yet done. He’s the resident super genius of the Avengers, which means that they need him to stop Thanos. Strange’s exchanging the Time Stone for his life makes plenty of sense on that level.

On a more personal one, which the good Sorcerer Supreme may have known as well, Tony hasn’t reached the peak of heroism yet. There is still some unfinished business he has to take care of back home before he is ready to face the final test. He has to patch things up with Steve.

As discussed in the posts about Cap and Tony’s character arcs in Civil War, most of the fallout from the final battle in that film lies squarely on Iron Man’s shoulders. He made the decision to sign the Accords; he fell for Thunderbolt Ross’ honeyed promises, and he is the one who forced the confrontation at the airport in Germany. Nothing Cap did was anything more or less than defensive counter maneuvers to block a literal or figurative punch.

Even when Steve avoided telling Tony about Bucky’s involvement in the murder of the senior Starks, while it wasn’t exactly right, it was certainly not comparable to what the younger man tried to do in Siberia. That entire fiasco, the rift between Tony and practically everyone else on the team, is his fault, not Cap’s. And he has to deal with that; he has to face it. Steve is more than ready to do make amends and move on….

…But when Tony had a chance to begin the catharsis and healing during Infinity War, he didn’t take it. His heroism on Titan is admirable (and Downey Jr.’s acting is fantastic), but it is not yet perfect. And although there are other factors leading up to the Avengers’ loss, his choices are a big part of why the team fails to stop the Mad Titan’s ambitions.

For Iron Man to become a true hero, a real modern knight, he has to face that fact. He has to admit he was “wr-r-r-ong,” to quote the Fonz, and he has to do it to Steve’s face. Cap is more than ready to let bygones be bygones, he just needs Tony to man up and say the word, none of which will happen if Tony is dead. And that’s a big part of why Strange gives the Mad Titan the Time Stone in exchange for Iron Man’s life.

Speaking of those left alive at the end of the movie, Chris Hemsworth pulled off a fantastic performance as the grieving, vengeance-hungry King of Asgard. Thor has been through a lot in a short amount of time, and though he bears up pretty well under it all for most of the film, it’s not hard to see him straining. He’s watched his home, his people, his friends, and his remaining family murdered for nothing. And it’s not hard to see how all of this is affecting him.

The really cool thing is how he shows it in small moments. Rubbing at his wrists with impatience when he thinks no one’s looking. Staring out the windows at nothing but the past. Avoiding eye contact or being a bit more terse and regal than he needs to be to make his point. The anger, pain, grief, and desire to avenge his losses at Thanos’ hands – it’s all there in the little gestures and glances he gives. This has to be one of his best performances yet.

Avengers 4 May Wrap Filming in January | Screen Rant

And that goes for the rest of the crew as well. Though they don’t get near enough screen time, the rest of the Avengers and Guardians each get their due. Whether it’s Gamora singing along to one of Quill’s songs at the same time he is or watching Bucky lift Rocket in the air so they can turn in a circle and cover all their bases, the heroes each get a moment to show how far they have come in ten years. It’s a beautiful thing to watch ….

…Which leads us to the biggest and best thing about the otherwise heart-wrenching finale for Infinity War. After all their hard work, the heroes are defeated, and more than half their numbers are erased. It is not at all uncommon to hear modern academics speculate lovingly about how we could save the planet if we murdered eighty or ninety percent of the population. There was a professor some years ago who openly hoped that a mutant Ebola virus would wipe out ninety percent of humanity in order to preserve the environment. (And yes, he received a standing ovation. Why do you ask?)

Infinity War takes these academics’ theories out of the classroom or lecture hall and explores them on the big screen with characters audiences everywhere have come to know and love deeply. Thanos has spent years systematically murdering fifty percent of numerous alien populations throughout the galaxy – up to and including the already halved Asgardian people, who have just lost their homeworld (which was apparently more sparsely inhabited than we thought, given the relatively small number of refugees who got loaded onto the Statesman at the end of Ragnarok).

Right out of the gate, Infinity War offers a very clear presentation of what the world would look like if those who desire the eradication of large numbers of human beings had their way. The Asgardians are practically on the verge of extinction; by Thanos’ own stated objectives, they should be safe from his culling.

But they are not. The Mad Titan walks aboard their ship, ostensibly searching for the Space Stone/Tesseract, and slaughters innocent civilians. Men, women, and children – none are spared, not even the (somewhat improbably) redeemed Loki. According to his mission parameters, there should be no reason for him to do this. Yet he wipes them all out without batting an eye anyway.

His actions put the lie to his rationale that in order to save the environment of the cosmos, he has to bring “balance” to a population that is already teetering on the edge of annihilation. Thanos is no savior, he’s a mass murderer. And those who espouse a similar worldview in real life are no less genocidal than he is.

Most importantly, the final shots for Infinity War and early footage for Endgame show the results of his policy. Panacea is not achieved throughout the universes; instead, chaos reigns. On Earth, planes crash into buildings, raising the death toll even higher as their remaining crews and passengers die in the resultant conflagrations. Uncontrolled vehicles crash into buildings and people, reducing the population again. Governments and infrastructure crumble, leading to anarchy as the rule of civilization dissolves. Food, gas, medicine, and electricity become luxuries as the factories and power plants which supplied them fall out of use, leading to mass starvation and death by disease.

The environment takes a hit with each loss as well. Fires rage from the plane and vehicle crashes; rains erode the carefully maintained terraces on farms and in parks, or lead to floods from dams that overflow with no one to open the channels that will send the water to other areas in a controlled manner. Pets starve when their owners don’t return to feed them, zoo animals die without the care of their handlers, as do animals in farms, labs, and animal shelters worldwide.

