The Avengers have faced some difficult opponents, either as a team or on their own: the Red Skull, Loki, the Mandarin, Ultron. However, in “Captain America: Civil War,” they face a new kind of enemy: each other. “Civil War” divides the Avengers, forcing them to align with either Iron Man or Captain America. Iron Man believes superheroes should sign a government document that will keep them all accountable; Captain America fears the government will abuse that power and it would be dangerous to sign. They are also split on exactly how the Winter Soldier — the Cap’s brainwashed best friend Bucky Barnes — should be brought to justice. This conflict will challenge and even ruin friendships, and it will bring an end to the Avengers as we know them.

“Captain America: Civil War” is a tense, thought-provoking superhero film that is both global and personal in its scope. It ventures into definite moral gray areas and sometimes it’s tough to decide who is actually doing the right thing. Although there are a lot of superheroes, and a lot of subplots, the Russo brothers — who also helmed 2014’s excellent “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” — successfully manage everything that’s going on and never lose sight of the central conflict between Iron Man and the Cap. “Civil War” is a must-see for Marvel fans and shakes up the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

“Civil War” starts by examining a theme that, a little surprisingly, is often overlooked in superhero films: collateral damage. When superheroes battle super-powered villains, city blocks tend to get leveled and the landscape gets destroyed. We may not like to think about it, but in these types of epic battles, civilian casualties would be difficult to avoid. In “Civil War,” Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch, inadvertently kills civilians while trying to stop a bomb. This incident appears to be the last straw in a long line of catastrophic Avengers-related events (New York, Washington, D.C., Sokovia), and the United Nations presents the Avengers with a document called the Sokovia Accords, which are designed to control them and keep them accountable.

Normally the rebel but now haunted by his past mistakes, Tony Stark is one of the first to sign. However, Steve Rogers can’t bring himself to do the same. He’s afraid of giving the government this kind of control, and he is concerned the government could abuse this power. He also believes Bucky Barnes is a victim of brainwashing, even though the government has labeled his as a No. 1 priority terrorist and has ordered their agents to kill him on sight. Captain America ends up going rouge with Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, and several other Avengers, and Tony is forced to hunt him down with the help of War Machine, Vision, and Black Widow — and a couple surprise allies.

While there’s a lot going on in “Civil War,” the directors keep everything running smoothly, and it feels like every character and plot point gets just the right amount of screen time. It’s a more satisfying film than last summer’s “Age of Ultron,” which remains the only MCU film that I don’t own and the only one that left me feeling slightly disappointed. “Civil War” does a better job of managing its large cast and finding time for some quieter, more character-focused moments, even in the midst of all the action. Marvel’s weak link is sometimes its villains, and you could say this film’s villain, Helmut Zemo, isn’t as dynamic as he could have been. But this film was never really meant to be about the Avengers fighting an outside villain: it’s about what happens when they fight each other, and Zemo is merely the catalyst who facilitates that conflict.

Although this is very much the Cap and Iron Man’s film, there are some great cameo appearances and newcomers here. I was excited to see Ant-Man join the Avengers for the first time, and the revelation of his new “special ability” is one of the best — and funniest — moments of the film. I also really loved Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther, and I’m excited for his upcoming solo film. He brings an outside perspective to the conflict, and he’s definitely a superhero you want to have on your side. And no review of “Civil War” would be complete without talking about Spider-Man. I was a little nervous about how the character would blend with the Avengers, but the Russos handle his introduction marvelously, sending Tony Stark to recruit the excitable and lovably awkward teenager. It’s also a blast to see him using his powers in the big showdown between the opposing groups of superheroes.

The film ends on a slightly ambiguous note, which I was actually happy about. There’s not a direct resolution to the conflict, and the Russos don’t completely repair the division in the team. I was concerned the film would try to rush and wrap everything up too neatly, and thankfully, it doesn’t do that. The conflict will continue to impact Marvel films in the future. All in all, I was very pleased with “Civil War.” I’m not sure yet exactly where this ranks on my list of favorite MCU films, but it’s definitely in the top 5. I guess I’ll just have to go see it again.

Known more for his wise cracking humor rather than his fighting skills, we have Spider-Man. About as regular a guy as you can get, but this guy can hold his own. His athleticism and intellect have allowed him to survive and even persevere against the most deadly of opponents. He takes a beating but tries his best to keep on ticking. Unlike Wolverine, he doesn’t have a healing factor to fall back on. Let’s begin with my picks for his best battles!

5. Spider-Man vs Green Goblin: The Death Of Gwen Stacy – By Gerry Conway, Gill Kane & John Romita Sr.

A classic Spider-Man story line that shocked the world at the time. A death in comics that actually lasted and had consequences later on. For those unfamiliar I’m referring to Peter’s first love , Gwen Stacy. Of course the man responsible for this tragedy was none other than arguably Spidey’s greatest foe. The Green Goblin ( Norman Osborn).  In this particular case, Green Goblin went and made it very personal for Spider-Man and killing the woman he loved and rubbing his nose in it.  It was a devestating blow to Spider-Man and you can bet he was pissed. It actually fel as if Spider-man would cross the line and kill for the first time. The set up is great and the actual climatic battle was awesome. The story and the fight itself have been adapted in films and TV, so it goes to show the impact this saga had.Here’s one of my favorite moments…

4. Spider-Man Vs Wolverine ( One shot) By James Owlsley & Mark Bright

My last entry to this list is a perfect segue to this comic and it’s respective battle. As previously seen, even when pushed to the limit, Spider-man won’t kill. The story asks what if he has to for a greater purpose? The question is asked, quite aggressively by none other than Wolverine. A guy who often kills without blinking. The story sets up these two sides quite well and makes for a very real and compelling reason to have our two protagonists duke it out. Usually it’s the art that sells it but this time the words accomplish that. The inner monouloges and debates between the two men while they’re fighting, are great. It’s an often overlooked story by the mainstream audience but fans have grown to admire it very much over the years. It’s a bit of a tough find but if you have a little patience, I suggest you try to pick it up. Here’s a glimpse that may sell you on it.

