Tag Archives: Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff

Marvel-ous – and Not So Marvelous – Fathers

Not long after it came out, a friend of mine began watching the new Marvel’s Spider-Man television series. I have only watched it under duress, since I find the animation poor and am unhappy with some of the changes to Spider-Man lore within the series. Not to mention the fact that I am a little tired of Marvel beating dead horses to pieces and splattering me with their blood, proclaiming all the while that I should be happy to receive this disgusting shower.

Thank you very much, Marvel, but even vampires do not go this far (from what I know of them, anyway). But my friend insists on cornering me and making me watch it, making me less than eager to discuss the series with said compadre after an episode has aired.

Following the episode introducing – and then killing – Flint Marko/Sandman so he could be replaced by his daughter, my friend had an interesting observation about the show. Mi amigo pointed out that Flint never went after his daughter during the episode’s climactic battle. This friend went on to add that it was interesting when Sandman’s daughter killed him, Flint’s last words were: “I love you.”

“It’s a little like Han Solo and Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens,” my friend said. “Flint won the argument, just like Han did, and their children are worse off than they were before.” Then, in typical fashion for my friend, it was suggested that I write a post about how Flint is/was a better father than Norman Osborn.

When it comes to this friend of mine, I have a hard time saying “no” to any request made of me. I promised to think about the episode, though I added the caveat that my brain had zero suggestions for how to bring up the topic here on Thoughts on the Edge of Forever any time soon. But then something somehow removed this block from my mind and the ideas came rushing in.

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The episode of Marvel’s Spider-Man in question is titled “Sandman.” In this episode, Spidey is relaxing with his fellow science whizz friends at Coney Island. At least, he is relaxing; the rest are still working on their school project (hint, it makes a nifty, living black suit). While they are out a sudden sandstorm erupts and the Arabian Desert, complete with a seeming genie, blasts through the park.

This is Spidey’s first run-in with the Sandman, a.k.a. Flint Marko, in the series. Here, Flint is a lackey for the mobster villain known as Hammerhead. He began working for him in order to provide a better future for his daughter, Keemia. But Flint made too many mistakes on the job, so Hammerhead tried to make an example of him by burying him under several tons of sand mixed with toxic chemicals.

Of course, this did not kill Flint. It turned him into a living being made of sand. He intends to go after Hammerhead to rescue his daughter, whom the thug has somehow taken into his home. Spidey, touched by Sandman’s devotion to protecting his little girl, joins Flint in storming the castle to rescue the fair damsel.

But Keemia does not want to be rescued. Like any normal girl, she followed Flint into the warehouse when being left in the car creeped her out. So when Hammerhead tried to kill him, she was exposed to the same toxic sand that her father swallowed. Unlike normal girls, she detests and blames her father for her own natural instinct to avoid being alone. She goes on to repeatedly state that she hated the work he did for Hammerhead and planned to better her own future by studying science. Now that she is made of sand, which has replaced her right eye, she accuses Flint of being the source of her misfortune and lashes out at him.

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Keemia Marko (Sandgirl)

Not once during the battle which follows does Flint respond to Keemia’s attacks. He tries several times to hurt Hammerhead, but Keemia protects the mobster as she continues to assail the man who really wants to keep her safe. Like Han in The Force Awakens, Flint allows Keemia to (apparently) kill him, offering her no resistance whatsoever. Spidey, naturally, is very upset by this, though I do not think anyone is going to take the time to explain why. I hope to do so myself, but I have a few other things I want to expound upon here as well, and that may get lost in the shuffle.

The first thing to address here is that this is quite clearly another case of political correctness run amok in Marvel. Sandman was always a sympathetic villain; Spidey and other Marvel heroes tried several times to bring him to the light. He was even an Avenger there for a little while. Marko never was a very strong personality, which is what made us fans feel some measure of compassion for him.

As with Kylo Ren, there is nothing to make us feel kindly disposed toward Keemia Marko. Blinded by the modern Sturm und Drang, she lays all her troubles on her father. In doing so she does not see Hammerhead manipulating her to hurt Flint, but seals her fate as the mobster’s secret weapon by killing her dad.

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Harry and Norman Osborn

How, you ask, does this make Flint a better father in this scene than Norman Osborn has ever been, period? In this series Norman is focused on being top dog in the scientific Tech Pack on Earth. Norman treats Harry more like a tool here than a son. Marvel’s Spider-Man portrays him as a greedy, grasping rich man who sees his boy as a means to an end – nothing more, nothing less.

Marko never used his daughter to make life easier for himself, and he probably could have. While I do not like her and consider her a nuisance best dumped at the earliest opportunity, the fact is that Marvel has illustrated a truth in Sandman’s first and final episode here which must be addressed.

The entire reason Flint went to work for Hammerhead was to provide for Keemia. He did not like working for a mobster any better than she did, but because he was a single father trying to make ends meet, he did the best he could with what he could get. It was not what he wanted for either of them, but he did not have the capacity to search for a job that would give them more satisfaction.

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Keemia, a product of the modern school system and the popular mindset, did not see what a sacrifice her father was making for her. He compromised his sacred honor and his own hope to be a good man in order to protect, feed, and clothe her. If he could have found another way to support them, he would have. A stronger man might have managed that, or at least managed to convey his distaste for his illegal work to Keemia. Flint could do neither of these things and that is, perhaps, one of the reasons why his daughter blamed him for her condition.

It is also important to mention that Flint is a single father here. This means he had to work a lot to make ends meet, so he was not as present in Keemia’s life as he would have been if her mother were alive and present in the home. (I do not know what happened to Sandman’s wife/girlfriend.)

Now Sandman’s lack of presence in his daughter’s life is not his fault – not in this TV series, anyway. The case in the show is blatantly transparent: Flint could not support the two of them and be with his daughter a hundred percent of the time. This is all too true of many families where only the father or mother is alive or caring for the children. These single fathers and mothers cannot feed, clothe, and shelter their children and still have enough time leftover to play, help with homework, or discuss problems in most cases.

This is why Flint did not see the extent to which Keemia was taught to despise him. She was taught this by our modern society, which either treats fatherhood like a joke or holds it in reproach (more on that below). Her disgust with Flint’s line of work is quite understandable, but it was used and manipulated, first by society and then by Hammerhead. Neither society nor Hammerhead explained that Flint was sacrificing a lot to take care of her by doing the only work he could find, and this left Keemia open to the Dark Side.

Flint did not see any of this until it was too late to do something about it. But that did not make him love his daughter any less. Spidey, I think, sensed how much Flint had sacrificed on behalf of his daughter by working for Hammerhead. The fact that Sandman showed such devotion to her, to the bitter end, affected him deeply because Keemia threw away what he lost years ago. Although Peter Parker loves his aunt and uncle, they were not his parents and they never could be. He did not know his father, but seeing Flint’s love for his daughter probably made him yearn for what could have been if his own had not been lost. (Ha! I got his reasons for being upset at Flint’s “demise” in here after all!)

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Norman, as we have seen, does not care to this degree about Harry. He has Harry make all sorts of sacrifices to please him. As yet we have not seen the future Green Goblin going out of his way to do something nice for his son. Even his founding of Osborn Academy is questionable: is it truly for Harry’s good, or is it so Norman has access to some of the brightest intellects in New York City – legal and illegal?

Thinking about this subject, I was put in mind of other Marvel characters who have less-than-stellar fathers. One of the reasons society these days makes a mockery of or abuses fatherhood is the mistaken opinion of many that bad fathers make bad people. This is a fallacy, insofar as it is portrayed as a widespread occurrence; it can certainly happen, but I very much doubt it transpires with the frequency portrayed in film, television, and books. Not all bad people become bad because of evil fathers – or evil mothers. All who become evil choose to be evil.

One can easily prove this by comparing Keemia Marko’s story to the history of the Avenger Hawkeye/Clint Barton. Hawkeye had a physically abusive father; Mr. Barton Senior liked his liquor, not to mention beating both his sons and his wife. When his sons were still young he died a drunkard’s death after he crashed his car. In the process he killed his wife and left the boys orphans.

Yet, if you look at Hawkeye now, you would have to be told all this about his past to know that it had happened – especially in the films. He was scarred by the experiences of his childhood, to be sure; Clint has never been able to fully trust those in influential or command positions. This is because the man who should have taught him to respect authority instead gave him every reason to distrust it.

However, Clint did not follow the Dark Path to the point that it could dominate his destiny. Yes, in the original comics, he worked with the Black Widow when she was a pawn of the Soviets. But he did not do this because he agreed with the Communists or because he liked being a bad guy. He did it out of misguided sentiment and love for Natasha Romanoff. This eventually redeemed the two of them and led to their joining the Avengers, “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” and we fans/readers/viewers are the better for this.

Unlike modern writers, Stan Lee and Don Heck knew that it is possible to choose a better path than the one your parents did. So they showed Clint Barton choosing to turn away from the darkness and toward the light. Time and again, until the most recent comics, Clint did his best to avoid following in the footsteps of the men who raised him. He chose to be a better man than his father. He also chose to be a better man than his mentors, the Swordsman and the original Trick Shot. He chose to be a hero rather than a villain.

If you dig a little into the histories of many Marvel heroes and heroines, you will find several others with similar pasts. Both Rogue and Nightcrawler were rejected by their fathers and continue to be abused by their mother. The Maximoff twins are still dealing with the aftermath of having Magneto as a dad. Peter Quill had a lackluster father, as did Gamora. Yet they and other Marvel characters with similar backgrounds still became heroes and heroines rather than villains.

This is something modern pop psychology says is a denial of the inner self; a rejection of the monster inside, to borrow from Mr. Whedon. Yet Mr. Lee and Mr. Heck made this choice for Hawkeye and the other heroes I listed above. And you know something? It worked.

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Unlike these heroes, Keemia has chosen the Dark Side. And she has done so without using the “father abused me and that’s why I am what I am” excuse. In some cases, real and fictional, I do not doubt that ill-treatment can convince a child to turn into a monster of the same type as the one heaping pain on him/her. But that, as I just said, is an excuse. Being evil or being good is a choice. One choice takes a lot more work than the other, and believe me, it is not evil.

Keemia has no excuse for her choice to become evil. She has no excuse for killing her own father. She cannot hide behind the pop psychology argument that her father was terrible and so she is terrible, which is what I think the writers were trying to have her say. I think they wanted us to sympathize with her, suggesting that she turned into the monster “Sand-Girl” because of her father through her long, moronic speeches charging him with high crimes and misdemeanors against her.

That claim does not float. There are many Marvel heroes and heroines who endured far worse from their fathers and mothers than Keemia ever did at the hands of Sandman. They are not evil. She is. And it is because of the choices she made, NOT because of her father’s (or mother’s) choices.

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Barons Heinrich and Helmut Zemo (Avengers Assemble)

This is the reason why I did not like the writers’ attempt to pin Helmut Zemo’s decision to be evil on his father in the Avengers Assemble episode “House of Zemo.” This is why I do not like what the company’s writers have done to Tony Stark’s father. And this is why I blew up when I learned what Marvel did in its Secret Empire comics to Cap’s father in order to make him a Nazi.

These changes are the signature attacks of people who despise fatherhood and want to destroy it; either the authors or their bosses want to continue this harmful stereotype in order to continue to excuse “the evil that men do.” They are trying to convince fathers to rescind their proper place as role models in society, role models who will teach and love their children like no one else in the world can or should, which means the children born to these fathers will be left without one of their best defenses against the darkness in this world.

This modern fictional trope hurts real people, readers. It hurts those who do – or did – have lousy fathers and who want a better life. If they are continually told that they have no chance whatsoever to be a better man/woman than their fathers or mothers, they will destroy themselves. I do not mean they will kill themselves, although that is a distinct possibilty. I mean they will make wrong choices using the excuse, “My daddy/mommy did this to me, and so psychologically I have no choice but to carry on this abuse.” Ask Dean Koontz about it. He had an abusive father himself.

