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Marvel’s “What If…?” Episodes 7-9

There are spoilers for the end of the season ahead. If you need to catch up, here’s my post covering Episodes 1-3 and Nancy’s post covering Episodes 4-6.

The audience continues exploring the Multiverse with the Watcher here, but the last 3 episodes tie each one together:

  • Episode 7 shows us what Thor would have been like if he had been an only child. He arrives on Earth just as he did in our universe – but he’s here to PAR-TAY! His father has fallen into the Odin Sleep and Frigga is on a trip, so it’s the perfect time to have a galactic shindig right here on Midgard. Though Jane Foster and Darcy Lewis try to reason with him (his parties have ended planets before), they can’t help but to give in to his charms. S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill’s attention has also been attracted by Thor – but in a much more negative light. She calls Carol Danvers to take care of him, but things don’t go as planned.
  • Episode 8 explains what would have happened if Ultron had won. Taking over the Mind Infinity Stone and Vision’s body, he defeats the Avengers, killing all but Clint and Natasha. When Thanos arrives, Ultron kills him as well and takes control of the Infinity Gauntlet. In order to fulfill his purpose and bring peace, Ultron and his army begin to murder their way across the galaxy. Upon hearing the Watcher, Ultron learns of the multiverse, and thus starts crossing realities to continue his twisted quest. He crosses into Party Thor’s universe as Clint and Natasha attempt to upload a virus with Arnim Zola’s mind into Ultron’s hive mind. Defeated by Ultron, the Watcher retreats to the pocket universe of Episode 4’s Doctor Strange to ask him for help.
  • Episode 9 sees the Watcher break his oath by recruiting Captain Carter, Star-Lord T’Challa, Party Thor, Killmonger as the Black Panther, and a Gamora who defeated her universes’ Thanos, along with Strange Supreme, to end the threat of Ultron. They lure him to a dead planet where Strange summons the zombie hoard from Episode 5, including Zombie Wanda, to distract him while they travel to Ultron’s home universe to find Natasha and the Zola virus. As the only survivor of her universe, Natasha is reluctant to trust them. After a moment with Captain Carter, Natasha agrees to help, and shoots an arrow with the Zola virus into Ultron’s eye. While Killmonger and the newly-embodied Zola fight over the Infinity Stones, Strange and the Watcher seal them in a pocket dimension, where Strange will watch over them.

Additional scenes with Ultron’s Natasha and a mid-credits scene with Captain Carter and her universe’s Natasha set this series up nicely for a second season, which has been confirmed.

From a story-telling standpoint, this series started out strong for me, kinda sagged in the middle, and picked up again at the end. It seemed as if some of the stories were trope-y and played out, especially the zombie episode. We have seen any and all scenarios involving zombies played out in the early 2010’s… where they can stay, in my opinion. The episodes involving Star-Lord T’Challa and Black Panther Killmonger were the best for me, because they actually did something different. Their universes felt fresh and unlike anything we had seen before. It also allowed for a different look at or expansions of the characters. In a classic Marvel move of undermining their women characters, the taking back of Wakanda spearheaded by Shuri and Pepper was left out – let me watch that or more of Star Lord T’Challa instead of boring zombies!

I also highly enjoyed the Thor episode, because it was everything you would have expected – yet was still fun. The way the worldwide party is ultimately stopped is hilarious and touching, in a way. Also, it was very satisfying to see at least one universe peg Carol Danvers as the resident party pooper.

It was nice to get everything ultimately wrapped up. The first few episodes don’t seem related at all, but these last 3-4 had been hinting. It may be worth a rewatch to see what hints were missed from early episodes.

I never really warmed up to the animation style. Something about it was just too uncanny for me. The action scenes were punchy and fluid, but the lip syncing and facial expressions never seemed to quite match what was going on. Scenes that were supposed to be emotional fell flat for me for this reason – I was too distracted by how weird their faces looked!