“But that’s not what killing eighty or ninety percent of the human race would do!” some cry. They are correct; wiping out more than fifty percent of the global population would make things worse. Entire cities would be fit only for ghosts, and the remaining people would not get to live in mansions with free Wi-Fi, running water, and endless supplies of food. They would have to go out and live in the heat and the cold, hunting and gathering and dying like their ancient ancestors did.

From what we see in both Endgame trailers, this has already happened. Clint is out killing Yakuza who have moved into the power vacuum in a city somewhere, while a refugee camp has been established around the Statue of Liberty, probably by the Avengers. They almost certainly set it up there because it was clean and provided easy access to a food source: fish, crabs, lobsters, and other sea creatures.

Thanos said he would go and watch the sun rise over a grateful universe after he had achieved his goals. But what kind of universe is thankful when half of the people that made it worth living in are turned to ash by a crazy man’s snap? The Titan is truly mad if, in the depths of his soul, he believes the cosmos is actually happy following his deeds. No platitudes of his will make up for the lost children, the vanished spouses, the beloved grandparents, or the acclaimed rulers. If Thanos were to go to New York expecting a warm welcome, he would have to powder more people as they rushed at him in a rage born of grief.

Unlike Loki, however, the Mad Titan has enough of an ego to believe that he can hear the crowds cheering from the fields of his new farm. He does not actually believe the people or the cosmos is appreciative of his actions. If he did, then he would go looking for praise. No, as Gamora said, his only love is for himself and his desires. Being alone on his farm like a“twisted Cincinnatus,” as someone said, is reward enough for his labors.

I, for one, can’t wait to see how the Avengers are going to bring him down. There is the chance that this will be the last hurrah for some of them, and if that is the case, I will be sorry to see them go – especially if they are given a poor send-off.  Or if they are replaced with lackluster characters (*cough* Carol Danvers *cough*). For the future of the Marvel Universes and audiences everywhere, I hope Endgame ends better than Infinity War did, with the team back together, the world safe, and Thanos gone for good.

Well, readers, it’s been a fantastic ten years of cinema. And it has to be said that, without them, I would not be here at Thoughts writing to all of you. It’s been a fun ride. I have no idea where things are going to go from here, but I know that everything leading up to this point has been great.

Until next time, readers:

Avengers, Assemble!

Avengers Endgame : la bande-annonce est enfin là, préparez ...

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An Avengers: Infinity War Trailer Breakdown – Sorta

Finally – FINALLY!!! The trailer for Marvel’s third Avengers film has been released! The first major teaser trailer for Avengers: Infinity War appeared on the Internet yesterday, readers. And it is a doozy!

You can find another breakdown of the trailer here, which I enjoyed reading immensely. But while I was watching (and rewatching, and rewatching….) the trailer myself the other day, I noticed a few things which Mr. Finn did not mention. Being the Avengers’ fan that I am, it seemed reasonable for me to do a trailer breakdown myself. I need some way to burn off my excitement and trepidation, after all, and this appears like a good way to do it.

Why the trepidation? Well, for a start, this is Infinity War. This is the battle between Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the Mad Titan, Thanos, wannabe paramour of death’s female incarnation himself. The way he plans to woo her is by uniting all six Infinity Stones to wipe out most of the universal population. (Hence the title Infinity War, Mr. Pine; it isn’t about ‘infinite war’ but six mega-powerful rocks which can reshape the universe from the ground up at the whim of whoever holds them. They’re so powerful the energy they produce is incalculable, i.e. infinite.)

At least, in the comics, Thanos’ aim is to make Death fall in love with him. In the movies he might just be a galactic overpopulation nutjob worried that the universe is becoming too crowded, which means everything has to be put in ‘balance’ again. (Translation, a lot of people “have” to die – fast.) And since he is the best and brightest guy who noticed the rising population in the first place, it makes total sense for him to be the bringer of that balance to the cosmos. Yeah, sure; please insert scoffing raspberry here, readers.

Of course, this means that all our heroes are on the chopping block. We can be sure that a few will survive to be in more movies, but for others, there is no guarantee. Nada. Zip. Zilch. This brings me to my first observation about this trailer….

WHERE THE SAM HILL IS HAWKEYE?!?!?!?! (And Ant-Man, can’t forget about him….)

Two whole minutes of trailer, and my favorite archer does not even get a cameo?!?!?! Are you kidding me?!?! Where is Clint Barton? Why isn’t he in this trailer, at least as a voice? I thought we established waaay back in Age of Ultron and Civil War just how important Hawkeye is to the team. But he doesn’t show up AT ALL in this trailer. Neither does Ant-Man, who would be a BIG help when our guys run into hordes, multitudes, and fireteams of alien monsters.

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Where are these two?

Okay, now that I got the big problem out of the way, we can delve into the trailer.

The first picture we see is of a storm-tossed desert planet, followed by a shot of Tony sitting down somewhere. He is rocking back and forth on his heels, apparently trying not to cry. From later shots, it looks like this is a world where he and Spider-Man get trapped after they first face Thanos.

I’m guessing Peter gets seriously hurt here. I say hurt and not killed because Tom Holland still has two or three Spider-Man films in his contract. These films are set between the Avengers’ movies, so they cannot afford to knock off Peter Parker here. Not yet, anyway, or at least not permanently. We also have a voice over throwback to The Avengers where Fury explains the Initiative to Steve on the Helicarrier. But it is Fury’s only line in the trailer as Tony, Vision, Thor, and then Natasha finish his speech for him.

