Tag Archives: Stephen Strange/Dr. Strange

Season Four Wrap-Up of Avengers Assemble

Okay, first things first. Life and lassitude hit at the same time, and I ended up leaving you in limbo for quite a while, readers. Thankfully, life has stabilized and the lethargy has been overcome, so this blogger now has time and energy to devote to you once again. Hopefully it will stay this way going forward. 🙂

Second, I would like to apologize for taking so long to write about the last five episodes of Avengers Assemble: Secret Wars season. I didn’t write this post earlier primarily because I wanted to see where season five of Assemble – titled Black Panther’s Quest – would go before I said anything about season four. So this writer waited until the fifth season had played out before speaking her peace.

Black Panther’s Quest was pretty much what I expected. The Avengers hardly showed up, and when they did, they had undergone a radical redesign to make them match their film depiction more closely. Plus, Wakanda was changed to appear more the movie version, which should not have happened. That Wakanda is nothing like the one in the comics, and outside of his appearances in the Avengers films, the T’Challa/Black Panther in the film bearing the same name is not the one Stan Lee and company created.

Because of these alterations, this blogger saw no more than one or two episodes of Assemble’s season five. Based on those viewings, there will be no more reviews of Avengers Assemble here at Thoughts. This is the final word the Mithril Guardian has for the most recent American series focusing on the Avengers. (The new travesty with an almost exclusively female team does not bear or deserve the title of Avengers.) I may write about Avengers: DISK Wars and Marvel’s Future Avengers at some point, but that is it. Marvel’s new Western offerings hold no more interest for me.

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The last five episodes of Assemble were problematic and therefore difficult to watch. “Weirdworld,” the installment following “The Vibranium Coast,” was for the most part entertaining. This was due almost entirely to the fact that Black Widow completely ignored Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers. (Honestly, that woman does not know when to stop talking..!) Rather than try to force a friendship between the two based on the trite “we’re-two-women-in-a-man’s-world” trope, the writers made it clear that Natasha barely does more than tolerate the braggart Danvers. It was a refreshing change from the enforced norm in other series and this author appreciated that.

The rest of the show focused on the dichotomy between the Hulk and Bruce Banner. Separated by the Beyonder in “Underworld,” Bruce has been hunting his green, wild half ever since. He’s so desperate to end the Hulk that he has struck a deal with Morgan le Fay to destroy Big Green once and for all. Her patch of Battleworld – dubbed Weirdworld by Bruce – is uniquely adapted to this conflict. Using a variety of strange plant life, he tries again and again to capture the Hulk.

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Morgan le Fay

Due to his single-minded pursuit, he misses Morgan le Fay reveal to the heroines that she plans to use the Hulk’s power for herself. Her slip-up is actually believable, since she realizes that Natasha has feelings for both the Hulk and Bruce. Morgan’s miscalculation isn’t made simply to show how evil she is; she’s genuinely trying to hurt someone when she reveals her evil plan. So that part of the episode was well-executed and, added to Black Widow’s clearly non-existent rapport with Captain Marvel, makes “Weirdworld” fairly enjoyable.

As for the rest, I have to say that it is getting tiresome to watch Bruce always trying to kill the Hulk. I understand the history behind it, and done well, it is a good story line. In “Weirdworld,” however, it is not done well at all. I would have been more interested if they had introduced Bruce and the Hulk trying to reconnect with one another, only to be thwarted at every turn by Weirdworld so Morgan le Fay could capture and drain the Hulk of his power. Given the rapport developed between the two halves of the character in earlier seasons, I was actually expecting that turn of events. But the writers went for a cheap retread of an old story rather than an imaginative, new take on the familiar plot.

Unfortunately, this is a problem that repeats itself in the following episodes. “Westland” had some promising themes and moments, but on the whole it rated a “meh” on the scale of entertainment. In search of Doctor Strange, whose magic can help repair and control the Bifrost, Hawkeye, Vision, Wasp, and Loki arrive in an old West town. Only, in this town, they don’t ride horses. They ride dinosaurs.

