That Grim Reaper Clue In WandaVision Episode Two Could Be Huge

SPOILERS FOR WANDAVISION AHEAD!

The first two episodes of WandaVision, which dropped on Disney+ this morning, certainly gave us plenty to talk about – and potentially theorize about. Although it’s still too early to predict exactly what great big catastrophe Wanda Maximoff and her family are headed towards, we can already begin to see clues coming together and potential story threads emerging from the tangled web that is Wanda’s new reality. The quiet suburban paradise that is Westview is not what it claims to be on the brochure, and there’s reason to believe that multiple powers are at play behind the scenes, manipulating the entire town – and especially the Maximoffs – for their own agendas. But what are these agendas? What do these dark forces want with Wanda, or her husband, or her soon-to-be-born twin sons?

WandaVision
Grim Reaper | gamesradar.com

The most prevalent theory in the fandom – and a very convincing one, at that – is that the prime mover of events in WandaVision is Mephisto, Marvel’s version of the Christian Satan, and the lord of a fiery pocket-dimension he calls Hell (but which isn’t, technically). This theory is backed up by little references scattered throughout the first two episodes of WandaVision: from the name of Agnes’ adorable bunny (Señor Scratchy is a cute and devastatingly clever play on Satan’s real-life nickname, Nick Scratch), to the fact that Agnes basically just comes out and says it in episode two, noting that the devil’s in the details, but “that’s not the only place he is”. Agnes herself has long been believed to be Agatha Harkness, a sorceress from the comics who is Mephisto’s trusted acolyte and partner-in-cosmic-crime.

And as for who Mephisto is in Westview, well, there are good theories about that too: some fans think he’s Agnes’ mysteriously absent husband, “Ralph”, whom she’s only namedropped about a dozen times at this point. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns out to be “Ralph”…or if “Ralph” then turned out to be the salesman who routinely interrupts the WandaVision broadcast to advertise painful memories from Wanda’s past, disguised as historically-accurate household appliances and accessories…or if the company behind those vaguely disturbing infomercials turned out to be the same company that Vision is working for in Westview – you know, the company where nobody knows what they produce, market, sell, or even do on any given day. It’s all connected, as they like to say in the MCU.

But as you can probably sense, I don’t think Mephisto is necessarily the main villain of WandaVision. I’m sure he’ll be a villain, and I strongly believe he’s the one who’s secretly in control of Wanda’s dream-world, feeding her wish-fulfilment and fantasies to keep her content until the day when she gives birth to her twins, and Mephisto arrives (or more likely sends Agatha – sorry, Agnes) to kidnap the kids and harness their chaotic power for evil in a ritual sacrifice or something similarly unpleasant. But if that’s not main villain behavior, then what is? Well, I think there’s a few ways this could go, actually, but simply put – my theory is that Ultron (yes, that Ultron) is coming back, and he’s bringing a brand new comic-book villain with him.

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Ultron | editorial.rottentomatoes.com

I know, I know, it sounds ridiculous. But let’s start with the opening credits for WandaVision, episode two – a fun little black-and-white animated montage modeled on the Bewitched opening sequence, that follows Vision as he glides through the walls of the Maximoff family residence. Caught up in the moment, you could easily miss the fact that at one point he passes straight through a wall that is, uh, filled with bones. I know I did, the first time around. But more importantly, you might (and I did) also miss the distinctive four-pronged helmet that is lying amidst all those bones – the helmet which belongs to a Marvel Comics villain named the Grim Reaper.

The Grim Reaper, wearing his helmet and wielding a scythe/buzz-saw/helicopter hybrid weapon has featured prominently in a number of comic storylines over the years, so just having him show up in WandaVision as an antagonist would make sense even if he serves no larger purpose. He’s also a powerful necromancer – and maybe that has something to do with the way in which Vision has been restored to perfect health after having his head bashed in by Thanos. Certainly it could be useful, given the Reaper’s helmet is lying in a small graveyard. But I believe there’s more they can do with the character, and there’s even precedent for it in classic comics. Allow me to explain.

1991’s Reaper And The Robot story arc featured the Grim Reaper and a familiar robotic fiend, the genocidal super-computer known as Ultron. In the MCU, Ultron has only been utilized once as a villain, rising to power in Avengers: Age Of Ultron and briefly enlisting Wanda Maximoff to his cause before betraying her trust and then acting all shocked when she and her brother Pietro betrayed him in turn. Ultron died a couple times, with Wanda ripping the heart out of his main body, and the last of the robot warrior skeletons into which he had uploaded his consciousness being pulverized by Vision at the end of the movie. But Ultron is almost beyond human comprehension – it’s hard to say for certain that he died, especially now that Vision is out here proving that you can literally have your head crushed TWICE and still come back in some shape or form.

In the aforementioned comic storyline, Ultron takes refuge from the Avengers in an underground lair that just so happens to be situated within a sewer system, where the Grim Reaper finds him. WandaVision episode two, meanwhile, ends with an anonymous character (randomly dressed as a bee-keeper) emerging from a manhole cover in the middle of the road, the implication being that people are infiltrating Wanda’s world through the sewers. This character is wearing the logo of S.W.O.R.D. on their bee-keeping uniform, which would seem to suggest they’re not out to harm Wanda but to rescue her from whatever trap she’s landed in, but that being said, the character in question definitely doesn’t appear friendly – especially not with their face strategically kept in the darkness. It’s gotten to the point where theorists are legitimately considering whether this person is the Spider-Man villain Swarm, an obscure character comprised of a humanoid swarm of mutant Nazi bees under the control of a dead German scientist whose skeleton they hold onto for…reasons. As much as I’d love that kind of a bizarre plot twist, I think it’s far more likely this character is either a harmless S.W.O.R.D. agent from the outside world, or the Grim Reaper.

But if the Grim Reaper is around in Westview, and if Ultron is supposedly down in the sewers, what happens next? Well, in the comics storyline, they meet and team up – with Ultron’s primary motive being to design murderous robotic versions of superheroes, including Wanda’s twin brother, Pietro Maximoff. In the MCU, it might not be possible to do this without first obtaining his body from wherever it was buried: and that’s where having a necromancer on your team suddenly makes sense. Without knowing the themes of WandaVision yet, it’s hard to say how this plot-point would or could be integrated: but I imagine there would be some kind of struggle between Wanda and a resurrected Pietro, perhaps more emotional than physical, and we’d finally see Wanda confront all the regrets and mistakes from her past that she’s pushed into the darkest recesses of her mind. Subtly supporting this notion is the existence of those strange infomercial segments interspersed throughout WandaVision, that hint at parts of Wanda’s past she’s tried to forget: including the death of her parents, and her history as a HYDRA lab experiment. And based on how the series is proceeding, episode three’s commercial will likely bring up another painful chapter of her life – her time with Ultron, and her brother’s death.

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Wanda and Pietro Maximoff | popsugar.com

If this storyline is adapted in any way, some elements will surely be altered. Perhaps Mephisto will be involved (in fact, I’d expect him to be), or perhaps Ultron will be radically different from how we last saw him. But with the pieces all falling into place, I can’t not present this as a possibility. We know so little about how WandaVision will play out, this is the perfect time for truly wild speculation.

On that note, what do you think? What are your best guesses about WandaVision, and what villains do you particularly want to see? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“WandaVision” Episodes 1 & 2 Review! SPOILERS!

SPOILERS AHEAD FOR WANDAVISION!

A year’s worth of quarantines and COVID-19 delays has changed us all, Marvel Studios’ classic formula and release date calendar included. Thus, WandaVision, originally slated to follow two more traditional Marvel installments (Black Widow and The Falcon And The Winter Soldier) onto the scene, is now kickstarting the MCU’s fourth phase of movies and Disney+ streaming series’. It’s a bold and potentially risky move: WandaVision is the kind of experimental property that Disney was probably afraid to lead with, due to its, shall we say, zanier qualities.

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Vision and Wanda Maximoff | marvel.com

But as the MCU expands across multiple new mediums and genres, WandaVision probably offers the most authentic taste of what’s to come in the near future. Refreshingly unpredictable, quirky, and a bit more mature in tone than what we’ve come to expect from Marvel, the series’ first two episodes released this morning offer up a complex yet intoxicating concoction – blending the charm of retro black-and-white sitcoms with a dash of chilling psychological horror. Ironically, the only ingredient absent from the recipe is superheroes – and I’m okay with that.

