Mar 14, 2018

The MCU Roundtable: Avengers: Age of Ultron

If you’re anything like us, than you were blown away when the first Avengers: Infinity War trailer dropped.  The extended Comics Cube family was so excited that we have decided to embark upon a full re-watch of the Marvel Studios film series.  Every week we are going to watch and provide a roundtable discussion about each Marvel movie in release order.  Next, the sequel to their most successful movie yet.

Countdown to Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Comics Cube Roundtable

Avengers: Age of Ultron was released on May 1, 2015 and made $191 million on its opening weekend.  It ended its theatrical run at $459 million in the United States and $1.4 million total worldwide.

DUY: Officially speaking, Ant-Man is the final film of Phase 2, but it feels like the first film of Phase 3 to me, so we're gonna call this the end of Phase 2.

JEFF: It is used to plant seeds for the next Cap and Thor movies and foreshadow the Infinity War, and I find that really hurts the movie's flow a lot for me.

MATT: Yeah, this movie was more about setting pieces, but was ultimately fairly incoherent. Strucker just dies, making him just sneering and pointless. Quicksilver is meh. Clint getting a lot of time actually works fairly well. Mostly, though, I just want to curse like a motherfucker about the idea of dropping a city state to restart life.

JD: If you take this as the middle part of the unofficial trilogy of Avengers, Age of Ultron, and Civil War, I think it's fine. But on its own it doesn't stand up well.

TRAVIS: Ultron might be the only part that works for me. And, I might be the only person, Ultron works for.

MATT: I think James Spader as Ultron is the perfect RDJ foil given their 80s characterizations.

DUY: This is my single most hated MCU movie, and it along with Iron Man 2 may be the only ones I actively truly hate. I talk about how much I hate Dark Knight Rises, Batman v Superman, and Man of Steel, but Age of Ultron is just as bad. My sentiment of it is brought up only by the good will that came before and after.

JEFF: When it came out I remember walking away fairly disappointed in this movie. It's not horrible to me, but falls short from the movies that preceded it and doesn't fulfill its potential. Part of it is definitely the setting up plots for other movies, and another part is probably Isaac Perlmutter's behind-the-scenes involvement.

DUY: We can't talk about Age of Ultron without talking about the choice to put Black Widow and Banner in a romance, with Black Widow feeling like she's a monster because she would be unable to have a baby. Personally, I think the backlash is more of a side effect of the fact that she's the only woman in the group, and that it would be significantly lighter if there was more female representation. Thoughts?

TRAVIS: I like their romance. They're pretty cute, in a good awkward way. But, the sterilized thing has been done better elsewhere, even with Widow, that I feel there's little excuse for how poorly it's handled here. Even if nobody meant us to conflate that with the "monster" bit, they're put together on screen for us. That's on them.

MATT: I liked their pairing. It was set up in Avengers and I think it works well. I always thought when watching this movie, she felt that the Red Room turned her into a monster due to massive amounts of murder. But her dialogue in that scene is bad regardless.

DUY: First glimpse of Widow's backstory with the ballet assassins. Personally I'd rather this have been saved for her own eventual movie. Thoughts?

JEFF: I think it was time for some character building with her. This was the fourth movie Widow was in after all.

LAMAR: This movie had tons of character work...but almost all of it was unnecessary and forced. It's so distracting that the best action pieces, some of which are among the best in the MCU, didn't interest me because I was taken out of the movie.
"I think the backlash is more of a side effect of the fact that she's the only woman in the group, and that it would be significantly lighter if there was more female representation." -Duy
TRAVIS: Ultron's drunk baby schtick still warms my heart. "I think I killed a guy. He was a good guy." Half-apologetic at tearing a man's arm off in overreaction. His what-a-child-thinks-is-brilliant master plans.

DUY: He also basically looked at the internet for 15 minutes and decided humanity was terrible, which... is realistic.

TRAVIS: I suppose I do miss the comics version, in the sense of his Sophocles obsession. But, maybe he gets that from Hank, and Tony is more of an, "I just need ten minutes and the internet" guy.

MATTHEW: I really enjoyed the opening action sequence. There's a shot where everybody is lined up and it looks exactly like a big double page spread straight from a comic. The only thing it's missing is Cap yelling "Avengers Assemble!"

DUY: I agree, the opener is amazing. Which just sets up the rest of it for my disappointment.

JEFF:I loved the opening action as well and the hammer-lifting scene before Ultron shows up but too much feels forced in this movie. There was a natural flow in the first movie that feels absent here and is written like we're just suppose to accept things like them using the Hulk against a Hydra base now when Steve didn't feel the need to call The Avengers during Winter Soldier when there was a bigger threat.

MATT: Compared to the first Avengers and Winter Soldier, this movie is a bummer. It's just not coherent and they try to do too many things, thus ultimately giving Ultron (and Vision) short shrift. Although, upon further review, Vision has 3 daddies and is a it's totally a backdoor Three Men and a Baby reboot.

DUY: The Vision's creation had some of the fanboys in my theater marking out, but it's so rushed and extraneous to the entire story.

JEFF: I really think they should have left this out of the movie and putting an infinity stone on his forehead makes him way too powerful.

There was a natural flow in the first movie that feels absent here... -Jeff

MATT: Tony's army of Iron Men was creepy as hell, which I believe was the point.

DUY: It's also a good continuation from Iron Man 3, the kind of detail that I feel they don't carry over into other movies enough.

JEFF: The Hulk/Iron Man fight wasn't disappointing at least. That scene where Hulk spits out a tooth and Starks reaction was gold.

DUY: This is another movie where I thought Thor's jokes were severely out of place. "I am Thor, son of Odin, god of thunder, and I am running out of things to say" is a complete missed opportunity for a badass moment.

JEFF: This would have been much better with less screentime used to plant seeds. Sometimes all you need is one good line to plant a seed like when Banner mentions the name Wakanda, better without The Vision at all (Ultron survives to create Vision in another movie), and better with more time for just Ultron. Ultron is one of The Avengers' biggest in-book villains, but here it feels he's diminished with a lack of time for motivation and a master plan that feels cheesy.

DUY: You know I'm disengaged with a movie when the flaws are the stuff I focus on. Does someone have a no-prize explanation for why in the world Tony would have a change of clothes for Pietro and Wanda within the quinjet?

TRAVIS: Tony entertains a lot of people, who might lose their clothes? So, there's a little mix and match wardrobe? (I don't even remember the clothes-change issue, to be honest.)

DUY: Wanda and Pietro's clothes get wrecked, and Tony happens to have exact copies in the quinjet.

TRAVIS: That wacky guy!

JEFF: He has a machine to make clothes, usually for Banner. He has a machine for everything

DUY: I'll take it. This movie sees the introduction of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, referred to as "miracles" and not "mutants," while at the same time another version of Pietro showed up in Days of Future Past over in the X-Men franchise. How did you like the Maximoffs in this movie?

MAX: Personally I found Pietro underwhelming. He should be amusing in that sardonic elitist kinda way. Less aloof and more like a Lannister in Game of Thrones.

DUY: One of the points of contention is the long middle at Hawkeye's farm, where it's revealed that he's been married to Velma from Scooby Doo and has had a family this whole time. This gave some depth to Hawkeye's character but could be said to have really slowed down the momentum of the movie. Thoughts?