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While an inventive take on the idea, I have to say that the dinosaurs threw me for a loop. It was too jarring a change from the norm that seemed to have little to do with both the characters and the setting. Plus, in Marvel’s original comics, the Avengers did travel to the Old West a couple of times. Hawkeye was particularly comfortable there, finding a great friend in the Wild West vigilante called Two-Gun.

Throughout its run, “Westland” carries overtones of being an homage to this past story arc, with the World’s Greatest Marksman showing enormous interest in and relative familiarity with the time period. The problem is that the installment is less of a pastiche and more of a joke. We get a token bar fight at the beginning following Hawkeye’s very poor attempt to “speak the lingo” to the bar tender. The denizens’ of Westland ignore him and attack the team, considering Vision a threat because he looks like a robot (technically, he’s a synthetic man). The disrespect or disinterest on the writers’ part to Hawkeye’s history with this story line only continues in several later scenes, though it is somewhat mitigated by Clint’s being temporarily blinded.

Blinding him was definitely a good choice on the writers’ part, as it is a fairly rare story line that nevertheless carries a punch whenever it is utilized. Depriving him of his capacity to continue fighting with his sight is a surefire way to bring drama and tension to an Avengers or Hawkeye installment. “Westland,” when it gives attention to this aspect of the tale, all but sings in this area.

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The rest of the story, however, is a bit of a mess. Vision ends up in the clutches of Rocket and Groot, who plan to use him as spare parts to fix their ship. Vision breaks out of the sack before they can do this and learns to converse with Groot. We are then treated to meaning several conversations that consist of “I am Vision” and “I am Groot,” which is actually a nice touch. Then Jane Foster arrives and reveals that she is the sheriff of the town, totally undermining the callback to Two-Gun and Hawkeye’s ties with the Old West. Add to this the chip on Wasp’s shoulder and Loki’s grandstanding, and the episode left me feeling unfulfilled and unhappy.

Admittedly, they did try to make Hope a little nicer in this episode. She does her best to support and comfort Hawkeye after his blinding, showing genuine sympathy and concern for him. Her pep talk to get him fighting again was almost good – except for the part where they took Clint’s speech to Wanda in Age of Ultron and had Hope repeat it back to him verbatim. That was unnecessary, out of step with her character, and it showed a complete lack of imagination on the part of the writers.

Jane Foster’s promise to “bring her wrath” down on Loki if he betrayed the Avengers also struck the wrong note with me. She’s a scientist, not a sheriff or a warrior. Instead of coming across as a tough, no nonsense, genuinely feminine character she acted like a woman trying to be a man. It didn’t work. (This will become more relevant the further in we go.)

Next is “The Citadel,” the show which leads up to the season’s two-part finale. The episode begins with a conversation between Cap and Tony about defeating the Beyonder, which is interrupted when Tower is attacked. Both heroes are captured by the Beyonder’s forces and taken to his citadel.

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Steve wakes to find himself in a prison cell. While he breaks out of this confinement, the Beyonder tries to tempt Tony into accepting his technology and leaving the path of the hero. Cap arrives in time to snap him out of it, only to be tempted himself. The two begin fighting one another, ostensibly over the Beyonder’s offer of immortality and power.

Eventually, though, it is revealed to be a ruse. Having distracted the alien mastermind long enough to learn his goals, Tony and Steve leave the villains in Beyonder’s service tussling over the forbidden fruit while they make their escape.

Polite words fail me when I even think about this episode, for one simple reason: the presentation of Captain America in this installment borders on the putrid. Rather than show him as the American Galahad, the writers make him appear morally weaker than Tony Stark. While Cap can be tempted, he cannot be enticed in the same manner as others are. He also has a much higher threshold of resistance to sinful offers than practically everyone else in the Marvel Universe(s) does. “The Citadel” not only failed to show this character trait, it reversed his character completely. Cap specifically asks Tony at the end of the episode if he was tempted by the Beyonder’s offer, implying that he wants to know if he was not the only one weak enough to succumb to the alien’s offer.

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Additionally, Beyonder’s proposition was geared specifically to appeal to Tony; it should not have even registered on Cap’s psyche as a lure for that reason. The Beyonder appealed to Tony as a fellow scientist and technician. Cap is neither, and for the offer to entice him as in the manner it does Iron Man is absolutely absurd.

