May 31, 2018

A Brand New Home for the Happiest Place on Earth

Nope, not Disneyland.

A Brand New Home for Comic Odyssey
by Migs Acabado

We all have our favorite comic book shops. There's always that one store that makes us feel loved and happy. In my case, Comic Odyssey has always been my favorite comic book store in the country. I've been getting my weekly stash of comics from them for more than a decade now. This store has been my haven. This is where I run to whenever I want to unwind.

Let me tell you how I discovered this fantastic shop. During my late grade school up to high school days, I bought my comics from Filbar's and a store called Skybucks, which used to be located in a mall near our place. Filbar’s rarely sold comics during that time, so it was actually Skybucks which stood out in becoming my go-to comic store. In the latter years of Skybucks, I noticed that the price tags were marked with the name “Comic Odyssey.” While I had already been aware of the store’s existence (My uncle bought me a Wizard magazine from them.) since early high school, I wasn't sure why the comics available in Skybucks had their tag, and I wasn't going to check, since their original store used to be located in Robinson's Ermita, which is very far from our place.

It was October 2007 when I first visited Comic Odyssey Galleria. They were still located at their original third floor site then. I was at my dad’s office and was looking to buy some comics. Skybucks was still active during that time. While I was there my younger brother noticed that some of the staff are from Skybucks.  I figured they were just under one umbrella, and eventually discovered that Sandy Sansolis, Comic Odyssey’s owner, used to manage Skybucks in its final years.

In January 2008, my sophomore year in college, Skybucks closed down. I felt sad, but I already knew where to go to get my comics. I went back to Comic Odyssey to buy the first issue of Amazing Spider-Man: Brand New Day and the conclusion of Ultimate Spider-Man: Death of a Goblin. I was surprised that the staff knew me. They also asked me that I can reserve my books online, which I agreed to do and I still do up until now. That was the start of the great memories and moments I had with the store and its staff. Comic Odyssey not only provides great comics/graphic novels; they also host events like inviting comic book creators for signing events and giving free comic books during Free Comic Book Day.

In early 2012 due to the changes established by the mall, they transferred in the basement part of Galleria. The store size was almost the same but the events were rarer, with most taking place in their new BGC site on the top floor of Fully Booked. If the Galleria site is where I spent my college life, the Fully Booked site is where I spent most of my early-late 20s life. Both have a special place in my heart.

Around last year, I learned that they were aiming to move back in the third floor. I was so excited when I heard the news. They finalized the move in April. Comic Odyssey just became bigger and better.

The new store looks so good. They now have a bigger graphic novel/manga section:

A bigger new/current release section:

And the local comics section is bigger as well:

There is also a section for Funko Pops and action figures, a brand new section for NBA cards and the much loved 50- and 20-peso back issue bins. Comic book events also returned in the store. They had a grand opening event in April and participated in Free Comic Book Day.

Comic Odyssey not only gave comics.  IIt also gave me good memories and made me gain new friends. I am excited to make new memories with the brand new site despite life getting in the way. I’ll keep coming back for more.

May 17, 2018

A Conversation with Peter B Gillis

In childhood, the name Peter B Gillis was a mark of sure quality, every time. I loved this guy. The characters seemed alive. Everyone always had their own motives, their own blinders and complications. The stories moved with lyricism and point. Over the years, I have reread those comics, and read other things by him, and it’s never aged badly.

Who can you say that about? Right?

A Conversation With Peter B Gillis
Pop Medicine
Travis Hedge Coke

His work has aged, not just well, but in many ways, for the better. From The New Defenders and What If…? to Tail Gunner Jo and Shatter (the first all-digital commercial comic), many of his comics read like they could have been crafted specifically for today’s market and sometimes, still, at the forefront of that market’s reach.

A pleasure to talk with, and a writer whom I am still learning from.

Hedge Coke: What can we look forward to, from Peter B Gillis in the near future?

Gillis: A bunch of stuff — including things that are in negotiation right now. Not as much comics as I’d like, but there are 5 books I have contracts on: A science fiction novel, a fantasy novel, a short-story collection, The collected Romance of the Rose, a thing tentatively titled “Welcome to the Gillisverse,” featuring stories from the worlds I’ve created (including the unpublished ones) and a truly dangerous book called The Book of Heresies. All of these are inn varying stages of completion.

There’s a comics series of a property of mine that’s definitely happening but I can’t talk about yet and the development of a video game.

On the other hand, working at the majors seems to be a lost cause. I’m busy enough, though.

Hedge Coke: How likely is getting Tail Gunner Jo back in print? Can fans help?

Gillis: No real idea. We’ve had nibbles from game developers, and Dover Press wanted to reprint it, but DC has seemingly decided neither to reprint it nor to let it go.

I’d actually like to just finish the story: there were 6 more issues planned and plotted. (If you thought the ending of the series was weird, that’s because it was — but we were only halfway through the whole story.

Hedge Coke: Whose comics did/do you read?

Gillis: I was a Marvel zombie as a kid, reading some DC, and tried to broaden my reading habits as much as I could later — and when I broke in to the business, I got horribly spoiled by getting the Marvel and DC packets (and First, of course). When I left the business, I was pretty much “wait — you mean I have to PAY for them now?” During my exile, I read Sandman and the Alan Moore books and that was about it. These days, I have the same problem as many people: the cost of plunging back in.

With my nearest comic book store about 50 miles away, I’ve been using our public library (I’m on the board of trustees of it). It only does TPB’s, so I’m not current — and my exposure is spotty. Sadly, I can’t say as I’ve found anything that makes me excited, so it’s best I remain quiet.

Hedge Coke: What got you into comics?

Gillis: I was reading comics literally as far back as I can remember — and there was always enough amazing stuff that I never gave it up.

And I’m old enough to have grown up in the era of awful horrible science Fiction and fantasy movies — so SF read like A.E. van Vogt and Cordwainer Smith to me and looked like Jack Kirby and Wally Wood. I don’t think I ever had any doubt that I would give it at least a shot to do them myself.

Hedge Coke: Do you feel sentimental about company characters, after you’re done writing them?

Gillis: Kind of--but that’s been put to the test since I left the business. I always loved Dr. Strange, for example--the one character I absolutely wanted to write--and would still love to do him again--but it’s more like getting very fussy about him now. And cranky. It gets harder for someone to do a Strange story that would please me. And it’s hard to find a character that hasn’t been disassembled, smashed and reassembled more than once making nostalgia that much harder.

Hedge Coke: I first read your New Defenders run, when I was a kid, and undergoing surgeries that made me aware of what intersex meant. Cloud, and kind of a Valkyrie vs Iceman dialectic, helped me sort myself better, probably, than doctors and family, probably because they had to look kid-me in the eye. When you were writing these superhero comics, did you expect them to be influential in those ways?

Gillis: I did have to fight hard to do the Cloud storyline — to explain that there was a good science-fictional reason for what was going on, so it was okay — but it came out of my fascination over sexuality. I had a friend who transitioned from man to woman, but I didn’t pretend to be either oracular or championing about it - merely to speculate about identity. My intention — and I think it’s a pretty standard one for a writer — is to shake things up a bit. If I succeeded, I’m happy about it.

Hedge Coke: Your Dr Strange, particularly Strange Tales, tackled “good,” “necessary,” and terms that, in general, fantasy audiences just rolled with, like, “black magician.” Was that important to you, in the sense of being applicable to the real world, or just a good set of hooks to hang stories on?

Gillis: One of the biggest problem functionally with Dr. Strange ever since Steve Englehart made him Sorcerer Supreme, was how to keep him from being simply omnipotent. Everybody went through all sorts of acrobatics to that end, but it was still a problem. So I decided to emphasize an essential aspect of magic — white versus black, pure versus impure (which is not the same as good versus evil.) I mentioned Strange’s training as involving purification and asceticism over and above just reading thing out of books, which served a triple purpose: Strange couldn’t just blast away like his spells were guns — it contributed to his detachment personally — and it grounded the stories I was telling (which could get extremely outré) in real matters. Motives matter; ends don’t justify means; but sometimes one has to take the left-hand path. Bringing that in made the cosmic aspects of Doc’s stories less trivial.

Hedge Coke: What do you know now, that you wish you had known at the beginnings of your career?

Gillis: That comics will break your heart? Don McGregor told me that from the very beginning. It would have been easier to have really known that — but there was only one way to learn it.

Hedge Coke: What’s your favorite accomplishment in comics?

Gillis: Shatter may have put my name in the history books — and writing Dr. Strange was the fulfillment of a childhood dream — but my favorite? It was making George Clinton one of the creators of the Cosmic Cube. As a rabid P-Funker, it was a moment of glory beyond all others.

Hedge Coke: Has music influenced your writing more than to the extent of making reference to a musician or song?

Gillis: Since in my youth I actually wrote two musical comedies (the books were awful, but the music was decent), and playing keyboards myself, music’s been a strong part of my life, I have two responses:

In my Black Flame graphic novel I have one of the main characters be a musician of sorts—avant-garde, and more a sound designer than a tunesmith—and have him fooling around on a Reactable—an incredibly cool synthesizer used by Bjork, among others. Doing art about artists can be perilous, so I don’t delve into it that often, but here it worked. There are also two big music references cropped into the story, including the title.
The Eternals limited series had an Eternal musician and a Deviant visual artist—make and female—but I got fired off the book before I could do anything with them.

The other response: During the days when there was a monthly comics mini-con in downtown Chicago, I got to know Max Allan Collins really pretty well. He’s also a musician, and when we discussed writing comics full script versus Marvel-style, he said, ‘after all, a band has got to have a leader.’ That made me realized that, the best parts of comics tended to occur when rather than working off someone’s chart, that we just improvised off each other. And I always felt it important to have solo breaks as well as ensemble playing. (No bass solos, though.)

Hedge Coke: Anything, you wish you could go back and do differently?

Gillis: I do wonder what my life and comics career might have been like if I had accepted Jim Salicrup’s offer to become his assistant editor. I’m not sure things would have been better, but it’s a really interesting alternate Marvel-Earth. Most of the bad stuff had good opportunities — my disastrous attempts to start a comics company gave me a chance to meet and interact with a whole range of comics people I might not have ever gotten to know.

Just one thing: I should have fought harder and made more of a stink to help Tom Artis. I did what I thought I could at the time, but if I had been more vocal and more assertive, his end might have been less tragic and cosmically unfair.

Hedge Coke: You and Artis were so great together; what did he bring to those comics that you appreciated most?

Gillis: And as for Artis: he was not only enormously intelligent and restless but we tended to think in the same channels. And there was nothing I couldn’t throw at him that he wouldn’t get, nail, and improve. I just couldn’t get wild enough for him.

And getting to work at the same time with two artists (Brent Anderson and Tom) at the same time who could do subtleties of facial expression to perfection probably spoiled me forever in writing comics.

May 15, 2018

The MCU Roundtable: Gamora in Infinity War

Every single week this year, The Comics Cube's extended family did a roundtable on each movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For Infinity War, Tanya asked, "Do we think the death of Gamora was fridging, or was it essential to the story to bring out an important aspect of Thanos?" So..

Gamora: Love, Death, and the Soul Stone

TANYA: For me, Zoe Saldana sold me on this. She took me so many places with her confidence that Thanos got it all wrong because he loves nothing. The horror on her face, the minute he turns around and he is crying. She knows it's her, and that she is about to be sacrificed.

JD: I think the story needed a death that felt like it had weight. Loki’s death is still debatable and we know that most, if not all, of the post-snap death’s won’t stick.

SAMANTHA: I think it was essential, because we needed to see that Thanos cared about at least one life. I know not many people are buying that Thanos is capable of love, but the Soul Stone wouldn’t have appeared if he hadn’t felt love for Gamora. It could be argued that he did care for life in his own twisted way.

