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?
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…
My first Spider-Man comic was Web of Spider-Man #12. It came out in March of 1986 when I was just three-years-old. I got it from the spinny rack at the grocery store and I read it so many times the pages eventually ripped away from its tattered cover. Always one to encourage reading, Mom regularly let me get comic books when we were at the grocery store, drug store, or gas station. When I was seven-years-old, my parents got me a membership to our local comic shop (perks included a 20% discount off the cover price and a pull list). Weekly trips to Books Galore were a part of my life until I turned sixteen. All of a sudden things like gas money and the outings driving fostered began to make demands of my budget so, with conflicting emotions, I decided to stop collecting comics. My last was Peter Parker: Spider-Man #98. Released in November of 1998, it was the “end” of Peter and Mary Jane’s story (until the next month’s reboot) so it felt like a fitting end.
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
Which comics go in my file/pull list is a decision I ponder regularly. What must be read monthly in single issues? Which stories/characters/creators can’t wait? I ask myself this whenever I consider juggling the comics in my file because, well, money’s a thing and I only have so much for comics before they turn off my electricity and water and I use those all the time. Despite Spider-Man being the fictional character I’ve had the longest running relationship with, The Amazing Spider-Man is rarely on my pull list simply because I favor newer characters (or characters new to me). Miles Morales/Spider-Man or Cindy Moon/Silk or America Chavez or Jane Foster/Valkyrie don’t yet have as bedrock a status quo to reset to so their characters feel more dynamic and thus, with more potential for lasting change, there’s a greater sense of urgency to read those stories each month instead of waiting for them to pop up on Marvel Unlimited or be collected in a trade paperback. However, last night I learned Ben Reilly was donning the webs once more so today I went to my local comic shop to add The Amazing Spider-Man to my file for the first time in years!
Perhaps the most oft repeated observation about the Fantastic Four is they are a family first, superheroes second. This piece of their identity has been their cornerstone since Stan Lee ushered in the “Marvel Age of Comics” with their creation in 1961. With the FF poised to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Dan Slott was given the reins of “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine” in 2018. Understanding the nature of the FF – a family of explorers and travelers who save the day when needed – he uses it to examine a captivating concept which seems uniquely suited to the Fantastic Four. When their explorations take them to the planet Spyre, Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic, Sue Storm/the Invisible Woman, Johnny Storm/the Human Torch, and Ben Grimm/the Thing meet the Overseer, the leader of the Spyricans, a people who have technology they claim will show you your Soul Mate with absolute certainty. Families are born in the bonds of love and there’s no love like a Soul Mate…should such a thing exist. What better place to drop explorers defined by their family than the questions raised at the intersection of loving communion and a technology that can predict the mystical movements of the heart?!!?
As readers we can’t help but take this journey with the Fantastic Four and wonder are Soul Mates real? And if they are, would we want to know?
Jessica Jones was one of the genre-redefining characters born during my hiatus from regular comic reading. Created by Brian Michael Bendis (writer) and Michael Gaydos (artist), she first appeared in Alias #1, released in November 2001. Coincidentally enough, I spent that fall falling for another Alias – J.J. Abrams’ cliffhanger and slow-mo running loving spy show starring Jennifer Garner. At the time, I had no idea another Alias existed. Once I saw (and enjoyed!) Jessica Jones on Netflix, I kept my eyes peeled for her comics. Alias isn’t on Marvel Unlimited and I’d never seen the collected trades below $25.99 apiece (which I’ll spend but it’s a risky move without reading a single issue). But then magic struck! I found Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1, 3, and 4 (of four!!!) as I strolled Ollie’s Bargain Outlet last week! I tracked down Vol. 2 as well, and then…well, you know how some books are overhyped? It turns out, even after the endless praise I’ve heard about Jessica Jones as a character and Alias as a comic, it ended up being better than I imagined.
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.
Season One of Loki has come to a close and I have lots of feelings. My relationship with Loki has been complicated from “go.” The first episode left me with more concerns than intrigue, wondering about the direction they were taking the MCU’s overarching narrative. The second episode setup so much! It got me excited! Maybe I was wrong! Episode three was disconcerting as it was just filler. Then comes four-five-six and I’ve been all over the board with how this show has made me feel. Now, with the dust only beginning to settle, I wanted to explore my at-times-surprisingly visceral reaction to the end of Loki Season One. MASSIVE SPOILERS for the Loki finale will follow. A mass of FEELINGS will follow as well. So tread carefully, based your comfort level with exposure to SPOILERS and my raging feels ;D.
Welcome to the ninth installment in this li’l series using Spider-Man comics to explore the variety of romantic archetypes we find in literature (illustrating the variety of romantic experiences we find in life)! Bobbi Morse/Mockingbird is a scientific genius, Avenger, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and super spy whose relationship with Peter Parker would be a central part of Dan Slott’s final years writing The Amazing Spider-Man. In Bobbi Morse, Peter found a witty, compassionate partner who could kick his ass and/or inspire him when he needed it. Every bit as smart as Peter, she’d meet him in his brilliance and push him further. As Mockingbird, she stood beside Spider-Man to face everything from Skrull invasions to Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign to the Zodiac terrorist attacks to Hydra takeovers. Being a superhero herself, Bobbi could share Peter’s entire life. Oh, and they worked together. Which is good because, you know, nothing can ever go wrong when you date a coworker.