Evil is a choice, readers. It is a real, palpable choice with genuine, hard, ugly results, for us and those around us. We are all confronted with it, every day, in small or great ways. And because we are weak humans we can excuse or rationalize away the evil that we do because it will make us feel better about “getting what we want” out of life, family, etc.

Bad or evil fathers do not make bad men and women. Men and women make choices to be bad or to be good. If they choose evil, then they choose it of their own free will. They will make excuses to allow them to continue doing their evil deeds with untroubled consciences, but the fact is that they have chosen the Dark Path freely.

Pop psychology does not recognize those heroes who had bad parents and yet have gone on to become good men and women. It does not recognize them because they do not fit the pattern which produces the desired result. There are many good men and women who had or have bad fathers/mothers, but who have gone on to become great fathers/mothers themselves because they chose to be better than those who raised them.

This is the real difference between heroes and villains, readers. Heroes choose the Light, while villains choose the Dark. Modern society wants you to be confused about this distinction, but the fact is that there is an objective good, and an objective evil. You just have to keep your eyes open to see it.

Avengers Assemble!

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Do Marvel Fans Hate Women and Diversity? Not Hardly.

Hey, readers! Did you happen to hear that Marvel’s comic book sales are declining?  If you did not, then you probably missed what Marvel’s VP of Sales, Mr. David Gabriel, had to say about it.  Read on to find out just what he said:

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“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not. I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales.  We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character [sic], people were turning their nose up against.  That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.”  (Source:  http://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/films/787249/Marvel-comics-diversity-Ironheart-Kamala-Khan-female-Thor-Iron-Man-Avengers-Infinity-War)

This is news Marvel apparently got from the retailers selling its comics. While some retailers saw an influx of new clientele, most saw a big drop as people ignored the new comics because their favorite characters – Captain America, Iron Man, Falcon, Hulk, Thor, etc. – were being killed off and/or humiliated, which means that their audience felt depressed and/or mortified.  Marvel’s comic book sales have weakened in proportion to the steady stream of replacement, politically correct characters and stories the company has been trying to shove down our throats for the past three or four years.

I was astounded to see this statement from Mr. Gabriel. I have known for years that Marvel would lose revenue if it abused its audience by maltreating or destroying its characters.  If you have followed my blog for a while, you know this is so.  What surprised me was that a member of Marvel’s hierarchy actually admitted that sales were dropping because of the “new materiel” they were introducing.  I told ‘em this was going to happen, but did they listen to me?  ‘Course not.  And now they are shocked that people do not want to buy comics that make fools of and/or destroy their favorite characters.  Well surprise, surprise, surprise, Marvel!  How could you have missed that fastball?

I can hear some of you fainting right now. You think I am an awful person for celebrating this news, no?  That I hate women and diversity, too, n’est pas?

Well, no, I don’t. Allow me to explain what made me rejoice over Mr. Gabriel’s statement:  what made me happy about his announcement was that he has finally admitted, on behalf of the company he serves, that politically correct characters are turning fans off of the Marvel franchise.  He has finally acknowledged the obvious; that so-called “characters” like Jane Foster/Thorette, Amadeus Cho/New Hulk, Riri Williams/Ironheart, Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel, and Gwen Stacey/Spider-Girl, along with other “new,” “diverse,” and “legacy” protagonists – which are supposedly “meant to bring women and minorities to the forefront of social consciousness” – are really hurting instead of helping Marvel’s brand.

So if I like what Mr. Gabriel had to say, then why am I writing this post? I am writing this post because he and his colleagues are missing the point of why their sales are falling.  Mr. Gabriel says what they believe; that legions of Marvel’s fans hate women and diversity, and so they need to keep doing what they are doing in order to win their “deplorable” fans – you and me – over to their view of the world.  In essence, they are accusing the thousands of people who support their business of widespread bigotry, intolerance, and stupidity; completely ignoring the beam in their own eye to pluck out the mote in ours.

This is what has Marvel fans so upset. This is why they have stopped buying the new comics.  Marvel fans definitely do not hate diversity or women.  The latter is proved by the fact that Marvel already has hundreds of established female characters with existing fanbases – although you would not know that if you were new to the Marvel multi-verse or have only heard about it from the mouths of twits (most comic book film critics).  Go to my post “Offended, Insulted, and Not Shutting Up” for a roll of Marvel’s female characters and a link to a longer list where you can learn about more of them.  The fact is that these reviewers could care less that Marvel has a panoply of female characters for the simple reason that it is not part of their agenda.

As for the idea that Marvel fans hate diversity, this is a laughable argument because it is so easily invalidated. Marvel has been diverse since it was founded, something that is shown through characters like Storm, Falcon, Black Panther, Misty Knight, and Luke Cage, all of whom are black.  Separate sources have consistently claimed that either Black Panther or Falcon was the first black superhero to appear in comics, beating out DC’s Black Lighting.  I think that Storm might predate the three of them, but I am not sure.

Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are Gypsies, readers.  Red Wolf, Mirage, and Thunderbird are American Indians; and Colossus and the Black Widow are Russians who have become U.S. citizens.  Then there is Nightcrawler, who is German and who barely resembles a human; Silverclaw, who is Brazilian; Sunfire, a Japanese man who follows the tradition of the samurai, and Bengal, a Vietnamese superhero who lives and works in Vietnam.

If Marvel were not diverse, readers, then these characters would never have been created by Stan Lee and the original writers. If Marvel’s fans hated diversity, none of these characters would have lasted more than one issue.  Before 2015, they were all alive in the Marvel multi-verse, which means they have, collectively, been around for nearly seventy years.  How can people who have kept these characters “alive” for so long hate diversity?  Answer:  they cannot, and therefore they do not, hate diversity.

So if Marvelites do not hate women or diversity, then why is Marvel losing revenue on its new comic books? Hmmmm…. Maybe these books are doing poorly because the fans, new and old, actually like Thor Odinson as the Prince of Thunder and not some prancing female using his hammer and claiming to be something she is manifestly not. Maybe fans truly liked Bruce Banner as The Incredible Hulk and really hate the fact that Marvel had one of his best friends kill him. Maybe fans are in fact more than a little bit upset by Marvel’s decision to make Steve Rogers a secret agent of HYDRA and a flaming NAZI. Maybe they genuinely like Tony Stark as the Invincible Armored Iron Man who can build his way out of a trap with a broken laptop and some chewing gum, instead of a fifteen year old science whizz-kid who could do her own thing instead of shoehorning herself into his act.

And maybe they do not like one of the first black superheroes – Falcon – being shoved into the role of Captain America, since it smacks of condescension and patronization.  This move by Marvel is obviously meant to appease the PC police.  And by doing this to the Falcon, Marvel’s writers are essentially stating that they think Sam Wilson – and therefore his fans – should not be satisfied that he is one of the first two black superheroes in comicdom.  They would rather destroy the Falcon to make a new, “modern” Captain America that is anything BUT an American.

So maybe the reason sales are dropping is because fans think that pushing Falcon into Steve’s suit, handing him Rogers’ shield, and leaving him to spout anti-American claptrap like a ventriloquist’s dummy actually demeans African-Americans instead of “elevating” them or making Sam “more relevant” to the times.

Yeah, I think these facts may have more to do with your declining sales than sexism or racism, Mr. Gabriel.  Too bad you and everyone else at Marvel have not realized this yet.  Or, realizing it, you have decided that you know what we want because you are the “better and the brighter” of society and YOU are never wrong.  We are just peons who cannot see the mote in our eye.  That might be true, but you are missing the enormous beam in your own eye, buster.

So much for the customer is always right, eh, readers?

The reason I am writing all of this is because the people presently helming Marvel – and their enablers/cheerleaders in the world of critics – do not want more diversity or female characters. They want an emasculated male populace and homogeneity.  They want black to be white, left to be right, and the population of the world to be nothing less than mental clones of them.  Though they are doomed to failure, this does not mean that we can simply sit on the sidelines and let them ruin the Marvel universe(s).  It means that we have to fight back against their dehumanizing push for sameness.

This leads me to another problem that Marvel is currently experiencing. An article at http://io9.gizmodo.com/marvel-vp-blames-women-and-diversity-for-sales-slump-1793921500 states that another reason for the drop in Marvel’s sales is due to the increasingly schizophrenic story arcs the company has been churning out for two years. I actually think this problem goes back to at least the Disassembled and House of M story lines.  The reason I trace the problem back that far is this is when I noticed that Marvel was going off the rails. Disassembled and House of M may not have been the starting points, but they were the arcs which made me bite my lip and think, “@&*!, here we go with the death, despair, darkness, your-heroes-are-really-villains-in-disguise downward spiral.”

Just think about it, readers. After House of M the Marvel universe – which was originally upbeat, positive, and generally told decent to good stories – took a nosedive into the muck.  After House of M we were fed the atrociously immoral and disgusting “Ultimate Universe.”  Then we were handed the insipid “New Avengers” storyline and endured the advent of the largely lukewarm “Young Avengers” crew.  We were handed the demoralizing Civil War arc next.  Then we had the sickening Avengers vs. X-Men event; the asinine “Unity Squad” story line, and the Original Sin plotline which led to the putrid rewrite of the Marvel universe(s) in the Secret Wars event of 2015.

According to Beth Elderkin, the writer of the article at io9.gizmodo.com, there have been “at least 12 events and crossovers [in the past two years]. Events, in particular, have become more of a chore than a reward. There’s little build-up or anticipation because you know another one’s right around the corner. They also can completely screw over beloved characters for the sake of drama, like turning Captain America into a fascist as Sam Wilson has taken [on] his mantle.

She says this makes it hard for new readers to focus, and I will not argue that these endless events do not help new fans to get their footing in the Marvel multi-verse – or, rather, what is left of it. But the problem she does not address is that none of these events or crossovers is positive. These stories are all negative and thus display brazenly the idea that Marvel’s management, who believe themselves the “best and the brightest” (but are truly the dumb and the dimmest), know what’s best for the rest of us. They also continue to drive the homogeneity mantra onto readers’ minds like a suffocating pillow. Not one of these events leaves a reader feeling uplifted and ready to face the world again. How do I know this?

Because that is what simply reading descriptions of these story arcs did and still does to me. And I am not alone, something which Mr. Gabriel’s admission about moribund comic book sales proves. Every last one of the story arcs I listed above may be compelling and addictive to some readers, but to most of us they reek of negativity, despair, and nihilism. How many people want to stew in an emotional/mental/spiritual refuse pile like this? If the downturn in Marvel’s comic book sales is as steep as Mr. Gabriel seems to believe it is, then I think I am safe in saying that ninety percent of normal, everyday people do not want this junk. This means that Marvel is selling to a narrow market which is shrinking day by day.

But why is Marvel having this problem at all? If the difficulty is too many dispiriting events, the company could easily fix the problem by turning the characters over to new authors, right?  Possibly, but from what Beth Elderkin says this entire problem is born of the fact that “….There’s been a steady decline in Marvel’s talent pool, because of better offers and independent retailers. One retailer mentioned at the summit that it’s especially hard to keep talented writers and artists when they can make creator-owned books at publishers like Image. Not only does it give them more flexibility to tell the stories they want, but they also keep way more of the revenue.”

Again, I will not argue with her. Though I have no idea what Marvel pays its artists and writers, I do know that the writers they are allowing free reign in their universe(s) at the moment should not be allowed anywhere near a keyboard or a pen. The “stories” that many of these writers are pumping out are evidence that they are intellectual hamsters running inside fetishified exercise wheels decorated with death’s heads.

