Hercules Could Bring Bisexual Representation To The MCU!

It’s pleasantly coincidental that this bit of news has arrived during Pride Month, just when it’s most relevant. Though the character of Hercules has long been rumored to join the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s heroes (we discussed theories that he would be the lead character of The Eternals over a year ago), this time seems like it could be for real: the Olympian demigod is apparently set to enter the MCU in one of the studio’s upcoming film or TV projects, and could bring some much-needed male bisexual representation to the superhero franchise.

Marvel Hercules
pinknews.co.uk

As of yet, these new rumors give us very little to go on: we still don’t even know when Hercules will appear, though there are almost limitless opportunities. The Eternals is an epic which will span thousands of years of human history, and blend reality (well, the MCU version of it) with mythology, so that seems like the earliest point at which the Olympian could make his debut. The Loki series on Disney+ will also explore different timelines, and quite possibly different worlds across the universe. Thor: Love And Thunder is perhaps the likeliest option, as Thor and Hercules are best buddies in the comics and fans have been rooting to see them onscreen together for quite some time. And the She-Hulk Disney+ series could feature Hercules’ companion Amadeus Cho (a.k.a. Smart Hulk), allowing for Hercules himself to show up as a supporting character alongside Cho before upgrading to leading man status later on – though it’s not clear whether Herc will actually headline his own series of solo films, or if he will only be a supporting character. His backstory is rich with detail, so there’s plenty there that could be used to design an entire trilogy, but there’s also an argument to be made that he’s too similar to the MCU’s Thor for that to ever happen.

But the most interesting bit of information about this new report is something that actually leaked on the internet even before the rumors of Hercules’ imminent arrival. Yesterday, several insiders hinted through social media posts that the character of Hercules would be openly bisexual whenever he finally appeared in the MCU, and could very well be in a relationship with the X-Men’s Wolverine.

Both characters have a history of being bisexual, though only in alternate universes in the comics – well, technically, in Hercules’ case, he’s been bisexual since his origins in ancient Greek mythology, but that’s something people have tried to ignore for quite some time. More recently, Marvel faced backlash after definitively stating that the version of Hercules in the comics’ main timeline was, in fact, still straight, something which fans contested. But if Marvel does choose to adapt the character now, there’s a good opportunity for them to fix their publishing division’s mistakes, and add bisexual male representation to the MCU.

Hercules
thegww.com

Hercules will likely not be the first LGBTQ+ superhero to show up in the franchise: Phastos, a major player in The Eternals, will be an openly gay character and be in a same-sex marriage; WandaVision on Disney+ is almost definitely going to introduce Wanda Maximoff’s gay son Billy Kaplan, and his boyfriend Hulkling; and one of the subplots of Thor: Love And Thunder will follow bisexual heroine Valkyrie, newly crowned King of Asgard, as she goes looking for her queen. But Hercules could be the MCU’s first male bisexual hero – and male bisexual representation (or bi representation in general) is exceedingly rare anywhere, thanks to persistent bi erasure.

So what do you think? Where do you hope the Olympian appears first? Will he be bi, or are we just getting our hopes up? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Season 7, Episode 2 Review!

SPOILERS FOR AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. SEASON 7, EPISODE 2

Coming off a solid premiere to the series’ seventh and final season, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. finds new ways to tie back into the canon of the mainstream Marvel Cinematic Universe, subtly hinting that more connections between the two are on the way as the team continues their journey through the Marvel timeline. Much as they might have liked to not interfere with the course of history, the truth is that was never going to work – and episode 2 is where it all starts falling apart.

We pick up right where we left off last week, with the Agents coming to the realization that, to save S.H.I.E.L.D. from an invasion of Chronicom aliens, they must save Wilfred Malick (Darren Barnet), the man behind the creation of the shadowy organization known as HYDRA, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s arch-enemy in later years. While Director Mack (Henry Simmons) and Deke Shaw (Jeff Ward) unknowingly escort Malick on one of his missions, the rest of the team works against the clock to try and figure out what he’s planning, why the Chronicoms want him dead, and whether his life is really worth saving.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Jemma Simmons | tvline.com

The answer to the first question is revealed fairly early in the episode, and is what brings this episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D into conjunction with the events of the MCU – Wilfred Malick’s secret mission, disguised as a job bootlegging illegal alcohol, is to deliver vials containing the ingredients which will later make their way into the Super Soldier Serum: the very same which will one day course through the veins of both Johann Schmidt (HYDRA’s Red Skull) and Steve Rogers (S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Captain America). Through this chance encounter, yet another link is forged between the two enemies.

But as for that last question – is Wilfred Malick worth saving? – well, that’s a question that haunts everyone on the team, but especially Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet). Not only does she argue bitterly with her teammates about how they can feel comfortable allowing the future head of HYDRA to survive, but she even takes the initiative in one critical moment and tries to have him killed. Her assassination attempt fails – mostly because Deke isn’t really the best person to carry out any sort of plan, much less one that involves killing someone. But in the long run, that’s probably fortunate: since without HYDRA, S.H.I.E.L.D. would never be formed and Captain America would never be created.

Not everyone, however, makes it out of this timeline unscathed – or even makes it out of this timeline, period. The quiet, contemplative Chronicom Enoch (Joel Stoffer) accidentally gets left behind in 1931 at the end of the episode while the rest of the team escapes through an unexpected time window. Thankfully, he uses his wits to get a job at the speakeasy owned by Ernest Koenig (Patton Oswalt), who forged a somewhat uneasy relationship with the Agents during their stay in his timeline, and even gets to take a ride on the Zephyr One during this episode, marveling at modern technology behind his wildest imagination and demanding to know whether S.H.I.E.L.D. is really a group of Martian space invaders. The stinger at the end of the episode sees Koenig probing Enoch for information about how to make robots – seemingly hinting at an explanation for why he has so many descendants in the future, and all of them are identical.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Yo-Yo Rodriguez | telltaletv.com

Agents “Yo-Yo” Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) and Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) come out of their escapade in 1931 having sustained several more traumas. Though it was teased in the premiere that Yo-Yo hadn’t completely recovered from the incident in season 6 when she swallowed an alien bat and was almost killed by the resulting parasite, it is made explicit here when she fails to use her powers during a tense moment, prompting interrogation from Daisy. May, on the other hand, is still suffering from gaps in her memory and terrifying hallucinations sustained during the season 6 finale when she battled the death goddess Izel: she doesn’t know where or when she is, and she’s angry when she sees the LMD version of Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), knowing full well that the Coulson she knew and loved is dead, and unwilling to let herself be tricked into trusting another duplicate of him.

Overall, I feel this episode is actually stronger than the premiere for a number of reasons. Yo-Yo, May and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) each get to play a part in the action, whereas the premiere left them waiting on the ship, essentially just twiddling their thumbs. The character work is a little bit stronger, as is the dialogue. And while I appreciated last week’s storyline focused on saving Franklin D. Roosevelt, this week’s episode benefited from being able to plunge us into the action and the drama without needing any red herring diversions to deliver exposition.

Speaking of action, there’s one standout fight scene when May and Enoch clash in the hangar of the Zephyr One: Enoch, re-outfitted with upgraded Chronicom tech, is almost winning until May (who, I might add, is still just recently awake from a coma) traps him and goes to town on his synthetic skull with a fire-extinguisher. I’m very excited to see where May goes in this season – it’s not at all unusual for her to use brute force, but her behavior in this episode is sending up red flags all over the place: she’s responding to her near-death encounter in season 6 much like how Coulson reacted when he found out he had been resurrected early in the series. If that’s a parallel that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is interested in exploring, I’m here for it.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Enoch | meaww.com

Once again, the Chronicoms are the weakest part of the story, and their villainy is tame and uninteresting. I was more intrigued by the possibility of HYDRA agents showing up to try and protect the Super Soldier Serum, but only one – a woman named Viola (Nora Zehetner) – actually appeared in person, and even she was either unconscious or unwillingly spitting out information in a German accent most of the time.

Now, all we can do is wait and see in which era of Marvel history the Agents will be dropped next – and whether or not they’ll get involved in any more MCU events on the long, uncertain road to the finale.

Episode Rating: 7.9/10

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Evan Peters Joins The Cast Of “WandaVision”!

First thing’s first, it’s important that we look at this news calmly and rationally, and not jump to conclusions because – OH MY GOD IT’S AN X-MEN CROSSOVER ISN’T IT??? X-MEN CROSSOVER, X-MEN CROSSOVER!!!