The next scene shows Dr. Strange and his buddy Wong looking down at a confused and shirtless Bruce Banner, who has literally dropped into the Sanctum Sanctorum from above. Aside from the fact that this is another nice nod to The Avengers, it apparently has something to do with the end credits for Thor: Ragnarok. I am guessing, since I have not yet seen the film, that Hulk somehow got blown off of Asgard when it went BOOM and has landed, as Banner, in Dr. Strange’s house. I thought he left Asgard with Thor, but apparently he decided to take the quick way home. Probably for the best, considering what we see later on….

Next image we have shows Paul Bettany, sans Vision makeup, throwing curtains open on a rainy day/evening/dawn. Now if you watch this clip and do not stop it, you will miss an important thing. You will miss the fact that Wanda is in this room as well. Look to the left of the frozen image and you will see her in a bed. THIS IS A BEDROOM, PEOPLE!! AND SHE IS SHARING IT WITH A HUMAN VISION!!!!

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Holy cow, I did not see this coming, although I did see the romance part coming. (Spoiler alert, they married in the comics. It was fine for a while, but then the writers abused them, so it got weird.) Looking at this still shot, it appears that Viz woke up and went to look out the window at something, waking Wanda up in the process. But why is he human? And when did they start rooming together (or did they actually get married in the films after all)?

Unfortunately for Wanda and/or Vision, I am pretty sure this is a hallucination. Or someone is poking around in their head(s), looking at their desires/dreams, taunting them by using these fantasties. (Vision cannot ever be physically human, readers; that is why I say this is a fantasy.)

One of the reasons I think this may be a hallucination is because the Black Order, five or six alien warriors who follow Thanos and who want to bring death to everyone everywhere, are said to be a part of this film. Given that the next scene shows the Mind Stone still in Vision’s forehead, I am thinking Ebony Maw or Supergiant, two telepathic/psychic members of the Black Order, are playing around with either his fantasies or Wanda’s. If it is Wanda they are messing with, I hope the Scarlet Witch pastes them. If it is Vision, the Black Order might have captured him, meaning that they may be trying to interrogate him.

Another theory I have for this scene is that this is Wanda’s fantasy, and Vision is working to snap her out of it. Or Vision has found a way to disguise himself so that he looks human, which means that he and Wanda are actually living together here. This might explain a later scene which makes it appear that the Scarlet Witch hasn’t been hanging out much with Team Cap. If she’s been living with Vision, then the guys on Team Red, White, and Blue knew she was safe and happy, so they let her go with Viz to live off of the U.N.’s radar while they kept Avenging.

Our next throwback scene shows Thor looking out of what appears to be the Milano’s viewports. How he ended up with Quill and the gang when he was supposed to be taking care of the Asgardians he saved in Ragnarok is anybody’s guess at this point. I think those who have seen the film probably have better theories about the how than I do, so let me finish by saying why this is a throwback scene. Anybody remember Fury standing in a similar position aboard the Helicarrier in The Avengers? I sure do!

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Next we have Bruce, in full attire, standing beside a Hulkbuster fist in what is apparently Wakanda. He is sharing a smile with a blonde Natasha Romanoff. (Really? Blonde? She originally had black hair in the comics, what was wrong with that color…?) I do not know if they will be picking up their relationship where they left off in Age of Ultron. I kind of hope they do; it was so unexpectedly sweet and suited them so well that I would really like to see them get back together. But we may get a Natasha/Bucky romance during Infinity War and its sequel instead. I would be happy with that, too, mind you, but the romantic in me still wants Bruce and Natasha to start dating again.

Up next we have scenes of Tony, Bruce, Strange, and Wong in the Sanctum, with a voice over by Thanos. We follow this up with Peter Parker’s arm hairs rising. This could be a sign of his Spider sense activating, or it could be that the massive alien teleportation ring we see hovering over New York is generating enormous amounts of energy. Static electricity, after all, makes hair stand up straight. The energy the ring is producing may not be powerful enough to make long hair stand up, but it could make arm hairs raise. Just saying.  🙂

Then we have Tony, Bruce, and our two sorcerers standing out in the street staring at the big Ferris wheel in the sky. At least Strange and Wong are powered up and prepared to fight. Even Bruce is standing in ready position. Tony’s the only one doing the “Oh, bleep!” blind staring act here.

Does he have another arc reactor in his chest? It is hard to see, since Tony’s jacket is almost zipped closed, but I think there is actually another arc reactor powering his heart here. How did that happen? I thought it was removed in Iron Man 3. Did he have it taken out, or just replaced? If the latter, why haven’t we seen it in the other films? Or is this a new, fancy Iron Man suit that he can hide under normal clothes, like some of the ones he has in the comics?

Well, we’ll find out one way or the other. After this we see someone stepping over the bodies of a lot of dead people, followed by a shot of Loki holding the Tesseract out to Thanos. (Big surprise there – that rotten little weasel would get away from a dying Asgard with the Infinity Stone he promised to deliver to Thanos way back in The Avengers….grrrr.) From the looks of the backdrop and the apparel on the dead bodies, I would say this scene occurs in Knowhere.

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Loki, you @#%*$!!!

This is very bad, since this could be where Thanos goes to pick up the Aether/Reality Stone from the Collector. Not to mention it seems he killed a whole lot of people here for no good reason…. But then, he wants to kill everyone for no good reason. So this scene isn’t really a surprise at all.

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And Spidey got an Iron Spider suit. Shiny – and it is good at grabbing the rotating innards of that portal gizmo. Nice. Does it come with missiles and extra legs, too? Those would be helpful right about now…

Whoops, looks like Thor is standing in the center ring of an even bigger portal doohicky. And he is trying to tear it apart. Or is he trying to activate it? Those look like the controls for the Milano in his hands, but that big bubble-wand is not Peter Quill’s ship. So what are we looking at here, exactly? And what is Thor trying to do?

All right, quick, stop that next scene!!! Did you see that?!?!?