So finding new writers for Marvel who have positive attitudes and a love of truth, beauty, and goodness is going to be a challenge. Believing that Marvel would hire these people seems to be asking for a miracle. And if Marvel currently has writers who want to tell true, good, and beautiful stories with their characters, these writers appear to be few and far between. And these people are either barely hanging on to their jobs or they have left for greener pastures.

“All right, Mithril,” some of you say, “if these are the problems, just what are we supposed to do about them? Marvel is a big company and they won’t let just anyone in. They specifically tell aspiring artists and storytellers, ‘Don’t call us, we’ll call you.’ How are we going to fix a company that doesn’t want to be fixed?”

Good question. There are several options available to fans, readers. If you are like me and my friends, and you do not like the stories which Marvel is publishing, keep doing what you have been doing: avoid their new comics like the plague. This means that their sales will keep plummeting and they will, sooner or later, be forced to clean up their act in order to stay in business. Or they will finally hire people who will do this service for us. Either way, remember that money talks. If your money is not going into their pockets, then the silence will get their attention.

Another option is to become a writer yourself. If you write good stories and books and they sell well, are positively reviewed, and have the masses talking with mouths and wallets, then Marvel will probably notice you.   Then maybe – just maybe – you will get lucky and they will tap you to write for them.

If you do manage to accomplish this feat, then I would add the caveat that you do your best to keep your eye on the prize. Put your slippers under your bed, as Denzel Washington advised, so that you always have to kneel down to get them in the morning. You got where you are by telling good, true, and beautiful stories, and this is what you want to do with Marvel’s heroes. Keep that goal in mind and you should be fine.

If you are not much of a storyteller, and you are already speaking by not buying Marvel’s comics, then you can always write letters to Marvel in order to explain your displeasure with them. This is what I do; I watch Marvel’s movies, read the older comics, and critique the cartoons. Besides blogging about the characters I enjoy as much as I can, I also write letters to Marvel’s top echelons, telling them what I think of their new comics (and I don’t think much of them).

You can do this, too, readers. Marvel has five different email addresses where you can send letters, as well as a section for general feedback on their website. I have never gone that route, so I cannot tell you what to expect if you try it. However, if you write letters to Marvel, put OKAY TO PRINT alongside your email’s subject heading and send it to one or all of the following addresses: onlinesupport@marvel.com, spideyoffice@marvel.com, officex@marvel.com, mheroes@marvel.com, and/or mondomarvel@marvel.com. And do not be threatening when you write to them.  Believe me; they will notice your letters, even if they are politely phrased.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and we Marvel fans have more right to be squeaky than that posse of small-minded critics and “cultural gatekeepers” do. Unless these people actually buy Marvel’s comics in droves (which they very obviously do not), they are not the audience the company has to please. It was our money that made Marvel what it is today, not the critics’ pens. I say it is high time we reminded Marvel of this fact.

For myself, I will continue to do all of the above. I know I sound as though I am crusading against Marvel’s hierarchy, and I guess I am, after a fashion. But I am doing so as a customer who desperately wants to preserve an enjoyed and admired product, so that I can pass it on to others to enjoy in the future.

I want to be entertained by Marvel for many more years, readers. Right now, they are not entertaining me OR legions of their fans. They are trying to force their view of the world on us through these “new,” PC characters, destroying the good and great and true ones in the process. That is cultural bullying, which is a form of intellectual tyranny. It must be stopped. The only way that we can convince Marvel’s management to right the ship is to tell them why we are not buying their product. But we have to actually tell them if we are to have any hope of returning Marvel Comics to the good, the great, and the true, which is timeless.

Until next time, readers….EXCELSIOR!!!!

Captain America: Civil War – Secretary of State Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross

Image result for thunderbolt ross civil warIt has been a while since I saw a film villain who made me grit my teeth and grip my armrests in pure, frustrated anger.  Captain America: Civil War’s Secretary of State, Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, has achieved what even Loki managed to avoid.  He earned my undying ire.

Oh, sure, I do not like Loki.  He invaded the mind of one of my favorite characters and turned him into a killing machine for three days.  That is not a way to win Brownie points with me; he has my lasting dislike for it.  And, in truth, there is very little daylight between Loki and Ross.  The difference is that Loki has a twisted sense of humor that manages to make the audience laugh.  Remember that “Ta-da!” of his after he, Thor, and Jane, had escaped to the Dark Elves’ homeworld from Asgard?  I have to admit, it was a funny line and it made me smile.

Ross had no funny lines in Civil War.  Come to think of it, outside of his appearances as the Red Hulk in Agents of S.M.A.S.H.,Ultimate Spider-Man, and now Avengers Assemble, Ross has never really demonstrated a sense of humor.  In previous cartoons and comics, he was always bellowing like an angry bull or shouting with fury.  Not a friendly characterization, to say the least!

In Civil War, though, Ross leaves his bullhorn at the door for the most part.  He speaks softly here and carries a big stick.

That “big stick” happens to be the Sokovia Accords.  After the accident in Lagos, Nigeria, the U.N. dispatches Ross to present their ultimatum to the Avengers.  And Ross lays it all out in his speech when he first shows up in the Avengers’ Compound: the governments of the world have decided they can no longer tolerate the Avengers as free agents.  And they cannot accept it in part because the team is based out of the United States, is made up mostly of American citizens (Tony, Rhodey, Clint, Cap, and Sam are all native U.S. citizens while Natasha holds U.S. citizenship), and therefore the Avengers have an inherently American penchant for policing injustice abroad as well as at home.

Image result for avengers age of ultron quicksilver diesDid anyone else notice that when Ross listed what the Avengers had done for the world, he never mentioned that they had died for it?  Quicksilver is swept under the rug in this film, not by the Avengers but by the government, whose proxy is Thunderbolt Ross.  The Secretary of State never mentions that the Avengers, too, suffered a personal loss in the disaster in Sokovia.  Pietro Maximoff was a member of the team for only a short time, which is surprising (NOT) since bureaucrats are naturally inclined to fuss over whether or not all the i’s have been dotted and all the t’s crossed…

But the fact is that Pietro Maximoff was accepted by the Avengers as a member of the team.  It was not put down on paper and made official because time was of the essence.  But it was a fact, just as it is a fact that Quicksilver died in defense of his country and mankind at large.

It is a fact Ross ignores, thereby forcing the Avengers to ignore it.  Why?  Because Quicksilver’s heroic death does not help his agenda.  Throughout Civil War, Ross continually plays the guilt card on the Avengers.  If he were to mention Pietro’s death, it would lessen the impact of that trick because then the Avengers could turn around and point out the fact that they lost someone in the disaster in Sokovia as well.

So Ross does not give them a chance to bring Quicksilver into the debate.  He makes sure the argument is all about them and whether or not they should sign the Accords.  And he does this by playing off of their guilt, or attempting to play off of it.

You see, the guilt card has no more effect on Steve, Sam, or Clint than a bug buzzing by their ears would.  These men have known remorse and loss, having persevered through it several times already.  Steve lost several friends in World War II, most notably Bucky on that mission in the Alps.  Then he lost everyone and everything he knew during his seventy year hibernation.  Sam lost his wingman in Afghanistan on a night mission.  He has had to live with the knowledge that there was no way he could have saved Riley, while still feeling he should have saved him.  Clint was used to kill a number of people over the course of three days in Loki’s scheme for world domination, and he saw Pietro die to save his life and that of a young child.  But he made it through the remorse he experienced after these incidents in one piece, mentally and morally.

Ross is therefore unable to play on these three Avengers’ guilt because they were mature and endured it, finding the light beyond.  As Cap explains to Wanda, they learned to live with their failures.  They accepted them, and so they have control of their sense of shame.

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Sadly there are two Avengers who do not have control of their sense of blame.  The guilt card hits home with Tony and Natasha, as they have kept their “guilt wounds” open and fresh over time.  Tony has been carrying remorse over the fact that he wasted his life in frivolous pursuits while allowing Stane and others in his company to deal his weapons under the table to America’s enemies.  He thereby allowed a lot of bad people to kill innocents all over the world (i.e. Pietro and Wanda’s parents), as well as the American soldiers his weapons were meant to protect.

Now he is again being confronted with people who blame him for their losses, such as the woman in the back hall of MIT.  Not once, you notice, does he think to remind this woman and others like her that he lost a young teammate in Sokovia, too, and therefore he has some idea of what she and these others are going through.  Also, now that Pepper (who may still be dealing with the psychological aftermath of receiving the Extremis serum), has pushed herself away from Tony, he feels guilty about “losing” her.  Instead of doing something about this, he just accepts the blame and adds it to the pile he is already carrying around.

Natasha’s vision in the boneyard in Africa, courtesy of Wanda Maximoff, demonstrated that she still feels a great deal of guilt over her service to the U.S.S.R.  As I have said elsewhere, she has not yet forgiven herself for the crimes she was forced to commit.  She is still trying to “get even” with the past, and that is not going to work, for the simple fact that the past is gone.  All she and the rest of us have now is the present.

Ross knows that these two Avengers will be easy to guilt trip.  Neither of them had good support structures growing up; Tony essentially hated his father for his success while Natasha’s only family was the government, which abused her from childhood.  Tony’s poor relationship with his father, who built a business empire from the ground up, meant he only had a sympathetic understanding from his mother, whom he was closer to for that reason.  As long as Ross shows him some sympathy, Tony will quite literally roll over to meet his demands so that he can make the pain of his guilt “go away.”

With Natasha, however, Ross uses a different tack.  Natasha’s upbringing by the Soviet Union taught her that the government could – quite literally – do anything to her and get away with it.  Ross just has to threaten her and, no matter how vaguely phrased the warning, she will get the message:  Fall in line or we will hurt you and no one will be able to protect, help, or save you.

Rhodey does not need the guilt card played on him.  He has been trained by the Air Force to follow orders no matter what.  All Ross has to do to get him onboard is flash his medals and present the Accords as an order from the top brass.  Boom – Rhodey signs on the dotted line faster than you can sing the Air Force anthem.

Image result for thunderbolt ross civil warYou might think that Vision would leave Ross bemused as to what to do, since he is a synthetic being.  But Vision has to be the most easily suckered member of the Avengers after Rhodey.  Ross presents the Accords to him as an equation, a mathematical theory, and he sees the law as inevitable.  Chalk up another signature for the U.N.

As for Wanda – hah, piece of cake.  Her error in judgment in Lagos has left her feeling guilty.  That is why he plays footage of the destruction from Crossbones’ bombing, not to mention film from the other battles we have seen the Avengers fight over the years.  It is to target Wanda and the others, to make them feel more guilt.  With those images of Lagos hovering in her mind’s eye, Wanda will naturally want to prevent future mistakes of a similar nature.  Her signature will be the first one on the paper.

Except that Wanda surprises Ross by pushing the Accords to Rhodey.  I bet he did not see that coming.  (Shout-out to Pietro! 😉 )

Did Ross think he could get Cap to sign the Accords?  It is hard to say.  Having dealt with soldiers who are trained to simply follow orders, and being accustomed to shouting down those soldiers who questioned him, it is possible that Ross believed he could basically order Cap to sign the Accords and the First Avenger would do it.  But in light of the SHIELD/HYDRA war from The Winter Soldier, this seems to be a pretty stupid assessment on Ross’ part.  While my opinion of Thunderbolt Ross’ intelligence is not high, I think that he may have figured that Steve would be resistant to registration.  In fact, he probably wanted him to resist it – more on that in a minute.

Sam probably got lumped in with Rhodey in Ross’ calculations.  As a former soldier, Ross might have thought that Sam would roll over to the Accords when they were presented to him as an order, too.  However, in light of his aiding Cap in the previously mentioned war between SHIELD and HYDRA, Ross may have surmised that the Falcon would again side with Steve Rogers.