Overall, the series is an enjoyable watch. You start out with what you think is a series of fun, unrelated one-shots and by the end, you’ve gotten a big showdown with a different big bad with a different group of Avengers. The animation works for what the series is, but it’s not a personal favorite. I’m hoping that the ending scenes are setting up a real Marvel Women Power Hour in the next season.

– Kathleen

Andrews, Brian. What If…? 2021.

Marvel’s “What If…?” Episodes 4-6

We are back with more What If episodes, as Kathleen posted about the first three, and I’m here with the middle three. These episodes are self-contained story arcs narrated by a being called The Watcher, who takes the viewer through different universes. In these alternate realities, we see familiar events occur differently. All three had dark endings that I quite enjoyed.

What if…Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?

To be honest, I never bought the romance between Strange and his lady love Christine Palmer in the movie, so that put me at a disadvantage that I wasn’t invested in their romance in this episode. Strange and Palmer are involved in a car accident that kills Palmer, and in his grief he learns mystic powers that he later uses to try to go back in time to save her. The Ancient One and Wong warn him that he could tear apart the fabric of time, but in his arrogance, he believes he knows better. He doesn’t…

What If… Zombies?!

When Hank Pym goes into the Quantum Realm to save his wife, he inadvertently brings out a zombie virus. Soon not only most of mankind has been zombified, but so have many of the superheroes on Earth. Soon only Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Hope van Dyne, Bucky Barnes, Okoye, Sharon Carter, Scott Lang, Vision and T’Challa are left to try to save humanity. But things don’t go well for a majority of them and even the last rag-tag group of survivors face yet another challenge in the closing moments of the episode.

I thought Chadwick Boseman’s last voice credit was in episode two, but he is featured in this episode plus the next. So these words, that he said as Black Panther, “In my culture, death is not the end. They’re still with us, as long as we do not forget them” were very poignant.

What If… Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?

The quote, “People see what they want to see and what people want to see never has anything to do with the truth” is proved in this story. Erik “Killmonger” Stevens rescues Tony Stark from an ambush in Afghanistan, and is then heralded as a hero, but is playing a long con and is able to fool almost everyone. He bamboozles Stark with deadly consequences (I have to admit I’ve never been a fan of Stark, he’s too full of himself, so his death didn’t bother me in the least) and makes it to Wakanda to take on the mantle of the new Black Panther. So much death and destruction, and just because Erik has Daddy issues? Only Shuri and Pepper Potts see through his masquerade and begin plotting their own coup.

These episodes are all stand alone stories, so you can watch just the ones that feature your favorite heroes (or villains) without worrying about missing others. The voices are excellent, as a majority of actors and actresses from the movies recreate their roles, and Marvel found good voice replacements for those that didn’t. The animation has been hit-or-miss for me- the coloring is flat, and they seem to have trouble capturing the likenesses of their movie-screen counterparts. I agree with Kathleen’s comment in her earlier review, that they seemed to be trying to emulate a moving comic book, but I feel it’s not translating well. So to me, these episodes are more about the storytelling than the actual art. Stay tuned for Kathleen to review the last three episodes, including one about Thor whom she was most excited to see!

-Nancy

Black Widow: The Ties That Bind

“Something is very wrong with Natasha: she’s…happy?!”

This thin graphic novel about Black Widow surprised me in how much I liked it, despite it being centered around the common trope of amnesia. Chosen as this month’s book club selection for the Goodreads group I Read Comic Books, I felt it was good timing as I’m planning to watch the new DVD release of Black Widow soon.

The story starts out with Natasha helping Captain America with a one-off mission in NYC, but then mysteriously being hit with some tranquilizers and falling off a building. Three months later she is spotted in San Francisco, as an architect, with a husband and toddler son. She seems blissfully happy, and the boy truly seems to be hers. What?! How could she have a child over a year old in three months time?