DUY: See, I don't think he loves Gamora. I think he loves what Gamora represents: the first planet (the one planet?) where his method worked.

SAMANTHA: That’s entirely possible, because who knows if the soul stone can distinguish what his love for the soul he sacrificed means to him or where it came from? I’m going off the typical trope where the big bad is all things evil, except for the one little flower that gets through and grips his heart.

JD: It's his hang up on halfs. There's the daughter you can torture and the one you cry over.

TANYA: He definitely loves Gamora more than Nebula.

SAMANTHA: That’s another thing for Thanos to love about her. Gamora could have gone any other way growing, but she chose to save herself when she was forced to fight Nebula. I'm not saying Gamora is the jerk here, but she chose self-preservation instead of trying to save her sister when they were kids, and that’s probably exactly what Thanos would have done.

DUY: My point is, that's not love. That's like the dad who beats up his sons so they become "men" who can handle the tough realities of life, and then favors the one who grows up to be exactly like him. He thinks he loves him because his way worked and he achieved his goal.

JD: If Thanos succeeds, he will lose a daughter. I think he knew this and knew that if the deaths were random that he wouldnt have to choose. Yet in the search for the gems he had to choose anyway. That doesnt work though. He already had chosen.

TANYA: There is a reason why they put the younger Gamora at the end.

DUY: Yes, because the younger Gamora represents the one planet where his way worked. She's a symbol of his success. He thinks he loves her, but that's not what love is. She even says it. "This is not love." And she's right.

MATT: That is a good theory. He buys into his own bullshit and thinks he has protected himself from having to care about the randomness of the deaths, but he fails. Could this actually be the seed of undoing most of his damage in part 1? It would link up with the comics explanation that he doesn't feel worthy of succeeding.

TANYA: It's like when she cried when she thought she killed Thanos. It's a twisted love nonetheless.

DUY: He's an abusive father who thinks he loves his one kid. I happen to think being abusive means you don't know how to love for real.

I know I'm being simplistic here, but when you kill your daughter, you're a piece of shit. -Duy

TANYA: Do you think this helped gain sympathy or understanding of Thanos?

DUY: Thanos has zero sympathy from me. None. He tortures one daughter and kills another for his own self-appointed goals. That is unforgivable in any circumstance. Let's put this in real world terms: if a man gets elected president, or any other sort of world leader, and the catch for him maintaining his promises is he has to kill his children, and he does, guess what? He does not love his children. I don't care how many tears they shed over it. It's an attachment, yes, and it masquerades as love, and a mind like Thanos' can justify it as love. But it's not love.

TANYA: There was a suggestion that there should have been a Gamora/Thanos movie to explore their relationship. Would that have helped? Do you feel Gamora really got much development as a character through the GOTG movies?

DUY: I got all I needed from Gamora/Thanos/Nebula in GotG 2. Look, I know I'm being simplistic here, but when you kill your daughter, you're a piece of shit. In the scene where he kills Gamora, the person we should be sympathizing with is not Thanos. He is the literal murderer in that situation, and he's doing it so he can literally murder more people.

TANYA: From what I'm reading from the directors, they definitely felt like Thanos did truly love Gamora. They explained that's why they put that image of a young Gamora at the end. I'm kinda hoping she comes back and is the one that ends Thanos.

DUY: I'm 98.75% sure she's just inside the Soul Stone.

SAMANTHA: I don’t disagree with Duy at all. The awful things he did doesn’t equal love. But, in his mind, he loved Gamora. In his mind, he saved her. She was the one living bit of proof that his genocidal agenda worked. And in his mind, Gamora made him proud and maybe somewhere in there he saw Gamora as his successor. The soul stone clearly doesn’t distinguish real love from dysfunction or delusion. So when it comes down to it, in Thanos’ mind (psychological f*ckery aside), he loved her. That’s why it was the ultimate sacrifice.

JD: I think the scene does make Thanos more sympathetic. Only in that seeing him crying evokes at least a little empathy in the audience, while highlighting that Thanos himself has no empathy because we only see him emotional over his own loss. Empathy is what separates us normal people from Nazis.

DUY: No, I don't disagree that he thinks he loves her at all. But I also think he completely buys into his own bullshit, that the only way to save the universe is through mass genocide. He buys into what he's selling completely and totally, and in his mind he's right. That's what makes him so dangerous, but we do have to remember that every terrorist ever has bought into what they're selling.

JD: That's how Tony described Steve to Peter in Civil War!

DUY: And Steve could have described Tony the same way.

JD: “He’s got a point.”

SAMANTHA: Thanos is a bonafide psycho, no doubt about it. Maybe whatever aspect Gamora’s death was meant to bring out sort of depends on the perspective of the viewer. Someone out there felt for Thanos and his sacrifice, I’m sure of it. But I hope the general reaction would have been “Holy shit, this guy is sick.”

DUY: I just cannot get behind the fact that of the two people in that scene, Thanos is the one that gets sympathy. That's like the Parkland shooter getting love letters in prison.

SAMANTHA: I don’t know that’s it sympathy so much as it might be a surprise feeling of empathy. Not cool regardless, but still. I don’t think (well, I hope) that no one was really like “Poor Thanos” but maybe it had people wondering what they’d be willing to sacrifice if they were in his shoes.

We’re letting genocidal kidnappers determine the nomenclature of their relationship to their hostages? -Ben

KATHERINE: I think most psychopaths and sociopaths believe that they love someone or something. Every monster that’s murdered their spouses and children will say they loved them and will really believe it. It’s just that they think whatever messed up, twisted, selfish version of love they’re feeling is real even if it is objectively not actual love, but it’s all that they’re capable of and all they know. I don’t feel sympathy for him at all, but I think it does make him more interesting than if he just flat out hated all of humanity.

BEN: Love is an unquantifiable thing, so it does come down to what any individual person believes is love, even psychos.

DUY: It makes him interesting, it rounds out his character, and he's the perfect exclamation point to this string of great villains they've had so far. All of them have a point. But they use that point to justify unjustifiable actions.

BEN: I guess in the most basic sense it is fridging, Starlord’s romantic interest is killed to provide him motivation, except he gets killed later so I think that negates it. Plus Gamora has more agency as a character, unlike Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend (who was literally stuffed in a refrigerator, hence the term).

KATHERINE: Does it provide him motivation? It gives him a flash of rage that baaaasically makes him responsible for half the universe dying (including himself). Y’know maybe that kind of makes it poetic and circular. Thanos “loves” Gamora and that becomes a key factor that enables him to kill half the universe. Quill actually loves Gamora and because of that he accidentally endangers half the universe. I think throughout the film a lot of the characters make some poor choices based on love. But I think ultimately that’s the best way we can understand and justify any bad decision. That’s our most common human downfall.

BEN: Motivation for revenge above all else in that moment. I think we’d all like to believe we’d put the welfare of the many over our personal few, but how many of us really would? I wouldn’t, if my child was in the balance.

KATHERINE: Totally true. I think we can all relate to being willing to trade the world for the one person we love most, even if it’s selfish. I was gonna say that we can’t all be as noble as Steve Rogers, but he also traded the world for Bucky? So conversely, is it weirdly selfless that Thanos was willing to sacrifice what he "loved" most for the supposed good of the universe?

BEN: Yes and no. Yes he is sacrificing something he believes to care about, but no because he doesn’t have to do this. He wants to.

KATHERINE: That's right, and such an important distinction. I think he truly believes that he loves her and that he had no choice... but the real truth is that of course he had a choice and he didn't have to do a damn thing. Isn't that where most of the evil and tragedy of the world originates though? People believing (or lying to themselves by saying) that they didn't have a choice? Interesting hypothetical question though - if if you were faced with the impossible choice of personally killing your own child or letting a billion people die, what do you do? And if you choose to kill your child, does that mean you don't love them?

The real truth is that of course he had a choice and he didn't have to do a damn thing. -Katherine

MATT: It's the Trolley Problem.

KATHERINE: Totally! Trolley Problem but made even more ethically murky by throwing the love question in there.

MATT: It is a thorny philosophical question that can best be answered by a bunch of yahoos on the internet. So, we are well-equipped. Thanos is actively killing one person to actively kill trillions plus. I don't think that can be untangled. He may have cared for her or convinced himself he loved her, but ultimately, he was willing to kill her (and presumably himself if the snap's truly random) to achieve his goal.

KATHERINE: Yes, but from his perspective he's also actively saving trillions plus plus plus, since he presumes this will also save future generations.

MATT: The solution is also only temporary on a long enough timeline. So really, he’s just delaying a real choice.

BEN: I think I have a problem with her even being referred to as his daughter. What, we’re letting genocidal kidnappers determine the nomenclature of their relationship to their hostages?

LAMAR: That's where I am with it...this fool killed her mother and gave her a trinket to keep her eyes off him doing it so she wouldn't have a reason to hate him-like him just being him isn't reason enough. Thanos literally weaponizes personal relationships, that's the only use he has for them. And the fact that he'd do it to a child with no qualms about his behavior is pretty indicative of how sick and savage he really is.

BEN: I have a few follow up questions: Will Gamora be revived in part 2? Should she?

MATT: For the sake of balance in GotG3, she needs to be. She's a much better foil for Quill (though he's also dust).

BEN: I’m not a “only death makes it meaningful” guy for everything, but I feel like there does need to be some ramifications at the end of this. The kneejerk reaction is that of course she’ll be back, but what if her story is done? What if she’s the love unfulfilled?

TANYA: I agree with Matt. It would be hard to have GOTG 3 without her.

MATT: I do think Thanos convinced himself he loved her and she certainly represents something he loves (success of his theory). But, no, he doesn't actually love her. He's too high on his own stuff to love anything but his motivating idea. He's also the villain, so that makes sense.

BEN: My initial thought is that they’re not going to mess up Guardians for this, but what if they are? She did finally admit she loves Quill. that’s usually a death mark. She’d definitely be gone if Whedon was writing/directing.

TANYA: I think what the movie managed to accomplish for me is make Thanos a twisted MOFO, make me hate Starlord, and wish for more Gamora. What I really liked about GOTG 2 was the development of the relationship between Gamora and Nebula. I'm sad that didn't get more scenes together in this movie.

DUY: I think you get the most mileage if she comes back but GotG also stars Thor, just heighten Quill's insecurity that he couldn't save her. And that’s my way of saying, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3, featuring the Lord of Thunder. Bring it!

May 11, 2018

We Better Make the Best of It: Tania del Rio’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch

Back in the Bush era, starting in 2004, at a time when the Archie Comics had, essentially, become a repeat, wash, rinse, repeat loop — and found strength in that mode — Tania del Rio reinvented the entire visual aesthetic, new character designs, new visual codification and signaling. While the traditional Sabrina story had been only a few pages long, ending on a gag, the new stories could last a whole issue or more, running subplots and developments over several issues at a time. It was Erica Sakurazawa’s Sailor Moon, with some Neon Genesis shoutouts and guest appearances from Josie and the Pussycats.

We Better Make the Best of It
Tania del Rio’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch
Travis Hedge Coke

The past few years, there has been a wave of restyling in Archie Comics. The horror books. The ones where they age and have adult lives. An alien predator from the Predator franchise came to town; murdered almost everybody. The television show has taken a more salacious and dramatic turn than the comics or earlier TV spinoffs. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Dan Parent get a lot of credit, deservedly. But, somehow, del Rio refined the Betty/Veronica dynamic into something that isn’t male-gazey at all, and because it was in an illustrated children’s book (or prose-heavy comic, if you like), aimed at young girls, it went without comment. And, before that, we have her forty-two issue run on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.