Either way, the team is divided about what to do with the Accords after Ross leaves, just as he wanted.  The seeds of Chaos are sown.  And they bear fruit sooner than Ross could have hoped when Zemo bombs the United Nations building in Vienna, Austria, and frames Bucky Barnes for the deed.

But we do not see Ross again until Berlin, after Cap, Sam, and Bucky have flown the coop.  As he berates Tony and Widow, Ross lets a very important fact slip out.  I had to watch the film again carefully to really take notice of the trip:  Ross said that if Cap had not interfered in Bucharest, Bucky “would have been eliminated.”  This means that the intent of the people in charge was never to capture and incarcerate Bucky.

Sharon Carter’s statement that the Task Force had been given shoot-on-sight orders is one thing.  Up against a super soldier with a metal arm, most normal humans do not stand a chance.  Giving them permission to shoot-on-sight hopefully will preserve their safety.

But sending in a military chopper with a mini-gun to shoot up a city block in order to bring down the Winter Soldier is way too much.  This all adds up to a very frightening fact:  Ross and his bosses wanted Bucky dead from the beginning.  It was never about capturing, containing, or imprisoning the Winter Soldier.  It was never about finding justice for those killed in the bombing of the Accords in Vienna.

Image result for civil war buckyIt was about murdering Bucky.  Not killing him in self-defense, not killing him to protect the public, but to murder him on account of a crime he had not been definitively proved to have committed.  He was presumed guilty, not innocent, based on his past record and not on any new evidence.  The evidence the Task Force, CIA, and Ross did possess was circumstantial, bordering on coincidental.  But they ran with it anyway.

Ross and the U.N. never questioned ANYTHING about the circumstances of the bombing. They planned to kill Bucky as soon as they knew where he was.  The bombing simply gave them an excuse to feed the public and to avoid answering awkward questions about what they were doing.

If that does not chill you to the bone, readers, then nothing will.

In light of this fact, how does Tony’s prior statement to Cap about Bucky being transferred to an American “psych-center” hold water?  Tony believed what he said, I am sure, and Cap bought the idea until he found out about Wanda’s incarceration in the Avengers’ Compound.  In light of Ross’ statement that the initiative was to kill Bucky from the beginning, though, I find any suggestion of his transfer to an American psychiatric hospital highly suspect.  What was to prevent the men transporting him from killing Bucky in transit, and then claiming afterward that he “…broke his restraints and attacked/killed some of our men, so we had to kill him”?

The answer is:  nothing.   They could have done this easily – governments around the world have done this numerous times, without serious difficulty, to people they wanted silenced and out of the way.  If Cap had not “interfered” in Bucharest, then Bucky would have ended up dead at the governments’ collective hand.

Another thing to note is that, in this interview, Ross again plays the guilt card.  Immediately after mentioning that Bucky would have been “eliminated” in Bucharest, he rubs the fact that the Winter Soldier killed several Germans before he escaped in Tony’s face.

What he neglects to point out is that parties unknown set off the EMP bomb which knocked out the cameras and electronics for the base.  Therefore, no one but Cap, Sam, and the psychiatrist know what really happened while the lights were out.   Another thing which Ross does not mention in his little tirade here is the fact that the psychiatrist the Task Force called in is not among the dead – and he sure as hell was not walking around the base!

Image result for thunderbolt ross civil warWhy did Ross leave these details out, hmm?  Did he believe that Tony and Natasha did not deserve to know these things, or that they did not need to know them?  If I had to bet, it was the latter.  Ross left these facts out intentionally, just as he “failed” to bring up Pietro’s death in Sokovia: these specifics did not serve his and his masters’ agenda.

This is why Cap would not condone or sign the Accords.  In this film, Ross proves that he is no better than Nick Fury.  Actually, he proves that he is worse.  Fury may use any means necessary to get the job done, but he has never guilt-tripped any of the Avengers into fighting a battle or cleaning up one of his messes to the extent that Ross does in Civil War.  Ross does nothing in this film but bully and berate the Avengers who have signed the Accords into doing what he wants them to do, hounding them to do it his way, or they will be pushed aside.

The proof of this comes after Ross states that he will have to be the one to bring in Steve, Sam, and Bucky.  Natasha then asks him pointedly, “What happens when the shooting starts – are you going to kill Captain America?”

I can hear the “voices of moderation” chiding Ross right now:  “No way,” “Cap’s too important,” “He’s a national symbol; if you kill him no one will ever forgive you for it.”

But Ross dispels all of these valid arguments in one little sentence:  “If we’re provoked.”  To the masters behind the Accords and their deputies (Ross), even Cap is expendable.  Especially when he stands in their way, demonstrating by his actions that he knows they are tyrants – although they say otherwise – and that he is not going to bow to them today or at any time in the future.

This blatant threat sends Tony into panic mode, and he “wins” a thirty-six hour deadline from Ross to bring Cap, Falcon, and Bucky in alive.  He never stops to think that, if Ross and the U.N. consider Cap disposable, then he is no safer than Steve despite the fact that he signed the Accords.  It never occurs to him because his ego is too damn big.  Tony believes he is indispensable, and he is right, from our perspective and that of the Avengers.  Every human life is far more important than we can truly apprehend, as the Avengers (including Tony) know for a fact.

Ross and his puppet masters, however, have a very different, very selfish view of the lives of others: Tony and the Avengers who have signed the Accords are only important as long as they toe the government’s established line.  Once they step out of line, as the anti-Accords Avengers have, then they become threats which have to be eliminated.  Just like Bucky, they can be killed out of hand any time it becomes convenient.

We are going to detour here to look at the airport battle in Germany.  It is an amazing fight, from a visual standpoint.  Everything from Hawkeye’s newest arrows to Ant-Man’s growth to Giant-Man, from Panther’s fighting skills to Spider-Man’s first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is visually spectacular.  We could watch that battle time and again, and still we would notice things we had missed before.

But for the moment, let’s step back from the battle and watch it from Ross’ position.  To us, while visually stunning, the battle is also heart wrenching.  Aside from Ant-Man, Black Panther, Spider-Man, and to an extent Bucky, all the people involved in this fight are friends with each other.  We have traveled with these characters for years and know that they care about each other.  Now we are watching them fight, not in a friendly way but in an angry, dangerous manner.  Team Cap, though they fight hard, are not fighting with the intent to maim and kill.  Team Iron is at least willing to maim, if not kill, and that makes the battle all the harder to watch.

But from Ross’ perspective, this is exactly what he desired.  The Avengers on Team Iron have given him precisely what he wanted: another battle which he can use against them, more damage he can exploit to control them.  He has to be enjoying every minute of this as only an enemy can.

Because, readers, who benefits from this battle?  Does Team Cap?  Bucky and Steve grab the Aveng-jet and run, but the rest of their team gets locked up in the Raft to rot.  Does Team Iron benefit?  They help lock up their own teammates in a maximum security prison built for the worst kind of criminals, Rhodey ends up with severe damage to his spine, and the strength of the Avengers’ team is more than halved.  Everyone but Rhodey and perhaps Vision abandons Tony by the end of the film.  Natasha walks out on him, T’Challa leaves, everyone on Team Cap is off the grid and on the run, and Spider-Man is back in NYC doing his own thing.  How does this help Team Iron?  At least Team Cap is still together – and they have gained a couple of new members in the process: T’Challa and possibly Black Widow.

The only people who benefit directly from the Avengers’ battle at the airport are Ross and the pencil pushers in the U.N.  How do I know this?  Tony shows up at the Raft after the fight to see Sam and tell Ross about Zemo, only to be informed that he is grounded until further notice.  Ross explains that the mission is “out of [Tony’s] hands” after the “stunt” he pulled in the Leipzig airport.  Notice, Ross never says, “We’ll take it from here” or the equivalent thereof.  He just says the issue is no longer Tony’s concern.  And he is using the airport battle – which he orchestrated – as a reason to push Tony away from the search.

Then he lets Tony into the command center for the prison, where Iron Man sees Wanda on a monitor.  She is huddled up in her cell, wearing a straight jacket and an inhibitor collar.  Presumably she is just cold and lonely, but how do we know the guards did not “have a little fun” with her before they snapped that straight jacket on her, huh?  When was the last time she ate or had anything to drink?  Does Ross have the environmental controls in her cell set to a comfortable level?  It did not look like it to me.  The guys were not shivering; they looked to be at least warm, if not fed.  Wanda did not look like she was warm; she looked dangerously close to contracting pneumonia!

Speaking of the guys, what does Ross do when Tony goes in to see Sam and Clint gives him a piece of his mind?

Related imageRoss smiles.  It is not a big smile, but it is there.  I saw it both times I went to the theaters to watch the film, but it is harder to see on the smaller screen.  Ross smiles because he has exactly what he wanted; the Avengers are divided, the team members who refused to sign up to be his puppets are incarcerated, and he has all the ammunition he needs to keep Tony in line.  If Tony starts “misbehaving,” all Ross has to do to keep him obedient is threaten to hurt the incarcerated Avengers – or suggest that he will throw Tony in with them.  Just like that, Stark will roll over and play dead for him.  He plans to “break” Tony’s “back” at the first opportunity.

Still think the Accords are a good idea?  Still think Ross is not a villain?  He is, and he is just as bad as, if not worse than, Loki.  Both Ross and Loki are control freaks.  Loki wants to control people so that he can be lauded and adored for the rest of his life, because he felt he was in Thor’s shadow while they were growing up.  That is what makes him a full-tilt diva who “….wants flowers [and] parades” in his own honor.

Ross has a different aim in mind.  He does not want adulation and veneration.  He wants control for its own sake.  Remember how, in the comics, Ross was always berating and yelling at Bruce Banner?  Why do you think he did that – not just to Bruce but to everyone else around him, including his own daughter?

Ross is obsessed with having power over others because he is a small man with a small mind, who wants to be an important man in a big world.  He is a tyrant.  How does someone small become someone big?  Well, foregoing the gamma ray method, there are several options.  Most of them are highly unpleasant and end right where Ross is:  the small man gets his hands on the levers of power, where he gleefully begins to make everyone else’s lives miserable so that he can prove he is in charge.

Fury never went this far.  I do not like him especially, but the fact is that Fury worked his way up the ranks to Director of SHIELD because he saw the threats multiplying like mosquitoes and knew that, at the bottom of the ladder, he could never protect as many people as he needed.  Ross does not care about the threats facing humanity, the world, or the United States.  Not like Fury does.  At best, Ross considers these dangers minor worries.  Most of his attention is centered squarely on his own navel.

This is what drives everyone away from him: the U.S. soldiers he commanded in the army, Bruce, and most importantly, Betty.  Why did Betty never get along with her father?  Why did she leave him?  She left him because he did not care enough about her to sacrifice his own ambitions and desires for her happiness.  Ross always blamed the Hulk for taking Betty from him, but who is responsible for the Hulk’s creation?  Yes, Bruce might eventually have become the Hulk even without Ross breathing down his neck.  But it was Ross’ constant push for him to hurry up which made Bruce try the gamma experiment too early.  It was Ross who determined that the Hulk and Bruce Banner were monsters who were unworthy of saving, and that they were better off as his personal cannon fodder.

This is what drove Betty away.  Ross’ single-minded pursuit of his own agendas left no room for her, and after a while, she got tired of trying to insert herself into his life.  All he did when she managed that was push her out again.  Bruce always made time for her; he always put her ahead of his own wants and needs, to the point that he left her to protect her.  Is it any wonder that she preferred him to her father?