Clint (Hawkeye) and Bucky (Winter Soldier- why does he always wear a mask??) find her and are as confused as us readers. Do they intervene? Who is behind all of it? Unknown to them, Natasha’s sister Yelena has also found her and is trying to get to the bottom of it. A preposterous villain team has arranged it all (and how Natasha’s son came to be defies credibility, plus the question of her new husband’s past) but we need to have a suspension of disbelief and move on.

Natasha’s facade is showing some cracks as she steps in to help a woman in danger and discovers she had bad-ass skills and no memory of her past. Soon the villain team is after her so Natasha, Clint, Bucky and Yelena need to move quickly to save her husband James and son Stevie, as she rediscovers who she is. While this is supposed to be the first in a series, it feels like a stand-alone story, as the somewhat predictable ending seems to wrap up this chapter in Natasha’s life.

This book has an all-woman creative team which is appreciated and gives more weight to some of the emotional narrative threads. That Natasha has little time to grieve at the end and inappropriately has to comfort Clint and Bucky at the end, was intentional. Natasha carries the weight of the world on her shoulders and needs help in coping, not additional burdens, but isn’t that what women often do- carry not only their own problems but other’s issues too? The art and coloring were excellent, with an illustration change during flashbacks. Little Stevie was adorable, and I believe that Natasha’s time with him will change her. For a story that was a bit formulaic, it worked for me.

-Nancy

Marvel’s “What If…?” Episodes 1-3

The latest Marvel TV show, What If…?, premiered last month. The episodes are self-contained story arcs narrated by a being called The Watcher, who takes the viewer through different universes. In these alternate realities, we see familiar events occur differently.

Episode 1 shows us a universe where Peggy Carter took the Super Soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers. While she is now stronger than most men, she still encounters the same barriers as before… just because she’s a woman. When a dangerous mission comes up, she knows she has to go. She’s the only one who can carry it out. She takes up the shield and becomes Captain Carter, with the help of Howard Stark and Steve himself. A strong start to the series where Peggy shows how strong she really is!

Episode 2 shows us a universe where T’challa became Star Lord instead of Black Panther. The Ravagers abduct him instead of Peter Quill! Yondu, his adoptive father, tells him that Wakanda was destroyed. Viewers follow Star Lord and the Ravagers as they attempt to steal the Embers of Genesis (a powerful artifact that creates plant life, and therefore can end hunger across the galaxy) from Taneleer Tivan: the Collector, and the most powerful man in the universe. This was unfortunately Chadwick Bosewick’s last performance before his passing. It was a very emotional episode for me and is easily my favorite so far not only for him, but the high stakes heist!

Episode 3 shows us a universe where the Avengers never assembled. Nick Fury tries to call them together, but they all die under mysterious circumstances. The injection that Natasha Romanov gives Tony Stark is accidentally fatal. Thor is shot dead by Clint Barton, who maintains he didn’t shoot before dying himself in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody. In her final voicemail to Fury, Natasha declares, “It’s all about hope!” Can Fury deduce what she meant before it’s too late for him, too? This one might be the most thought-provoking one of the three, speculating what the world would be like without the heroes that have defined the series.

Of the Marvel TV shows to come out in the last year, this one is up there on my favorites list. It certainly is fun to ponder “What If…?” and explore other possibilities for the universe. Since it appears they are setting up other multiverses in other shows, it’s a nice, easy way to explain to viewers unfamiliar with the concept. It’s also easier viewing in the sense that, as mentioned above, each episode is it’s own self-contained story. The only overarching element (so far) is the Watcher himself. Unless there is a big reveal at the end where everything becomes connected, you may be able to watch any one episode that seems interesting to you.

They’ve got most of the cast to reprise their roles for this series. Chadwick Boseman reprised his role as T’challa, as mentioned above. Haley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner, and Mark Ruffalo reprise their roles, among others that I won’t spoil 😉 It adds a lovely layer of immersion and truly feels part of the universe. If they had used different voice actors for everyone instead of a few, it would feel like more of a spin off.