Like a number of other items in the final season of “Assemble,” the ruse could have been easily achieved in a way that better respected both characters. Having Cap fight Tony after the latter was momentarily bedazzled by Beyonder’s offer not only makes more sense, it fits Steve’s MO. He will fight for his friends’ lives and souls no matter the cost to himself, and the writers could have turned this into one such instance.

But the writers for Assemble just had to be different. They had to drag Steve down to the “normal” level to prove he is human. They completely ignored all the work that the MCU and Chris Evans put into demonstrating this fact to millions of movie-goers around the world, a move that is not only foolish but downright malicious. On top of everything else they have done to Steve throughout Assemble, this was just too much. It pulled this blogger out of the story and kept her out for the final two episodes. Those would have turned her off of the series, anyway, but the open disregard and malice in “The Citadel” brought the whole house of cards down much, much faster.

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So when “The Wastelands” and “All Things Must End” played, I was pretty upset. Knowing some of what was coming next from the tidbits dropped by the writers, this author waited for the final shoe to drop. It did drop – with a mighty splash. In this episode we were presented with an animated version the female Thor. Jane Foster calls Mjolnir to her and becomes goddess of thunder after Thor tried to use the hammer to rescue her.

I wish I was joking, readers, but that is what happened at the end of this episode. Then the team finally makes their play to put all the pieces back together, saving the worlds that the Beyonder ripped apart for his experiment. In the process, the alien mastermind is sent packing – but not before Dr. Strange is knocked out of commission. Unable to finish what he started, he gives Loki the Eye of Agamotto to fix the Bifrost and bring everyone home. It works like a charm, too.

Except then Loki won’t give the Eye back. What a shocker; the Sorcerer Supreme gives the trickster god the most powerful magical item in the universe, and he then expects it to be returned to him. Yeah, right.

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Why did no one see Loki’s betrayal in “All Things Must End” coming? Giving him the benefit of the doubt for the millionth time is one thing. Hope over experience is also a plausible reaction to his apparent reform. Necessity requiring that the Eye be transferred to the god of mischief is understandable and inevitable. But why – why!? – didn’t Strange put some kind of spell on the Eye that would cause Loki’s attempts to use it backfire on him and make him give it back?

More to the point, why would the team actually trust someone they hoped would reform, but whom they knew was probably using them? None of this should have been a revelation to the heroes. In fact, most of the Avengers looked thoroughly unsurprised by Loki’s treachery. Poor Thor wasn’t allowed to see through his adopted brother’s ruse until this point, which is a shame but par for the course for Assemble. The only time they ever treated the characters with even a modicum of respect was in season three.

Combine this “big reveal” with their forcing Jane Foster to play the role of Thor/Thunderstrike, plus the strong women grandstanding done by Wasp, Captain Marvel, and Kamala Khan, and you have an unappealing mess of an ending. The method of stopping Loki doesn’t even matter (or make much sense) because the above factors reduce the episode to a propaganda piece masquerading as a story. For all its faults, Assemble deserved a better ending than this, as did the characters.

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This is why I will not be watching any more Marvel fare from Western media outlets. Endgame is the finale to the MCU; everything that comes after cannot hope to match the quality of the first ten years, and most of the original actors/directors have jumped ship while the jumping is good. The nonsense that destroyed the comics has finally spread to the small and big screen, as I knew it would.

If you want to see Marvel’s comic book alterations make it to film, then go ahead and have fun. But as of now, I am done with Marvel Comics, Marvel films, and Marvel TV shows. If I want good, entertaining fare from the company, I know where to find it. It will not be in the latest releases but in the older comics, cartoons, and the first ten years of the MCU. So long, Marvel. It was nice while it lasted.

Rest in peace, Stan Lee. You and your friends earned it. Nothing the new owners of your franchise can do will change that – not for me, and not for the other True Believers out there. ‘Til next time, readers:

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian

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Avengers: Infinity War – A Review, Part 2

Avengers: Infinity War (2018) News - MovieWeb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avengers 4 May Wrap Filming in January | Screen Rant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, readers:

Avengers, Assemble!