 3. Spider-Man Vs Venom ( Collected edition) By David Micheline & Todd McFarlane

This is an old fan favorite. We(fans) just love seeing Spidey and Venom take each other on. It’s like Wolverine vs Sabretooth. Venom went on to become, arguably Spider-man’s most popular nemesis in the late 80’s/ early 90’s, and for good reason. He was a guy more powerful than Spider-Man, so there was a great physical advantage. Plus he absolutely hated Peter Parker & Spider-man. There was always a sense of impossibility when Spidey was tasked to do battle against him. Let me tell you that Spider-man lost more than he won against Venom. Well, physically anyway. The stunning detail that Todd McFarlane added to the art work made it all the more enjoyable. I remember studying each page for what seemed like hours. Every panel seemed cooler than the next. Venom proved to be so popular he even got his own series in the 90’s. Some might say he was a victim of overexposure but what can you do?

2. Spider-Man vs Kraven The Hunter ( Kraven’s Last Hunt) By J.M. DeMatteis & Mike Zeck

We went from the dark nature of the Venom saga, to the even darker nature of Kraven and the Kraven’s last Hunt story line. I’ll say right now that this story is, likely my favorite Spider-Man story of all time. The conflict, the drama and the artwork are all superb. Certainly one of the darkest Spider-man stories I’ve read. Kraven the hunter was often seen as a joke compared to some of the other, more notable villains in Spider-Man’s rogue’s gallery. Then this came out and proved everybody wrong. Kraven was presented as a man of great skill and even honor. A man to be respected and ultimately, feared. He sets out on his greatest hunt against his greatest adversary. The one who got away, time and again. He not only hatches an ambitious plan, he executes it.  Spider-Man gets badly beaten in their first encounter. So much so, that he ends up buried alive. This is not the end of Kraven’s plan though. Read it yourself to get the juicy details. The imagery & metaphors used throughout this tale are spot on. They add a lot of insight and intrigue into Kraven’s state of mind. It’s almost as if they created a new character in this story, He’s so fleshed out. he becomes so fearsome that he jumps to the cream of the villain crop. Mike Zeck also nailed it here. For my book, his best artwork to date. Check out this splash page.

1. Spider-Man vs Green Goblin ( Spectacular Spider-Man # 200) By J.M. DeMatteis & Sal Buscema

We started the list with the Green Goblin and we finish with him as well… sort of. This time the man behind the scaly green mask Is Harry Osborn, Norman’s son. Heir to more than just his fortune apparently. This battle became even more intense due to the personal nature of Peter and Harry. Best friends forced to fight each other. There’s a lot of backstory here. A lot. It was only a matter of time before it all boiled over. The setup for this climatic brawl had been years in the making. A friendship that seemed destined to fail due to the very nature of both men. A tale worthy of the bard himself. To get real insight on this particular issue ( #200), it would be best to read the ” Child Within” story line. Same creative team. My favorite Spider-Man writer paired up with my favorite Spider-Man artist of all time make for one satisfying conclusion to all the build up. It’s almost an entire issue of action. Plenty of emotional weght and spectacular( no pun intended) visual story telling.Something about seeing Spider-Man lose it brings everything up a notch. I suppose it’s because to piss him, you have to do more than hurt him physically. You have to push his emotional limits and even his psyche to throw him off the edge, but he never really falls off. Very similar to Superman in many ways.  If you want more than just a standard, Spider-Man wise cracking affair, look to this gem.

It’s time to reach within my memory banks and pick out my favorite Captain America battles. There’s plenty of shield slashing fun to be had. The movies have actually done a good job in showcasing Cap’s impressive fighting skills, particularly Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier. I ‘m old enough to remember a time when the 1990 Captain America movie was all we had in terms of Cap on screen. Sigh… a bad movie but I loved it as a kid!

5. Captain America vs Daredevil: Streets Of Poison – By Mark Grunwald & Ron Lim

 

What a way to start the list. Hero vs hero. Cap does indeed go nuts, but there’s a twist. The whole story, and particularly this one, is a cautionary tale about drugs. Turns out that Cap is high as a kite. This turns him into a very paranoid and angry super solider. Daredevil steps in to try to “knock” some sense into him.Usually these covers don’t represent the quality or length of any fight between two heroes. In this case  It’s a great fight and it surprisingly satisfies. Ron Lim turns in some exciting acton scenes. There is also the added treat of watching Red Skull & Kingpin go toe to toe!

4. Captain America vs Zahnmorder: Captain America: Sentinel Of Liberty :  By Fabian Nicieza & Kevin Maguire

 

I find that this mini series is criminally underrated. It’s a very cool re imagining of Cap’s origin with terrific art to boot. Kevin Maguire is at the top of his game in this one. His skills particualirly shine when he pairs Cap against the evil Zahnmorder. There’s a real danger to this fight that made it impossible for me to look away. It’s Cap’s first real test as the super solider and man, is he ever tested. Add another Nazi henchmen and you got yourself a real fight!  I urge you to find this gem and see for yourself.

3. Captain America vs The Winter Soldier: The Winter Soldier: By Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting

 

No surprise to have an Ed Brubaker tale on this list. This is actually the first story arc he ever wrote when he started his epic run on Cap. To me it’s so good that nothing managed to eclipse it. Bringing back Bucky Barnes turned out to be a monumental move that is still felt in the Marvel Universe today. The movies only exemplify that. Much like Batman and the death of Jason Todd, Bucky’s death haunted Cap for years. His best friend , now turned foe. The emotional weight of accepting that Bucky is lost and not coming back is really what makes this fight stand out. Sure, it’s a great fight aesthetically, but it’s Cap’s refusal to give up hope , that makes it compelling and emotionally draining all at once.

