The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special – A “What Christmas Means To Me” Reflection

It’s Christmastime again, so ‘tis the season for me to read and watch a buncha Christmas specials and use them to reflect on what Christmas means to me just like Stevie Wonder does in the very song which inspired this series.  And, just like Stevie Wonder sings about, “All these things and more, darling (all these things and more) / That’s what Christmas means to me, my love,” Christmas means a lot of things to me, too!  This time I’m turning my attention towards The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, debuting on 25 November 2022 on Disney+.  Speaking of the special to Radio Times, James Gunn said, “The Holiday Special is the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  It’s totally ridiculous, and every day we can’t believe that we’re making it.  We all completely love it.  It is unlike anything that anyone’s ever seen before.  I can’t wait for people to see it.”[1]  I was stunned!  Greater than Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 and 2??  Greater than The Suicide Squad??  This wasn’t anything I expected it to be (save fun, I expected it to be fun!) but I absolutely loved it!  It left me with warm Christmas feels, too.

Note, spoilers for The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special follow.

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She-Hulk Smashes the MCU’s Avengers: Endgame Problem

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is, in my humble opinion, the most important show (it’s finale in particular) to the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It cuts loose the albatross which has hung around the neck of the MCU since Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame were released.  If the MCU is to continue for another ten years, if it’s to stay relevant and interesting, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law must become the Bible for Marvel’s cinematic storytellers.  And ok, I see how my title and these opening sentences may seem a bit clickbait-y.  It may seem like a “hot take,” purposefully framed to invite shocked, curious, or even hate reads.  But here’s the thing; I honestly, completely, wholeheartedly believe this.  For all their EPICNESS, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame inadvertently set off a problematic chain reaction within the MCU’s fandom which will plague the MCU until it’s set right.  How do you stop this reaction?  She-Hulk SMASH.  Salvation, it turns out, comes in a sensational She-Hulk-sized package.

Note, this piece contains SPOILERS for the She-Hulk: Attorney at Law finale.

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She-Hulk: Attorney at Law Saves the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Yes, this title is clickbait.  It’s probably the most clickbait-y thing I’ve ever written.  Given the MCU has earned a not insignificant $15,558,746,560 at the global box office to date[1] (which doesn’t include all the profit it’s generated in merchandise sales and Disney+ subscribers) it’s not like the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in trouble.  It is a cultural juggernaut and like…well, like the Juggernaut, nothing seems to stop it.  It’s not in need of saving per se so it’s not like She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is salvifically sweeping in to salvage a once thriving interconnected cinematic universe flailing on the brink of cultural irrelevance.  But I chose the title to be an eye-catching invitation for readers (those intrigued, those enraged, and those in agreement) to dialogue with what this piece has to say.  Showrunner Jessica Gao’s She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is intelligent, goofy, sassy, funny, and self-aware; it’s everything that made me love She-Hulk more than the Hulk when I was a kid.  It’s also important to the future of the MCU in several key ways and we should talk about it.  So yeah, I said She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is saving the MCU.  Here’s why.

Be aware this piece contains some spoilers for the first two episodes of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.

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“Embiggen!”: Connecting Kamala’s Powers in Disney+’s Ms. Marvel to Her Comic Origin

I try to guard myself against the “it’s newest so it’s the best EVER” reaction that often permeates fandoms.  We can tend to live and breathe a movie or a show as soon as it premieres, reworking our rank lists to show how this is the best ever…until the next new movie or show in that universe comes out.  I get the excitement.  I often share it myself!  But I’m always cautious about saying “best” when reflecting on a new movie or show.  Yet it’s impossible to deny the sheer beauty and joy of Disney+’s Ms. Marvel show.  Each episode fills my heart in a way nothing else in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has.  As far as I’m concerned, it is easily the most joyful entry in the MCU.  I think it’s far and away the most important show Disney+ has done so far, too.  And it may well be the best.  We’ll see ;D.  So I want to explore these emotions through the lens of how Kamala’s powers changed for the Disney+ show…in a way that’s far closer to her comic roots than I first realized.

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Considering Dr. Christine Palmer and the Ever-Expanding Size of the MCU

This weekend, in anticipation of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, I returned to a favorite tradition of mine – marathoning old movies before I see the new one!  The size of the Marvel Cinematic Universe means the last time I watched every movie was my marathon for Avengers: Endgame.  Now, saner (and healthier!) parts have prevailed.  Instead of ruining my life by trying to watch the twenty-eight different films and nineteen different TV series with thirty-six seasons between them that make up the MCU (at the time of this writing), I’ve just chosen to watch Doctor Strange (2015), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), WandaVision (2021), and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021).  Rewatching Doctor Strange a question struck me: whatever happened to Dr. Christine Palmer?