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

Avengers Assemble – A Long Way from Home

Ahoy, readers! Ar ye ready to sail in uncharted waters? Avast! It is time we be spinning tales of those famed heroes from Earth, the Mightiest of Champions – the Avengers!

You will see why I played around with the pirate lingo when we reach the end of the post. 😉 Normally, piratical speech is not my thing. It is used way too much these days for effect – or as a form of mockery for pirate tales – which means it tends to irritate me. So when one of Avengers Assemble’s episodes played around with the vernacular, I had to grit my teeth from time to time. It was either that or cover my ears, and since I wanted to keep track of the story, I put up with it.

The first episode we will discuss aired before Christmas of 2017. Titled “New Year’s Resolutions,” it starred Tony, Cap, Howard Stark and – at long last – Peggy Carter, voiced by Haley Atwell herself. Yay…!

Mostly. Sorta. Kind of.

Okay, okay, I had major problems with Peggy’s portrayal in the cartoon. The writers had her showing Steve up too much and generally did not let her be the Peggy I saw and enjoyed in Captain America: The First Avenger. I am guessing this has something to do with her depiction in her own series, Agent Carter, which leaned heavy on the Femi-Nazi and light on the story/character.

From what little I know of the series Agent Carter, Peggy came across as an angry, “let-me-prove-I’m-just-as-good-as-the-men” character, something which was certainly not the case in The First Avenger. It was more than a little sad to see her get short shrift in this episode, which I had been looking forward to viewing for some time. Peggy had her moments here, but they were few and far between.

Thankfully, “New Year’s Resolutions” was not all bad news. The interplay between Tony and Howard in this episode almost made up for Peggy’s disappointing deportment. We actually got to see the younger Stark bond with his father WITHOUT being a total brat or jerk about it. It was an unexpectedly sweet touch to what otherwise would have been a depressing, watered-down show.

Speaking of pluses, watching the four beat Kang was pure fun. And Arno Stark got to show up as Tony’s descendant rather than his hidden, younger brother. There was no Arno-should-have-been-Iron-Man stupidity here, for which I am very thankful. Although I must admit, I would have liked to have heard the thirtieth century Stark toss out a zinger or two, just to show the genes had not faded over the millennium between him and Tony.

Image result for Avengers Assemble New Year’s Resolutions

All of this is to say that “New Year’s Resolutions” is an episode worth watching, despite its substandard treatment of Peggy Carter. Now if Marvel would just do what I asked and give the Avengers an adventure that took place on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, showing the team celebrating the holiday, I would know we were making some progress here. (No, I am not holding my breath while waiting for them to do that.)

Next we come to “The Eye of Agamotto, Parts 1 & 2.” By a stroke of good fortune, I got to see Doctor Strange before these episodes came out. Strange has never been anywhere near my Favorite Marvel Characters’ list, so the film and his appearance in the shows served more as filler material than anything else for me. But the fact that I got to see the movie meant I was prepared for Strange’s changed look; prior to the movie, he had long hair in Assemble. It is now shorter and much more practical.

Part 1 one of “The Eye of Agamotto” showed the Avengers – Cap, Hawkeye, Falcon, Black Panther, and Carol Danvers – defending a SHIELD storehouse from HYDRA agents. Well, mostly defending it. The bad guys got away with whatever magical doohicky they wanted, but Cap and Panther succeed in tracking it down.

Unfortunately, said gem is already in the hands of Strange’s arch nemesis, Baron Mordo. (The artists did a good job making him look like his film counterpart.) This is Panther’s first encounter with a bonafide sorcerer, but he handles himself pretty well here. We also see him getting calls from his little sister, Shuri, who has to ring him up for Wakandan business at the most inopportune times. It gets so bad that he shunts her calls to voicemail.

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So when she shows up on his and Cap’s six unannounced, it nearly ends in disaster. Declaring that “no one puts [her] on voicemail,” Shuri insists on tagging along for the adventure, triggering the traps Mordo set up with a bracelet gizmo she designed herself. She has to help T’Challa and Steve best Mordo after the latter uses a spell to steal Cap’s powers.