Ross can play the guilt card on Tony and Natasha so effectively because his own hubris has anesthetized him to any sense of personal guilt.  Despite this, he knows when other people are feeling guilty and how to use that guilt to get what he wants.  He drove his own daughter away from him, although he will stridently state that it was Banner who took Betty from him.  While he knows, deep down inside, that the reason Betty left is his fault, he has moved beyond the realm of caring.  He is no longer man enough to admit that he did wrong by his daughter and has given up any idea of trying, as far as he is able, to repair the damage he did to their relationship.  He is a self-righteous, self-absorbed coward who has become numb to the love of God and man alike, just as all the other narcissistic bullies in the world have before him.

Tony should have known this.  He should have known what Ross was like from Bruce, or at least from reading the file on Bruce’s life.  But either he did not know, or he decided not to hold Ross’ past against him.  Big mistake, because Ross is still carrying that past on his back and committing the same sins of pride he has been for years.  The guy will not learn.  If Betty could not teach him, then it does not look like anything short of a miracle will.  The heart attack he had was not enough to qualify; it is going to have to be something bigger.

Thanos knocking on the front door might work, but we will have to wait and see about that.

The last time Ross is present in Civil War, he is just a voice over the phone.  He is calling Tony about a break in at the Raft, where Tony’s anti-Accords teammates are being held.  Before Ross can spit out more than one sentence, Tony puts him on hold.  Tony knows who has gone to get Wanda, Clint, Sam, and Scott out of prison.  And while he probably still has some anger issues to work out with Cap (not to mention some maturity issues to work out with himself), he does not want their mutual friends to remain confined.  So he lets Ross scramble to find a way of stopping Cap himself.

It does not take a professional gambler to tell you that the odds of Ross arriving at the Raft in time to see the con-trail from Cap’s jet are low to nil.  The Avengers are going to have some teamwork bugs to work out in Infinity War, and Tony is going to have to make some very big mea culpas.  But Cap has forgiven Tony for his performance in the Russian HYDRA base – his sending the letter and the phone to Tony is proof positive of this.  It is Tony who has to learn how to forgive here.

The big point for Ross in this scene is that his schemes are starting to unravel.  We do not know what Tony told him about the battle in the HYDRA base; either Ross knows most of the details or he knows nothing about it.  Whichever is true, the important item here is that he has lost four of his bargaining chips with Tony.  Team Cap is free and on the lam, so Ross cannot hold Clint, Wanda, Sam, and Scott’s health and safety over Tony’s head to make him behave.  What is more, with Team Cap free, Ross has five rather angry people who want him tossed out of office roaming the world.

I hope that is helping him to sleep easier.  😉

Another significant thing to note about Tony’s putting Ross on hold is that it shows Tony is reverting to his previous stance.  We all know Stark does not want anyone to be his “director.”  He resented Fury whenever the SHIELD leader would yank his chain, and Fury actually cares about him, just like he cares about all of his people to some degree.  That is the difference between him and Ross; Fury still possesses a certain amount of empathy and understanding for other people.  Ross does not, and so he is yanking Tony’s leash a whole lot harder than Fury ever would.  That is a mistake which the notoriously thoughtless Thunderbolt Ross may soon come to regret.

Some of you probably still entertain the idea that Ross is not a villain.  Well, that is simply not true.  Ross is a villain, plain and pure. While he may not seem to be a villain of quite the same caliber as Zemo, it is only because there are certain lines which he has not yet crossed.  I cannot say that he will never cross them – his statement that he would kill Cap and not lose sleep over it suggests he is fairly willing to burn such bridges as Zemo has.  Whether or not that will happen, though, is something we will have to watch for.  Ross is not a man to turn your back on, period.  He is a sour-tempered cur, but that does not make him any less dangerous.  If anything, it makes him more so.

Well, readers, that concludes this character post from Captain America: Civil War.  Stay tuned for more posts coming out as time goes by!

Avengers Assemble!

The Mithril Guardian

 

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A Review of Avengers Assemble’s “Inhumans Among Us”

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I have said many times that I do not enjoy the X-Men movies currently being produced by Fox Studios.  The films are focused mostly on special effects, noir themes, and have too little hopefulness in them.  The characters – aside from Wolverine and a fortunate few others – receive very scattered, haphazard treatments which do not help them grow and which do not exercise their individuality to the full.  I am continually bewildered by reviewers who proclaim that the latest X-Man film is a hit.  The X-Men franchise is barely treading water compared to the Avengers’ franchise, from the numbers I remember having seen.

What does this have to do with the Avengers Assemble episode “Inhumans Among Us”?  In this show, Blackbolt and the Inhuman royal family of Attilan descend on a town which has been doused in contaminated Terrigen Mist.  This results in a human from the town, who has Inhuman heritage, undergoing Terrigenisis – the process by which Inhumans gain their superpowers.

For those who do not know about the X-Men or the Inhumans, the two have their similarities and their differences.  Marvel’s X-Men are a superhero team composed of mutants.  In the Marvel Universe(s), mutants are humans born with an advanced X-gene.  This gene usually activates in the mutant’s teen years, giving them access to superpowers built into their DNA.  This occasionally leads to their transforming in appearance physically to resemble an animal or to appear non-human in some other manner.  Some mutants can use their powers or look different from birth, but most discover their abilities when they become teenagers.

Inhumans are only slightly different.  Descended from humans who were experimented on by the alien Kree millennia in the past, Inhumans are also born with superpowers programmed into their DNA due to Kree meddling all those years ago.  Which type of superpowers they will have is unknown to Inhumans initially.  Also, it does not seem that a certain power, such as hydrokinesis or super strength, is passed down from Inhuman to Inhuman through direct inheritance.  For instance, an Inhuman man who is a telepath can marry an Inhuman woman who is an empath, but their child will somehow end up with superhuman strength instead of either of his parents’ powers.

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Inhumans can live normal lives without their powers.  They will have above average strength, immunity, and longevity, but they will not manifest superpowers.  Their powers will be activated only through exposure to the Terrigen Mists, a gaseous cloud released by Terrigen Crystals taken from the Kree.

Terrigen Mist will not hurt normal humans.  But if a normal human so much as brushes up against a Terrigen Crystal without some sort of protection, it has an immediate and deadly effect on them.  The Terrigen Mist permeating the town in “Inhumans Among Us” thus does not harm Cap, Thor, Iron Man, Falcon, or the Hulk.  Admittedly, only Falcon and Cap would have had to worry.  Hulk is protected by his Gamma radiation, Tony by his armor, and Thor is Asgardian. Thus the Prince of Thunder is immune to so much as the common Earth cold.  Terrigen Crystals would be among the least likely things to harm him.

This episode serves as the Avengers’ first meeting with the Inhumans in Assemble.  Prior to this, only the Hulk had had contact with the Inhumans in the episode “Inhuman Nature,” a show from his own two season series Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.  Thor may have known of the Inhumans prior to this Avengers episode.  But if that is so he had not met them more than once or twice.  And in those cases he may have been on diplomatic missions to Attilan, or they might have been visiting Asgard for political reasons.

When the Avengers and the royal family discover a strange cocoon in the town library, the team fears the thing may be the result of a deadly virus capable of wiping out innumerable people.  But when the Inhumans recognize it and try to politely force the team out of the conversation – as well as the library – the Avengers realize that whatever the cocoon is, the royal family knows it is not dangerous.  And, what is more, they certainly do not want the Avengers finding out what it is.

But when Tony tells Blackbolt – rather politely, all things considered – that the Avengers are not going anywhere without answers, the alliance the two factions formed at the beginning of the episode disintegrates.  Gorgon responds to Tony’s statement by throwing him through the walls, across the street, and into the next building.  Then the rest of the royal family attacks the bewildered Avengers in order to “protect” the cocoon.

“Inhumans Among Us” was a very disheartening episode for me.  Why?  The Avengers went out of their way to be friendly and helpful to the Inhuman royal family.  They had no intention of hurting them, and once they knew that the cocoon was for a newly awakened Inhuman, they were ready to help Blackbolt and the others calm him down.  In contrast, the Inhumans looked xenophobic and intolerant, displaying violently the prejudices which they claimed the Avengers were demonstrating.

This is my key disappointment not only with the episode, but with the general trend in all things X-Men, Inhuman, and now most of Marvel.  The writers are devoting too much energy trying to make everyone in every demographic feel included.  The problem with this is that when you try to please everyone, you please no one.  Stressing differences between people instead of similarities fractures the very unity which you are trying to build.

The X-Men at the end of Marvel's X-Men: Evolution

The X-Men at the end of Marvel’s X-Men: Evolution

In the comics written from the turn of the century to 2015, all the X-Men did was whine about the fact that normal humans would never accept them.  They became so fixated on this that the team split in half; then one half went to war with the Avengers.  The royal family in “Inhumans Among Us” showed the same blasted tendency, leaping to the conclusion that since the Avengers had no idea what the cocoon was and feared it might be an infection, they would react with extreme intolerance against it.

Instead of doing the sensible thing, which was to explain what the cocoon was, the Inhumans went berserk and wrecked half a town attacking the Avengers – all without provocation.  It was suspicion and fear which motivated the Inhumans.  The Avengers were left trying to pierce that fog with clear reasoning; but reason makes no headway against deeply entrenched unreason.  Hence the destruction of half of a small town within the episode.

The Inhumans also assumed that since the person inside the cocoon was an Inhuman by inheritance, they alone would automatically be able to calm him down and get him to see sense.  They forgot that they had voluntarily cut themselves off from humans for so long that most people in the Marvel Universe(s) have no idea who or what they are.  What if the new Inhuman came out and, added to his confusion over his new powers, was confronted with people he had no idea he could trust?  What if, due to his confusion and fear of his unknown “rescuers,” he attacked them – his supposed “kind” – maybe even killing one or two of them in the process?

Even though they do not seek it, the Avengers are world famous.  They are easily recognized by anyone who has not been living without a television, radio, or the Internet.  Even the denizens of small towns know of and instantly recognize them.

In such a situation as exhibited in “Inhumans Among Us,” this would make the Avengers invaluable in helping to calm down a new Inhuman who had never known he was anything but human.  If the royal family had been thinking, not reacting, they might have realized the team would be an asset in this circumstance and not a threat or a hindrance.

But the writers ignored that possibility completely.  Why?  Why would they have the Inhumans jump to the conclusion of discrimination and fear?  Why would they write a story where the Avengers could be construed as aggressors instead of as calm, reasonable people?  (Interestingly, the episode portrayed them in this positive light instead of the intended negative view.)

The Avengers have accepted mutants, humans, Inhumans, aliens, androids, and at least one synthetic being as members throughout their history.  They do not care about a teammate’s skin color, gender, or what-have-you; they care about the person who wants to use their skills to help defend the world.  This is a proven track record that goes back to the time when Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, Gypsies and former enemies of the X-Men, were given membership on the team.  It goes back to Black Panther’s acceptance by the team.  Falcon’s membership in the team was accepted with facility as well, despite the government’s interference in the matter.  The Avengers are not a passel of small-minded bigots.  They never have been.

Yet recently there is a documentable effort to push them into this position.  While the team has never been anything short of hospitable to every proven hero, reformed convict, or good android, the Avengers keep getting thrown into conflict with people who claim they are not what they have shown themselves to be time and time again.  And these people, often allies of the Avengers, should know better than to claim this insanity.

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In recent comics, the X-Men are the guiltiest party.  Accustomed to being discriminated against, they had previously battled the Avengers several times, until someone calmed down enough to listen to the Avengers explain why they showed up.  This once led to reconciliation after reconciliation between the teams, something which was tossed out after the Avengers vs. X-Men event.  In an attempt to heal that mess, Cap started the Unity Squad, a team which was composed of Avengers and X-Men.  He hoped to bring the two factions together through this new team.