However, I feel something is off with the animation. A still is nice to look at. Movement seems a little jerky to me, and facial expressions don’t quite capture the intended emotions. Husband compared it to watching a Telltale video game, but I feel as if Telltale animations are smoother than this. Telltale games are more graphic (with the thick lines and blocky coloring) in style; the show seems to be trying to emulate a moving comic book. I appreciate the attempt, but it’s falling a little flat for me =(

Overall, I’m looking forward to more of the series! Even if the animation is falling flat for me, the writing is thought-provoking, action-packed, and funny. My biggest hope is seeing a Thor episode! New episodes premiere on Disney+ every Wednesday. Look for Nancy’s post soon on episodes 4-6!

– Kathleen

Andrews, Bryan. What If…? 2021.

Free Comic Book Day 2021

For the second year in a row, Free Comic Book Day had to be adapted due to the ongoing pandemic situation. Normally FCBD is the first Saturday in May, but an August date was selected for the 20th year anniversary of this event. I distributed comics at my library today, and did so outside to be on the safe side. I had terrific teen volunteers who helped, and we had over 85+ people stop by to pick up comics in our small town, so it was a successful event! A bonus to having FCBD at my library is getting a sneak peek at the comics available, and the following were the ones I choose.

Every year I choose a Spider Man comic, as you can’t go wrong with Spidey! This issue features Ben Reilly as the Scarlet Spider, someone I wasn’t very familiar with, although I know there are more versions beyond Peter and Miles. It was a good introduction to Ben’s story, and will give readers time to look up info about him (like I did) before diving into a longer story with him. The second half of the comic was about Venom, Edward Brock, who when bonded with his symbiote is the King in Black. I often get Venom and Carnage mixed up, but Venom is more an anti-hero vs Carnage being a straight out villain.

Another automatic gimmie each year is the Avengers. This year’s story is a multi-verse tale (not typically a fav plot for me) and has cybernetic Deathloks who seems to be have some hero characteristics. They are waiting in a space station for a signal and then all leave at once to head to different Earth dimensions where they encounter different types of situations. The second half is a Hulk story who is battling the very weird big-headed M.O.D.O.K. The Hulk seems to be tired of the same old shit and decides to strike out his own into space, obviously setting him up for brand new adventures. I was happy to see an ad for the Wastelanders: Old Man Star-Lord podcast that I recently listened to and liked in-between the two stories.

This last comic for me is from the world of Something is Killing the Children, and expands on the society of monster-killers that Erica belongs to. Erica’s work in Wisconsin is suspect and her mentor Aaron is sent to rein her in. Some artwork is used from the graphic novels in this comic, but it is fleshed out with additional information to paint a larger picture of what to expect in volume three.

This is the least amount of comics I have selected from Free Comic Book Day- I just wasn’t feeling it this year, and not having DC as part of it anymore is a blow. But nevertheless, I was happy to provide FCBD to my library patrons, and hope that next year we can have a bigger event once pandemic restrictions have lifted.

-Nancy

Wastelanders: Old Man Star-Lord podcast

“In a post-apocalyptic future, Marvel’s Wastelanders: Old Man Star-Lord finds Peter Quill and Rocket a little paunchier, a little slower, and a lot saltier than they were during the glory days of the Guardians of the Galaxy. They quickly discover the Earth isn’t what it used to be either, when they crash land 30 years after all the world’s super villains seized control.”

I’ve been very pleased with Marvel podcasts- Wolverine: The Long Night, Wolverine: The Lost Trail, Marvels and Black Widow: Bad Blood. On a whim, I checked if a new podcast was out and was pleased to see that Wastelanders had just started. Not typically a fan of the Guardians of the Galaxy, I gave it a try because I had felt the same way about the Fantastic Four and still enjoyed Marvels.

Record of a Fallen World

Quill and Rocket are sent to Earth on on mercenary mission, under threat of death to find a sacred object called the Black Vortex, just to find Earth in ruins and controlled by Doctor Doom. An alien-created “skinbot”, nicknamed Cora, accompanies them, and it is through her narration of record keeping that we find out a lot of background information. This introductory episode gave us a lot of worldbuilding but in a way that didn’t seem like huge info dump and seems to correlate with the Old Man Logan graphic novel timeline.