Most delightfully, to me, the characters were, at least initially, aware of these changes, wrought as they were, by Sabrina’s magic. She changed her own character design and magicked the world into one where people get chibi when emotional, sweat-beads appear on the side of your head when you’re nervous, and Salem stops looking like a normal cat, and appears to be a mobile stuffed toy.

The positive alterations and additions of the long-running live action adaptation,  anime and manga cues, and embracing an ongoing urgency that the shorter, one-off stories could not provide gave the comic a huge boost into modernity and made the comic a must buy. Prior to this, literally across all the ongoing Archie-universe comics, there were no instances of “I must know what happens next” that extended past two issues, or more likely, two short comics contained in one issue. Now, we have serial!

Things were flowering so full and beautiful, that the first interracial kiss in an Archie comic goes by with no splash except for a note of woo woo! kiss! And, it is a good kiss.

Traditional Archie sexuality is girls-are-hawt. That has lasted decades and still is the engine of the great Archie Comics flying machine, and the air through which it flies. Archie Andrews, himself, has slid into superior attractiveness over the years, making a good leap in the 70s, another in the 90s, and a few years back. But, Archie is never going to be displayed the way the girls are. The girls who aren’t comedy goofy-looking. The two problems that arise immediately from that, being that it is super-skewed and specifically heterosexual male gaze time, and that, if you are an adult reader, the comics pretty much demand you ogle these teenage girls right now!

With this run, there is range. Range in who we can find attractive, range in whether we have to find them attractive or not. Sabrina regular, Harvey, the boy on whom she crushes, had his traditional chased-boy reluctance shifted into something that can easily be read as gay, or as asexual. Or, just not ready. While earlier Archie books, even in the 90s and others in the 00s, would treat a boy being disinterested in a girl as distaste or dislike, Harvey likes Sabrina. He’s very cool with Sabrina. He might not like like her, and that should be okeh.

It was, and remains on rereads, a very conscientious comic.

Even the magic, which had traditionally been kept on the down-low almost out of shame or oddity, became a responsibility. The title character’s traditional waffling on romance, on using magic, on life, came directly under critique, by the narrative, by her friends and family, and her own conscience. Magic was not something momentarily helpful or an embarrassing aunt you can’t push in a closet. If it wasn’t Archie, at this point, I would be typing it magick.

“I am a witch, myself. (Not Wiccan, but pagan),” says del Rio, “Back then I was in the ‘broom closet,’ so to speak, but as I've gotten older, I'm much more open about my beliefs. Anyway, I wanted some of that authenticity to come through in the way magic was dealt with in the comic.”

Like the burst of Christianity that shot through the veins of Archie decades before, I’m more than ready to give this medical injection credit for enlivening the subject and for reaching new, untapped avenues and forgotten side streets (how’m I doing for mixed metaphors?). An author or artist’s cosmogony, their sense of causality has to affect what they create and the directions they move their subjects in. Let’s acknowledge it! Did I know, that del Rio was a witch, reading these comics the first time, in old ’04? Nah. But, magick and comics go together like chicken and waffles. It’s better to run with it.

Knowing it, I can see where it may inform. I can appreciate what it contributes, the same way I can appreciate what del Rio’s awareness of manga tropes and techniques contribute, what having a woman writing and drawing, steering the whole vessel, adds to these comics. Combined, along with her sense of humor, a then-contemporary mid-evening television feel, a naturalistic sense of justice, makes this Sabrina run, its own, definite animal.

And, that animal might be a cat, who was once a warlock, who now looks like a stuffed toy.

May 8, 2018

Is the Marvel Cinematic Universe Replicable?

Every single week this year, The Comics Cube's extended family did a roundtable on each movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With it done until Ant-Man and the Wasp, Katherine asks, "A really interesting thing I'd like to see someone analyze from a pop culture point of view is whether (the MCU) is lightning in a bottle at the right place / right time... because I get the feeling that this isn't replicable." So..

Is the Marvel Cinematic Universe Replicable?

BEN: The rise of Netflix and streaming services, combined with the increase in movie ticket prices, has made a trip to the movies an increasingly bigger hassle. It has to be something that can’t be missed. Iron Man benefitted from the success of the Spider-Man and X-Men movies, and solidly established a “see what comes next” approach.

KATHERINE: I also questioned whether the rise of Netflix is a factor in influencing the way we consume our entertainment now. Could this have been as big of a phenomenon back in the 90s? Audiences are now used to binging, super longform serialized storytelling and watching characters change and evolve over a long period of time. I think even 15-20 years ago, serialized dramas on TV weren't really the norm, right? It was a lot of sitcoms that you could jump into at any point or procedurals... even shows like The X-Files or Buffy were mainly monsters-of-the-week, and the overarching mythology episodes were spread out and only a few per year. And most movie sequels weren't plotted out events (unless it was Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter or something), it was bringing the same characters back for another adventure, so they usually felt like the same thing, just different and bigger. The idea of having 18 movies that continue the same ongoing storyline might've seemed ludicrous back in the day, but now we're in the era of Game of Thrones where we've watched an epic story play out over something like 80 episodes in 8 years. So when you put it that way, 18 movies in 10 years doesn't sound like that big a deal.

DUY: I think it's absolutely safe to say that there's no way this is working before the days of DVD, at the very earliest.

If the MCU had started with the X-Men or Fantastic Four it would be reboots of stories we’ve already seen, and we’ve already seen them together, so why would we care to see them apart with the promise of building to something in five years that we’ve already seen? -Katherine

KATHERINE:  Also, does the internet play a part in audiences wanting to feel like everything is connected in one big universe? Had there ever even been an appetite for something like this before? What would it have been in an era without social media to keep the universe alive in between movies for ten straight years? And social media gives a home to a vocal female fanbase that might be wary of outing themselves in public spaces. Some of the funniest, most creative and craziest fans are on Tumblr, which is majority female, right? I feel like a lot of big action blockbusters in the past would just assume that these were movies made for teenage boys rather than welcome and acknowledge the other half of the audience. The MCU hasn't even really fully embraced them yet since Captain Marvel will be the first female lead, but it feels like there's something different going on here that I can't quite put my finger on - maybe it's acknowledging the female gaze, making the characters vulnerable and funny and not just uber-macho killing machines.

BEN: Am I wrong in feeling like the DC movies have more gratuitous butt shots on their female characters?

TRAVIS: Wasn't that the plot of Suicide Squad?

BEN: "Female empowerment but also with a swirl of objectification" should be the tagline of the Harley Quinn movie.

DUY: Wonder Woman should have set the tone, but then Justice League happens and then butt shots and the Amazons are in bikinis.

KATHERINE: Am I reading into things too much with thinking about the "female gaze" in these movies? Do the shirtless male hero scenes that we all appreciate make guys uncomfortable? Because I honestly don't think the guys are being objectified in them.

DUY: They're being objectified, we just don't care.

BEN: I’m all for it, appeal to all demos, it’s only fair.

KATHERINE: It's small-o objectification. Like claims of reverse racism. Racism and sexism aren’t just about individual actions, they’re power structures. Yes, this person was mean to you, but you are not systemically and invisibly oppressed by a society built on centuries of racist history and policy. Yes, a lady drooled over your abs, but she does not carry a deeply-ingrained societal endorsed expectation to now own you. The men still have the power and the agency, but we also get to look at them.  Historically, by definition, objectifying women generally takes away their power because it makes them an object to be desired and eventually obtained.

DUY: Yeah, the biggest difference between Wonder Woman ass shots and an Aquaman shirtless shot is that you can still at least see his face. But the fact that the MCU will have taken 11 years to have a female lead made me think that's an area where DC maybe had a shot. They could build their universe around Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn, and maybe have that be their Tony/Steve dynamic.

KATHERINE: Totally agree. I do think that's their best shot at salvaging what they currently have without rebooting, and that's a world that I'd finally be interested in.  I wonder if maybe we're moving past the era of full blown uber (bordering on toxic) masculinity in our big franchises where the guys are all stoic, pissed off and brooding. Even the new iteration of James Bond is one that has feelings and emotional attachments and scars.

DUY: You know when we last said that? That we're moving past those types of action heroes? Transformers with Shia Lebouf.

KATHERINE: So then why does it feel like we moved backwards on that with Superman and Batman? I wonder if the Martha thing was the attempt to soften and humanize them but it was just so dumb. 

DUY: Because the director of Batman V Superman is an adolescent child whose execution is the same every time — music video choreography with super slow motion and dark gray palettes? Your first movie sets the tone. RDJ set the tone, which is you can go funny but the heavy stuff has to be heavy. So it's a flexible blueprint. Man of Steel's tone is... not

KATHERINE: The very fact that the Batman and Superman movies look and feel the same when the characters are basically opposites already tells you a lot.Of course the magic has to be in the execution, and if Iron Man hadn't been so great, we wouldn't be here today. The technology wouldn't have looked as good in the 90s. The casting had to be perfect. But it's also interesting to wonder what other cultural factors may have also been at play.

DUY: Is there even a company that has the assets to compete? If so, who? If the answer is DC, do they need to blow it up, hit a cosmic reset ala Flashpoint, or is the current situation salvageable?

ANTONIO: Reset would be admitting failure. Failure means the audience would never let them live it down. At least for a generation or two. DC movies are a pop culture joke. They could fix it, but really that had to happen with Justice League. Doesn’t help that they don’t quite have their own RDJ to get fans pumped at conventions.

MATTHEW: I'm assuming that Flashpoint will be altering some stuff. If I were them, I'd ignore whatever I could of Snyder's stuff, and used Flashpoint to get rid of the stuff that can't be ignored.

TRAVIS: Marvel didn't have the assets to compete before this thing got moving like it is. So, there's no way to look at another cache of trademarks and go, Yeah, them.

DUY: So I'm trying to figure out the common line between Marvel's assets going into this, and here are some bits to chew on:
  1. Marvel had characters with an established source material, but not the characters that had such wide fandoms and multiple interpretations that inspired vitriol and demand for specific versions.
  2. Marvel had a throughline that connected their world, regardless of how far and wide their subgenres go, whether it's the Two-Gun Kid and Squirrel Girl, which is easy because that's built into the comics.
  3. Marvel's characters were juuuuust lacking in recognition enough that they were new to a general audience.
So given that, we need:
  1. A backlog of material, but preferably material where the characters have remained more or less consistent.
  2. The material must have some connective tissue that's firmly established and easy to adapt.
  3. The characters have to be, if not unknown, just relatively obscure to the general moviegoing audience, or at least as relatively obscure as Tony Stark was in 2007.

1, 2, and 3, all disqualify DC's current strategy, or it automatically removes Superman and Batman because they have too many interpretations. And you can't really go far and wide with them because DC's source material involves multiverse, which is something you need to build up to but not use as a building block, I think. I think by this logic you can still use DC if you focus on the characters below Superman and Batman, or just start with something completely offbeat, like the Legion of Super-Heroes or the New Gods.

LAMAR: I think if another company tried to take Marvel's formula and plug in their characters, it'd crash and burn because their approach is hand in hand with the characters in the movies.

Is there even a company that has the assets to compete?  -Duy

DUY: Funnily enough, the comics line that fits all three is CrossGen. They have a boatload of material, they're diverse in their storytelling and their aesthetics and concepts. The connective tissue is super flexible because they all take place in different worlds, but there's just this magical sigil that binds all the worlds. And the characters are all working off of set archetypes, so they'll be familiar to audiences, even if they aren't. Of course, CrossGen is also owned by Disney, so that's out the window.

JEFF: Apparently Hasbro is going to attempt this with some of their properties. They do have a highly recognized name with Transformers and have signed with Paramount for a 5-film deal for a crossover of G I Joe, M.A.S.K, Rom, Micronauts and Visionaries. Last I heard they were writing a script for a Transformers/GI Joe crossover.

