Tag Archives: ultron

Captain America: Civil War – Helmut Zemo

Related image

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related image

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for captain america civil war helmut zemo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related image

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for captain america the first avenger steve rogers trying to get drunk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But they are all alive.

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

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

‘Nuff said, readers. ‘Nuff said.

Related image

Advertisements

Season 3 of Avengers Assemble Review

Image result for avengers assemble ultron revolution

Last year I did a post called “Avengers Assemble Season Three – How Is It So Far?” That post covered the first eight episodes of the third season. Reading it, you will find that I was most pleased with what I had seen at the time.

Now that the “Ultron Revolution” has run its course and “Secret Wars” – hopefully no relation to the lousy 2015 comic book event – are in our viewing future, you might be asking yourselves: what did I think of the rest of season three?

Let’s find out.

Since I wrote individual posts on the episodes “Inhumans Among Us” and “Captain Marvel,” these stories will not be discussed at length herein. If you wish to know what this writer thought of those episodes, use the search engine to find the posts about “Inhumans Among Us” and “Captain Marvel,” readers.

“The Inhuman Condition” was much better than its predecessor, “Inhumans Among Us,” in my book. There was no angst, no fuss, no muss, just cooperation between the Avengers and Black Bolt. Lockjaw giving Cap a few licks was good, too, since it showed that even a dog can recognize how great Steve is. It was wonderful to watch Hawkeye being his usual confident self instead of a doofus. It was also nice to hear Tony actually ask for help for a change, and watching Thor smash Ultron is always fun. Ah, I love the sound of Mjolnir hitting maniacal robots in the morning, don’t you?

Now “The Kids Are Alright” I had some problems with, and there are friends of mine who have issues with it as well. One, for instance, hated that Khan interrupted Cap when he gave the kids a tour of the Tower. Another friend considers Khan to be nothing more than an annoyance during the episode’s run, since she has no purpose in the narrative of the show. She did not demonstrate any depth of character, either; she is just a fangirl who got lucky and ended up with superpowers.

Image result for avengers assemble ultron revolution The Kids Are Alright

What is this author’s opinion? I am no fan of Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel. To me, she is no more entertaining than her namesake. Also, Khan was not allowed by the writers to make any mistakes in combat during this show. She and Inferno had been using their powers for all of, what, a week? And yet she is a better fighter than he is? I am sorry but no, no, no, and no. Rookies do not do that well on the job in their first weeks; it does not happen unless they are extremely talented and/or lucky. Luck I will admit Khan has, but as for talent, it does not take much to imitate Mr. Fantastic – who should at least be mentioned in this series, by the way!

I thought that Inferno got short shrift here, too, being portrayed as the cocky kid who runs into a situation without thinking. I can handle a callow youth or a hothead, but the fact is that these often unwelcome traits do not necessarily add up to stupidity, which is the direction the Marvel writers appeared to be heading with the character in “The Kids Are All Right.” Inferno can do much better, but it does not seem that the writers want him to do better. They ought to bring Dante into “Secret Wars” as part of the Earth-bound Avengers just to give him a better showing than the one he got in season three.

On the bright side, Cap and Hawkeye did well in this show. Cap was his usual charming and encouraging self while Hawkeye got to prove (again) that although he may not be a super genius, this does not mean he is stupid. The sad thing is that they are the only saving graces in an otherwise politically correct, namby-pamby, wishy-washy, feel-good episode. You can tell I was not “feeling the love” from this show, can’t you, readers?

In contrast, I thought that “The Conqueror” and “Into the Future” were much better installments in the series. Bringing Kang into the story sets up a primary villain for season four, and no one can say that Kang is a fifth rate villain. He is no Dr. Doom (despite his mysterious relation to him), nor is he Magneto, but he probably ranks third behind those two masterminds of evil. Having Tony tweak him and get him angry was a good trick for the first episode, and showing Cap best him in the Jurassic period was the highlight of “Into the Future.”

My one problem with “Into the Future” is that none of the male rebels, aside from Thor, got a speaking part. Layla was a good character, and the hint that the red-headed girl who had tried to improve Tony’s Omega suit could be his great-great-great-great-great granddaughter was nice. The nod to Kate Bishop also did not go unnoticed by yours truly. In fact, the whole idea of a rebellion against Kang’s rule was genius, in my opinion. I wish someone had thought of it years ago!   (For all I know they did, but if so, I never heard about it.)

But the fact remains that some of the guys in Thor’s rebellion should have been allowed to say at least one word. Having Thor as their leader and letting him give the speeches was good; along with the rebellion twist, it made a lot of sense. He is Asgardian and immortal – practically speaking, anyway. Of course he would live into the thirtieth century, where he would start a rebellion against Kang’s tyranny, and of course he would end up bald as Odin. But at least ONE of the male rebels in Thor’s band should have been allowed to talk instead of being used as scenery filler.

This is a minor quibble with an otherwise excellent episode, but it is an important one to make. Marvel is trying to feminize its franchise, from Iron Man to Thor to Hawkeye and beyond. I am tired of it. The company already has great female leads; they do not need a bunch of milksop fems strutting across the screen, attempting to be something they are not. If they want to add new characters to help tell new stories, that is fine. But trying to replace the originals with newbies like Khan does not work; to the best of my knowledge, it never has. And when they try to make all their heroes female, the writers make matters worse. Remember, I like Steve Rogers, Clint Barton, Tony Stark, Thor Odinson, Bruce Banner, Bucky Barnes, Sam Wilson, Vision, Quicksilver, and many of the other male leads in Marvel because they are male. And I am not the only one. I wish that Marvel would get this fact through its thick, corporate head already and let me save my breath on this issue.

Image result for avengers assemble ultron revolution Seeing Double

Now we will go back to business. In “Seeing Double” we watch as Natasha faces off against Black Widow wannabe Yelena Belova. I have read about the character but never seen her, and this episode is a very impressive introduction for her. It fleshed out Natasha’s character in the bargain, and the hint that maybe she did not throw away the thumb drive said to contain her real memories was an unexpected twist. Making the Hulk into a large, green version of the Winter Soldier was something that I did not see coming. My only disappointment is that we never got to see Bucky here or during season three.

Then we have “A Friend in Need,” where Vision is introduced to the team. It was a nice installment, from Thor’s taking him to Asgard and teaching him about friendship to Vision’s nearly permanent sacrifice to save his friends. The three-way training session with Cap, Widow, and Hawkeye was a good bonus point, as was Vision playing video games with Hulk and Thor at the end. Very cute scene!

After this we had “Panther’s Rage,” an episode that presented T’Challa/Black Panther, Wakanda, and the Dora Milaje in an interesting way. Hawkeye’s flirting with Aneka was somewhat irritating, but their resultant friendship had a much better vibe to it. Cap and Thor’s ability to understand Panther and their subsequent friendships with him were believable and fun as well. And watching the pack of them kick Klaue’s fanny was great, as usual. But I am kind of getting tired of T’Challa always showing up on the Avengers’ doorstep angry. How about a little variety next time, Marvel writers?

“Ant-Man Makes It Big” was a fun episode in which Marvel proved that, despite many changes over the years, they still like to poke fun at themselves from time to time. Thor teaching a snobby actor the reality of life was a plus, as was Hawkeye’s easy acceptance of Scott and his new job. Having Widow angry at Scott for leaving the Avengers was an interesting and compelling development. It is nice to see that they have completely separated her from their original Amazonian stereotype and allowed her to be the character she always has been.