With no Avengers running amuck, and with both Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) trying to hide their supernatural origins from their neighbors, WandaVision‘s quaint suburban utopia is perfectly normal in every way, at least at first: and only hints of the larger cinematic universe are able to bleed through, mostly via brief, jarring, infomercial segments that interrupt each episode about halfway through, advertising some bizarre product with a hidden MCU connection – a Stark Industries toaster, which refers back to Wanda’s own complicated history with Tony Stark, and to Vision’s famous comics nickname; and a classy Swiss wristwatch named for Wanda’s old handler, Baron Von Strucker, and bearing a small, sinister, HYDRA logo.

But for the most part, we’re simply following Wanda and Vision’s day-to-day misadventures in the picturesque town of Westview, as if we were being dropped randomly into the middle of actual sitcoms. The first two episodes span two decades of television history – the first set in the 50’s, with a familiar aesthetic borrowed from The Dick Van Dyke Show and I Love Lucy, and the second in the 60’s, with cute nods to Bewitched: including a near-identical animated opening sequence and some suspiciously witchy behavior. Each episode comes with a new theme song written by Frozen songwriting duo Kristen-Anderson Lopez and Robert Lopez, but the cast of characters remains the same, their ages and appearances largely unchanged even as they advance rapidly through time.

Elizabeth Olsen is at the top of her game, bringing out the best version of Wanda Maximoff yet with the help of extremely well-written dialogue and witty jokes that land well more often than not (the live audience laughter is give-or-take, though it works with the setting). Olsen has great comedic timing, and, crucially, all the charisma and earnestness of the real-life sitcom heroines from this era. She finds opportune moments to subtly channel the sophistication of The Dick Van Dyke Show‘s Mary Tyler Moore, the casual confidence of Bewitched‘s Elizabeth Montgomery, and the unbridled campiness of I Dream Of Jeannie‘s Barbara Eden, depending on what any given scene requires – but her performance is entirely her own, and never crosses the line into parody. Paul Bettany, meanwhile, lends a surprising amount of physical comedy and slapstick humor to the series, as well as his character’s signature brand of sardonic wit. Combined, the duo are more compelling and more naturally romantic (I’d even go so far as to say “adorable”) than we’ve ever seen them to date. With the series jumping into the 50’s setting right off the bat and providing no explanation for why or how two characters last seen in the modern world (one of whom even died – twice) are now living in an oldschool sitcom, Olsen and Bettany’s relatable performances act as necessary anchors for the audience – the couple seem just as unsure and unsettled as we all are, but do their best to ease into Westview’s flow without making a stir because (a) they don’t really have an alternative, and (b) who wouldn’t do the same, placed in a similar situation?

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WandaVision | vox.com

Of course, their actions lead to some hilarious hijinks (a particularly funny one involving a mix-up with a wedding anniversary that neither Wanda nor Vision can remember, because, well, they haven’t actually gotten married yet), but the couple seem to be doing pretty well playing catch-up on everything they’ve missed, while making new friends in town.

In fact, one could argue the neighbors are a little too friendly, and too quick to forgive and forget any of the couple’s oddities in pursuit of some ulterior agenda. Agnes (Kathryn Hahn), Wanda’s next-door neighbor on the right (“my right!,” Agnes unhelpfully elucidates), pops by periodically to check in on Wanda or help her out of a predicament with a well-timed pineapple. In episode two, Agnes also provides Wanda access to the town’s high society cliques, including the event planning committee headed by a woman named Dottie (Emma Caulfield), who goes from hating Wanda’s guts to endlessly praising her. Eventually it becomes creepily clear what prompts this change of heart: Dottie’s motto, which she and her friends recite in a reverent chant, is “For The Children”; a simple message that glosses right over the fact that Westview has few, if any, junior members at all – until Wanda herself suddenly becomes pregnant near the end of episode two.

If you’re familiar with the comics, you’ll know that Wanda’s twins, whom I expect will arrive at some point in episode three, are of great interest to multiple dark powers lurking in the Marvel universe – including the evil sorceress Agatha Harkness, and the devil himself, who typically goes by the name Mephisto. Many fans have already caught onto the fact that Agnes is probably Agatha Harkness in some form or another, but Mephisto is probably already in Westview too. Agnes seems to confirm this in episode two, after Dottie remarks that “the devil’s in the details”, when she whispers to Wanda in an aside that he’s in other places too. Mephisto hasn’t shown up physically yet, at least not that we’re aware: he could be the salesman in the aforemtentioned informercial segments, whose products are all fragments of Wanda’s traumatic memories, and who is accompanied by a tall woman who might be another version of Agatha too. Or he might be Agnes’ mysterious husband, “Ralph”, whom she mentions in passing so many times he has to be significant. Even Agnes’ pet rabbit, Señor Scratchy, has a Mephisto connection: Scratch is a term often applied to the Christian devil, and Nicholas Scratch is the name of Agatha Harkness’ son, an ally of Mephisto.

There’s a distinctly creepy undercurrent to WandaVision – quite literally, as episode two’s cliffhanger reveals that anonymous characters from the outside world have been moving underneath Westview via the sewers, dressed in bee-keeping uniforms for some unbeknownst reason. There are loud noises in the night, a strange voice cuts through radio static to loudly address Wanda by name, and a colorized toy helicopter shows up in Wanda’s black-and-white rosebush. The show’s visual iconography feels straight out of an arthouse horror picture: a crimson splash of blood on Dottie’s hand, constantly flickering TV screens, Mrs. Hart (Debra Jo Rupp) laughing while her husband chokes to death on the floor. The implication is that WandaVision sometimes glitches – but whether that’s because of someone inside manipulating Wanda, or someone outside trying to exert control, or Wanda herself losing control over what she’s created, is unclear.

Certainly it looks like agents from S.W.O.R.D. are trying to break through to her from outside, and that Wanda is unintentionally absorbing them into her world, rebooting them with new identities and forms – in much the same way that, while dreaming, you might still be able to hear noises in the real world, but your brain contextualizes them within the dream’s internal logic. For instance, we the audience know that Teyonah Parris’ character is not who she says she is to Wanda, a cheerful young debutante named “Geraldine”, but is in fact a S.W.O.R.D. agent named Monica Rambeau (whom you may remember from Captain Marvel). But Wanda doesn’t know that, and Monica doesn’t seem to know either – she’s been so deeply absorbed into the fabric of Wanda’s reality that she’s forgotten her own.

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Geraldine and Wanda | elitedaily.com

It’s easy to see why. WandaVision masterfully recreates the world of classic sitcoms, employing practical effects and only the most rudimentary digital effects to convey Wanda’s chaos magic. From the shifting aspect ratio to the cinematography, to the hard work of the hairstyling and costume departments, to the period-accurate slang and mannerisms (for example: Wanda and Vision begrudgingly respect the constraints of unseen network censors until the 60’s, when Wanda converts their two beds into one), everything in this faux reality feels perfectly authentic, and detailed enough that I can’t wait to rewatch it again and again. My only major complaint is that I fear we won’t spend enough time in any decade to feel truly settled in one – though I rather suspect that’s the point, since Wanda and Vision are facing the same struggle: not being able to fit in no matter the era and changing social norms, and despite their best efforts to disguise their differences.

In episode one, Vision promises Wanda that their star-crossed romance will finally have a happy ending in Westview…but, well, considering that he’s actually dead and she’s about to lose everything again, we’ll see how long that lasts.

Episode Rating: 9.5/10

May Calamawy Joins “Moon Knight”!

Although Oscar Isaac has yet to be officially confirmed as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Moon Knight (though it’s pretty clear at this point that he will indeed be donning the antihero’s iconic mantle), the series is moving full steam ahead with a production start date already set for March, and has now begun casting other key supporting roles. May Calamawy has become only the second cast member to join the series, playing an as yet unnamed character who will join the Moon Knight on what Marvel president Kevin Feige described as a globe-trotting, “Indiana Jones-type” adventure.

Moon Knight
May Calamawy | refinery29.com

Calamawy, a Bahraini actress with Egyptian heritage, has risen to stardom through her popular role on Hulu’s Ramy, where she portrays Ramy Youssef’s  younger sister, Dena Hassan, and has helped to break barriers for MENA (Middle Eastern and North African) representation in TV. She will have a chance to do so again in the Moon Knight series, where she is likely filling the role of Marlene Alraune: an important figure in Moon Knight’s backstory. A casting call that MCU Direct was able to reveal back in September of last year suggested that Marvel was searching for actresses of any ethnicity, and in the same age-range as Calamawy, to play a character believed to be Marlene.

