Tag Archives: Marvel movies

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!

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Spotlight: X-Men – Rogue/Anna Marie

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Recently, I found a number of posts dealing with a topic I have addressed on my own blog. Apparently yours truly is not the only one to notice and take umbrage with the current fascination for creating so-called “strong female characters.” There have been a couple of articles on other sites dealing with the subject. I have read them and they have gotten the gears in this cranium turning, which lead me to today’s subject: the X-Man Rogue.

First off we will go down the list of Rogue’s abilities. Those familiar with her history in the comics and television will have to bear with me, because I am going to rehash some old storylines to keep everyone in the loop.

The Marvel newcomer who is not entering the multi-verse via the poisoned comics will find Rogue in the X-Men films. This version of Rogue is close but not quite the same as the one found in older comics and cartoons. There is no slight intended when I say that the film portrayal of the character is actually a poorer presentation than the original. Anna Paquin does a good job as Rogue; it is the writers and director(s) of the X-Men films who have mishandled the character.

Anyway, if you “met” Rogue in these films, then you know that her mutant ability is to absorb the memories, talents, and/or mutant powers of anyone with whom she comes into skin contact. You also think she got that white streak in her hair after Magneto force-fed his abilities to her before the final battle in the first movie, but she had that from the moment she appeared in the comics. (I do not like how they gave it to her in the films; it takes away from her character – in my ‘umble opinion.)

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I have stated many times that I do not like the X-Men films, so I am going to stop talking about them here and go straight to Rogue’s comic book and cartoon histories. Similar to the films, Rogue’s mutant power manifested when she and her boyfriend, Cody, were having their first kiss. Rogue was thirteen at the time and so she was more than a little frightened when Cody suddenly passed out mid-smooch.

Rejected by her family for being a mutant, Rogue ran away from home, afraid to make skin contact of any kind with anyone. Mystique, in a guise other than her real blue-skinned, red-haired form, found Rogue and recruited her into her latest cabal of mutant trouble makers. She practically adopted Rogue as her own daughter….

…But she treated her as a secret weapon, using Rogue to her advantage in fights with the X-Men. Rogue was completely loyal to Mystique because she had taken her in and given her direction when no one else had and when no one else would give her the time of day. She rarely balked when told to use her absorption abilities on an X-Man, security guard, or some other person Mystique wanted knocked out or who had information she desired.

The one instance I know of in the comics where Rogue refused to use her power was when Mystique told her to absorb Angel’s abilities. Rogue was afraid that she would grow wings like his, so she did not want to touch him. As you may know from watching the films, readers, the powers Rogue absorbs eventually fade away. The memories and skills she “downloads” along with them remain like “ghost files” in her head, but they do not (usually) bother her after a while. Prior to 2015, the writers made it possible for Rogue to “recall” individual powers and abilities she had previously stolen from people, something I consider cheating. But in the case I mention above, Rogue did not have that power and she feared she would be stuck with Angel’s wings permanently if she touched him, so Mystique did not get her way in that episode.

Eventually, Rogue’s servitude to Mystique led her into a fight with Carol Danvers. At the time Danvers’ codename was still Ms. Marvel, and so her uniform consisted of a black swimsuit with a yellow lightning bolt emblazed on the front. Because her suit had no sleeves or pants, she was a perfect target for Rogue’s absorption abilities.

Thinking Danvers would be easy enough to overcome, Rogue grabbed hold of her and started draining her powers.

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But unlike Rogue’s other opponents, Danvers did not immediately pass out. Since her powers come from Kree DNA that was somehow bonded to her body, Danvers possesses almost as much physical strength as Ben Grimm. She also has the ability to fire bolts of energy from her hands, sub-supersonic flight, indestructability, a ferocious Kree temper, and a precognitive “seventh sense” that allows her to see her opponent’s next move before it happens. I have never seen this last power demonstrated – and the number of times that Danvers has been smacked, thrown around, or otherwise hit makes me think she does not actually have this power.

Anyway, the Kree DNA kept Danvers awake longer than any of the other people Rogue had touched. It also fueled her anger and she started fighting back. Frightened by Danvers’ unexpected reaction to her powers, Rogue tried to let the woman go and make good her escape.

But Danvers would not let Rogue go. The two struggled for an eternity of minutes before they crashlanded. Once that happened Rogue discovered that, not only was she physically unharmed along with Danvers, but the other woman was out cold at last beside her in the dirt.

After this, Rogue found she had absorbed Danvers’ capabilities of flight, indestructibiliy, and superhuman strength. These powers did not fade over the next two or three days, as all her other “borrowed” powers had, and it looked like they were hers for keeps.

But she soon discovered that these fantastic powers came with a terrible price. Her prolonged contact with Danvers’ meant that she didn’t just have the woman’s memories and powers; Danvers’ psyche was stuck in Rogue’s mind and body at the same time Danvers’ own body remained in a hospital in a coma. Her personality – almost her entire being – was seemingly just as much Rogue’s property now as her powers were.

This unintended arrangement left Ms. Marvel less than pleased, and Rogue soon found she didn’t like it either. If Ms. Marvel really made an effort at it, she could commandeer Rogue’s body. Rogue would black out in one place and wake up in another, sometimes wearing Danvers’ suit or accoutrements and surrounded by the things Danvers enjoyed. This was more than a little frightening and upsetting for her, and it brought her to the realization that she had practically committed murder by absorbing Danvers’ mind into herself.

As Rogue’s guilt grew, she asked her “Mama” to find a way to make Danvers go away or to transfer her out of her body. But Mystique did not know how to do that and, what is more, she did not want to do that. She might have thought that Rogue could adapt to having Danvers in her mind or something like that, too, because she wanted Rogue to go on using her powers – despite the fact that her “daughter” was sharing space with another woman who could take control of Rogue’s body at the most unexpected or unwelcome moments.

This led Rogue to run away again. Knowing the X-Men as well as she did, she went to them for help in removing Danvers’ psyche.

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Her reception was not a warm one. Danvers had worked with the X-Men on more than one mission, so they considered her a friend (for what reason, I have no idea). Wolverine was especially upset, since he and Danvers were particularly close. (Again, I have no idea why they were such good friends. Danvers should have driven Wolvie half crazy ninety percent of the time, but this did not happen, probably because the writers were working overtime to make their “uber woman” more acceptable to their audience through her acceptance by the other characters in the Marvel Universe.) Aside from the Professor, no one on the team saw anything likeable about Rogue, and she was a virtual outcast in the team she had sought out for help, as well as to begin to make amends for her past misdeeds.

But Rogue did finally earn full acceptance by the X-Men, becoming one of their most valued members and friends. Wolverine ultimately thawed to her as well, to the point that he became her informal protector and mentor during her early days on the team. She has since become one of the most recognizable and loved characters in Marvel Comics, as evidenced by the fact that yours truly is a fan of her.

What does Rogue have to do with the push for feminization in fiction? For a long time in the comics and cartoons, Rogue’s most apparent abilities were the ones which she had stolen from Danvers, to the point that I, as a young viewer, thought they were her actual mutant powers. Throughout the 1990s comics and cartoons, Rogue would punch or throw the villains into walls, knock down buildings, or hold up heavy pieces of buildings during different battles.

This meant that she was able to shake off resultant punishment in a battle as well. While fighting several Sentinels in the 1990s pilot, one of the robots hit Rogue in the back with his fist, sending her smack into the floor. Lifting herself up on her hands and knees at the bottom of the crater, Rogue shot the robot a smile and chided it for its bad behavior. Then she flew up, grabbed it under the arm, and threw it to the floor, where it promptly flew to pieces.

That is a pretty impressive display of strength, you have to admit. And I was young enough that such displays excited me. I happily rooted for Rogue whenever she pulled off an amazing feat of strength like that. I was a young, impressionable child who loved superheroes. I wanted to be strong when I grew up, strong enough to fight evil the way that I saw my heroes fighting it every Saturday morning. It is completely normal.

I do not know when it happened, but after a while Rogue’s apparent superpowers stopped being the main reason for my interest in her. It might have been the episode where she and Nightcrawler learned they were related through Mystique, or it might have been a different show entirely. All I know is that, after a while, I liked Rogue for Rogue and not for her superpowers.

Again, you ask, what does all this have to do with the strong woman trope we are having forced on us in fiction today? Some people have said that the feats of strength Rogue pulled off in the ‘90s might have been overdone.

This is entirely possible, even probable, but I would like it if these critics would keep a few things about her in mind. Some of the reasons Rogue’s fighting style in the ‘90s (and before and after in the comics) may have looked improbable were because Rogue herself did not actually know how to use her strength, or she was relying on Danvers’ understanding of how to use increased strength during a battle.

And, because she had Danvers’ indestructability, Rogue might have thrown herself into certain situations for no other reason than to protect a teammate who would squish far more easily than she would. These are possibilities I would suggest for any maneuvers the writers had her perform which people find hard to believe. I think they should remember that, from Rogue’s point of view, these maneuvers might have seemed totally normal or reasonable to her, given what she knew of using her super strength. Rogue did not have the best education, which we’ll cover in more depth below, and so she did not and does not know as much about physics as readers/viewers and others do.

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The other thing viewers and readers should keep in mind when they watch Rogue fight is her absorbing ability. If she suddenly acquires the strength of the Unstoppable Juggernaut and begins throwing him around, it can look a little silly to us. Here is a girl who barely comes up to Juggernaut’s hip whirling him around over her head like a ragdoll. Under normal circumstances, it is totally implausible and stupid looking.

But Rogue is not normal, especially when she absorbs the powers of others. If she absorbs Juggernaut’s power, then she has his strength. Whether she has it in proportion to her size, weight, and height does not matter; you could drop a building on her while she has Juggernaut’s powers and she won’t even get a bloddy nose, for the simple reason that he would not get a bloody nose. Unfair? Maybe, but this is fantasy we are talking about here. We enjoy it precisely because it allows us to imagine stuff we cannot actually do.

The other thing to remember is that Rogue cannot just activate the powers she steals willy-nilly. She has to access the memories of the people who actually own these powers so she can avoid blowing up the countryside or flooding Manhattan. If she wants to use Juggernaut’s own strength against him, she will rely on his memories – muscle and conscious/subconscious – to make the best possible use of his powers. Juggernaut’s fighting style is not Rogue’s, nor should it be. But when she immerses herself, however shallowly she does it, in his memories this means that we will see her fighting the way that he does. It looks ridiculous, but when you keep this aspect of her powers in mind it becomes understandable and allowable.