Forgive me. I’m calm now (*screams internally*). And I’m ready to very calmly discuss the news that just broke about actor Evan Peters joining the cast of Marvel Studios’ upcoming Disney+ series, WandaVision. Now, to those unfamiliar with the name, Peters’ casting is probably insignificant – but it shouldn’t be, because this is actually quite extraordinary and opens the door for…so many things (*cough, cough, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. crossover*) that could drastically alter what we think we know of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s future.

Quicksilver WandaVision
comicbook.com

Evan Peters, you see, is probably best known for his portrayal of the mutant speedster Quicksilver in Fox’s most recent round of X-Men movies. These films didn’t quite match the cult classic status of Fox’s original X-Men trilogy, but a couple of individual castings were spot-on: and many fans agree that Evan Peters as Quicksilver was one of them. But unfortunately for Peters, his version of the character has always been overshadowed by the version of Quicksilver who appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Taylor-Johnson’s version had far more exposure than Peters’ thanks to appearing in one (almost universally condemned) Avengers movie before being unceremoniously killed off – thus, many Marvel fans are still rooting for him to reprise his role, without even considering the alternative.

But now, Disney owns Fox, and with Evan Peters being cast in WandaVision, it looks far more likely that Marvel is looking to bring his take on Quicksilver into the MCU. It’s plausible, I suppose, that Peters is playing a completely different character. But the WandaVision series literally focuses on Quicksilver’s twin sister Wanda Maximoff as she tries to warp reality to bring back deceased loved ones, so that seems like a truly bizarre coincidence, if it is the case. It’s also possible that both Peters and Taylor-Johnson will play the role – after all, Wanda is going to be toying with some pretty dangerous magic, so it’s easy to imagine her accidentally summoning two versions of her brother out of the Multiverse. Such a mishap would also feel right at home in a sit-com like the ones by which WandaVision is inspired.

WandaVision
themarysue.com

But even if Peters’ role is only for a cameo, it’s still a major step forward for the MCU. Up until now, we’ve cautiously hoped for crossovers like these: but this would be the biggest one yet. And if it goes well, it’s possible it could be followed by other, similar crossovers. Other X-Men stars could potentially show up for Multiverse cameos, or small supporting roles: for instance, fans are already reacting well to the footage we’ve seen of Anya Taylor-Joy and Maisie Williams as Magik and Wolfsbane in The New Mutants, which will be the last of Fox’s X-Men films whenever it finally gets released. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Chloe Bennet is still waiting for her chance to appear in the mainstream Marvel universe. There are a bunch of talented actors and actresses who have become fan-favorites without ever once showing up in MCU canon, and they don’t deserve to be tossed aside. Peters’ casting bodes well for all of them.

On the other hand, the MCU does have a responsibility to differentiate itself from what came from – and let’s not fool ourselves: the reaction to most of the Fox X-Men films was mixed, to say the least. Therefore, even if Peters is playing Quicksilver in WandaVision, I expect him to only have a small role, and I doubt he’d ever show up again. But who knows? I never even imagined we would be here, discussing this.

What do you think of Evan Peters being cast? Who do you think he’s playing? Would you like to see any more crossovers from the various other franchises existing on the fringe of MCU canon? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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For Pride Month 2020, Let’s Discuss The Year’s Biggest LGBTQ+ Moments In TV And Film!

SPOILERS FOR HARLEY QUINN SEASON 2 AND SHE-RA SEASON 5!

Happy Pride Month! As we begin to celebrate the history and culture of the LGBTQ+ community, I thought it would be interesting to look at what the community has accomplished already in 2020, through the mediums of TV and film. Though coronavirus has prevented many inclusive films from making it to theaters this year, there are still plenty that did get there before the world went on lockdown, and many more that have released on streaming. For this breakdown, we’ll be looking at the setbacks the LGBTQ+ community suffered early in the year, and three outstanding breakthroughs in representation that both occurred just last month which could signal big changes in the industry.

Of course, I should note that this is not, by any means, a comprehensive list of every film or TV series released this year that touches on any of these issues – this is merely a discussion of some especially significant incidents spanning the course of the past several months, which I feel present a fairly accurate depiction of the year’s many ups and downs as a whole.

She-Ra LGBTQ
She-Ra rescues Catra | tor.com

2020 opened on a promising note with Marvel President and head producer Kevin Feige boldly announcing that the Marvel Cinematic Universe would welcome its first ever transgender superhero in the very near future, at a Q&A where he used the words: “Yes, absolutely. Yes.” Unfortunately, the moment was irreparably tarnished when it was revealed that Feige hadn’t realized the question was specifically about transgender superheroes, and only meant an LGBTQ+ superhero was coming very soon. That doesn’t necessarily mean that transgender heroes aren’t going to appear in the MCU at some point (there are rumors that a transwoman superheroine, Sera, could appear in either the Loki Disney+ series or Thor: Love And Thunder), but it does cast doubt on when that will ever happen. It was a bad omen, heading into the new year.

Marvel LGBTQ
Marvel Comics’ transgender heroine Sera | mcuexchange.com

In February, Marvel’s rival DC had a golden opportunity to explicitly confirm that one of their most major characters was canonically LGBTQ+ – but instead, their hyped-up zany comedy Birds Of Prey danced around the issue of sexuality, giving only eagle-eyed viewers a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nod to lead character Harley Quinn’s bisexuality in an animated sequence, while simultaneously hinting through stereotypical mannerisms that flamboyant, misogynistic villain Roman Sionis and his partner-in-crime were a gay couple. A lesbian character in the film, Renee Montoya, did play a large role and had an ex-girlfriend who also showed up, which makes Birds Of Prey something of a “one step forward, two steps backward” sort of situation.

Around the same time, the Disney+ streaming platform came under fire for a slew of reasons, most of which involved the service’s attempts to whittle down their roster of upcoming original content in a manner which many saw as discriminatory towards series’ with a focus on LGBTQ+ issues. While Disney+ didn’t do this with all of their shows (High School Musical: The Musical: The Series and Diary Of A Future President both featured openly LGBTQ+ characters), they did make the decision to move their hotly-anticipated Love, Victor (a spinoff of 20th Century Fox’s successful gay romance Love, Simon, obtained during the Disney/Fox merger) to Hulu, deeming it too mature for their own platform. One of the service’s most high-profile original series’, a sequel to the Lizzie McGuire Disney Channel series, was shut down entirely – with some sources saying that it was due to the way in which the story tackled matters of sexuality. It didn’t take long before the whole situation had raised a very interesting discussion about what is “family-friendly”, but that hasn’t saved Love, Victor from heading to Hulu, nor has it resurrected Lizzie McGuire.

Love, Victor LGBTQ
Love, Victor | deadline.com

In March, as the world started falling apart thanks to coronavirus, the Pixar film Onward was lost in the catastrophe, and moviegoers barely had any time to acknowledge the fantastic animated feature or its moment of LGBTQ+ representation – a moment that would have been great, had it not been leaked to the press by eager journalists prior to the film’s release and subsequently massively overhyped. In the film, a cop played by openly lesbian actress Lena Waithe briefly mentions her girlfriend in a single line of dialogue. Despite how brief the moment was, the film was still boycotted by conservative groups like One Million Moms and banned by several Middle Eastern nations.

Within a few weeks, the coronavirus had already caused major shifts in the film industry: films were being reshuffled across the board, movie theaters around the globe were shutting down and studios were hurrying to push all their upcoming or recently released content onto streaming. Unfortunately, one notable victim of all the release date rearrangements was Marvel’s The Eternals, a film already remarkable for its diverse cast. The superhero epic directed by Asian-American indie icon Chloe Zhao is set to feature the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first gay couple, and was supposed to release in November of this year. Sadly, the film has now been pushed back to February of 2021, meaning we will have to wait even longer before we can find out what Lebanese actor Haaz Sleiman was talking about when he said that there’s a gay kiss in the film that’s so emotional it made people on-set begin crying. Another Disney film, Jungle Cruise, was delayed an entire year, and will now be opening in summer, 2021: though it’s been invisible in the film’s marketing so far, Jungle Cruise is supposed to introduce Disney Studios’ first openly gay character – which is already somewhat controversial, as Disney couldn’t even be bothered to find an openly gay actor to play the role, rumors say that the character’s depiction is “hugely effete”, and test screenings apparently revealed that the character has a coming out scene in which he never actually states that he is LGBTQ+. Perhaps a delay for that movie wouldn’t be a bad thing, as it could allow them to do some much-needed reshoots.