LAMAR: That's going to be very difficult to not be bad.

JEFF: My expectations are low.

DUY: I do think Hasbro has the makings of the assets, but they'd have to think about how to connect all that really carefully

BEN: Hasbro is easy. The scary alien robots the Transformers. GI Joe is the response. MASK is after we appropriate some of the Transformers tech. Visionaries is the wildcard.

LAMAR: I say just have everybody show up, exchange "who the hell are you"s and start popping one another.

DUY: Similarly to Superman and Batman, I have to wonder if the audience can take Transformers seriously now as a cornerstone. Or will they just be associated with Bay for the next 20 years?

BEN: People are either happy with Bay’s Transformers, or so desperate for the movies to be good they keep going anyway.

JEFF: The last two Transformers movies disappointed at the box office and after the Bumblebee movie this year, the Bavverse is being scrapped and rebooted last I heard. But I think for a Hasbro universe to work its first movie needs to be one of the lesser-known properties and the writing quality at least five times better then anything they've done so far.

DUY: Yeah, I think a big key is to not start with your biggest gun. Not that I can actually explain why.

KATHERINE: Isn’t that weird?? It sounds so counterintuitive

DUY: To be fair, we're basing it off of this one example.

BEN: I’d start with Visionaries, since that’s the craziest idea. Or maybe MASK, since that’s the easiest to translate, and has cars and planes.

JEFF: I think G I Joe, the first two movies weren't that great but the Joes have been one of Hasbros long time staples. They need to fix this brand badly.

BEN: I think if you’re trying to project that this is a new era, you start with one of the ones that hasn’t been done yet. But I’m always ready for a good Joe movie.

For a Hasbro universe to work its first movie needs to be one of the lesser-known properties and the writing quality at least five times better then anything they've done so far. -Jeff

JEFF: I think the main reasons the MCU succeeded is Marvel made the movies themselves and RDJ. Most licensed movie rights don't leave much control with the product owners and for all his problems RDJ has a lot of friends in the film industry, a lot of people were rooting for him to turn things around with his problems and make a come back.

DUY: I think there was also the, we expected Iron Man to be good but not this good factor. Like it was just gonna be a popcorn flick that would revitalize RDJ's career. We definitely didn't expect it to be as good as it was, as big as it was, and the cornerstone of a megafranchise. Doing Superman or Batman or the Transformers, it sends a message that, well, we expect this to be as big as Iron Man was in 2008. I think the element of surprise and lowered expectations is huge here.

KATHERINE: That’s part of why I question if this is replicable! What franchise could even have that element of surprise now when it’s carrying the weight of being a supposed franchise starter? And maybe RDJ was the lightning in the bottle.

DUY: What if you just no position it as a supposed franchise starter? Like okay, just position it as a movie. And then with the option to start a franchise. You could make a franchise out of the Incredibles. It's all in the DVD, they created a whole world. I think it's possible.

KATHERINE: I feel like Kong: Skull Island kind of did that, the post credits sequence hinting at a bigger world felt like a surprise. I may be biased, but I really enjoyed Skull Island.

BEN: It was great!

JEFF: Maybe the way it could be done is with public domain characters like Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, any studio can try it since they're not licensed or exclusive you just can't call the team up League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

DUY: I see where you're coming from, but doubt that any studio would try to put such a giant investment in something they can't trademark or optimally monetize.

BEN: Iron Man also benefited from being the most suited (get it?) for adaptation to live action. He was probably the most boring Avenger in comics, but his strengths are highlighted in live action.

DUY: Also, of course this generation will identify with the high-tech superhero. Its such a no-brainer that it's easy to overlook.

KATHERINE: Since they didn’t immediately have access to their big guns, does that also lend credence to the idea that scarcity helps to drive creativity? It’s science!

BEN: I think it has more to do with a streamlined process by having their own studio. So many big studios have too many executives and producers with their hand in the pie, it’s a surprise any good movies ever get made.

KATHERINE: Of course, that’s definitely true. There needs to be a Kevin Feige true fan/visionary spearheading these franchises.. But if they had started with access to the X-Men and the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, would they have had the same kind of success? For that matter, if they had started the whole thing with Captain America or Thor (same movies, just before Iron Man) could it have been as successful?

DUY: No to both. Cap and Thor were hard sells. Starting with their most realistic character was the right call. And the connective thing between the three is they're all Avengers. You do them solo, then you combine them, then you can build to something, then you can involve the Guardians. Spidey and the FF and the X-Men would just build to something. You miss a whole step.

So many big studios have too many executives and producers with their hand in the pie, it’s a surprise any good movies ever get made. -Ben

BEN: I think it would still have been successful, but yeah, there’s no team to build towards. I’d like to say quality movies is what counts, but two of the first three MCU movies were below average. I think the constant teasing was a major factor.

DUY: It would be like if you started from Avengers and then built to Infinity War. You lose four years. I think you lose more than four years because I don't think something like Guardians ever gets made in this scenario. So you'd start presumably with the Fantastic Four, bring in Spider-Man, then the X-Men, then the Avengers. I'd doubt in this scenario that the Avengers eventually get individual movies.  So you lose a lot. This current situation still has all those guys eventually happening but you're able to maximize the Avengers.

KATHERINE: I agree, the tease and tiny payoffs along the way must have something to do with how satisfying this has all been. Would the equivalent have been making a solo Wolverine movie, then a solo Charles Xavier, then a solo Rogue, et cetera?

BEN: The X-Men are mostly so uninteresting on their own, I can’t see that working out.

KATHERINE: The Avengers being relatively unknown has to be pretty key to all this. If the MCU had started with the X-Men or Fantastic Four it would be reboots of stories we’ve already seen, and we’ve already seen them together, so why would we care to see them apart with the promise of building to something in five years that we’ve already seen?

DUY: There's something to be said too just about Tony and Steve being the perfect ones to build this universe around, like what I assume Superman and Batman should be. You set the overall tone with these guys, and from there you can do deviations. They're very complementary. The Netflix megafranchise works the same way with Daredevil, but that's it exactly, the entire tone is set by him, and would that really work with all these moviegoers from ages 5 and up? There's your issue, regardless of which franchise you're starting with. If I were DC I'd just go way deep into their bench, and maybe start with the Titans or something.

Superhero is not the genre. -Ben

LAMAR: The best thing Marvel has going for them, for the most part, is understanding what makes their characters and universe work. And instead of shying away from those things, they embrace them and it comes through even when a film isn't as good as it could be.

JEFF: I think the best thing Marvel has going for them is that they've done a pretty good job of keeping their movies accessible to all ages. Bad guys are getting killed but the heroes aren't snapping their necks when they fight em

KATHERINE: That's a great point. Though the bigger DCEU fans will claim that the neck-snapping is the reason they love it so much. So dark! So cool!

JEFF: I thought they said the darker look and neck snapping made those movies more sophisticated. I like movies that are fun and exciting, I don't mind dark but it don't fit Superman.

KATHERINE: Yeah, that all goes back to respecting the characters and actually knowing who they are. Pick the tone that works for the individual and for the story you want to tell. The variety in tone, color palette and voice (rather than just DARK GREY) has to be part of the formula for success and not getting total audience fatigue.

DUY: DC movies rely way too much on what we know about the characters going in. We're just supposed to buy that Superman is inspiring in BvS and Justice League, when nothing we've seen before shows that. Even the news montage in BvS has him being revered and feared more than him being an inspiration. This all culminates in Justice League, where they even use the old John Williams and Danny Elfman music, as if to say "Look, just pretend these are Reeve and Keaton, okay?"

KATHERINE: I think another key to their success is that Marvel expanded the definition of a superhero movie while staying grounded in the way we've always understood them. They're all definitely action movies with one foot firmly in that territory, but some are distinctly zany action-comedy, then you get the political thriller, the teen movie, the heist caper, the space rock opera, the period war movie, the Shakespearean family drama (with some being combinations of a couple of those!). So you can put on a different movie depending on your mood but still be in the same universe.

BEN: That’s what I’ve never understood when Cameron or Spielberg say that superhero movies will die as a genre. The Marvel movies are space operas, comedies, action, fantasy movies starring superheroes. Superhero is not the genre.

KATHERINE: And somehow, magically, when all those characters come together, it still works and the tone isn't jarring. I don't know how they pull that off, but highest kudos. They say it's just knowing the characters and what they would do no matter what setting they're in or what they're facing. That makes it sound so simple, but I'm sure it's anything but.

May 2, 2018

The MCU Roundtable: Avengers: Infinity War

Every single week this year, The Comics Cube's extended family did a roundtable on each movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The roundtables were of varying lengths, each one dependent on our own tastes and biases. And now we get to the longest one yet, the culmination. We counted down. Now here's...

Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers: Infinity War was released on April 27, 2018, and made ... you know what, let's just have Katherine kick it off.

KATHERINE: $250 million domestically and $630 million worldwide. In three freakin days. Daaamn.

JD: God damn.

JEFF: I can still hear the Avengers theme music in my head from seeing this today.

DUY: My first question to everyone is... why is Gamora?

BEN: Is Footloose still the greatest movie ever?

DUY: It never was.

BEN: Is Kevin Bacon an Avenger?

DUY: Maybe, I haven't been there in a while.

JEFF: There should be a bacon stone.

BEN: This launches Thanos to the number one spot as Marvel’s top villain in pop culture. Comic fans might not accept it, but every movie-only fan that sees him whup the Hulk’s ass will be sold.

JD: First thing my friend said “Thanos was awesome.”

SAMANTHA: So, my first reaction when the credits started rolling? “F*ck you, Marvel.” Like, I haven’t had the visceral a reaction to a movie in a while. So, I guess it did what it was supposed to.

BEN: So, I had been wondering why they hadn’t been marketing this as part one when I knew it was going to be two movies. With the amount of people that were shocked that the heroes lose, including my own wife, I now understand how genius that was.

DUY: I was trying to think of what deaths stick. And I got nothing. Any deaths that stick will happen in part 2.

BEN: None of those deaths stick.

JEFF: The characters they choose to be in the dead half were disappointing, almost all are in slated movies.

BEN: You might have had me wondering, before they killed Starlord, Black Panther, and especially Spider-Man. It’s obvious that part 2 is going to be the last hurrah of Phase One. It’s the entire crew. Iron Man, Thor, Cap, Widow, Rhodey. That being the case, there’s a zero percent chance Loki isn’t back in part 2.

DUY: Let's be real, what are the chances Loki is actually gonna try to pick a fight with the guy who just beat up the Hulk, who he is deathly scared of?

BEN: Thor: “he’s been dead before.”

DUY: I mean, the Asgardians are literally the easiest characters to bring back from the dead. That and anyone killed in relation to a soul stone.

KATHERINE: I was thinking how it's such a smart, beautiful, emotional way to end it that now we're back to the original Avengers (plus Rocket, Nebula, Okoye, Rhodey) and they'll have to go back to basics in some ways. The flip side of that is it's such a testament to how they've built this world that they've managed to make everyone so emotional over the deaths of these characters that are actually relative newbies.

DUY: I don't think they all pass the torch. Thor for example has no one to really pass it to.

PETER: On a personal level, my favorite part is when my nephew gasped "not Spidey!" when Peter Parker was disappearing. He was almost in tears. That's when I realized how effective the film was.

BEN: “I don’t want to go” was gut-wrenching.

PETER: My nephew added "he's just a kid! Why him!" Holland is so good!

SAMANTHA: If your heart didn’t snap when Peter started disappearing, you have no soul.

BEN: I can’t even imagine what fans not familiar with how death works in comics (especially in Infinity Gauntlet) are thinking right now.