Now this does NOT mean the writers should not be held to a high standard when they portray her pulling off these feats, but it does mean that it behooves us, as the audience, to remember the McGuffin that allows Rogue to survive these battles and/or perfom these stunts. It is a balance between the writers knowing their craft and the audience accepting the parameters of the story they are telling. Writers who abuse or talk down to their audience must rightly be called out for their arrogance. But an audience that will accept a good story with thousands of impossible McGuffins scattered throughout it should not throw stones in glass houses. That is my opinion, anyway.

Now we will discuss why Rogue is not an “SFC” or “Strong Female Character” in the vein that Carol Danvers, Thorette, and Thundra are.

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Long story short, Rogue does not qualify as the modern strong woman. First, her character design has fluctuated since the ‘90s and she no longer has the muscle structure of Ms. Marvel. Rogue is nothing like Carol Danvers, Thundra, or Thorette. These female characters are cardboard cutouts designed to appease and appeal to the Femi-Nazis, who are forever unhappy and whose hunger for the destruction of Western culture is utterly insatiable. It may appear from her 1990s debut – and, for all I know, some of Marvel’s newest stories – that Rogue qualifies as a “SFC,” but the fact is that Rogue is not a cardboard cutout, nor is she a strong woman in the sense that she is faster, smarter, and stronger than the guys.

One of the first people to admit that she is not smarter than almost anyone you could name would be Rogue herself. She is capable of outwitting an opponent and she is not stupid, but she is not a scholar, or a mechanic, or a super genius, or any of the other “SFC” tropes. What is more, she does not – or did not – pretend to be any of the above when I watched her on television and knew her in my limited way in the comics.

Most of the knowledge that Rogue possesses of higher mathematics, scholarly enterprises, etc., is knowledge that she stole from others. In the comics, Rogue ran away from home when she was thirteen. She spent years on the road after this, and a few more years under Mystique’s “guidance” before joining the X-Men. I do not think there was a lot of time in there for regular schooling, do you, readers? No, there was not. So this means her formal education ended, practically speaking, after she left home.

Now Danvers went through all the schooling necessary to become an Air Force pilot and Jane Foster – who used to be a perfectly respectable character – had to go through extensive schooling and training to become a nurse. We are just supposed to accept that Thundra, being from an alternate universe where women are the dominant sex (ignore the barfing sounds on the other side of the screen, please, readers) is naturally smarter than any man on this Earth or her own – though it is funny how she never shows it.

None of the above applies to Rogue. Everything she has learned since she discovered her powers has been taught to her by circumstance and by the consequences of her choices; her smarts were earned in the school of hard knocks, not in a brick and mortar building. Danvers, for all her supposed superiority to men, learns nothing from the battles she takes a part in. The evidence of this is that she is one of the few Marvel characters with no ability to resist telepathic control for even a fraction of a second. Rogue has had to learn to be tough to survive; Danvers survives through the writers’ stubborn intent to keep her alive.

In moments of downtime in the 1990s series, Rogue also had a generally cheerful demeanor. She smiled, laughed, and joked regularly; this showed that she was someone who genuinely loved life, despite the numerous punches she had been dealt by it.

In contrast, Danvers’ sense of humor is thinner than cellophane plastic. When she teases or jokes, it sounds tinny and unreal; when she smiles, it does not soften her features. It makes her look like she is stretching her face to the breaking point.

Something else that differentiates Rogue from the “SFC” trope is that she is vulnerable. I read a book some time ago by Fr. Dwight Longenecker called The Romance of Religion. One of the interesting things he mentions in the book is that hero(es) of stories tend to have a fault or a wound that they must bear as they do their duty or carry on their quest.

Looking out over most of fiction – and especially Marvel – I have to think he is on to something here. From Spider-Man to T’Challa, from Captain America to Punisher, from Hawkeye to Ben Grimm, most of Marvel’s characters have some sort of emotional injury that they carry with them wherever they go. And ninety-nine point nine percent of them have character flaws they have to either overcome or continually wrestle to control – although by now, that fact is out the window. In Marvel’s – and our – brave new world, flaws are to be embraced, not resisted. They are natural to us while self-control is just an artificial restraint society uses to keep us down. (Yes, I am being sarcastic, readers.)

In the original stories, Rogue’s great emotional weakness was her inability to make skin contact with another human being – or any other being, for that matter. She had to wear longsleeved shirts and long pants, as well as gloves, all the time. She could not pat Wolverine on the hand with her own bare hand. She could not let someone brush up against her arms if her shirt, jacket, or suit somehow lost its sleeves – and she could never, ever kiss a man for more than a few seconds. And even the briefest of kisses would be dangerous for him.

This last was particularly painful for her because, during the ‘90s, Gambit was actively courting her. Oh, he would flirt with plenty of other girls during the series, but the one he consistently went after with every ounce of charm he could muster was Rogue.

Usually, Rogue would flirt back, but that was as far as she could and would let it go. Aside from two different times that I know of where Gambit kissed her, Rogue had to put her glove over his mouth and kiss that to show her feelings for him. On more than one occasion, her frustration with her inability to safely touch someone, anyone, would drive her to anger and/or cause her to make an avoidable mistake.

This was Rogue’s greatest vulnerability, but she had others. When captured along with the other X-Men by Mr. Sinister and his Nasty Boyz in the ‘90s TV series, Rogue admitted to Gambit that she was scared. Sinister had found a way to block mutant powers in this episode, which meant that both Rogue’s innate absorption abillities and the powers she had taken from Danvers were suppressed. “I don’t know how to fight these guys without my powers,” she admitted to Gambit.

Now, readers, can any of you name one single time that Carol Danvers has admitted that she is afraid of something/someone? I cannot. To the best of my knowledge, Danvers has never once shown fear. She might – MIGHT – show concern, but most of the time when she is captured or in a situation that looks grim, she just becomes angry. Thorette seems to be going the same route, while Thundra has always had a demonstrable temper and no real sense of, or respect for, fear.

Rogue certainly has a temper, but in this episode, anger was the furthest thing from her mind. Her primary emotion was fear because she did not know how to fight without using her powers. What “SFC” shows or admits to fear? I do not know of any, but if you can name me one, readers, I will look into her.

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In the series that followed the ‘90s X-Men, the writers changed Rogue’s appearance. They dropped Ms. Marvel from the series’ storyline and left Rogue to rely on her absorption ability alone. They also gave her and the rest of the teenage X-Men close combat and weapons’ training.

While this was a plus for Rogue, leaving her a way to protect herself if she could not somehow bring her mutant powers to bear, in my opinion the writers did make one mistake with her characterization in this series: Evolution showed Rogue as an anti-social teenage girl who was into Gothic makeup and clothing. Forget that her makeup would not have lasted five seconds in battle (yet it somehow lasted the entire series), the change in her demeanor was not something I think was really necessary. Rogue did well in the series but I did – and do – miss the cheerful zest for life she exhibited in the ‘90s.

Personally, I suspect the writers gave Rogue more angst because they thought it would sell. It must have, because the series lasted four seasons. Her tendency to brood and lose her temper did not detract from her willingness to help others, which was good, and this demeanor did give her a chance to connect with Wolverine as a father figure. While this last was especially nice, I still miss her earliler deportment a lot. If Marvel ever rights itself and starts telling good stories again, I hope they give Rogue back the joi de vive she had in the ‘90s.

One other good thing about Rogue’s appearance in Evolution was her shorter hair. It is a well known fact that sexual predators target women with long hair because then they can grab hold of it and use that hold to force the woman to go where they wish. Such a hold is painful – if you do not believe me, readers, try it on yourself. (Trust me, it hurts.)

One of the strange things that writers for modern films and stories – including comics – keep doing is they are sending their heroines into combat with long hair. This is silly, as it can be a weakness; the heroine’s hair could catch in a machine and suck her down a hole, or her opponent(s) could grab it and use that hold to keep her still. Your heroine may look great with long hair, but remember, readers and writers, that even Princess Leia’s hair was done up in such a way that a Stormtrooper couldn’t grab it and yank her back. There was also no chance of her long locks getting caught in the Millenium Falcon’s inductors because it was pinned up and out of the way.

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Allowing men into combat with beards is no more practical than sending women into a fight with long hair. (Yes, I AM looking at Cap’s beard in Infinity War.) One of the reasons the Romans shaved was so that, when they got into personal combat with an enemy, he would not be able grab the Roman’s beard and hold him immobilized long enough to behead him. Ask the Romans how they know about this.

Now most stories are fantasy, of course, and in some cases you can actually excuse the female characters’ long hair (who is going to be able to get close enough to Storm to grab her hair, I’d like to know?). However, Rogue’s shortened hair is not a problem for me, nor is her more feminine muscle tone.

This is why I do not and cannot see Rogue as the Feminist ideal of female superiority. Rogue is a normal woman with a power that she sees, with justification, as a curse rather than a gift. She has insecurities and fears; she makes mistakes and she is not well-educated outside of life’s hard lessons. Her strength does not come from her superpower or the powers she steals – it comes from her williness to fight evil. It comes from her desire to protect her friends and to make up for her errors in judgement. It comes of her willingness to consistently choose to be a heroine, even when doing so hurts her the most.

This is why she is one of my favorite X-Men and one of my favorite Marvel characters. This is why I cannot consider her a member of the “SFC” club, at least in her previous portrayals in the comics and cartoons. These days I can believe that Marvel would erase her from its canon if the banana brains in charge thought that would get them new subscribers and buyers. If they are going to try and make her the big, strong female character stereotype, they will ruin her as they have ruined all the other characters they are abusing.

But there is nothing I can do to stop them from torturing themselves like this. And at this point, telling them, “Hey, your company is bleeding money all over the place,” appears to be a waste of breath. If they want to bankrupt themselves, then nothing I say or do will stop them. I can only hope that when that happens, someone who loves the characters will buy the company and that they will hire good writers to clean up the mess. And yes, I would volunteer to be one of those writers in a heartbeat.

I hope it does not come to that, but it looks like it might. But if there is one thing Marvel’s myriad heroes have taught me, Rogue included, it’s that even when you get punched in the teeth, it does not mean the battle is over. It just means you got punched in the teeth. That is no reason to give up the fight.