After this came “House of Zemo.” This show is one of my favorites and it had many good points, one of these being the redemption of Cap’s father after the debacle where Marvel tried to make the First Avenger a secret operative of HYDRA in the comics last year. In search of a photo he can use to draw a picture of his father, Cap leaves Avengers Tower on his birthday (July 4th), in order to clear his head and jog his memory. Hawkeye, who actually had a lousy father in the comics and apparently in Assemble as well, still palpably empathizes with Cap’s desire to remember and draw his father’s face. The rapport between the two is handled with an artist’s touch here and makes this episode an adventure worth remembering. 😉

Image result for avengers assemble ultron revolution House of Zemo

There was one thing about “House of Zemo,” however, that felt off to me: Helmut Zemo’s “redemption” at the end of the show. It felt forced and tacked on. I agree that he can reform; that is not what bothered me. It is that the writers brought about his change of heart too fast to be believable and satisfactory. They jammed it into an otherwise moving story, as though they thought no one would like an episode where Hawkeye, the fatherless, anchorless Avenger, helped the most grounded member of the team reconnect with his own father.

Maybe they were right, but I doubt it seriously. Of course, perhaps they thought Helmut Zemo could make the leap with ease, since in this series he is in fact a very old man, but he looks and acts young thanks to taking his father’s variant of the Super Soldier Serum. It still feels cheap to me, though, and that is why I make such a fuss about it.

The episodes “U-Foes,” “Building the Perfect Weapon,” and “World War Hulk” were great installments. The U-Foes, I think, would make viable fifth-rate villains in season four, but I do not like Widow’s taking offense when Red Hulk labeled everyone on the team “men” at the end of “World War Hulk.” No, she is not a man, but his use of the term is normal and hardly material for an affront, unless he is addressing a room full of women. This he definitely did not do within the show. I would think any female Avenger would ignore this unimportant phrase and deal with the bigger issue – the fact that Red Hulk thought he was the team’s leader. Who died and made him king?

Another thing which irritated me in these shows was how Cap acquiesced to Hulk wearing the inhibitor collar. His unabashed appreciation of Red Hulk’s military analysis of situations was equally bothersome. Just because Ross was once a U.S. general with a modicum of talent, it does not make him a great guy. I found it irksome that the writers thought Cap should appreciate Red’s ability to tactically assess a base –especially since he showed that this skill did not stretch nearly far enough. Cap is better than that, people. Stop treating him like a cookie-cutter tin soldier. He is no such thing!

One of the things I did enjoy here is that Hulk got to stay on Earth, instead of being tossed off-world and ending up in a gladiatorial arena. Another beautiful touch to the “World War Hulk” episode was the hint of romance between Big Green and Black Widow. Though they have done it before, in this Hulk-centered episode, it had more than its usual impact for viewers.

The romance the writers have developed between Natasha and Hulk in Avengers Assemble is something I have come to like quite a bit. It fits the narrative and it gives me hope that, should the writers bring Mockingbird and/or Sharon Carter on the scene, they will be able to handle a Romance Reel with them and their guys as well as they have managed Natasha and the Hulk’s duet. It also lets me hope that when Cap and Tony meet Peggy Carter in season four, the writers will be able to portray that romance with the same adroit touch they have used for Natasha and Hulk.

The “Civil War” story arc was truly impressive. For one thing, it was really, really, REALLY nice not to have Tony and Cap trying to kill each other here. The pluses continued to mount when the Mighty Avengers were formed as the antagonistic team, with Princess Sparkle Fists (a.k.a. Captain Marvel) at the head of the group. My only regret is that the writers did not hand her off to the Hulk during the battle. At least he would have actually hit her.

Image result for avengers assemble ultron revolution Civil War hawkeye and songbird

The moment when Hawkeye convinced Songbird to leave the Mighty Avengers for the Avengers was superb. I had hoped to see Songbird before season three’s conclusion as part of the Avengers or as the leader of the Thunderbolts. The writers surpassed my wildest dreams in this regard for her, and they outdid themselves on Hawkeye’s characterization in this moment. His general deportment throughout the “Civil War” conflict was perfect. I am really happy with the fact that they have stopped using him as the team pratfall in every episode. 😀

Ant-Man and Falcon fighting while flying was a great nod to the film franchise, as was Vision’s accidentally injuring Cap with Mjolnir. It was also highly satisfying to watch Little Miss Stretch pull one of Iron Man’s moves from Age of Ultron, hitting Hulk when he was not expecting it. Rookie though he is, even Inferno would have known better than to do that.

But the most surprising moment in the season finale came when Ultron hacked Tony’s suit and arc reactor, thereby taking control of both his mind and body. It was the biggest shock of the event. I did not see that coming, which was the entire point. The Marvel writers truly pulled a rabbit out of their hat when they did it. I only hope the team can purge Ultron from Tony’s system during season four’s “Secret Wars.” Otherwise, I am not going to be a happy camper.

To sum up, there are only a few things I have left to say, and they are about the next season of Avengers Assemble. Season three broke new ground for the team by bringing in new players such as Songbird and the Thunderbolts, along with Inferno, Vision, and Black Panther.

The additions of villains such as Yalena Belova, Kang the Conqueror, the U-Foes, Egghead, and others expanded Assemble’s villain cadre nicely. Not every season has to revolve around Ultron, Thanos, and Red Skull, after all. And the Avengers do not have to fight Dracula or MODOK every day, either. It is nice to see old enemies with new schemes fighting our heroes. They should get to fight some B, C, and D rated villains like Egghead every now and then. Save a city instead of the planet – piece of cake. Although I do miss watching the team as they tangle with Dr. Doom and Magneto. Doom has disappeared from Assemble and since Marvel is not interested in mixing mutants into its Avengers cartoons anymore, any chance to see how the team would slap down the Master of Magnetism has evaporated. Rats. I would have liked to view that.

The upgraded characterizations of our favorite heroes righted the problems I noted in posts about the first and second seasons of the show. They were overdue, but better late than never. These changes have made Assemble much stronger as a series than when it began. I hope that, when it comes time to replace Assemble, I will not have to lecture the writers again on the issues which I pointed out in those prior posts. I will not, however, be holding my breath on that hope.

With regard to the original seven Avengers on the team, I would like to ask the Marvel writers to keep up the good work. Leave the stereotypes in the trash, where they belong, and run the characters according to the tried and true formula which you know actually works.

Secondly, I would like to ask the writers to please, please drop Jane Foster/“Thorette” from the line-up for season four!! She will be a DISASTER, people! Do not shoot yourselves in the foot here!

Three, let Inferno grow and learn from the Avengers. And while I applaud the addition of Black Panther, Songbird, Vision, and soon the Wasp to the series, do not stop there. We want Mockingbird, Spectrum, War Machine, the Winter Soldier, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Power Man, and many of the other heroes from the comics to at least get a mention in season four. If we are going to have more than the four seasons, then by all means, add them to the cast list. Just because they are not part of the films and live action TV shows, this should not prevent the writers from adding them to the cartoon series. And Scarlet Witch is, in fact, part of the film franchise. So why have she and Quicksilver been left out of Assemble?!?!? It makes no sense to leave the twins out, Marvel writers!

Image result for avengers assemble secret wars

Last but most important, I wish to remind the writers that we watch the Avengers because we like good stories with great characters, not because we are looking for a lecture on social justice or the latest cause celeb. If we want any of that junk, we will turn on the news or go to a tabloid stand. Since we are coming to you, it means we want to get away from those things for a little while.

Just tell us some good stories, okay? That is all any of us want out of fiction writers. Good stories, well told, with enduring characters. All right?

Avengers – ASSEMBLE!!!

Captain America: Civil War – Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow

Image result for captain america civil war black widow poster

There is very little in the Black Widow’s life that is straightforward.  While competent and practical, Natasha has not always made the right decision in every situation.  This is normal enough; everyone makes mistakes.  It is part of being human.

The problem comes when a person refuses to admit and acknowledge that he has blundered.  Cap is quite willing to admit that he and his team have made mistakes.  It is impossible not to do so.  The idea that slip-ups can be eradicated from humanity is silly.  The sad thing is that some of the Avengers have been infected by this notion that accidents, errors, and mistakes can be “removed” from humanity.  These Avengers would be none other than Tony Stark, James Rhodes, Vision, and Natasha Romanoff.