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Why Black Widow is the Best Marvel Movie of All-Time

As soon as I saw Black Widow last summer I felt this thought wiggling around in my brain.  Is it…?  Could it be…?  Is…is Black Widow now my favorite Marvel movie?!  Because I’m me, I certainly couldn’t say definitively.  First, I’m not the type of person who can throw a term like “favorite” around lightly.  To say I like or love something is one thing.  But to say it’s “my favorite” or “the best” or “the greatest” of all-time?  That requires a lot of thoughtful discernment for me.  Second, there’s this odd reaction/habit within our culture, especially within our fandom cultures, where whatever is newest is automatically the best.  It’s new!  It’s shiny!  It’s the best ever!!!  So, while that’s never been me, I wanted to be sure I wasn’t having that sort of reaction when I first saw Black Widow on July 8th.  I said I loved it.  I said it was easily one of the best films the MCU has to offer.  And I said it may be my all-time favorite movie within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Still, I needed time before I could say that with any certainty.  Now I know.  Black Widow is the best Marvel movie of all-time!  And here’s why…

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A Tale Of Two Thanos…es? Thani? Thanex? Thanoxen?: Considering Thanos in the Films and Comics

This was a guest piece I wrote back in August of 2018 for a site that no longer exists.  I like it and was thinking about Thanos today (I know…dark, right?) so I figured I’d post it here with a few slight edits.  Enjoy!

What’s the plural of Thanos? Would it be Thanos? Or Thanoses? Or Thani? I don’t know but I still kind of like the ring of this title anyway so I’m sticking with it. Once Avengers: Infinity War was finally upon us, one of its most discussed features was the character of Thanos. I’ve read many reviews and essays examining the film which make the point Avengers: Infinity War is more a film about Thanos than any of the superheroes, something directors Joe and Anthony Russo have said themselves. What struck me most about Thanos when I first saw Avengers: Infinity War (and has continued to warrant further reflection with each subsequent viewing) is how different his motivations are in the film from the comics. Continue reading

Black Widow and the Face of Family in the MCU

I’ve seen Black Widow!  Well, I guess a better way to put it is I keep seeing Black Widow ;).  It holds a special place in my heart.  Black Widow marks the return of two long running traditions.  My first showing on July 8th was the return of a Marvel movie opening night AND the return of seeing a movie after dinner on my birthday!  The latter is something I’ve done since high school but was naturally on hiatus last year as our local Covid lockdowns were in full force.  It felt so good to be back.  Each time I’ve seen it since, I’ve noticed how comforting it feels to be in a darkened theatre again and hear those pages flip as the Marvel logo appears on screen.  Black Widow is special for many reasons beyond my own traditions, too.  Scarlett Johansson FINALLY has her own solo film as Natasha Romanoff, a character she debuted in 2010’s Iron Man 2.  Yay!  And what a film it is.  It’s magnificent, one of the best within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Black Widow is the film Natasha (and Scarlett Johansson!) has always deserved.  I’d argue Natasha, more than any other character, best personifies the most important recurring message in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and this film illustrates all she is brilliantly.    

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Stream-of-Consciousness Loki Theorizing About the TVA and Variants

Am I doing this?  Am I writing a second post about Loki after the second episode?  Is this going to be a thing I do?  I don’t know what the future holds but for now…yeah, it totally is.  But it’s summer vacation!  I SURVIVED a year of pandemic teaching!  Now I can catch my breath, work on the book, and enjoy life…which includes watching, thinking, and (it would appear) writing about Loki.  Also, speculating and theorizing is part of the fun with new episodes dropping weekly!  The ideas in this post began with a comment Gemma (of Book Beach Bunny) left on my first post about Loki.  Then Krysta (of Pages Unbound) left a comment on that piece, too, which added more fuel to my contemplative fire.  Then Jeff and I spent like an hour on the phone after we both watched the second episode this morning considering everything we saw and discussing it in light of Gemma and Krysta’s comments.  Soooo…voila!  Here’s a new post.  But do you see what happened?!?  All these ideas began with comment thread discussions so maybe this post will lead to new ideas to obsess over until the next episode comes out!  Also this will have MAJOR SPOILERS for episode two of Loki so read on only if a) you’ve seen it or b) are ok with MAJOR SPOILERS.

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Loki and Questions of the MCU’s Multiverse

I just watched the first episode of Loki and decided to sit down and write about it.  This NEVER happens for me!  Normally I’ve too many thoughts to order as I write or life is too busy to go from reading/viewing to writing to posting or both.  Either way, here we are :).  I didn’t go into Loki planning to write about it.  But as I watched several serious questions began swirling around in my head.  And I figured, “What the Hel?  Just write.”  So here we are.  If you’ve not seen it, I won’t discuss any major surprises but I’ll be exploring the basic plot setup and the questions it’s presentation of the multiverse gives us.  Coolio?  Coolio.  Let’s jump into all the first episode of Loki gives us to consider about the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s concept of the multiverse, shall we?

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