The Wastelands

Bickering constantly, Quill and Rocket explore South Dakota’s Badlands and are helped by a local named Red. Past trouble is inferred, but we are in the dark about what happened to the former Guardians of the Galaxy or the fates of their former teammates. At times the actor’s voice are hard to distinguish between Quill and Rocket, as they sound very similar.

Blood Farmer

Red gives them refuge on his farm, where he shares what happened thirty years ago, and how this apocalyptic world came to be. They lay some traps and lay in wait for the local thugs to come looking for them. After defeating them and taking their horses, Quill, Rocket and Cora head into the hills to begin their search for the Black Vortex.

Deer on a Spear

As Quill and Rocket head towards the contact that Red gave them they pick up on a signal for a broadcast that is televising Kraven the Hunter following the very man they were hoping to speak to in a Running Man/ Hunger Games type of scenario. Quill tries to save the man to no avail, and now their contact is gone, and Kraven is on to them. The broadcaster was so wonderfully smarmy, you could really visualize the hunt from his commentary.

Heaven and Hellfire

Although this duo is older, they are none the wiser, and luckily a former X-Men Emma Frost who owns a local bar, comes to their aide. But she is keeping her cards close to her vest, so they are unsure if she is there to help or hurt them. I do need to add that Emma’s overuse of the word darling became grating. She sounded like Joan Collins from Dynasty and isn’t how I imagined she’d talk.

Trust Exercise

Splitting up to see if they can obtain the Black Vortex and get their guillotine collars off, nothings goes as planned (of course). But Cora ascertains that Emma is there to help, so there’s that.

Catching Fire

A Quill-centric episode establishes that Emma’s powers are fading as she ages, but she has given Quill and Rocket a window of opportunity after putting Kraven the Hunter out of commission for a few days. Quill thinks he has a lead on where the Black Vortex is located after interviewing the town’s forgotten librarian. Hell yea- a librarian to the rescue!

Buried

Some backstory on what happened with the Guardians is established showing how Quill is racked with guilt and wants to atone for the deaths of his friends. An ally returns, but so does a foe, so all paths are converging as they try to infiltrate Doom’s compound.

Kraven’s Hunt

In this penultimate episode, Quill and Rocket are moving towards discovering the Black Vortex with Kraven on their heels, in another narrated hunt. Cora and Emma Frost rally their allies that include the Ghost Riders to prevent Kraven from killing the duo. Rocket’s poor health can’t be hidden anymore and he tries to prepare Quill for a future without him.

Dawn and Doom

Sacrifices are made, with a devastating death, but Quill and Emma Frost prevail. So although they have scored a victory, we know it’s not over, as the episode is only half over. There is a surprising double-cross with a new villain emerging, with definite tie-ins to what has happened (or will happen-I’m unclear exactly of the timeline) in Logan’s story. I am left wanting more, but that’s good storytelling, for I will definitely tune into future podcasts.

I started this podcast apprehensively, as I’ve never been a big fan of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and the bickering between Quill and Rocket was annoying to me. Yet, this podcast grew on me so kudos to Benjamin Percy who also wrote the two Wolverine podcasts I enjoyed last year. In fact, I recently read a short story horror collection by Percy, Suicide Woods, that I found excellent. This podcast is supposed to be the lead-in to a new universe set in the Old Man Logan future with Hawkeye, Wolverine, Black Widow and Star-Lord. I’m excited, as Susan Sarandon will be voicing Black Widow and I can’t wait for that story and how they will all tie-in together!