Now Vision has an excuse, because he is a one-year-old who is still learning about the world from the position of an adult.  Tony, Rhodey, and especially Natasha, do not have any such shield.  They are older and they have far more experience.  They should know better; they should know how to close their ears to such siren calls.  Unfortunately, neither the guys nor Natasha appear to have learned their lessons.

Our first look at Natasha is in Lagos, Nigeria.  And one of the most obvious things about her appearance is that she has again let her hair grow out.  Changing hairstyles, however, are soon shown to be the least of the upgrades Natasha has made.  It is shown that she has also moved up to the full-bore “stingers” of the comics.  These neat little gizmos fire out miniature bolts or “stingers” which act as tazers, minus the strings.  They can deliver up to 30,000 volts into an opponent’s body and they hurt.

But apparently they do not bother Crossbones very much.  Perhaps he now has a far higher tolerance for pain than he did previously.  After Widow tries to zap him unconscious or at least dizzy, he simply rolls his neck and proclaims, “That don’t work on me no more!”  Rumlow then ungraciously beats her up and throws her into his own attack vehicle, tossing in a grenade for good measure.  Natasha downs the two goons sharing the improvised hearse with her, using one as a shield to block the worst of the explosion.  But she is still left gasping and groaning on the ground afterward.

Once she is able to get up and move around, her next act is to track down two of the four mercenaries helping Crossbones and possibly carrying the bio-weapon he has stolen.  Lucky her, the prey she is chasing happens to have the germ in hand.  And they are quite willing to drop the bug on the ground so that it will infect the city and spread out from there.  Only the timely arrival of Sam’s drone, Redwing, allows her to grab the bottled death and save everybody.

There follows a cute trading of quips as Sam tells her to thank Redwing instead of him, with Widow maintaining that she will not, under any circumstances, thank a machine.  Sam’s suggestion that she pet Redwing probably went over like a lead balloon, too.

The moment ends when three floors of a skyscraper are destroyed by Rumlow’s failsafe plan, twenty-six people are killed, and Wanda lands in the media hot seat for not paying as much attention to her surroundings as she could have.  Yay….

Image result for captain america civil war black widow

With this big PR mess in the Avengers’ collective lap – the biggest since Age of Ultron – Secretary of State Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross swoops in for the kill.  Raised in the Soviet mold from childhood, Natasha has never quite shaken off its the residual influences.  No, she is not a Communist or a Soviet, the main proof of this being her respect for and her love of children.  Under the Communist regime, children were taught to spy on their parents and report them to the government for any number of “traitorous” activities, especially teaching or practicing Christianity.

Natasha has not forgotten that the government is bigger than her, stronger than her, and if it decides to hurt her it can do whatever it wants to her – and no one will be able to stop it.  This is the legacy of the Red Room in Natasha’s life.  They not only made her their weapon, forcing her to kill people in their place, they abused her in order to make her their “hand.”  Along with the other girls the Red Room operators did their best to “mold” her to their design, resulting in a finished product without soul and scant – if any – of her individual self remaining.

Recognizing that the U.N. wants to shut the Avengers down, Natasha becomes afraid.  Having escaped from the prison that was the Soviet Union, only to become chained to a SHIELD that had been corrupted by HYDRA, Natasha truly desires to fight for truth, justice, and the American Way.  She wants to make a difference, she wants to save lives.  The best way to do that is by maintaining her Avengers’ membership.

But remembering all the things she has done wrong in the past, Natasha decides that she may need oversight at this time in her career.  She says as much in the discussion in the Compound.  Then Tony points out that she has, for the first time in living memory, publicly agreed with him and she admits that she wants to take her words back.  Even while she is holding out her hands and waiting for the cuffs to be slapped on her wrists, Natasha admits that she really does not want to do this.

That is what she said about the Red Room’s “graduation ceremony,” too, though, and we know her protests did not stop that.

The next time we see Natasha, she is talking to Steve after Peggy Carter’s funeral.  He knows that there is more than mere friendliness in her visit.  Though the vote was split on whether or not to sign the Accords as a team, Ross’ deadline has come and gone.  Natasha and the others have agreed to put on the invisible shackles the U.N. wanted them to wear.  That was obvious in the meeting.

Image result for captain america civil war black widow peggy's funeral

Having lost the last, best link to his old life, dreams, and aspirations, this news is more than Steve feels that he can bear.  You can hear it in the way his voice creaks as he asks, “Then why are you here?”  The die is cast.  The Rubicon has been crossed.  War is looming, because Cap will not rescind his membership in the Avengers, and he will not bow to the tyrants in the U.N. who are demanding that he kneel before them.  But some of his teammates, his friends, have done this.  This can only mean one thing: war.

This is the first time Natasha has ever seen Steve on the brink of breaking down.  She has never known him to be anything less than rock solid, just like the planet she stands on.  But with his voice nearly cracking, it hits her just how much pain he is in.  The loss of Peggy is bad enough; her death on top of the Accords, the division of his team, is overwhelming for him.  He is dangerously close to an emotional collapse.

Natasha’s reply is a shaky one as she tries not only to keep her empathy from spilling over, but to hold herself together despite her fear and the premonition of impending disaster.  “I didn’t want you to be alone,” she answers.  Following this, for the first time in recorded Marvel Cinematic history, she throws down the emotional barricade she uses to protect herself and hugs Steve.

It has to be one of the most powerful scenes in the movie.  I was stunned, and not by Cap’s emotions; I sympathized with him keenly.  But Natasha’s response to him was astounding.  She has never been what one would call touchy-feely; she prefers to keep her emotional distance from most people.  Bruce was a notable exception – and a surprising one.

This makes her hugging Steve Rogers when he is so emotionally low an enormous event.  They are close friends, but the only one Natasha has ever let inside the “garden gate” of her emotional domain that we have seen is Clint.  And they never touched each other in that encounter, since the circumstances and time were not on their side.  Her decision to hug Steve when he is at his lowest ebb, to be an emotional support for him in such a painful moment – this is huge, readers.  It is out of the usual bounds of her character.  Black Widow is typically the epitome of the “suck it up and move on” mentality.  And so when she ends up in the emotional dumps, it is her friends who need to support her.

But here she is, hugging Steve Rogers when he really needs a friend.  She is the one giving moral support, and to a man we think would never need it.  Here Natasha disregards all of her customary caution in order to be an emotional life preserver for Captain America.  It is a momentous decision, and it colors a lot of what she does later in the movie….

…Starting with her attendance of the ratification of the Sokovia Accords.  Having spent most of her life out of the public eye, Widow looks completely ill at ease amidst the dignitaries, journalists, et al within in the U.N. building.  But when a polite young black man comes up and addresses her, she manages to relax a little.

At least, she relaxes until the King of Wakanda, her conversation partner’s father, walks up and greets her.  Then she realizes the young man she has been trading easy banter with is none other than the prince and heir apparent to the kingdom of Wakanda:  T’Challa.

When T’Chaka brings up the fact that Steve has not signed the Accords and is not even attending the ratification of the law, Widow swallows.  Their last meeting being what it was, and the knowledge that she is essentially breaking faith with a man who has never broken faith with her, means that T’Chaka’s words make Natasha very uncomfortable.  Hiding her feelings as best she can, she thanks T’Chaka and then quickly but politely goes to find her seat.

Listening attentively to the King of Wakanda’s speech not long afterward, Natasha is almost as startled by his son’s warning shout as everybody else.  Then her well-honed combat instincts kick in, allowing her to help the person seated next to her dive for cover –

And then there is an explosion, glass is flying, and smoke is clawing its way down her throat.  By the time she gets up – and as an Avenger, I would think it was a very short time – Natasha realizes that several people have died in the blast.  King T’Chaka is among them, but his son has somehow survived.  The scene following the explosion, which shows T’Challa trying to find his father’s pulse and then breaking down into tears as it becomes clear he is dead, is probably the first thing Natasha saw when she got out from under the table.