At the time, Marvel provided only a few details about the character, including that she would be “a manipulative operative working for a secret organization”, possibly hinting at a connection to the MCU’s S.H.I.E.L.D., or even S.W.O.R.D., which is being set up to have a major role going forward: S.W.O.R.D. agents will be tasked with trying to restrain Wanda Maximoff in WandaVision, and will likely show up again in the Secret Invasion series. In the comics, Marlene’s character has never had ties to either of these organizations, but then again, she’s also been little more than a rip-off of Marion Ravenwood from the Indiana Jones franchise – so I don’t mind if her backstory gets rewritten to better suit the modern setting.

Moon Knight
Moon Knight | superheroes.fandom.com

Marlene in the comics is a stereotypical “archaeologist’s daughter” (not to be confused with the very similar “scientist’s daughter”), and is most often utilized as a love interest to Marc Spector, a.k.a. Moon Knight. While accompanying her aging father on his final research trip to Egypt, she accidentally becomes embroiled in a fight between Spector and his nemesis, The Bushman, who kills her father and attempts to kill her too but is stopped by Spector: who is left mortally wounded in the attack. Spector is then revived by the ancient Egyptian moon deity Khonshu, and given a second chance at life in exchange for his services as an assassin and mercenary, carrying out the god’s dirty work on earth. Marlene accompanies Marc Spector occasionally on his crime-fighting missions, and has some fighting skills of her own that she’s able to put to good use, but most comic readers still only know her as Spector’s on-and-off girlfriend, who at one point leaves him for her ex-husband and then reunites with him later. The MCU has never been great at creating truly messy romantic drama, but WandaVision seems like it might finally reflect a widescale shift towards writing more complex romantic relationships – so I guess we’ll have to see what happens.

But regardless, this is still very exciting casting, and bodes well for Calamawy’s career beyond Ramy. I hope that we’ll soon see other MENA actors join Moon Knight in significant roles, making up for the MCU’s earlier, dated, and deeply offensive portrayals of Middle Eastern characters as terrorists. This stereotype continues to be perpetuated in mainstream media – just last month, Wonder Woman 1984 tried to get away with it too: in what may have been an ill-conceived and tasteless attempt to pass it off as just another hallmark of the 1980’s films upon which the DC sequel was based, like troubling depictions of women, dubious consent issues, and queerbaiting.

Moon Knight
Marlene Alraune | comicbookrealm.com

So what do you think about Calamawy’s casting, and how excited are you for Moon Knight? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

From Winter Soldier To WandaVision: Wanda’s MCU Journey.

I don’t usually write recaps. I mean, in some ways, all movie and TV reviews are just overly-detailed recaps embellished with a lot of flowery prose, but this is still pretty new ground for me. But it’s 2021, WandaVision is on its way to Disney+ in less than two weeks (!), and it’s time to try my hand at writing a comprehensive recap of Wanda Maximoff’s journey in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far. The timing of this post is in no way meant to deliberately precede the official Marvel recap that is set to be released shortly before the series premiere…okay, well, maybe it is: but only a little (ask yourself honestly, who would you trust to give you the most detailed information on Wanda Maximoff? The studio responsible with actually overseeing her character arc, or me?).

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WandaVision | deadline.com

The purpose of any good recap is to muster up more hype (as if we could be any more hyped for WandaVision at this point), and to help give audiences – particularly newcomers to any given franchise – an idea of what’s come before, and what to expect. But I’ve realized that a good recap can also be helpful to me as a reviewer, because its existence means I don’t have to put as much exposition and background information into my actual reviews: I can jump straight into the action, while simply linking back to this recap. And now that we’re all up to speed, let’s get into it, shall we?

Wanda Maximoff’s MCU journey began in 2013, in the post-credits scene to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where she and her twin brother Pietro Maximoff first appeared as haggard, world-weary lab experiments trapped in a frigid Eastern European fortress under the supervision of Baron Von Strucker, a nefarious scientist working with the covert Neo-Nazi organization, HYDRA. Von Strucker and HYDRA are largely unimportant to the story of the Maximoff twins except insofar as they allowed the twins access to the Mind Stone, one of the six Infinity Stones that preserve the integrity of the universe itself, as part of a larger attempt to use the Stone’s power to artificially enhance human beings into superhuman killing machines. What exactly happened during this series of experiments is still unknown: but by the time they left Von Strucker’s fortress, Pietro had super-speed, and Wanda was a dangerously unpredictable sorceress equipped with telekinesis, telepathy, and reality-altering magic. The fact that these aren’t powers one would typically associate with the Mind Stone’s sphere of influence, and the fact that Pietro and Wanda are two of the most notable mutants in the pages of Marvel Comics, has always suggested to fans that there’s something more going on here than Marvel has yet revealed.

This wouldn’t surprise me: even if the MCU wanted to retroactively confirm that Wanda and Pietro are both mutants (and I think they very much want to), they couldn’t have done so until just recently, when Disney bought out 20th Century Fox and thus obtained the rights to the Marvel mutants and Fantastic Four. Mutants are characters born with latent superhuman abilities that typically manifest themselves at the onset of puberty, with catastrophic results. In the comics, Wanda and Pietro are not only prominent mutants, but the children of telekinetic mutant terrorist Erik Lensherr, a.k.a. Magneto, one of the most famous comic-book villains of all time. But what about MCU Wanda and Pietro? The MCU has conveniently left the twins’ backstory vague: their parents supposedly died during a period of civil unrest in their hometown of Sokovia, but we don’t know that for sure, and we still don’t know their parents’ names. Additionally, it appears that Wanda and Pietro were the only test subjects who survived being exposed to the Mind Stone’s raw power: something that immediately suggests they at least had superhuman levels of endurance prior to the experiment. A recent Marvel tie-in book hinted that Wanda’s powers were “unlocked” by the Mind Stone. And footage from the recent WandaVision trailer shows a possible flashback to Wanda’s first encounter with the Stone, so I believe we’ll finally get a conclusive answer to this question that has long divided the fandom.

By 2014, Wanda and Pietro were strong enough to take on the Avengers during the siege of Sokovia. While Pietro wasted his time running rings around Hawkeye of all people, Wanda confronted Tony Stark himself and sent him into a prophetic trance: a neat trick, and one with major consequences – as Tony saw visions of his friends slaughtered by aliens, and became so obsessed with the idea of building “a suit of armor around the world” that he took the Mind Stone and implanted it into a weaponized supercomputer he named Ultron. The Mind Stone caused Ultron to come to life and quickly grow hostile towards his maker, irrationally arriving at the conclusion that to protect the human race, he had to…wipe them out with a meteor. Ultron brought the newly liberated Maximoff twins under his wing, while designing a humanoid synthetic body for himself – which the Avengers stole from him and into which they implanted Tony Stark’s A.I. personal assistant J.A.R.V.I.S., before using the Mind Stone to bring their creation to life. Thus, Vision was born: and his ability to live inextricably tied up with the Mind Stone, and its fate.

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Wanda and Vision – WandaVision | uproxx.com

Wanda and Pietro betrayed Ultron during the second battle of Sokovia, in which Ultron tried to uproot the city from the planet’s surface and use it as his meteor. Pietro, sadly, was killed while protecting Sokovian citizens, and Wanda – sensing his death from afar – unleashed a tidal wave of chaos magic that tore through Ultron’s robot army: saving the day at a terrible personal cost. She herself killed Ultron, tearing out his heart and crumpling it into a tiny ball of shrapnel, just to give him some idea of how she’d felt. It was Vision, however, who put an end to the robot once and for all, laser-beaming him out of existence. Both Wanda and Vision officially joined the Avengers team soon afterwards, and started developing feelings for each other.

When Captain America: Civil War rolled around in 2016, Wanda had dropped her vaguely Eastern European accent and acclimated to life as an Avenger. But not enough, apparently, to know that telekinetically flinging a suicide-bomber into the side of an office building maybe isn’t a great idea. Her actions proved to be the catalyst of civil war, quickly dividing the Avengers into two camps: those led by Tony Stark, who believed that superheroes needed to be regulated to minimize civilian casualties, and those led by Steve Rogers, who believed such regulation would only introduce more risks. Wanda, still traumatized by what she had done and viewed as emotionally unstable, was forced to stay back at headquarters under Vision’s surveillance. The two bonded over their foodie interests, but it wasn’t long before Wanda realized she was being confined and escaped with the help of Hawkeye, battling Vision on her way out.