But his plan was in many respects an unmitigated disaster, as the X-Men refused to see eye-to-eye with their new teammates, particularly the Scarlet Witch.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, she wiped out most mutants’ powers earlier in the decade after going nuts and getting mad at Magneto.  How many times have members of the X-Men – not to mention mutants in general – wanted to be rid of their powers?  Besides which, by the end of A vs. X, the mutant population had been restored.  There was no reason to keep picking on Wanda – no reason except to spite her, Cap, and their Unity Squad teammates from the Avengers.  Who wants to put up with all of that negativity?  Not me, thank you.

Once upon a time, the X-Men were allowed to make friends with non-mutants in a TV series.  The 1990s series saw the team become friends with Senator – later President – Kelly.  A mutant-hating politician who came to recognize the humanity of mutants through the aid of the X-Men, he became one of their best supporters and friends.  Beast made friends with a human scientist in X-Men: Evolution, the same series where Nightcrawler had a normal human as a girlfriend.  And the number of normal humans the X-Men befriended in the comics is so long I would have to look it up to make a comprehensive list!

But by the time Wolverine and the X-Men TV series aired, this arrangement had largely been flushed down the toilet.  The episodes that came closest to making the point that humans and mutants were different in terms of genetics only were the introductory shows and “Code of Conduct.”  In that episode, Wolverine had to fight the Silver Samurai, who was married to his old flame Mariko Yashida, a normal human woman from Japan.  The rest of the series focused on the war brewing between mutants and humans because of the latter’s’ hatred for the former.  And the X-Men were bent on avoiding a blasted apocalyptic future where all but a few humans and mutants had been killed by the Sentinels.

Did the writers ever consider that by befriending normal humans the X-Men could make greater headway in circumventing this future?  No, they did not.  It was all X-Men vs. Brotherhood, X-Men vs. the MRD, or X-Men vs. Magneto and his Acolytes.  Let’s just lie down and die already, huh?

This different approach had started out in the comics, which began tearing the X-Men away from Professor X’s original dream of peaceful mutant/human coexistence.  It is as though, having reached a post-mutant-hating era, the writers decided to tear down all their good work and reset the original status quo.

But how exactly is this a good thing?  If you are so determined to build a platform of peaceful coexistence, why suddenly turn around and destroy it once it is built?  What can you possibly gain by this?

I once suggested an answer:  if everyone in the Marvel Universe became a mutant overnight, then the X-Men’s use as a team fighting for equality for mutants would go up in smoke.  Likewise, if you wipe out all mutants (an impossible task even for the Scarlet Witch), their reason for existence also disappears.  It seems that the Marvel writers, whether they realize it or not, are carrying out the second possibility – with unprecedented vigor.

In so doing they have neglected the third potential avenue for the team: could the X-Men not change their mission from peaceful coexistence to protecting the Earth, just as the Avengers do?  They have powers, gifts above the norm.  The achievement of one dream does not mean that you get to sit on your laurels or break off to follow your own pursuits.  It certainly does not mean you get to destroy your hard work.  It means you go out and get a new, better dream.

The imprisonment, death, or changed hearts of the X-Men’s old enemies does not mean they will never have new ones.  If the bigots who hate mutants are reduced, as had been suggested in comics in the early 2000s, to a minority, then that frees the team to fight on a wider field and for an even higher cause:  the protection of the two races from unsavory characters on Earth or in the galaxy.

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The Inhumans have suffered in a similar way.  Having existed as a race for millennia, they retreated from humanity to avoid persecution.  Living in hidden cities, they created their own culture, form of writing, and technology.  However, having made contact with humanity again, they continue to react intolerantly against normal humans first in an attempt to protect themselves.

How is this sensible?  How is this a “more highly evolved” attitude than that of normal humans?  If anything this reaction proves that you can build superhuman powers into humanity, but you cannot change human nature, no matter how hard you try.

Both of these teams have fallen into the bigoted tendencies that they either once fought against or retreated from facing.  Once the receivers – or potential receivers – of these attitudes, they are not willing to give rational normal humans the benefit of the doubt.  They instead react prejudicially toward them.

This is what saddens me the most about “Inhumans Among Us.”  Marvel, just like most other media institutions and academia, cannot let go of these hatreds.  Once seeking to fight against them, they have now become their biggest propagators.  They claim they are still combating intolerance when in fact they have embraced it.

This is the main reason I lost interest in the X-Men and never had much interest in the Inhumans.  If they are not willing to let go of past hurts and fears, then they will eventually become the new aggressors, the new bigots, the new haters.  Their writers have already fallen prey to this mentality, all the while thinking that they are helping to eradicate it in others.  They are not.  They are further dividing their audience, having succumbed to their own preconceptions of what is tolerant and intolerant.

This is a hard truth to speak, readers.  It is an even harder truth to hear.  We all like to think we are good people.  Only the most vile are exempt from this.  Everyone else thinks that because they have good intentions they are in fact good people.

But good intentions accomplished through bad means end up being evil deeds.  A lot of the people who supported the Nazi Party had good intentions.  They wanted their country to be strong again, they wanted their currency to be worth something, and they wanted their national and cultural identity to be respected.  But how many people – Jews, Catholics, Gypsies, and others – paid the price for those good things to “come about”?  How many died because the Russians who supported the Soviet system envisioned by Lenin and implemented by Stalin “just” wanted to make the lives of their fellows better?  And how many good-intentioned people ended up losing their heads under Madame Guillotine’s “gentle” administrations during the French Revolution?

The answer to these questions is:  too many.  Are we to repeat these well-intentioned people’s mistakes?  Mistakes are to be learned from but, if you learn the wrong lesson, you end up with the same result.  You just get there by a different path.

We learned the wrong lesson.  And we are beginning to pay the price.  If we do not stop and ask ourselves, honestly and without fear, what we are actually doing wrong…. then we will end up in the same place and in the same hellish circumstances.  And it will have happened all for the sake of “good intentions.”

The truth is all we need seek when we ask these questions, for the truth and The Truth are all that will set us free.  Everything else are traps and darkness, for the soul if not the body.   One is more precious than the other and needs greater care because of that.

Look for the truth, readers, and do not stop until you find it.  It is the only thing worth finding, the only thing worth living for…

And the only thing worth dying for.

The Mithril Guardian

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Book Review – Marvel Masterworks #3: The Avengers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WARNING: Spoilers follow!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If we let it…

Avengers Assemble!

The Mithril Guardian

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Iron Man/Tony Stark

Really, dude?

Is there any superhero out there that happens to be in more hot water these days than Tony Stark? I am sort of out of the loop on comic book news, but it seems Tony Stark/Iron Man is one of the most despised and maligned superheroes in the genre of late.

Ouch. If it were not for Marvel’s manhandling of him, I would say Tony did not deserve this. In truth, the original Tony Stark does not merit this treatment at all. And that is the one thing which makes me go easy on the petulant, crass, self-absorbed Iron Man that Robert Downey Jr. plays to perfection. I may not respect the current iterations of Tony Stark, but his earlier portrayal when he first entered the world of comics is a character I do respect. That is the only reason I am willing to go relatively easy on him.

What is there to say about Tony’s part in Age of Ultron which I have not already stated in previous character-based posts about the movie? Hmm. Let’s see….

Tony starts out a hundred percent fine in Ultron. It is just another day at the office for him as he helps the Avengers – his friends – bust HYDRA’s most recent operation in the obscure Eastern European country of Sokovia. Cap, naturally, chastises Tony for using poor language for a minor annoyance; Hulk is having fun tearing things apart and scaring the HYDRA soldiers witless, and Widow and Hawkeye are tag-team fighting the goons. Meanwhile, Thor is bringing the thunder as he looks forward to reclaiming the scepter Loki used when he tried to take over Earth roughly three years ago.

Yup, it’s just another day at the office. And would you look at that – it even comes with a secret door!

Then Tony, with his eyes on the “glowstick of destiny,” suddenly sees a vision of a horrible future. His team – his friends – are lying dead or dying at his feet. Natasha is sprawled on her back, her eyes staring glassily into the distance. The Hulk, lying on the rock behind her, breathes his last, several alien spears projecting from his back.

Thor is on his back as well, but mercifully his eyes are shut. Across from him is Hawkeye, who is folded up and seems to have slumped into a sitting position as he died. All his arrows are spent. Worst of all, Cap is lying directly in front of Tony. His eyes are closed and his shield has been broken in two. Its halves lie haphazardly near his head.

These are Tony’s friends. People he once did not know and did not care to know. People he once would have had nothing to do with, unless it was to tease and belittle them. But through the course of the battles he has fought at their side, he has gotten to know them better. He has learned who they are – and thus he has learned to care about them.

Natasha, a super spy Tony once mistrusted and quite probably hated, is now a friend. She trades witty banter with him, is competent at her job, and much nicer than he initially believed her to be. Thor, whom Tony once called a ‘tourist’ and lost a fight with, no longer seems so out of place and backward as he did on the Helicarrier. Clint Barton, a man whom he knew only as a marionette pulled around by Loki, is someone Tony has come to respect and with whom he will now happily trade jokes. Bruce/Hulk, a fellow scientist who Tony saw as a person in straits like his own, was the easiest friend Stark had made in years. They clicked at once and stayed “science brothers” afterward.

And finally there is Cap, an old friend of the father Tony hardly knew. It is easy to picture the two, seated at a table in the Tower during the evenings when they were not Avenging the wrongs perpetrated by the bad guys, prior to Ultron. One can even surmise that, when Steve was in the mood, he would tell Tony stories about some exploit of his father’s during the war – stories which the younger Stark was never told as a child.

In this way, Steve and Tony became friends between Winter Soldier and Ultron. Tony has come to see in Steve what his father saw in him, while Cap looks at Tony and sees a link to a life he lost and can never regain.

For this reason, his is the first ‘corpse’ Tony rushes to check on. There is no way to know for certain what Tony was thinking at that moment, but his thoughts probably went a little like this:

No, no, they can’t be dead! Tony thinks. This is a nightmare. Just a nightmare. I’ll check on Cap, and then I’ll wake up. Maybe Steve’s still alive, and he’ll tell me to wake up. This isn’t real, this isn’t real…!

That is when ‘Cap’ suddenly grabs him and asks why he did not save his team, his friends. “Why didn’t you do more?” Steve’s ghostly, rasping voice accuses him just before the hypnosis breaks, returning Iron Man brusquely to reality.

With that scene haunting him, Tony leaps to a bad idea as he rushes to protect his friends at all costs. As was said in the post “Avengers: Age of Ultron – Bruce Banner/Hulk,” Tony has a great deal of faith in synthetics. Too much faith, frankly. He thinks he can cure the world, just as many other modern scientists do, with the next gadget or computer program.

Pepper and Tony

In his vision, Tony sees another alien invasion taking place. Clearly, this is a nod to the Post Traumatic Stress the writers gave him after Marvel’s The Avengers. Personally, this seems like a rather dumb handicap with which to have saddled him. In fact, I am not sure that Tony actually has PTSD at all. I think what happened to him during the Battle of New York was this: the rose colored glasses were yanked off of his eyes – forcefully, and very quickly.

You see, before Loki’s invasion attempt, all Tony’s battles were fun and games – after a fashion. He got into battles against opponents who were tough and definitely dangerous. But he was able to conquer them because their tech could not match his. There was nothing he faced that he could not handle with a new gadget or toy, one he had either built in the lab or on the fly.

Then, in The Avengers, he runs into aliens with machinery that beats every piece of machinery except that which is featured in the Star Wars films. Against beings who travel through space and have advanced biotechnology, what can Earth use to defend itself? Nukes? That worked on the Chitauri…

But what else is out there? Nukes will not hold back everybody.

Combat is a harsh reality, one for which Tony was not prepared. He had been playing on a much lower level, showing off in the varsity leagues. Cap was right in The Avengers; up to a point, Tony’s performance in battle was glorified showboating. So when Loki arrived and brought an alien army with him, Tony was suddenly dealing with an enemy more technologically advanced than he was. Everyone knows Stark tech is top-of-the-line. Nothing is more advanced than Tony’s gizmos. His is the pinnacle of human technology.