MATT: It is a beefcake excuse to show Steve ripping the logs.

JEFF: But didn't the first Avengers movie have similar pacing in it? It started with action, slowed down for introductions, Thor vs Iron Man, slowed a bit when they got back to the Helicarrier, then Thor vs Hulk, quick breather and big finish. It just seems like the slow pace scenes in the movie got more time, which is what Whedon wanted and fought to have in the film.

DUY: This movie gives us our first death in Quicksilver. Death had, at this point, long been a point of contention for MCU movies, with fans believing that the dead should have stayed dead (Coulson, Fury, etc.). This movie gives those critics what they wanted. Does it work?

TRAVIS: I don't really get the "there have to be deaths, and they have to be permanent," urge, but I accept it is there for many fans.

DUY: One of the reasons I was never really in favor of anyone dying prior to Infinity War is that this felt like an ongoing job, so anyone dying is basically someone losing a really fun job. I believe the Quicksilver actor made it explicit that he didn't want to come back. I'm looking at it now and realizing that any actual deaths are probably best served to come with Infinity War.

MATT: Quicksilver's death is also a pale, pale comparison to the inevitable: Coulson

I don't really get the "there have to be deaths, and they have to be permanent," urge, but I accept it is there for many fans. -Travis

DUY: Is the Vision worthy or is it because he's a machine?

TRAVIS: Probably both.

MATT: JARVIS is probably more worthy. Speaking of which, I do like the intense look Thor gives Steve when everyone is trying to lift the hammer. It wiggles!

TRAVIS: I honestly dislike Cap *wiggling* it. Especially if humility is a big part of MCU hammer worthiness.

DUY: All the talk near the end about how they should just blow up Sokovia and Cap even considering that particular course of action is probably my biggest disappointment with this movie. Cap wouldn't give up!

MATT: I think this speaks to the films uncertainty in deciding what it wants to be. Is it an action movie where our heroes solve a problem or is it a character piece where we learn more about the heroes? The individual movies were able to balance this because they could focus. The team-up movies can't. The characters need to be settled so they can act.

DUY: Matt, what makes something like this different to balance compared to Guardians, where they all only exist as a unit?

MATT: So Guardians had to use economy because the characters weren’t established, hence more archetypes. Avengers 2 has established characters, you can shade them a bit, but sending Thor off on a half-assed vision quest isn’t necessary.

TRAVIS: I only remember Scarlet Witch exists when I think of this movie. And, then I remember that Scarlet's Witch is probably a more effective movie than Age of Ultron, and I think of all the talent combined in Age and their huge budget and... sad.

Sending Thor off on a half-assed vision quest isn’t necessary. -Matt

DUY: Who wins the Kilmer Award for this movie?

MATT Spader’s Ultron is so out there, he at least deserves and honorable mention.

DUY: And, comic recommendations for the Age of Ultron? I'm going to go with the obvious and say Ultron Unlimited from the Busiek/Perez run.

JEFF: If only the movie was as good as that story.

TRAVIS: Ultron Imperative, because it's the best Ultron comic. And, Endless Wartime, because it's a fantastic Avengers comic about hubris and smashing.

JEFF: Avengers Epic Collection vol 4: Behold....The Vision, West Coast Avengers: Ultron Unbound and Avengers: The Bride of Ultron.

JD: Earth X. Creel absorbs Ultron and kills millions. Then saves everyone. It's great. And dumb. But great, too.

LAMAR: JLA/Avengers. People just need to read it, has nothing to do with this movie and I hope no comic I ever read makes me reminisce on this film.

Mar 12, 2018

Johnny Storm’s Addicted to Twin Peaks

There's a nutshell description, a sell for every character in fiction, from made-for-TV movies to monthly comics. But especially with serial fiction, there are developments that fly in the face of those nutshell sells. The backstory or interests that, when you stop to think about them, make the character different, and refreshed. Harry Potter is, by the middle of the series, a wealthy, blessed, beloved-by-his-teachers jock at the top of the only sport his school cares about. That sort of thing. Lolita is a lonely scared rape victim.

Johnny Storm’s Addicted to Twin Peaks
Travis Hedge Coke

Captain America is an artist from Brooklyn who got beat up all the time.

Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, was addicted to Twin Peaks.

Iceman, Bobby Drake, can be crazy racist and used to make jokes about being gay, and being his friends’ lover, named "Lance," before finally coming out.

Patsy “Hellcat” Walker’s mom, sold her daughter, Patsy’s soul to the Devil, in exchange for a small media empire.

Here’s how Clark “Superman” Kent talks to lazy police:

Dagwood Bumstead of Blondie fame, was fantastically wealthy and he gave it up (and went on a hunger strike) to marry his beloved, the title character of the strip.

Batman villain, Bane, is a voracious reader, but his lack of normative life experience (he grew up in a a maximum security prison as a prisoner), means he misunderstands the politics and social dynamics of much of what he has read.

T’Challa, the Black Panther, has a white brother and, Wakanda was openly soliciting visits, concerts, and performances by great artists and thinkers from around the world since the latter part of his father’s reign.

For all his fatherliness, the first version of Splinter, raised the Ninja Turtles explicitly as a small army to get revenge for him.

The Thing holds several advanced degrees. He just also has an accent, speaks in regionalisms, and is best friends with a super-genius.

Emma Frost read Beast’s mind, when he was publicly claiming to be gay, but only confirmed that he had never had a physical relationship with another man, stopping short of confirming him straight.

Often appearing the adult in comparison to her partner, May Hopkins, Gunsmith Cats’ Rally Vincent is also a teenager, pretending to be in her mid-twenties.

Memory issues aside, Wolverine is well-versed in early 20th Century writers and painters, from Hemingway to Picasso.

Vision once declared himself to not be a white man, as he is not human, and his skin is bright red. An issue later, he created a human disguise to live more comfortably; a white man.

Reed “Mr Fantastic” Richards, leader of the Fantastic Four, listens to Bob Dylan and reads Clive Barker.

Before becoming a superhero, Captain Marvel was an Air Force pilot, spymaster, and for a time, head of security at NASA.

As a teenager, Sue Storm encountered and survived an attack by Dracula.

Bruce Wayne had living, and monied family when he was orphaned. None of them took him in and he was, ultimately, raised by the family butler.

Mar 7, 2018

The MCU Roundtable: Guardians of the Galaxy

If you’re anything like us, than you were blown away when the first Avengers: Infinity War trailer dropped.  The extended Comics Cube family was so excited that we have decided to embark upon a full re-watch of the Marvel Studios film series.  Every week we are going to watch and provide a roundtable discussion about each Marvel movie in release order.  Next, that ragtag group of space explorers.

Countdown to Avengers: Infinity War
Guardians of the Galaxy
Comics Cube Roundtable

Guardians of the Galaxy was released on July 31, 2014 and made $145 million on its opening weekend.  It ended its theatrical run at $333 million in the United States and $773 million total worldwide.

TRAVIS: I was pretty sure this would be just okeh, or worse. It was neither. It was awesome.

ANTONIO: I was pretty excited for this one. Even before it came out, I just kept going, “Groot in a flowerpot! Groot in a flowerpot!” ‘Cause that’s how things went in Annihilation: Conquest. One thing I do hate is that DnA gets all the credit, though. That just bugs the hell outta me.