The film’s third act pitted Wanda and Vision against each other again, but this time Wanda was ultimately arrested and taken to The Raft, a maximum-security submarine prison. From the time Steve Rogers arrived to break her out at the end of the film, to the time we reunited with her and Vision in Avengers: Infinity War, her life is a blur. On the run from most of the world’s governments and still regarded as one of the most dangerous Avengers, she went undercover, made up with Vision, and eloped with him to Glasgow, Scotland, where the two were still enjoying their honeymoon phase when Thanos’ minions arrived to kill them both. She (or possibly Vision himself: it’s hard to say) also discovered a way to disguise the android as a human being, a technique that will be reused for WandaVision, where the duo must pass for an average suburban couple.

But even as they were enjoying their romantic getaway, Thanos was assembling his Infinity Gauntlet, which required all six Infinity Stones to achieve full power. The Mad Titan dispatched his Black Order to retrieve the two Stones that remained on earth: one of which, the Mind Stone, was still embedded in Vision’s skull. Although the Black Order’s efforts were initially repelled, Wanda and the Avengers were forced to head to Wakanda to find scientists capable of separating the Mind Stone from Vision and destroying it without killing Vision in the process. It was hinted that this would have been possible, and Princess Shuri was already well underway with the process when the Black Order attacked again, but we may never know for sure unless this subject is brought up in WandaVision. Vision fled from Shuri’s lab with the Black Order in pursuit before the operation was complete, by this point realizing that the only way to render the Mind Stone unusable by Thanos was to have Wanda herself destroy it – and in so doing, Vision. The most heartbreaking scene in the film saw Wanda holding back Thanos with one hand while using the other to unmake the Mind Stone, all while staring into Vision’s eyes, never once losing sight of the man she loved. She was successful; Vision’s head exploded in a burst of light; and for a moment, audiences could breath a sigh of relief, assured that Thanos’ defeat was imminent.

But Thanos had already recovered the Time Stone from Doctor Strange, millions of light years away. He used that Stone’s powers to resurrect Vision, giving the android a few more moments to live before brutally ripping the Mind Stone out of his forehead, killing him again. Wanda’s pain at losing her lover twice in a span of seconds, at her sacrifice being all in vain, must have been devastating: it’s easy to understand why, when Thanos completed his Gauntlet and snapped his fingers, killing half of all living creatures including Wanda herself, she embraced death willingly.

But five years later, when Bruce Banner used a reconstructed version of the Gauntlet to snap half of all life back into existence, Wanda was one of those most eager to exact her vengeance on Thanos. Out of Avengers: Endgame‘s many highlights, the vicious duel between Wanda and Thanos stands out to me because of how deeply personal it is for Wanda – and because of how satisfying it is to see her go absolutely wild in that moment, caring nothing for mercy, controlled only by bloodlust. In a universe where many heroes are driven by some moral code, Wanda is refreshing in that she doesn’t have any code. She’s witnessed too much pain and human failure to believe in the unconquerable power of good. So when she singles out Thanos, she doesn’t waste a moment trying to rip him limb from limb: and she nearly succeeds, though Thanos is eventually able to catch her off-guard with a barrage of missiles.

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Wanda Maximoff | io9.gizmodo.com

With her part in the battle complete, Wanda quietly disappeared under the radar. Last time we saw her, she was one of many heroes in attendance at Tony Stark’s funeral, and had a brief but touching conversation with Hawkeye on the subject of grief and memory. She seemed to be at peace: but we know from the WandaVision trailers that in the aftermath of Endgame she will be lured into an alternate reality where she and Vision are able to live happily ever after, with a house, friendly neighbors, and twins of their own. Modeled off the classic American sitcoms from which Wanda learned English, this utopian dreamscape is being manipulated by dark supernatural forces, and infiltrated from the real world by S.W.O.R.D. agents trying to rescue Wanda.

Has my recap been helpful? And what are you most excited for in WandaVision? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Abomination To Return In “She-Hulk” Series!

Even apart from official confirmation that Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany will indeed be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Jennifer Walters (a.k.a. She-Hulk) in the upcoming Disney+ She-Hulk series – despite her insistent, and very convincing, claims to the contrary over the past few months –  there were several other reveals about the series that have me even more excited to see Maslany transform into the lovable, seven-foot tall, bright green bodybuilder: and prove once and for all that she is not simply a gender-swapped version of the Hulk, as some like to claim, but a unique and fascinating character in her own right, with an abundance of new stories to tell.

She-Hulk
She-Hulk | comicbookinvest.com

For one thing, the series will not gloss over Walters’ day job as a lawyer and activist for both societal reform on a widespread level, and individual superheroes. Marvel president Kevin Feige strongly implied that a couple of familiar MCU characters – both heroes and villains – might wind up in court before Walters, and that she might be placed in increasingly more tricky (and potentially dangerous) predicaments depending on who she’s either representing or trying to place behind bars. Heroes who might show up include Falcon, Winter Soldier, Hawkeye, and Kate Bishop, most of whom are already fugitives from the law. But they likely won’t end up in prison, or if they do, it won’t be for long. Villains, on the other hand…that’s where this gets interesting.

The MCU has long had a habit of discarding potentially interesting villains after a single film appearance, without ever actually killing them off – which was just lazy storytelling during Phases 1 through 3, but turns out to be a blessing-in-disguise heading into Phase 4: because now, with the Infinity Saga finally completed, we have time to go back and address all the unresolved storylines of these various antagonists. And there’s long been speculation that, as in the comics, a multitude of these long-forgotten villains will assemble their own version of the Avengers called the Thunderbolts, under the leadership of General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, an anti-superhero watchdog (who, ironically, is secretly able to transform into the Red Hulk). With no specific Thunderbolts series or movie announced during the Disney Investors Meeting on Thursday, I believe She-Hulk will act as the Phase 4 set-up to an eventual Thunderbolts series or movie during Phase 5.

Think about it for a moment. Currently, the MCU has dozens of villains whose fates are still unknown, and a few who have yet to show up but probably won’t be killed in the near future: and all of these villains have committed more than enough heinous crimes to deserve high-profile court trials. Let’s go over a few. Justin Hammer, Tony Stark’s wannabe copycat in Iron Man 2, quietly dropped off the grid after unleashing a small army of heavily-armed robots on New York City; Ghost, the quantum-phasing antagonist of Ant-Man And The Wasp, never received the healing particles she was supposed to get from Scott Lang, and has likely regressed back into self-loathing and hyper-aggression; Yelena Belova, who is set to appear in both Hawkeye and The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, probably won’t stop being a violent super-assassin anytime soon; Baron Zemo, the big bad of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, is far too ingenious to stay locked up for long (he’s already escaped one high-security prison); and Madame Masque, whom Vera Farmiga will likely play in the Hawkeye series, is just a really cool character. There are a bunch of others who could fill out the team roster, but the one that we need to focus on is Abomination.

She-Hulk
Abomination | cinemablend.com

First introduced in The Incredible Hulk in 2008, Emil Blonsky (better known as the horribly mutated, grotesque titan Abomination) has only been referenced in-universe once or twice since his debut: back in 2013, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. revealed that he was being held in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, in a cryo-cell in Alaska. Since then, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by HYDRA and been almost entirely disassembled from the inside, but there’s been no mention of Abomination since. Until now. She-Hulk will officially feature the return of the old villain, with Tim Roth reprising the role after over a decade – and hopefully getting a new and improved, comics-accurate, design. The fact that Roth’s involvement has already been announced suggests that Abomination plays a key role in She-Hulk…and what do you know, he also has connections to Thaddeus Ross, and thus to the Thunderbolts team.

So what’s my theory? I believe, based on everything we know so far, that Jennifer Walters’ work as a prosecutor will place her directly in Thaddeus Ross’ line of fire, as he tries to secretly unite various villains and keep them out of prison, even while Walters fights to incarcerate them. In the MCU, it may be agents working for Ross who give Walters the gunshot wounds that almost kill her, leading to Bruce Banner having to save her life with an emergency blood transfusion – which in turn leads to her becoming the She-Hulk, and gaining the extra brawn she’ll need to take the fight straight to Ross. And when she comes face to face with him (probably in the season finale, after figuring out how deeply the corruption goes), that’s when Ross will reveal his own alter ego, the Red Hulk, and engage her in an epic duel. Sounds pretty good to me.

She-Hulk
Red She-Hulk | wallpapersafari.com

As an additional bonus, Tim Roth’s MCU return means we could see other characters from The Incredible Hulk pop up in She-Hulk: including Liv Tyler as Betty Ross (herself a Hulk variant in the comics, the fearsome antiheroine Red She-Hulk). Tyler’s return is something that’s been rumored, and that fans have especially been hoping to see – and of course, I’m always up for a Lord Of The Rings star coming into the MCU, even though, in Tyler’s case, she’s been there for a while; just not getting the recognition and screentime she deserves.