2. Captain America vs Red Skull: Captain America: Sentinel Of Liberty :  By Fabian Nicieza & Kevin Maguire

Yup. This mini series makes an appearance on this list again. This time it’s the grand finale with none other than Cap’s greatest foe. The Red Skull. I think this mini series was a large inspiration for the Marvel films. I dare say, it was a bit bolder than said films. It kept the Nazi overtones. So much so, that the last fight is an arena brawl, filled with onlookers. Among them is Hitler proudly anticipating the humiliation of an American icon at the hands of the ” superior” Nazi fighter, Wonderfully drawn again by Kevin Maguire. The prestige format well deserved for this Mini series.

1. Captain America vs Iron Man( Round 2) : Civil War: By Mark Millar & Steve McNiven

 

As you can see plenty of reason to be excited for Marvel’s upcoming Civil War film. It’s a bit of a easy pick for fans. As mentioned before, having two heroes duke it out is extremely satisfying for some reason. I suppose it’s just an excuse to end nerdy arguments among fans regarding who would beat who in a fight. In this case I never really thought Cap would lose. Even though logic dictates that Iron Man is more than a worthy combatant. Sure enough, Cap and Iron Man fight twice in this story. ( spoiler) in round one, Tony beats the crap out of Captain America. It’s really pretty one sided but the rematch is a more even affair and Cap gets his revenge. The unique thing about this whole hero vs hero scenario, is that they both actually have a compelling reason to fight each other. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Hero B run into hero A in his own comic and just start fighting each other. For no other reason than because they happen to be in their respective city, Eventually they battle for about a page or two and end up teaming up. This is a more common trope with inter company crossovers but still. Civil War never really had any of that  There was a finality to the fight that made it all the more dramatic. We were left with the feeling that things would never be the same after these events.

Let’s see how faithful Marvel studios stays to the comic when it ends up coming out next year.

Stay tuned for my next installment featuring Spider-man!

 

No, no, no … this is not good.  Just finished watching this one (I know a bit late … sorry about that, was out of town) and I’ve got a hole in my stomach.  Basically, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong and while I managed to get to Avengers prior to watching this – so that the Theta protocol reference actually made sense – and was all pumped up for it … now … I’m completely bummed out. 🙁

Cover of Avengers vol. 3, #20 (Sept. 1999). Ar...
Cover of Avengers vol. 3, #20 (Sept. 1999). Art by George Pérez. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know that last week I made the point that the thing I hated most about that episode was its references to the events of the upcoming Avengers Age of Ultron.  This week they basically covered that point in the first thirty seconds of the show and while there were some references to the events that occurred in the Movie scattered throughout the episode, it almost feels like it never happened.  After much thought I realized why I didn’t like what happened last week – it made the show feel like nothing more than a sales tool for Marvel and in all honesty over the past two years I’ve spent more time with Coulson and team than I have with Captain America or Iron Man and while I enjoy the Avengers, I really care about Shield and I didn’t like the feeling that they were being sold out.

This week though, its almost worse … while I’m glad they didn’t belabor the point and make the whole episode about the movie, you can’t just gloss over it like they did.  There was no reference to H.Y.D.R.A and the events that took place there, they talked about the Helicarrier of-course but what about Vision?  What about Wakanda and the Hulk?  How about Veronica and the epic battle?  There are so many things that anyone involved – even peripherally – would have mentioned and its really disappointing that this didn’t happen here.  Fitz especially is such a huge geek and fan of all things powered, he’d definitely have been gobstruck and then of course there’s Coulson himself with his complete awe of the Captain – how could he have not said something, even in passing reference?  Maybe it would have helped to actually see Fury meeting with Coulson, on top of Sam Koenig (awesome Star Wars sheets aside)?

All that aside though – that’s probably not the thing that’s put a hole in my stomach … what’s really got me here is the stupidity of things.  I mean how/why would Skye leave her mother with Gonzalez for the conference?  She had to wonder what the underlying motivation/thoughts were when Coulson didn’t attend but he did.  It’s really annoying having the show/directors try to throw you off the scent with one scene only to have it mean something completely different in another – the whole thing with Gonzalez and the “package” which turned out to be totally innocuous … why?  I know we were meant to think that he had another “secret weapon” to use against the Inhumans, but seriously – he’s not an idiot … nothing we’d seen till now would have led us to believe that he would have gone by himself into the base of a potential enemy and then threaten them while under their control.

Jiaying … don’t even get me started on her.  While she might have a reason to distrust those that are attempting to “index” people with power, she has lived a long time … in hiding!  The reason that she lived in hiding was that it was safer for her and her people … committing them to a war is just stupid and again all indications have been that she is anything but stupid.  While she might have been caught and cut up by H.Y.D.R.A she’s also been alive for much longer than we know and she’s managed to keep the secret of her people safe throughout that time.

What did work?

I know I’ve probably belabored the negative myself here so apologies for that, there were some things that absolutely did work though.  Namely the May/Agent 33 vs. Bobby fight in the quinjet.  While the outcome of the battle was never really in doubt it was still quite a good little rumble and good to see.  I have to be honest if there is one thing that S.H.I.E.L.D has managed to get right almost from day one, its the ability for women to kick ass in some pretty awesome fight sequences.  I’m not going to disagree with Dave and some of his comments in regards to Whedon and Coulson that you’ll see in a couple of posts on this site … I think those are more generic to women in general … in terms of fight sequences though … well there they are doing a great job!  That being said … why would Bobby walk out of the quinjet into an open field that has landed in the middle of nowhere?  That really doesn’t make sense to me?  Wouldn’t you get the plane back into the air and get back to the mission that you’re supposed to be on?  It’s almost like watching someone in a horror movie go into a room that you know the killer is in.  It was just dumb!

Ward – well we knew that he wasn’t going away didn’t we?  His return while again somewhat anticlimactic was still quite cool.  I really don’t know what they are going to do with him … he’s one of those characters you love to hate (but at the same time still secretly love!).  I’d really hate it if they kill him off, but there is also absolutely no way they can rehabilitate him and have him still be Ward … they could empower him I guess and make him a villain in the MCU?  That would be an interesting way of keeping him around somehow.

Raina cold and manipulative definitely don’t do her justice.  Her power play too was not unexpected and I’m very curious to see how this all plays out as she might actually end up in control once the truth about Jiaying finally comes out.