-Nancy

Voice Cast:

Timothy Busfield as Star-Lord

Chris Elliott as Rocket

Nadine Malouf as Cora 

Patrick Page as Kraven the Hunter

Vanessa Williams as Emma Frost

Danny Glover as Red

Elizabeth Francis as Joanna Forge

Hawkeye, Black Widow, Wolverine, Star-Lord

X-Men: Days Of Future Past

I consider Chris Claremont’s God Loves, Man Kills an outstanding and definitive X-Men story, but had never picked up another classic by the same author, Days of Future Past, despite a 2014 movie being based off it. Reading through this 1980 story was both wonderful and a bit cringy as it was so very dated, as it is now considered part of the Bronze Era of comics, before a more modern way of storytelling began in the mid 80s.

There are actually five stories found in the graphic novel- stories are added at the beginning and end to pad the book. The first story is narrated by Cyclops after Jean’s death, and he gives a very thorough retelling of the X-Men’s story as he prepares to leave the team. The second story has Storm take over as team leader and features Dr. Strange who helps when an enemy wants revenge against Nightcrawler. We are introduced to Kitty Pryde at this time, only thirteen, and brand new to Professor X’s school. The third story has Wolverine heading to Canada and helping the Alpha Flight team battle Wendigo. The last story is a strange little tale about Kitty fighting some demons the night before Christmas when she is alone at the school.

And now back to the main attraction-Days of Future Past! The story opens in a devastated NYC in 2013 (I love when we pass the future imagined years ago, such as in the book 1984 or even the movie Back to the Future) and Kitty is now a woman in her 40s secretly meeting Wolverine for a power jammer, to combat the power-dampening collar she and other mutants are forced to wear. We find out most mutants and Avengers are long dead because of a political assassination years ago that led to anti-mutant sentiment and the Sentinels being activated. The plan is to send Kitty’s soul back in time to 1980 to her young body to warn the X-Men and prevent the sequence of events that led to the current apocalypse. Of course it works, and without too much trouble she convinces her team to fight the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants led by Mystique. An all-out war entails but Senator Kelly is saved, whose new fate should pivot the timeline, although a new threat is hinted at. Going back in time to right a wrong is a popular plot device, but it works here. The 2014 movie changed the person going back in time to Wolverine, but in this comic Kitty was a good choice, and she was incorporated into all the stories in some way in this novel so I enjoyed a more in-depth look at a character I wasn’t as familiar with.

The artwork by John Byrne was classic Marvel of that era, with great costumes and fight scenes. The modern day clothing and hairdos that the X-Men wear around town are so deliciously dated, but hey, it was high fashion then. Kitty’s eyes were extremely large and odd looking to me. Kitty crushs hard on Peter/Colossus at way too young of an age and it came off as quite creepy, although there is mention that they marry in the future in the chapters of DOFP. (Aside- why then did they call off their wedding at the very last moment in a recent storyline, when they have been established for years as a couple??) This was a fun blast from the past, as this and God Loves, Man Kills are must reads for Marvel fans!

-Nancy

Look at these (now) retro costumes! 😉

WandaVision

I loved this nine-episode television series about one of my favorite Marvel couples, Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch and Vision! It was quirky, ambitious and a treat to watch. Released weekly, I waited a few weeks to start the series, so I ended up binging all the episodes in a two-week span.  I’ve read many posts about this series, and I frankly have nothing new to add to the mix, so this will be not quite a summary of each episode but more an ode to a series that I found fresh and fun. 

Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience

In the first episode, we are introduced to Wanda and Vision as newlyweds in what appears to be a 1950s setting, similar to sitcoms of that era, with a distinct The Dick Van Dyke Show vibe.  They attempt to blend in to their new community, despite Vision being an android and Wanda having magical abilities, so naturally, hijinks occur. It was a pleasure seeing familiar television tropes, as I remember watching these fake sitcoms in reruns when I was a child. As a member of Generation X, I have memories of these shows that were already quite dated when I watched them, but will younger generations be familiar with the references? 