No? Try again, as many times as you have to. We know who catches the glowing blue trident, but did you see who threw it?!?!

If you missed her despite your best efforts, don’t worry, I did, too. A lot. But then I managed to catch a glimpse of her. That, my dear readers, is Proxima Midnight – one of the leaders of the Black Order and a nasty, nasty lady. Did I say she was nasty? She gives nasty a bad name. That trident is her signature weapon.

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Proxima Midnight

It is hard for me to say just where she is standing. Looks like it could be an airport or a subway tunnel; maybe a factory or a gas station. Either way, it is dark, so someone cut the power here, or this scene happens at night. Proxima Midnight – Near Midnight. Ha-ha, very clever, Marvel.

The person she threw the trident at is none other than Captain America. (Seriously, let the man shave already!!! Beards are not meant for combat – they’re too easy for an opponent to grab and hold. Evans may get away with a beard, but Cap does not!!!) He is still shieldless but just as clearly still on the job.

I say this last because of the next scene where we see Steve. After Proxima tries to shish-kabob Cap, we see him step out of the shadows, looking like Star Wars RebelsAgent Kallus. Nevertheless, Wanda appears to be very happy to see him. To me, she almost seems ready to cry at the sight of him. Judging by the stuff in the background and the fact that her hands are glowing, it looks like Wanda engaged Proxima first, which means Steve came to back her up.

But if she is about to cry on seeing him, that might mean she was not expecting him to show up. This concerns me; Steve may not be using his Captain America moniker for the beginning of Infinity War, but he is not the kind of man who will sit back and let evil have its day. The fact that he shows up fully suited and combat ready, if a little scruffy, suggests he has been maintaining his superhero status since the end of Civil War.

I thought the rest of the anti-Accords Avengers would be with him. But if Wanda is so near tears when she sees him stop Proxima’s trident, plus the fact that she is wearing civvies and looks like she showed up to the fight underdressed, does that mean Cap disbanded his team and went solo? That doesn’t add up. They’re stronger and safer together, at least in pairs. I also don’t see the guys letting Wanda run around on her own, not after Ross locked her up in solitary on the Raft in Civil War. That is not like them.

Of course, maybe she didn’t give them a choice. Maybe she left of her own volition and has been staying off the radar her own way. If I were the guys, I still wouldn’t be willing to let her go off alone. The fact that no one kept an eye on Wanda in the early ‘90s after she had suffered a serious string of bad luck was one of the factors which led to her going crazy in the Avengers: Disassembled and House of M comics. If the writers are planning to go in this unhealthy direction in the films, I will not be happy. But if this is the result of the fact that she has married, or is living with, Vision – that I will accept.

Yes, I know I skipped T’Challa’s speech. But the part here with Wanda was really important. T’Challa’s words are totally in keeping with his character, and they do him immense credit, so I do no think I have to really dwell on them. Though I will say that I went a little squeaky when T’Challa said, “And get this man a shield.” Eeeek! Way to go, Panther! Make sure it is colored right, please! Yay!!!!! Captain America forever!!!!

Okay, next we see a new and improved (we hope) Hulkbuster in Wakanda, followed by Natasha jabbing someone in the midsection with a staff. Judging by the scenery behind Widow, I would say this is the same fight where Cap shows up to help Wanda battle Proxima Midnight. (Please let Natasha be stabbing Proxima Midnight, please let Natasha be stabbing Proxima Midnight, please, please, please…!)

Then we have Dr. Strange relaxing/freaking out (?) after doing a little magic (I mean, super-duper fast quantum calculations). Then we have a giant black pyramid thing – one of several – landing in what appears to be Wakanda. I am with Mr. Finn; if the Soul Stone is not in Wakanda’s basement treasury, I will be surprised and disappointed. There is no way Thanos and his aliens are after the vibranium – not when they can get better, stronger material in space. They have to be after something else here.

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After this we see Cap (without a shield), Panther, and a lot of Wakandans mixing it up with four-armed, big-toothed aliens. Then we see Spidey get slammed into the dirt by Thanos, followed by a shot of a distressed, unsuited Tony Stark. Next we see someone standing on Vision’s chest while stabbing the Mind Stone in his head, using a staff shaped like the one Loki had in The Avengers. This begs the question of whether or not Loki is the one doing the stabbing; looking at the shape of the stabber’s feet, I am inclined to say it is actually Ebony Maw or Corvus Glave, but I could be wrong.

I was actually much happier to see Bucky than I expected to be. That is a really nice gun, there, Buck. And you have a shiny new arm! (Please tell me it is made of vibranium; please tell me it is made of vibranium…!) Then we see T’Challa turning to look at the screen. If you freeze the shot, you will notice that Natasha is standing next to him. Her hair is in the lower right corner.

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Go get ’em, guys!

This is followed by assorted scenes of combat, as a horde of aliens tries to invade Wakanda. The only Avengers we can confirm are present in this battle so far are Cap, Widow, Bucky, Hulk, Panther, Falcon, and War Machine (I guess they fixed his back). Finally, we get a glimpse of Thor asking who in the Sam Hill the Guardians of the Galaxy are.

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The Guardians of what again?

You can just see the air go out of Quill’s tires when he says that. Four years on the job as Guardians and yet the Prince – now King – of Asgard has not heard of him and his crew? Come on, man!

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The Guardians of the Galaxy

This is going to be a rip-roaring ride. I cannot tell who may or may not die. Personally, I hope Thanos and the Black Order all get obliterated from the universe during this film, or during Avengers 4. And if bad stuff does happen to our heroes – and I do not see how they can escape scars, bruises, etc. here – I hope that six of ‘em each get a hand on an Infinity Stone and use the rocks’ combined power to set things right.