So no, I do not intend to stop fighting. Only dead fish go with the flow, and I do not intend to be a dead fish. There is more than one way to fight, and the best way to fight Marvel’s current hierarchy is to introduce potential new Marvel fans to original Marvel fare.

In the interest of doing that, I recommend that you look up the 1990s X-Men televsion series, readers. Then study up on the characters in it, along with Marvel’s other heroes and heroines. Read between the lines; it is not the battles the characters take part in that are important, or the powers they wield, or the atrocities the current writers are making them commit –

It is who they are as characters that is important. This is what Marvel has decided to forget….

…..So this is what we have to remember and pass on to others.

EXCELSIOR!!!!

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Captain America: Civil War – Helmut Zemo

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I really struggled when writing this post, readers, not because I doubted my own convictions – I believed from the start that Zemo was evil. Marvel, while turning a great deal in its comic book universe(s) upside-down and inside-out at the moment, was not going to change that fact for Civil War. Zemo has been an antagonist for too long; we all knew he was going to be the villain. My problem is the excuse implicit in the storyline that people would use to defend Zemo’s actions in the film.

Zemo’s grudge against the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War is based on his family’s dying when, in the previous Avengers film, Ultron raised half of his small country into the sky before trying to smash it into the Earth to destroy mankind. Zemo was smart enough to put his family up in a house outside the city before this occurred. Naturally, he did not anticipate the city getting lifted off the ground and bits of rock falling from it to land on top of his home.

There are people who would defend Helmut Zemo’s hatred for the Avengers and his diabolical plan to destroy them. Their arguments, in effect, would say, “But his family was killed! He was mad with grief! What right do you have to call him evil?! All he wanted was retribution for the deaths of his family!”

Retribution is not ours to seek any more than revenge, for which retribution is often a synonym. It is wrong and only causes more pain for more people. It breeds an endless, vicious cycle of violence, death, and darkness for everyone in the world. As for Zemo’s being “mad,” the proper understanding of its meaning is someone who is a danger to himself because he cannot take care of himself. It is not someone who stalks a group of people for a year and then tries to kill them. Zemo does not clinically qualify as “mad” or “insane.” But he does clinically qualify as evil.

How do we know this? He tells us. Zemo condemns himself in his own words, basing his choice on hatred and jealousy. After telling T’Challa about the deaths of his family, he says, “And the Avengers? They went home.” He says this as though it makes everything he has done and all those he has killed worth the cost. While I hate to break his soap bubble, I must ask: just what is it that Zemo expected the Avengers to do after destroying Ultron, saving humanity, and preserving the lives of as many of the civilians still in the city as they could?

What more, in short, could they have done to make him their friend? They could have gone back to the city after the battle and helped with the clean up.  But would that have won them Zemo’s respect? Would he have felt better if Thor, Cap, and Iron Man had helped him dig his family’s bodies out of the rubble? Would Zemo have felt better if they had helped him to bury his family? Would their tears over his loss have made him feel avenged (pun intended)? Since Zemo was ready to commit suicide after accomplishing his “mission,” this seems highly unlikely.

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You are probably wondering why I am making such a fuss about this, readers.   I take issue in this case because the writers did so, in order, I believe, to show how empty Zemo’s philosophy is.  I am also making an issue of this because those who professionally review films – the docents of decency, the perpetually petulant masters of modernity, and other “reformers” of reality (a.k.a. the culture Nazis) – have made this a tenant of their belief system. This belief and their system are both solipsistic and false.

How do I know this? There are several ways. Why, for instance, did the writers have Zemo deliver the above lines in these specific words and in this tone?   What is the big deal about the Avengers going home when their job (save the world) is done? How is it a crime for the Avengers to swoop into a certain place, stop the bad guys, and then go home to recover, the way that policemen and soldiers do? Just what is wrong with that picture, readers? Enlighten me, please; what is wrong with this situation?

The fact is that there is nothing wrong with it – absolutely nothing. The Avengers went home after Age of Ultron because they did not come to Sokovia as conquerors. They came as defenders of both Sokovia and mankind. No one – Avenger, commando, politician, civilian – could have predicted Ultron’s plan to raise the city and make it a destroy-the-human-race meteor. It was a surprise to everybody.

Before the city lifted off it was swarming with drones trying to kill those left in the city. The Avengers were busy protecting these people, leaving them precious little time to discern Ultron’s mad scheme let alone to chase down every bit of flying rubble coming off of the metropolis.

The team’s main concern was to stop Ultron and thereby save mankind. This included protecting the residents of Sokovia from homicidal drones. Intercepting debris from the airborne city was not a consideration due to the necessities of combat against overwhelming foes. It was not due to indifference and it was most certainly not due to selfishness on the part of the Avengers.

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Yet Zemo is unconcerned with these very obvious facts. Why should he? It is clear to him what happened. The Avengers showed up, destroyed the maniacal machine, and went home to a heroes’ welcome.   They did not care about his people or his family. They cared about getting the glory for saving the world. That was their plan all along, as evidenced by the fact that they did not return to Sokovia to clean up the mess, nor did they prevent the disaster from occurring in the first place. In fact, they are responsible for the entire debacle; Tony Stark created Ultron. If he had not done this, then everyone who died in Sokovia would still be alive. The evident conclusion one must reach is that the Avengers do not care about anyone but themselves – right?

No, it is not. We know it is not, readers, because we have walked beside these characters through ten plus films. We have seen them selflessly put their lives on the line to protect the masses. We know that the Avengers truly care about saving as many lives as they can. They are as altruistic as one could wish of mortal man. Even Tony Stark, who is still too self-centered, remains willing to put his life on the line for strangers he will never meet. The Avengers are in the fight because it is the right thing to do, and most of them would be quite happy to skip out on the fame they have gained while doing their jobs. They cannot escape it and so they ignore it as best they can.

This is how we know that Zemo’s profile of the Avengers is mistaken and selfish, not to mention blatantly foolish. It is not because we like the characters or are attached to them that we believe they are heroes. We are certainly attached to them, and we definitely like them. But that is because they have proven time and again that they are willing to do heroic things to protect others. It is hard not to like someone for that.

Considering his background, you might think that Zemo might understand that combat is not a place where one feels “an overwhelming sense of control,” to quote Nick Fury. You might even think that Zemo could recall battles which had not gone according to plan, where people whom he and his team were supposed to protect were killed in spite of their best efforts. You might also think he would recognize that the Avengers were in that same boat in Sokovia and thus they could not be held accountable for the loss of his family.

Here we come to the important distinction between Zemo and the Avengers: Zemo led a “kill squad.” He and his men were not just commandos; they were government-sanctioned assassins. This makes it likely that Zemo and his men had little care for the lives of others. The exceptions would have been the lives of those closest to them, such as Zemo’s wife, son, and father. He may not have a problem murdering a family in another country but he would have a problem with whoever killed his family.

This is not the Way of the Avengers. When the Avengers kill, they do it to save lives. They do not do it lightly or enjoy it when the time comes to pull the trigger. They do not lose sleep over it, but if they can avoid dealing out justice on the battlefield they will spare their enemies – although they may later wish that they had not done so. They could have killed Loki in the Tower at the end of The Avengers, readers. Thor was not exactly feeling chummy with his adopted kid brother at the time and, in The Dark World, he threatened to kill Loki himself if he was betrayed.

The team had all the logic in the world to convince them to finish Loki then and there, but they chose not to do this. They instead sent him to Asgard to stand trial and receive Odin’s judgment. Despite their moniker, the Avengers are not prone to dealing out what most people would think of as revenge. They stop – or ‘Avenge’ – evil by defeating the bad guys, and by saving as many people as they can when the crisis blows up in an unforeseen manner.

One of the reasons why Zemo decides to destroy the Avengers is he is used to killing. As an assassin he became accustomed to the idea of being judge, jury, and executioner. What is more, he came to like playing these roles.

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There are four things he did which prove this. One, Zemo killed a former HYDRA operative and a psychiatrist without blinking an eye.   Two, he detonated a bomb outside the U.N. building in Vienna without any qualms about the innocents who would be caught in the blast. This was in spite of his claim to the HYDRA agent that he would not enjoy using “bloodier methods” to get what he wanted.

Three, after he had control of Bucky Barnes in the German base, Zemo ordered him to kill the soldiers who came to put the Winter Soldier back under restraint. Without orders Bucky might very well have just stood there until Cap and Sam arrived to calm the situation. But to further destroy Bucky’s already blackened record, Zemo ordered him to kill these men in cold blood. He stood by and watched these men die, then feigned a bad injury to lure Cap and Sam into the room so Bucky could attack them. I can just feel the remorse radiating from him in these scenes where he used “bloodier methods” to get what he wanted, can’t you, readers?

Four, Zemo expected Iron Man would kill Bucky and then Cap would kill Iron Man. Or he believed that Cap and Iron Man would kill each other after Bucky was dead. Why did he think this? He said he studied Cap and the rest of the Avengers, did he not? Enough to realize suddenly that there was a bit of green in Cap’s blue eyes, he said. So why did he not expect Cap to save Bucky, while at the same time avoiding killing or truly harming Tony Stark?

For a professional such as Zemo, this kind of miscalculation is astounding. He is a practiced killer; if he wants to take down a target or convince a target to kill himself and another person, he has to study his prey very carefully. He had a year to study the Avengers and plan how he would kill them, or convince them to kill each other. So why, when you come to the most crucial point, did he fail to suspect that Cap would prevent Tony from killing Bucky, while at the same time not murdering Stark himself?

The reason he failed to completely destroy the Avengers – to kill them all or convince them to kill each other – is that he does not understand them. He did not, does not, and will never comprehend them as long as he maintains his choice to do evil rather than good. This is shown most plainly by his underestimating Captain America, the Galahad of modern literature. He expected Cap to react to pain and loss as he would. But Cap is not like other men; he is different. Where most men can achieve only a “good” status in this world, Cap has achieved a “great” status. This is not perfection but it is very, very close to it.

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Now some of you are going to say, “But what about Steve’s vow to kill every HYDRA operative after Bucky fell off the train in the Alps? That was revenge!”