JD: I at first did not dig the trailer. Looking back now I can see its genius. The familiar music mixed with new characters, something that was very different yet also somehow nostalgic. I admit I was wrong and I'd say it has since become the standard for the genre.

JEFF: I remember seeing this movie when it came out, it felt like a joy to watch from the opening credits sequence to the post credits scene. Marvels cosmic play ground is so deep and rich in characters that I really want more movies set off earth.

MATTHEW: I was really scared that this was going to be the one that completely went off the rails. Throughout the entire movie I was waiting for it to do just that. By the end I was just awestruck.

LAMAR: Let me tell y'all something right brother had never read a Guardians comic, and was skeptical about the whole movie. He paid for his ticket, and I told him if he didn't like it I'd give him the money he paid back. We went down there and he acted a pure fool, okay? I thought he was gonna get thrown out on his ass for his behavior, but he had a festival in there. Even old people were losing their minds over this movie. I even stopped watching the movie so I could see how people were reacting to it. I was sitting there like, "These Guardians are banging this damn theater." To this minute one of the most gratifying movie experiences I've ever had, easily.

MAX: I was a victim of hype on this one. I came in expecting so much. Not just because of the positive critical response and box office but also a few lifelong DC fans i know who called it their favorite superhero film. If you can believe it, I barely laughed on first viewing. I left feeling like the whole thing tried too hard and failed. Since then, I’ve watched it a couple more times and reversed that opinion (though for some reason I still prefer Vol. 2)...goes to show how much mindset can play into our opinion on a movie or comic or whatever.

DUY: I'm with you on this one. Hype gets me negatively too. I only saw this movie once in theaters and I don't think I appreciated it as much back then. Part of it is me having no prior attachment to these characters, and a part of it is me being a "space racist," meaning I'm prejudiced against stories that happen in space. I enjoyed it a lot, but I really got an appreciation for it when I was able to watch it on video. A part of that is because I tend to play movies in the background as I do other stuff, and this had the sweetest soundtrack. I appreciate it even more now after the second movie, but that's a discussion for the second movie.

MAX: Apparently the biggest point of contention was the batshit insane. It’s a no-brainer. especially in hindsight with the influence it’s had on Ragnarok and the newer DC films.

MATT: This is the one I was most unsure of coming in phase 2. I had no idea who these people were, where they were, or why a tree and talking garbage panda would be involved. Given my reservations (and missing it in the theaters), I found myself liking the latest Chris added to Marvel's pantheon and most of his supporting cast.  Zoe Saldana can't read the lines well (for some reason, I just think she can't use contractions). I did love the music, Yondu, Kirk from Gilmore Girls, and Drax. We'll come back to Drax later I suspect.

TRAVIS: I like Sean Gunn having his own character, but it's weird to me, having him be the body for Rocket and not the voice. That's always off to me. (See, also: Hellboy.)

To this minute one of the most gratifying movie experiences I've ever had, easily. -LaMar

MATT: Ronan is kind of a wasted villain.

TRAVIS: Ronan didn't feel wasted to me. His intro was pretty cool.

MATT: My problem with Ronan (and Thor 2's villains) is we get told motives, but not really shown. So Ronan just appears to be doing Thanos's dirty work for him, until the inevitable villain double cross. I had expected more understanding of the antagonist's motivations more from previous installments (Thor, Iron Man 1 and 3, Winter Soldier, Avengers). This felt like a bit more of a backslide. I learned more about the guy from Boogie Nights' family than I did the (slightly smaller) big bad. It's mostly a quibble though.

TRAVIS: They lost a big war, he's a supremacist, so he wants to crush them as revenge. I suppose that resonates with me as a scary villain motive. Seems believably dangerous. Him fetching baubles for Thanos seems a distant second to that.

MATT: This also comes from my general confusion as to what the Kree are in the comics. I never followed along with the space folk. I just looked up who the actor was and damn, it was Lee Pace from Pushing Daisies. Now, not having Ronan make a pie was a waste.

DUY: My problem with Ronan is the same problem I had with Malekith. Yeah, they're scary, but beyond that I didn't really find anything memorable.

JD: The problem with a few of MCU villains is that they are just placeholders for Thanos. I guess that's the downside of showing everyone your movie slate three or so years out.

MAX: Here’s what I wonder. How do you address that without taking away from what makes the film work? You don’t want any less screentime for the heroes, and you don’t want to make the film longer. So do you rewrite Ronan’s scenes? A certain amount of it needs to be nuts and bolts stuff: establish him, his relationships and his objective...there’s not a lot of time left. I guess that’s where Blanchett’s Hela in ragnarok was able to squeeze out a bit more personality in the time she had.

MATT: It’s more about establishing stakes for the heroes. Only Drax and Gamora should care really. You need Andy Dwyer to care too to sell it (Groot and Rocket are probably not gettable in the first movie).

MAX: Well yeah, so do we do that by strengthening the relationships with Drax/Gamora/Ronan, or do we show Ronan doing more straight up evil stuff (ala Hela slaughtering the Warriors Three)? In all honesty, I’m having trouble remembering any of Ronan’s scenes beyond Pratt’s performance of “Ooh Child.”

DUY: That's where I'm at with the "Marvel has weak villains" criticism too. Maybe they do, but after Hackman's Lex and Nicholson's and Ledger's Jokers, it's nice to give the heroes more screentime.

MATT: For me, it's about being economical. Think of a movie like Raiders of the Lost Ark, you get maybe five minutes of time (not a lot in a two-hour plus movie) to establish villainy among the non-Nazis (Nazis are easy, hence my lack of complaint in the First Avenger). You can do it quick. I honestly forgot the link between Korath and Ronan. That's how you get Andy to care (since he's established as a rogue and not a general do-gooder).

DUY: To be perfectly fair, Ronan at least looked badass.

MATT: Looked badass, but also like he was crying black tears for days. Too emo

ANTONIO: I like the idea behind Ronan. He was a product of a war that spanned generations. He was probably raised on so much propaganda that it seemed more like his government betrayed him when the peace treaties were signed. The problem with that idea is that they skimmed over it, didn’t really explore it much, ‘cause it’s a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. But the seeds of an interesting backstory were there. Oh, and that ending. If Quill doesn’t at least try to rap-battle Thanos in Infinity War, I’m gonna be sorely disappointed.

DUY: The dance-off is probably the defining moment in the entire movie, and to its critics, the moment that undercuts the entire movie. What do you guys think in general about Guardians being a comedy?

ANTONIO: Ronan’s a little bitch for not taking the challenge! He knew he couldn’t handle Starlord’s outlaw dance moves.

MAX: Loved it. Literally watched that part over and over. I saw rabid people on YouTube who had a problem with it...I don’t get those people.

DUY: Dazzler the miniseries, in the 80s, ended with Dazzler singing the villain into submission. That was majorly panned in the 80s. Either times have changed, or 2010s movie fans are a way different breed from 1980s comics fans.

You don’t want any less screentime for the heroes, and you don’t want to make the film longer. So do you rewrite Ronan’s scenes? -Max

DUY: We keep bringing up degree of difficulty with these things, but this one had to take the cake, right? Iron Man, Thor, and Cap proved you could do movies based on characters that are, at least, the archetypes in-universe, but this is the one that removed any excuses. If Rocket and Groot can work, no character really has an excuse for not working.