Some will say that is cheating, and maybe it is. But as I have said elsewhere, I do not go to these movies for the villains. I do not go to them to be told, “Lie down and die.” If I wanted that message, I would go to a DC film or to see the latest installment in the X-Men franchise.

I go to the Avengers films because they tell good stories, using heroes I love, and they give me hope. That last is in VERY short supply in most of the fare we receive from Hollywood these days. Only the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies gave me the same sort of satisfaction as the Avengers have, with Star Trek a close runner up. I would not even be going to cinemas now if it were not for the Avengers cinematic saga.

So whether anyone likes it or not, I am not raffling off any of the heroes for death in this movie or its sequel. If the writers kill them, I am stuck; if the actors who play them have quit and necessitated the killing, I am stuck. I will not complain if they are sent off with honors. However, whether they live or die, I will not desire their deaths or the deaths of any other heroes in the films.

I do not worship death, as some of the people who follow these movies seem to do. I worship God, Whose hand I have seen in most of these stories. If the film writers turn away from Him, then they can kiss my cash goodbye. It has been a great ride, and I hope they end it well. If they do not, it will be a tragedy; but I have trusted God to steer them right so far. I trust Him to do it again. After Avengers 4, I will be able to either peacefully enjoy what comes next, or disengage from the franchise with a fond farewell. What shall be is not yet determined. It is out of my hands; I can only wait and see.

Ha, haha. For once, waiting does not seem quite as hard for me now as it has been in the past.

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Avengers – Assemble!

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch

So I saw Age of Ultron not too long ago, and I did a post about it. But I did not make mention of two of the most intriguing characters in the film: twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, better known in some circles as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch.

When was I going to get to the Maximoff twins? Well, now seems to be as good a time as any!

With everything else going on in the film, Whedon did not have a lot of time to squeeze Pietro and Wanda Maximoff into the story in such a way that everyone in the audience would get to know and like them on the spot. For those of us who did enjoy the characters, or who knew something about them from days past (X-Men reference! ;)), we saw, we knew, and we liked plenty!

First up: Pietro. Quicksilver is probably the character to get the shortest shrift in the film, after the Hulk, almost but not quite on par with how much screen time Hawkeye had in The Avengers. Most of the time he is running around so fast, you have to do what the Avengers are doing: “Where’d he go..? Oh, there he is.”

But what we do see of Quicksilver is very in-character. As shown in the movie, Pietro moves so fast that to him, bullets appear to be moving in slow motion. The nine millimeter bullet most commonly used and mentioned in TV shows and films travels at 1200 feet per second. That means this type of nine millimeter bullet will literally beat your hand to the door knob when you are standing next to the door and the person holding the gun is across the room.

But even this lightweight bullet is not faster than Quicksilver. Because he is so much faster than everyone and everything around him, Pietro has an impatient outlook on life. As an example, Pietro can race across town in a few seconds flat. Then he will have to wait fifteen or more minutes for the bus/train/tram/whatever Wanda is riding to catch up with him.

Now think about how hard it is for his opponents, who cannot see him to shoot him, to do battle of any kind with him. He is literally as fast, if not faster, than the wind. Put this all together and you have a kid with a cocky battle attitude wreathed with the impatience of a lightning bolt. He can be up, out, and gone in seconds.   Why can no one else just keep up? His impatience is spot on.

Wanda’s powers are also well rendered in the film. In the comics, her original power is probability manipulation. The probability of a new, well-built wall collapsing is something she can make happen with a little concentration and a gesture. Another post on this blog (which is frequently being read!), The Art of Probability Manipulation, goes into detail about the comic book Scarlet Witch.

In Age of Ultron, Wanda’s powers are described as telekinesis, hypnosis, and energy manipulation. In the film, she can telekinetically move or break things, and her hypnotic powers mean that she can make those she entrances see their worst fears or memories. She is telepathic/ empathetic, rendering her able to read the minds and emotions of those around her on some level. She can then use that reading to send those people into a trance, where they are temporarily trapped in a nightmare of their own fears/pasts, which she is privy to as well.

The twins’ strong sibling relationship is also well-demonstrated in the movie. Throughout the film, Pietro can be seen snatching Wanda up and running off with her in his arms. In the final battle, he does this to get her to the center of the city where she can use her powers most effectively. This is a tactic the two have been seen to utilize in the cartoons and probably in the comics as well.

The fact that they do not separate from each other until Wanda orders her older brother to help Cap and the others round up the last of the civilians and get them to safety is also true to form. The twins hardly ever separated from each other for any great length of time when they first arrived in the comics. Outside of recent TV shows like X-Men: Evolution and Wolverine and the X-Men, it is shown that the “brother-sister act” have always been close, as most twins are. It was nice to see them acting like they did toward each other in the original comics in this film.

As has been explained elsewhere, the Maximoff twins blame Tony Stark for the death of their parents. Because they hate Tony, the twins hate the Avengers, something made blatantly clear throughout the first half of the film. But once Wanda sees what Ultron really intends to do, the twins abandon him. Interestingly, before that happens, Wanda frees Dr. Helen Cho from Ultron’s control via the “glow stick of destiny” while in her lab where he is downloading himself into a new body. This proves that she does not simply want to run away from Ultron, she wants to stop him.

But it is only when it becomes clear that the Avengers need help to stop Ultron that Wanda truly chooses to get into the fight. Pietro naturally follows her into the battle, the way she followed him into their first skirmish with the Avengers at Strucker’s HYDRA base. (Again, this is in-character with their depiction in the comics; when one twin makes a choice the other follows him/her.) Once Cap assumes their help in stopping an out-of-control train in South Korea, making no mention or fuss of any kind about their previous allegiance to the mad robot, the twins come to see that they may have been wrong about the Avengers after all.

