The MCU is not exactly what we expected when Robert Downey Jr. first stepped into the light as Iron Man, is it? Since 2008, we have discovered a renaissance of superheroes the likes of which has never before been seen. Fourteen movies, five different television series, and we all know this is barely getting going.
While we enjoy what is going on…constantly…with no end of debate and fangirling as each movie and series comes forth, we are to be a critical audience. Marvel has a concerted group of fans that won’t allow it to rest on its laurels. To this end, I give you 9 questions that should remain on our minds as we delve further into the universe.
In Between Infinity
Looking forward is one of the favorite parts about being a part of this fandom. One need look no further than the seats in the theater, the hundreds of people clamoring for a snippet of the future that has become a staple of every film. We love poking through every piece of information, trying to glean something out of the Easter eggs.
In this vein, what is going to happen once Infinity War finally comes to pass? When Thanos finally rises from that chair and embarks on his quest? If this is in fact the ultimate fight against the ultimate villain, then really what is going to happen in the interim?
This question has in part been answered as the 4th Avengers is no longer entitled Infinity War, Part 2. But let’s be honest, that is just raising as many questions as it answers.
Anyone Ever Dying
This is a little biting of a question, but there seems to be precedence. Coulson? Not dead. Fury? Looks like he has died several times over. Rhodey? Not a chance.
There have been notable exceptions: the villains. Iron Monger, Purple Man, Yellow Jacket, Kurse, Ultron. It is perfectly acceptable to run through the villains not named Loki like it’s going out of style. Whether or not they were compelling is beside the point. It seems like Marvel is willing to run through the villains, and ignore their contributions completely.
The heroes, on the other hand, are completely untouchable. No matter how many times they get shot, or beaten to a pulp, or crash down from space, the heroes better be intact by the end of the film. It is a good standpoint, that good will eventually triumph over evil, but still, we ask if this does not become a stale formula. Is anyone we care about ever going to actually bite the big one? And if not, should we care?
Cutting The Dead SHIELD
I’ll be the first to admit it. I don’t like Agents of SHIELD. The cast is great, but their characters just seem boring to me. I’ve tuned out so much of this, that storylines that I was genuinely interested in just became stale. The HYDRA infiltration of SHIELD seemed to just become an immediate break, with no real questions of who was good and who was bad. Ghost Rider, one of my personal favorite characters, being broken from canon for dramatic effect just screamed against the lore.
The Inhumans were possibly the best, but it became meandering. Clear goals, a story arc that encompassed the entire globe, and ending with a new rise of ordinary citizens as Inhumans. A nice little wrap-around to avoid the mutants currently owned by FOX. Afterwards, there seemed to be no clear pathway to success.
This actually describes most of what has happened on SHIELD. Some great possibilities for storylines, that just became ultimately lost. Agents of SHIELD was supposed to be the glue between the movies, keeping the audience engaged while their favorites were in development. But given the fact that we generally have 2 or 3 movies a year, not to mention the rise of the superior Netflix series, do we honestly need SHIELD anymore?
Here are just a few storylines that seem to be forgotten and laid by the wayside.
The rise of the Mandarin? The real Mandarin. As most die-hard comics fans fell in absolute hate of the twist that was Iron Man 3, it was revealed in a short that the real Mandarin kidnaps Trevor from prison and is unamused by what happened in the conclusion of Favreau’s trilogy.
What happened to Red Skull? Hugo Weaving’s character was bold, hate-filled and racist to any who did not follow his ideals. Last we saw of him he was being sent into space by the Tesseract. Was this death, or did the Space Stone merely transport the Skull across the galaxies?
What’s going on with Hammer Tech? Justin Hammer was considered a joke in the second Iron Man movie, but since then his Tech just seems to be getting more and more effective, as Luke Cage’s series proved. Is Hammer finally becoming a genius, or does he have some outside help?
Is the Bifrost ever being rebuilt? Thor seems to be able to travel between the Realms easily, but the Bifrost is still destroyed. Is Asgard just considering this the new normal?
Are we ever going to see more of poor Agent Carter and the rise of SHIELD? What happens during the Red Scare, or the sixties and the rise of computers? Racism in SHIELD? The Howling Commandoes, are they ever reintroduced?
With all of these questions we have entire movies, and arcs. Here’s hoping they don’t just become lost to the ether.