TRAVIS: More, I think, an accomplishment for getting the fans who were sure they couldn't accept them, than with a general audience. Getting a general audience to embrace Groot is probably not that difficult.

DUY: I don't think Rocket on his own would be that difficult (that's basically a Pixar movie), but Rocket with the spaceman and the green assassin is the "This is one careful step away from going all kinds of wrong."

TRAVIS: It just doesn't feel very distant from any other successful space opera. They're Star Wars/Star Trek/Space Truckers. Flight of the Navigator. Captain Eo. Dot dot dot ""in a superhero movie!" though, I guess that's a thing.

DUY: Good point. I keep forgetting star wars exists and is unfairly successful. Also, I'd believe the nonbelievers in the concept may include studio executives, the types who would think Galactus is better depicted as a giant cloud

ANTONIO: Rocket catching the gun while riding Groot. I can see why non-comic fans loved them so much. And jeez. That anguished cry from Kid Quill when his grandfather carries him out of the hospital room... Also, "pelvic sorcery!"

TRAVIS: The "mystery" of the alien girl wearing his old Earth shirt after the time jump is my favorite instance of really-missing-the-point in MCU clickbait articles and message board threads.

ANTONIO: What “mystery”?

TRAVIS: How did this girl he just picked up just happen to come out of his bedroom in a hurry wearing... a shirt he owned?!? Popular theories point to her having brought it with her or being connected to Quill's father, because those make sense.  This has, "It's Punisher in a van!" beat by miles and miles.

ANTONIO: I like Punisher in the moving van theory!

DUY: What Punisher in a van theory?

ANTONIO: Winter Soldier. The moving van that hits one of the cop cars chasing Fury.

(Marvel) somehow have managed to transform good actors into transcendent ones and cast bad actors so perfectly that it takes advantage of all their strengths and disguises their weaknesses. -Katherine

DUY: I was really scared about Batista playing Drax since I have a general aversion to wrestlers acting and since I don't even like him as a wrestler, but he made me love him. "Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are too quick. I would catch it."

ANTONIO: His acting in this is pretty bad, but he gets a lot of good lines and gimmick so he gets a pass. He definitely grows as an actor by the time he shows up in the new Blade Runner movie.

DUY: His character in this one is such that I think the bad acting even helps. And also highlights his overall growth for Volume 2.

JD: I was confident in Batista. Before he left WWE he was did a program with Rey Mysterio that was a best friend break-up angle. He had morphed his character and it was compelling.

MAX: His acting works like magic for Drax. I think he’s perfect.

KATHERINE: Drax is hilarious. I didn't know anything about Batista before but walked out thinking that he may have been the funniest out of a cast of insanely funny characters. If he's not a good actor, I couldn't tell because he was pitch perfect for the character.

TRAVIS: I can't get behind Bautista being a bad or weak actor. He's not moving out of range, but I've never had issue with him in a movie.

DUY: I have a general aversion to wrestlers acting in big movies, because I'm generally unable to see them as anything other than the wrestler. Yes, this applies to the Rock too. But Batista is one who at the time I wasn't even convinced of in terms of his wrestling character, so there's that.

KATHERINE: That should say everything about Marvel's casting prowess. They somehow have managed to transform good actors into transcendent ones and cast bad actors so perfectly that it takes advantage of all their strengths and disguises their weaknesses.

DUY: It definitely does go towards Marvel's casting prowess. Up to this point, the one piece of casting I was absolutely sure would work was Ed Norton as the Hulk, and... it didn't, really.

MATT: Yeah, Drax was a surprise. I think they played into Bautista's strengths (i.e. don't say much and certainly nothing complicated). Plus, not he gets to have fun pretending not to understand metaphors.

Does anyone think that GotG can be a lasting sci-fi franchise, like Star Wars, Star Trek and Aliens? -Jeff

ANTONIO: So there’s this part in the ship where Ronan knocks them all down and Drax falls back against the steps, right? He barely lands before he’s back up and running at Ronan. I hate that part.

TRAVIS: The cameos in this one were heartwarming. Lloyd Kaufman could have completely thrown me out of the "world" and instead I was laughing and felt more in the world. Completely missed Rob Zombie, though.

JEFF: Does anyone think that GotG can be a lasting sci-fi franchise, like Star Wars, Star Trek and Aliens?

MATT: Since it’s set reasonably far away from Earth, for now, maybe.

DUY: I don't see any reason why it couldn't be. The Marvel Universe has a lot to choose from, especially now that Fox is back.

JEFF: I think that this is an area that Marvel is missing in its TV efforts. They could bring Nova or Mar-Vell to the small screen and explore a lot of the cosmic landscape that they'll never have enough time for it a film.

DUY: When the movie was coming out, there was talk that Nova was going to show up, played by Nathan Fillion. He instead voiced an alien prisoner that Groot ends up putting in his place. At this point, Nova has yet to show up in the MCU, but he does seem to be someone that the internal fandom hopes will show up at some point.

DUY: Favorite Guardian?

ANTONIO: Rocket, of course. Dude broke out of 23 prisons. You gotta respect that.

KATHERINE: I find Drax the funniest, but overall favorite would probably have to be Groot. For the juxtaposition of his purehearted innocence and his capability for super deadly force. After he skewers a line of soldiers and smacks them around, his big sweet smile is so damn charming. Also, Baby Groot is so cute I can’t even stand it (more of a discussion for the second film, but since he makes a cameo here he kind of counts).

JEFF: Groot, and honestly without him I don't see this movie being anywhere near as successful.

DUY: I feel like my favorite is Gamora, just because of her backstory, but she was also my biggest disappointment, and this is where prior knowledge of the whole thing works against me -- I know she's supposed to be much more dangerous than she's portrayed. But "I have spent my life surrounded by my enemies. It would be an honor to die among friends" hit me hard.

JD: I like Gamora a lot. I think there's tons of potential for the character and I can't wait for her to interact with Thor and Tony and Natasha.

DUY: Favorite song from the soundtrack?

JD: The correct answer is "Cherry Bomb" by The Runaways. Any other answer is wrong.

JEFF: Without a doubt "Ain't no Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. It's such a great feel good song and it fit perfectly with what they showed after Quill read his mother's letter and opened her gift. Gamora dancing a little, Yondu smiling at the troll doll in the orb he was tricked with, the Nova Corps officer embracing his family. It all fit together perfect and the music resonated with me a lot. I've been using an part of that song for my ringtone ever since.

DUY: Mine is probably "Ooh Child," likely because it's connected to my favorite Tupac song. But "Come and Get Your Love" really does just kinda get the movie going

MATT: Why do you make us choose? It's like choose your favorite member of the Marvel family. We know you want to choose Mary, but secretly we all know you're an Uncle Marvel. The correct answer is "Hooked on a Feeling."

MATTHEW: "Come and Get Your Love."

I like Gamora a lot. I think there's tons of potential for the character and I can't wait for her to interact with Thor and Tony and Natasha. -JD

DUY: Who wins the Kilmer Award for the movie?

MATT: Yondu, hands down. Second is Rocket.

JEFF: I'm going with Groot here, he's the show in every scene he's in.

DUY: Comics recommendations for Guardians of the Galaxy?

LAMAR: Annihilation, no question.

JEFF: After Annihilation, Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, volumes 1 and 2. Then Cosmic Avengers; this version of the team is pretty recent. These books are the start for them as the Guardians. Also the 2007 Nova series is an underappreciated book.