No, it was not. What Cap specifically said was that he would not stop fighting HYDRA “until every HYDRA agent is dead or captured.” (Emphasis mine.) This means that he would capture and imprison those members he could, and kill those who resisted. He said and did this for the same reason the British wiped out the Thuggees, murderers who worshipped the Hindu death-goddess Kali. HYDRA is no better than the Thuggees; they need to be exterminated so that innocent people intent on living peaceful, happy lives will be safe to live and work as they choose.

Nothing that Cap said or did after Bucky fell from the train in The First Avenger was vengeful. He was not motivated by a desire for payback. He wanted the world to be free of the evil that was HYDRA so that Bucky’s sacrifice – and the sacrifice of thousands of other men on both sides of the war – would not be in vain. So that the world would be free of HYDRA’s evil once and for all.

By his own admission, Zemo was not trying to free anyone in Civil War. He was trying to destroy a team of people who routinely put their lives on the line to protect mankind from the evil without and within it. He wanted revenge, not justice. He wanted payback, not freedom. He was and remains willing to let the entire world fall into death, destruction, and slavery so that he can feel he has revenged the deaths of his family.

Readers, what is so admirable about Zemo’s choice? Why should we, as viewers, sympathize with a character that is willing to condemn the whole human race to an evil fate just so he can feel vindicated on behalf of his dead loved ones? Should we sigh, wipe away a tear, and say, “Yes, we feel your pain,” or “We understand you,” to a character who would throw away every human life on the planet to satiate his lust for blood? No, we should not. But this is what some people want us to do for Zemo.

I will not do this. I will not commiserate or identify with a character that would gladly doom millions to death and millions more to slavery in order to get vengeance for his family, who were unfortunate casualties in a battle. As Rocket Raccoon pointed out in Guardians of the Galaxy, “Everybody’s got dead people. That’s no excuse to get everyone else dead along the way.”

Zemo has no excuses for his choice to destroy not only the Avengers but the people they protect. He wanted to throw the rest of the world under the bus to fulfill his desire for vengeance. No one has the right to do that. But that is what Zemo tried to do with the world population when he targeted the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War.

Later, at the end of the film, we watch Martin Freeman’s character, Everett Ross (no relation to the General turned Secretary of State), visit Zemo. He begins gloating to Zemo about how his master plan has failed.

Like Thunderbolt and the U.N., Everett Ross believes that Zemo’s master plan has gone down in flames whilst the United Nations’ own has succeeded. They have four of the six members of Team Cap incarcerated while Iron Man, War Machine, and Vision are leashed and awaiting orders. Black Widow, Captain America, and the Winter Soldier are wanted fugitives who will soon be found and locked up with their friends. The private police firm known as the Avengers is now legally under the direct control of the bureaucrats and politicians in the United Nations. Zemo, meanwhile, is locked up and out of the way. Yes, their plan has worked flawlessly whilst Zemo’s has not.

Slowly, Zemo smiles and says, “Did it?”

At these words we get to watch the smile gradually slide off of Everett Ross’ face. (It is such a satisfying thing to see!!!!) Zemo is correct to point out that his plan did not entirely fail. But the fact is that Zemo’s plans did not accomplish his true goals.

None of the Avengers are dead, as Zemo desired. Their strength is halved, but they are all alive, and this makes a future reconciliation possible. Zemo does not see this because, as stated above, he sees the Avengers through a glass darkly. He cannot comprehend the gulf between his mind and their souls. Part of his plan has been accomplished; the Avengers are no longer what they were. They are weakened, and severely so….

But they are all alive.

The Avengers’ advantage over Zemo is their heroism; it will defeat him every time. Like the phoenix of old, like the sun on a daily basis, the Avengers will rise again. And they will be whole and stronger than before when this happens.

Evil will never win the war, as Zemo believes he has. He has won a battle. But the war was won a long time ago, and the Avengers are on the winning side. Even the arrogant ones, such as Tony Stark, will be victorious in the end. Their strength is not their own. It comes from Another, and He is watching over them, as He watches over all those who serve Him. He is their strength. As long as Zemo stands against the Avengers, he stands alone against Him, the irresistible and unconquerable. He will win, and Zemo will lose.

‘Nuff said, readers. ‘Nuff said.

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Captain America: Civil War – Vision

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Sometime back I was watching Captain America: Civil War – again. During this viewing I noticed something very interesting and rather disturbing.

At the beginning of the movie, as the battle in Lagos ends, we watch Crossbones blow up three floors of a skyscraper. We are treated to a view of citizens huddled in the bazaar in terror, while Cap and Wanda gaze upward in horror as they realize that people have died in a blast which was much bigger than they anticipated. Steve calls Falcon and tells him to get emergency responders on the scene as fast as possible, while Wanda collapses to her knees in grief…

And then we cut to Tony having a public therapy session with a room full of his best friends – and however many people are watching his speech on television, youtube, facebook, snapchat, and I have no idea what else.

It hit me while watching this that these scenes are very jarring in the way that real life actually is. Here, Cap and Wanda are standing amidst Crossbones’ explosive carnage. Then we cut to Tony, who is having a public psychotherapy session with thousands of his closest friends. The two scenes are light years apart. One shows mourning for the loss of life while the other demonstrates an intellectual distance from real mourning, real sorrow, and real death.

Now, Cap and Wanda did not intentionally kill twenty-six people in Lagos. This is something which no one in the movie – and no one reviewing the film – pauses to note. It was an unfortunate, heart-wrenching, horrible accident. Miles and miles away, physically and mentally, Tony is mourning a mistake he made in his teens. He did not say good-bye to his mother the day she died. There is no real comparison for the two scenes.

Allow me to explain. There is no one in that MIT auditorium – or very few people – who have dealt with what Cap and Wanda are dealing with in Lagos. This includes Tony. I do not mean that he has never seen anyone die before. He has, and he has helped some of those people die. And I mean the terrorists and HYDRA agents when I say this, not the innocents caught in the crossfire during a battle. [Author rolls eyes at the insinuation of the pack of idiots who believe otherwise.] Tony actively avoids killing innocent people on purpose, just like the rest of the Avengers do.

What I mean is that Stark has not dealt with death. He has not accepted it. This is made manifestly clear by the fact that he is still not reconciled to the deaths of his parents. He has not “processed [his] grief” over his losses. Translation: he does not want to admit that he was a total brat to them on the last day they were alive, when he could have treated them with love and respect instead. Well, yeah, Tony, you could have done that throughout your entire life, too!

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This leaves him at a distinct disadvantage when dealing with the deaths of others, such as the son of the woman who emotionally ambushes him in the back hall of MIT. Tony is insulated, just like those kids in the auditorium, from facing reality thanks to the belief – which they and Tony share – that technology can cure every problem and conquer every aberration. This includes, naturally enough, death. It is the one thing which we all run from on a daily basis. Most of us do not admit it, realize it, or are really prepared to face it someday. Only the very, very lucky are capable of these things.

Cap and Wanda do not have this cocoon. Thanks to Crossbones and other villains, they have both seen death before. Wanda lost her parents at age ten, a more tender age than Tony’s presumable sixteen, when HYDRA murdered the Starks. And she sensed her twin’s death in Age of Ultron. She has seen death up close and personal throughout her young life and properly mourned for those she has lost.

Cap fought in World War II. He saw the Grim Reaper in action plenty of times during that conflict, and he has seen him in the battles from Loki’s invasion attempt onward. He has mourned his losses and accepted the deaths of his friends, just like Wanda has. This means that neither Cap nor Wanda is insulated from death. They have seen it too many times not to know what it looks like. And so they are not insulated from the pain and sorrow that come with it, either, two other things which Tony and the MIT students have never truly faced.

I bring this all up in relation to Vision for the simple reason that, like Tony and these MIT students, he is insulated. Unlike Tony and many others in that auditorium, he is not willfully insulated. He is a new being, a child genius living in a synthetic adult body. He is, in a word, innocent, and this is because he lacks real-world experience.

This is why he backs the Accords. Having no human experience prior to this past year of his life, he has no frame of reference for such mysteries as sorrow, love, death, grief, and pain. He also has no firsthand experience with these things. The only way he understands them is through science, mathematics, theory, and the reports of others.

The former do not get you very far in this fallen, mysterious world, readers. Reports are not equivalent to personal experience, either. They are simply that – arid, dusty records.

Yes, there are things that can be scientifically identified and defined and mathematically calculated in this world. We also have theories of all kinds coming out of our ears. But – as a for instance – can you seriously look inside yourselves, readers, and say that all your thoughts are the results of chemical reactions in your brains? That the reason you are thinking about a great piece of art, a wonderful song, or this very movie we are discussing right now, is all the result of a series of chemical reactions in your bodies/brains?

That is utterly impossible, and if you are honest with yourselves, you will see that. One can say they feel hunger because the body’s chemical reactions are telling one’s brain that the stomach is empty and needs filling. But one cannot say he is contemplating a movie simply because a series of neurons are firing in his brain. The neurons firing are only an indication that he is thinking. They do not prove what he is thinking about, and anyone who claims otherwise is either being extremely unreasonable or making a complicated sales pitch.

Vision, however, has not recognized this truth. He is a totally synthetic being. His body is made of vibranium, so all its components are mere mimics of the human body. His brain and personality, although based off of the previous Stark butler, the human Edwin Jarvis, were once a computer system named after said butler. Nothing about him is natural, physically speaking. He is a synthetic, not a “real,” person.

But this does not prevent him from wanting to become a real person, just as the Velveteen Rabbit wanted to become a real rabbit. Vision is trying to learn how to be human. This is proven when he phases into Wanda’s room, thinking that the door being open is a sign that she is not in the room, is open to having guests, or something like that. He never does get to explain why he thought that, because the door was open, it was okay for him to ghost straight into the room.

Whether or not Vision picks up on Thunderbolt Ross’ thinly veiled threats is hard to tell. One would think he would have detected the belligerence in the man’s tone, but without any previous experience with bullies, it must not have clicked that the Secretary of State was being a controlling jerk. So it is not surprising when Vision decides to support the Accords, citing the modern philosophy that “strength incites challenge, challenge incites conflict, and conflict…breeds catastrophe.”

If that were the case, then no one would ever get anywhere. You cannot live without some inherent strength, readers. Babies cannot grow up to become children who become adults if they do not get stronger as they grow. The fact that some are born physically stronger than others is irrelevant; true strength comes from the will, a product of the mind, not the body.