Inhumans – We had Fitz’s little comment earlier, but now it’s actually what these guys are calling themselves, with nothing coy about it.  It makes me even more curious how these events could and should have at least some impact down the line in the Inhumans movie, even in terms of referencing past encounters between the Inhumans and S.H.I.E.L.D.

Overall Verdict

Gripes aside it was still a good episode.  There was some definite forward momentum on a bunch of different storylines and with the news that S.H.I.E.L.D has been renewed for a third year now public (oh yeah, Agent Carter has also been renewed – YAY!!) I am comfortable knowing that all of the open stories will get resolved – while in typical Marvel fashion, many new mysteries will be revealed!

Who is Leet Brannis? A question my fellow long time comic readers already recognize him as one of the criminal foes of The Whizzer. A small time crook and some time crime boss with a real longing for other peoples jewelry.

In this adaptation however Leet Brannis is definitively a cog in the Leviathan operation and it’s plans for industrial espionage and sabotage, but

  • who is or what is Leviathan (?)
  • did Brannis receive his laryngotomy as a part of there own incentives program,
  • could Leviathan have a tassit or more obvious connection too Hydra?

Only time will tell and here’s hoping for a few more golden age goonies to poke there heads in on Agent Carter. A Weasel Wills perhaps? Another small time crook with deep hooks into Stark Industries.

It’s all connected each episode so far has featured a small nod whether spoken or hidden in the gorgeous backgrounds. Roxxon oil a multi-national corporation seemingly behind all manner of depraved acts. Among other things being the sole sponsor of the Captain America radio show, with there “moth balled” facilities being used by Miles Van Ert deftly played by the great James Urabiniak to produce molecular nitramine for Leet Brannis at the behest of Leviathan. Roxxon has some staying power as Agents of S.h.i.e.l.d viewers will remember the Deathlok program was a subsidiary of Roxxon.

Dr. Ivan Venko remember him telling tales of woe of this newly created molecular nitramine to Peggy and Edwin Jarvis? He should be familiar since his son Anton Venko would some time later become the Crimson Dynamo (well a mix of Crimson Dynamo and Whiplash) of sorts as seen in Iron Man 2. If you recall from Iron man 2 it was Anton who sought revenge on Howard Stark or any Stark for treasonous incidents we’ve yet to see or hear from. What remains is how this plot is to unfold why does a brilliant scientist like Anton Venko double cross the government and Howard as it was foretold in Iron man 2. How does it connect to Peggy and this ever expanding case of industrial espionage?

Introducing Edwin Jarvis taking on the role that Paul Bettany originated in the Iron Man films in voice over only, James D’arcy take son the role as butler and long time confidant of Howard Stark while Paul Bettany moves onto a big screen role as The Vision in the forthcoming Avengers sequel. Is he a simple butler as he wants to be perceived or does he  he have more information then he’s letting on about Leviathan and their proclivity for industrial espionage? A very different take then that of the books as long time readers would know. Where in the future he still performs his duty as gentleman’s gentlemen for Tony having helped raised him after the death of his parents Howard and Maria. Occasionally popping his head in to reassemble the forlorn Avengers mansion.

For now we can wait and see how the story unfolds, Marvels Agent Carter returns with episode 4 with the foreboding title of “The Blitzkrieg button” on January 27th.

Hopefully you’ve seen Age of Ultron by this point?  I’m assuming that you have either already seen it (or as you are reading this) are planning on seeing it again for the second or third time!  If you’ve not seen it yet, but are planning on doing so in the future, please give this post a skip as spoilers abound!  As we’ve discussed already on this site this isn’t perhaps a perfect movie but it has lots to love and if you’re a fan of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) in any way, its a must see.  One question that is out there though is who is big purple guy that we see at the very end of the movie and what’s his deal?

Thanos battles Spider-Man and the Thing on the...
Thanos battles Spider-Man and the Thing on the cover of Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 (1977). Art by Jim Starlin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well most Comic Universes have a couple of major villains … Marvel as large as it is has a specific foe that is the antithesis to each of their Hero’s and hero teams.  With Captain America you have the Red Skull (as we saw in the first Captain America movie), with the Fantastic Four its often Dr. Doom and with the X-Men its Magneto and Apocalypse (set to appear in the next X-Men movie).  There are many, many more examples of this (Spider-Man and the Goblin, Batman and the Joker etc…) in both Marvel and DC but one of the most iconic and instrumental storylines was the Infinity Guantlet arc written by Marvel in the late 80’s.

 

Well the big bad of that book is someone that you’ve seen a couple of times now – namely Thanos – and he’s not only appeared at the end of Avenger: The Age of Ultron, but he’s also made an appearance in a meeting with Ronan the Accuser in Guardians of the Galaxy as well as hearing from his flunky about how the Avengers screwed up his plans in the first movie. He will be the bad guy in Avengers: Infinity War.

OK, I know who he is, but what’s his deal?

The guy is Thanos. Thanos was one of the last sons of A’Lars, progenitor of the second colony of Eternals on Titan, and Sui-San, the last survivor of the original settlement of Eternals on Titan. Born with grey, hide-like skin and a massive body due to being born with the Deviant Syndrome, Thanos was a morose child who became obsessed with the concept of death. Through bionic implementation and long hours of meditation, Thanos augmented his Eternal strengths and powers so that his abilities surpassed those of all other Titanian Eternals.

Well if the comic book is anything to go by, Thanos really has a thing for a specific chick and he wants to impress her.  Sounds somewhat banal doesn’t it, but guess who Thanos’ flame is?  Yeah, you got it – in the Marvel Universe, the incarnation of Death is a female and Thanos believes that the only way to impress her is by basically destroying the cosmos and he’s going to use the infinity gems to do it!

What are the gems & what do they do?