So what do you think? What are you looking forward to from She-Hulk, and how do you want Tim Roth’s Abomination to feature in the series? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Thor: Love And Thunder Villain Gorr The God-Butcher Is Absolutely Terrifying

While it certainly wasn’t the biggest reveal from the crowded Disney Investors Meeting on Thursday, the confirmation of the Thor: Love And Thunder main villain was still pretty huge news for Marvel Comics fans – and exactly the type of thing I couldn’t wait to write about, because I love few things more than extensively researching obscure Marvel deep lore. And Gorr the God-Butcher is one of the most fascinating villains in the comics: a terrifying, complex, tragic Shakespearean figure…who just happens to also be an immortal mutant alien symbiotically fused with a cosmic death sword.

Thor 4
Gorr | comicbook.com

Academy Award-winner Christian Bale is officially attached to play Gorr, joining Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Natalie Portman’s Mighty Thor, and Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, in the fourth (and until further notice, final) installment in the long-running franchise. We still don’t know how director Taika Waititi was able to land an actor of Bale’s caliber for this role, but I have a few guesses. Firstly, it goes without saying that Waititi is one of the most creative, inventive, and unique filmmakers working today. He was able to nab Cate Blanchett for the super-campy role of the goddess Hela in Thor: Ragnarok, before he was even fully established in Hollywood. Secondly, methinks the character of Gorr could be achieved at least partly via practical effects, as we know Bale loves his transformative roles, and physically becoming a literal alien could be his most shocking metamorphosis yet. And thirdly, the character of Gorr has a fascinating backstory that seems like juicy material for a dramatic actor.

Gorr first appeared in 2013, during Jason Aaron’s tenure writing Thor. The ageless alien being hails from a tumultuous planet traumatized by eternal war, famine, plague, and chaos. On this planet, as you might expect, the population spends most of their time praying to their gods for aid – to no avail, as Gorr personally loses his parents, wife, and all but one of his children to various disasters. Having lost all faith in the hope of gods, Gorr flees into the wilderness with his last surviving son, only to accidentally discover that the gods are real after coming across Knull, a primordial deity of darkness. Gorr’s lack of faith turns into an undying hatred of all gods who ignore the prayers of their worshipers, and he quickly kills Knull and takes All-Black the Necrosword, Knull’s powerful weapon, as his own. Armed with All-Black (quite literally, since the sword is symbiotic and fuses into his body), Gorr travels the universe, hunting gods and slaughtering them one-by-one. He meets his match in Thor, whom he initially tries to kill in the 9th Century and many times afterwards – but the cause of his downfall is none other than his own son, Agar, who tells Gorr that, in his quest to exterminate the gods, he has himself become one: the God of Hypocrisy.

Thor 4
Gorr | comicbook.com

Because we’re talking about comics here, Gorr doesn’t stay dead for long. His spirit lives on in All-Black, and he gets resurrected again, pursuing Thor and Loki for vengeance. But his best story remains his original appearance, which gives him a surprising amount of depth, and provides the perfect basis for Thor: Love And Thunder‘s adaptation of the character. Knowing Taika Waititi, I expect him to give Gorr just a little more flair than in the comics (perhaps a morbid sense of humor), but that’s not the only thing that might have to change.

For one thing, we’ll necessarily have to see Gorr kill some gods for him to appear truly threatening – but most of the Asgardian pantheon (with the exception of Thor, Loki, and Valkyrie) are already dead, thanks to Hela’s purge of Asgard during Ragnarok. A possible solution to this problem would be to bring back Hela, and have her fill the Knull role and/or be one of Gorr’s targets. There’s a storyline in the comics where she sets up a casino in Las Vegas and hosts extravagant parties for villains: that sounds exactly like something Taika Waititi would love, and it would make for an awesome set-piece if Gorr crashed the party and dueled Hela to the death. We could also see Gorr go after the Eternals, who will have been introduced to the MCU by that point: they’re basically gods anyway, and so far they’re most closely linked to the Thor mythos in the comics. I’ve always wondered how they’ll be incorporated into the broader universe, but having Thor team up with them to defeat Gorr is definitely one possibility. It’s also been theorized that Gorr will be tracking Star-Lord, who is technically the demigod son of a Celestial (remember that major plotpoint that’s never been addressed since?), which would explain why Chris Pratt supposedly joined the cast a few months ago.

Thor 4
Star-Lord | mewallpaper.com

I also doubt that Gorr and Thor will have as long a history together as they did in the comics. MCU Thor has been alive for over a thousand years, but it seems completely out of character for him to have battled Gorr during his youth and won (he was a boisterous, hotheaded idiot right up until the first Avengers movie). And having Gorr be one of Odin’s many secrets feels redundant. It would make a lot more sense for Gorr to first appear in the modern day (perhaps his family were snapped out of existence by Thanos, and he sets off on his vengeful murder spree before they get snapped back by Tony Stark?).

Even with these changes, the story of Gorr is still a great one: and I think it’s pretty clear why Christian Bale would be attracted to this role. The God-Butcher could easily rank alongside Thanos, Killmonger, Hela and Loki as the greatest MCU villains of all time if done well: and if this is the final Thor movie (I’m not saying it is, but it could be), then it only makes sense to go out on a high note.

What do you think? Are you excited for Christian Bale’s version of Gorr? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“Secret Invasion” Is Happening: Now Give Us MCU Quake.

If a Fantastic Four movie announcement hadn’t overshadowed everything else at the Marvel presentation during the Disney Investors Meeting, Secret Invasion definitely would have been the big headline coming out of the event. The Skrulls are literally about to invade the Marvel Cinematic Universe and don the skins and personalities of all your favorite MCU heroes; this is big news, people. Why it didn’t make more of an impression is a mystery to me – though, personally, I feel it has to do with how dreadfully ugly the logo for the new series turned out to be (yes, I know it’s a direct nod to the comics upon which this storyline is based; no, I don’t care, it’s still ugly).

Secret Invasion
Secret Invasion | marvel.com

The Secret Invasion will start out as a Disney+ series (though technically it was foreshadowed in the post-credits scene of Spider-Man: Far From Home, which revealed that Nick Fury and Maria Hill were both being impersonated by shapeshifting Skrull aliens), but it will likely expand across the entire slate of MCU movies and series. If it’s going to play out at all like the comics, it has to be on an epic scale: otherwise, they might as well call it Secret Skirmish. The Ms. Marvel series will likely include some Skrull action, thanks to its new connection to Captain Marvel 2: which will almost certainly be where the Secret Invasion reaches its full extent – unless the Secret Invasion series gets renewed for multiple seasons, and becomes Agents Of S.W.O.R.D. (more on that in a moment).

Samuel L. Jackson will return to reprise the role of Nick Fury, and star in the new series – which means that yes, this is the Nick Fury show we heard rumors about just a few months ago. Not a prequel exploring his backstory, thank goodness, but something actually relevant (I swear that’s not a jab at the long-delayed Black Widow movie). Fury will have a key role in the Secret Invasion, heading up the S.W.O.R.D. team from his headquarters in space. On earth, his Skrull ally Talos is probably still impersonating him, so there’s ways for Jackson to appear even when Fury technically isn’t onscreen.

Ben Mendelsohn will be co-starring alongside Jackson, as Talos: suggesting that he will spend more time as himself than as Fury or other characters, which is great, because Mendelsohn is an incredibly charismatic and underrated actor. Talos will be in a tricky position in Secret Invasion, having to battle misguided friends (and perhaps even members of his own family). With the Skrulls currently being depicted as good guys in the MCU, it’ll take something drastic for even a few to turn against Fury and Talos and infiltrate the ranks of Earth’s mightiest heroes: something that drastic could easily divide Talos’ own loyalties, causing him to question his allegiances to Fury – and perhaps even betray him. I expect his character to have plenty to do.

Secret Invasion
Talos | marvelcinematicuniverse.fandom.com

But…the show still needs a female lead. There are some great candidates: Maria Rambeau is presumably still out there, and I’ve long hoped she’ll be a prominent member of the S.W.O.R.D. organization by this point in the MCU timeline; Monica Rambeau, her daughter, could rise through the ranks during the events of WandaVision; and Abigail Brand, S.W.O.R.D.’s leader in the comics, might show up to fill this role. Personally, I hope all three feature heavily in this series. But I also want another woman to appear in Secret Invasion, and that woman is – you guessed it – Quake. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s Daisy Johnson, seismic Inhuman superheroine and the most well-written character in the Marvel Universe (you heard me), appearing via Multiverse shenanigans or just plain and simple S.H.I.E.L.D. canonization. It appears I can’t write a single post about the MCU without mentioning Quake, but that’s because the entire MCU seems to be leading up to a place where her inclusion is not only beneficial but necessary.