But not everything has been all gloom and doom. The past month has introduced a wave of new representation: some of it from DC Universe, some from Netflix, some, most shockingly, from Disney+ – all of it through the form of animation.

In the first instance, DC Universe’s Harley Quinn animated series rectified Birds Of Prey‘s glaring omission by adhering to comics canon and having Harley Quinn and fellow Gotham City supervillain Poison Ivy begin a tentative relationship, which has even resulted in the two sharing a kiss. The duo now have to sort out their messy, complicated feelings for each other, and that’s great. It’s the first time the relationship, which was wildly popular in the comics, has been represented onscreen – and fans are already enjoying the canonization of the pairing, which they have labeled “Harlivy”.

She-Ra LGBTQ
Adora and Catra | polygon.com

However, something that sets Harley Quinn apart is that the series is exclusively for adults, meaning that its audience is necessarily limited. That’s not a problem that faces Netflix and DreamWorks, whose collaboration on the animated reboot of She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power is something that can be enjoyed by all ages – the fifth and final season premiered on the streaming service just recently, and made the hopes and dreams of the series’ many LGBTQ+ fans finally come true when lead characters Adora (a.k.a. She-Ra, Princess of Power) and Catra rekindled their friendship: which turned into a slow-burn romance, which culminated in the two confessing their love for each other in the series finale, kissing, and saving the world with the power of love. That, my friends, is representation done right – because as much as I enjoy seeing “casual” representation (such as the cop from Onward, who simply mentions her girlfriend without making it a big deal), I infinitely prefer seeing characters whose sexuality or gender identity is something that actually helps to define who they are. And with Adora and Catra, whose relationship has been at the heart of She-Ra for all five seasons, it made complete sense that their love would play a huge part in the conclusion to the story – and it did, because showrunner Noelle Stevenson is a brave, brilliant genius, who fought to make sure that she wouldn’t have to pull a Legend Of Korra on her fans and just have Adora and Catra hold hands and/or gaze platonically at each other.

Out LGBTQ
Pixar’s “Out” | nytimes.com

Finally, we have to talk about Out. Though Disney+ is still new and working out many of its flaws, they did just recently make a big step forward – or rather, Pixar did it for them and Disney+ gets to take the credit: Out, the newest of Pixar’s animated Sparkshorts which debuted exclusively on the streaming platform, follows a gay man in an interracial relationship as he struggles to come out to his parents. Even though the story involves an unpredictable magical mishap and a lot of dog humor, it never loses sight of its true focus, which is a heartwarming message of acceptance. The short, which clocks in at around nine minutes long, is an understated milestone, becoming the first Pixar story to star a gay lead – and much to its credit, enjoyed a spot on Disney+’s top trending section, which shows that audiences are curious and eager for more content like this.

And so, as we head into Pride Month coming off of small successes like Harley Quinn, She-Ra and Out, I must ask of all my readers that you keep fighting for change in any way you can: whether that means demanding more LGBTQ+ representation from Hollywood, or protesting police brutality because black lives matter – or, preferably, by doing both. One day, we will see that change, and it will come from people like you. 2020 is a wake-up call for all of us: to fight harder. To do better.

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“Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Season 7, Episode 1 Review!

Returning to the beautifully messy, Marvel Cinematic Universe-adjacent world of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for a seventh and final season is already proving to be a wild and unpredictable ride, filled with plenty of fun character beats, clever jokes and even a couple of callbacks. Already, the story is moving along at a better pace than season 6, though it also appears to be suffering from a couple of that season’s same problems. As the Agents move backwards through time and space to try and prevent a hostile alien takeover of S.H.I.E.L.D., they encounter a wide variety of characters – some taken straight from the pages of Marvel comics, others borrowed from history books – along with a number of uniquely dangerous scenarios that require them to be on top of their game.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
medium.com

Unfortunately for the team, their leader and only guide through the past is currently having something of an identity crisis. As you may remember from the season 6 finale, the team made a decision to resurrect the recently deceased Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) by planting his preserved consciousness into the synthetic body of an LMD robot. And though our first glimpse of LMD Coulson was as his smiling, chipper old self, it quickly becomes apparent that all is not well with him – Coulson, despite agreeing to help the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. one last time, is clearly angry at them for bringing him back from the dead: it’s been a recurring problem for his character, as the other S.H.I.E.L.D. members (and, ahem, the showrunners) can’t seem to let him rest in peace. LMD Coulson is seen struggling through panic attacks as his old memories flood his systems with past pain, trauma and guilt. He also ominously tells Director “Mack” (Henry Simmons) that when all is said and done, he will “reevaluate” the situation – dialogue that seems to forewarn more trouble for his character in the near future. It’s easy to imagine that everything will come down to his choice whether or not to die and stay dead – already, the premiere is hinting at possible conflict as LMD Coulson remarks during fight scenes that being a nearly indestructible robot has its perks after all, and he seems very happy being back in his element, leading the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on a romp around 1930’s New York City, fanboying over historical figures and relishing the opportunity to dabble in the origins of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Apparently, not too much dabbling is strictly allowed by the rules of the series’ time travel mechanism, which appears to be rather different than the one presented in Avengers: Endgame. Though it hasn’t been explicitly stated what will happen if the Agents mess with historical events, everyone – and particularly super-genius Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) – strongly advises against it. In Endgame, tampering with history didn’t really matter too much, since the Avengers were simply creating alternate realities with every Infinity Stone they stole and every character they accidentally almost killed.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
digitalspy.com

As one would expect, however, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. don’t really have much of a choice when it comes to changing history, as they find themselves in a number of predicaments that require drastic measures. Surprisingly however, it’s not the team’s newest recruit, time-traveling business entrepreneur Deke Shaw (Jeff Ward) who causes these predicaments (despite Mack specifically singling him out and ordering him not to try and file any patents in the past), but rather one of the team’s most senior members, Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet). Johnson was somewhat sidelined in the sixth season, but here she is already back in form – even encumbered by an impractical dress, she still has excellent fight scenes, making ample use of her Inhuman powers, and her confident wittiness provides a nice foil to Coulson’s steady flow of awkwardly timed “dad jokes”.

The members of the team who actually get to wander through the streets of Great Depression-era New York – Coulson, Daisy, Mack and Deke – also get a much-needed makeover, trading in their sleek black S.H.I.E.L.D. uniforms for historically-accurate outfits, haircuts and accessories. Daisy complains about having to get rid of her purple highlights, but her resulting 30’s look, complete with delicate white gloves and a fancy fur stole is far and away the premiere’s best. Mack comes closest to matching her retro vibes, though he himself notes that the sight of “a black man in a fine suit” attracts more attention from passerby than he had hoped.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
showbizjunkies.com

The action back on the team’s ship is significantly less interesting and much less stylish, but Agent “Yo Yo” Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) has a number of touching, heartfelt moments while debating whether she wants to even try and fit in with the times if it means having to hide her mechanical arms, which she had grown to accept and be proud of, behind new, eerily life-like prosthetics. But for the most part, she and Simmons are forced to stand around and watch while the helpful Chronicom Enoch (Joel Stoffer) patches up Melinda May‘s (Ming-Na Wen) wounds from the season 6 finale.

A few other characters show up and either help or hinder the heroes’ journey. In particular, I have to give a shoutout to Patton Oswalt, who returns to the series to reprise his role as Koenig, the mysterious man with a seemingly endless number of identical siblings. Here going by the very appropriate codename “Gemini” and working as the proprietor of a speakeasy, this Koenig bears little resemblance to his descendants (apart from, you know, being identical to them): he’s rude, demanding, and a bit sexist. But he also hires a young man named Freddy (Darren Barnet), who proves to be of much greater significance to the story than one would guess.

And that’s my cue to start talking SPOILERS!, so if you haven’t seen the episode, turn back now.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
“Freddy” from Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. | newsweek.com

Yes, as it turns out, the Freddy who is working as a waiter at Koenig’s bar is in fact Wilfred Malick, a.k.a. one of the key members of HYDRA, the organization that would go on to infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D. soon after its foundation and, eventually, rip it apart from the inside – and it’s Freddy who is the reason why the Chronicoms have invaded 1931. But as Coulson and Daisy realize at the very end of the episode (in an exchange which, unfortunately, was already revealed in the trailers), the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. now have to save HYDRA in order to save S.H.I.E.L.D., because without the one, the other cannot exist. The symbiotic relationship between the two covert groups has never been more fascinating.