This makes conflict an inescapable fact of life, since we are fallen creatures prone to sin. Pride, the root of all the world’s ailments, is always one of our weak points – especially if we believe ourselves “the best and the brightest” person/people in the room, and that we “know what is best” for everyone else.

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Vision has never been sick in his short life, nor has he ever been proud. And the only one he knows of who could directly challenge his strength was Ultron. Thor, along with the Hulk (possibly), might have been threats to him. No one else on Earth, normal human or otherwise, can hold a candle to him, physically speaking. Aware of this, Vision does not want to use his strength for the wrong things. That is why he is an Avenger, after all.

He also understands that not everyone trusts him. The Avengers are the exception because they know him. They may have their issues with him, but they do trust and appreciate him. The rest of the world…not so much.

This is the other reason why Vision accedes to the Accords. In order to convince the public that he is not evil, he agrees to be shackled to the U.N. as a lapdog. What he and none of the other pro-Accords Avengers realize is that he is not a lapdog. None of the Avengers are. They are all individuals with free will. They have all made a commitment to, as Vision so eloquently stated in Ultron, defend life. They are the good guys, and Vision seeks to mollify the suspicious into believing this truth.

He needs to brush up on his Tolkien. With the notable exception of T’Chaka, almost everyone behind the Accords is a Saruman. They want to control everything, to be worshipped in place of God. Some are trapped in their own rhetoric while others are megalomaniacs hiding behind the cloak of rationality. Like Saruman, they do not impose their collective will on the Avengers by absolute force at first. They impose it by traitorous whisperings through their own version of Gríma Wormtongue, a.k.a. Thunderbolt Ross. And because Vision is completely innocent, he falls for the lies because they appear coherent. They “look fair and feel foul.” (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.)

Vision is not big on feelings right now, as he still relies on science to understand the world around him. The arguments for the Accords are not sane, of course. Evil never has been sane. And do not gasp in surprise that I said evil in relation to Thunderbolt Ross and the U.N. Was or was not Saruman evil? He had his puppet Wormtongue poison the mind and will of King Théoden of Rohan and his niece, Éowyn. Then he invaded and tried to destroy Rohan when his attempt at subtlety was foiled by Gandalf. He tried to kill Frodo after the hobbit spared him, despite the damage the fallen wizard had wreaked on the Shire.

Saruman. Was. Evil. So are many of the bureaucrats and politicians behind the Sokovia Accords. So is Thunderbolt Ross.

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The next time we see Vision, he is trying to cheer Wanda up while keeping her confined in the Avengers’ Compound. The scene is cute on a number of levels, not least for those of us who know the history of the romance the two shared in the comics. (They were married for a couple of decades in the books.) In a way, this scene is reminiscent of many a high school drama story: Vision is the typical geeky science whizz kid trying to impress the most beautiful girl in school. He absolutely adores Wanda, who does not seem ready to reciprocate his budding feelings, although she definitely likes him and considers him a good friend. He did save her life, remember. It is hard not to like someone for doing that.

After this awkward, then sweet, then awkward moment, Vision disappears for a while. When Clint arrives at the Compound to pick up Wanda and take her to Germany to meet up with the rest of Team Cap, his distraction interrupts Vision’s version of sleeping. Turns out androids can sleep standing up. Or, in Vision’s case, he sleeps by hovering above the floor in an upright position.

Suitably distracted by Clint’s explosives and the resulting fire, Vision leaves to see to the problem – allowing Clint to enter the room, set up a trap for him, and try to get Wanda out of the building as fast as he possibly can.

Vision is understandably unhappy about this. I mean, friends do not set off pyrotechnics outside their friends’ house in order to lure them out on a wild goose chase. And friends’ do not steal their friends’ crush.

Without doing a full review, we already know that Clint has no romantic inclination toward Wanda at all. They are friends; mentor and student. Her brother died to save Hawkeye’s life, and he owes him for that. The best way to pay the debt is to take care of his sister. Plus, Hawkeye convinced her to become an Avenger. That makes her his responsibility in situations like this.

I am not entirely sure that Vision sees it that way. He is learning to be human by degrees, and I think part of the reason he got a little testy is the same reason that a jealous teenager with a crush would. Wanda is his idol, and that means NOBODY ELSE gets to touch her, even if she lets them.

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Getting trapped in an electromagnetic field probably did not help his mood. So when Clint has to give Wanda another pep talk, Vision has time to escape his trap and turn the extraction into a fight.

It is actually a bit terrifying – and I am not saying that simply because Hawkeye is one of my favorite Marvel characters. If Vision’s manner of stopping a friend is this harsh, then I would really hate to see him pull out all the stops in a fight with normal humans. The results would definitely not be pretty.

Vision incapacitates Clint easily, of course, stating the obvious fact that the archer is no match for him. “I know,” Hawkeye answers. “But she is.”

This makes Vision look at Wanda, who is drawing up quite a bit of power in her hands. “Vision, let him go,” she says, “I’m leaving.”

“I can’t let you do that,” Vision replies, totally ignoring the fact that Hawkeye is very close to falling unconscious in his tight, though not life-threatening (presumably), grip.

Wanda is not going to ignore that. And she shows it by making Vision drop him.

Vision is literally shocked by this. To his mind, Wanda has done the inconceivable by challenging him. Her ability to commandeer his powers notwithstanding, she has turned her back on the Accords he swore to uphold. It is likely that he feels she is turning her back on him by doing this as well, not to mention throwing away any chance of convincing “the public” that she is not dangerous. She is manifestly dangerous.

But so is Vision. So is Hawkeye. So is Captain America. So are Tony, Natasha, Scott Lang, Spider-Man, War Machine – all of the Avengers are dangerous. As Gandalf pointed out to Gimli in The Two Towers, they are “beset with dangers” because they are so perilous in and of themselves. It is the when and the where and the how they choose to be hazardous which makes them a different kind of dangerous than HYDRA, Zemo, or Ultron. They only become dangerous when it is necessary to save the lives of others or to protect their own lives. That is why Wanda decides to be perilous here and now. Vision was seriously hurting Clint, and she was not going to let him be hurt any further than he already was.

She is also done with letting “the public,” Ross, the media, and the U.N. hurt her. In his attempt to make her turn away from her choice and back (he thinks) to him, Vision tells Wanda, “If you do this, they will never stop being afraid of you.”

Wanda has one of the best comebacks I have heard out of a character in years: “I can’t control their fear, only my own!” Vision is letting the fears of others control him.

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Okay, you say, but what about Wanda going all-out in the airport battle? She does go all-out, but she does not go wild. She fights in a very controlled, methodical manner. This is because she is done being afraid of herself and what she can do. That does not mean she is going to go completely insane using her powers. If that were the case, she would have done more than throw Natasha into a trailer. She would have hauled off and seriously injured her. She did not.

As for her attacks on the other members of Team Iron, let’s face it: metal suits are great protection. That means the bar for causing actual damage to the person wearing the suit is pretty high. Remember, ten cars landing on his body only gave Tony “multiple contusions.” Those are not broken bones, those are bruises. They might be big and painful, but they are not going to rob him of life and limb. They just make it uncomfortable for him to move, as he is left really sore by the hits.

None of Wanda’s tactics when she fought War Machine, Iron Man, and Black Panther qualified as deadly because they were wearing very good protective suits. She could throw plane parts and cars at them all day long, and all they would have afterward were A LOT of big bruises. And equally sore egos.

But Vision cannot really claim the same thing, now can he?

We will get to that in a moment. For now, let us inspect the minutiae of the fight after Vision joins it. Is it not interesting that, in order to bring Team Cap to a halt, Vision ends up drawing the proverbial line in the sand? “I dare ya ta cross this line!” Bugs Bunny used to say.

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“Captain,” Vision says after lasering a line in the concrete, “I know you believe in what you are doing. But for the greater good, you must stand down.” Okay, Vision, but who decides what the greater good is? You, or the U.N.? I would think that, if you could have your druthers, you would let Cap and the others go stop Zemo. Right?

Oh, but wait. You signed away your right to choose when you acquiesced to the Accords. So I guess that means you have to do what you are told, even when it is something you do not want to do. Hmmm. You did not factor that into your equations, did you?

One of Vision’s first acts after Scott Lang grows to Giant-Man is to save T’Challa from a bus the big guy kicked. Very cool move and reminiscent of the comics, where Vision could and would use his density shifting ability to block such attacks. I always thought that was a neat power to have. But he later uses this same ability on Giant-Man’s ribs. Ow, that is kind of mean. After disorienting Scott in this way, he flies through him and out his back. Seeing Bucky and Cap running toward the jet, Vision decides to stop them by dropping a control tower in their path.

The most interesting thing here is the look on his face. For the first time ever, Vision actually looks angry. Why is he angry? And, more to the point, does he even realize he is experiencing a human emotion?

It does not appear that he does realize this. Following this attempt by Vision to stop the guys Wanda, in an astonishing display of strength, holds up the tower so that Cap and Bucky can get to the jet. For those of you wondering why she could handle this and not Crossbones’ Viking funeral, the tower was collapsing, not exploding. There is a BIG difference between those two things. Then War Machine hits her with his sonic and she lets go of the tower, which collapses all the way.

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But why was Vision angry when he shot the tower’s base?

There were probably several reasons. For one, Cap is among the most reasonable people that Vision knows. That he should persist in what Vision believes is an error to the point of engaging in combat with his pro-Accords teammates must have made the android pretty cranky. Like a teenager insisting his father is wrong, Vision lashes out at Cap without seriously examining his own position to see if he actually is in the right.

It is somewhat similar to Vision’s own comparison of the Accords to an equation. Say someone asks you to add ten and fifteen. But instead of hearing the person say ten and fifteen, you hear ten and sixteen. You therefore add these two numbers together and get twenty-six. The person who asked you to add the numbers hears your answer and says, “That’s not right.” You say it is, but you forget to mention that you added ten and sixteen, which makes twenty-six. The person who asked you to add the numbers looks at you like you are crazy and maintains that you have the wrong answer to his question.

So you do the equation again, without changing the numbers. You get the same answer and tell it to the person who gave you the equation. He still says the answer is wrong. Now you start to get mad as you redo the equation, still using ten and sixteen instead of ten and fifteen, as you were asked. The entire scenario devolves into a vicious argument as you continue to claim that twenty-six is the answer, while the other person continues to say it is not.