TRAVIS: The Ellis/Pacheco Starjammers mini. And, the Morrison/Jones Marvel Boy.

ANTONIO: Annihilation: Conquest, you heathens!

Mar 5, 2018

What About Magneto and Professor X’s Contemporaries?

When you think about colleagues of X-Men patricians, Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto, the big daddies of mutant politics, most of whom come to mind are students or teenagers and twenty-somethings they recruited as foot soldiers. They hang out with kids, and maybe Wolverine (who is old, but generally amnesiac) and Mastermind (who might be old, but might also just have aged really, really poorly).

What About Magneto and Professor X’s Contemporaries?
Travis Hedge Coke

So, where are the mutants and mutant-experts their age? Where are their colleagues who could first buy beer in the same year as them? Sinister, Apocalypse, and Mystique are all way older. Cyclops, Storm, and the Scarlet Witch are much younger.

And, the answer — looking at Astra, Amelia Voght, Dr Moira MacTaggart, Gabrielle Haller, et al — is that their contemporaries have given them a shot here and there, but largely just gave up on either man and their respective politics, because they’re a couple chumps. Yes, compared to Magneto, Professor X’s politics seem really good, but you’re comparing him to a genocidal supremacist who runs terrorist cults. Compared to normal people, even compared to your average political speaker, he’s acceptably a jerk, as well as a good-natured sexist and selfish dude with a big ol’ mansion.

Voght, for instance, is degreed, mature, and concerned, but even though she knew Xavier when he was putting his first X-team together, she never would have been his student and would never have wanted to be. He — and this is canon — couldn’t handle that she was an adult, that she was his contemporary, to the degree that, when she bailed on him, he tried to jump in her head and change her mind by force. Kids are so much easier to mold without having to brainwash anyone!

When Xavier first introduces Dr MacTaggart to his students, he refers to her as a housecleaner he’s hired. She’s better respected than him, in their scientific fields. She’s a working scientist, to his casual research and academe position. But, whatever, they used to date and stuff, so the young people living in his huge house can’t know she’s not there to vacuum.

Remember, this is the better of the two dudes. Magneto is worse in every way.

Voght still tries one of Magneto’s cults for awhile, hoping to steer it a little more centrist, and basically checking out a scene she isn’t committed to. She floats back and forth between Acolytes and X-Men, without addressing Magneto or Xavier really head on, and then drifts off to her own thing again. Dr MacTaggart dies, as a result of her research and continued work on mutant medical issues, and Xavier has psychic-sex with her as she passes.

Gabby Haller isn’t a mutant or a mutant-expert, so to speak, but she is a woman who is the same age as Magneto (but super younger looking than someone who survived the Holocaust), and gave birth to a son she believes to be the offspring of Xavier, but is in fact, his own father, because her son is messed up and very powerful.

These are the people they could be working hand in hand with, and occasionally they are pitched back together by fate and necessity, but it’s always temporary, always ill-eased and transient. And, it’s basically just because neither man can show them a baseline modicum of respect. Nowhere near the respect they can show one another.

Let’s take a side trip, momentarily, to address again that the mother of what appears to be Charles Xavier’s son, is a Holocaust survivor and still-working politician. Non-mutant, no powers. Chris Claremont, himself, has written Haller and Magneto to be roughly the same age.

So, a) Haller had a child super late in life, b) she would be, now, what, twice as old or more as Xavier?, and c) Xavier and Magneto are not really, then, contemporaries, in terms of age and experience. Xavier is young enough to be Magneto’s grandson.

Do we address this as an issue of elders and adults? Elders, adults, and young adults?

Astra is both better educated and more intelligent than either Xavier or Magneto, but she is younger than Magneto by a number of years. She does not seem younger than Xavier, though, and her work, in terms of mutant politics and protection/exploitation may actually predate Xavier or Magneto actively pursuing such a “cause.” She refused, however, to be treated as a child, as if she were on the level with teenage runaways or Toad. And, she’s still, to this day, both incredibly jealous and very, very attracted to Magneto. She let not being accepted as a contemporary, as a full-adult, shape the rest of her life.

These are the tops in their field, the elite few, and unless someone’s trying to have a romance or in need of a 24/7 nurse, Xavier and Magneto have isolated all of them. Consciously or not, the two men have downplayed all of their contemporaries, which for a demagogue like Magneto, sure, fair, but Charles Xavier is supposed to be a good guy, a heroic guy. He’s “the Martin Luther King Jr” (god, I hate that). He’s a guy who can’t share credit, is what’s really going on. Like, Magneto, it has to be about him. Does anyone really believe he called them X-Men because they had “something eXtra”? He went to Bard and Oxford. He knows how you spell, “extra.”

Mar 2, 2018

Hey Indians, Where Is Our Black Panther?

Hey Indians, Where Is Our Black Panther?
Travis Hedge Coke

Short answer: We won’t get one.

If you’re Native, just like if you’re anything and anyone, Black Panther is your Black Panther. That shit is important. Don’t devalue it.

We, as Indigenous peoples and cultures, can have something as cool, as strong, as likely to inspire Nerf assault gloves for little girls who want cats on their hands they can punch evil with.

Our fight is different, because it’s implicit in the presence of Natives alone, in entertainment, that this is a land of genocide. Hollywood could barely handle this one movie with more than two black faces that isn’t about how dysfunctional their family are, or about slaves being sad while white people drink from sweating glasses, and it takes place almost entirely outside of America. It’s a lot harder to do a movie with a bunch of Native actors, directed by an Indian, etc, that takes place not in the Western Hemisphere. Where would we be? The secret Choctaw neighborhood in Cardiff? Those famous Ugandan Apache?

Then there, is the meat and potables: Don’t get so hungry you sell out. Don’t sell yourself, don’t sell us.

Black Panther hit screens and did big, and the Native American response, to a sad degree, was to paper social media with announcements of Marvel publishing a Red Wolf series. Announcements that were three years old. Announcements of a comic with no Native participation except the covers. Announcements of a comic written by a white man who participated in a racist, homophobic right wing think tank, and has so many abuse allegations trailing him, they could be a dress train.

You cannot let hunger do that to you.

I got flack from more than one Native teacher, correcting them online, in regards to that comic, because I was “ruining it” for their students. No. You being so desperately hungry, you want to champion a racist white author because he’ll give you a shirtless NDN with a dead animal on his head? You’re ruining it. A comic that, again, came out three years ago and has long been canceled.

Yes, Black Panther was created by two Jews in the mid-60s. It took until his first solo stories to have a black artist, and until about fifteen years ago, to have a black writer on an ongoing storyline. I’m not trying to cut any ethnicity out of the picture. I won’t deny Jack Kirby or Don McGregor’s contributions to Panther. And, lest we forget, Black Panther is amazing. The character, his initial intro in comics, and his movie are all great stuff.

But, Don McGregor didn’t work for any racist, homophobic right wing think tanks.

America is being canceled, because, well, nobody bought it. The title superhero is Latinx, amazing, and her book was handled by an all-Latinx crew. She’s learning about her roots while fighting supervillains, having met her grandmother, studying in a school where their Indigenous Studies Dept is particularly highlighted in the comic. From Marvel, the company that publishes all Panther comics there are and produced that movie we’ve all seen at least once, by now, if not more. Y’all didn’t support that comic. Y’all didn’t even post up about it.