T’Challa does well in this episode and so does Steve – for the most part. While I enjoyed seeing Shuri at long last, the writers could not resist plugging the “girl power” motif during this adventure. It was not simply annoying, it was Matronizing, and obviously so. I can handle Shuri having a list of degrees which nearly circles the world, but that should not be what makes her interesting. She comes from a culture of warriors, people! For Pete’s sake, her brother’s personal bodyguard corps is made up entirely of women so that peace can be maintained among Wakanda’s tribes. I do not think they have any of our “problems” with “women’s representation.”

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Shuri

In this episode, Shuri is used to pantomime the idea that “brains beat brawn” – especially if they are female brains to men’s brawn. No, Marvel writers. No, no, no, and no. Women are not physically strong enough, as a general rule, to overpower men, yes. Having Shuri outsmart Mordo was great, yes. But if you want her to be T’Challa and Cap’s equal, show her not as a snobby, easily offended young woman looking down her nose at them, but as a young woman who can roll with the punches when she cannot dodge ‘em. The writers did not do that properly here, which rankled. Badly.

Other than this irksome theme, we got a good show which demonstrated the strength of Cap and Panther’s friendship, and which showed Steve being his usual, gracious self. It also put the spotlight, however briefly and dimly, on Shuri, which is great. All in all it was not a bad romp. It could have been better, but it was not bad.

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Part 2 of “The Eye of Agamotto” was very entertaining, and it made up for the lousy element in Part 1. Following their previous adventure, Cap and Panther bring an odd sorcerer back to Avengers’ Compound after he tells them he needs to see Stephen Strange. We only see them doing this after a cute exchange between Hawkeye and the Hulk, as the archer is busy going through receipts for the damage Big Green dealt out – accidentally or on purpose – while doing his job. (I am surprised the piles of receipts were not bigger and taller.)

Strange arrives at the Compound while this is going on, launching an attack against Cap and Panther while they are trying to land. It takes him awhile, but he eventually manages to explain that he was not shooting at them per se. Whatever or whoever is with them has some bad magic which is making the Eye of Agamotto that Strange wears go bonkers.

Turns out, the man Cap and Panther met at the end of the last episode is Agamotto himself. He’s come back to get his eye (guess what the Eye of Agamotto is in Assemble, readers), and casts a spell which knocks down Cap, Panther, Hawkeye, and Kamala Khan. At the same time they get knocked out, evil shadow duplicates of them appear to attack Strange and the Avenger who depowered to avoid getting magicked – Hulk/Bruce Banner.

You will want to see this episode for the ending alone, readers. It is a hoot, a scream. About halfway through I was laughing so hard that it is amazing I could keep up with the dialogue for this show. I mean it – this episode was pure, undiluted fun! Strange and Hulk even became friends by the end of the show. Bonus points!

After these episodes came the first four “Secret Wars” installments which gave the season its name. The first episode here was “Beyond.” At the start of the show, the Avengers arrive in Central Park when a glowing crack appears in the ground. Then they try to fall back as it widens and white light erupts from it. Seconds later (as far as anyone can tell), the team wakes up in a desert at night. Right on cue, Avengers Tower rises out of the sand next to them. Naturally, they go inside to see if this is really their old home, finding it is and that everything inside is in perfect working order.

During their investigation, they also find an uninvited guest. Having spread a feast on the table for them, he invites them to sit and chow down while he explains everything. No one sits down, of course, or starts eating. They just demand to know who this guy is and what the Sam Hill he has done to them.

For those new to the Marvel universe(s), this unwelcome guest is the Beyonder. He is far different from the Beyonder I met in the 1990s. That Beyonder was not a sick, twisted megalomaniac – at least, I did not think he was. I do not know what he is/was like in the comics, so I cannot say how true his appearance in either series is to the original material, but the Beyonder in the ‘90s was a sight nicer than this guy. Another difference here, aside from his personality, is that this version of the Beyonder uses advanced technology for his little experiment. In the ‘90s he was some cosmic magician who could snap his fingers and do almost anything he wanted.