This is Vision’s problem right here. Although Cap states the parameters of the Accords in the plainest language possible in the Compound, Vision turns the simple addition problem into a far more complex equation. He does not do this on purpose; he does this because he is following the modern idea of rationalism. This rationalism is a false equation. But because it adds up, Vision does not realize this. He is adding ten and sixteen, not ten and fifteen, and does not see his mistake.

So the fact that Cap and the rest of the Avengers on Team Red, White, and Blue keep insisting he has the wrong answer makes Vision angry enough to stop being careful. This is why he knocks over the control tower. Although he does not realize it, Vision is acting like a young child who is too angry to listen to the teacher explain to him why he got the equation wrong.

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Next we have the scene of Vision touching down beside Wanda as she recovers from War Machine’s sonic blast. It is obvious here that the writers are going down the same road as the comics. Comments from the Russo brothers about Avengers: Infinity War have confirmed that Vision and Wanda are going to be doing the Romance Two-Step in the next film. This scene could not be a clearer hint.

Then we come to War Machine yelling in Vision’s ear, telling him to get Sam off his back. Vision turns and looks up. He sees Sam, focuses visually on the wing pack, and fires his laser.

But even before Falcon dodges the shot, Vision’s aim is off. Instead of hitting Sam’s wing pack, he shoots higher than Falcon’s previous position and hits Rhodey’s arc reactor. This results in Rhodey tumbling out of the sky to land in the dirt two hundred feet below. The impact shatters several vertebrae and leaves Rhodey at least partially paralyzed.

Vision, we notice, looked pretty angry when he fired that shot. And War Machine was the last one to attack Wanda. Was this a case of unconscious payback?

I highly doubt it, for one reason and one reason only: Vision was looking at the thrusters on Sam’s wing pack when he fired. He was not looking at Rhodey at all. So why did he miss? His concern and budding love for Wanda? That was part of it. Another, bigger part was simple irritation. How do we feel when we are getting yelled at and told to do something right now?

Here is another teenage allusion: Mom asks teenage daughter to take out the trash. Teenage daughter is on the sofa texting her BFF. She says she will get the trash in a minute. Two minutes later, Mom reminds daughter to get the trash, since daughter has not done what she was asked. Daughter shouts back that she will. Five minutes later, Mom is yelling at the daughter to get off the phone and take out the trash right now.

Furious, teenage daughter jumps up off the couch, goes to the kitchen, yanks the bag out of the trash can, ties it up, and heads outside. She wrenches open the back door, stomps outside, and slams the door shut behind her. Later, a crack is found in the older, weather-beaten door jamb, and it is deduced that the teenage daughter put it there in her fit of pique when Mom told her to take out the trash. Does that sound like what Vision did after having Rhodey snarling in his ear two or three times?

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Yep, it does.

In this scenario, Vision missed for the same reason the teenage daughter in the hypothetical scenario above cracked the door jamb. He was focusing on Wanda, on being there for her in her injured state. Then Rhodey begins yelling at him to take out Falcon. Of course, being occupied with Wanda, Vision does not automatically turn and fire at Sam. So Rhodey yells again, louder and more insistently. Like an irritated teenager, Vision turns and shoots in Sam’s general direction. It was a close shot. But close only counts with horseshoes and hand grenades. And in combat, close in not always good enough – especially where the lives of your teammates and friends are concerned.

There is also this to consider: up until Rhodey told Vision to take out Sam, Vision had not shot anyone in the battle. He had not shot anyone in any previous battle in the movie, either. He shot the concrete, he knocked over the control tower, he rammed Ant-Man, whom he could have shot when the other was ant-sized….

But he never actually shot any of the members of Team Cap. Then Rhodey tells him to make Sam’s wing pack a glider. He was telling Vision to actually shoot someone, and shoot to harm.

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Vision has never shot at another human being before. The only other person Vision ever shot was Ultron, and he does not count because he had no soul. He was an inhuman monster that needed to be destroyed. Sam is neither inhuman nor a monster. He is an Avenger and Vision’s friend. How are you supposed to be okay with shooting down a friend – a friend who did not attack you at any time during the battle?

This is probably one of the other reasons Vision missed. He was either planning to miss and make Sam pull away, or he had one moment of conflict in his mind about the morality of shooting down a friend. That one moment of doubt, combined with his concern for Wanda, was enough to throw his shot off course so that it hit Rhodey’s arc reactor and knocked him out of the sky.

Not long after Rhodey hits the ground, Vision flies over to see if he is all right. He is obviously shocked and horrified by what he has done. Vision really was not aiming for Rhodey, and he certainly did not mean to hurt him. But he has, just like that teenage girl did not mean to damage the door jamb, but she did.

This is Vision’s first real lesson in the fact that actions have consequences. And it is a pretty hard lesson. He has severely injured a man he considers a friend, a man who was his teammate. The fact that he did not mean to do it does not change what has happened. Vision’s concern for Wanda, his reservations about shooting down Sam, distracted him in a very human way. And that threw off his extraordinary calculating abilities, leaving Rhodey very badly hurt.

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When we last see Vision, he is sitting at the lounge table in the Compound, playing with a chess piece and staring off into the distance. Chess is a game of strategy. It is very good for the mind. There are even programs for veterans suffering from traumatic memories and battle shock – known these days as PTSD – using chess to help them get back on their feet. (Totally cool idea!)

Vision’s mind does not need improving or bringing back into balance. What he is doing here is trying to figure out where in the Sam Hill everything went wrong. Having him playing with a chess piece, a game of clear strategy with lucid moves and end results, shows that Vision is trying to retrace his steps and understand his mistake.

Now you and I, readers, could tell him that it all went wrong when he sided with Tony and signed the Accords. This is because the Accords were designed to split the Avengers down the middle and destroy them from their inception; they were never about saving anyone or preserving people’s safety. If that was the case, then German Special Forces would not have sent in a chopper with a mini-gun to turn Bucharest buildings into Swiss cheese. They did.

The Accords were never for the good of the Avengers or the human race. The Accords were designed so that the Avengers who signed them would be the only Avengers, while the rest got swept under the rug and forgotten. That was the U.N.s plan. That was Ross’ plan.

It is not working very flawlessly, is it?

The fact that this was the intended design of the Accords does not make Tony a villain. It makes his decision to sign them stupid as hell, but nobody’s perfect. And this is what is really bothering Vision; he was designed to be perfect. But he is not. And he has to come to face that fact in the most uncomfortable way possible – by hurting a friend.

So, readers, there is only one question left to ask now. Which side will Vision join before helping the Avengers gang up on Thanos in the next Avengers films?

We will have to wait and see!

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Captain America: Civil War – James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine

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“Why do you hate War Machine so much?”

“I don’t hate him. He just doesn’t interest me. Why do you like him?”

“His armor’s got more guns than a military base. What’s not to like about that?”

This is a paraphrased version of a running argument a friend and I had going for some years about James “Rhodey” Rhodes. What I am only realizing now is that my friend and I never disagreed that the War Machine armor was cool. We were simply looking at the argument from different angles we neither expressed nor recognized. My friend was arguing from the position of someone who liked the War Machine armor, the gizmo that the character uses. I was not looking at the armor – I was looking at the character. And in the end, we both found Rhodey lacking in the character department. He earns a solid shrug and a “meh,” no matter how we try to measure him.

It is a real shame when a character is only memorable and likable for the tools they use rather than for themselves. And it is interesting that, in a comic book universe which usually eschews sidekicks, Marvel should go to the trouble of making one. Let me explain by contrasting Tony and Rhodey’s friendship with the friendship between Captain America and the Falcon.

No one can say that Sam Wilson is a foil for Steve Rogers and prove it capably. Falcon has his own personality, habits, life experiences, and a sense of humor that is all his own. His skills could not be more divergent from Cap’s if the writers tried to make them so. In the comics, Sam has a personal empathetic tie with his pet falcon Redwing, but he can also empathetically connect with and command any other bird in New York City. He can quite possibly reach beyond the city limits with this power, too. He wears a wing pack in combat, spending most of his time in a battle flying, darting in and around opponents to bring them down.

Even in the films, there remains plenty of daylight between Steve and Sam. The wing pack was never in Cap’s arsenal; the man hardly ever flies, although he can when he has to do so. For the most part, Cap is the quintessential soldier; he stays on the ground and fights the enemy on his terms there.

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Now compare this to Tony and Rhodey’s friendship. I am not quite clear on how long they have known each other in the comics, so I will stick with the films. Iron Man showed Rhodey as a down-to-earth counterbalance for Tony’s flights of juvenility, which is funny considering that James Rhodes is a “zoomie.” Then Iron Man 2 saw Rhodey grabbing one of Tony’s prototype suits on behalf of the government before literally trying to knock some sense into his drunken friend. Iron Man 3 did not portray him in a much better light. Although he liked the name War Machine for the armor he essentially stole from his best friend on behalf of the government, he allowed focus groups and the Air Force to change the name to the milquetoast “Iron Patriot.”

Rhodey is Tony’s babysitter for the first and second films, barely escaping that fate again in Iron Man 3. Then, when he tries to impress Tony and Thor with a story from his own repertoire of exploits in Avengers: Age of Ultron, it falls flat on them and the audience. Let’s admit it – while it is cute to imagine a general’s reaction to a tank being delivered to him by a man in a metal suit, it does not truly impress. It is a story that exposes the fact that Rhodey is a bouncer who can intimidate mid-level bullies, whilst the Avengers are the commandos sent in to dispense with hardcore villains such as HYDRA and Ultron. Sam recognized this when he told Cap, “Avenging is your world… and your world is crazy.” Rhodey could not take the hint from Thor and Tony’s expectant silence.

I think it likely that most people look at Rhodey and Sam and consider them to be nothing more than “sidekicks” or foils to Iron Man and Captain America. However, as I pointed out above, Sam does not qualify as either a sidekick or a foil. He is a man who can take care of himself, he has the strength to make his own decisions, and he can live with their consequences. The sad fact is that Rhodey cannot do this; he is always looking for orders, for guidance from above – which is cute because, as an Air Force pilot, he is usually “above” everyone else most of the time, physically speaking.

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The moment which best defines these differences between the two characters in Captain America: Civil War is the yelling match they have over the Accords after Ross leaves. What are the first words we hear out of Rhodey’s mouth in this battle of words? “Secretary Ross has a Congressional Medal of Honor, which is one more than you [Sam] have,” he says to Falcon.