Don’t Touch That Dial

We’re in what seems to be the 1960s with a delightful animated Bewitched introduction! This episode is still in black and white despite the color we saw in the long end-credits in the previous episode. Nosy neighbor Agatha is there for comedic relief, as the neighborhood puts on a talent show. This show is a comedy of errors with additional I Dream of Jeannie jokes, as a magical woman tries to fool everyone when the audience is privy to all. But reality is starting to creep in with a few splashes of color and a radio message to Wanda. And then the surprise pregnancy in the last few minutes- one minute Wanda is svelte, the next moment she has a full belly! 

Now in Color

As the title states, the show is now in color as this was a big change for shows in the 70s, of which we are now in. There are some Brady Bunch references, and their changing decor in the house had a stairwell that is very Brady’s. Loved the hiding of the pregnancy from neighbors, in an all too familiar trope (even today) as shows don’t always want to acknowledge a real-life pregnancy in an actress if it doesn’t fit the storyline. Luckily neighbor Geraldine shows up when she does because Wanda goes into labor. I wish my labor and deliveries had been as easy, as Wanda and Vision are proud parents to twin boys in five minutes. But when Geraldine talks to Wanda about a few things that she shouldn’t know, Wanda pushes her out of her reality and into the real world. 

We Interrupt This Program

I was pleased to realize that Geraldine was actually Monica Rambeau, the daughter of Maria Rambeau, who we last saw as a child in the movie Captain Marvel. I have to give it to Marvel who are playing the long game as they continue to build the MCU. They make connections between all the movies (and now television series), and building on that we meet FBI Agent Jimmy Woo from the Antman and the Wasp movies and Dr. Darcy Lewis from the Thor movies. This is the first episode that takes us away from Westview and into the modern-day where the world is still adjusting to the “blip” that made people disappear and then reappear years later. 

On a Very Special Episode…

We are now up to the 80s, so young viewers might vaguely be familiar with the Family Ties and Full House references. So these shows are as old to them as The Dick Van Dyke Show and Bewitched were to me when I was a child! There continue to be glitches as Agatha asks mid-scene if they should start over as if they were actors on a set and the twins suddenly age up twice in one episode. And then at the last minute, we are introduced to Pietro, Wanda’s twin, but it’s not the actor from the Avenger movies, it’s the actor who played Quicksilver from the X-Men movies. What???

All-New Halloween Spooktacular!

You know, I’ve barely mentioned Vision! While he plays a central role, it has become clear at this point that Wanda has placed a hex on the town and has recreated Vision and imagined the twins into existence. The episodes continue to spoof sitcoms, with a Malcolm in the Middle introduction and a homage to Halloween episodes that many 90s and beyond sitcoms celebrate. But it gives the entire family an excuse to dress up and pay tribute to their original costumes of yester-year and makes the first definite connection that the twins are (future) Wiccan and Speed. Wanda questions Pietro trying to figure out why her own illusions would re-cast her brother. 

Breaking the Fourth Wall

We are up to the 2000s with Modern Family and The Office references, and Vision has now discovered the outside world and has teamed up briefly with Darcy to try to figure out what his wife is up to. In the outside world, Monica and Jimmy are trying to work with S.W.O.R.D. but are finding the leader Hayward does not have the best of intentions, so Monica breaks into Westview which seems to give her some super-powers. And then that reveal at the end…Agatha All Along!!!!

Previously On

Agatha is a witch herself, dating back to the Salem Witch Trials. Although it was Wanda that put a hex on Westview and recreated her family, it’s been Agatha pulling the strings and causing disruptions. We get flashbacks to Wanda’s early life with (the Avenger’s) Pietro and how her many losses- her parents, her brother, and finally Vision- broke her. Agatha now holds the twins hostage and we find out Hayward, who has become more of an asshole each episode, recreated Vision with his original parts, but now is White Vision. 