Related image

While she barely knows T’Challa, Natasha finds herself once again in the position of offering what comfort she can to a wounded soul.  Where Steve knew he needed the supporting strength of a true friend, though, T’Challa’s pain pushes everything except the ache in his heart away from him.  Natasha is not pushed back as far as some.  She was there and saw what happened; she understands at least a little about T’Challa and his relationship with his father.  So he does not push her away completely.  He makes it clear, though, that she can no more dissuade him from his mission to hunt down his father’s murderer than anyone else could.

Natasha watches him go and sighs.  What a hell of a day it has been for her.  As if things were not bad enough, now Steve’s old friend has been thrown into the mix.  And the new king of Wakanda is determined to kill him.  Yippee….

Things go from bad to worse when Steve calls her and asks if she is okay.  Hearing the European sirens on the phone line, Natasha realizes Steve is not far away, possibly watching her.  And if he is this close, then he knows that Bucky has been accused of the bombing.

Knowing Steve as well as she does, Natasha rightly surmises that he intends to go after Bucky himself.  Since he did not agree to the Accords, which are now law, this will make him an international vigilante and criminal, along with whoever helps him in any way.  That earlier foreboding of impending disaster growing inside her soul, Natasha desperately tries to make Steve reconsider what he is going to do.  But having been in a similar situation when Loki bespelled Hawkeye, she knows she will not be able to discourage him.  When Steve makes it plain he will be going after Bucky, to hell with the Accords, Natasha blurts out, “Why?!

Steve points out the obvious: if Bucky has truly gone off the deep end, only he stands a chance of bringing him in without dying in the attempt.  The other unspoken point which Natasha knows is that, if Bucky is somehow innocent of the bombing, Cap will not leave his old friend to be murdered for a crime he did not commit.

Now she has two people hunting the same man, each with totally different objectives in mind.  Great.  Just great.

Later, after German Special Forces bring Cap, Falcon, T’Challa, and Bucky in, Natasha cannot help rubbing Steve’s face in it a little bit.  “See?” she says.  “This is what worse looks like.”

Translation: “Now everybody wants your star-spangled hide along with Barnes’.  And Sam’s jet pack would go well with both, in their opinion. You have just made everything so much harder for all of us with your blind sentiment for this guy.”

The translation of Steve’s response – “He’s alive” – is this:  “I’d have done it for any one of you, Natasha.  And this war was not my idea.  It wasn’t Bucky’s, either.  I’m not blind, I know he’s not who he used to be, but the fact is that something else is going on here which we don’t see yet.  Keep your eyes open.”

Related image

Natasha does this, which means that she sees Sharon Carter turn on the intercom so Steve can hear Bucky’s “evaluation.”  Instead of tattling on them, or going in herself to shut off the intercom, Natasha simply turns away and acts as though she saw nothing.  Why?

It is hard to say.  Maybe she has been playing with the situation in her head for the last few minutes, too, and has noticed that something is not adding up.  Like the others, she still assumes that Steve is too blinded by sentiment to see what a danger Bucky can be.  Either way, something must have been niggling at her, though friendship alone would have demanded that she “see nothing” for a moment.

Not long after this, the lights go out and Bucky gets loose.  Natasha knows that Steve and Sam have nothing to do with knocking out the base’s power.  It is not their style.  Besides which, Steve does not want to use underhanded tactics to clear Bucky.  He wants the truth.

Image result for captain america civil war black widow

With Tony and Sharon’s help, Natasha attempts to bring down the Winter Soldier.  But things go about as well this time as they did before, and the pre-programmed detachment which has overwritten his mind means that Bucky is quite willing to kill her – again.  What is different this time is that it is T’Challa who comes to her rescue, not Steve.  (Working his way up from the bottom of an elevator shaft, he had a good excuse.)

After this battle Steve, Sam, and Bucky fly the coop.  Then Ross barges into the building as Natasha and Tony are licking their wounds, telling them that things have gotten out of hand completely again and he is the one who has been deputized to clean up the mess.  Natasha, growing more and more uncomfortable with Ross’ threats, finally growls, “What happens when the shooting starts – are you going to kill Captain America?”

It is her only ace in the hole: the U.S. government would not kill their beloved national icon –

Right?

Ross crushes that hope faster than he would a cigarette.  “If we’re provoked,” is his flat retort.  Tony, as desperate to protect Steve as Natasha is, talks Ross into giving them time to track down and catch the three on their own.  After all, there is no way any unit of men and women – short of the whole U.S. military, Ross’ bludgeon of choice – could bring down two Avengers and a former Soviet killing machine.

Ross agrees to the bargain, but states that they only have thirty-six hours, not the requested seventy-two.  He stomps off and Tony leans back in his seat with a tired sigh.  This is again a case of the remedy being worse than the disease – if the freedom to be responsible and to do your duty can be deemed a “disease.”  The Accords have not saved or helped anyone.  They have only led to more injury and death.  And, even without Bucky’s presence in this kerfuffle, the U.N. and Ross would be using the bombing to tear the Avengers apart.  Ross admitting that they will kill Cap if he gets in their way has nothing to do with his affection for his old pal Bucky.  It has everything to do with the fact that he is operating outside of Ross’ and the U.N.’s control.

Natasha and Tony discuss their options, with Widow observing that the numerical odds are not in their favor.  Tony asks if she has any idea of where the Hulk may be, to which she asks, “Do you really think he would be on our side?”  Thus the Hulk remains “lost” for the rest of the film, prompting the two to go off to recruit new allies.

Tony zips away to Queens to pick up Spider-Man while Natasha goes downstairs to recruit T’Challa, almost fighting a member of the Dora Milaje in the process.  I agree with the Black Panther: it would be highly entertaining to see the Black Widow in a match with a member of the King of Wakanda’s bodyguard/ceremonial wives corps.  While my money is on Natasha winning the engagement, the thing is that it would be an amazing duel to watch.  Popcorn and a soft drink would be mandatory for the viewing.

Now we come to the battle which has been brewing since Ross proposed the Accords:  the Avengers, divided into two factions, fight each other in an evacuated German airport.  Natasha has been sensing it coming, like the buildup of a thunderstorm in the air.  She knew it was on the horizon.  She just hoped it could be avoided.

But it cannot be circumvented, not now.  Things have gone too far – Team Iron has gone too far.  This is shown most pointedly when Natasha nearly kicks her old partner in the head, only to be stopped by the Scarlet Witch.

Related image

Wanda’s response to Natasha’s attack is actually very controlled and not nearly as hard as it could be.  Remember, the girl dropped something like ten cars onto Iron Man’s head.  T’Challa and Rhodey both get harder treatment from her as well; she threw Black Panther about a football field away from Bucky to save his life, and she had no problem banging Rhodey in the head with whatever big, heavy metallic objects were nearby.  So she has no qualms about playing rough.

In marked contrast, she threw Natasha a much shorter distance.  Though she threw her hard enough to keep her down, she could have done far worse.  Instead, she just whammed Natasha into a small trailer hard enough to put a decent dent in the metal and keep Widow out of the fight.

This is probably where that scene from the trailer, which I noted early last year in the post “Captain America: Civil War – Trailer 2 Break Down,” came from.  While it is cut from the theater version of the film, I bet that the scene of Natasha standing up in front of that trailer, tears forming in her eyes, fits into the fight not long after Wanda tells Clint that he was “pulling [his] punches.”

Black Widow

Why does Natasha begin to cry?  She begins to cry for the same reason that we flinched, whimpered, and bit back moans as we watched certain parts of the battle in the airport the first time.  She is watching her battle family as it is torn apart.  And she is realizing that this is not Steve’s fault; he is just doing his job.  Even if Bucky were not involved in this fiasco, Steve would be here.  He is, as Ultron pointed out, “God’s righteous man.”  He serves God, and when God’s laws are broken – as they were in Vienna – Cap is going to go after the perpetrator because it is the right and just thing to do.  The rest of the people on Team Cap are the same way.