But, a white racist writes about a guy with a dead animal on his head, and you’re on it… three years too late.

Elizabeth LaPensée just put together a beautiful anthology, Deer Woman, published by Native Realities. Natives making comics about Natives, for… and y’all don’t have it on your shelf or in your hands right now. Most of you.

Because you don’t support Native comics. You don’t even support Native superheroes.

You just got jealous that black people had something nice. And, you were willing to sell out to white racists to try to claim a piece.

The nation from whence Black Panther hails, Wakanda, is an Osage word. It is likely that Jack Kirby lifted the word, consciously or subconsciously, as he had introduced a Native supporting character a few issues earlier, and had been doing some generalized research on Native Americans during that time, for his own entertainment. The heart-shaped herb seems awfully like kalo.

The movie (still in theaters, go see it again! Disney needs your cash) stepped up appropriation and reworking games, drawing from cultures around the world, in terms of costume design, their written language, their spoken language, even the gods that are revered. There’s some Native American stuff in there, along with Indian from India, Filipino, and, y’know, they go to South Korea and the States in the movie. You can argue the right or wrong, the levels of adaptation, but wherever you fall in those terms, the intent is still the same: We’re all in this.

Black Panther is the Black Panther for Native Americans.

And, if we step up our collective game, we can have our comics, our movies, our superheroes at that level, too. Despite anyone or anything blocking the way.

Feb 28, 2018

The MCU Roundtable: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

If you’re anything like us, than you were blown away when the first Avengers: Infinity War trailer dropped.  The extended Comics Cube family was so excited that we have decided to embark upon a full re-watch of the Marvel Studios film series.  Every week we are going to watch and provide a roundtable discussion about each Marvel movie in release order.  Next, arguably the best movie in the entire MCU.

Countdown to Avengers: Infinity War
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Comics Cube Roundtable

Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released on April 4, 2014 and made $95 million on its opening weekend.  It ended its theatrical run at $259 million in the United States and $714 million total worldwide.

BEN: One of the great times I’ve had in a theater. From the opening action, with Black Widow and Captain America taking down the bad guys with brutal efficiency, I was hooked. The action was so visceral and exciting. It immediately set a new high bar for me.

JD: I’ve seen this 20 times and the poster still gets my hyped.

JEFF: Any excuse to watch this movie again.

MATTHEW: I've been waiting for this roundtable. Far and away my favorite of Marvel's movies. The movie is just awesome.

LAMAR: The Winter Soldier is the both the best Marvel film and the most well-crafted superhero film ever made...but get back with me in a few weeks (when Black Panther opens). *This roundtable took place prior.*

TRAVIS: I would have enjoyed this one more, but for the marketing. It's not a political thriller and if you can't guess who the baddies are the first time any appear onscreen, you can't be an adult who's seen movies before. Hella good action movie, though.

DUY: I think it's the best MCU movie, top to bottom. It was the best one when it came out, it's still the best one now. And I think one of the things that makes it work so well is it doesn't fall over into joke territory like all the other non-Cap movies have done.

MATT: I am a tremendous fan of this film. I think it picks up nicely where Steve left off after both his first movie and the Avengers. SHIELD is out there and Steve's at the forefront, fighting Darth Maul. I do think that these movies all try to focus on different themes and genres. The first is a classic WW2 movie. Steve respects authority and finds his heroic means. In this film, Steve learns that Natasha has some skills he doesn't, like skepticism of authority and how to use computers. The reveal that all these people in SHIELD are actually HYDRA isn't the real reveal, it's Bucky — the titular Winter Soldier.

KATHERINE: Just read this on IMDB: The "winter soldier" title is assumed to refer to either Bucky's nickname, the Cold War, or how he was kept in a cold-based suspended animation between missions. But, from the commentary, it actually refers to an eighteenth century quote from Thomas Paine: "THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he (the winter soldier) that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." Therefore, the titular "winter soldier" is Cap, not Bucky.

DUY: Nice, double meanings. I like.

MATT: Also, that Fury is prepared for betrayal and manages to escape the ultimate assassin is pretty great. The fight scenes are excellently done, and since Steve doesn't have laser beams or a magic hammer, they are tightly focused and often brutal (the elevator scene is expertly done as is the ambush).

JEFF: I actually think the way Fury gets away is badly done, there's no way that little lightsaber devices he had(from his Mace Windu days I imagine) should have cut that deep a hole in the time it would take Soldier to walk over to the vehicle.

ANTONIO: The dude is all shot up and bleeding profusely! Just jump down into the hole and kill him the rest of the way, dude. Way to give up so easily, Bucky!

CHRISTOPHER: Fury with that lightsaber shit to escape is a serious hard sell.

It immediately set a new high bar for me. -Ben

BEN: I’ve gone back and forth over the years on if this was better than Avengers, but after re-watching both now, I had a lot more problems with the Whedon dialogue in Avengers. I think this is the best MCU movie. It doesn’t hurt that it has both of my favorite Avengers in it.

CHRISTOPHER: This movie is Marvel's most focused and tightest film to date. It managed to elevate into much much more relevant territory the story of Steve.  By far this is the top Marvel movie for me and will probably hold that place for good simply because as the movies expand upon the lore of its universe it will never come to this level of focus.

JEFF: The action in this movie is unbelievable, from start to finish. Cap is like a juggernaut in the beginning taking out all the mercenaries on the ship and barreling through everything in the way when pursuing Winter Soldier after Fury is shot. The scenes for Fury’s chase and the first fight between Cap and Winter Soldier are pure intensity, I love how Soldier has a never ending arsenal of knives and pistols to use against Cap.

DUY: And yet, despite all that action, I love that he takes Bucky out with a sleeper hold. Because it's Bucky, and only because it's Bucky.

MATTHEW: They made Arnim Zola work. Let that sink in. They put Arnim Zola in a live-action film and made it work.

JD: Twice.

MATTHEW: The part in the elevator where he realizes what’s up and offers everybody a chance to get off.

CHRISTOPHER: I loooooove how Cap's all up in everyone's face like he's there only to kick ass and take names, but with Bucky he's all about the bromance.

JEFF: I like when Rumlow says nothing personal cause he knows exactly how the fight between him and Cap is going to end.

MATT: The brutal efficiency of that scene is amazing.

MATTHEW: The whole scene with him escaping the Triskelion is just awesome. Everything about that just played so perfectly. I love how they basically made Cap unstoppable. It didn't matter what was in front of him. He knew what was right, and he was kicking every ass necessary to straighten shit out.

JEFF: I love the scene where Cap jumps from the jet without a chute and one of the strike team guys asked was he wearing a chute to which Rumlow shakes his head and says no he wasn't with a little smile on his face, admiring Cap even though he's really Hydra.

MATTHEW: Hydra or not, he's a warrior, and he's going to carry a healthy level of respect for that dude.

BEN: Maria Hill has one of the great moments in all of the MCU in this movie.

DUY: I marked the hell out for Maria, which was a testament to how into the story I was, since I didn’t like her in Avengers.

BEN: Cobie was legitimately bad in Avengers.

Despite all that action, I love that he takes Bucky out with a sleeper hold. Because it's Bucky, and only because it's Bucky. -Duy

DUY: How did your theater audiences react to the Bucky reveal? Because I saw it twice and I don't think people made the connection the first time. They either probably didn't see the first movie or he looked too different.