But watching S.H.I.E.L.D. history unfold in front of our eyes is twice as much fun when its intertwined with real history – and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. perfectly mingles the two by leading Coulson and his team on a red herring mission to rescue then-Governor of New York Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Joseph Culp) from what they mistakenly believe to be an assassination attempt by the Chronicom aliens. Though they quickly realize they’ve made a mistake, they fortunately get to have a delightful little conversation with Roosevelt (who, in Marvel canon, founded the organization that would later become S.H.I.E.L.D.). It’s heartwarming to see how much the team idolizes him – in particular Coulson, who ends up helping the Governor into a wheelchair and is subsequently sworn to secrecy.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
twitter.com | @bestofbennet

The episode’s biggest weakness is the Chronicoms themselves: the emotionless alien lifeforms whose mission to root their opponents out of history still feels pretty vague – tying everything back to the irreversible connection between S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA is the right call, as the series began with that and ultimately should end with it as well: I just wish we didn’t have the Chronicoms right in the middle of the conflict, as I don’t know whether this thirteen-episode season will be able to balance so many storylines. Now, substitute the Chronicoms for the Kree and then I might reconsider, because at least the Kree have had connections to S.H.I.E.L.D. for a very long time – but these aliens, with their face-stealing technology and imperfect attempts at replicating humanity, feel very random. All except Enoch, who doesn’t really seem to have much stake (if any) in the fight between his civilization and the human race.

The episode’s last-minute stinger, however, brings the focus back to Enoch – though only as a way of showing us that Melinda May, who had been unconscious for the entire episode, is awake, and has escaped from her hyperbaric chamber. Judging by the glimpse of her face that we get as she watches Enoch from where she’s hiding in the ceiling fixtures, it looks like she’s having some issues of her own – she probably hasn’t quite gotten over the experience of being tossed through a portal into a demon dimension just yet. But as much as I’d love to see her deal with that pain as slowly as she needs to, I also don’t want the series to spend any more time addressing things from season 6 than it absolutely has to, if that’s at all possible. Even the mere mention of the Shrikes from last season made me want to cringe.

Overall, I hope the final season can improve. I had fun with this episode – the writing was good, and characteristically clever, but the heart wasn’t fully there. I want episodes that focus heavily on character development, rather than on time-travel mechanics and Chronicom politics. Namely, what I don’t want is another season 6: a season that gets so wrapped up in trying to outdo everything that’s come before, that it forgets to be fun and exciting. At the moment, season 7 could still go either way.

Episode Rating: 6/10

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Michelle MacLaren May Direct “Captain Marvel 2”!

Let me just tell you that, in my personal opinion, there was no reason for Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck to vacate their positions as the directors of the Captain Marvel franchise. Was Carol Danvers’ origin story the best-directed film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and did the directing duo do the best job bringing the character to life? No, probably not from a technical standpoint. But Captain Marvel is still one of my favorite films in the entire Infinity Saga, and Boden and Fleck are good directors: their recent work on Hulu/FX’s drama Mrs. America should prove that. But they’re out, and they will not be working on the Captain Marvel sequel (though, intriguingly, it was also reported that they may not be out of the MCU entirely, and could be working on other projects for the studio).

Captain Marvel
imdb.com

In their place, Marvel is supposedly looking for a woman to direct the sequel, which will probably pick up after the events of Avengers: Endgame, where Carol Danvers proved herself vital to the fight against the Mad Titan Thanos. Though she was underestimated, belittled and demeaned for a large part of her own solo film by an assortment of sexist villains – and by the angry, equally sexist internet trolls who put together an inconsequential boycott that didn’t stop the film from easily crossing the billion-dollar mark and becoming one of the most profitable films of 2019 – the heroine, played by Brie Larson, has proven to be fairly popular with fans, though many claim that the character still needs to find her footing in the MCU, with the help of a great director who truly “gets” her: much like how the Russo Brothers elevated Captain America to the same level as Iron Man, or how Taika Waititi reshaped the character of Thor with his zany, comedic touch. I would still argue that Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck could probably do it, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to occasionally bring in a new vision, shake up the status quo, and give something else a try. If people are honestly still on the fence about Captain Marvel (I don’t get it, but whatever), then maybe she just needs a new director.

And I’ve got to say, Michelle MacLaren is not a bad choice. If it’s indeed true that she is one of several women being eyed for the job, then I would love to see this happen: MacLaren has never tackled a major film before (well, actually, she did try twice, but we’ll get to that), but her resume on TV speaks for itself – Emmy-award winning executive producer and director of some of Breaking Bad‘s most iconic episodes, and director of four fantastic episodes of Game Of Thrones (including The Bear And The Maiden Fair), three episodes of The Walking Dead, two episodes of Better Call Saulone of Westworld, and The Morning Show‘s pilot. In fact, she’s so ingrained in the TV scene that I have to wonder whether she might be directing a Disney+ series instead – perhaps even one that includes Captain Marvel in some capacity, such as Secret Invasion or Ms. Marvel. Then again, even though it might seem risky to hire a TV director for a blockbuster film, it’s worth pointing out that the Russo’s and Taika Waititi both had backgrounds in TV before moving to Marvel and directing some of the studio’s best entries. It’s just not indicative of anything.

Captain Marvel Michelle MacLaren
watchersonthewall.com

This wouldn’t be MacLaren’s first experience with superheroes either, though it might prove to be a more pleasant one for her than her last encounter with the genre. MacLaren was originally attached to DC’s Wonder Woman before abruptly leaving the project over creative differences and being replaced by Patty Jenkins (who did an absolutely incredible job, of course). The reason for MacLaren’s exit was supposedly that she wanted to make a more epic, action-heavy origin film for the heroine, but her TV background gave studio executives worries that she might be biting off more than she could chew. After a long and arduous pre-production stage, MacLaren left the project. Something similar may have happened with another comic book adaptation she was supposed to direct: Cowboy Ninja Viking, an action film starring Chris Pratt and Priyanka Chopra, shut down production in August 2018 and has been indefinitely stalled ever since. It was rumored that script issues were the problem in that case, but no details have ever emerged that would confirm or deny those suspicions. At least in the first instance, it sounds like MacLaren’s ambitions were simply too big for what Warner Brothers had planned – which doesn’t sound too bad, if audiences are looking for Captain Marvel to get a serious overhaul (again I ask, why does she even need one?), but Disney might not agree with that assessment, and the last thing Marvel probably wants is another director suddenly walking out on them.

Captain Marvel
syfy.com

But we’ll see. There are many talented women who could direct Captain Marvel 2. Marvel President Kevin Feige has said that the MCU will try to be more committed to allowing individual directors the chance to break free from formula and run with their creativity, something that bodes well for the studio’s future – in the past, it was often said that Marvel films didn’t rely on the input of their respective directors so much as Kevin Feige’s overarching vision: which wasn’t a bad thing, since Feige’s vision allowed the studio to get to the place in which it finds itself today – a place where they can now feel free to hire more clever, unique directors: like Chloe Zhao, Cate Shortland, Sam Raimi, and Destin Daniel Cretton. MacLaren would be more than capable of holding her own even among their company.

How would you feel if MacLaren came onboard Captain Marvel 2? Do you think she could give the character the boost she (supposedly) needs? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“Ghost Rider” Coming To Disney+! Will The “Midnight Sons” Follow?

Though he’s probably among the most popular characters in the Marvel comics roster, Ghost Rider has had a hard time on screens both big and small. His first film adaptation came at a time when neither DC nor Marvel had yet figured out the magic formula for how to craft a comic book movie, and his appearance on TV, while still the best take on the character, had only limited appeal due to being on a TV show that far too few people actually watch – but now, it looks like Ghost Rider is heading to an even smaller type of screen (though, at the moment, a far more profitable one), and there, with the help of the established Marvel brand name and the tried-and-true Disney+ marketing strategy, he may finally get the success he deserves.