You are probably getting the idea that I was expecting to see the Beyonder this season. I certainly had a suspicion he would appear; the ‘90s “Secret Wars” arc of the Spider-Man TV series was one of my favorites. Like the original Star Trek episode The Savage Curtain, the animated ‘90s “Secret Wars” saw the Beyonder send Spider-Man to an alien world that had never known evil. The Beyonder introduced some of the worst villains from Earth to this world, then dispatched Spidey to choose a team of superheroes to stop the bad guys, proving once and for all whether good was really stronger than evil.

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Secret Wars – ’90s Style!

Spidey and his team won, of course, but it was this storyline which made me expect to see the Beyonder in Assemble. I was looking forward to seeing him again, though in light of the 2015 sham “Secret Wars,” I was worried about what would become of our heroes in the cartoon. Now I see that I should have been worried about the Beyonder, too. But maybe he was originally an evil super genius bent on satisfying his curiosity at all costs, making this portrayal of him a return to the norm. I don’t know which it is, though, so I will leave this subject alone now.

Anyway, after pinning our heroes to the walls with his tech, the Beyonder explains that he has taken pieces from different worlds and dimensions to create a new planet he calls Battleworld. (Battleworld comes from the 2015 “Secret Wars” and, from what little I know of that travesty to comicdom, Beyonder’s description here sounds about right for that Battleworld as well.) Like in the ‘90s, he is apparently trying to determine here whether good or evil is stronger.

The big problem with his plan in Assemble – aside from the fact that he took everyone from Earth, Asgard, and every where else without a by-your-leave – is that the longer the separated chunks are away from their homeworlds/dimensions/what-have-you, the more unstable those realms become. So, if the pieces are not returned to their proper places (and fast), the whole universe/multi-verse is going to explode and die. Not a pretty picture for our heroes, to be sure.

“Beyond” sees the team spread out to learn the layout of Battleworld and begin finding a way to put everything back together again. The particular part of Battleworld where Avengers’ Tower is situated is called Egyptia. Why it is called this I do not know, unless there is another realm/dimension/thing out there called Egypt. So far, Egyptia just seems to be a distorted Egypt from Earth.

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Back to the show; Cap and Widow are the ones reconnoitering Egyptia. Finding a pyramid in the middle of the dunes, they go to investigate and run into a bunch of sand mummies/zombies. Things look grim for the home team but, luckily, the wandering super genius known as Iron Man drops in to save the day. The Beyonder took part of the dimension he was trapped in for his Battleworld. That part of the “planet” is called No-Tech Land, presumably because most modern machinery does not work there. This allows Tony to reunite with his friends, and the high jinks and battles ensue before he, Cap, and Widow rejoin the rest of the team at the Tower.

“Underworld” is the follow-up episode, and it begins with Loki raining on the reunion by declaring he wants to join the Avengers because the Beyonder wrecked Asgard for his little experiment. Predictably, the answer to Loki’s request is a lot of lightning bolts, repulsor blasts, arrows, and punches – none of which land, sadly. “Capturing” him, Thor, Tony, and Hulk learn that Loki is the one who told the Beyonder Earth’s location, giving them more reason to be angry at him. But since parts of Asgard are now mushed into Battleworld, and because Loki has personal knowledge of the Beyonder, Tony states that they need him and the four head out to New York City.

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The reason this episode is called “Underworld” is because NYC is under a rock – literally. When Beyonder ripped it off of Earth, he put the city underground. And beneath New York, he put a bunch of Asgardian rock trolls. So when the Avengers show up, they have to defend the New Yorkers who were transported along with their city from the rock giants.

Loki does his whining “why-do-we-have-to-save-the-humans” routine, but turns into a big help when the Enchantress shows up. He almost sacrifices himself to fix the Bifrost, which is underground with New York, but Thor stops him and they escape. Then the Beyonder shows up and Hulk jumps at him to do his smashing gig –

…Only for the Beyonder to split the Hulk and Banner personalities into two people with his tech. Did not see that coming, and I have to say, it worries me. Bruce came out the worse for wear either before or after 2015’s “Secret Wars.” I am pretty sure he went nuts, and I know who “killed” him (you are in so much trouble for that, by the way, Marvel writers), so I worry that we will see something similar in Assemble. If what I think may happen does occur, then the “writers” running Marvel are in even BIGGER trouble with me.

