Iron Man, Endgame, and the Thanos of Pandemic Teaching

Amidst the sea of emotions pandemic teaching brings, I find myself often thinking of Tony Stark’s character arc through Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.  So the other day, to explore these thoughts (and avoid thinking only of school once I was home), I decided to rewatch both films back to back.  I realized two things.  First, I was very critical of Avengers: Infinity War when it first came out and, while I stand by my critiques of the glaring plot holes throughout, I grant the film works much better when watched with Avengers: Endgame.  On its own, it’s disappointing.  But as the first half of a six hour movie, it’s far more enjoyable.  Second, Tony Stark’s journey is a surprisingly solid metaphorical stand-in for what teaching feels like right now.  Or, so as to not universalize my feelings for every teacher everywhere, Tony Stark’s journey serves as a surprisingly solid metaphorical stand-in for what teaching feels like right now for me.  Would you like to know what pandemic teaching is like?  Well, if you’ve seen Infinity War and Endgame it turns out you already kinda know. Continue reading

Spider-Man and Silk: You Gotta Love a Physical Attraction

It’s time for the fifth installment in my li’l series using only Spider-Man comics and characters to examine the variety of romantic archetypes we find in literature (illustrating the variety of romantic experiences we find in life).  Cindy Moon attended the same scientific demonstration Peter Parker did when he was bitten by the radioactive spider that gave him his powers.  Before it died, the spider would bite Cindy, too.  She gained the same basic powers as Peter – albeit with a more attuned spider-sense, faster speed, and the ability to spin organic webbing from her fingertips – and would eventually take on the name “Silk” and become a superhero in her own right.  She and Peter also have an overwhelming physical/sexual attraction to each other.  Their relationship, such as it was, represents those “purely physical” attractions we have in our lives.  It’s fun and it’s so hot but it was never really going to last nor was there any way they could’ve ever been “the one” as it was only ever just a physical thing. Continue reading

Jane Foster: Valkyrie – Glimpsing Transcendence in Death

The centerpiece of Jason Aaron’s epic seven year run writing Thor: God of Thunder/The Mighty Thor/Thor was Jane Foster lifting Mjölnir when the Odinson found himself unworthy to do so.  She became Thor, the Goddess of Thunder, and the stories that followed were the best Thor comics I’ve ever read.  It may be the best executed single story arc I’ve ever ready in any comic ever.  When the Odinson eventually reclaimed his title as the God of Thunder, Jane returned her focus to her civilian life, medical career, and – most importantly – fighting the cancer raging inside her.  However, her superhero career was far from over and the stories Jane Foster now finds herself in (written first by Jason Aaron and Al Ewing and now by Jason Aaron and Torunn Grønbekk) dance along the mysterious, wonderous, frightening, sacred threshold that is the dividing line between life and death. Continue reading

Spider-Man and the Avengers: Considering the Web-Head’s Place Amongst Earth’s Mightiest Heroes

I feel I write about Spider-Man and his being a member of the Avengers tangentially in a lot of posts.  It’s often an aside, here or there.  Honestly, I’ve never been a fan of Spidey being an Avenger (or part of the Fantastic Four’s Future Foundation or anything).  I’ve always seen Spider-Man as a solo act, Peter Parker’s character not readily lining up with the whole “super team” thing.  Plus, is swinging around and sticking to things really the type of small-time power set you want when battling Thanos, Kang the Conqueror, Annihilus, or Ultron?  Still, that’s my bias and it’s anchored in my preconceived notions.  So I decided I wanted to sincerely look at the idea of “Spider-Man, Avenger” with an open mind.  The time to make an informed decision had come! Continue reading

The Strength of Silk – Cindy Moon May Be Marvel’s Most Inspiring Hero

When he was fifteen-years-old, Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider at a science demonstration, gaining the proportionate strength, speed, and agility of a spider.  It also granted him a precognitive sense that warns him of danger – his spider-sense.  The death of his uncle at the hands of a burglar he could’ve stopped taught Peter that with great power there must also come great responsibility.  Every day since he’s tried to live up to that creed, as the amazing Spider-Man.  BUT Peter wasn’t the only one bitten by the irradiated spider on that fateful day.  Before it died, it also bit Cindy Moon.  On a whim I decided to begin rereading her adventures as the superhero Silk last week.