Ghost Rider
tvline.com

Ghost Rider is one of several dark, edgy characters who operate on the fringes of the Marvel Comics universe: the Rider in particular has always been one of the most unabashedly violent – he literally sells his soul to Satan himself (technically Mephisto, but whatever), so how could he not be? Whether the name belongs to stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze or car mechanic Robbie Reyes, a few key details always remain the same: he rides around at night with hellfire burning in his skeletal face, wielding whips, chains and a variety of other spiky weapons which he uses to harvest the souls of the damned, while fighting some of Marvel’s most powerful mystic villains – and occasionally, heroes, as he is rarely ever solely good or evil. It’s hard to imagine this character peacefully co-existing on the same family-friendly platform as other Disney brands.

That’s exactly why he was supposed to be heading to Hulu, with Gabriel Luna reprising the role of the Robbie Reyes version of the character – which he had already played, phenomenally, on the fourth season of ABC’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., often said to be the series’ best. An idea for a spin-off following his character on more brutal, bloody exploits had already been written, but, sadly, the entire series was scrapped by Marvel president and producer Kevin Feige – at the time, it was believed that Feige had his own plans in store for the character, and now that has seemingly been confirmed. It looks like a version of Ghost Rider (probably Johnny Blaze, since it’s been strongly suggested that it’s not Reyes) will be going straight to Disney+, instead.

But whether Ghost Rider arrives on a motorcycle or in a muscle car, he won’t be alone. In fact, he could easily herald the creation of a new kind of superhero team in the MCU, one that is grittier and riskier than anything we’ve seen before. A couple potential members of this team are already popping up, though they will likely have to wait until the Rider arrives before they can actually form. I am, of course, referring to the infamous Midnight Sons.

Ghost Rider Midnight Sons
comicbook.com

In the comics, this team consists of a small, close-knit group of supernaturally gifted antiheroes, who usually work alone but come together in dire circumstances to protect the world from threats like demons, vampires and magic-users. Unsurprisingly, they’re closely affiliated with Doctor Strange, and his associate Doctor Voodoo. Membership changes on a regular basis, but characters like Ghost Rider, the Moon Knight, Blade and Elsa Bloodstone are all regulars at this point. And thankfully, almost every character on the team has a pretty good chance of showing up in the MCU in the near future, meaning that we could see them come together just in time for a third Doctor Strange film.

Ghost Rider Moon Knight
looper.com

Ghost Rider, obviously, is the very reason why this team would and should be assembled, so he’s a lock for a spot in the team’s line-up. Moon Knight, a mentally unstable CIA mercenary possessed by the spirit of an ancient Egyptian moon god, has his own Disney+ series on the way – some of his supporting cast, such as Werewolf By Night or even Stained Glass Scarlet, could make good Midnight Sons candidates. Mahershala Ali is set to play rogue vampire assassin Blade in an as yet undated solo film, which will probably also introduce the world to feisty British monster hunter Elsa Bloodstone. And Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, the Sorcerer Supreme’s long-awaited sequel, is heavily rumored to feature Doctor Voodoo, as well as Strange’s love interest Clea – the niece of primordial demon Dormammu – whose horrific heritage should be enough to land her a spot on the team. With those specifics out of the way, all that remains to be done is to find them a proper villain to fight – and there are quite a few already lurking in the depths of the Fear Dimension, and elsewhere.

One of the most obvious and natural choices to take on the team during their first outing would be Karl Mordo, who was set up as a villain in Doctor Strange but hasn’t appeared since. His whole mission is to wipe out all the sorcerers in the MCU, meaning he’d have good reason to want to take down an entire team of powerful magic-users. The only problem I see with this idea is that Mordo doesn’t seem to have the strength to take on all the Midnight Sons at once, so he’d probably need to recruit several other…well, sorcerers, to his own cause. And that could work, if Mordo had been shown to be a hypocrite – but from what little we know of him, we can see that he truly believes everything he espouses. That means if Mordo does become a Midnight Sons antagonist, he should either be a third party trying to take out both the Sons and whoever their real enemies are, or he should get a serious power upgrade that could put him on the level of a Ghost Rider or Doctor Strange.

Ghost Rider Dracula
fullcirclecinema.com

But while we wait for that to happen, the Midnight Sons still need a villain – and in my opinion, it should either be Lilith, Mother of All Darkness and a frequent opponent of the team in the comics; or Dracula himself, who is rumored to make an appearance in the Moon Knight series and would probably also show up in Blade, whenever that movies comes out. Both of these villains are powerful and experienced: Lilith is an immortal survivor of the sinking of Atlantis (which means she could show up as early as next year’s The Eternals, which is said to feature that cataclysmic event), and comes with her own army of similarly demonic children, scattered around the world and waiting for her command to stir them into action; while Dracula, of course, is a 15th Century Transylvanian warlord and king of vampires. And while Dracula is actually the father of another character coincidentally named Lilith in the comics, the MCU version of the character could be the…wait for it….midnight son of Lilith, Mother of All Darkness. Writes itself, doesn’t it?

I’m partially kidding about that last bit, though I actually do think it would be a good idea to tie the two characters together somehow and have them both face the Midnight Sons in battle. In the Marvel comics, vampirism is often a hereditary trait, so it makes sense for vampires like Dracula to involve their whole families or clans in their own wars. And if we could see that war spread out across several MCU franchises, it could be a huge event with the potential for plenty of crossovers.

But what about you? Do you think Ghost Rider will bring the Midnight Sons into being, or will we have to wait even longer? Are all these characters possibly too dark for Disney+? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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If Marvel Is Making “Secret Warriors”, They Need The Agents Of SHIELD

You know the feeling when you finish work on a long post about the upcoming Ironheart series and say to yourself, “well, now I just have to write one about Ghost Rider and I’ll be done for the day”, only to find out that a Secret Warriors project has apparently been announced for Disney+ while you were writing? No? Is this not something I can vent about to anyone? Does no one feel my pain???

Well, I can assure you of this: Marvel Studios is going to feel my pain if they dare to do the unthinkable and try to create their own Secret Warriors team, when they already have a perfectly good one on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. And if they even think about recasting characters like Daisy Johnson or Yo Yo Rodriguez…let me just tell you, I respect Marvel, and I love most everything they do, but that – that would be unforgivable.

Secret Warriors Quake and Yo Yo
comicvine.gamespot.com

Now, it’s not being reported that they will definitely recast, or that this take on Secret Warriors will break Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. canon – but there’s only two versions of the Secret Warriors team that they could be adapting, and one of them has Squirrel Girl. No offense to Squirrel Girl, but I really don’t see her joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe anytime soon – or ever. And if I’m right, and Marvel wants to use the more classic iteration of the team, the one which includes characters popularized on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., well, that means that those of us who are fans of both the MCU and the MCU-adjacent TV programs could soon find our loyalties to both tested.

Honestly, it makes sense to bring the Secret Warriors into the fold of the MCU right now, as they play a crucial role in the Secret Invasion storyline, which is also supposedly being adapted for the small screen. In the comics, this small but effective task-force is assembled by Nick Fury to handle Skrull sleeper-agents who have infiltrated earth by using their shape-shifting abilities to impersonate government officials and superheroes. I didn’t know about the existence of this upcoming Marvel project when I wrote out my ideas for an entire Secret Invasion story arc just last night, but I think it would be easy to retroactively add them into my grand plan: since the main thrust of the Secret Invasion story seems like it might happen in space, simply have the Secret Warriors series (or movie; it’s unclear which it might be, though Marvel has yet to announce any Disney+ movies of their own) deal with the Skrulls who manage to slip in through the cracks and get past Nick Fury’s Agents of S.W.O.R.D. While team members Quake and Yo Yo have been to space before on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., the team as a whole is better suited to a small-scale, earth-based conflict.

Secret Warriors
outerplaces.com

In the comics, the Secret Warriors are made up of characters who, at least at the time of their introduction, were fairly new and unquestionably niche – characters like the Inhumans Quake and Yo Yo (the one a former hacker and political activist, the other a reformed weapons-dealer); Phobos, son of the Greek god Ares; Hellfire, a demolitions expert who wields a flaming whip; sorcerer Sebastian Druid; and superhuman strongman Stonewall (who, as his name implies, is a member of the LGBTQ+ community). But Marvel doesn’t have to go into this without any brand recognition: in fact, if they play their cards right, they could attract a pretty devoted group of fans – if they maintain continuity with the version of the Secret Warriors team that has already appeared on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., where both Quake and Yo Yo are prominent members, and Hellfire also made occasional appearances.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t watch a new Secret Warriors series or movie that didn’t feature Chloe Bennet’s Quake and Natalia Cordova-Buckley’s Yo Yo, but I am saying that I would be much happier if I were (Hellfire, in my opinion, was a small enough part that it could easily be recast). Seeing anyone else in those roles would feel wrong, because Bennet and Cordova-Buckley have done an incredible job bringing those two very obscure characters to life, and because Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is already ending with its seventh season this very month: there’s no reason for Marvel not to scoop them up and bring them over into their own universe – especially since the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. versions of the characters have already had plenty of experience fighting the Kree, who are very likely to be involved in the Secret Invasion storyline, as the chief nemeses of the Skrulls in the MCU. Why not take advantage of that connection? Why not build on it?