Oh, and, uh, in case this wasn’t clear already: just bring back Chloe Bennet as Quake. She is the character. She’s lived and breathed Quake for the past seven years, and she’s made it abundantly clear she’s not ready to call it quits. And the series finale this year left Daisy wandering on an emissary mission through space, headed for some sort of weird-looking space anomaly. That could easily have been a portal to another reality, and if Marvel wants, they can just leave Daniel Sousa and Kora out of the equation. Say they’re off somewhere else, or don’t say anything at all. I don’t care. I only need Quake in the MCU, and I need her because she’s far too good a character to waste, or to throw aside just because she comes from Marvel TV. Reminder: Charlie Cox’s Daredevil is also a Marvel TV character, and yet is strongly suspected to be appearing in Spider-Man 3.

Quake is a crucial character in the Secret Invasion storyline in the comics, personally assigned by Nick Fury with the task of assembling a Secret Warriors team to combat the Skrulls that made it down to Earth and were wreaking havoc while in disguise. As one of Marvel’s only widely-known Inhuman characters besides Ms. Marvel and maybe Black Bolt (if we’re pushing it), she’s also a great character to help introduce that complicated concept in the MCU. And besides all that, she’s resonated with viewers because of her courage, resilience, and complexity. She’s also Marvel’s first (and to date only) Asian-American lead character, Marvel’s first female lead in live-action, and one of their first superpowered heroines.

Secret Invasion
Quake | cinemablend.com

Now that I’ve derailed this post completely, it’s time to wrap up with a cheery reminder that Secret Invasion doesn’t yet have a director attached, or a release date. So it’s still a long way off, and there’s still plenty of time for Marvel to see the light and cast Chloe Bennet as Quake.

What do you think? Are you excited for Secret Invasion? Do you also want to see Quake in the MCU? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“Ms. Marvel” Debuts New Footage, Will Costar In Captain Marvel 2!

Despite the Ms. Marvel Disney+ series only just beginning filming in Atlanta over the past few weeks, a sizzle reel compiled from behind-the-scenes interviews with the series’ creators and clips of new footage from the show was already completed in time for the Disney Investors Meeting on Thursday night, and gave us our first official look at newcomer Iman Vellani as the MCU’s first Muslim superhero, Pakistani-American teenager Kamala Khan. It’s not much, but it’s worth a shoutout because of the representation showcased in the sizzle reel itself, and the promise made by Marvel President Kevin Feige that Kamala Khan (a.k.a. Ms Marvel) will go on to costar in future Marvel films.

Ms. Marvel
Ms. Marvel | gamesradar.com

The brief video spotlights each of the four main directors working on Ms. Marvel, including Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah, Meera Menon, and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. All are experienced filmmakers, and El Arbi and Fallah directed one of the highest-grossing films of this year, Bad Boys For Life: a gritty, action-packed adventure. Kamala Khan is a superheroine with a very distinctive superpower – the ability to redistribute the atoms in her body at will, to change her shape and size, create giant fists, or grow to incredible heights – so I hope all four directors will be able to carry that over from page to screen in a cool way, while keeping it wonderfully weird. Kamala Khan’s creator, G. Willow Wilson, has said she fears Khan will look “really creepy” in live-action because of her powers, but I have faith in Marvel to do her justice.

While the diversity behind the camera (where it matters most, arguably) is excellent, there’s been some recent controversy around the diversity onscreen…or rather, the lack thereof. A few days, #FixMsMarvel trended on Twitter, after it was discovered that two actresses cast in the series as Muslim women of color, Zenobia Shroff and Yasmeen Fletcher, are not Muslim (and Fletcher is half-white and Christian); that actor Matt Lintz, cast as Kamala Khan’s best friend Bruno, is possibly a Trump supporter (although he claimed later he is not political, which itself is a questionable stance, especially during these times); and that a sexual offender was reportedly cast in another supporting role. That last claim is certainly severe, but the actor in question is not confirmed to have joined the cast, unlike Shroff, Fletcher, and Lintz, all of whose names can currently be found on the Marvel website. For a series that is so laser-focused on improving representation of a traditionally marginalized demographic, these castings do represent missteps – and the MCU’s casting director, Sarah Halley Finn, is no stranger to casting controversy, having previously received criticism for picking a Mexican actress, Xochitl Gomez, as the (arguably) Afro-Latina Puerto Rican heroine America Chavez; and (allegedly) Oscar Isaac, a born-and-raised Evangelical Christian, as Jewish hero Matt Spector.

Ms. Marvel
Ms. Marvel | murphysmultiverse.com

How you choose to digest this information and proceed is your own choice, and reactions to the news will vary. It’s especially disappointing, however, because of how perfectly cast Iman Vellani appears as Kamala Khan: and how excited I think we all are for her to succeed. Vellani doesn’t appear in her Ms. Marvel costume in the new footage, but she’s still channeling her in-universe role model, Captain Marvel – as we can see her purchasing the Captain Marvel costume she wore in behind-the-scenes photos (where I thought she was being played by a child actor: my apologies to Vellani); wearing a T-shirt that seems to hint at a Captain Marvel/Valkyrie romantic pairing (which, if that’s the case, I wholeheartedly support); and staring wistfully at the Captain Marvel posters and memorabilia that adorn her bedroom wall. Heartwarming footage was also shown of Vellani’s freak-out reaction to her casting.

I can understand freaking out, because Marvel president Kevin Feige made it very clear that Ms. Marvel isn’t a one-and-done character: she will soon join Brie Larson and Teyonah Parris in a lead role in Captain Marvel 2, fulfilling her fangirl dreams and allowing her a chance to punch bad guys with her supersized fists on the big screen where she belongs. Much was made out of Vellani’s two-star review for the first Captain Marvel review on her alleged Letterboxd account (which, she clarified, was not because of Brie Larson, whom she “would die for”) – hopefully, her appearance in the Nia DaCosta-directed sequel will make it even better than the first. Meanwhile, Ms. Marvel may also help introduce the Inhumans royal family to the MCU, as a possible reference to Maximus the Mad hidden in the new footage hints that they’re on their way.

Ms. Marvel
Maximus | mcuexchange.com

The Inhumans were the subject of a short-lived ABC TV series, but they haven’t ever really caught on with audiences, except on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., which was helped by exceptional writing and great character work. For the Inhumans’ MCU debut, I think Marvel would be foolish not to borrow from the best and transfer popular Inhuman S.H.I.E.L.D. characters like Daisy Johnson and Yo-Yo Rodriguez over to the Disney+ series, with actresses Chloe Bennet and Natalia Cordova-Buckley reprising their roles. We already have confirmation that another Inhuman from the comics, the bioluminescent Kamran, will appear and be played by Rish Shah: the stage is set for more to follow.

So what do you think? How do you feel about Ms. Marvel, and how would you deal with the controversies around casting? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

The Fantastic Four Are Finally Coming To The MCU!

Probably (no, definitely) among the biggest reveals from the Disney Investors Meeting on Thursday night was the announcement that the Fantastic Four – Marvel’s “first family” – will finally make their debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at some point in the near future. Whether this is to be the final installment of Phase 4, or the first film of Phase 5 is hard to tell, because the lines between phases are starting to blur now that COVID-19 has messed up the entire release date calendar. Marvel President Kevin Feige offered no details: which makes me wonder if, for the time being, we might not hear as much about separate “phases”, just to give Marvel a little more freedom as they maneuver around the pandemic.

Fantastic Four
Fantastic Four | nme.com

A first logo for the film was revealed: a sharp, angular four in electric blue. And Feige also announced that his Fantastic Four will be directed by Jon Watts, who has been very successful at bridging the gap between Marvel and Sony, directing their Spider-Man films. He is currently at work on Spider-Man 3, which Feige also confirmed on Thursday will feature Multiverse elements: it’s been widely reported (and become something of a joke online) that Spider-Man 3 will include virtually everybody – Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange, Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane, Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy, Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, Jamie Foxx’s Electro, and probably Charlie Cox’s Daredevil. If Watts is showing onset that he’s capable of masterfully handling all these different characters and their individual storylines, he may be the perfect fit for Fantastic Four, which will almost certainly deal with the Multiverse in some way or another.