Aside from this one worrying point, this show was a hoot. Hulk had the most fun here at Loki’s expense, and the only thing I want more than to see Hawkeye finally give the Trickster what he deserves is to watch Hulk pick on him. As for Loki turning “hero,” I predict that that will not last long. There may be a little good in Loki, but the problem with that is it is too darn small a piece of good. The bad outweighs the good, and while the Trickster of Asgard may be an open and shut case of “hope over experience,” I believe the Avengers should temper hope with sense by keeping their hands close to their weapons.

Next we have “The Immortal Weapon.” This episode was good, clean fun, and it actually gave me something I have been begging the writers for since the series started: a new hero. Iron Fist at last makes his debut in Avengers Assemble here. Though he is voiced by the same actor from Ultimate Spider-Man, Iron Fist is unquestionably an adult in Assemble. It was nice to see him again; he got short shrift from season three of Ultimate Spider-Man onward, and it is good to have him back in the spotlight no matter how briefly he appears.

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Anyway, among the many things the Beyonder stole from Earth was K’un-Lun. But unlike New York, K’un-Lun is above ground and it is peaceful. Everyone is going about their daily business as if nothing has changed, puzzling Falcon and Black Panther, who have been sent here to pick up an item to repair the destroyed Bifrost. Things get even more confusing when the two explain to Iron Fist that they need Heimdall’s sword to help rebuild the Bifrost and set everything right. For no apparent reason, Danny attacks the two, stating emphatically that they cannot take the sword.

Neither Avenger listens when Iron Fist repeatedly states that taking the sword will unleash a great evil. So both are surprised when Falcon retrieves the weapon and Dracula pops out of the stone where it was embedded. (Nice sword in the stone reference, Marvel jerkfaces.) Turns out, Danny could not explain why the sword had to stay put because Dracula cursed him so that he could not say his name, period, in relation to anything. If anyone had asked Iron Fist about Bram Stoker’s novel, it is likely that Danny would not have been able to name the book because of the curse.

But Falcon and Panther, who have been having the “I’m-not-a-kid-anymore/I’m-a-king” argument from the start of the show, did not stop to put two and two together. Danny gets a really good scene when this argument starts back up again, putting one hand to his face and shaking his head, before telling the two to knock it off and get their act together. Tension is added to the show when the three learn of a familiar alien substance that has bonded to Dracula to make him immune to sunlight. The vampire king plans to find more of these familiar substances to make an army of daywalker vampires, but our heroes put the kibosh on the plan.

Really, this episode was nigh flawless. I had no real reservations while watching it or after it ended. It was a fun caper with no dark portents for the future of the series, and it gave all three heroes a chance to shine brightly for a change. This one earns a big, wholehearted “YAY!” from this viewer.

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Finally, we have “The Vibranium Coast.” This is the show which gave vent to the piratical turns of phrase you encountered at the beginning of this post, readers. Ant-Man and Kamala Khan are headed to the Vibranium Coast – the one part of Battleworld, so far, which does not appear to be related to Earth at all – to pick up the Vibranium Tony and Loki need to rebuild the Bifrost and fix everything.

Scott is nervous about the job, feeling the pressure of not messing the mission up royally, while Khan continues to be her annoying, useless self. She misidentifies a pirate ship as Atlantis or another place, and the first misidentification should not have popped out of her mouth. For Pete’s sake, even on Battleworld, Atlantis would have to be under water. Most Atlanteans cannot breathe air or stay on land for long periods of time, and so far, the Beyonder has not demonstrated a desire to wipe out the populations of the places he steals all in one go. If they die over time, he will shrug it off, but the fact that NYC and K’un-Lun still have inhabitants shows he wants live specimens for his “experiment,” not cities full of dead bodies.

But we digress. Scott and Khan’s jet is shot out of the sky by the ship and the two are picked up by Typhoid Mary, who lays on the pirate act and lingo real thick. I have to say, my first introduction to Typhoid Mary did not make me like her. She reminds me too much of Harley Quinn, the Joker’s sidekick from DC Comics. Whether that is the intention of the writers or not, the fact is that her resemblance to the Joker’s apprentice wins her no favors with me.