Secret Warriors
superherohype.com

The thing is, I’m not trying to be greedy or unreasonable. I’m not calling on Marvel to include the entire S.H.I.E.L.D. team in a Secret Warriors project, or anything like that (though, honestly, who wouldn’t want a Melinda May cameo?) – but I’m big on continuity, and I think Marvel is at its best when they find clever ways to tie all their various franchises together: in this case, it makes even more sense to do that because of how obscure the team is, even in the comics. More people might tune in to watch if they knew they could see some of their favorite characters again. At the very least, I would. But of course, this is all just my opinion – and it’s possible Marvel doesn’t even plan on using any established version of the team. Maybe they want the version with Squirrel Girl, I don’t know.

What do you think? Is this the perfect place for a crossover event with Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., and if so, how would you like to see characters like Quake and Yo Yo join the MCU? Would you also borrow S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s version of Hellfire, or recast that role? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Marvel Developing “Ironheart” For Disney+!

Avengers: Endgame brought about an end to the storyline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s founding father Tony Stark, but new rumors suggest that the super-genius inventor’s legacy will carry on in the new character of Ironheart, soon to make her MCU debut on the Disney+ streaming service. While the move is almost certain to anger many people, there are also a number of reasons to be very excited for Ironheart taking on the mantle of her predecessor Iron Man.

Ironheart
tvovermind.com

If true, the Ironheart series will join seven other Marvel series’ currently in development for Disney+ – and two others rumored to be in pre-production, a Secret Invasion series and a Ghost Rider project which I will also cover. An argument could be made that Marvel is over-expanding themselves, but so far we have yet to see the studio make a mistake: and many of their upcoming series’ are already attracting very positive buzz, as fans clamor to see the stories of characters like Falcon, Bucky Barnes, Wanda Maximoff, Loki and Hawkeye (is anyone actually clamoring for that last one?) continued on the small screen and with more screentime than they would receive in the movies. But the streaming service is also a place where Marvel is looking to introduce several new heroes, including Ironheart, also known as Riri Williams.

Williams is a recent addition to the roster of Marvel heroes in the comics, having made her solo debut in 2018. She’s an intelligent and capable young black woman who builds her own iron suit while still an M.I.T. student, and later receives Tony Stark’s own blessing. Her story is largely wound up with that of Stark and his wife Pepper Potts, who give the young heroine advice, refuge and assistance during her Ironheart missions. That obviously poses a little bit of a problem for the MCU version of the character, since Tony Stark is already dead and Pepper seems to have been retired.

Ironheart Tony Stark
inverse.com

The comics do provide a solution for this problem, as Riri Williams’ Ironheart is often accompanied by the Tony Stark A.I., a sentient hologram of the hero. In the MCU, it wouldn’t be hard to explain the existence of something like that – Tony Stark was constantly inventing things, and he prepared for his death far in advance: in Endgame, it was revealed that he had even prepared one last holographic message for his daughter to comfort her during his funeral. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to have Riri discover that he had also built himself a second body and brain with a fully-functioning consciousness – again, there’s precedent in the way Stark (albeit unintentionally) designed and created his own sentient A.I. personal assistants, most notably Jarvis.

There’s just one more obstacle. Robert Downey Jr. would have to return – he would likely only be willing to do that if his role was substantial enough to warrant it, but to do justice to Ironheart, any role Tony Stark plays would have to be small enough that he doesn’t overshadow her character. It definitely wouldn’t benefit either character, or the show in general, if Tony Stark’s return to the MCU drew criticisms for a white savior narrative. If the screenwriters for the series could find a delicate balance, they might just be able to convince Downey Jr. to make a return to the MCU – but in my opinion, it would have to be a one-off: the A.I. tech might be broken or only half-finished, meaning that Stark only gets to stick around for the duration of the series.

Without Downey Jr.’s involvement, there’s still ways for Riri to be a compelling character. If having her encounter Tony Stark himself is impossible, she could still be inspired by his enduring legacy in the MCU – a fun alternative might be to have one of her role models be someone like Tony Stark’s best friend and sidekick War Machine, who is one of the saga’s most underrated characters, or Princess Shuri of Wakanda, another young, black super-genius. Riri’s main villain in the comics has an origin story that could be tinkered with to tie into either the Ms. Marvel Disney+ series or Shang-Chi, or both: Tomoe, or “Techno Golem” as she is more commonly referred to, is an Inhuman who uses her power as the head of the Southeast Asia Crime Syndicate to control an army of ninjas from her hideout in the criminal underworld of Osaka, Japan. And Riri herself, apart from all outside influences, isn’t just a tokenized legacy character, as some are quick to claim – quiet and introverted, but driven by her ingenuity, resourcefulness and passion for science to pursue her dreams, she also suffers from the trauma of witnessing the death of her best friend and her step-father in a shooting. With a talented actress in the role, she could easily be on par with Tony Stark, or his own hand-picked successor, Peter Parker.

Ironheart Marsai Martin
latimes.com

And who better to play this pioneering character than an actress like Marsai Martin? Martin is currently fifteen –  the exact same age as Riri Williams in the comics – and has the distinction of being Hollywood’s youngest producer, as well as a winner of several NAACP Image Awards. She is best known for her roles in ABC comedy Black-ish, and as the star of Universal’s Little, but she should have no problems transitioning over to Disney+.

So what do you think of the idea of an Ironheart series? Have I helped to convince you that it’s actually a pretty good idea, or are you still on the fence about it? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Marvel Developing “Secret Invasion” For Disney+!

The Secret Invasion saga is a Marvel comics storyline that many fans have been asking to see depicted on the big screen since it was revealed that Captain Marvel would introduce the story’s chief antagonists, the Skrulls, into the Marvel Cinematic Universe alongside their nemeses, the Kree. But it seems that, while the repercussions of the storyline will probably be felt in the films, much or even the entirety of the Secret Invasion saga will occur exclusively on Disney+, in the form of a new series for the streaming service, according to a new rumor.

That means that the details of the story will have to be changed for the MCU adaptation, because the scale will likely be far smaller – but that doesn’t come as too much of a blow, because we already knew that the storyline would have to be changed a lot after Captain Marvel revealed that the Skrulls were actually a largely peaceful people of exiled refugees, rather than the diabolical shape-shifting troublemakers they are in the comics. We actually have yet to meet any evil Skrulls in the MCU, though for a Secret Invasion storyline to work, there will have to be some: the whole premise revolves around a group of Skrulls led by the conniving queen Veranke, infiltrating earth by disguising themselves as prominent government officials and superheroes. In the comics, this story sprawls across the entire Marvel universe: it’s still possible that could work in the MCU as well, but we now know that the main characters standing in the way of Veranke (or whoever leads the Invasion in this adaptation) will be the Agents of S.W.O.R.D.

Secret Invasion
vocal.media

S.W.O.R.D., also known as the Sentient World Observation and Response Department, made what was almost certainly its MCU debut last year in an incredible Spider-Man: Far From Home post-credits scene which showed former S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury leisurely strolling around the hallways of a massive space-station manned by benevolent Skrull and human workers, while simultaneously giving orders to Skrull operatives Talos and Soren, who were posing on earth as Fury and his assistant Maria Hill, respectively. Since then we’ve also been given evidence to suggest that S.W.O.R.D. will have a large presence in the WandaVision Disney+ series. Now, it looks like the agents of S.W.O.R.D. will be getting their own series, in which we may be able to explore the inner workings of their organization, and fully understand their various responsibilities as protectors of earth against cosmic and extraterrestrial threats.