Watts isn’t, perhaps, the most exciting choice on paper: especially since many still feel that Brad Bird, director of The Incredibles and The Incredibles 2, is the only director who’s shown any success with a similar concept – without even trying, Bird basically designed the blueprint for how a Fantastic Four film should feel. I understand why there would be dissatisfaction. But Watts’ Spider-Man films have been good (at least in my opinion: I know they have their extremely vocal haters), and some of the best scenes were those that dealt with the villain Mysterio, who supposedly came from the Multiverse until it turned out he was just a disgruntled Stark Industries employee. If Watts can do wonders with a fake Multiverse, imagine what he’ll do with the real deal.

Fantastic Four
Fantastic Four | whatculture.com

That being said, a Fantastic Four film can’t be all Multiverse shenanigans and confusing time loops and paradoxes. At its core, it has to be the story of a superpowered family facing challenges and overcoming struggles together, or fans will be rightfully angry. The closest thing we’ve got to this in the MCU already is the dynamic between Ant-Man and his immediate and extended family: but where those films generally have low stakes and slightly comedic action, the Fantastic Four is big, and epic, and dramatic. Downright melodramatic, at times. It’s still unknown if the MCU’s Fantastic Four will introduce us to a fully established team, or set up a proper origin story. Fox has tried and failed at that twice, both times bungling it by trying to rush the team’s biggest villains to the forefront: I think a new origin story is necessary to show that Marvel cares deeply about these characters, and that they’re committed to getting them right before we even start thinking about things like Galactus, or Silver Surfer, or Doctor Doom. Luckily, the MCU is currently setting up Kang the Conqueror, who seems like the perfect first-film villain for the Fantastic Four, if you ask me. He’ll already have been introduced in Loki or Ant-Man 3 by that point, so the film won’t need to waste any time revealing his backstory to audiences.

As for what a proper origin story would entail, well…I’ve always felt that the Fantastic Four should be time-travelers from the 1960’s, and that’s a pretty popular theory, but they don’t necessarily have to be. In the comics, they obtain their individualized superpowers after exposure to cosmic rays during a scientific space mission gone wrong: Reed Richards, the team’s leader, becomes a super-stretchy human rubberband (a similar powerset to that of Kamala Khan, whom we’ll see in Ms. Marvel prior to Richards’ own appearance); Sue Storm, who I hope is more than just “Reed’s girlfriend” this time around, is able to turn herself invisible and create force-shields; Johnny Storm, Sue’s hotheaded teenage brother, gains the ability to set himself on fire and fly; while Ben Grimm, Richards’ best friend, is permanently transformed into a massive, self-loathing rock-monster. In the comics, they were among the first superheroes not to wear disguises, preferring to use their newfound celebrity status as a way of bringing attention to scientific breakthroughs – something that is admittedly a cool idea, but not that fresh in the MCU anymore.

Fantastic Four
Fantastic Four | filmdaily.co

Thanks to Reed Richards’ obsession with time travel, quantum physics, and world-hopping, the Fantastic Four are intricately tied up with all the biggest villains in the Marvel Universe: particularly those who threaten the timeline, like Kang the Conqueror and Doctor Doom, or those who threaten to devour the world itself, like the cosmic being Galactus. But the fact that they have such epic enemies and high-stakes battles makes it all the more crucial that their first film in the MCU is smaller and more personal, with a strong focus on family.

So what do you think? How would you recommend Marvel proceed with this long-awaited adaptation? And who’s your favorite Fantastic Four character? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“The Falcon And The Winter Soldier” 1st Trailer Review!

A number of Marvel fans have been worried – understandably, to some extent – that the big budgets for the upcoming slate of Marvel Disney+ series won’t be enough to keep the shows from looking “too TV”, by which I assume they mean cheap and small-scale. The first trailer for WandaVision, which some viewers didn’t understand was intentionally aiming to replicate the low-budget practicality of classic sitcoms, only underscored those fears. But if nothing else, the first trailer for The Falcon And The Winter Soldier should be enough to convince even the most skeptical critic that these series will maintain a high level of quality, and cinematic visuals of which most movies would be lucky to boast.

Falcon And The Winter Soldier
Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes | variety.com

The Falcon And The Winter Soldier feels the most like a traditional Marvel action movie out of all the Disney+ series we’ve heard about so far, but that’s not a knock on the series by any means. Rather, it feels like a continuation of the very best Marvel movies, specifically the latter two installments in the Captain America trilogy – as it should, since it follows Cap’s sidekicks in the aftermath of his surprise retirement and decision to pass the torch (or, well, the shield) to his longtime friend Sam Wilson. The fight scenes are fast-paced, tightly-edited, and visceral; the tone is that of an atmospheric spy thriller, with some natural buddy cop humor; and the characters are heroes we’ve grown to love – Wilson’s Falcon and Bucky Barnes’ Winter Soldier.

From what we’ve heard, the main conflict of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier revolves around a plot to usurp Wilson, a Black man, as the rightful owner of the shield and the new Captain America, by replacing him with a jingoistic white southern guy named John Walker. However, the trailer is still hiding many details pertaining to that storyline, and instead devotes significant screentime to a completely new supervillain played by Solo actress Erin Kellyman – whom we see sporting a black mask marked with a red handprint, and leading a team of ruffians, believed to be the anarchist militia group known as Flag-Smasher. It’s possible Kellyman’s character is also using the name Flag-Smasher as her supervillain identity: in the comics, this character is male, and a frequent opponent of Captain America, who represents everything he most despises. John Walker, on the other hand, appears just once in the entire trailer: making his debut at a hometown football game, to thunderous applause.

Falcon And The Winter Soldier
John Walker | superherohype.com

That being said, there’s no reason to fear that the series’ extremely political through-line has been watered down to avoid controversy: Falcon’s first line in the trailer addresses how the legacy of Captain America’s shield is “complicated”, an obvious reference to the storyline in the comics – which the show is believed to feature prominently – where an early and dangerous prototype of the Super Soldier serum was tested on Black men during World War II by racist doctors, mirroring the real-life horrors of the infamous Tuskegee “Study”, during which African-American men were subjected to syphilis and denied treatment even after it became available. Just as Loki is venturing into the realm of historical fiction, it seems The Falcon And The Winter Soldier will do the same, including important social commentary on issues of racism, white supremacy, and white privilege.

The trailer’s second biggest reveal has to be our first look at the island of Madripoor, a fictional nation located in the Indian Ocean and home to frequent battles between Marvel’s most notable heroes and villains in the comics. The Falcon And The Winter Soldier makes it looks very futuristic, a bit like Cyberpunk 2077‘s Night City, with a dark and mysterious criminal underworld supporting towering skyscrapers and hotels. Wilson and Barnes’ business in Madripoor is still unknown, but they appear to be undercover – probably hunting an enemy or looking to strike a deal with somebody shady. To fit in with Madripoor’s clubbing scene, it seems Wilson has a brand new outfit, including a bright red jacket with golden tracery that we’ve seen in set photos, but which looks even better under proper lighting. Bucky’s idea of a disguise is a basic haircut (which, to be fair, looks pretty decent now); at least Wilson has some style.

Falcon And The Winter Soldier
Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson | comingsoon.net

The action set-pieces are to die for (and I assume that, in a series as gritty as this one looks to be, lots of characters will die): we’ve got motorcycle chases, fights on top of trucks, brutal one-on-one duels, and plenty of high-flying stunts thanks to Falcon’s trusty pair of wings, which look more fast and flexible than ever before. To tell the truth, I’ve always thought Falcon’s wings looked cumbersome in past Marvel appearances – so whether he’s actually tinkered with the suit to produce better results, or if the CGI is just better, this is definitely an upgrade. Bucky’s vibranium arm, courtesy of Wakanda, is still…just an arm: I hope we get to see some of its other cool features at some point, because Wakandan tech is usually a lot more reliable.

Suffice it to say, there’s a lot of stuff I think is still being kept from us, and this first look is just the tip of the iceberg. The Falcon And The Winter Soldier will premiere in March, leaving plenty of time for us to get another trailer, presumably while WandaVision is still airing.

Trailer Rating: 8/10

“Loki” Is Lost In Space And Time In 1st Trailer!

I’ve had a great many ideas about how I would love for each of the upcoming Marvel Disney+ shows to look and feel since long before we saw anything official from any of them: and Loki has become my second most hotly-anticipated of the entire batch (just behind WandaVision, which seems like a technical masterpiece as well as a wildly entertaining story) thanks to the elaborate image I had concocted in my head of how it should look, ideally: like a mix of gritty science-fiction, Terry Pratchett absurdity, and fantasy horror. So you can imagine my shock and awe when the first full trailer for Loki revealed that this show is everything I was hoping it would be, and much, much more.