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Despite this, Typhoid Mary actually made this zany episode palatable for me. Having Red Skull and Crossbones playing pirates makes them seem silly, until you are faced with the even crazier Typhoid Mary. After her, anything else out of the ordinary looks mild. Her part in the story took the edge off the foolishness of seeing Red Skull be called “Dred Skull,” the master of the “Dred Skull Sea.” 😉

Ant-Man did not do badly in this show, which was a real improvement over his first four episodes this season. He got to be smart, manly, and funny without compromising his character or his masculinity. That alone would make this episode worth watching, but with Typhoid Mary’s craziness thrown in the mix, I suggest you check out the show for the laughs, too. There is also a GREAT scene at the end which had me in fits because it was so perfect. You should definitely watch this episode, readers. It is FUN!

However, despite this glowing review, I must admit that I had my usual problems with Khan here. The writers are working overtime to make her appeal to viewers, and it is not helping. Aside from a few verbal mistakes, Khan does not trip or fall flat on her face the way a normal rookie would in this show. Scott’s and the other Avengers’ care for and kindness to her are great for them, but it does nothing to make Khan more appealing or enhance her part in the series.

If you put Inferno or Firestar or Spectrum in her place in “The Vibranium Coast” as the new rookie on the team (no matter their age), it would work better because the writers would not be bending over backwards to make the audience love them the way they are for Khan. Seriously, everything they do for Khan is pure political pandering, and it shows. Somehow, in this episode, she is the only Avenger present who knows how to use swords, all because her parents let her take fencing lessons?!?

That does not fit with what little I remember reading about the concept behind Khan’s creation. There it was stated that her parents are terrified of letting her anywhere near a boy her own age, forget an adult man. So why would they suddenly let her take fencing lessons? In fact, why is she even allowed out of the house in normal clothes? Shouldn’t she be wearing something more traditional? And why not let her use her powers or natural skills to duck and dodge swordstrokes? If she is so great, then why do the writers have to give her the simple, Feminista out of, “And she can fence, too!”?

The more the writers set her up to be an uber woman settling into her place in the Avengers, the less interesting she becomes, just like her namesake. Khan adds nothing to the Marvel universe(s) or Assemble.

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Dust

Dust was more interesting because she was actually allowed to make mistakes, worry about her traditional upbringing and her career as an X-Man, and learn to stretch her wings. Khan is not allowed to even voice such fears or problems in the show; she has no vulnerabilities – other than a penchant for geeking out when she meets a famous hero/villain – and it makes her dull as dishwater. She is useless, plain and simple, and she is getting on my nerves.

I do not expect the Marvel writers to change Khan and make her more interesting, readers. I expect them to double down on her portrayal with a vengeance. They cannot be wrong, while we peons are always wrong and should hate ourselves for it. (Bah.) If they want to think that way and try to financially survive while they are doing it, then they can knock themselves out. Nothing anyone says to the contrary will stop them.

This leads to my final points. For the most part, as is obvious from this article, I enjoyed these episodes. However, the higher you fly, the farther you can fall. It is quite possible that whatever comes next will be an absolute disaster for fans of the true, the good, and the beautiful who love not only Assemble, but Marvel in general. We could end up with a serious mess on ours hands when the next installment of Avengers Assemble: Secret Wars rolls around.

We could just as easily rise to new heights with only little pinpricks of annoyance (and irritating, politically correct sham characters) to bother us from here on out. While I hope for that, I intend to try and follow my own advice to the Avengers about Loki: be prepared for experience to trump hope again. When it comes to mortal man, experience is something to be remembered, even when hope begs for “just one more chance” to get things right.

I have my keyboard ready, Marvel. I am still watching you. Mess up, and expect to see me say something about it. Because if you play “the heroes and heroines are actually villains and the villains are heroes” card too much more, you will go out of business. I do not want that for you, but you are sure acting like that is what you want. Do not think I will avoid speaking my piece about it. You should know me better than that by now. 😉

‘Til next time, readers – Avengers Assemble!!!