ZHA: After the second showing we saw, I heard an old lady to another old lady say, “I don't like this movie. It makes me sad. They survived the war and Thanos but they still died. Even Spider-Man. Why did they kill Spider-Man? He's just a kid!” Apparently the most heartbreaking death for most people was Spider-man's. (Not mine!)

DUY: I have to think long and hard about the death that affected me the most. Maybe Gamora's, since I didn't expect Thanos to actually kill her. T'Challa was the most surprising

JD: I really dug Gamora here. I said before that I was excited to see her interact with Widow and Cap and Thor, but I had forgot how important and close she is (was!?) to this huge story. I was really feeling it at her death.

DUY: I wasn't hit by the deaths, in the sense that I just didn't think any would stick. I even think everyone who "dissolved" gets shunted into another dimension altogether. But I also knew it was part 1 of 2 going in, and the Infinity Gauntlet literally STARTS with Thanos killing half the universe, so I was kind of expecting that to be the ending. It was either that or a Tony/Steve death, and I was prepared for either.

KATHERINE: I knew they couldn’t really all be dead but it was still horrifying and emotional to see. Lots of gasps and pleading “no!”s all around me. My sister burst into tears with Peter. And the more I think about how Bucky stumbled toward Cap and just said “Steve” before disappearing, the more it breaks my heart.

SAMANTHA: I absolutely cried out when Bucky went.. and T’Challa? Oh God.

DUY: T'challa is the one that legitimately surprised me. He's your main non-white hero and also the hottest character around right now. Every single logical thing says he needs to be around.

SAMANTHA: The whole theater gave a simultaneous “WTF?!” at T’Challa dissolving. I definitely didn’t expect it. Then again, I wasn’t looking at it with the same eyes as you. Safe to say no one in the theater with me was either.

KATHERINE: One of my favorite crowd reactions was someone yelling a sharp loud “NO” when T’Challa started to disappear, and a full chorus of long drawn out “nooooooo’s” for Groot.

ZHA: I can't take any more Loki deaths! And how could they kill Strange? Loki and Strange. And then there's Groot. Why do they keep killing the characters I like over and over? (well, except for Strange). Now I expect more Dr. Strange deaths.

CHRISTOPHER: Bucky calling out to Steve. Yeah, no use for my heart anyways might as well rip it out right?

KATHERINE: I was horrified every time it showed someone else fading, but I was surprised at how emotional I was to see Falcon go too. Maybe it was the double punch of knowing that Cap’s friends are all gone.

BEN: Teenage Peter isn’t my ideal Peter, but in this case his youth made him “dying” that much more tragic for me and was a positive in that sense

DUY: This is definitely a case of me being detached, reading all the comments about how Peter's dissolving affected everyone. My reaction was, well, it's Peter, he'll be back. Like I couldn't appreciate the "moment."

(My nephew) was almost in tears. That's when I realized how effective the film was. -Peter

PETER: My nephew also asked me that. He's supposed to have a sequel, right? He can't be dead! And then I said, well you know about Miles Morales, right? And he lit up and decided that a Miles movie would be pretty cool too. I'm very happy with his reaction

DUY: D....did you just lie to your nephew?

KATHERINE: But even thinking that they can’t really get rid of Spider-Man it doesn’t at least affect you to see this terrified kid saying he’s afraid to die? Didn’t matter who it was, I just thought that was a beautiful and heartbreaking little bit of acting.

BEN: My boys were similarly traumatized by the end.

DUY: I get it, I'm just saying, at that point, my brain is like "Oh of course they're gonna leave Tony alone on Titan."

BEN: It also helps if you’re not a robot lacking human emotions.

DUY: I think I may have approached it a bit too detached because I was thinking of it in terms of Part 2. By the time Peter started fading I thought "Oh, of course they're gonna leave Tony on his own."

JEFF: I look at that differently. It's not that he's on his own but has only one person left to turn to now.

DUY: That's a good point.

BEN: Oh yeah, good call.

CHRISTOPHER: This movie hits hard. I don't really care if the deaths get reversed later since i did enjoy how they executed it. It was all gasps of sheer horror in the theater when everyone was crumbling to dust. My wife was devastated when Peter bit the dust so to speak. By the time the credits rolled up, everyone, including me, totally marked out.

DUY: Yep, no matter how much gets reversed by the end, no one is ever going to forget how they felt at the end of this one.

JEFF: I also wasn't affected by the deaths. I expected a body count and know most will be coming back with a snap of the fingers. Most the ones that died have movies scheduled, which is why I thought it was disappointing in the ones they choose.

BEN: A good death scene always hits me. Even when it’s the company’s franchise character that they’d never kill in any medium for very long.

DUY: I mean, I loved it and I was into the story, but I'm so into it -- and it's literally based on one of the first comics I've ever read — so it was hard for me to 100% detach. I still yelled "F*ck all yeah!" when Thor landed in Wakanda, though.

SAMANTHA: Mine was just “YAAAAASSSSS THOOORRRR” and everyone laughed.

DUY: I was 100% sure he was headed to Titan, so him showing up in Wakanda was a moment.

BEN: This movie had two of the loudest audience cheers I’ve ever experienced. When Captain America shows up, and when Thor arrives in Wakanda. My theater lost their shit for that Thor moment.

DUY: Steve's arrival was amazing. You could feel the tide turning just by his presence.

JEFF: Cap’s team arriving to save Viz was so awesome, my favorite scene I think.

SAMANTHA: Cap’s arrival was awesome... I missed 65 seconds of the movie because I was entranced by his goddamned eyelashes.

KATHERINE: Agreed, I didn’t see most of his entrance fight cuz I (along with the whole theater) was just screaming.

BEN: As did we all. And my favorite scene was Steve and T’Challa running out ahead of the pack.

DUY: Steve and T'Challa outrunning everyone was a nice touch that just showed their attention to every single thing going on here. Stuff like that and Thor knowing how to speak Groot really round out the movie.

BEN: When Okoye, Wanda, and Black Widow surrounded Proxima Midnight, a guy behind us loudly said “aw shit”

DUY: My girlfriend's favorite scene.

SAMANTHA: That was an awesome scene. I wanted to point out the awesomeness of the Marvel women, but I just cursed out the screen over the end credit scene.

"This movie had two of the loudest audience cheers I’ve ever experienced." -Ben

DUY: Zha was clutching my arm and squirming while Loki was dying. It was insane, start to finish.

PETER: Oh, my wife did the same thing to me! Hiddleston is her favorite!

SAMANTHA: I gasped so freaking deeply with Loki, I thought I was going to lose my breath. I mean, Jesus - the quiet way it happened. F*cking horrifying.

BEN: Fortunately it wasn’t him.

DUY: I 100% believe that Loki had to be removed from the board immediately, because Tom Hiddleston would have upstaged Thanos. He'd have upstaged the Avengers. We know this from the last 10 years. He wouldn't have even tried to; he'd have done it by sheer virtue of existing. Also he's not dead.

SAMANTHA: I thought I would be more upset about the fact that Loki dies in the first five minutes, but 1) He wasn’t the first death, and that mattered to me and 2) His death sort of served as a real picture of what The Avengers were dealing with. Seriously, I’m going to have the image in my head for a while — the slow choke, Loki turning grey and purple, the growing satisfaction in Thanks’ expression, and finally the dull crunch of Loki’s neck and the thud as his limp body hit the floor. It wasn’t just some bullshit end for Loki, at least not in my mind. If you didn’t like Loki for all he’d done over the last ten years, he got exactly what he had coming. And if you adored Loki, that was a f*cked up and kind of gruesome way for Bae to go.

DUY: I was telling Katherine that I'm 99% convinced he's alive, and she said it's a win/win for Loki fans. He either goes out a hero, or he's not dead.

KATHERINE: Someone just pointed out to me that from my two favorite “couples,” Thor had to watch his brother die slowly and painfully and there was nothing he could do to help him. And then Steve had to watch his best friend disappear and it was so quick and shocking that he could barely even register what was happening before it was too late. And now I’m even more sad and can’t decide which fate was worse. And I was proud that Loki died trying to be a hero and protecting his beloved brother, acknowledging himself as an Odinson. He was the best version of himself when he died. Then someone pointed out that when he said “we have a Hulk,” it felt like in that moment, he also got to be an Avenger. “I never wanted to be king, I only ever wanted to be your equal.” Considering how Loki gave up the Tesseract to save Thor, here's another heartbreaking throwback to the first Avengers when he was cruelly mocking Natasha for her sentimentality: "Oh, I like this. Your world in the balance, and you bargain for one man." Damn.

BEN: He’s 100% not dead.

SAMANTHA: Is he really not dead?!

DUY: Like I said, how likely is it that Loki would really try to stab Thanos after he just beat up the Hulk? Loki is deathly afraid of The Hulk. Loki just tried double-crossing Thor to the Grandmaster of all people. I'm supposed to buy that he's going to make what is obviously a sacrifice play all of a sudden? The god of lies and mischief, master of illusion, who's been "dead" twice. Am I really going to buy that he's going to try to be a hero in a fight he knew he had zero chance of winning? For all of Loki's character ambiguity in the last 10 years, one thing you can't call him is stupid. He's really going to attack Thanos, who just beat up the Hulk with a knife? He had the space stone when Thanos only had the power stone and he didn't fight him. Are we really gonna believe that he'd fight Thanos with two stones, with a knife?

JEFF: I agree, unless Hiddleston has said he's done.

DUY: The only way he's dead is if Hiddleston wants out. That's the only scenario I'll buy.

KATHERINE: I'm going to believe you, and if you lied to me I'm suing for emotional damages.

"Cap’s arrival was awesome... I missed 65 seconds of the movie because I was entranced by his goddamned eyelashes." -Samantha

BEN: What was your favorite new mini-team? The only correct answer is Thor, Rocket, and Groot.

SAMANTHA: Yeah, definitely Thor, Groot, and Rabbit.

BEN: My mistake, of course it’s Rabbit.

DUY: It's also Thor, Tree, and Rabbit

JEFF: My gf is convinced Rocket has a fetish for prosthetic parts after he had an eye for Thor.

SAMANTHA: And that chuckle! “Ahhh-hahahah, I’m gonna get that arm.”

JEFF: I loved Thor calling Rocket a rabbit but my fav team is always the one with Cap.

KATHERINE: Bucky and Rocket team up!!!!!

DUY: Bucky and Rocket with an instant bond is just so obvious that you're surprised you didn't think of it.

KATHERINE: I was so hoping it would happen, the two brusque bionic raccoon-eyed assassins with big guns have so much in common. Way before this, my sister did a sketch of Rocket after stealing his arm. It made me so happy that Marvel gave us that perfect moment.

See more of Kara's art here.

BEN: I know it would make no sense and distract from the movie characters, but it still seems off that Adam Warlock isn’t in this. Thanos is the avatar of death to Adam’s avatar of life, his arch-nemesis. It would be like a Batman-less Justice League fighting the Joker.

LAMAR: I think his role goes to Dr. Strange in the next movie. He knows a lot about those stones and it comes off like he's got something up his sleeve.

BEN: He saw all the possible outcomes.

DUY: That might kill a bit of the suspense in the next one, but, eh, I'll take it

JEFF: Strange just giving up the stone had to be that one possible future he saw that they survived.

BEN: Either he saw that exact action, or he knows Tony is key to them winning.

"For all of Loki's character ambiguity in the last 10 years, one thing you can't call him is stupid. He's really going to attack Thanos, who just beat up the Hulk with a knife?" -Duy

LAMAR: The set piece is Wakanda was absolutely beautiful to watch. The first time Wakanda gets invaded in its history is by aliens, and they don't even flinch.

DUY: I didn't even think of the fact that it was the first time they were being invaded, or the symbolic significance of it.