Well you hopefully know by this time that all of the Marvel movies are interconnected?  You can also that in both Agent Carter and Agents of Shield too so its a really nice touch.  (Off topic – I’d be very curious to see if DC does the same with Gotham and the other DC properties – Arrow and Flash – as that would be a nice touch).  Well you’ve actually seen most of the gems already & each of these gems by themselves is extremely powerful.  Combined as Thanos plans … well lets just say that he could literally wield the powers of a not so benevolent god!  So far we’ve seen the following infinity gems:

Mind Gem

The Avengers franchise: The Mind gem is what was in Loki’s scepter and is currently in the Vision’s forehead.

Space Stone

The Avengers franchise: The Tesseract, AKA the Space Gem, has transported the Chitauri army to Earth via rips in space. The Tesseract is currently in Asgard. (Shown in Avengers, Captain America, etc.)

Reality Gem

Thor: The Dark World: The Reality gem was that red thing Thor was calling the Aether, and that “infected” Jane Foster.

Power Stone

Guardians of the Galaxy: The Power stone was what Peter Quill steals in the opening and they basically spend the whole movie chasing. You might remember that it figures prominently into the finale.

There are two other stones, Time and Soul, which will almost inevitably turn up in some of the upcoming films prior to Avengers: Infinity Wars.

In this weeks episode we had a couple of different storylines playing out simultaneously and while at first blush there isn’t too much correlation between them, by next week at least two of them will combine (quite spectacularly) and hopefully the third will also start to play a factor.  While we don’t really have any major closure (or even progress) to the question of Skye and her powers arc … is she going to start training herself to use them? … one very cool comment from Fitz gives us an idea of where she could eventually end up.

The third arc while having some pretty significant screen time – namely the return of Grant Ward and Agent 33 – doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Coulson‘s SHIELD and the “real” SHIELD, but I’m guessing there is something there that they’ve glossed over or not really mentioned … the title of the episode does somewhat imply that HYDRA is back so quite possibly the whole conflict between the different groups is being orchestrated by them.

Recap

Well lets start with Hunter and his arrival at the real SHIELD where he is introduced to Robert Gonzales (Edward James Olmos) and the leadership council (to be honest these guys are all a bunch of suits and remind me of nothing more than the shadowy council in Avengers and Captain America: Winter Soldier … basically politicians!) who claim that they are the original founders of SHIELD & are extremely dissatisfied with the way it is being run by Coulson.  They go on to discuss his apparent change since being brought back from the dead by Fury and his apparent fascination with alien technology (leading to Tripps death) as well as the changes to Skye.  While Hunter agrees that there have been mistakes he doesn’t in my opinion state the obvious:

  • HYDRA was pursuing the hidden city anyways and regardless of Coulson’s motivations he stopped them.  If he hadn’t the consequences would have been significantly worse!
  • If this team had HELPED instead of hiding on the sidelines, perhaps Tripp wouldn’t have died in the first place!  Coulson made many comments to the fact that SHIELD was under-resourced while HYDRA by contrast seemed to have an endless supply of combatants.
  • Finally while Coulson did seem to be influenced by the writing (OK, lets rewrite that … while Coulson was influenced by the alien writing) he actually handled it quite well and ensured that May was in the loop and able to “manage” him.  Also when the alien city was discovered, the compulsion went away and was no longer a factor.

Regardless the mission of the “real” SHIELD is nothing more than a shakedown of Coulson’s operation by the looks of it and as soon as Hunter gets a chance he breaks out of the hidden base (turns out its on an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean … reminds me a lot of Resident Evil actually) and steals a sub to get back to the mainland.  Gonzales sends Bobbi back to SHIELD to set the stage for their takeover before Lance can get there and warn Coulson but it looks like the warning might be unnecessary as Coulson and May definitely don’t trust the story that Mac is spinning about Hunter’s absence/disappearance.

Boyfriends Back

While all of this is happening we have the reappearance of Ward and Agent 33!  Yay!!  Although its only been a couple of weeks (how did he recover from multiple gunshot wounds so quickly??), I’ve missed his homicidal tendencies (!) and his character with his messed up motivations only gets better and better.  Ward is still hanging out with the disfigured Agent 33, whose nano-mask remains stuck in “Messed-Up Agent May” mode. They both kidnap a former SHIELD scientist who can fix the mask (in quite a cool sequence with pumpkin pancakes no less!) and while he’s unable to remove the mask, he is able to repair it so that she can take on up to 3 different faces.

Unfortunately Agent 33 (by the way, am I the only one who thinks of Agent 99 from that classic show Get Smart?), has had all of her memories wiped and while she can now change her fact to look like anyone she wants – the person she can’t match is herself as she no longer knows who that is!  She does however transform herself into Skye to “thank” Ward for all of his help, but Ward manages to resist the temptation and guides her to information on Bakshi (the HYDRA leader that helped brainwash her).  Bakshi is being held captive at a US Air Force base, but using the mask, Ward and Agent 33 manage to infiltrate the facility and extract him.  By the end of the episode we see Bakshi tied up in a chair while a brainwashing program is running on the TV … Agent 33 has at least been given back her name although the question remains what else will Bakshi tell them!

What about Skye?

Last but not least is our favorite damaged SHIELD agent (there are actually quite a few to be honest so this list could get rather long!) – Skye.  While we learned last week that she was simply internalizing her powers (causing the bone fractures), Coulson had given Simmons an assignment to find a way to “deal” with it and it seems she’s created some gloves that can help Skye “limit” her powers.  The question of course is that with Simmons’ acknowledged prejudice, will the cure end up causing more damage than good, or even, is she being totally honest with regards to what the gloves can do?

  • Also as more of a question than anything else, since when is Simmons the inventor of the physical stuff … isn’t that more Fitz’ bailiwick than anything else while she’s concentrated on the biological?  I wonder if this is just a red herring or another clue?

Anyways, Coulson takes Skye to a cabin the woods where she can learn to get a handle on what’s happened to her.  Supposedly this safe have is a place that Fury built for powered individuals and its where Captain America spent some time post Popsicle.

  • Coulson: Earlier today, with Skye… just didn’t feel right.
  • May: You made the right call. There’s just too many things in play right now for her to be here.
  • Coulson: Yeah, maybe. But you ever get that feeling… like you mishandled something important?

Now that’s foreshadowing if I’ve ever seen it!