We do not know how the twins feel about everyone on the team, but it appears that Wanda warms up to Cap very quickly after helping him out in South Korea. This would be a nod back to the original comics as well; Wanda was fond of Cap from the moment she met him. In those comics, Hawkeye occasionally asked her if she had a crush on Cap, but Wanda never gave anyone a direct answer on that front.

If she did have a crush on Steve Rogers, she hid it well. But I think it more likely that she just admired him and felt safer having him as team leader more than anything else. Cap was often a father figure to her and the other, younger Avengers, as well as their team leader. Considering how long it was before she learned her real father’s identity, I think it may be safe to say that Wanda liked thinking of Cap as her “battle father.”

Another Avenger Wanda takes to fairly quickly in the movie is Hawkeye. In the “mainstream” comics, Hawkeye is roughly the same age as the twins, and they all joined the team at almost the same time. Hawkeye thought Wanda was gorgeous the minute he saw her and immediately tried to court her. But this did not pan out and he eventually settled for being one of her good friends instead.

That failed romance, though, is certainly not part of Age of Ultron. (Yay!) However their quick, strong friendship in this film is itself fairly surprising. Especially since Clint stuck an electrical stun arrow to her forehead to keep her from putting him in a trance earlier in the movie.

Though Clint clearly does not like her when he meets her again in Avengers Tower, in Nova Grad this changes dramatically. In the final battle, Wanda and Clint end up in the same street, fighting several dozen Ultroids as a team. When one of the droids prepares to explode, Hawkeye grabs Wanda and dives into the nearest building, getting them out of the way of the machine as it blows up and keeping them safe.

Wanda starts to become hysterical as the magnitude of what Ultron is doing – what she and her brother helped him to do, and the fact that she is in part responsible for his creation – comes crashing down on her like a ton of bricks. This is not what Hawkeye needs to deal with at the moment, and he does not spare Wanda, giving her one of the best pep talks I have ever heard.

Sometime after this, Wanda helps him out of a tight spot and the two destroy a group of Ultroids very quickly. Throughout the rest of the battle they not only continue their new teamwork dynamic; they begin working in better harmony with each other.

Later, when Wanda declares that she will guard the machine bringing half of Sokovia’s capital city skyward, Clint looks at her in surprise. “It’s my job,” she says, looking back at him. This is a reference to their earlier “chat,” where he told her that it was his “job” to help save the world – no matter how insane the situation became. By the end of the film, the two clearly have a good appreciation for each other. I will be interested in seeing where they go from here – though I am hoping the direction is a non-romantic one!

On the subject of Hawkeye’s relationship to the twins, while he and Wanda gain a mutual respect and understanding, it is a little different between him and Pietro. This is reasonable, since Quicksilver introduces himself to the archer by punching him at high speed and sending him flying. When Hawkeye prepares to fire an arrow after him, he is nicked by a shot from a HYDRA bunker and ends up having a lousy day.

This is not a good way to start a friendship. And it only gets worse when Hawkeye sticks his stun arrow to Wanda’s forehead to avoid getting mind controlled. While the Hawk is not in the habit of picking on women or girls, as he explains he is “not a fan” of mind manipulation, and he will do whatever he can to avoid having it happen to him again.

Pietro takes high offense whenever Wanda is hurt and is prone to angrily attack whoever harms his sister. He and the archer become rivals, and their enmity is based in part on their confidence in themselves. Hawkeye is confident in his shooting skills and his accuracy, while Pietro is secure in his speed. This would naturally lead to contention between the two, even if they started out as friends; they have often butted heads in the “mainstream” comics for this reason.

But there is another layer to the antagonism they direct at each other in the film. Hawkeye is not Pietro’s age, so his end of the challenge is not layered with that mindless, “I’m going to beat you because you beat me” juvenility. Pietro has power but little experience and skill. As Hawkeye says, he is a “punk.” His speed is a “big stick,” but he overuses and relies on it to get what he wants.

Their rivalry is instead edged with the antagonism some youths feel toward those with more experience; Quicksilver thinks his power makes him unstoppable. Hawkeye is confident in his skills, but he is not foolish enough to believe they make him utterly impervious to harm. He has experience getting hurt in a battle.

Pietro does not.

So when Cap returns to the Avengers’ Tower with the twins to pull the plug on Tony’s latest science project, Hawkeye seizes his chance to make this point to Pietro – not to mention get some well-earned payback for the speedster’s earlier attacks on him in the bargain. He shoots the glass floor under Pietro’s feet, dropping the boy through the hole and having him land on the floor in front of him. To make absolutely sure the kid cannot get away, he puts one foot on Pietro’s legs and asks, “What, you didn’t see that coming?”

The subtext of the message was, “Kid, I have been where you are and you are setting yourself up to get hurt. Get this and get it good: you’ve got power but that does not trump experience and common sense. You are behaving like a punk. Get over yourself, and yesterday.”

Pietro gets the message, loud and clear; Hawkeye is not useless because he uses a bow and arrow. And he (Pietro) had better realize that power does not make someone immune to all the unavoidable risks and fortunes of battle ‘normal’ mortals are subject to.

But, in the character of his confidence and impatience, Pietro does not admit as much. He still acts and talks tough. When Cap says they need help in the center of the floating portion of Nova Grad, Pietro zips in to the street where his sister and Hawkeye were previously fighting Ultroids. He picks Wanda up and runs off, adding over his shoulder, “Keep up, old man!”

Hawkeye seriously considers shooting the boy for this jibe. But in the end, he knows it will not work and puts his arrow away, muttering angrily. In my opinion, that was the closest he was going to come at the time to admitting that he thought Pietro was okay. The kid was annoying, but he had good in him.