LAMAR: And the wild thing about it is they let them through the gate so they could finish these things off. And do course, Cap knew what to do from there.

PETER: Shuri survived, right?

DUY: I assume she did, but there's no confirmation.

BEN: This movie definitively answered if Shuri is the smartest character in the MCU

DUY: I don't know if Shuri is smarter than Stark in a vacuum, or that she's able to be so because she has access to vibranium. Like if you give Tony vibranium for a month (and leave him in a cave, dying), wouldn't he be able to catch up? She's definitely smarter than Banner though.

LAMAR: Also Shuri's role is a callback to a real African that was able to do scientific feats that the world thinks they had no business knowing. Her having tech talk with Banner and one-upping him with both common sense and rationality is like Imhotep asking Copernicus why he didn't just measure and chart the solstices to determine whether or not we lived in a heliocentric galaxy, or to pinpoint the circumference of the Earth.

BEN: See Duy, you’re wrong!

DUY: I'm just saying, give Stark access to Vibranium, and it'd be a more even playing field. Not saying Shuri isn't/can't be smarter, it's just that if we say today's basketball players are better three ponit shooters than before, there's the factor of, well, how much would Scottie Pippen have been practicing 3s if they played by today's rules. I also feel in general that this whole "smartest person" argument keeps overlooking Rocket. To clarify, if there's a clear answer, I'd prefer it to be Shuri; I just think it's better if the answer isn't so cut and dry.

LAMAR: I think Rocket is the most clever intellect they have, and if it came down to something being done on the fly I'd pick him to handle it.

DUY: Most out of the box thinker, I can dig it. You know who's the dumbest? Thor. Thor is the dumbest.

JEFF: Really? Hello Drax. Thor is by no means the smartest but he's not the dumbest either, he comes off that way cause his usual first instinct is to fight.

DUY: Even Drax knows Rocket isn't a rabbit.

JEFF: Midgard animals all look the same to a god

BEN: Drax may not understand what’s happening half the time, but then he’ll drop some fairly perceptive insight about the relationships of the people around him. That puts him a knotch above Thor.

DUY: Small tiny detail that made complete sense that you never thought about: Thor can speak Groot

SAMANTHA: He took it as an elective in school! Sooo much more useful than French!

"The first time Wakanda gets invaded in its history is by aliens, and they don't even flinch." -LaMar

BEN: So, here comes the familiar Marvel villain question, is Thanos right? I mean, I know universal genocide automatically makes him wrong, but the central problem he seeks to correct is a real problem.

JEFF: No, cause the gauntlet can do anything so instead of killing half the universe he can double the resources

SAMANTHA: Split second. For a split second, I was like, “Oh... well, maybe that’s right.” And then I thought like Jeff... like, there’s gotta be something useful about the gauntlet that isn’t chaotic evil.

DUY: The question is always if they're right in their reasoning, because their methods are always wrong. Magneto may be "right" but he's also a mass-murdering bastard and that's not the solution. For Thanos, Jeff is right in that he has way more options now than just killing half the universe, but also.... I dunno about you guys, but I think I saw him legitimately revel in the killing. Gamora matters to him not because he loves her, but because her world is vindication for his methods. But the downfall of Marvel villains is almost always that they become the exact thing they hate.

BEN: It’s true he could do anything with the power, but an unrealistic solution isn’t going to resonate with the audience. We relate to Marvel villains because we can understand their point of view. Magneto and Killmonger are relatable because our species is still plagued with racism and oppression. We are killing the planet and only a portion of the human race even cares. We can relate Thanos’ point of view to our real world and decide if mass murder is an acceptable price (it never is). I’ll admit, the jackass that almost hit our car with his car in the parking lot after the movie influenced my opinion on if half the population of the universe should disappear

DUY: Does anyone else feel that Thanos doesn't actually love Gamora? Look, he's a terrible dad, and I get that dad/kid stuff is complicated, but I also feel that he holds Gamora in high regard mainly because for her world, he ended up being right. His way of genocide ended up growing that planet. It's his vindication. Notice how he never mentions any other planets where that method worked.

BEN: My only nitpick, I can’t see Gamora giving up the soul stone to save Nebula. But also, this is the closest they’ve gotten to a comic accurate Gamora.

DUY: The only writing thing that felt forced to me is that Thor only got to Thanos after he'd already built the gauntlet. You'd think that would have been a "drop everything" situation.

CHRISTOPHER: Also guys, my main man Thor just can't catch a f*cking break. Which made it all the more satisfying when he gave Thanos that almost killing blow.

DUY: Thor crying saying he has nothing left to lose, after he had just shared some of the funniest scenes ever with the Guardians, that hit me pretty hard.

"I think everyone was also wondering if there would already be some glimmer of hope for a reversal in the end credits. But of course they couldn’t be that kind." -Katherine

DUY: Steve momentarily stopping Thanos' gauntlet, Zha asks me, wait, how can he do that? How is he that strong? And I said, they keep saying it's all about willpower, and no one has more willpower than Steve Rogers.

CHRISTOPHER: That scene sold us totally. Simply because it’s Steve Rogers. I mean, he can do that kind of thing, all day.

DUY: Did everyone's favorites get your desired amount of screentime? My favorites are Thor and Steve, so it's yes for me, but I can imagine Black Widow or Black Panther fans being annoyed at the relative lack of time

CHRISTOPHER: I as a Bucky fan felt left out. He didn't even get to have much of an interaction with Steve!!

KATHERINE: They had a lovely tight hug when they met again! I know lots of Stucky fans were hoping for at least that. Something us Thor/Loki fans didn’t get.

LAMAR: I hollered in the theater when Dr. Strange used the Bands of Cyttorak to pull the Gauntlet off.

BEN: Oh, and Iron Spider suit arms!

PETER: People were quiet at the end of the movie here. I think it was a stunned silence and everyone stayed hoping for something hopeful at the post-credits scene.

DUY: No one stood up the entire time. And when the end credits hit, for the first time ever, no one left early. This time, everyone knew there was an end credits, and everyone stayed.

KATHERINE: I think everyone was also wondering if there would already be some glimmer of hope for a reversal in the end credits. But of course they couldn’t be that kind.

DUY: Yeah, that would kinda completely kill the moment.

SAMANTHA: That was Captain Marvel who Fury was calling, yes?

BEN: Correct.

JEFF: Yes.

SAMANTHA: I didn’t pop for that and I thought if there were any reference to Captain Marvel, I would. Lol I’m gonna have to watch it again after I’ve absorbed all of this.

DUY: I can't imagine I'm the only one bugged by the very final shot of the end credits, right? For me a culmination should be ended by the people who have been there. It's just weird to do this movie, introduce Captain Marvel as someone who's been here this whole time, and then drop her into the next one to save the day

LAMAR: I'm okay with it mostly because a) she hasn't been seen yet and I think her entrance should be on a big stage and b) if there's a time you pull out all the stops, this is probably it

DUY: I get that, it just feels to me like if you work on a group project at work and then the newbie gets all the credit.

LAMAR: I feel you, and if she comes in and bumrushes everything as a deus , it'll cheapen everything laid out already. But they've been good about that sort of thing so I'ma keep the faith.

KATHERINE: It doesn’t bother me because I don’t think it’s just about introducing her as the savior, it’s just as much about introducing a new concept. It must mean something that no one’s heard of her before this, that her movie takes place in the 90s, the pager is from the 90s, she’s not going to come in 20 years older... I dunno if it’s something about alternate realities or time travel or what, but i can’t imagine that it’s gonna be a straightforward “hey girl, get over here, shit’s going down.” “Okay cool nice to meet you, I’ll save you all.”

KATHERINE: Which is to say I don’t think she has been around the whole time waiting for a call. I’m super anxious for her movie now, cuz it feels like something must’ve happened to put her mysteriously out of commission for 20 years, and that something is probably gonna be part of the key to figuring out how to fix this. So it’s not her as a deux ex machina, it’s introducing a new aspect of the universe via her storyline. At least that’s my theory. We’ll see if it has any basis in anything!

DUY: I'll be fine with it if it's not a deus ex.

PETER: Clearly her airplane must have crashed in the ice somewhere and she's been frozen in stasis while her boyfriend has been saving a dance for her.

DUY: I mean, any other scenario is flat out implausible.

BEN: Maybe she’s immortal and hasn’t been doing anything since WW1.

"I was wondering why they flew (to the Philippines) just to film scenery. Cause, you know, Thanos isn’t real." -Ben

DUY: I was avoidng talking about the movie in any way at work the next two days, because apparently the fact that it was a part 1 wasn't publicized, and the moment I say that, I think it gives away the "ending."

BEN: I wonder what percentage were thinking “yes, Thor saves the day....wait, what, no, no...noooooo!!!”

BEN: Here’s hoping there’s a mound of General Ross ashes somewhere, right?

LAMAR: If the universe is really as balanced as folk claim, there has to be

BEN: “Arrest them!” Good luck with that.

LAMAR: Was I the only one that thought it was funny when Thanos walked the dogs on everybody then teleported home to sit on the porch and reflect?

DUY: Thanos-as-a-farmer in the comic is something that makes my whole family laugh because it's so ridiculous. It's much better delivered in the movie. Infinity Gauntlet, really, is flawed as hell, but people my age put it on such a pedestal. I love it, it made me fall in love with Marvel, but it's not perfect, or anywhere close.

LAMAR: Part of the reason why it works in the movie for me is Thanos buys his own bullshit.

DUY: "Buying their own bullshit" is the epitome of a Marvel villain.

LAMAR: He really thinks he's done the universe a favor and deserves to go home and live his life out on a porch overlooking the countryside.

PETER: He retires to his hut and rice farm in the Philippines apparently.

BEN: I was wondering why they flew there just to film scenery. Cause, you know, Thanos isn’t real.

"It’s not a question of 'if,' it’s 'how' and 'at what cost.' I get annoyed by the people saying that they lose all integrity and stakes if the deaths aren’t permanent. Oh please." -Katherine

DUY: Of course some people want the deaths to stay permanent.

BEN: It has no worth without lasting death and darkness.

LAMAR: See I knew it wouldn't take long for the fast food people to start chiming in, if the bigger point isn't something they can catch quick then it doesn't matter.

BEN: I mean, to an extent I agree with the idea of lasting consequences and why take it seriously if it’ll just be reversed. But in this case it’s very specifically from the comic. And they’re not leaving Panther and Spidey dead. Don’t be foolish.

KATHERINE: I partially think that they killed those two big guns specifically to reassure people that the deaths aren’t permanent. Like Bucky, Sam, Wanda, Drax, Mantis, I was kinda like holy shit is this for real and was starting to get really depressed. But with Black Panther, Spidey and Peter Quill, it was like, no no this can’t be permanent and then felt convinced that the next movie has to be about bringing them back. It’s not a question of “if”, it’s “how” and “at what cost.” I get annoyed by the people saying that they lose all integrity and stakes if the deaths aren’t permanent. Oh please. It’s not just those characters, it’s half the universe. I think the whole point of the second movie will be figuring out how to fix that. I saw it as the end of Empire Strikes Back. You’re supposed to be emotionally affected that Han Solo’s been frozen but you know they’re not leaving him trapped in carbonite forever, their next goal is gonna be to fix that shit.

BEN: It’s definitely Empire Strikes Back.

KATHERINE: It would be dumber for them to say “oh damn I guess half the universe is dead now, we just have to deal with that” when they all literally just saw that he had the power to turn back time to save Vision.

LAMAR: Okay you know what, if I die tomorrow and ya'll don't mourn, when the stuff gets undone I'ma still tell let you know you ain't shit.

KATHERINE: Hahahaha oh I’m definitely in mourning, especially since we have to wait a whole damn year!