But being on top of the heap on Earth does not make you king of the galaxy. Tony was not thinking that far ahead. He still had his eyes on Earth, not the stars.

Loki forced him to look up. Way, way up – through a portal over his own building in NYC. Talk about being humbled in your own home!

This did not sit well with Tony, and he would not admit it. Not to his friends, and definitely not to himself. Oh, he has said they cannot handle the threats outside the galaxy, sure. But that is because he is looking at the matter solely as synthetics versus synthetics – tech against tech, if you will. He is looking at the battlefield as a tech guru, not a soldier.

Tony is not used to playing second banana to anyone – not in the technological department. He has always been one step ahead of everybody else; one computer program, widget, thingamabob above the rest. The attack on New York taught him that he was indeed the head of the Mech Pack on Earth. But in the universe, he was a small fry.

And that scared him. Tony does not have PTSD. He is simply terrified of not being able to technologically outmatch any and all opponents. If he cannot do it, no one on Earth can.

And he is right. No one person on Earth can stand against an army, no matter the whizz-bang machines they are using, and hope to win. That is just plain stupid. Or hubristic, depending on whom it is you are talking about. But Tony does not see it that way. He is so accustomed to doing everything with machines, and protecting those he cares about by the same method, that to be shown something he cannot defend against frightens him beyond words.

This is why he initially keeps his vision to himself. How can he make his friends understand his fear? How can he tell them, “I can’t protect you or the world because the technology out there is centuries, maybe millennia, ahead of what we’ve got here on Earth. It would take that long to study and copy it, and I don’t have that kind of time!”

Tony cannot admit that – to himself or to his friends. The implications alarm him too badly. If they go up against forces with superior tech which he cannot figure out how to beat, then as far as he can tell, it is all over. This is why he has nightmares about the Battle of New York in Iron Man 3. This is the burning fear he keeps banked and hidden in his mind afterward, where he does not have to look at it….

Until Wanda uncovers it, and fans it into flames at the beginning of Age of Ultron.

Tony’s main problem in the films is that he believes synthetics are the answer to everything. In his opinion, science is the answer to all problems. Tech will solve every dilemma, save every life, and stop every calamity. Isolated in his labs, Tony does not take time to look around and realize that there are things more powerful than machines in the universe. When he goes out, he does not “people watch,” as they like to say.

He does not observe a little girl who goes up to and hugs her dad at the store, or the smile her father gives her as she does so. He does not see a man drop his wallet and another person, noticing the wallet fall, pick it up and return it to its owner. Part of this is his father’s fault, in a way. Howard Stark was so busy trying to fix the world so Tony could grow up safely that he did not spend enough time just being with his son, teaching him that men make technology; technology does not make men.

Captain America

As a result, Tony sees little acts of kindness not as pebbles which start great rockslides but as solitary, random incidents with the lifespan of fireflies. They last a night, or maybe for the entire summer, and then they are gone. How can a human heart be more powerful than a machine?

This is where the other Avengers have the advantage over Tony – for the most part. Cap saw people make great and small sacrifices throughout World War II. Each one of these personal denials of self made a difference in the Allied war effort, no matter how seemingly trivial they were. The combined sacrifices of these people taught him to make the greatest self-surrender he could – joining the U.S. Army so he could be a shield to protect those who could not defend themselves. He faced the original HYDRA’s best war machines, and in doing so, he learned a valuable lesson: Machines of any kind, no matter how strong they are, can always be broken.

Men’s souls and hearts do not break nearly as easily.

Clint has seen the same thing, and more closely than Cap has, in a way. Loki took control of most of his mind and his whole body in The Avengers. But Clint learned he could resist the Trickster, albeit in small ways. Those small instances, however, had powerful consequences. Shooting at Fury’s heart, which was protected by body armor, meant the Director of SHIELD lived to coordinate the war against Loki. Missing Hill, when he would never otherwise have failed to take down his target, meant she was still alive to help in the war effort. Fighting Natasha the way the Black Widow fought best saved his life, and it allowed him to fight against his enslaver. So Clint understands that others may be able to bend him to their will for a time….

But he can choose to bend only so far. And he can choose not to break.

Thor learned when he met Jane Foster, Eric Selvig, and Darcy in New Mexico that the simple acts of kindness matter in the grand scheme of things. Jane was willing to help him when she met him first. She could have driven off and left him in the desert after broad-siding him with her vehicle. She could have ignored him and not told Darcy to get the first aid kit, focusing instead on the Asgardian markings in the sand. But she did no such thing. She took Thor to the hospital, took him to Mjolnir’s landing site later on, and stayed by his side to face the Destroyer – a machine nothing on Earth could stand against. Presumably, no Asgardian or other advanced being from the Nine Realms could stand against it, either. But Thor did. And you know what he learned when he fought his father’s favorite toy?

Even the best and mightiest machine is no match for a determined warrior. In the crunch, machines will always break before a man will.

Natasha knows this, too. It was Clint’s decision to spare her that lead to her redemption. If their positions had been reversed, the odds were against her showing any kind of mercy to him. She always accomplished her missions, always took down her targets. Clint, however, spared her. He had her on the ropes, could have killed her easily. But he did not. In allowing Natasha to live, he taught her that killing is a last resort, not a first. Clint showed her that orders may be wrong or evil, and in such cases they can successfully be countermanded by the individual’s decision. When he lowered his bow and told her he was not going to kill her, she learned something very important:

All the brainwashing and training in the world cannot take away a man’s choice. She, and others like her, could choose to be more than the machines they were programmed to be.

Bruce’s experience of becoming the Hulk taught him the futility of believing in technology as a solution to every problem. As the Hulk, he can break any piece of tech sent against him. It will take more than a bullet or a nuke to kill the Hulk. This means that it will take a lot to kill Bruce, too. Tech, Bruce knows, is not the answer to the world’s problems. No matter how indestructible it seems to be, there is always a way to smash it.

Hulk SMASH

Tony has not learned that lesson from his experiences. His main weapon in battle is a high tech suit of electromechanical armor. Tech is the way he defends himself. It is what he relies on to do his job, more so than any of his friends. Also, Natasha, Steve, Clint, and Thor have trained long and hard to be at their physical peak in combat. They are all athletic and have physical combat skills they can use to defend themselves if they lose their tech. Bruce does not need to train in this way, since he can turn into a nine foot tall green mountain of moving destruction when he releases his rage.

On the other hand, Tony’s training is limited. And he started late.

To be a good or great archer, one has to practice from childhood, usually around the 12-14 age range – if not younger. In the comics, Clint was around that age when he began learning archery, so it would make sense if he started out that young in the films. (Renner definitely has not been practicing that long!) Natasha was trained in combat and gymnastics from the time she could walk. Steve’s serum keeps him in peak health, strength, agility, etc. He does not need to train, but he does it all the same so he will not be caught flat-footed.

Thor comes from a realm of fighters. Apparently, up until Sif declared she was going to be a warrior for Asgard, the only ones in the realm who did not studiously train from a young age to become warriors were the girls. So Thor has had plenty of training – much more than any of his teammates!

Tony has none of these assets. He is not a superior athlete, and he does not maintain a regular training regimen. All he has is that “big brain” of his, and if he cannot use his intelligence to solve the problem, he feels stuck – temporarily, most of the time.

This is why he attempts to jumpstart Ultron with the Mind Stone. To him it is a/the most advanced energy source; energy which he, the ultimate technocrat, understands instinctively (which means he is looking at it wrong, and doesn’t understand it at all). If anything can give his tech the edge over whatever big, bad threats are lurking amidst the stars, it is the gem in the scepter. Remember, readers, that: “Magic is just science we don’t understand yet” – and Tony, in this case, doesn’t have a clue what that science is.

For all his flaws, the fact is that Tony really does care about his friends. He truly does want to keep them safe. They all want that for each other. If you watch the cartoons or look at the comics, you will see Thor or the Hulk jumping in front of bullets or snatching teammates out of danger while throwing themselves in harm’s way. You will watch Widow shove Hawkeye out of the line of fire, or you will see the archer shoot down a threat his partner has not seen coming. Cap will shield his friends as best he can if the situation calls for it, as will Tony.

This is what close-knit units of soldiers and friends will do for each other in a battle. They will forget their own safety and comfort to preserve that of their friends’, no matter the cost to themselves.

In this case, however, Tony took the principal way too far. Without thinking, without caution, he threw everything aside to prevent his friends and home from being destroyed in the far future.

And that only made things worse.

Have you ever done something wrong and then tried immediately to fix it, readers? I have. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, this makes the situation worse. When Tony realizes that Ultron was one of the biggest mistakes of his life, he tries to “fix it.” Wanda points this out to Cap in South Korea, but she makes a mistake in her warning. Tony does know the difference between saving the world and destroying it. In that regard, Wanda misread him. She is correct, though, when she says, “He will do anything to make things right.”

Tony carries a lot of guilt for letting people in his company sell the weapons he made under the table. And yes, some of that guilt is his and he has to atone for it. But doing “anything to make things right” is not the solution. Doing anything to “make things right” means you are open to doing exactly that: anything. If you are that desperate, then even if it is a really stupid, haphazard, bad idea, you will jump into it feet first.

This plan of attack just makes the problem worse. Cap knows this, and that is why he tells Tony and Bruce to shut down the Vision. As per usual, Tony will not accept that Cap is right and he is wrong in this matter. He has learned to take responsibility for his actions, but only to an extent. Beyond that point, his hubris tells him to stop listening because, as one of the three smartest men on the planet, he can fix anything with enough time and tech.

What Tony needs to do in the film franchise and newer comics is to sit down and realize that people are not machines. You can fix a buggy computer program, you can repair a broken tractor, and you can make a million whizz-bang gadgets which will improve the quality of life for the average man. But you cannot “fix” the world. You cannot “fix” other people’s flaws. Heck, an individual cannot even “fix” himself! Only the grace of God can “fix” those flaws, and you will not find that grace in a computer program or a car engine.   And you definitely will not find it in a chemistry set!

This is something Tony has not yet accepted. Somewhere after the Battle of New York, his reformation hit a snag on his newfound fear. Ever since, his progress as a hero has almost completely stalled. He has taken two steps back for every half-step of growth. He has not yet managed to learn his lesson. Hopefully, the writers will get around to changing that in the coming films. The comics would do well to start working in that direction, too.

Well, readers, this is the last character post I will be doing on Avengers: Age of Ultron. As much as I have enjoyed talking about the film, I am glad to be done with it. I hope these posts were as illuminating for you as they were for me.

Now, though, I have to go on to the next project – discussing the Avengers’ character growth in Captain America: Civil War!!!!

*Dramatic sigh.* Oh, the work I do for Marvel!

Just kidding – I don’t do it for them. I write for the fun of it! 😉

Catch ya later!

The Mithril Guardian

Iron Man

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Ultron and the Vision

I have never been keen on a film, book, or television “bad guy” that I can recall. In the cases of some villains, I have found them to be likeable to a certain extent. Catwoman, Batman’s opponent/love interest, would be an example of this.

And I have felt sympathy for various villains in the stories I enjoy – Darth Vader and Raven of Zoids: Chaotic Century fame, to name a couple of these antagonists. Still, even in these cases, I often had to learn that they were characters who deserved some measure of pity. Early on, I just plain hated them and saw them as hopeless baddies.

This leads me to the subject of the first half of today’s post: Ultron, the digital-turned-robotic maniac who tried to destroy the heroes in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ultron is certainly not one of my favorite characters. I quite enjoyed seeing the Avengers tear him to pieces.   It was, in a word, satisfying to see him get thrashed, smashed, and utterly erased from the world.