Excuse me?!?!? Instead of actually arguing about the strength of the Sokovia Accords, Rhodey immediately jumps to the fact that Ross has a Congressional Medal of Honor??? Seriously?!

While we are on this subject just how, exactly, did Ross earn that Congressional Medal of Honor? Did he receive it after Bruce Banner became the Hulk, or after he turned Emil Blonsky into the Abomination in order to fight fire with fire? Maybe he received it for letting the Abomination wreck Harlem after he went rogue on Ross.

Yes, I am being very sarcastic here. The fact is that there is no way in the walls of the world Ross should have received that Medal. He did nothing to earn it. I would bet good money he got it for political expediency. He does not deserve the Medal; not now, not in the future, never.

But the fact that Rhodey thinks this is sufficient evidence that Ross has his and the Avengers’ best interests at heart is what is truly distressing. When someone holds a gun in his face and says, “Your wallet or your life,” should he consider it a sign that the mugger respects him? No, he should not, as we would not. Presuming he did not freeze and do what he was told, Rhodey would beat the mugger up, take his gun away from him, and call the cops. Yet Ross can throw down the gauntlet in front of him and the Avengers, but because he has a Congressional Medal of Honor, it is a sign of respect for Ross’ “greatness” that Rhodey and the team should immediately sign on to the Accords – in essence, hand over their wallet?

It only gets better when Rhodey says, “A hundred and seventeen countries have signed this, Sam. A hundred and seventeen! But you’re just like, ‘It’s cool, no big deal.’”

No, it is not a big deal! How many of those countries routinely violate human rights? China and North Korea are in the U.N., right? Is China a model of how a country must respect human rights? No, it is not. North Korea shoots off missiles to threaten the Orient and swagger in front of the U.S., they keep their own people in prison camps on the brink of starvation, and the rest of their population are stuck in grinding poverty – and in time. Their fashions and technology are still in (at least) the 1970s. They are an example of posturing, backward fools, not progress!

A good number of the other hundred seventeen countries which agreed to the Accords have records which are about as bad, if not worse. But does Rhodey mention that here? Does he even stop to consider it? Not in front of us. A hundred seventeen countries sign a document proclaiming him an attack dog which they want to leash, and just like that “it’s cool.”

It is not cool, and Rhodey cannot see that. What is more, he refuses to see it. He brags about Ross’ medals, yet the leader of the Avengers – his leader – has far more experience. Cap has earned and shunned more medals and honors than Ross could ever hope to gain… But instead of listening to him, Rhodey calls him “dangerously arrogant”? Something is very wrong here.

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It becomes worse when War Machine drops in to “stop” Cap, Sam, and T’Challa in their “fight” over the escaping Bucky Barnes at the Bucharest tunnel. “Nice job, Cap,” Rhodey says scathingly. “You’re a criminal.”

No mention of German Special Forces turning Bucharest into Swiss cheese in an attempt to kill Bucky I notice, Rhodey. Or are you more familiar with the range and danger of a mini-gun than most civilians walking down the street are? Of course you are; you are a U.S. Airman. They are civilians who are minding their own business when a Special Forces helicopter suddenly drops leaden rain from above trying to kill a wanted fugitive. I guess the U.N. does not have any statutes saying a man is innocent of a crime until proven guilty. Wow, what a shocker.

Cap’s attempt to reach out to Bucky – even the initial attempt by the German ground troops to capture him – was more sensible than that. But Rhodey’s scorn is not for the idiocy of the bureaucrats who called in a helicopter and ordered the men aboard to fire at Bucky regardless of potential “collateral damage” to the civilians he was running past. It is instead all aimed at Cap, who was fighting smarter, not harder.

We do not see Rhodey again until the battle in the Leipzig airport. Iron Man zaps Clint’s chopper with an EMP device and lands in front of Cap, War Machine right on his tail. The two take a moment to verbally beat up on Cap, and then the fighting starts.

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Cap keeps both T’Challa and Rhodey where he can see them at the beginning of the fight. For a guy with a metal suit, Rhodey does not do very well in personal combat with Cap. Yes, he is going for the knockout punch instead of a kill shot, but his fighting ability is still downright sorry in this confrontation. He has supposedly been working with and training under the greatest soldier of all time, whom he should know well enough to fight competently. But in practice he is getting his metal fanny handed to him on a platter.

Those are some quality learning abilities you have, Rhodes. Why were you put in the new Avengers lineup again? Oh, that’s right – for your suit.

In contrast, Falcon more than holds his own with Tony, bopping him in the head with Redwing at one point and thereby properly disorienting him. He has less physical protection than Rhodey, yet he does better fighting the Invincible Armored Iron Man than the “zoomie” Avenger does in his battle with the unarmored First Avenger!

It does not get any better for Rhodes when Lang has Cap throw a fuel truck at him, Panther, and Black Widow. Now how Scott could mix up even a German fuel tanker with a German water truck is beyond me, but the fact is that he managed to do it. And instead of smartly moving aside, catching the truck, or blowing it up, Rhodes just stands there and lets it hit him. Brilliant, War Machine – NOT!!!

Rhodey is dead weight for most of the following incidents in the battle. He is a convenient ragdoll for Ant-Man and an equally easy target for the Scarlet Witch. Where his teammates and everyone else on Team Cap show innovation and creativity during the battle, Rhodes makes himself nothing but a handy punching bag or darn-it doll.

Things only become worse when he tells Vision to get Sam off his back. Distracted by his concern for Wanda – whom Rhodey hit with a high-powered sonic – Vision does as he is asked and fires at Sam. But the nascent synthetic man is growing into a very human character, and this means that his shot is off from the get-go because of his concern for his friend. He misses Sam and hits the War Machine arc reactor, shutting down the armor and leaving Rhodey to fly the suit “dead stick.”

If anything, Rhodey ought to sue Tony for poor workmanship. The Iron Man armor(s) can go into the upper atmosphere, through a portal into space, help blast apart a floating city, all at low power capacity, and the War Machine armor cannot keep him from shattering several vertebrae after a two hundred foot free fall? Yeah, right!

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All this is not to make light of Rhodey’s significant injuries. To his credit, Rhodes takes the devastating news like a man. When Tony makes him a set of special leg braces and he inevitably falls down, he manfully refuses help and gets set to start practicing on his own again.

This scene was very good, but not necessarily for Rhodey. It was good for Tony because now, in this moment where his best friend is incapable of doing what he used to do – of being who he used to be, even – Tony gets a glimmering of what Steve has been doing since he learned that Bucky was alive. For three movies, Steve has fought to get his old battle brother back. And in this film, he stands beside and supports Bucky as the other man tries to find himself after years of being lost in a mental/emotional waste land.

Rhodey’s journey is more physical and less likely to get other people killed. But Tony is willing to do whatever it takes to help him get back on his feet. If he is ready to do that for Rhodey, why should he begrudge Steve for his desire to help Bucky relearn how to be a normal person?

Tony will probably take forever to forgive Steve in the next Avengers film(s). In this moment during the movie, he only has a slight understanding of what Steve is going through. And we all know that Tony is quite prepared and willing to rationalize away anything and everything he does not want to face or admit. He avoided accepting his grief over his parents’ deaths; he is still avoiding it now. And he has decided to avoid accepting responsibility for his actions by signing the Accords. Stark has no problem lying to himself about important matters until the eleventh hour.

But after a point, he cannot run from the truth. Sooner or later, it will occur to him that what he is doing for Rhodey is the same thing Steve is doing for Bucky, just on a less impressive scale. As for Rhodey, well, for the moment he seems to be a lost cause as far as recognizing the truth. If anything, he is better at rationalizing than Tony is. It remains to be seen how well that will work in Avengers: Infinity War.

Of course, with his back almost completely shattered, Rhodey might not have any part in the upcoming Marvel films. That would be a shame; it would be nice for War Machine to step out of Iron Man’s shadow and show some real character of his own for a change.

Given past experience, though, that does not look to be a very viable possibility at this time. Bummer.

Secret Avengers – Assemble!

The Mithril Guardian

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Death and the Roster for Avengers: Infinity War

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Okay, everybody, LISTEN UP!!!!

I have something VERY IMPORTANT TO SAY!!!!

Avengers: Infinity War is coming out in 2018, and people are engaged in trying to determine which heroes will appear in the film.  They are also batting around which heroes will live and which will die.

Once again, these people are calling Hawkeye/Clint Barton the “most disposable” member of the Avengers.  They believe he can be killed off easily and no one will care.

NEWSFLASH:  Hawkeye is NOT easily dropped.  He is an EXTREMELY IMPORTANT character, and it would behoove these people to SHOW HIM SOME RESPECT!!!   AND, YES, SOME PEOPLE DO CARE!!!

Why does everybody hate Hawkeye?!  Why do so many people want him dead?  Is it because he uses a bow and trick arrows in battle?  So do Green Arrow/Oliver Queen and his sidekicks, yet I do not hear anyone calling for THEIR heads to be delivered to audiences on a platter!!!!  There should be no double standard in this matter.  If you want Hawkeye dead because he uses a bow and arrow, then you should want Green Arrow and his sidekicks dead as well.

Just why is there so much rage against Hawkeye?!?!?  Is it because he is a husband and father in the films?  That is something to CELEBRATE, people!!!  It is HIGH TIME a superhero got to have a good home life!!!  Or do you want the Fantastic Four’s family life destroyed too, hmmm?

Tit for tat, butter for fat.  What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.  If you want Hawkeye dead, you may as well drive a knife through the entire Avengers franchise.  Because whether you like him or not, Hawkeye is an integral part of the Avengers team and franchise, so he is not going anywhere.  Not if we can help it!!!

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So, haters, HANDS OFF OF HAWKEYE!!!!!!! 

People are also raffling off Cap for death in Infinity War and its sequel.  Interestingly, Nick Fury is being floated for the chopping block, too, as is Vision.  What is the reason that they want these characters dead?

Some people hate Cap because he is CAPTAIN AMERICA.  This means he represents the best of America.  So it is not too surprising that some people would want him dead.  Others say he is colorless and meaningless and the Avengers are better off without an old fogey like him.