LAMAR: Right? Like what are we supposed to do for 12 months?

BEN: I really am curious what people that aren’t well versed in comic deaths are thinking. Are they in denial, do they believe they’re all really gone?

KATHERINE: My older sister who knows nothing about these movies or comics texted me at 1 am after watching it going “Noooo!! No way, they can’t really end it like that, right?! Tell me what’s going on, there’s a comeback planned, right?!” I think it definitely reads as a cliffhanger so I would think most audiences don’t feel like that’s a definitive ending and knows there will be a continuation, even if they don’t know what the hell is going on or how normal this is in comics.

LAMAR: You have to admit it though, The Avengers mollywhopped The Cull Obsidian. What Wakanda's force field did to Black Dwarf was pretty epic.

KATHERINE: I just talked to my superfan four year old nephew about the movie and he had such an interesting astute kid perspective. He said it was super sad that Loki died (“he was protecting his brother!”) and that Gamora died (“but thanos was sad because he loves his daughter!”), but he was insistent that nobody else died. I asked him what about Spider-Man and Bucky and Black Panther (his favorites) and he was like “no no, they didn’t die. They just disappeared. But that means they went somewhere. Where did they go?” I was like oh shit, good point. The way he said it was hilarious though, as if I was the dumbest person to walk the planet for even suggesting they were dead. It was so obvious to him that they disappeared to somewhere and just needed to be freed. I thought he was gonna drop some crazy wisdom on me like that they’re obviously in the quantum realm or something. Does that count as denial or some great out of the box thinking?

DUY: It's almost exactly what happened in the comics. The comic starts with half the universe disappearing. Then the remaining heroes (and Dr. Doom) go to fight Thanos. Thanos kills them all, zero exceptions. Only Dr. Strange stays behind to kind of monitor what's going on. Turns out he was "retrieving" the "killed" heroes from wherever them dying sent them to. It's never actually explained how they survive in the first place and is kind of a mess, but there it is. I'm not saying they're definitvely shunted off into another dimension, though. They could be "dead" for real until things get reversed. I am saying I don't imagine they're gonna keep T'challa and either Peter and Strange off the board for very long.

KATHERINE: Well, well. Out of the mouths of babes. Regardless of whether that’s actually whats going to happen in this MCU iteration of the story, I just feel like I want to give my nephew a medal.

DUY: So why didn't anyone with an Infinity Stone use it to fight Thanos? Any answers?

JEFF: I think Strange and Vision are the only ones who would have done that but by the time Thanos fought either of them directly he already had four stones against Strange and then five against an injured Vision. We didn't get to see the battle on Xandar to see if the Nova Corps used it for their weapons.

"Thor keeping the machine open and letting the sun go right through is the single most Superman moment in any superhero movie." -Duy

MATTHEW: Thor was awesome.

DUY: Thor keeping the machine open and letting the sun go right through is the single most Superman moment in any superhero movie. I said it, come at me, LaMar!

LAMAR: I can't front, that was straight out of Fleischer Brothers.

MIGUEL: I was never a Thor fan but this movie made me root for Thor.

CHRISTOPHER: What are you smoking, man? I'm telling you right now you better stop drinking too much kool aid.

BEN: Never a Thor fan? Leave. Leave now.

SAMANTHA: Miguel needs to write an article for the Cube about how everyone just came for him for not being a fan of Thor.

LAMAR: Miguel, get your ass back in here I need to see something right quick

CHRISTOPHER: The kid just ain't right in the head.

MIGUEL: I'm a Spider-man guy. I rarely get my hands on a Thor comic book!

BEN: I’d just like to point out my 5 year old likes Spider-Man now and watched Homecoming with me this morning.

DUY: Can you imagine being 11 years old when the first Iron Man comes out, this entire franchise is the franchise of your generation, and now you're in it, and not just that, you're a huge part of it?

BEN: In a Transformers group I’m in, someone posted a picture of the Michael Bay Bumblebee shirt they’ve had “since they were a kid.”

"I was worried about the very real possibility of this movie being a trainwreck. Instead, they nailed it." -Matthew

DUY: They really went all in on the Vision/Wanda relationship in this movie, after very minimal buildup in Civil War. Did it work for everyone?

SAMANTHA: Yes for the romantic sap who saw the sparks in Civil War when he tried making her Paprikash.

BEN: I think they built to it enough, and said it’s been two years since Civil War.

KATHERINE: They already hinted at it in Age of Ultron when he saved her at the end, and in rewatching Civil War yesterday there’s actually quite a lot of build up between them there. Even just him missing Falcon and injuring Rhodey because he was so “distracted” by Wanda (“I didn’t think that was even possible”) is a big indication of what’s to come and what he’s turning into. So totally made sense to me.

DUY: It's the first movie where I didn't hate Vision with a passion. Still glad he died though.

JEFF: I was genuinely surprised how long he lasted and thought for a minute they might get the stone off him before Thanos showed up

BEN: Shuri is going to fix his brain, that’s a given. Because she’s smarter than Stark.

DUY: I hope he stays dead. Then they bring back Quicksilver for some reason.

BEN: Nobody misses Quicksilver.

DUY: Wait, no, in the new reality her brother is now the X-Men Quicksilver.

JEFF: I can't imagine why they'd bring Vis back, not like they needed him for anything after Ultron was stopped.

BEN: Because the Vision is worthy.

JEFF: That hammer is just as useless as Vision now.

BEN: There’s a sex joke in there somewhere.

"What really strikes me is as much of a miracle it was that the first Avengers worked and balanced all those characters and did them all justice while still being entertaining and emotional, this has to be like, ten times the miracle. " -Katherine

LAMAR: Where does this stand as an Avengers film? It's a huge leap forward in quality over Age of Ultron, which was good but not great, but is it better than the first one?

BEN: It’s better start to finish, but the battle of NY is still the best

DUY: It's hard to say just on account of it's only really half a movie. But one of the things that has always driven Avengers 1 up for me is the degree of difficulty in balancing out six characters and not just turning it into the Iron Man show. But if that's my criteria, then this movie blew that out of the water, because we're talking.... way more than six characters to balance out. So actually yeah, I just contradicted myself, this movie is objectively "better."

KATHERINE: What really strikes me is as much of a miracle it was that the first Avengers worked and balanced all those characters and did them all justice while still being entertaining and emotional, this has to be like, ten times the miracle. It now feels almost quaint, like oh, balancing screen time between six Avengers? Try doing it with 37.

MATTHEW: I have to admit, with bringing that many plotlines together, and juggling that many characters, I was worried about the very real possibility of this movie being a trainwreck. Instead, they nailed it.

JEFF: I still like the first one better and this movie is called Avengers but there's so many non-Avengers that I don't view it as an "Avengers" movie. Make sense for Marvel to use the name for marketing but really Civil War was the third Avengers movie to me, this one is just way beyond that

KATHERINE: If there are too many Avengers and non-Avengers, how else would you even refer to that? Are they like the Avengers Plus? Avengers Extended Universe?

DUY: It's surprising me a bit that they don't just say "Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy." When the next one comes out and it sticks the landing, it's going to be impossible to watch this movie on its own.

LAMAR: Funny enough, this is my favorite Iron Man showing and I would think the next one will follow through in that regard.

SAMANTHA: That makes me happy. It went the same way for me with the final two Harry Potter movies. (Yes, I brought up Harry Potter) We live in a world where everyone loves a good movie marathon.

DUY: Well, if the next one doesn't stick the landing, it's going to be impossible to watch this movie on its own at all.

BEN: Rewatching Avengers earlier this year, it was a whole lot cornier than I allowed myself to admit before. And that Cap costume is a deal breaker now. It’s still top 5, maybe, but it’s getting pushed.

DUY: The corniness at the time was part of the charm though, and it provided an "innocent" baseline for all the terrible stuff would come later.

BEN: Speculation time: do they kill Thanos in part 2 or leave him on the board somehow?

JEFF: I'd say he'll die in part 2.

LAMAR: I say he lives but gets put away in a manner that removes him from the board.

JEFF: Anyone disappointed with the Hulk not showing in the movie as he did in the trailers?

LAMAR: It didn't bother me that much because the Hulk would've run all over those aliens, that scene was more about the will of the human spirit and overcoming lopsided adversity so not having him there made it more impactful.

BEN: Have to stack the deck against them in part 1.

DUY: I can't believe they not only made fake scripts for the actors, they also made a fake scene for the trailer

JEFF: I never even noticed that Hulk was missing in the Lego sets from the movie but Bruce was included with the Hulkbuster set.

BEN: What fake scene?

DUY: The first trailer has Hulk in Wakanda.

SAMANTHA: I had completely forgotten about The Hulk being in Wakanda until someone pointed it out in a FB thread. Also, there is a tiny point where, the woods in Wakanda after the fight (I think just a few moments before Bucky disappears), Mark Ruffalo’s face looks like it’s in a TV screen on the Hulkbuster. It briefly looked so awful that it was amazing.

KATHERINE: It was for that one badass shot of all of them running together. Perfect trailer shot but probably impractical for the actual battle when it was better for them to divide and conquer. They do this all the time to trick us though! Remember all the earlier Civil War trailers where they just digitally removed Spider-Man from the airport battle until they were ready to tell us he’s also there?

BEN: I know some of us, at least I have, have started taking these movies for granted and we’ve become spoiled, so I just want to take a step back and try to express how nuts it is that 10 years of movies have built to the Infinity Gauntlet, of all stories. That’s so insane. Thanos is a household name. What reality do we live in?

DUY: When Gauntlet was coming out, everyone at school was either reading it or keeping up with it. So it's weirdly big among people my age, and whatnot, but it is insane that this is the big culmination. And on a personal level, I can't ask for another story to be the culmination. It's a story that means something to me, so it hits me a bit harder in the real world than a story with Doom or Magneto.

BEN: The Starlin stuff always seemed so off in its own corner to me.

DUY: I’ve seen criticisms that the movie, especially to start, is disjointed. I don't really think there was any way around that, do you? And I do kinda like it, the Avengers theme playing when Steve enters, the Guardians making their entrance with 70s rock.

KATHERINE: I didn't see it as disjointed personally. I actually thought the bouncing around was fun and part of the unexpected surprise of it - it always felt like, "Yay, where we going next?! I love hanging out with Cap, I don't want to leave yet — oh wait, back to Rocket and Thor, I LOVE THEM TOO!"

DUY: Yeah, I think it's a traditional narrative criticism that is both valid and also kinda misses the point.

BEN: It’s the closest to a comic book crossover a movie can get.

DUY: I think we just in general need to appreciate the fact that they did it. The whole shared universe thing culminates. Comics fans know the thrill of it, for non-comics fans to experience it in such large numbers and to enjoy it, is just... amazing. This is unheard of not even a decade ago.

BEN: Like Katherine said, we were impressed when they pulled off Avengers. Now, I almost don’t know how you continue after this. Same token, the movies after Avengers seemed so quaint. Poor think Ant-Man and the Wasp.

MATTHEW: I still have faith that think Ant-Man and the Wasp will be wonderful.

DUY: I think Ant-Man and the Wasp serves a purpose. Whatever comes after Infinity War is going to feel like a letdown afterwards, and you don't want that to be Captain Marvel.

JEFF: Maybe they or one of them disappear in the post-credits.

"Thanos is a household name. What reality do we live in?" -Ben

DUY: So we asked this question too early, and we have to ask this again now: who's dying (and staying dead) in part 2, Steve or Tony?

KATHERINE: I’m gonna say that Steve offers to sacrifice himself for the soul stone and everyone’s preparing themselves emotionally for it, but last minute Tony steps in and dies in his place. Cap still retires and passes on the shield but he’s alive (this is really just my hope haha)

DUY: From an external point of view, I'd be afraid to lose RDJ. He's such a big part of connecting to the fans.