But what about Team Iron?  Why are they here?  Spider-Man is along for the ride because he has stars in his eyes.  He is in awe of Tony; what is he going to do, turn down his idol’s request for help?  T’Challa is in the battle to pursue vengeance/justice for his father’s death.  Vision is here because – as the quintessential academic without real world experience – the Accords appear rational and therefore reasonable to him who is too “young” to consider the possible and probable secret agendas of those who have propagated this “law.”  Plus, they need numerical support to bring in the “rogue” Avengers.  Rhodey is here because orders are orders; he is a “perfect” soldier who follows orders to a T, whether he likes them or not.  Tony is here because he signed the Accords, thinking it would be a nice insurance policy for the team.

And Natasha is here….  Why is she here?

The question hits her like a bolt out of the blue.  Why is she here?  Why is she trying to hurt her friends?  She knows Steve, Clint, Sam, and Wanda very well.  She knows that they would never go against a law without a very good reason.  They would never drag a stranger (Ant-Man), into a fight without an extremely compelling motive.  They would never, ever fight their teammates without a damn good cause.  The fact that they are doing all of these things means that they have to have an earth-shatteringly good purpose for being here.

So who should she trust more – some empty suits in the U.N., or the people who have become her family?

The answer is obvious: she trusts and loves only the people who have proved that they trust and love her.  No matter her past sins and mistakes, no matter her foibles and flaws, these people care about her, who she is and who she can be.  The U.N. does not care about Natasha Romanoff.  They are using her, Tony, Rhodey, Vision – and through them T’Challa and Spider-Man – to gain control of the Avengers for their own purposes.  Not once have any of the Avengers ever used her.  They have given her nothing but their friendship and trust.

And right here, right now, she is breaking that trust, all in the name of protecting her friends and the human race.

This is why she leaves the main battlefield and retreats to the Aveng-jet, where Steve and Bucky meet her.  When Natasha says, “I can’t stop you,” to Steve, what is she really saying?  Is she saying, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”?  Is she saying, “You’re going to go on no matter what I say or do, so I may as well throw my lot in with you”?

Or is she really saying, “I can’t stop you because you’re right, your cause is just, and I have made one of the biggest mistakes of my life by getting in your way and signing the stupid Accords”?

Image result for captain america civil war black widow

The latter seems to be the more probable answer.  Instead of shooting Cap or Bucky with her stingers, Natasha zaps T’Challa – several times.  Getting out of the duo’s way and her own path, she finds that fighting is suddenly a whole lot easier.  She likes T’Challa, of course, but the fact is that he is hunting the wrong man and planning to hurt her friend Steve to do it.  She cannot and will not let that happen.

So she holds T’Challa long enough for Steve to get the jet in the air.  Then the jet’s landing gear does the rest.

When we see Natasha next, she is trying to reach out to Tony to make him straighten up and fly right.  She points out that Steve is not going to stop.  He cannot stop.  He has to be out, fighting for an honorable cause, promoting God, truth, and justice because it is his nature.  Tony and the Accords cannot take that away from him.  It is impossible.

So the only way that the two of them, along with Rhodey, Vision, and the other Avengers can survive is to join with Steve, not fight him.  Fighting him is fighting a losing battle; as El Cid (played by Charlton Heston) pointed out in the movie of the same name, “It matters not how many are the foes, my cause is just.”  A man on a just mission is unstoppable, because justice is one of God’s attributes.  Whoever is on the side of true justice is on God’s side.

Tony is in no mood to hear this, least of all from Natasha.  Rhodey’s injury in this foolish battle has angered him, but so has Cap’s persistent refusal to come to his side.  Tony wants to be liked, confusing it for being right.  That is why he refuses to let Steve go and to let Natasha off the hook for allowing Cap to take the jet, accusing her of holding tight to her history as a spy and an assassin playing both sides of the argument in the process.

This was the wrong thing for him to say to her.  For a start, it was cruel and childish; he said what he knew would hurt her most.  Second, it showed that Tony was in this fight now not because he believed it was the right thing to do, but because his ego was damaged.

Image result for captain america civil war black widow

That is what makes Natasha angry enough to say, “Are you incapable of letting go of your ego for one god-damn second?”  Then she extrapolates, telling him, “We played this wrong.”  She is not just referring to the airport battle.  She is talking about the whole fracas with the Accords.  From the moment Ross threw the booklet down at their feet, she, Tony, Rhodey, and Vision have “played this” whole thing the wrong way.  They have been in it only for themselves.

Steve, Clint, Sam, and Wanda have been fighting for the greater good.  Team Cap has been fighting the real fight, the true battle, the just war.  They are the ones who have actually been fighting for a higher cause: the protection of the human race.  Team Iron has been fighting simply to justify their collective mistake.

Tony proves he is unmoved by her argument when he warns her that “they’re comin’” for Natasha.  The manner of his speech, the way he turns to face her, the sad smirk he gives her – it is all so condescending.  His body language screams, “I am warning you just because we were friends, not because you earned it.  You cost me my battle and my friend’s back.  You are dead to me.”  Like a petty child, he is not willing to stand and fight to protect her.  He will warn her under the radar that she has to run, but as for helping her to avoid imprisonment, she is on her own.

This is betrayal.  And it infuriates Natasha for two reasons.  One, it implies that Tony only cares about her when she agrees with him.  Otherwise, he could give a fig for her.

And two, Rhodey’s injury is not her fault.  Neither is it Steve’s, Bucky’s, or Team Cap’s responsibility.  Vision is the one who shot Rhodey’s arc reactor.  And, as a friend pointed out during another viewing of the film, Vision missed Sam even before he moved to avoid his shot.  Vision’s aim was off from the start.  Even if Sam had not gotten out of the way, the laser would have missed him and hit Rhodey.  Rhodey’s lifting up slightly and banking left probably saved his life.  It put his arc reactor in the line of fire rather than his direct center of mass.

So if Rhodey’s injury is Vision’s fault, what does that mean? Let me answer that with another question:  who is responsible for Vision’s creation?

That is right, Tony is.  He made Ultron, who made Vision’s body, which the Avengers then stole and Tony reprogrammed (with Bruce’s help).  When you come right down to it, the reason Rhodey was shot was because of Tony.  Tony helped bring the android which fired the shot into the world.  And this “civil war” which tore apart the Avengers began when Tony signed the Accords.  The entire mess can be laid right at his iron-booted feet.  Again.

Are the Accords truly “splitting the difference”?  How is signing up to be the U.N.’s lapdog working out for Tony now, huh, readers?

It is not working out for Natasha.  Right after warning Tony to “watch [his] back”, Black Widow vanishes from the scene, abandoning Stark rather than following him into further error.  Where she is and what she is doing now is anybody’s guess; whether or not she has joined or will link up with the “Secret Avengers” remains to be seen.  We can certainly hope that she will join them, but it appears that she, Team Cap, and T’Challa will be officially “off the grid” until Infinity War and its sequel.

It is going to be quite the reunion during the next Avengers film, nyet, readers?

Image result for captain america civil war black widow

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 Assemble’s Third Season – How is it so far?

Earth's mightiest heroes — Hawkeye, Black Widow, Captain

Avengers: Ultron Revolution is in full swing now, readers! What do I think of it so far?

It is a definite improvement, in several respects, over the previous seasons. For one, the animation has gotten better. It is a subtle detail, and not one I usually notice. But reviewing some footage from seasons one and two, I realized season three’s animation is smoother and more streamlined. Certainly a plus!