The Series Finale

Wanda’s chaos magic reveals her to be the Scarlet Witch and she battles Agatha, while the two Vision’s fight it out. Monica shows up at a key moment to help the twins, although they had been holding their own. I love the family scenes so very much! In fact, I am glad they kept other Marvel characters to a minimum so the show could center on Wanda and Vision. Although both Wanda and Vision win their battles, they realize this artificial life and how Wanda had taken over the real-life residents of Westview can not be sustained and the family heads back to their home for some poignant farewells. Yes, I cried as they said goodnight to Tommy and Billy and then said their goodbyes to one another. Vision’s earlier comment  “What is grief, if not love persevering?” is so spot-on, and is a perfect summary of what the series was all about. Just typing in this line makes me tear up, as I lost my mother six months ago, and describes what many grieving people feel. Despite this melancholy ending, and knowing Wanda is alone again, we know the story is not over for this family. White Vision lives on and Wanda hears her boys calling to her in the end credits, so I believe their story is far from over. 

Bravo to Marvel for telling this unique and layered story! The Falcon and the Winter Soldier series will be next, but I don’t know if I will watch it, for I do not care for a typical superheroes-fighting-it-out series after the poignancy of WandaVision. Until we meet again, Wanda and Vision! 

-Nancy

Marvels

Happy New Year! 2020 proved to be a trash year, so I am hoping that this new year will be as marvelous as this graphic novel is!

After enjoying two podcasts about Wolverine last year, I heard Marvel had put one out about The Fantastic Four without realizing it was based partly on this graphic novel. I enjoyed the Marvels podcast and picked up this source material to accompany it. I was in a bit of a reading slump at the time, so after skimming it and seeing it was worth a deeper read, I put it aside to read after the holidays. 

This amazing story gives the perspective of everyday people living in a world populated with superheroes, villains and mutants. We see the world through their eyes as they try to make sense of the incredible things happening around them. Begining in 1939, we first meet Phil Sheldon a young photojournalist and his friend Jonah Jameson who are amazed when superheroes begin to appear in New York City. The populace is at first scared and then in awe of these costumed avengers and soon admire them as they help fight for American freedom in World War II. But as the decades go by, in a 35-year span, perception of them waxes and wanes. The Fantastic Four are beloved for awhile but later pilloried. Later, the poor mutants get the brunt of the public’s hate. 

Divided into four chapters, the narrative moves forward chronologically with Sheldon marrying and having two daughters as he follows and photographs the heroes, that he calls the Marvels, both for his career and for a book he is planning about them. He is an everyman, who at times succumbs to mob mentality but as the years go by he thinks critically about what having heroes in his world means, despite losing an eye when he gets too close to a fight between Namor and the Torch. There is a poignant scene set in the 60s where Sheldon recounts seeing a mob react during a Sentinals attack, and a riot breaks out. Sheldon comments: “The real story was the people who’d been scared too long…who’d been wound too tight and cut loose”. This has uncomfortable parallels to today, 25+ years after this graphic novel came out, as a certain populace seems to be glorying in a changed America and violence is a daily worry during this contested election. 

Alex Ross’s work is a marvel! He did for the Marvel universe what he would do again later in  DC’s Kingdom Come– he made all the heroes fleshed out and real. His trademark painted photo-realism style is exquisite, as each panel is a work of art. The research he did was evident, showing the heroes in their original costumes from the Golden and Silver eras of comics. He also is great at recreating period pieces, as the narrative takes place from 1939-1974 and he gets the clothing styles and the inevitable aging of the characters spot-on. 

To further strengthen this unique story, author Kurt Busiek shares his thoughts about creating this tale. He plumbs the Marvel comic universe for a timeline on how the heroes developed, and they are worked into the story. Thus, the book becomes an encyclopedia of sorts as heroes and villains move in and out of the narrative in cameos as Sheldon, his family and regular people are the true main characters in this story. In addition, Marvel great Stan Lee adds an introduction and other artists share their insight during chapter breaks. The story is then bookended with comic sources for all the hero references and Ross shares his artistic process. While the podcast based on this graphic novel was interesting, it centered on the second and third chapters only, and this entire book fleshes out the story more thoroughly.  Although only one day into 2021, I’m guessing this book will be a contender for my Best Reads at the end of the year!

-Nancy

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