JEFF: I think it's Steve and Tony in the next one.

DUY: Both? Oh man, you're out for blood.

BEN: Narratively, Stark getting the sad heroic death doesn’t seem right to me

PETER: I think all of the original line up dies in the sequel and all who died here are revived. It's a passing of the torch thing

DUY: You're even out for more blood!

BEN: It’s really hard to figure because of the contracts and the actors maybe wanting to be done.

JEFF: I don't see the Hulk dying.

DUY: Like I think either Tony or Steve is enough. Both is just torture. Sweet, sweet torture. But torture.

PETER: And then Franklin Richards revives them in a different Earth.

BEN: It would make sense for both to die, because of Evans and RDJ, but I don’t think Stark would be as affecting as Steve. Steve means more to all of the characters.

DUY: Either would be symbolic. In different ways.

BEN: Steve is symbolic in-story, Stark out of story.

JEFF: I can see Stark sacrificing himself for Pepper.

BEN: Watching this movie with the crowd I did, really solidified how beloved Evans is as Cap. Almost to the point I don’t know how they continue without him. Stark dying would be like the co-worker that annoyed you half the time you knew him dying. Still sad, but not as sad as your idol dying.

BRIAN: Given the fact that the suit does most of the work, plus he can always send drones, I'm feeling like Downey could play Stark for another 5 years without a problem. He still seems to enjoy it, too, plus he's getting paid crazy money. I'm not sure Chris Evans is enjoying it as much anymore.

JEFF: I think they can continue without Evans. I don't think they can easily reboot or cast someone else to be Steve Rogers when the time comes. Giving the shield to Buck or Sam might work since both are established now

KATHERINE: I don’t think the plan is to reboot any characters with new actors playing them. We’re in some unprecedented storytelling here where it just keeps going, so I wonder how that will play out long term, but I think partly key to that is that they respect and acknowledge where they’ve been, so I can’t imagine that they’d reset with a different Steve Rogers, it would keep moving forward and get passed on and become a new generation. So I think it would be Steve passing the shield to Bucky or Sam, then it would be Iron Heart and Miles Morales and Lady Thor and all of that. I’m all for continuing with a younger and more diverse group. We can enjoy the new ones and can simultaneously continue to treasure these movies with the original characters.

"It's not that (Tony)'s on his own but has only one person left to turn to now." -Jeff

DUY: Stark is the only guy Thanos calls by name, right?

LAMAR: Yeah, the others he doesn't address by name or even seem to know much about.

DUY: It's actually quite startling, so he took the time to learn who Stark is, and he respects him. Any theories as to why? (We know why, off-story, but why in story?)

KATHERINE: Since Tony was seeing premonitions about all of this happening since Age of Ultron, does Thanos have some part in that? I know it was Wanda who peeked into his head to start that hallucination, but was there actually some two way communication happening then?

LAMAR: There's a parallel with the two of them in how they deal with people, and how they're both pretty much ready to throw just about everything away to get what they want. And as Tony says himself, nobody makes better death instruments than he does.

DUY: True, and also a contrast there that when it comes to their parenting styles, Tony likes to keep his kid (Peter).... y'know, alive.

BEN: I assumed it was because he put up a good fight.

SAMANTHA: This is really all Starlord's fault.

KATHERINE: The first time I saw it I was so worked up and trying not to scream at the screen that I didn't even realize how damn close they got. It was only the second time did I realize that Spidey had the glove off. Ouch.

DUY: Thanos grasped it right back at the last moment.

SAMANTHA: For real, it was basically off. But thank Starlord, Bucky and T’Challa are individual piles of dust and Peter felt every goddamn second of his death because of his heightened senses.

KATHERINE: I was like okay Nebula, I know you're grieving too, but you need to either shut up or hold him back! Haha! Meanwhile, my man Cap is out here doing the lord's work trying to stop Thanos with his bare hands just to buy Wanda three extra seconds.

BEN: Not all of us can be as emotionless as Duy! Duy’s feelings run on Windows Vista.

“Have you seen Avengers?”
“Is Superman alive now?”
-Overheard by Zha
KATHERINE: Favorite / funniest lines or moments? Drax always cracks me up the most, so his "WHY is Gamora" might have been one of my biggest laughs. And Starlord being jealous of Thor and trying to lower his voice.

DUY: The entire Quill/Thor conversation is the best. But what makes it are Drax's interjections. "You are a dude. This.... this is a man." "You are imitating the god man!"

KATHERINE: One that just tickled my sense of humor was "Who do I serve What am I supposed to say, JESUS or something?"

BEN: You’re embarrassing me in front of the wizards

MATTHEW: Drax's whole bit with thinking he was invisible.

BEN: You speak Groot? It was an elective.

JEFF: “I am Groot.” “I am Steve Rogers.”

DUY: “BRING ME THANOS!!!!” got at least one guy in our theater yesterday raising his fists in glory, so I found it funny.

KATHERINE: Okoye giving Bruce the incredulous side-eye when he tripped in the Hulkbuster armor. Hilarious but also a reminder of how much I love her.

DUY: “Why was she up there all this time?”

KATHERINE: It's nice to see the funny moments because it's a reminder that even though this was by far the most tragic of all the MCU movies, it's somehow still also one of the funniest (I would put it right after Ragnarok, Guardians 1, Guardians 2). That in and of itself is quite an accomplishment.

DUY: My absolute favorite line is "You understand, boy.... if you absorb those sun's rays too long, it will kill you." "Only if I die." ".....Yes. That's what.... killing you means." On the one hand, it's an utterly ridiculous thing to even say. On the other hand, it's EXACTLY who Thor is, as defined by Walt Simonson:

Heroes have an infinity capacity for stupidity. Thus are legends born.

KATHERINE: I love this! Don’t ever change, Thor. I’ve seen people compare Loki to an irritable black cat and Thor to a big fluffy golden retriever, and that’s so true! “He hasn’t fought me...... Well, he hasn’t fought me twice.”

ZHA: Not part of the movie, but after our first showing, I overheard two ladies and a guy. Guy asks, “Have you seen Avengers?” And one of the ladies asks, “Is Superman alive now?” Noooooo!

BEN: Speechless Stark was probably the loudest laugh in my theater. “We’re here to kick names and take ass.”

"What if they aren’t playing around and Black Panther 2 stars Shuri?" -Ben

BEN: What if they aren’t playing around, and Black Panther 2 stars Shuri as Black Panther, Nova takes Starlord’s place, and Miles becomes Spider-Man. I’m excited!

SAMANTHA: But... but... ugh. It really would kick ass to watch Shuri fight for the throne and win. Unh, man... could it really have gone that quickly?!

PETER: Yes. Was thinking the same thing and I'd be on board with that too.

BEN: They’re dead! They’re dead forever!

JEFF: Their contracts say otherwise.

SAMANTHA: How many movies in is Seb? How about Chadwick? How many movies did he sign on for?

BEN: Jeff is in the denial phase.

JEFF: Seb's contract was for 8 or 9 movies.

BEN: Movie contracts protect the studio, not the actors.

JEFF: That's why Nick Cage got a big payday for Tim Burton’s Superman.

SAMANTHA: The next Spider-Man movie could also be pre-Infinity War. There are a number of reasons why these deaths could be permanent; the only argument against it is "Contracts." I’m sad.

BEN: Exactly, they bought him out. Contracts could easily be at the discretion of the studio too. There’s a reason they don’t sign stars.

JEFF: Guardians of the Galaxy vol 3 starring Rocket Racoon. Introducing Starfox, Moondragon, Jack of Hearts, and Quasar!

BEN: Bring. It. On.

PETER: Don't forget to include Charlie 27, Martinex, and the other characters in Stallone's version of the Guardians. It'll work!

BEN: I’m pretty sure they filmed both movies at one time, but they’d be foolish not to throw some X-Men in at the end. It’s the perfect way to rewrite the reality of the MCU.

DUY: All right, gimme some X-Men/FF scenarios. If they're gonna work them into the next movie, how do you want it done?

BEN: Undoing the effect of the infinity stones alters reality, adding the FF and X-Men to the MCU as if they always were. Then you do a FF movie set in the ‘60s, end it with them stuck in the Negative Zone. And it would be funny if Marvel Studios did their own Inhumans movie anyway. “Forget that awful show.”

DUY: I'm counting on it.

PETER: Was that supposed to be Red Skull? And was it Hugo Weaving?

BEN: Yes and no. Not Hugo.

JEFF: I really didn't think we'd ever see the Skull again and the way he was portrayed was...... unexpected

BEN: If Evans sticks around, the Skull door is that much more open now.

JEFF: I wouldn't mind watching Bucky Cap fight him.

JD I was nerding out at the Red Skull and then whew boy ahem ‘scuse me. He/s the villain from my favorite marvel film again and it was a complete surprise!

JEFF: Maybe I've seen too many GoT fan theories and am over thinking this but, what if Red Skull was actually Loki? We've already discussed the possibility of Loki faking his death (again) but for when I think about the Red Skull’s part it doesn't fit. First if he's been there all this time he should be dead from old age. Second, Skull is one of the most irredeemable characters there is so he was very out of character here.

"Biggest Balls Overall Award goes to the freakin Russo Brothers." -Katherine

DUY: Standard Roundtable questions: who's the Kilmer? Who stole the show?

BEN: There’s not one character I feel like stole the show. It was pretty evenly, ahem, balanced. I guess in that sense, Thanos?

JD: Thanos. One of the most well-done CGI characters ever.

DUY: Yeah, I think I go Thanos for this one.

LAMAR: The combined forces of Akeem and Semmi, er, T'Challa and M'Baku.

BEN: Black Panther had his moments, Spider-Man had his moments. Thor had some big ones. Cap.

DUY: I'm actually surprised at the ones who had character defining arcs. Gamora. Wanda. Vision. It's one of the signs that these people love the source material because any other studio would have ignored anyone outside of the moneymakers.

BEN: They went right for the creepy robot love, good for them Much like the Avengers comics used to be, it’s the only time Vision will get a storyline

KATHERINE: Screw Thanos!! I refuse to award that purple nutsack with anything!!! I vote Thor MVP. Lost everything he loved tragically, cried about it during a striking moment of character depth and vulnerability, had quality interactions with everyone, heroically survived the power of the sun, made the best entrance ever, and came super close to saving the whole damn day (if he had only aimed a couple of feet to his right.... ).

BEN: I won’t argue against Thor.

MATTHEW: Has to be Thor or Thanos. Though, we should probably make up a special designation for this one... biggest Balls in Hand Moment goes to Loki.

KATHERINE: I would also say... Biggest Balls Overall Award goes to the freakin Russo Brothers.

MATTHEW: They pulled it off. With everything that was going on, it easily could've been a dumpster fire.

KATHERINE: Definitely. And not just that they pulled it off somehow, but that they had the balls to kill so many faves in such spectacular fashion and defied all the predictions. Black Panther just made a billion dollars? BOOM. Dead. That's a whole other level of did-I-stutter-when-I-said-nothing-is-sacred. You gotta respect that.

DUY: I would've voted for Thor, but we all know I'm biased.

LAMAR: You still can, it's super legit so nobody would blame you.

BEN: He’s not at all handsome.

"Spidey Super Stories 39. Folk need to know what happens when stuff like this go down and you call the NYPD first." -LaMar

DUY: And comics recommendations for Infinity War? Mine is: none. Enjoy the movie and let it sink in. I'll give recs after the next one.

BEN: Infinity and Thanos Rising. Annihilation and Annihilation Conquest.

LAMAR: Spidey Super Stories 39. Folk need to know what happens when stuff like this go down and you call the NYPD first.