Review

Overall much better than the previous two episodes in my opinion.  While I’m not in love with the whole SHIELD on SHIELD civil war that’s about to erupt, the casting of Edward James Olmos can’t be beat and I’m glad to see that they’re moving (slowly) forward on Skye’s powers.  I realize that they can’t establish her identity/power/ability too soon as the Inhumans movie is still many years away, but at the same time I really don’t want them to drag it out forever either.  Ward’s return is very welcome and I’m curious to see if in some ways the possible resurgence of HYDRA is due to his influence or if his intentions are completely different.

Well, we’re finally here … the penultimate episode of Agent Carter and boy have we seen Peggy go through a lot. In a nutshell, in the office she’s known as the office secretary, and a dizzy dame (when she helped Jarvis in his interrogation), she’s also shown herself to be one bad-ass babe with Thompson and now she’s been designated as nothing more than a traitor! Considering that once upon a time she was completely disregarded as nothing more than furniture … well furniture that could fetch sandwiches, I guess its a step up, but probably not in the direction that she was looking for!

Now under arrest, Carter undergoes interrogation by her former colleagues at the S.S.R. and somewhat surprisingly this interrogation goes a completely different direction than I was expecting. Sousa – obviously feeling immensely betrayed by Peggy is “bad” cop in this scenario and Thompson after his experiences with Peggy in Europe is the sympathizer and wants to trust Carter and urges her to give them something, anything they can use to let her off the hook. Now considering that at one point I’d thought Thompson might be a precursor to the introduction of HYDRA (and while I’d thought there might be a potential love interest thing happening between Sousa and Peggy) I guess it’s appropriate to say that I was nothing if not WRONG. I didn’t want to believe Thompson, the classic chauvinist pig could be redeemed, but it happened. Well, I guess I’m man enough to admit it when it happens! As the interrogation progresses, Sousa, Thompson and Dooley try to get Peggy to admit to anything but she is adamant and in fact continues to try and get them to listen to her side of the story, but doesn’t really give them any details.

After some time Jarvis appears with a signed confession from Stark, in which he promises to surrender if Peggy is released without charge, however while Dooley agrees to accept this letter when Stark physically surrenders to him and will let Peggy go – he also fires her from the Agency as the agents all believe that she has simply been “influenced” by Stark and that she didn’t make her decisions on her own. When the agents all leave the room however, Jarvis confesses to Carter that the document is fake, but while Peggy is busy berating Jarvis for ruining her chances of release she spots Dr. Ivchenko communicating in Morse code with Dottie across the street (If you recall I mentioned this happening in last weeks episode).

Carter finally decides that the only way to save everyone is if she reveals the whole truth to the other agents about everything which she proceeds to do and to prove that she’d actually telling the truth about Dr. Ivchenko she shows them the vial of Captain America’s blood. Dooley eventually decides to trust Carter and dispatches Sousa and Thompson to find Dottie while he watches over Dr. Ivchenko, but Dr. Ivchenko uses his hypnosis trick on him (by the way, I forgot to mention – at the beginning of this episode there was a somewhat touching scene where Dr. Ivchenko used hypnosis on a critically wounded soldier, allowing the surgeon’s to operate on him without pain. It had nothing to do with the story aside from showing how powerful
his hypnosis is, but it did show that perhaps he’s not as bad as you think he is? … nah, he’s a rat, you’ll see what I mean) and after the other agents leave, gets Dooley to handcuff Peggy and Jarvis in the interrogation room. Across the street, Thompson, Sousa, and two redshirts hunt for Dottie. This is an intense sequence, as on the one hand we want them to find her and thus prove Peggy was right. On the other hand, do four S.S.R. agents stand a chance against Dottie Underwood?

Ivchenko and Dooley then head to the S.S.R.’s labs to steal an item from the collection of Stark weapons. Meanwhile, Sousa confronts Dottie, but she manages to escape, killing another S.S.R. agent in the process. Ivchenko, now in possession of one of Stark’s weapons, hands Dooley an experimental armour vest to wear and escapes the HQ with item number 17 and is picked up by Dottie. When Thompson finally arrives to release Peggy and Jarvis they find a hypnotized Dooley in his office wearing the special vest which Jarvis informs them is another of Stark’s inventions – this time its one that keeps the wearer warm in adverse weather, but unfortunately it doesn’t work as intended and tends to overheat with catastrophic (read explosive) consequences!

Left with little choice, Dooley steals Thompson’s sidearm and in act of singular bravery, shoots out the window of the office, jumping out minutes before the vest explodes shattering the glass in the office, but leaving the agents largely unharmed. Dottie meanwhile appears at a local movie theater with a baby carriage containing a gas cylinder which she turns on before walking out of the theater. The gas quickly has an effect on the audience making them attack each other in a frenzy and to such an extent that they all kill each other!

Review

Well as I’ve already admitted, my pet theories and idea’s have been somewhat washed down the drain here so instead of trying to come up with something else, I’ll just enjoy the rush to the finish line that we’re on with Agent Carter. I’ve mentioned it in previous posts that they aren’t taking this show slow and easy, and boy can you see that in the previous couple of episodes. With this week being the finale for this excellent show prior to the return of Agents of Shield my feelings are definitely mixed. It will be good to get Coulson and the gang back, but I’ll definitely miss my weekly appointments with Agent Carter also!

The most anticipated sequel of the year finally hit North American theaters on Friday May 1st. It had a massive opening day and a very strong opening weekend. Not quite as strong as the first Avengers movie but it easily dominated the box office this weekend.  After watching Avengers 2 I realized how often I kept going back to the first movie so I thought why not directly compare them.

 

Story:

Avengers

While I loved the original Avengers I often wondered why people were so enamored with the story of the first one? perhaps it’s because those type of alien invasion stories didn’t happen much in superhero movies? I enjoyed the story for what it was but I found it very simplistic and even formulaic at times. Another thing I found curious was how many fans embraced the story but were more divisive with DC’s new 52 version of Justice League. The first six issues particularly. Essentially it’s the SAME story that was in the Avengers film. It’s an origin story. You have the team bickering at first and later working together. You’ve got an alien invasion. You’ve got Darkseid, which is essentially DC’s version of Thanos, and you’ve even got a S.H.E.I.L..D. like element there. Even the style in which it was done was similar. Fast paced, tons of action and humor sparkled around. Not complaining, but I just thought it was a funny thing to point out. perhaps Marvel’s execution was better?