TRAVIS: The actor wanted to go with short hair, didn't he? For that reason? But, Brubaker explained the long hair in the wind = cool thing?

BEN: I think they could have done a little more to remind the audience of Bucky without it tipping too far into obvious.

SAMANTHA: I saw it New York. I feel like New York City has more Marvel fans per capita than most places. There was a pretty huge pop. The camera work for that reveal was fantastic to begin with, though.

DUY: Yeah, the first time I saw it, there wasn't much of a reaction. The second time, I heard some murmurs of "Oh it's his friend! That guy!" Katherine also told me that she saw it with someone who knew who Sebastian Stan was, who saw him on the poster, and who knew he was Bucky, and was apparently so engrossed in the story that when the reveal happened she still belted out an "oh my God!"

BEN: Even a quick cut to a WWII Bucky in that moment would have helped. But I guess they didn’t anticipate the audience not getting it.

KATHERINE: Wasn’t lingering on the shot of the two of them laughing together in the museum enough? He even stares at the giant poster of his face as the VO talks about how his best friend since childhood, Bucky Barnes, was the only Commando killed in combat.

DUY: I'd normally say yes, but those two scenes are too far away from each other, I think. Then again, if it were any closer it would have been more obvious.

KATHERINE: He spends a full 20 seconds in front of that memorial. They did more than enough to remind the audience! Isn’t that the equivalent of the rule of Chekhov’s gun? Why show a pistol hanging on the wall in Act 1 if you’re not gonna use it? Why spend 20 seconds on this guy’s face if it’s not gonna be important? You don’t see him focusing on Tommy Lee Jones’ memorial. Or maybe I’m just expecting audiences to pay too much attention.

DUY: But (1) he's not introduced in Act 1 full out, he's introduced in Act 1 in a picture where he's wearing a hat and he has a clean cut, and (2) when he shows up again much later, his hair is much longer, he's got the sexy stubble, and he's wearing mascara. It's like introducing, in a vacuum, Clark Kent in Act 1 and then having Superman show up an hour later.

KATHERINE: That logic is crazy! That’s like saying if you introduce a girl in Act 1, then she reappears in Act 2 but with a different haircut, the scenes are too far apart to connect that it’s the same person! Gah!!

BEN: You’re preaching to the choir here, I would have gotten it even without the comic book background going in.

I've always loved how Hydra's big plot played so perfectly into very real fears that exist in our society. Blown up to Herculean proportions obviously, but very real. -Matthew

DUY: So what did everyone think of Hydra being behind everything? They couldn't have planned that out from the beginning, because some continuity errors show up too much, but I think it adds a new wrinkle into the older movies, figuring out which ones are Hydra and which ones aren't. And I think with the Avengers having been established at this point, it was okay to do away with SHIELD for a while.

MATTHEW: I've always loved how Hydra's big plot played so perfectly into very real fears that exist in our society. Blown up to Herculean proportions obviously, but very real.

JEFF: I love the use of Jasper Sitwell in this movie, he's prefect to add a bit of humour and completely disposable.

LAMAR: #ripGaryShandling and all that, but was I the only one that thought ol' buddy Senator Stern looked he smelled like feet and stale farts?

SAMANTHA: You weren’t. He was repugnant - well done Garry Shandler, I guess? Or was he lending himself to the image?

LAMAR: The ill-fitting suit was the capper though, I was praying for his downfall like Biggie Smalls with DMC.

Of course it’s taken to an extreme, but the root of that feels super real. Also, the return of Nazis? It sounds so crazy yet it’s happening!!! -Katherine

TRAVIS: I think it's a very good kid’s movie. And, good for the kid-in-adults. I can't get behind it being "great" as an adult movie, whatever "great" actually means in that way. Hydra's great big plan is flying tanks? This is less sensible than the Death Star. But, it's a great something-we-can-punch for superheroes to fight. If Fury had been rotten, or anyone we "liked," if Bucky had been more blatantly culpably guilty, it could have hurt audiences too much. If the threat as one that was harder to remove...

BEN: Travis also kicks puppies.

TRAVIS: You don’t kick ‘em now, they’ll lose their tread in six months and it’s your fault.

SAMANTHA: I don’t know that we’re supposed to focus on the "flying tanks" so much as what those flying tanks actually do. Being able to pinpoint individuals, to spy on/take them out in a split second is terrifying - and we are closer to that reality than ever. I realize that sounds silly, but the fear of Big Brother, in my opinion, was what that was all about.

TRAVIS: I guess I’m not as afraid that half my government and police could be evil and want me dead or enslaved. That’s never felt like a What-If?

BEN: But what if they did???

MATTHEW: The problem is that as it all becomes more and more automated, it makes it all too easy for the wrong person to get their finger on the button.

KATHERINE: Wasn’t it basically a bunch of giant drones? And that’s literally what drones do now for the military, they’re programmed to take people out efficiently and remotely. I’m totally not a conspiracy theorist and I don’t believe the government is out to get me at all, but we’re definitely living in a time when it’s obvious that our current government leaders are putting their interests above anyone else’s, and certainly would sacrifice innocent people in the name of protecting “their own” - so I think this movie has even more resonance today. Cap is calling out the potential for the abuse of power and how people will defend it and become complicit because of fear. Of course it’s taken to an extreme, but the root of that feels super real. Also, the return of Nazis? It sounds so crazy yet it’s happening!!!

TRAVIS: Giant drones kind of defeat all the purposes of drones. I dunno, maybe it’s just me.

DUY: I'm going to take what Samantha said further and mention that it's not just about Big Brother to me, but the fact that they could take them out before you did anything. And that's not just "closer to reality", that happens in all countries (I live in one), but people don't get that, and it's a big thing for a big wide-reaching movie to point to it and be all "Hey, this is happening, could be happening, and this is wrong."

KATHERINE: The crazy thing is in light of the latest news that’s been breaking about Russians getting indicted and conspiring with Americans to destabilize the government and influence the election is some total “Hail Hydra” shit. The truth really is stranger than fiction.
I can't get behind it being "great" as an adult movie, whatever "great" actually means in that way. -Travis

JEFF: I forgot they dropped the name Stephen Strange in this movie, makes sense that Dr. Strange happens before this film in the MCU timeline as he seems a more practiced sorcerer in Ragnorok.

DUY: Huh, I didn't think of it that way. I just figured Stephen Strange, the very intelligent doctor, had the background and skills to be able to pose a threat to Hydra.

JEFF: Strange was an uncaring arrogant prick before his accident, he was probably more in the possible recruitment category then threat for Hydra.

TRAVIS: The transition from modern espionage Cap costume to non-costume costume, to more traditional costume was fucking excellent.

JEFF: When I first saw the WWII costume back on him I was assuming It was going to be a plot device to help Bucky’s memories.

BEN: I never thought I’d be happy to see that costume back considering my disdain for it initially. It grew on me, and it was a great touch.

DUY: Big coincidental thing, Winter Soldier came out here the same week that the second-to-last issue of Superior Spider-Man came out, so both of them had these "Return to the classic costume" things going on.

BEN: “Return of the classic costume” is such an iconic comic book cover thing.