On the subject of pluses, Hawkeye has done better over the first few episodes than he has in the prior two seasons. He is behaving in a less immature manner – although the writers have naturally maintained his penchant for overconfidence – and this has me really excited. Not only that, but Clint’s gotten some serious scenes as well, especially in the episodes Under Siege, Thunderbolts, and Thunderbolts Revealed. Fingers crossed that he only gets more like himself as the series plays on!

Black Widow has also improved. Firing off colorful quips and smiling more genuinely now, she has made a welcome change from her stoic, faux-Amazonian portrayal in previous seasons. More to the point, she and Hawkeye have yet to bicker petulantly as they did in the last two seasons of the series. Her strong friendship with Cap is also given the spotlight in Saving Captain Rogers, the third episode of the season. Let’s hope the writers keep this depiction up in future episodes, leaving the stereotype in the dustbin!

Hulk has done nicely so far this season, too. And we have had two episodes of Ultron Revolution give us a look at the new and improved Dr. Bruce Banner! We have not seen him in any real capacity since Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! and two episodes of Assemble’s previous seasons. Those appearances were brief and left us wondering why we did not see more of him. Hulk is also showing a better balance between “rage-filled” smashing and “thoughtful” smashing. His character arc this time is shaping up to be very interesting.

Falcon’s in college as of Ultimates, and so far we have not gotten to see as much of him as I would like. However, he has proved himself to be even more capable now than he was in season two. It is clear the experiences he has had throughout the series have helped him to grow, and with him studying to be an engineer, Sam can only get harder to beat as the Ultron Revolution proceeds!

Cap’s character is still a little too stiff at times, but all in all he is doing fine. Saving Captain Rogers did not put him in the best light, though. I mean, how easy is it to hypnotize Captain America and keep him under the spell? The important thing is that he broke out of it, and hopefully it will be harder to get control of him in future episodes. 😉

Thor has become more familiar with Earth by this time, too, though he is not fitting in exactly. But watching him go trick-or-treating with a couple of his young fans was priceless! It also shows his softer side, and I like it when the heroes get to be kind to kids. It strengthens their character – and Thor’s moral fiber got a real boost at the end of Into the Dark Dimension!

As of this moment, Tony’s character is balancing on the thin line between “improved” and “about to crash.” This is natural, since there is a Civil War story arc in the series’ future, and the writers want to set up the basis for that conflict as early as possible. Tony feels responsible in the extreme for Ultron’s existence, proved in the first episodes of the new season: Adapting to Change and Ultimates. When he is fighting against the mechanical maniac, he is broody and has a propensity to act rashly, attacking with everything he has and making the safety of himself and his team a low priority.

This was nicely reversed, for a moment, in Saving Captain Rogers. Hearing a scream of pain from further inside Baron Helmut Zemo’s castle, Tony says, “If that’s Cap, I’m going to glue my fist to Zemo’s face!” (It was not Cap, but the sentiment is what counts.) The line reminds us of their friendship in previous shows and the older comics. Call me a nostalgic, but I still prefer that friendship to the “frenemy” status the writers have thrust upon the two these days. For one thing, it makes the stories more hopeful. And in today’s world, hope is a commodity in short supply!

Another great thing about this season was the introduction of the Thunderbolts, first in their criminal identities, later in their superhero “cloaks.” While I am still no fan of Moonstone/Meteorite and remain suspicious of Fixer/Techno, Atlas had a good introduction here. I have to say that I like this version of him better than his comic book counterpart. Mach IV, formerly the Beetle, also had an impressive showing in Ultron Revolution. It would be great to see more of him.

But the character I was most excited to see come on stage was Screaming Mimi/Songbird. Of all the criminals-turned-Thunderbolts who became heroes in the comics, Songbird was the only one who completely turned over a new leaf. Mach IV tagged along after her, not hard to do considering they were in love by that point. Songbird has since become a staunch hero worthy of fans’ admiration, and to see her journey in Avengers: Ultron Revolution was FANTASTIC!

What made it even better was the fact that Hawkeye was her inspiration and informal mentor in the episodes, with some help from Cap in Thunderbolts Revealed. In the comics, Hawkeye was the one who convinced the Thunderbolts to stop pretending heroism and to really take on the mantle. His leadership was a smashing success… at least as long as he was in charge of the team. Sometime after he left, Moonstone went back to her old ways, as did Fixer, though I think he continued to use the Techno alias.

Songbird, however, was the biggest triumph of Hawkeye’s time as leader of the Thunderbolts. So watching her turn into a heroine over the course of Under Siege, Thunderbolts, and Thunderbolts Revealed on his prodding and due to Cap’s faith in her was GREAT!!!! It not only showed Clint’s more serious side, it proved his ability to teach and lead by example. Those are characteristics of his which others often ignore, though they make him a great instructor in the MC2 universe, as well as the Avengers Academy in the old “mainstream” universe.

Speaking of the old “mainstream” universe, we cannot forget how Clint taught Kate Bishop in those comics. Even if she was supposed to be his female replacement somewhere down the line (Kate Bishop, Clint Barton – their names are too similar for this not to have been the writers’ intention), the fact that he decided to mentor her at all demonstrates that he cares. In some ways, Hawkeye is a little like Wolverine. He can be annoying and a jerk, overconfident and insulting… but underneath all that, he has a heart of gold. And if you can get past his prickly outer shell, he is a loyal ally, great friend, and willing teacher. The fact that Avengers: Ultron Revolution is FINALLY ready to show him as such is a welcome change for this fan!

The only thing I really want the writers to do now is hand the reins of the Avengers over to Captain America. If they could also make him less stiff and allow him to relax, then I would be very happy.

The series is doing well, but Cap playing second fiddle to Tony makes the show feel somewhat off balance. After all, Steve is team leader in the films, and he was the leader for the Avengers in the “mainstream” comics for YEARS. Seeing Tony run the Avengers while Cap stands aside feels like watching Batman run the Justice League as Superman sits by and takes orders from him. The JLA’s commander in chief is Superman, and Batman acts as his second, with Wonder Woman supporting the two of them. Putting Bats in charge of the League and having Superman as his “water boy” just feels off.

Cap can, is, and should be the head of the Avengers’ pyramid, with Tony directly on his right as his second in command. This fan/writer would appreciate it if the guys in charge of Marvel recognized and acted on that in Avengers: Ultron Revolution – not to mention the comics!!! (I won’t be holding my breath for that, though.)

The series is still young, of course, and there is time for it to grow. It already has developed a fair bit by this point. I am looking forward to seeing more heroes arrive as this season progresses, as well as the character growth in store for the seven Avengers who formed the team at the start of the series. Once Ultron Revolution is at an end, you may hear from me on this subject yet again, readers. Until that time….

Avengers Assemble!

The Mithril Guardian

Marvel's Avengers: Ultron Revolution

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

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Bruce Banner/Hulk

People – sheesh! Take it easy, or you are going to bring down the house!

Ever seen a bunch of Hulk fans jumping around in celebration? It can be a little scary. (There is a crash, bang, and wallop in the background, followed by the tinkling of broken china.) *Author winces theatrically.* And it can be somewhat costly, too.

The reason they are jumping for joy is because yours truly is finally writing a post about Big Green. It may surprise people, but I do have a soft spot for the Hulk and Bruce Banner. It may not seem like it, but it is true.

I have not really seen The Hulk. I seem to recall catching some snippets of the movie, but from the reports which have come my way about the film, I did not miss much. The Incredible Hulk is a great time-filler when one is bored out of their skull or wants a tonic for a bad day. Otherwise, it is a rather unsatisfactory film. Just my opinion.

Marvel’s The Avengers, however, more than made up for these big screen flops. The not-so-jolly Green Giant and his puny alter ego came onscreen in a “smashing” way in this film. I was much more impressed with Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner than Ed Norton or Eric Bana’s portrayals. Norton did a better job than Bana, for sure, and he physically fit the bill. But he hated being in a movie based on a comic book. It is not art, after all, which is what every actor seems to live for in Hollywood.