Pietro proves how much good he has in him at the end of the battle. When Hawkeye goes back to pick up a Sokovian boy who got left behind, Ultron, flying the Aveng-jet, strafes the ground in a straight line toward him. Clint knows there is no time for him to move out of the way. He is tired, he has a child in his arms, and the air is getting thinner by the minute. The jet is coming toward him far too fast for him to get out of the way in time. Though it will do nothing, he does his best to shield the unconscious boy and waits for the bullets to hit them both.

Pietro sees the jet. He sees that his rival is doing his best to protect a little boy, and that there will be no protection from the incoming bullets. It takes him a split second to make his decision. He will die. Wanda will be left alone in the world. But his power was not meant to serve himself. It was meant to serve his people.

And Hawkeye, his rival, is doing his best to protect a Sokovian boy.

Blindingly fast, he covers the necessary distance and shoves Hawkeye and the boy he is protecting out of the line of fire of the jet’s mini-gun. To make the shove safe, Pietro had to have slowed down so that he did not hit Hawkeye at his highest velocity.

When Quicksilver runs at his higher or highest speed, he builds up force and momentum which he can use against his opponents. This is why he is able to send Hawkeye and Cap flying, and why he can smash the Ultroids to pieces. The force he collects as he runs is sent outward toward his target when he hits it. So Quicksilver shoving Hawkeye out of the mini-gun’s path at a dead run would have injured or killed Clint, and possibly the boy he was protecting.

Plus, as fast as he is, if Quicksilver runs into the path of a bullet, he is going to get hit. And his suit in this film is not designed to protect him from being shot or injured but to let him run as fast as he wants. Those conditions – combined with his need to stop in order to safely push Hawkeye out of the way – mean that he is the one shot and killed by Ultron. Hawkeye is nicked (again) but this time, Pietro was saving his life and a young boy’s. He was doing his utmost to help them both, not to hurt them.

I thought it was a really nice scene, since in it, Pietro proves he is more than a “punk.” He is a hero. Hawkeye realizes this at once. Kind of hard not to when Pietro’s last breath was used to say, “You didn’t see that coming?” He buried his hatchet right there. So did Hawkeye.

Having Cap carry Pietro to the waiting SHIELD shuttle was good, too. If Captain America shows such respect to a young, brash hero like Quicksilver, it is a sign that he thinks the kid is well worth the admiration. And having Hawkeye name his newborn son Nathaniel Pietro Barton was a real stroke of genius on Whedon’s part.

Despite the sadness of the scene, I still think it was a good one, in the same way that Kíli’s death in The Battle of the Five Armies was a good death. Pietro did well in Age of Ultron, and I have always thought he was an intriguing character. Perpetually impulsive, abrasive, and impatient, but intriguing nonetheless. I wish Quicksilver had lived through the film to be in later Avengers installments, but Whedon did not give him an ignominious send-off. He treated Pietro like a hero, and I tip my hat to him for that.

There is one other thing about Pietro’s death in the movie that deserves to be mentioned. Whedon is well-known for his penchant for killing off characters. He himself has said he does it “willy-nilly.”

However, the alternate ending for the film shows both twins, alive and well, as they join the new Avengers under Cap and Widow’s tutelage.  From what I have heard, Whedon made this ending as insurance; this way, if Disney did not want Quicksilver to die, he had a ready-made finale to Ultron which they would hopefully support. Disney approved Pietro’s death, obviously, and I can think of two reasons why Whedon chose to “get rid of” Pietro Maximoff at the end of the movie we saw in theaters.

First: apparently, in the Ultimate Marvel Comics (which I will never recommend to anyone), Wanda was killed when Ultron first appeared in the Ultimates’ universe. This left Pietro with a lot of anger issues. Instead of remaining a member of the Ultimates, he started running for the guys on the wrong side of the tracks. (Like I said, he gets angry when his sister is hurt, and he is much more aggressive than she is. Imagine how angry he would be if she died. His reaction would probably make Wanda killing Ultron look like a little girl’s temper tantrum!)

Whedon likes to reverse stereotypes and clichés, or completely turn them on their heads. He has to have read the Ultimate comics, because a lot of small things in the Avengers films relate to those comics: Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury; Iron Man’s attitude and the revelation of his identity to the world; Hawkeye’s suit and family, not to mention the twins’ initial allegiance to evil in Age of Ultron (Magneto had them working for him in the Ultimate comics before he was killed and they joined the Ultimates).

So Whedon had to know about Wanda’s death in those comics. And as I said, he likes to do the unexpected in these cases. Instead of killing off Wanda, as all those Marvel fans who have read the Ultimates’ stories expected he would, he knocked off Quicksilver.

Second: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, the actor who plays Pietro Maximoff in the film, was very worried about signing on to play the character. He cited the fact that Marvel often has actors sign a contract to play a character in a series of movies instead of doing a one-and-done deal as the reason for his trepidation. Marvel’s modus operandi in this area is well established fact, as Chris Evans’ original contract still includes Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1 and 2.

Sebastian Stan and Samuel L. Jackson are/were each contracted for nine films; Jackson recently had Marvel extend his contract so he can be in more Marvel movies. Hugo Weaving still has two more movies in his contract with Marvel, and Jeremy Renner was contracted for seven films, including a solo Hawkeye movie (which is still in writing limbo). Chris Hemsworth has three more movies in his contract and has stated that he would be quite happy to continue making Marvel movies for as long as he is physically able and as long as fans want more. (Bad thing to say, because when are we going to stop wanting more? We will always want more Marvel movies – as long as they are THIS good!) And Chris Evans recently extended his contract with Marvel so that he can be in five more films!