DUY: So a common complaint I hear about this movie, aimed at me specifically, is that they don't show Cap and Widow breaking into the military compound to get Falcon's stuff. That's usually the fireback when I say that Dark Knight Rises didn't show Bruce getting back into Gotham. But the biggest difference is at that point in the movie, Cap and Widow had already done so much, that we can easily fill in the blanks. Batman didn't do anything in Rises other than get beat up a lot, and he also loses to Bane after that scene, so getting into Gotham would have been the one competent thing he could do.

TRAVIS: Rises is just not in any way as good. Rises is the low point of everything, except maybe, "How much money can we blow on an airplane scene?" They won that one.

JEFF: When Sam tells them what they have to get through to get the wings their response was "Shouldn't be a problem." It's just in the movie to add a little humor, which was needed. It already had enough action.

MATT: My single biggest complaint (apart from Robert Redford's bad speech toward the end) is that SHIELD destroys Roosevelt Island to build their stupid building. I mean, I know this area, the Park Service would never let that happen. Talk about unbelievable!

ANTONIO: The one bad thing about this movie is that afterward every Marvel fanboy wanted all MCU movies to basically be just like this one. Also, Batroc got gypped.

DUY: Batroc Ze Leapair is in my Masters of Evil for a Phase 4 movie. My biggest nitpick is that the start has the introduction of the shaky cam in the MCU, which they also use in the beginning of Civil War, and I hate that. It makes me dizzy. I don't know if the fact that I easily get motion sickness actually plays into that, but they don't do it the entire movie, so I'm confused as to what they do it at all.

CHRISTOPHER: Shaky cam is stupid and it should never be used since I feel it detracts from the overall feel of the film.

KATHERINE: Can we take this time to appreciate that Winter Soldier brought Anthony Mackie into the MCU? He's so utterly charming and likeable, I immediately loved and somehow trusted Sam basically from the first frame.

MATT: Falcon is well sold, even if his flight suit is legitimately silly. They just roll with it.

DUY: We went this long without even bringing up Falcon. I feel like when he's your fourth best character you're probably in good shape.

TRAVIS: The opening laps were a sweet, understated way to introduce a lot of characterizations and dynamics. That scene, I thought, was one of the smartest in any Marvel movie.

MATTHEW: Helped cement Cap as just a normal guy. He goes out for a jog every morning just like millions of other people... he just happens to run laps around The Mall at Olympic sprinter speed.

TRAVIS: That's his social hour, too. With Natasha there to pick him up, like a step-mom, meeting new playground friends. Falc even making the effort to keep up, them forming a rapport.

JEFF: Another good score for this movie, listening to it during the end credits helps hearing just how great it is for the movie’s themes.

DUY: The Cap movies have the best end credits sequences.

JEFF: They do.

KATHERINE: The Winter Soldier attack theme in particular is so awesomely scary and stressful. It’s like a horror movie villain theme.

DUY: Also, we have here an old Peggy Carter, the introduction of Sharon Carter, who isn't explicitly named as Peggy's niece, but does mention she has an aunt, and a kiss with the Black Widow. Does anyone have a particular ship for Cap? That doesn't involve Bucky of course.

TRAVIS:  Cap and Tony peek the showers. That's as far as it goes. He def calls Sharon "Peggy" in the moment.

SAMANTHA: First and foremost, Peggy and Cap are so sweet together and I had to stifle a sob watching him tend to his “best girl” in this movie, particularly when she had the “you came back” moment.  Sharon? I guess. Lol - it doesn’t hit me as hard as Cap and Peggy, or his perfect bromance with Bucky.

JEFF: They don't have time(or make any) for Sharron/Steve in the movies so what happens in the next movie feels like it don't belong.

KATHERINE: They would be a smokin’ couple but I love Steve and Natasha as totally platonic friends and hope they never hook up. (But I would support Bucky and Natasha.) I’m forever Stucky and/or Steggy. He can flirt with whoever he wants but those are the two loves of his life as far as I’m concerned. 

DUY: When you name the best MCU villains, who among you names Bucky?

KATHERINE: Me! But he’s not really a villain. Best antagonist. I’ve had long conversations about whether Bucky would get acquitted if he actually went to trial. In a case of brainwashing when it can be blamed on the Russians, I vote yes, he would be ruled innocent. Cap’s testimony as a character witness would play great with a jury, and the government would be happy to pass the blame onto a hostile foreign power.

DUY: I remember I equated it to putting Angel on trial for the crimes of Angelus and you believing that wouldn't be the same thing.

KATHERINE: It’s not the same thing 'cuz Bucky is a Howling Commando/War Hero/literal POW captured by Nazis and Russians, experimented on, tortured and brainwashed into doing their bidding! That would play so well with a jury! Totally not the same as a dumb kid who had to consent to becoming a vampire. 

DUY: I still don't think him being forced to drink her blood or die is consent, but the basic principle would be the same wouldn't it? It feels weird to punish Liam for the crimes of Angel

KATHERINE: Definitely debatable, but I do think overall Bucky has a way stronger case than Angel. The POW status from people that were worse than Nazis alone gains him huge sympathy!

 I’ve had long conversations about whether Bucky would get acquitted if he actually went to trial. In a case of brainwashing when it can be blamed on the Russians, I vote yes, he would be ruled innocent. -Katherine
DUY: Who wins the Kilmer Award? And if it's Evans, who wins best supporting?

MATT: Supporting I would say has to be Widow. Steve would be toast without her.

JEFF: You could make an argument for Stan or Mackie as they both do a great job but I think Scarlet Johansson is best supporting. Try picturing another character like Hawkeye in Widows place and I don't think it's as good. Also Johansson plays perfectly off Steve's too serious wall he keeps up most of the time, developing a nice chemistry between the two characters.

KATHERINE: Bucky! He said like two sentences in the whole movie but you still feel the pain and confusion he’s going through. He communicates a lot with I believe literally 5 or 6 lines. If we don’t feel for him in this movie, wouldn’t everyone be Team Iron Man in Civil War? That little break in his voice on “But I knew him,” and then submitting himself for more electro-shock therapy is a heartwrencher.
I think this is the movie that cemented Chris Evans as the spiritual heir to Christopher Reeve. -Lamar
DUY: Comic recommendations for Winter Soldier?

JEFF: Captain America To Serve and Protect, American Nightmare. These are the first two trades from Mark Waid's return to Cap. Not as great as his first time on the book but a worthwhile read with a cool "Hydra" story. Captain America and Bucky: The Life Story of Bucky Barnes, a great Brubaker WW2 story.

TRAVIS: Chaykin's Scorpio comics. Hama's Maverick comic, The Sword Sung on a Barren Hearth. And, Gruenwald Captain America.

BRIAN: Mark Gruenwald wrote some cracking good Captain America books in his day. And dangit, I enjoyed the Ron Lim run on Cap!!

PETER: Obviously, Ed Brubaker's Captain America run. Specifically the first 20 or so issues. Start with the Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection and continue into the Red Menace Ultimate Collection. Or get the Omnibus if you can find or afford it. Brubaker and Butch Guice also had a short Winter Soldier series which was pretty good and featured Black Widow a lot.

LAMAR: I think this is the movie that cemented Chris Evans as the spiritual heir to Christopher Reeve. Which now that I think about it, considering that this movie is less overtly fantastic as far as tights and flights goes than anything in the MCU, is quite a feat. 
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