Avengers 2

Right of the bat I’ll tell you that the story in this one is much more dense. There is quite a few more arcs hanging in the balance. A lot more characters to juggle as well. This could be a good thing or a bad thing but I felt that for the most part, it succeeded. You also get a lot more individual character moments in this one too. Hulk & Black Widow had their own arc that was interesting at times and random at others. It felt a lot more thought out and it even made you think a bit more as to what was really going on. They also seemed to pose more interesting questions despite throwing a ton of action at you.

Winner: Avengers 2

Action :

Avengers

The action in the first movie was really ahead of its time for comic book movies. It set the bar very high. So much so that when Man Of Steel came out ( Which had awesome action as well) it seemed like we had seen it all before. One thing that really stood out among many things was the awesome panoramic shot of all the Avengers battling the Chitauri I had a smile from ear to ear watching that scene.

Avengers 2

While you could say you’ve seen it all before, the action here just seemed bigger. Is bigger better? Well to give you a very sure answer I would have to watch it again, but it just seemed like it carried more oomph. There are so many highlights to mention. The Hulk vs Iron Man in the Hulkbuster armor was a nerds dream. Much of the Ultron action scenes were effective and entertaining. You even had another panoramic scene right at the start of the movie, which was dare I say, better than the first!

Winner: Tie

The Villain:

Avengers

Loki was a fan favorite for sure. Charming, charismatic, scheming, interesting. Was he menacing or intimidating? I never thought so. In fact he does seem to get his ass handed to him many times in the film. He seems more like a petulant child who gets beat up and then throws a tantrum. Nevertheless I found his story very interesting because we had the pleasure of seeing him before in the Thor movie. The Chitauri were effective enough but I would have loved to have really seen Thanos! Loki just did not feel like an Avengers level villain for me. I enjoyed him but not as the main baddie.

Avengers 2

I’m a big fan of Ultron so the prospect of seeing him brought to life was very appealing.for the most part I was pretty pleased with the end result, save for a few things. aesthetically he looked great. Almost a splitting image of the comics version which is rare for any superhero movie. James Spader continued his impressive run of playing likable villains. Although I guess you could say he plays more of an “anti-hero” on the Blacklist but I digress. Spader played him with enough menace to feel like a genuine threat. Ultron’s story is interesting enough to have kept me hooked as well. I wish they had explored the more psychological side to him but then again the movie was long enough. One thing I did not care for was the fact that this malevolent robot was so carefree and jokey at times. It was very weird and distracting to me. Although he did have a few great one liners that were both villainous and clever. They do tweak his origin slightly ( SPOILER) making Tony Stark his father and not Hank Pym which could ex-plain his sarcastic tone but I don’t know…

Winner: Avengers 2

Characters:

Avengers

I have to say that I have very little complaints in this department. The idea of seeing all these iconic characters together for the first time was awesome but it also posed an interesting question. How could they balance them all? Surprisingly it all fit together and it worked really well. The main guys continued to be the main guys without overexposing one or the other. I found Coulson’s death to be a meaningful one at the time. The chemistry between all the actors was very apparent from the get go and it shined all throughout the movie, making for a team you could root for.

Avengers 2

Sort of a love/hate on this one. The mainstays are all great and they did give them all more substance. Perhaps the Hulk and Black Widow romance was a little out of left field but it allowed the actors to grow the characters through those moments. I could take it or leave it really but I appreciated the effort. The main thing is the addition of new characters. I liked the addition of Vision. In this case they stayed fairly true to the story of Vision minus a few tweaks. One thing I could say is that it was a bit rushed and I wished he had more screen time I thought he looked great but sounded too human. Paul Bettany did play him well though. Now for the “Twins” otherwise known as Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver. I got to say I was not a fan. Particularity of Quicksilver. He felt very much like a throwaway character. Scarlet Witch was better because she proved to be pivotal to many elements of the story. It was cool too see Quicksilver use his speed but It’s a shame you don;t get to see it used in a more dynamic way.Both the actors playing the twins had bad Russian accents but at least they tried which is more than I can say for Scarlet Johansson. ( Don’t get me wrong. ScarJo’s getting better and better.) One big plus was Hawkeye in this one. Much more time on him and thanks to Jeremy Renner, it paid off. Pretty much my favorite character this time around.

Winner: Avengers

Acting:

Avengers

I know what you’re thinking. ” Acting? who cares about acting in a movie like this?” I get your point but acting always matters to me regardless of the movie. I have to feel and believe the performances that are put out there. The task of playing these larger than life heroes is not small. It does take very strong actors to pull off such a fantastical thing. We had already seen almost all of the Avengers in their own movies before Avengers actually came out so we knew what they could bring to the table. Still, they manged to exceed expectations when it came to acting as an ensemble cast. In fact the actors had their best moments when together on screen. A great first attempt. There was no real weak link here.

Avengers 2

By the time Avengers 2 came out I really noticed the actors being more comfortable in their characters skins and knowing how to go where they needed to go. As mentioned previously , having unexpected character moments in the movie added to performances. Particularity Mark Ruffalo. I really liked his portrayal of Dr. Banner/Hulk much more here. He brought out the tortured part of Banner more believably and on a side note, he stopped referring to Hulk as ” the other guy” which became tiresome quickly in the first movie. Jeremy Renner, as previously mentioned was great. Spader was on the ball with Ultron, but the twins failed to floor me. The highlight of that film is the scene in which all the Avengers are just hanging out and shooting the breeze while trying to lift Thor’s hammer. All of the cast shined in that one.