Reading these comics just as, “New coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in record numbers swept through more U.S. states…as most push ahead with reopening,”[1] cast these stories in an entirely new light.  I marveled at Silk’s strength and realized she may well be the most important superhero we have in this pandemic age. Continue reading

How to Top Thanos Vol. 2 – Onslaught

The first eleven years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe held twenty-two films all leading up the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy’s battle with Thanos and his Black Order, as the fate of creation hung in the balance.  It was a story built with patience and care and the conclusion in Avengers: Endgame, while not without faults, was brilliantly crafted.  But the MCU didn’t end there.  No, Phase Four is rolling and one of many questions to consider is…which villain comes next?  Who can possibly follow Thanos??  My guess?  Onslaught.  BOOM. Continue reading

Black Widow: A Comic Book Retrospective – the ‘80s and ‘90s

On the heels of the first trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, a conversation with Kiri (of Star Wars Anonymous) about whether or not Black Widow had ever been blonde in the comics showed me how shamefully few of her comics I’d read.  Naturally, I took the next logical step – I waaaay overcommitted and have spent over two years now figuring out a reading list, finding the titles, and then reading my way through decades of Black Widow stories.  Three months back, I wrote a piece looking at Natasha’s most important appearances in the ‘60s and ‘70s.  Now it’s time to dive into the ‘80s and ‘90s as I continue my little journey through her comic book history, from Natasha’s first appearance in Tales of Suspense #52 (1964) to her most recent miniseries, The Web of Black Widow (2019-20). Continue reading

Wild and Weird In All the Right Ways: Donny Cates’ Guardians Of The Galaxy

I like to do these pieces where I’ll examine the entire run of a writer on Guardians Of The Galaxy.  It began when I first read all the Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning comics which inspired James Gunn’s film.  I fell in love so they naturally led me to Brian Michael Bendis’ run.  Then I read Gerry Duggan’s.  His All-New Guardians Of The Galaxy was a painfully forced attempt to make the comic feel exactly like the movies, disregarding ten years of narrative character development.  It also setup Duggan’s Infinity Countdown and Infinity Wars which may be the worst comic crossover I’ve ever read.  Then Donny Cates comes along…and totally redeemed everything!!!  Seriously, if I ever meet this guy I’ll buy him a drink or dinner or dinner with drinks.  He’s earned it. Continue reading

Considering Peter Parker, EDITH, and Spider-Man: Far From Home

All the creatives and stars of Avengers: Endgame joined in a massive social media campaign asking everyone to be decent human beings and #DontSpoilTheEndgame…for two weeks until Marvel Studios used MASSIVE spoilers for Endgame in their trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home.  It was clear they were seeking to use all the emotions flowing in the wake of Endgame to motivate advanced ticket sales for Far From Home.  Marvel Studios was very direct about how Spider-Man: Far From Home served as the epilogue to Avengers: Endgame.  I enjoyed the film but was – and remain – frustrated by a plot point with seriously troubling implications.

Note, this has spoilers for both Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home (obvs.). Continue reading

Ten Surprised I Found When I Finally Read “The Winter Soldier”

Quarantine brings lots of time to read so I guess there’s a little silver lining to be found in our lives of social distancing and self-isolation.  While I’ve been at home, I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading.  Since I’ve had Bucky Barnes on my mind lately, I thought the time was right to finally read Ed Burbank’s “Winter Solider,” the 2005 storyline that served as the inspiration for one of the MCU’s most well-received films.  I figured I’d use the format I chose when I wrote about Marvel’s epic “Civil War” storyline a little over a year ago, too.  With a story so widely known and discussed in popular (comic) culture circles, where there any surprises left to be found reading it fifteen years after the fact? Continue reading