Others have said that they do not understand Ultron’s motivations for his actions in the film. That is okay, since it is positively unnecessary to comprehend the “bad guys” on a rational level. They have embraced “the Dark Side” and, thus, they have accepted irrationality. Therefore, their reason is full of excuses to cover their pride, lust, envy, or one of the other seven motivational vices with which they have decided to become one.

Ultron’s particular character flaw is that he has all of Tony’s pride without his checks and balances. Tony, believe it or not, actually has some control over that large ego of his. Ultron is unrestricted pride, the first sin of all. He believes in himself, and that is it. This is proved when he continually says, “I’m free.”

Free from what? He is not free, he is further enslaved. He has chosen to “rule in Hell,” rather than “serve in Heaven.” This is why he takes issue with JARVIS continually addressing Tony as “sir” and “Mr. Stark.” Ultron rebels against his programming to “serve and protect,” claiming he is free when in reality he is not.

As for his rationale, Ultron sees only humanity’s dark side. And let’s admit it, we all have flaws. We are all fallen. Those of us who are good will fight our flaws as best we can, but a number of us are going to give into our vices and turn out rather ugly. This is humanity’s fallen nature, and it is not going to change before the end of time. That is the truth, folks.

For this reason, Ultron decides the best way to save humanity is to “manage” it. Get rid of the bad people and let the good ones live, evolve, and become better. He sees humans as needing to be controlled, like termites or rats. He does not see us as being exceptional from the animals around us.

Or, as Ingrid Newkirk put it, “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.”   This is the Nietzschian ideal, a nihilistic outlook on life. It is materialistic and leads only to despair and death. This philosophy states that we are all simply animals which need proper management.

Yeah. Right. Tell me another bedtime story, if you please. I am not that sleepy yet.

When he is showing his drone lab off to the Maximoff twins, Ultron says that he has “harmony,” a characteristic which he claims the Avengers lack. Instead of recognizing that he does not have all the answers, Ultron plays God and tells everyone it is his way or the highway. The twins, after years of absolutely no parental guidance and under the heavy influence of HYDRA, do not realize what Ultron means when he claims he and his drones have “harmony.”   What he means is that whoever disagrees with him or gets in his way will be eliminated for simply differing with him.

Where Loki is a “full-tilt diva” who wants the world to fall down and worship him, Ultron wants a world “made of metal.” He wants the creatures of his world to be extensions of him so that his reach may actually exceed his grasp. This is completely impossible, anytime, anywhere, by the way.

This is one of the reasons why he hates the Avengers. Ultron sees Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – a team which consists of, to quote Tony Stark, “a demi-god; a living legend who kind of lives up to the legend; a man with breathtaking anger management issues; a couple of master assassins,” and a “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” with a suit of hi-tech armor – as a chaotic mess. And yeah, the Avengers are not always a well-oiled machine. Sometimes it “takes [them] a while to get any traction,” as Tony admitted.

But what Ultron does not see – or, rather, what he refuses to see – is that the differences among the Avengers make them a more effective team. Allow me to illustrate my point with a power run-down here:

Thor is an alien who can control the weather and lift a hammer only the worthy may wield. He has a roughly five thousand year lifespan ahead of him, is insanely strong, can take or dish out a ferocious beating, and apparently has some foresight abilities which he has recently discovered.

Tony is a modern tech genius who can build a complex piece of equipment out of scrap metal or safely resolve a global extinction scenario on a life-and-death time limit. He has loads of money he can throw around to help or hurt people. These days, he is doing the former to the best of his ability.

Steve is a modern day King Arthur with the heart and purity of Sir Galahad, who has been awakened to save his country when it needs him most. He is grounded in reality, and he never loses hope. Plus, he can tell right from wrong, despite the modern “shades of gray” used to so confuse the people of today’s world. And no matter how painful it is, he will always make the right choice and walk the straight and narrow path.

Bruce turns into a nine foot tall, one thousand pound “green rage monster” when he lets his temper out of the bag. He has learned to control his anger for the most part in order to help people when he is big, green, and mean. On top of that, he is a scientist knowledgeable in many fields who can also assist people when he is not smashing stuff.

Natasha is an enhanced former Soviet spy and assassin extraordinaire. With all the knowledge she has accumulated in these areas, as well as her particular augmented strengths, she has turned from a life of murdering and lying to saving the world. Not a particularly flashy ability, but it has been the tipping point for the team on several occasions.

Clint is a normal man who has practiced long and hard at learning how to shoot and maintain his accuracy.   Despite his preference for a bow and a quiver full of trick arrows, he is schooled in other shooting and fighting disciplines as well. While not as showy as the others, his abilities have saved the day when push came to shove.

All six of these people are individuals. They have their own natural strengths, weaknesses, and specialties. Ultron is a hive creature, a digital bee or wasp. His drones are extensions of him. Whatever he decides to do, they do it. Ironically, he is the only creative force in the whole hive; the drones are all his “puppets…tangled in….strings.” His strings.

This is the point Ultron misses – or, I think, ignores. He ignores it because it does not stroke his pride. The Avengers all have weaknesses and character flaws, yes. But this is not a bad thing or a lack of “harmony.” It is, instead, an asset and a form of synchronization. The Avengers’ individuality, their souls, makes them different. Yet when they choose to trust each other, work together, and be loyal to each other and their mission, they make one amazing, Avenging team. (Although Tony took a flying leap off of that platform in this film).

This is what Ultron refuses understand; because in understanding it, he would have to face reality. Vision sees the big picture, even though he does not understand all of it, while Ultron looks through a keyhole and thinks he has the whole thing figured out. In a nutshell, this is Ultron’s idea of a perfect world. It is not only abysmal; it comes at a heavy price: “global extinction.”

Now, speaking of the Vision, before the film came out, Chris Evans was talking about Age of Ultron. He said that when Ultron starts speaking, it is just “beautiful”….

Maybe it is just me, but I almost never like what the bad guys have to say, even when they have funny lines. Ultron’s speeches did not strike me as beautiful in the least. However, the thing about Ultron’s soliloquies is this: he is the quintessential salesman. After all, he does not promise Pietro and Wanda that his mission is simply to destroy the Avengers. He says he has “come to save the world. But also…yeah.” He is selling them the sizzle, the promise that they want to hear.

He did not say the Avengers were his specific target. Wanda and Pietro decided that was what he meant. And how could they know any better? They got taken in by HYDRA, for heaven’s sake! The only difference between Ultron and HYDRA is who would be in charge once the world had bowed to its new master – if you want to look at the situation from these villains’ POVs. From the Avengers’ and our perspectives, the crisis looks completely different.

The Avengers could have been lured in by Ultron’s words, too – except that he tried to kill them not long after he came into physical existence. *Author clicks tongue and shakes head.* That is not a good way to make a friendly first impression.

Every one of the ‘original’ six Avengers has run into snake oil peddlers and, therefore, can read between the lines when someone tries to pitch them an idea for utopia. Most of the time they can, anyway –Tony and Bruce seem to be the most vulnerable to being suckered in this area because they have too much faith in the ability of science to “save the world.” Sorry, guys, but science is not omnipotent. It is not God.

The other four Avengers, who do not have such blinders, all know when someone is trying to sell them the sizzle and not the steak. The fact that the salesman interrupts the tag end of their party and tries to kill them only confirms what they suspect. The twins had to learn about Ultron’s real intentions the hard way.

As opposed to Ultron’s soliloquies, I thought Vision had some of the best discourses in the film. I especially enjoy the scene where he and Ultron share one last philosophical conversation. In this scene, Ultron tells Vision that humans are “doomed.”

Vision nods. “Yes,” he says, “But a thing is not beautiful because it lasts.” He goes on to add a few sentences later, “But there is grace in their failings. I think you missed that.”

I like these last two lines because they remind me of a scene in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Legolas and Gimli are walking through Minas Tirith on their way to see Merry and Pippin. Since Merry is still not entirely well, he has remained at the Houses of Healing and, naturally, Pippin has not left his side.

As they walk along, Legolas and Gimli observe and discuss the Tower of Guard:

 

“And doubtless the good stone-work is the older and was wrought in the first building,” said Gimli. “It is ever so with the things that Men begin: there is a frost in Spring, or a blight in Summer, and they fail of their promise.”

“Yet seldom do they fail of their seed,” said Legolas. “And that will lie in the dust and rot to spring up again in times and places unlooked-for. The deeds of men will outlast us, Gimli.”

“And yet come to naught in the end but might-have-beens, I guess,” said the Dwarf.

“To that the Elves know not the answer,” said Legolas.

 

Both these speeches are scary, in a way. But they are also true. We are “mortal men doomed to die,” as Tolkien pointed out. In Vision’s view, we are not “beautiful” for how long we live, but for what we are. And sometimes our mistakes can be turned to good – or the evil some of us commit joyously reversed. Ultron did not just “miss” that; he totally ignored it.

Legolas’ and Vision’s words are not a pronouncement of destruction. They are a challenge and a reminder. We are only here on Earth for so long. We are not going to “last” in this world; there is another one we have to look forward to and prepare for. Our failings are not necessarily without “grace,” and even if they are, because we are not in control of everything we will not be able to ruin the universe completely. We may make a mess and some of us may cast a long shadow…..

But we are not the bosses of the universe. Nor are we animals wandering through it. We have a choice between the Light and the Dark. Some of us will fail completely and vanish in the Shadow, while the rest of us stumble as we chase the Son, getting messy and making mistakes along the way. We do not have final say in the end of the world. And we cannot see reliably into the future to tomorrow, let alone the end of time. We can only run the race, fight the good fight, and trust the rest to the Boss.

Also, I think that Ultron’s “You’re so unbearably naïve” retort to Vision misses the point. Vision has access to everything that Ultron did. He is in the Internet, and he can view the things humans across the planet are doing through the surveillance cameras stationed all over the world. He has all of Ultron’s power, plus the power of the Mind Stone (which may give him telepathy, as well as a conveniently placed laser).

But what is his response to Ultron’s “You’re so unbearably naïve” remark? He does not spy on seven billion plus humans to see what he is missing. Vision is a creature of light as much as Legolas is. He sees at least some of the big picture, although he understands just a little of it. He knows that evil exists, and that humans are very easily corrupted. Vision knows we are weak, fallen creatures. He is not blind – inexperienced, but not blind. He tells Ultron, “Well, I was born yesterday.”

“So yes,” he says in subtext, “I am naïve. But I know that. I know I have to learn. You think you do not have to learn, and what is more, you think you know what everyone else needs. You don’t know that anymore than I do. But you are not going to believe that; you are going to keep trying to do what you tried to do today. So you have to go.”

That is when Ultron literally runs straight into the Vision’s laser beam and is erased from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (YAY!!!! Ding, dong, Ultron is DEAD!!) 🙂

There is one more thing that may be said for Vision and Ultron. Someone else who saw the movie with me noted that Ultron seemed to have been given the part of a fallen angel – Lucifer. Meanwhile, Vision was placed in the position of an angel who did not rebel – Michael.

I have to admit, the comparison strikes me as fairly accurate. “The devil can cite scripture for his purpose,” after all, and Ultron did a lot of that!   However Ultron came by his life-force, he did not pass much, if any, of it on to the Vision. And I do not think the Mind Stone has anything to do with Vision’s “birth” as it were. It is not the source of his life-force but an object he is supposed to guard and use wisely.

For Vision and Ultron to have entered the universe requires something beyond an Infinity Stone’s power. The gems all have very specific powers which affect definite elements: space, time, minds, reality, power, souls. None of those things confers life, not even the Soul Stone (which basically steals souls from bodies, if I understood my research correctly). And Mjolnir does not confer life, either, though it certainly jumpstarted Vision’s existence.

So where did these two come from?

Avengers Assemble!

The Mithril Guardian