The only reason Aaron Taylor-Johnson signed on to play Pietro Maximoff in Age of Ultron was because Elizabeth Olsen signed up to play the Scarlet Witch. When she heard Johnson was worried about taking the part, she convinced him to be in the film. On her coaxing he did sign up. This is because, after they worked together on the latest Godzilla remake, he trusted her decision.

I do not know how many Marvel movies Johnson agreed to be in. As far as I know, he only agreed to Age of Ultron and would not sign up to be in more than one Marvel movie (at a time, anyway). So Whedon may have killed Quicksilver off in order that Johnson would have an easier way of getting out of his Marvel gig. Essentially, if Johnson did not want to be in Marvel’s Avengers films, Whedon knew he could fix the actor’s dilemma simply by killing off his character.

These are theories I have about why Pietro Maximoff does not survive Age of Ultron. I could be blowing smoke, of course, but they are the only theories I have which make any sense.

As a final note, I really enjoyed having the twins in the film. Johnson and Olsen did well as the Maximoff siblings and it is too bad Johnson did not sign on to be in more films. This does not mean that Marvel may not bring Pietro back into the Avengers movies somehow. It just means that we will have to wait and see what happens.

*Sigh…*

Anyone want to play tiddly winks while we wait?

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian

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The Art of Probability Manipulation

The Scarlet Witch

Hello, Marvel Writers!

This time I am writing with questions about the Scarlet Witch.  As I once wrote before, so I question again: why did Wanda Maximoff lose her mind and attack the Avengers?

I am fully aware that the strain between her and her husband, the Vision, was a factor.  I am also aware of the loss of her ‘children’ (adoption would have been a much better channel for the story) being a factor.  Still, this does not account for a mental breakdown that her teammates would not have seen coming.  Nor does it explain how she acquired the power to ‘remake’ the world to her own crazy preferences, since she originally had no way to manipulate real magic.

The Scarlet Witch’s mutant powers allowed her to manipulate probabilities: e.g. she could change the probability of a strong wall collapsing on an opponent’s head from nil to a hundred percent with a flick of her fingers and some concentration.  Likewise, she could jam switches, or destroy rifles, or make a barn catch fire, all out of the blue.  That such a power would be difficult to control or affect her sanity on certain occasions would be unsurprising since it is such an intangible ability.

And it did, on a few occasions, make it hard for Wanda to get the results in battle that she desired.  So where other mutants could constantly (or almost constantly) keep up with their powers, the Scarlet Witch would have more trouble and need more time off from fighting than other mutants would.

This is where Agatha Harkness, a bona fide witch of the Marvel universe, was brought in.  By studying actual magic, Wanda hoped to find a shortcut through these rest periods and stay on the team for the same length of time as her friends.  At the very least, this part of Wanda’s tortured story proves the old idea that the path of least resistance is a slippery slope.  Shortcuts past principles and safety limits never end well for all concerned.

Is this where the Scarlet Witch gained reality warping abilities?  No, but similar escapades on her part somehow led to it, along with stranger and stranger back story alterations.  And so, when she had learned more of real magic, but at the same time far too little, she went on with other experiments, which led to the loss of her ‘sons.’  Topped off with the Vision’s temporarily being dismantled and then being rebuilt, losing his emotions in the process and shunning her almost permanently from that point on, the strain put Wanda in her own corner, away from the society of the Avengers.  Then, in a desperate attempt to regain what she had lost, she turned the world and her teammates nearly inside out (using magic she should not have been able to channel except for back story alterations) to that end.

Why?  Wouldn’t the Avengers have been more concerned about her than they appear to have been?  She was a member of the team; Avengers do not abandon fellow Avengers unless something prevents them from rescuing the fallen member of the team.  And come hell or high water, if that teammate is still breathing they won’t rest until they’re all back at Avengers HQ.

And, more to the point, how would meddling with magic grow mutant powers?  And how would someone who has no talent for magic somehow be able to channel it?  I am not forgetting the Scarlet Witch’s rewritten back story; I simply do not think the rewrites were all that necessary. Since they are there, however, I must say that I think they need not have taken the path they that they did.

If she had kept her original strength level, then the probability of Wanda’s mutant powers rewriting the Marvel universe into a “nightmare sequence” is – nada.  She would have to have a massive power behind her efforts and be left undisturbed at its source for a good amount of time to achieve the degree of detailed alteration she caused in the Avengers: Disassembled and House of M plotlines.  And even with her expanded back story, in such an unhealthy mental state as the one she was suffering from, it is doubtful that Wanda could have pulled off the global ‘revamp’ that she did.

Again, we come back to why.  Why?  The Avengers are not a neglectful team.  They would have noticed that Wanda was not well and they would have at least watched her if she would not let them help her.  They would have noticed and been ready for something (likely bad) to happen.  They’d have been ready for her to snap and would have known what was going on far more quickly than they did in Avengers: Disassembled.

Why?  The entire plotline came from left field and is totally unreasonable, as are the new ‘twists’ to her character history.  Can the Scarlet Witch ever again be a member of a team, her devotion to its principles as unquestionable as her fellows’?  Can she ever bring herself to even be in the same room as her teammates again without feeling guilt or being ostracized?

What happened in Disassembled and House of M and since has led to no one in the Avengers (and even in the X-Men) trusting her anymore, as a friend, woman, or a teammate.  In fact, the Avengers were prepared to kill her not too long ago.

It is a real and true shame that she’s been so broken.  The Scarlet Witch was not the strongest Avenger, but she was a decent character and there are still Marvelites who are fans of her.  Now, fellow writers, it seems that she has been damaged beyond repair in the eyes of her former teammates.

Many a reader may not be far behind the team in that respect, either.

Sincerely,

Mithril (A Troubled True Believer)