Obviously, we already have an Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. series, and it’s quite good, so it does seem likely that at least part of the inspiration for this Secret Invasion story was borrowed from that MCU-adjacent TV program, which is set to premiere its seventh and final season this very month. In the MCU, S.H.I.E.L.D. ceased to exist several years ago, and the TV series, while popular with a small and devoted fandom (including myself), has drifted further and further away from MCU canon with each successive season. So, despite how unfair it is, there likely won’t be any reference made to the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or their many exploits across space and time (though if there is, I have a few ideas for how they could be implemented into a Secret Invasion storyline, which I’ll discuss).

Secret Invasion Agents of SHIELD
aminoapps.com

Barring a surprise cameo in Black Widow or The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, S.W.O.R.D.’s first official appearance is likely to come in WandaVision – which, on the surface, seems like a strange place to introduce a group of space-based characters whose mission involves fighting aliens. But the tie-in to Wanda Maximoff’s multiverse adventure probably comes through the character of Hulkling, a half-Skrull, half-human superhero and member of the Young Avengers, who is the boyfriend of Wanda’s son Wiccan and is already rumored to appear in the WandaVision series. While he may not yet be a full-fledged agent in the series, his status as a bridge between humans and Skrulls makes him a key player in the relationship between the two peoples and, occasionally, a pawn in their politics. Certain members of the WandaVision cast, most notably Monica Rambeau and Thor fan-favorite Darcy, are also presumably more closely linked to S.W.O.R.D. than to Wanda herself – as a child in Captain Marvel, Rambeau was shown to have developed a close connection with the Skrulls and her comics counterpart is a cosmically-powered superheroine, while Darcy is an intrepid scientist specializing in the study of astrological abnormalities, a niche talent that came in handy in Thor: The Dark World and could make her an invaluable member of the S.W.O.R.D. team.

So already we have at least three characters who could easily be introduced as S.W.O.R.D. members who find themselves caught in the middle of Wanda Maximoff’s inner turmoil – perhaps due to Hulkling’s relationship with Wiccan, perhaps for another reason: it’s even possible that Wanda’s attempts to scramble the multiverse might endanger the earth, leaving it vulnerable to alien hostiles, something which could easily make her a target for S.W.O.R.D., though if that’s the case it’s hard to imagine why someone else, with a better understanding of the threat, wouldn’t be sent to deal with her instead. Again, I’m thinking Darcy’s experience with the Convergence incident could prepare her for dealing with this event, which might similarly feature a powerful and dangerous character trying to open a portal between worlds – though in this case, it would be Wanda, and her motives would be more sympathetic than Malekith’s.

The Secret Invasion series will most likely follow soon after – “soon” being a relative term in this case, considering that nothing is going to be happening truly soon with coronavirus still posing a threat to any filming in the foreseeable future. It is said to lead into the events of Captain Marvel 2, and could potentially feature a crossover with a Young Avengers series on Disney+, again because of Hulkling, who is a prominent member of that superhero team. Let’s start wildly theorizing now, shall we?

Secret Invasion Abigail Brand
pinterest.com

My guess is that the Secret Invasion series will start out with the core S.W.O.R.D. team already firmly established, having been assembled by Nick Fury prior to the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home but only just now emerging as a force to be reckoned with in the MCU. Apart from Hulkling, Monica Rambeau and Darcy, the team will be headed by a group of powerful individuals including Nick Fury, Maria Hill, Talos and Soren, and Monica’s mother Maria Rambeau, who was last seen in Captain Marvel, where she was Carol Danvers’ best friend and helped the heroine protect the Skrulls from an entire Kree army. The team’s commander in the comics, mysterious green-haired Abigail Brand, will also serve in a key leadership position. In the comics, a number of notable cosmic characters also stop in for guest appearances – some we’ve already met in the MCU like Captain Marvel, Peter Quill and Gamora; some we haven’t, like Thor’s long-lost half-sister Angela, and the bizarre alien warrior Beta Ray Bill. If we’re lucky, certain S.H.I.E.L.D. members might also make the jump to space, like Daisy Johnson, Melinda May, or the FitzSimmons duo: there are already rumors that Johnson, an Inhuman, could make a cameo in the Ms. Marvel Disney+ series, which will star another Inhuman character – if that is the case, I wouldn’t rule out Johnson and even Ms. Marvel showing up as part-time S.W.O.R.D. allies.

The plot of the series will revolve around this team of characters working on the space station known as The Peak when the Skrull invasion occurs. The invasion itself will be led by Veranke, and could be motivated for a number of reasons: it’s possible Hulkling could have something to do with it, and that the fight breaks out over him, but he’s already getting a lot of attention, so I’d rather that Veranke be inspired to attack earth when she hears of the secret Kree sleeper agents already established on the planet – these agents were briefly mentioned by Talos in Far From Home, in a manner that felt very significant. This way, Veranke and her Skrulls are inherently fighting for a good cause, but they’re also positioned as enemies to S.W.O.R.D., who will of course want to defend earth and deal with the Kree in their own way. If Marvel really wants to rip off Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., they could even have Veranke be a S.W.O.R.D. member herself, who betrays the organization, though in this case she could do so because she feels like her and her peoples’ concerns are being ignored. She might also try to get Hulkling to join her on her mission, which could give his character a fascinating dilemma but doesn’t make him the chief focus of a Secret Invasion storyline.

Secret Invasion Veranke
comicbook.com

Of course, there would have to be some shape-shifting happening, or what would even be the point of a Secret Invasion? In the comics, Veranke herself takes the form of Spider-Woman, but Sony owns the rights to that character and is unlikely to want to stick her in a Disney+ series. Besides which, Veranke impersonating Spider-Woman only works if Spider-Woman is already an established and trusted character in the MCU, which she isn’t. And beyond that, the scope of this series will probably be far smaller than it would be if it were a film – meaning that whoever Veranke does impersonate will probably be someone like Nick Fury, or someone else in the core S.W.O.R.D. team, rather than a big-name Avenger.

In the comics, The Peak is destroyed during the Secret Invasion by a Skrull posing as “Dum Dum” Dugan, a character who has long been deceased in the MCU and thus will have to be replaced. Abigail Brand and a few other agents will, as in the comics, escape the annihilation of their headquarters with the help of emergency space-suits (though, as this event will likely happen at the end of the series, this could be a fitting place to kill off certain characters, even fan-favorites like Talos, who presumably wouldn’t have a large place in the MCU after a Secret Invasion storyline anyway). They will be saved by Monica Rambeau – who basically has to have gained her own superpowers and adopted the Photon mantle by that point, right? – and Captain Marvel, who could show up as a finale guest star. Having Captain Marvel there also sets up the events of her sequel film, in which she may have to team up with the remaining S.W.O.R.D. agents to take down both Veranke and the Kree’s Supreme Intelligence, which is still a considerable threat to the security of the galaxy.

After this story is concluded, I imagine we’ll continue to see the S.W.O.R.D. team in the MCU: Rambeau, thanks to her similar set of powers, can easily become Carol Danvers’ sidekick, and Hulkling will join the Young Avengers as a full-time member. It’s also worth noting at this point that the finale of this series has the potential to introduce – or at least tease – both the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. Mutants such as Lockheed the dragon and Hank McCoy both serve under Abigail Brand as agents of S.W.O.R.D., and Brand runs into Mister Fantastic while he’s being held prisoner on a Skrull starship after the destruction of The Peak. If either of these things happens in the series, even near the end, it has the potential to be the next big MCU crossover event.

Secret Invasion Skrulls
hollywoodreporter.com

So that’s what I think of a Secret Invasion/Agents Of S.W.O.R.D. series, and how it could work. These are all just my personal theories and educated guesses: nothing based in substantial fact. This whole story is also only a rumor at this point – nothing has even been confirmed by Disney, so it’s possible I’m moving too quickly. Nonetheless, I’m very interested to hear what you have to say on the matter, so be sure to share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Five Ways Black Widow Could Come Back To The MCU!

Last night, I had the chance to watch Avengers: Endgame again for the first time in a while. As on previous rewatches of the film, I found myself appreciating most of the first act of the movie (where, SPOILER ALERT I GUESS?, the Avengers kill Thanos), and most of the third act (where the Avengers kill Thanos a second time). I even liked a lot of stuff in my least-favorite part of the movie, that troublesome second act that has the team split up across different timelines and try to steal Infinity Stones from history.