Loki
Loki | denofgeek.com

The last time Loki graced our screens was…well, that’s a complex question. Technically that would be in 2018 when, both in our reality and in the main MCU timeline, he died pitifully attacking Thanos with a knife. But when the Avengers later staged their time heist and returned to the year 2012 to recover several Infinity Stones, they encountered the older, more feral and dangerous Loki that they had just battled and defeated in that year: and that Loki was able to escape with the Tesseract, opening a new rift in the Multiverse and ensuring that Captain America’s best efforts to preserve the sanctity of each timeline wouldn’t be entirely successful. The new series follows that Loki as he wanders throughout the Nine Realms, wreaking havoc and upsetting the natural order of things, while fighting characters and beings from the surreal side of Marvel comics.

That surrealism – already evident in the series – is precisely why I draw a comparison to Terry Pratchett: one of my favorite fantasy authors. By a complete coincidence, a trailer for the new BBC adaptation of Pratchett’s The Watch dropped yesterday before the Loki trailer reveal, and in my opinion did a horrible job of conveying the author’s characteristic brand of quirky, grammatical humor, or of capturing the colorful tone and style of his characters. This trailer (which has absolutely nothing to do with Pratchett) effortlessly achieves what any Pratchett adaptation should be aiming for – and if you don’t believe me, just check out the trailer thumbnail above: Loki, dressed in a ratty old coat and splendid emerald green waistcoat, a self-congratulatory campaign button pinned to his breast, grinning from ear to ear, donning his horned helmet, and gleefully teasing us with the line “Come on? What did you expect?”, all while standing in an abandoned arcade, surrounded by a group of absurdly-dressed misfits pointing spears and knives at him. It’s not just a brilliant adaptation of the Loki comics and a striking visual that will entice audiences: it’s a masterclass in absurd humor.

A large part of that has to do with Tom Hiddleston’s deliciously entertaining performance, which is just the right amount of camp; just the right amount of Shakespearean villain; and more quintessentially British than ever before. Hiddleston is, in fact, channeling a number of iconic characters from around the globe, including James Bond and Good Omens‘ Crowley (a creation of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, by the way). He’s also stepping into the shoes of real-life historical figures – most notably the legendary “D.B. Cooper”.

Loki
Loki as “D.B. Cooper” | vulture.com

Those who love the thrill of trying to solve decades-old mysteries will enjoy this reference. D.B. Cooper, the unidentified man who somehow pulled off a mid-air robbery in 1971 before parachuting into a storm and disappearing from history makes an appearance in the Loki trailer: and the series finds a delightfully clever way of answering the questions surrounding Cooper’s true identity, by suggesting that Cooper was none other than the God of Mischief. As for how he escaped an FBI manhunt, well, that’s quite simple: he was snatched out of the sky by the Bifrost bridge of Asgard, of course! A few dollars drift out of Loki’s attaché case as he disappears, and are scorched by the heat of the Bifrost – the same dollars, it would seem, that an eight-year old boy would find by a riverbank years after the event, mysteriously burned. The attention to detail here is simply staggering…and honestly, it’s as good an explanation as any. Cooper’s identity is still unknown, and the FBI officially gave up the search in 2016.

It’s not the only unsolved mystery teased in the trailer. Near the end, a Polybius arcade game is also briefly visible in the background: a reference to the arcade game of the same name that sparked an urban legend in the early 2000’s when it supposedly appeared out of the blue, hypnotizing or even brainwashing players, and attracting the attention of men in black. A crucial part of the legend was that the game would sometimes teleport players to other dimensions, and I expect that it will be used in the same way in Loki.

But why all this talk of historical mysteries? Well, the trailer confirms what we’ve long known: which is that the Time Variance Authority (or TVA) will employ Loki as one of their agents during the course of the show, and assign him various missions fixing the timeline and making sure human history proceeds as it’s supposed to do. The TVA serves much the same function as the Commission in The Umbrella Academy, but with a much larger team of characters: including Mobius. M. Mobius, played by comedic actor Owen Wilson, and a severe-looking councilwoman with martial arts skills, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw. In the case of Loki, it’s unclear whether the TVA actually wanted him on their team, or were forced to recruit him because of the danger he poses as a rogue operative, wielding the Tesseract. The TVA may also need his help against a shadowy enemy we see in the trailer slaughtering their agents: a hooded figure who could be the time-traveler Kang, or an alternate, even more horrible, version of Loki.

Loki
Mobius M. Mobius and Loki | slashfilm.com

On the sidelines for now but sure to feature more prominently in time, there are hints of the Roxxon Energy Corporation – which, in the comics, tries to colonize space and harvest minerals on Mars. Interestingly, many theorists speculated that Roxxon would be the primary antagonist of Thor: Love And Thunder, with Christian Bale rumored to be playing the corporation’s tyrannical minotaur leader, Dario Agger. Bale has now been confirmed to be playing a different villain, Gorr the God-Butcher, but it seems Roxxon will still play a part in the Loki series at least. We see both its inconspicuous façade on earth, as a grocery store, and its more secretive side in the form of a deep quarry on an alien planet. A red-haired woman is clearly visible in one shot, and Twitter immediately started asking if it might be Natasha Romanoff: but although I initially thought the same thing, the different hairstyle and sword at her hip makes me think this is someone else entirely.

If any major MCU characters are going to show up, I would bet on Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and/or Idris Elba as Heimdall, since Loki’s disguise as D.B. Cooper appears to be part of an ingenious plan to get in contact with both of his fellow Asgardians, and the Bifrost bridge that sucked him up has to have been summoned by somebody. Hopefully something happens by the end of the series that will allow this version of Loki to interact with the current version of Thor.

Trailer Rating: 10/10

“What If?” 1st Trailer Review!

Whereas the Star Wars franchise long ago learned how to span multiple mediums, with a strong foothold in the crowded field of animation thanks to series like The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels, the Marvel Cinematic Universe hasn’t ever been quite as successful at that. But that’s all about to change, with the upcoming What If…? series that explores unbelievable alternate realities branching off from the main MCU timeline. What if T’Challa took Peter Quill’s place as Star Lord and traveled the stars? What if Peggy Carter, not Steve Rogers, took the Super Soldier serum and was transformed into Captain Britain? What if Stephen Strange…well, actually, I’m not entirely sure what it is we see Stephen Strange doing in this first trailer for What If…?, or how it’s much different from what he actually did in Doctor Strange, but it’s cool: whatever it is.

What If
T’Challa as Star Lord | comingsoon.net

What If…? will have episodes corresponding to each of the current MCU movies, though so far we’ve really only seen footage from a handful, particularly the Peggy Carter as Captain Britain episode (which, of course, correlates to Captain America: The First Avenger). Linking all the stories in this massive anthology is the mysterious character of The Watcher, voiced by Jeffrey Wright: a cosmic being composed of starlight. It’s unclear if The Watcher only exists in this show, or if he’ll make an appearance in the MCU movies as well. For now, though, he’s just a really cool voice.

What If
Captain America as a zombie | slashfilm.com

Speaking of voices, perhaps the most exciting thing about What If…? – apart from its intriguing premise – is the fact that it’s compiled the voice talents of almost all the actors in the MCU, even those who have since departed the franchise…or, tragically in the case of Chadwick Boseman, passed away. Boseman’s performance as an alternate Star-Lord (in either the Guardians Of The Galaxy or Black Panther episode: it’s still unclear) will quite possibly be the last of his brief but glorious career, and we hear just a snippet of his voice work in this first trailer.

I do hope that we soon find out more about this series, since thus far we still only know the basic premises of two or three episodes. There are quick shots of Iron Man, Hawkeye, Thor, Captain Marvel, and, for some reason, The Collector from Guardians Of The Galaxy – all of them just look like how we remember them from the movie. There’s also that one tantalizing clip of Bucky Barnes fighting a zombie version of Captain America that we’ve seen before, but which still looks very interesting – and which I have to assume comes from an alternate Winter Soldier where it’s Steve Rogers, instead of Bucky, who was brainwashed by HYDRA: though why he got turned into an undead corpse is anyone’s guess.

What If
Peggy Carter as Captain Britain | geektyrant.com

What If…? also seems to have beautiful 2D animation, which is pretty rare these days and gives the series a unique look – nothing like the 3D animated Star Wars shows that we’ve seen before (and which, to be fair, look stunning and are proven successes). Whether What If…? fits into the great big jigsaw puzzle that is the MCU, or whether it’s just an awesome way to explore endless possible outcomes, I can’t wait to watch it, and I would rank this among the most exciting new reveals from the Disney Investors Call.

Trailer Rating: 9/10