Big Names, Bigger Contracts
This is being precipitated more by FOX than Marvel itself. We are going to see Hugh Jackman in his last go-round as the Berserker X-Man in Logan. This looks like it shall be a fantastic swansong to the first two men who truly helped define their characters and comic book movies in the new millennium. As they end, Marvel should also consider their own endings.
Robert Downey Jr. is not getting any younger, and is constantly looking at different projects. Samuel L. Jackson is possibly the oldest of the bunch, and can’t be expected to hold up to the rigors of some of these projects. Even the newcomers like Benedict Cumberbatch already have extremely busy show schedules that have to be consistently worked around.
We love these characters, and most especially the cast. The fact that many if not all of the major names are eagerly a part of this universe is something that the fans treasure. But they cannot be around forever. What happens to the series when that happens?
That Lingering X-Problem
Speaking of Logan, the greatest hole in the MCU needs to be addressed. Since its inception, every facet of the universe has been missing any mention of mutants and the wealth of lore that involves the various X-teams.
This has led to some generous contortionist acts on the part of Marvel. Instead of mutants, the “different people” are now Inhumans, a far more integral part of the universe than the Terrigan Mist recipients ever had in the comics. It becomes even more impressive, and yet cringe-inducing, when considering Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver’s origins as “wonders.”
FOX is not letting go of their rights any time soon. With X-Men Apocalypse doing well enough at the box office, and Deadpool suddenly bursting onto the scene, unless an equitable solution comes into play the mutants will not be joining the Avengers any time soon. Leaving a nice X-shaped hole in the universe…
Relevance of Netflix
As much as I do not like SHIELD, I am one of those head-over-heels for the various Netflix series that have come to the forefront. Daredevil’s one-man war on the criminal element of Hell’s Kitchen, while trying to maintain his own personal moral code. Jessica Jones’ struggle against one of the best villains in the Marvel Universe to date, dealing with issues of femininity, poverty and real-world needs that the Avengers never consider. And Luke Cage being an immensely fun show that truly delved into racial issues that still plague the country. I cannot wait for Iron Fist and the Defenders series to come out.
But as much as I love the series, I sometimes wonder if Netflix has any bearing on the world at large. Sure, Harlem feels Cage’s presence, as does Hell’s Kitchen with Daredevil. But do the movies care in the slightest about the struggles of a few square blocks in the Big Apple? At the moment, the Netflix series does absolutely nothing for the rest of the universe.
It is understandable. One of the main appeals of this universe is the approachable nature, even jumping in from one series to the next and being able to understand what is happening. But there are so many opportunities lost. What could Kingpin do with some global influence? When is the Hand going to become too much of a threat for the Avengers to ignore, or Doctor Strange? When are these heroes finally going to come to light to the world at large?
The Ever Present Comic Book
For those who do not follow the comics, this is actually becoming a bit of a sore spot. Marvel loves reboots to its comic lines. Loves to the point that there are new series being launched, or remade, almost every six months. Marvel is constantly trying to find a new angle, something that will draw in new readers and keep them hooked. To this end, their new title launches just happen to coincide with movies.
Ant Man is coming out? How about a new comic featuring Scott Lang? Civil War is coming out? Let’s write a sequel called Civil War II! The fact that a Howard the Duck series was launched soon after the release of Guardians of the Galaxy did not escape notice either.
The effort is seen, and recognized. But all the new launches, and the tie-ins, do nothing more than confuse and frustrate those who simply want to read comics. When will we just settle down and get back to the comics that were so amazing, they spawned the stories we now go to the theater for?
How Does It End
The real question. The MCU has become more phenomenon than series. A recurring timeline that we revisit three or four times a year. We watch as our heroes do battle, and ultimately triumph over the villains and conflicts that ravage our own time. It is a devotion, one that we have enjoyed for close to ten years.
This is a cruel question, but we must always ask how this is to end. Marvel is launching new movie trilogies, Doctor Strange and Black Panther being two of the most anticipated. Netflix just seems to be ramping up rather than going away. We have barely touched upon some characters, such as the Punisher, and others are poised to go in new directions, such as Hulk.
But is this to be it? Some hits, some misses, returning season after season to watch superheroes do battle as our heroes get ever older? What will happen with an old Iron Man? A Captain America who cannot lift his shield?
I want this series to continue. And it shall, for several years to come. But when the time comes, please do not let this great movement peter out into an ignoble end. Let there be a real and final end. Let this be something we treasure. And then we shall move on.