Black Widow
cinemablend.com

But I still cringed at the absolute worst part of Avengers: Endgame – the scene in which Natasha Romanoff, the legendary Black Widow, sacrifices both her life and years of character development in exchange for the mysterious Soul Stone, willingly leaping from that accursed cliff on the godforsaken planet of Vormir to her very certain death. Cue the outrage. Natasha Romanoff, Marvel’s first (and for a long time, only) woman Avenger, was sacrificed in much the same way as another woman a year earlier: Gamora, who was tossed from the cliff by her own father. As womens’ bodies continue to pile up at the foot of that stupid cliff, fans (and especially, female fans) asked Marvel one simple favor: could you please stop fridging women?

Natasha Romanoff’s death is doubly infuriating because it came just before her long-awaited solo movie, Black Widow, which is supposed to explore an adventure in her past, before the events of Avengers: Endgame. But many are still clinging to a desperate hope that the Widow is still somewhere out there, either alive on earth or fighting to get back home. So let’s take a look at a couple ways Natasha could come back to life in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

5: It Wasn’t Really Her.

Yelena Belova
hitc.com

This theory is a bit preposterous, but still worth noting: the idea is that Natasha Romanoff’s “sister”, Yelena Belova, who will make her debut in the Black Widow film, actually traded identities with Natasha before Avengers: Infinity War, or at some other point before Avengers: Endgame. There’s a little bit of evidence that supports this: Natasha wearing Yelena Belova’s jacket in Infinity War; a shot from a recent Black Widow trailer that shows Yelena Belova on a surgical table with a strange scar around her forehead, as if her face had been removed or changed. This option is undoubtedly the least appealing, not only because it would mean that the rest of Natasha’s awesome character beats in Endgame weren’t her own, but because this only changes the identity of the woman victim. As Infinity War Captain America would say: “We don’t trade lives.” Nonetheless, expect the super-spy sisters to swap identities frequently in the Black Widow film.

4: Multiverse Shenanigans.

Gamora
reddit.com

As I mentioned previously, Gamora was the first person to lose her life on Vormir – but she has since returned, thanks to the time heist in Avengers: Endgame. Coincidentally, it was when Black Widow, Nebula, Hawkeye and War Machine traveled back to 2014 to retrieve the Power and Soul Stones that a 2014 version of Gamora was able to slip through into the present Marvel timeline, along with the 2014 Nebula and Thanos. If the Avengers wanted to bring Natasha back, they could simply find a version of her from another timeline – but that poses a whole bunch of other problems.

3: Bruce Resurrected Her.

Hulk
looper.com

One of the plot-lines left over from Avengers: Age Of Ultron that went nowhere was the love story between Natasha Romanoff and Bruce Banner a.k.a. The Hulk. The two characters both regarded themselves as “monsters” (let’s not even get into the reasons why), and bonded over that. But after Bruce went missing for two years and the Avengers films switched directors, that story was mostly left unfinished. Except for the fact that, when Bruce Banner finally got his hands on a fully-operational Infinity Gauntlet at the end of Endgame and snapped his fingers to bring back the people that Thanos had dusted, he also tried to bring back Natasha. This is only mentioned in a throwaway line in the film’s final few minutes, but it’s still intriguing – could Bruce have been successful? How would he know? Natasha would presumably be resurrected on Vormir where she died, meaning she’d have to find her own way home.

2: Captain America Came To Bargain.

Captain America
screengeek.net

At the end of Avengers: Endgame, Captain America takes it upon himself to go back in time and return all the Infinity Stones the Avengers had taken from time. The Space Stone went back to New Jersey, the Time Stone back to the Sanctum Sanctorum, the Reality Stone…I don’t even want to know how he somehow injected it back into Jane Foster without her knowing. But the Soul Stone is the most interesting one: to bring it back, Captain America would have to return to Vormir, to the exact moment of Natasha’s death, and hand it over to…Red Skull, I guess. But does returning the Stone mean that Natasha’s life is also returned? If Natasha is to be brought back to life, this is by far the most likely explanation as to why.

1: Natasha, Daughter Of Ivan.

Druig
en.wikipedia.org

And then we come to my theory. I’ve always believed that there’s a reason the Black Widow solo film is supposed to kick off the epic, cosmic events of Marvel’s Phase 4. But what business does the decidedly human heroine have in this universe of gods, aliens and mythical lore? Well, my theory is rooted in comic lore and a very intriguing name that gets dropped minutes before Natasha’s death. Red Skull calls her “daughter of Ivan”, and Natasha comments that he must be telling the truth, because she didn’t even know her father’s name. But who is Ivan? While there are any number of Ivan so-and-so’s associated with Natasha in the comics, there’s also another character who goes by that name, who has a connection to the events about to unfold in the MCU: Ivan Druig is the alias that Druig, an Eternal (who will be played by Barry Keoghan in The Eternals), takes when he impersonates a sadistic Russian KGB officer and the leader of a small Soviet state named Vorozheika. If “Ivan” is Ivan Druig, and Natasha is Ivan’s daughter, that makes her a demigod – similar to how Peter Quill was revealed to be the son of a living planet. Druig might have an interest in resurrecting his daughter, maybe even giving her new powers in the process. If this were the case, Natasha could hold her own in the next phase of the MCU, while her film would have a major tie-in to The Eternals that would help to get audiences excited for that film.

What do you think of these theories? Do you even want to see Natasha brought back, or were you happy with her sacrifice? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“Black Widow” Final Trailer Review!

The final Black Widow movie trailer goes in a different direction than its two predecessors, focusing on the personal relationships between our protagonists, and the grim drama about to unfold as our team of antiheroes and misfits face off against the powers that be within the Russian government. There’s still plenty of cool, exciting action to be seen (Taskmaster especially keeps getting power upgrades in every new trailer), but director Cate Shortland was chosen for her work with intense, intimate dramas – and that’s exactly what she’s going to deliver.

Natasha Romanoff, our Black Widow, struggles with guilt from never having returned to Russia to help her family (they use familial terms to address each other, but it’s still unclear whether that means anything, considering Natasha supposedly never knew her biological family) escape from the clutches of the KGB Red Room training program that turned them all, including Natasha herself, into highly-skilled assassins. Natasha’s “sister” Yelena Belova and “mother” Melina Vostokoff were some of the lucky ones who weren’t entirely brainwashed to the point of becoming “Manipulated: fully conscious but no choices”, as Yelena describes the other Black Widows in the program.

But the other Black Widows, with their elegant, perfectly synchronized fighting techniques, aren’t even the most dangerous threat to Natasha and her team: Taskmaster, the head of the Red Room and a warrior armed with photographic reflexes that allow him to perfectly emulate any opponent’s techniques (in this trailer, we see him memorizing moves from Natasha’s iconic hallway fight scene in Iron Man 2 and using Black Panther’s signature Wakandan fighting style, which includes mock panther claws), he’s their biggest threat. Obviously, it’s hard to piece together where everything we see in the trailer happens in the context of the film, but it looks to me like he goes after each of Natasha’s team individually in the third act battle – and I guess we’ll just have to wait and see who survives his killing spree.

Unfortunately for Natasha’s family, this is the type of film where characters are expendable, no matter how lovable and sweet: which means it’s possible that any or all of the trio (excluding Natasha, since this film is a prequel and we know she lives) will be snuffed out in a blaze of glory during their attack on the Red Room. Personally, I’m guessing it will be Red Guardian, Natasha’s gruff, bear-like father figure – and I suspect that Yelena could die a fake-out death, only to be revealed as alive in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline. It would be sad to see any of them go, as they all look like fun characters, and their playful banter with Natasha about good posture is instantly endearing.

Black Widow
syfy.com

As for Natasha herself, we may finally get a deep-dive into her troubled psyche. In this trailer, we see her fighting to retain her own identity while trying to live on the run and undercover, shedding one fake name only to adopt another, taking Melina’s advice never to “look into the past”. But here she is, faced with the conflict that will determine who she is and what she stands for: although this movie takes place in between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, after we had already seen Natasha in several movies, this is the moment that will turn her into the hero who gave her all to help defeat Thanos. This is the moment she stops being one of the Red Room’s countless faceless Widows, and becomes the one and only Black Widow. “At some point we all have to choose between what the world wants you to be, and who you are,” Natasha declares at one point in the trailer: this movie is about her, making that fateful choice.

Are you excited to see the transformation of the Black Widow? What’s your favorite part in the trailer? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 8.7/10

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