Yeah. Sure. Whatever. *Insert eye roll here, please, readers.* It is true that Hollywood’s imagination has tanked over the latter half of the twentieth century and early 2000s. Sure, they have had their moments – Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Princess Bride, and other films. But what happens when an entertainment, artistic industry dives into the gutter and proclaims that trash is art? Kids’ movies take center stage because they are the best entertainment the audience can get their minds on.

This is not to pick on comic book-based movies. That attitude of mine disappeared after I saw The Avengers. Superhero films are good movies, highly entertaining, and unless it is Deadpool or some similar movie, you can bring the children to the cinema and not worry about exposing them to anything raunchy and disgusting.

Are superhero movies art? Not exactly.

Are they the classics, like Shakespeare’s works? Nope.

Are these films fun? You bet!

But let’s get back to the point of this post. After Hawkeye, the one Avenger we saw the least of in the Phase Two films was Bruce Banner. Still, you Hulk fans got an idea of where he was during that time-frame! (We Hawkeye fans had to wait until Ultron to see the archer again!!!!) The post-credits scene in Iron Man 3 showed Bruce sleeping through what Tony considered to be a psychological therapy session. Banner may know the basics of how psychology works, but he never became that kind of doctor. As he said, he did not have the “temperament.” Hulk’s patience has a very low ceiling – just ask Loki!

After The Avengers, Bruce joined Tony at Stark Tower, following through on his fellow scientist’s invite to drop by for some R&R. Or rather, R&D.

It must have felt good to be back at his old job again. There was nobody to hurt, nothing to break…. just a lot of fun research and development on gizmos that would change the world. And he had a great friend who understood him working at his elbow to boot. Pure heaven compared to running around the globe, the way he had been, for so many years.

Then the Avengers reformed after SHIELD collapsed. And once again, the Hulk had to be released on a semi-regular basis for the greater good.

But this time things were better again, although still less than ideal. Bruce was not alone now. He had friends. Thor, Tony, Cap, Hawkeye, and Black Widow were in the fight with him. As nightmarish as it was to dive back into the Hulk’s mind, Bruce had something to look forward to afterward. He got to go home to a bed, eat regularly, and spend time with people who were not deathly afraid of him. In a surprising twist of fate, even Natasha Romanoff no longer feared him. (We will go back to that later on.)

Anyway, fast-forward to the attack on the Sokovian HYDRA base in Age of Ultron. The team finally recovers Loki’s scepter, which Thor wants to take back to Asgard. No biggie, right? Bruce would be as glad to see the back of the “glowstick of destiny” as the rest of the team. One less thing to worry about. Perfect. Everything is just perfect.

Then Tony tells him he has found something like computer coding in the stone embedded in the scepter. This is fascinating. Wait, Strucker wanted an artificial intelligence? That does not sound like such a great idea….

But Tony thinks it is fantastic. He explains the theory, about how there would be no more need for the Avengers or fear of aliens attacking the planet if they had an A.I. standing at the door. And the theory is beautiful. Bruce begins to think that it could work. There are fifty-fifty odds, but still….

And this is where the problem started, readers. Scientific theories are great. The theory of artificial intelligence is a great idea. Right….?

Riiiiight….. This is where Tony went off the rails, taking Bruce with him. Tony relies on synthetics to do most everything. Yes, his superpower is his intelligence. But to keep that intellect from getting smashed to a pulp, he has to wear a suit of armor – a synthetic skin.

Now, there is nothing wrong with this, up to a point. The knights of the Middle Ages, the Roman legions, the Ancient Greeks – they all used synthetic means to protect themselves in battle. Tony’s problem is that he puts far too much faith in synthetic materials being the answer to all problems – hence the artificial intelligence he wanted to build to keep the world safe.

*Smacks forehead in aggravation.* Really? People have spent the last two hundred years trying to come up with a satisfactory solution to fix the world! You give that math equation to a computer – even one programmed to think like a human – and it is going to pop a fuse and die!

Or go on a worldwide, murderous rampage. Take your pick.

Bruce’s problem is that he can always be suckered by the theory of the thing. He knows synthetics will always be inferior to natural things. The guy turns into a one thousand pound mountain of angry muscle. He cannot move continents but he can sure “break… Harlem”!

So Bruce does not have the same faith in synthetics that Tony does. But he has a similar problem. He has faith in scientific theories. And theories, as beautiful as they may be at first, second, third, and umpteenth glance, are not necessarily things one should try to make a reality. Stories throughout the last two or three centuries have warned of this: Frankenstein, Brave New World, Terminator, Eagle Eye… If you want some stories that prove it while scaring the pants off of you, read Dean Koontz’ novels. They are full of terrifying warnings about science run amok.

But, like Tony and Bruce, most scientists are not paying any attention to the warning signs. Bruce is reluctant to make Tony’s theory a reality at first, it is true. But JARVIS, the A.I. butler who runs Stark Industries and helps the Avengers in combat, turned out all right. How bad could it be to try and jump start Ultron?

It turned out to be really, really bad.

Bruce is the first to admit this in the conference that occurs after Ultron steals the scepter and flees Avengers Tower. While Tony rushes to defend his belief in synthetics and technology, saying he can fix anything and everything under the sun with these assets, Bruce willingly admits that he was wrong. “Really?” Tony says. “Is that what you’re going to do? Roll over and show your belly every time things get ugly?” (I paraphrased that quote.)

Basically, he was saying, “Thanks for the help, pal! I thought we were friends!”

“Yeah,” Bruce responds in subtext, “We’re friends. We’re friends when we’re right and when we’re wrong. We were wrong, Tony. We made a murder bot. There is no defense for that. You told Ultron to fix the world. Well, I hate to break it to you, but the only human way to fix the world is to destroy it.”

When humans try to fix the world, they only make it worse. Want some examples? Here are just a few: Communism, Eugenicism, Fascism, Nazism, Scientism, socialism, and now secularism. Look them up. They all boil down to this: We’re humans. We’re the only species on the planet with intelligence, speech, writing, and an opposable thumb. We can fix all problems. But that means tons of us are going to have to die, and among those who remain some are going to be more equal than others.

It is Bruce’s acknowledgement that he was wrong, that he was taken in by a beautiful theory, which allows the others to forgive him. (With the possible exception of Tony.)   Cap, Thor, Widow, Hawkeye – even Rhodey, Cho, and Hill all forgive Banner for helping to build Ultron. That does not mean he does not have to pay the piper. It just means his friends are not, by and large, holding a grudge against him.

But that attitude kind of gets rescinded when he helps Tony finish building Vision. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on Bruce. He was right when he said he was caught in a time-loop. Tony went after him with the same arguments he had used before to get Banner to help make Ultron. And Bruce bought it a second time. Though in this case, Vision was the antidote to Ultron. (We hope.) Does that absolve Bruce for playing in the forbidden zone twice..?

No!

….Which might be one of the reasons Widow threw him down the hole to awaken the Hulk. Bruce was ready to run again, but as she pointed out, “The job’s not finished.” Bruce had to pay the piper. He had to go the whole nine yards, or he would carry the weight of what he had done with him for the rest of his life.

Widow understood that. She is an Avenger in part because, from her point of view, it is penance. She has not let go of her guilt – or enough of it – which does weigh her down. But this does not mean that she does not have to atone for the acts she committed while under the command of her Red Room handlers. She also has to fight so that their ideals and the aims of others like them are thwarted. That does not give her the same delusions of grandeur that Tony has…

But it does make her an Avenger. It does make her a heroine.

Bruce’s problem here is twofold. He is tired of being the Hulk and – just like everyone else – penance does not strike him as fun. It is not supposed to be. Penance is supposed to hurt. That is the way it works; you hurt someone, you have to make recompense. If you are out playing baseball with your friends and you break the neighbor’s window, you have to pay for the replacement window pane. Your wallet does not like that, and you do not like working extra hard to earn the money to pay for the window. No matter how sorry you are, though, you still have to pay for the new window.