Winner: Avengers 2 ( by a hair)

Special Effects:

Avengers

I’m not an expert by any means but I know what looks real and Hulk looked pretty damn real. Awfully cool too. The difficulty of pulling off such a large scale war that uses super powers is daunting  which makes Avengers all the more impressive visually. Everything, for the most part looked clean and crisp. The movie looked like a cartoon that was just real enough. It was fun and it looked fun thanks to it’s stunning effects.

Avengers 2

Once again everything here seemed bigger. It was certainly more fantastical than it’s predecessor. At times a bit too fantastical. I think that there may have been a slight overuse of C.G.I. that perhaps made it look a bit more artificial. I will say that Hulks facial expressions were far more emotive than the first movie. No doubt a testament to Andy Serkis’s presence on the set. Ultron looked badass and real enough. In his case, perhaps too emotive?  a minor quibble but overall great.

Overall Impact:

Avengers

It’s going to be tough to beat the first Avengers on impact. I mean it was the first time we saw a group of standalone characters together on screen! something no one thought would ever happen fifteen years ago. Remember, there was a time where superhero movies were commercial gambles and audiences didn’t always embrace them. Superman and Batman were the only sure thing and then came X-men which got the ball rolling. Eventually we got Spider-man, Iron Man and the rest but it was Avengers that set the bar for THE SUPERHERO movie. I remember when I saw the trailer and saw them briefly battling all together, I nearly cried. That’s impact.

Avengers 2

My friend put it best. ” The film was missing the magic of the first”. What I think he meant was that the impact was gone. We had already seen them all together and it felt familiar. In a good way, but not the same way as the first Avengers. The problem was that it didn’t really tread on new ground either. Sure it introduced new characters but nothing else really NEW. What it did do was improve on nearly every aspect the first movie threw at us. So I guess what I would say is that Avengers is the legacy movie that has a long lasting impact but that Avengers 2 is the better movie overall.

Tough choices, but go out and see it so you can decide for yourselves!

Well it had to happen sometime I guess … I mean the good thing about the SSR & Agent Carter is that while they are always a couple of steps behind Peggy, they are still playing the same game unlike other shows where the only person that seems to be able to do anything at all is the title character.  This is a refreshing change as I’m sure you would agree!

OK to do a quick recap of the episode, Peggy has determined that the only way Howard Stark could have been robbed is if he was taken advantage of by a woman as he is such a womanizer & after what she saw last week with the Russian training facility she further determines that this woman must be in some way associated with Leviathan is also probably the killer of Kresminsky and quite possibly still maintains some of her patterns from that time – namely sleeping with a shackle/handcuff – and as such should have the scars to match.  Obtaining a list of Howard’s paramours, she sets out with Jarvis in tow to visit each of them & while Jarvis is quite reluctant (it seems Howard’s rejection of these women is through Jarvis) he eventually agrees to speak to them also, which unfortunately means he gets more than one slap from a woman truly scorned!

Simultaneously, as Peggy’s search is progressing Sousa has also been putting the pieces of everything together, and has determined that there is enough information to pull Peggy in as being in some way involved with everything –

  • He identified the marks on her back as matching those from the blonde lady at the club
  • He spoke to the driver of the milk truck that they had captured in episode 1 & verified from him that Peggy was the person that had disarmed/disabled him at the farm
  • He spoke to the homeless man two episodes ago who’d indicated that a lady and a well dressed man (Jarvis) had left the dock

Once he’s able to persuade Dooley of all of these facts a massive “woman”hunt for Carter ensues and they initially try to apprehend her at the Diner where she’s speaking to Jarvis.  Managing to disarm and escape from all of the agents sent in after her, Peggy escapes out the back door but is confronted by Thompson … however before he’s able to apprehend her, she knocks him out also.  When Sousa finally arrives, she persuades him not to shoot and makes her escape back to the boarding facility where she searches in her room for the Captains’ blood.

Prior to the grand hunt however we had Dottie apparently targeting Dooley or the escaped Psychologist but surprise, surprise … this man isn’t what he seems as he manages to speak to Dottie through morse code and tells her that she needs to kill Peggy.  First of all I got a little bored with the Soviet Scientist Ivchenko’s scenes towards the end of the episode. While they ended up building to a rather shocking climax they still felt kind of superfluous once we knew that he was still a Leviathan agent trying to infiltrate the SSR to find a mysterious item that was obviously one of Stark’s bad babies.

As the search continues for Peggy in the boarding hostel, both Thompson and Sousa are obviously frustrated at the fact that Peggy was able to trick them so soundly – Thompson perhaps for the camaraderie that they’d developed while in Europe and Sousa for the friendship he’d shown her since day one, but they’ve also both realized that the reason she was able to trick them is because they underestimated her so badly (pretty much a sign of the times as Agent Carter has taken pains to show to us throughout the series).  But without a doubt the best woman-besting-men moment (and there were quite a few in this episode) was when Angie burst into tears to prevent Agent Thompson from finding Peggy. While it was quite funny by itself, the fact that she did it without a second thought to help her friend well … that gives you a nice warm feeling and something else? … well, Thompson and Sousa had just realized they’d been tricked, but they completely fell for it once again!

Unfortunately before Peggy is able to make her escape though, Dottie is able to casually approach her and gives Peggy a kiss with the “special” knockout lipstick that Peggy had used herself in the 1st Episode and Peggy collapses to the floor.  Dottie pulls out her knife and is about to kill Peggy, but is stopped by the arrival of Thompson and Sousa who march Peggy away in handcuffs.

Review

OK, well things are definitely heating up and you can see that this show is coming to a climax.  Peggy now knows who the Leviathan lady is and while it is somewhat late, it is something that will come in useful and although she’s been captured, she’s not in any way out of the game.  I didn’t love Dr. Ivchenko as a character, but I have to admit that I was surprised with his being a spy – I hadn’t considered that, so kudo’s to you for tricking me! I guess the question though is the kiss … I mean girl on girl in a primetime Disney production?  Well all I can say is that it wasn’t sexual at all and it completely suited the needs of the story … I would say that as a Black Widow – Dottie is trained to use her sexuality as a weapon and she does so without regard for gender. That’s pretty cool.