NEWSFLASH:  CAPTAIN AMERICA IS THE HEART OF THE AVENGERS.  Kill him, and you kill the team.  The Avengers would never have lasted as long as they have without Captain America.  It is a fact.  Marvel and these fatheads calling for his death are kidding themselves – and us – if they think they can survive without Steve Rogers running the Avengers, or if they think they can water him down and make him “more modern” and less of a symbol for America.  IT AIN’T GONNA WORK!!!

As for Nick Fury dying, NEWSFLASH:  the guy is as hard to kill as a cockroach.  He will not die until the end of the world, if then.  You may think you killed him, but sooner or later he will pop up to growl at you again.  That is the way he is.

And some very cruel “fans” want Vision’s head cut off so Thanos can steal the Mind Stone, which is stuck to his forehead, from him.  NEWSFLASH:  why would Thanos go to that trouble when he could just psychically or magnetically pull the Stone from Vision’s forehead into the Infinity Gauntlet?  YOU ARE NOT THINKING, PEOPLE!!!  YOU ARE BEING BLOODTHIRSTY BARBARIANS!!!

People are also suggesting that Thor may die in Infinity War.  This seems highly unlikely to me.  But in the interest of maintaining the momentum of this post: NEWSFLASH, Thor cannot die when Chris Hemsworth has voluntarily pledged to keep making films until he is old enough to play Odin himself on film and videotape.

So assorted Knobs, Idiots, Jerks, Doofi, Scum-Sucking Pigs, Toads, Rocks, Stones, Senseless Things, and Monumental Dorks, listen and listen well….

Hawkeye

HANDS OFF OF OUR HAWKEYE!!!!

Kitchen

HANDS OFF OF OUR CAPTAIN AMERICA!!!!

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 HANDS OFF OF OUR THOR!!!!

Wanda vs. Vision 2

HANDS OFF OF OUR VISION!!!!

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HANDS OFF OF NICK FURY!!!!!

Or I will start calling for Carol Danvers to die ignominiously yesterday.  We seriously DO NOT need this trophy wife character, and I wish Marvel would DITCH HER ALREADY!!!!

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How do you like them apples, you sorry excuses for Marvel fans?

Captain America: Civil War – The Honorable Mentions

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I do not know which Marvel movies I will be watching before Avengers: Infinity War and its sequel appear in theaters, readers. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 looks promising, as does the Black Panther film. The third installment in Thor’s trilogy is still up for debate; on the one hand, it would be good to watch it. On the other… maybe the TV would be a better place to see it.

The jury is still out on Ant-Man and the Wasp, and I am definitely NOT wasting money or time on ANY Captain Marvel film. If she is in the Avengers films, I will have to deal with it; but I am NOT spending money to see her in her own movie. She is not worth it. If any of the others pop up in her film, I will find Internet videos of their cameos. That is all, folks.

Anyway, until the next Avengers film, there will be something of a dearth of Marvel posts here at Thoughts on the Edge of Forever. And since several characters appeared in Civil War but had no real time to grow in personality, I decided to skip full-blown character posts for them and do quick outlines of their parts instead.

So, without further ado, here are Captain America: Civil War’s honorable mentions:

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Peggy Carter

Technically, Peggy never appeared onscreen during the film. We did not even get any flashback scenes with her.

Nevertheless, she still had a presence in the movie. Her death is the severance of Cap’s last tie with the past. Bucky ties him to a different part of his history; he is part of his roots, the family he grew up with. In some ways, it is not very surprising that he lived to the present day to become Steve’s buddy again.

Peggy was different. She was Cap’s final link to his old dreams. She was the woman of his old imaginings, his old love. While she lived he could not and would never love anyone else. It was utterly impossible. Now that she has moved on, though, he has to find a new dream. This brings us to…

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Sharon Carter

Peggy’s niece and the former SHIELD agent tasked with guarding Cap when he lived in D.C. and worked for Fury during Winter Soldier. It was obvious even when she was pretending to be a stranger that Sharon liked Steve. It was just as clear that she was not going to get between him and her aunt.

It was hinted in Winter Soldier that Steve felt drawn to her, too. Though Peggy is gone as of Civil War, she did not leave Steve alone. She left someone for him to love: Sharon.

Sharon lives up to the part throughout the movie, backing Steve up almost the same way Peggy once did. Though not expected to avoid a man’s line of work just because she is a woman, Sharon does enter her relationship with Cap here under serious strain. Her superiors expect her full and complete loyalty to their agendas, no questions asked.

But, apart from her budding love for Steve, Sharon has a mind and moral compass of her own, as well as the will to use and follow both. This makes her bend and eventually break the rules when Steve and the rest of Team Cap need help. This is a woman to watch out for in the future, readers. She is going places!

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King T’Chaka

Although he dies not long after his introduction, T’Chaka has a major impact on the story. Without him we would not have T’Challa, and the Black Panther would not have appeared in the film at all.

The saddest thing about T’Chaka’s appearance in Civil War, aside from his death, is his apparent belief that the Avengers do not care about the people they work to protect. Somehow he fails to differentiate between unfortunate losses in battle and willful negligence. One can only wonder if this is part of the reason he points out his son’s distaste for politics.

Politics are an unfortunate necessity, which T’Chaka recognizes. But it is quite possible he thought they were really the only recourse needed, and we are all better off without militaries or police forces. Such dreams are fantasies that can never come to pass until the end of time; evil, as Zemo and the Avengers’ other enemies demonstrate, is a very real and palpable force in the world. This means that the response to it has to be just as real, just as swift, and just as physical.

Unfortunately, that also means a lot of innocent people are inevitably going to get caught in the crossfire. It is undeniably awful, but it is the biggest and most inescapable fact of life. Evil consistently rationalizes its actions, and therefore so do its servants. Only the truth can counteract a lie. And so, just as evil uses physical force and weapons, so must good counterattack. Sadly, T’Chaka did not seem to learn that lesson before his unfortunate death in Vienna.

The good news is that his son did learn this lesson.

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Spider-Man/Peter Parker

Yes, here is our traitorous Webslinger. Third time is in fact the charm, and Marvel finally got a film version of their popular Wall-crawler right. Tom Holland’s version of Peter Parker may not have the looks, but he has the wisecracks down pat.

I still remember the first time I saw Tobey MacGuire’s Spider-Man trilogy. His performance was good, and he looked the part, but for the life of me I will never understand why the writers for his films had him fighting in silence. Spider-Man’s trademark battle repartee is absent from the first three Spider-Man movies, and it is one of my major beefs with them.

Andrew Garfield did not have the looks, but he had the snappy patter, so I actually enjoyed the first Amazing Spider-Man film (the only one of the two I have seen). I was not particularly happy that Marvel was pulling a DC Comics trick by trying to restart a series they had already brought to the silver screen. I have to admit, however, that it was fun to see Garfield’s Spidey give his foes a proper tongue-lashing.

Tom Holland has the part well in hand, and he is definitely able to throw out the zingers. From his “Don’t tell Aunt May,” to his shouted “You have the right to remain silent!”, he shows he has the fast mouth necessary to play the teenage superhero.

I am not that interested in the new Spider-Man films, truthfully, though they are probably going to be fun. If I see them, it will probably be on DVD long after they have come out in theaters.

As for Spidey’s part in Civil War, it is fairly obvious: the boy idolizes the genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist Tony Stark. So when Iron Man swoops in to ask for help bringing down the rogue Avengers, Parker cannot turn him away. Once he figures out he was used, though, Tony is going to lose another player. Ouch.

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Ant-Man/Scott Lang

Scott’s part in the film is small, but hardly insignificant. Like Spidey, he is called in by Team Cap because they need an edge against Team Iron. The main difference here is that Scott is not a starry-eyed kid. He is thrilled to be working with Captain America – very thrilled indeed – but that does not mean he is being taken for a ride like Parker has been. One, Steve does not pull the wool over other people’s eyes. Period. It is dishonest and wrong, and Cap does not do that, as he pointed out when he told Widow “I’m always honest” in Winter Soldier.

Two, Steve tells Scott up front that they are breaking the law on this mission. If he joins up with them, he will be labeled a criminal and hunted down along with them. It is a “speak now or forever hold your peace” speech. If Scott wants to jump ship, he can. Steve will not force him to join their team. Tony did not give Peter that option; it was a “you’re coming with me, or I tell your aunt about your secret” moment. There was no “opt-out clause” in their discussion.

Scott appreciates that, and so responds with an honest answer: “Yeah, well what else is new?” Typical modern San Francisco native, he did not pay as much attention to Clint’s and Sam’s explanations about what exactly the team was getting into as he should have. But even when more details emerge – such as the fact that going against the law means they will be fighting the other Avengers – he sticks to his word. He has brain and heart, but the latter is the deciding factor, as we saw in Ant-Man. He will do to ride the river with – especially if he learns to control that running mouth of his!

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Aunt May Parker

Last but not least we have Marisa Tomei’s version of Aunt May Parker. I do not care that they got her to play Aunt May; my problem is that the Russos wondered why Aunt May was always portrayed as an old lady if she was the sister of Peter Parker’s mother.

Uhhh…. Maybe because she was not his mother’s sister but his mother’s aunt, making her his great-aunt? At least, that was the impression I was left with all the years that I watched the various Spider-Man television shows. I never thought May was his mother’s sister; I thought she was his maternal great-aunt.

But heck, what do I know? Spider-Man has been on the farthest orbit ring of my Marvel fandom for years now. I have not researched him in – wow, a really long time.

Regardless of the minutiae, Tomei put in a wonderful performance. She has the protective, tough New York aunt act down, and no doubt she will deliver again in the following Spider-Man films. Whether she will remain as oblivious to Parker’s “secret” powers as she once did, I cannot say. Aunt May was never a dummy, but Spidey managed to fib his way out of explaining whatever he was up to in the original stories. With Marvel’s recent rewrites to the previous histories, however, who can say what they will do next? If they were not so busy destroying all the good in their comics, I might be excited about it.

As it is, I have my trepidations – at least with regard to the rest of the Avengers. By this point, Spidey has been revamped so many times that anything new they do with him will hardly be shocking. I would prefer, though, that we skip his replacement by Miles Morales in the film universe. If they do it in the movies, I will be mad.

Well, this concludes the Honorable Mentions post, readers. It is not as comprehensive as I had hoped it would be, but these characters could not get all-inclusive parts in such a stuffed film. I have done the best I can with what I have, so this will have to do.

Until next time!

The Mithril Guardian