Bruce had to pay for his recess in the forbidden playground. He had to see the job finished. As much as it hurt her to do what she did, as much as she wanted not to awaken the Hulk so she could run off into the sunset with Bruce, Widow knew they could not do that. Bruce would not be the man she loved if he bolted when things got tough. He had to stay and see the job done.

And the half of him that would do that was big and green and perpetually angry.

Bruce will figure that out sooner or later, if he has not figured it out already. Before I sign off, let us take a closer look at his relationships in the film, shall we?

We will look at him and Natasha first. Their relationship has already been extensively discussed in the post “Avengers: Age of Ultron – Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff.” But there is more to be said here.

It is really interesting that Widow should fall for Bruce. Their romance was certainly a curveball, despite the obvious poetic irony, considering she was terrified of him in Marvel’s The Avengers! And it is surprising that Bruce would fall for her as well. He certainly seemed to distrust her in the last film, and for good reason.

Widow is a near-instinctive liar. She was raised by liars and killers. Even if some part of her resisted their manipulation, she could not help but pick up some things from them by osmosis.   Children always imprint off of their parents or those who raise them. It is an unconscious thing. Attitudes, phrases, habits – some of these are things we are simply born with. Others we learned from the observations of our elders we made as babies. It is how growing up works.

But in Age of Ultron, when Widow asks if Bruce will ever trust her, he responds: “It’s not you I don’t trust.”

WHOA!!! That was not the impression we got in the previous film! Natasha would probably have been the last person on the planet whom Bruce would have trusted back then. Now, though, their attitudes toward each other have changed drastically. Widow no longer fears Bruce or the Hulk, and neither of Banner’s personalities distrusts and hates her. Talk about Beauty and the Beast!

For Widow, this is the first time she has ever fallen in love. Oh, I am sure she has had liaisons with other guys. It was part of her job and one of the reasons she was called the Black Widow. The fact is that Natasha was a deadly lady of the evening, as it were, when she worked for the Red Room and the KGB. Bruce, on the other hand, had known love before with Betty Ross.

As we know, that did not work out well in the movies. Long distance romances are things no one in Hollywood believes in anymore. They have forgotten Odysseus and Penelope, the women who watched their men go to sea for years at a time, and the modern truckers and their wives. These are women who sit at home, holding the house together with duct tape and paper, praying their husbands’ trucks have not jack-knifed somewhere between Seattle and New York, killing them in the process. Hollywood and their cronies of a similar frame of mind always contend that long distance kills love.

I say they have no idea what love really is.

So why did Bruce leave Natasha at the end of Age of Ultron? There were a number of reasons. One, they had a perfect opportunity to run off together, and she threw him down a hole to bring out the big green guy. That hurts, and it probably makes him feel used, if not outright betrayed. That may be his surface thinking or initial reaction – and when he next shows up, those may be the words that come out of his mouth.

But there are other reasons. Widow could still be a mom, as I said before, by adoption. Marrying Bruce would be one thing, but after her confession at Hawkeye’s house, Bruce knows Natasha does not just want a husband. She wants what the Red Room operators worked so hard to deny her naturally – a family. He can only fill half the equation. Just because she cannot naturally have children does not mean Natasha could not become an adoptive mother.

Bruce knows that. And he knows that sooner or later, Natasha would have suggested the idea. But it would not work. He and the Hulk both have a soft spot for kids, but not on a daily basis. For a man with unshakeable faith in theories, this is one idea Bruce knows will never pan out for him. He can never be a father, not even by adoption. He does not have the temperament. Natasha does. If he were to stay with her, then her happiness would be incomplete. She would want children, and he cannot handle being a dad. It simply would not work.

Another factor for Bruce’s self-imposed exile might be his Scarlet Witch-induced rampage in South Africa. While no arrest warrant was issued immediately afterward, how much longer would that last? Eventually, he would be labeled a public danger and a menace again. And Natasha would leave her post as an Avenger, her job, her work, to go on the run with him when that happened.

He does not want to do that to her. That is no kind of life for a couple. It is hard enough on one. Bruce cannot settle down anywhere. He has to stay on the run, sleeping at odd hours, living from hand-to-mouth, quite probably for the rest of his life. He loves Natasha too much to drag her into that kind of life.

What is more, if the government(s) eventually caught up to him, he would be put in prison. Or some nincompoop would try to kill him. If Natasha ran off with him, then she would either be locked up or killed trying to protect him.

Bruce loves her too much to be willing to put her in that kind of danger. The only way to protect Natasha is to leave her, no matter how much it hurts. It is what he did with Betty Ross. General Thunderbolt Ross was not going to stop trying to bring Bruce down, and even though he might have drawn the line at killing Betty, he certainly was not averse to her getting hurt by being in close proximity to his attacks on the Hulk. He could always blame her injuries on the Hulk later on, when it was his obsession to bring him in that got her hurt in the first place.

Natasha would not have had even that protection. None of the other Avengers would. The only workable solution was to go on the run solo. No other plans were viable.

This is where we look at Bruce’s rapport with his male teammates. It is shown at the Avengers’ party after HYDRA’s defeat in Sokovia that Bruce and Steve have a fairly strong friendship. Since Cap is the most trustworthy man alive since Sir Galahad, Bruce’s confidence in him makes plenty of sense. Cap is probably one of the people Banner feels safest around. Nothing Cap says or does will “just set him off.” And the fact that Steve no longer fears angering him or worries that Bruce will simply explode means the two men have a healthy respect for each other. This makes him quite amenable to Cap’s orders and willing to listen when the other advises him to be Natasha’s boyfriend.

Bruce and Thor have a good – if awkward – friendship. Sometimes Thor’s glowing compliments on the Hulk’s performance in battle are really not what Banner wants to hear. Otherwise, they have a jovial understanding of each other. Thor knew Bruce could not lift the hammer because he saw the Hulk try that trick on the Helicarrier in The Avengers. So what if Bruce played at being King Kong and scared some of the others? Thor knows what he looks like when he is actually angry. He can tell when Bruce is playing around.

Bruce and Clint’s friendship still has some trust issues; though it is clear they respect each other and do not mind joking at the other’s expense. Remember when Clint was getting patched up in the Tower…?

Bruce (concerned): “How is he?”

Tony (with a straight face): “Unfortunately, he is still Barton.”

Bruce (biting back a laugh): “Oh, that’s terrible.”

Despite this, Clint is not amused when Bruce pretends to be on the verge of Hulking out after not lifting Mjolnir. It is not like he wants the party to tank, after all! Bruce realizes this and makes a sheepish, “Ah?” sound. Essentially he says, “Not funny, huh? Okay, I get the message.”

Otherwise, the two get along well. Both are worried when Natasha is captured by Ultron, though they show it in different ways. Bruce cannot show his agitation and anger the way Clint does. That could release the Hulk. But he is worried, and Clint understands that. Thanks to his wife’s insight, he also understands why Bruce is so worried. They each care about Natasha in their own way, and the brief moment when they and Tony are in the room with the Cradle shows this rather poignantly.

There is little else to say after this point. Bruce never gets to become friends with the Maximoff siblings. It could be a while before he forgives Wanda for sending him on a rampage through Johannesburg, too. Still, he was willing to work with the twins. That counts for something.

As for his friendship with Vision, at this point that is also non-existent. Maybe later they will get to know each other better. We will have to wait and see.

Anyway, puny humans, this is my post on the Hulk/Bruce Banner we see in Avengers: Age of Ultron. I know it was mostly about Bruce and not Big Green, but for cryin’ out loud, the Hulk is really hard for me to talk about! There is only one word which sums up his character and attitude, people….

SMASH!

The Mithril Guardian

Hulk SMASH