Podcast - Episode 2 - Canada!

Happy Canada Day! And if you aren't Canadian, happy new comic book day!

It's like i'm looking out my window!

It's like i'm looking out my window!

This week Dave and I discuss the mountain of comic news and gossip that came out in the last week or so, including a director for Black Panther, a new Dr Strange book from Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo, and a DC casting switcharoo for professional dreamboat, Chris Pine. 

We also talk about the first issue of Brian K Vaughan and Steve Skroce's new comic, We Stand on Guard, and discuss our favourite Canadian comic book characters and creators. We barely scratch the surface, really, but it's still a fun talk! Apologies to the zillions of Canadian comic creators who don't get mentioned. We mention, like, three.

Click here to listen, or head on over to iTunes to download/subscribe. New episodes will be posted every Wednesday. At least until America attacks Canada for our water supply.

We are going to be providing detailed posts with links, images, videos and more to supplement the podcast episodes. So here is some bonus material to enhance your listening experience for this week's episode!

First, if you like the song we use as our theme, Wordburglar's "Drawings with Words", check out the video! Look for Dave around the 1:40 mark!

I talk more than anyone needs to about The Covenant this week, since I watched it right before recording this episode. Here is the trailer:

And here is the whole damn movie, if you feel like watching the most ridiculous dialogue ever written tumble from Sebastian Stan's perfect mouth:

And here is a Sebastian Stan gif from the movie that I like:

There is no sex in this movie. I am serious. this is his reaction to being thrown up against a locker by a dude.

There is no sex in this movie. I am serious. this is his reaction to being thrown up against a locker by a dude.

If you want to read the full "article" about Anthony Mackie describing the perfect woman for Chris Evans, it's here. And it's weird.

How often does Anthony Mackie's iPod play Earth Wind and Fire songs in Evans' presence while on "shuffle" mode?

I mention that one of my favourite sports is hate-reading Jeremy Renner's Twitter account. Here are some choice recent douchy tweets.

First he makes light of Chris Evans' inability to fulfil his dreams of fatherhood:

That is seriously cold.

That is seriously cold.

And he makes a cool frat boy joke for Chris Evans' birthday:

Dick?

Dick?

He also posts a lot of pics of himself wearing sunglasses, looking like an ass:

Montreal is too close to my home.

Montreal is too close to my home.

In the Canada section of this episode, we reference a few things that I had written about previously on the blog. Here are some links:

Jeph Loeb writes Wolverine as a Canada-hater

Rating the Super Hunks: Wolverine

Veronica In Canada

Archie gang goes to Canada

Good news! Dave was not imagining the comic where Spider-Man goes to the Calgary Stampede!

woah! It's the first appearance of turbine!!!!

woah! It's the first appearance of turbine!!!!

And here is the official video for Plumtree's song, Scott Pilgrim, which inspired the comic.

I decided not to make a Canadian references bingo card for We Stand on Guard because it's too mean. It would be downright un-Canadian of me, really.

Thanks for listening! Please send us your dreamcasting choices for Guy Gardner. You can hit me up on Twitter @rachellegoguen and Dave is @paskettiwestern

Minor Villain Showcase: PHOTON

A while ago I wrote my second bio for this site. Afterward, I happened upon my first one and realized that both times I had made a point of mentioning obscure 1970s Marvel super-villain Photon as a formative part of my comics-loving childhood, yet somehow had never written about him. So here you go:

Has anyone ever uttered a true statement on a comic book cover?

Has anyone ever uttered a true statement on a comic book cover?

Photon appeared in a two-part Spider-Man/Nova team-up, the setup of which is pretty well-summarized by this splash panel:

The eternal question. Asked from time immemorial

The eternal question. Asked from time immemorial

Here are some facts about Photon's only adventure (to date):

- Rich "Nova" Ryder's scientist uncle Ralph gets murdered.

- Uncle Ralph is a wordplay enthusiast, and so we learn that Peter Parker anagrams to "Kree Trapper". We also get the above photo in which the murderer is revealed to be Jason Dean by dint of tricky calendar arrangement.

- Peter Parker is ostensibly on-hand in order to study Dr Ryder's physics library, but really he's there to team up with Nova. We all know it. 

In unison: "Goodbye fools!"

In unison: "Goodbye fools!"

Here are some things that I thought were true about Photon until I revisited him for the purpose of writing this:

- I thought that he worked for AIM, because there are little AIM goons running around. Also because AIM is totally the sort of organization that would give one of their middle-management guys a laser gun and a code name instead of, say, dental benefits. Turns out that one of the OTHER suspects was an AIM middle-manager, and Photon was just too lazy to do his own hero-killing.

- As a corollary  to the last one: I thought that he, and not the little AIM goons, came up with the above anchor-based death-trap, which has long been one of my favourites if only because it was one of the earliest I ever encountered. Can you blame me? That ASM cover is very misleading.

"Like I was some sort of... bug-man!

"Like I was some sort of... bug-man!

- I misremembered him as wearing the classic big-time super-villain colour combo of purple and green but it turned out to be more of an off-red. A shame, really, because one of the things about Photon that I DID remember correctly was:

No quip, quote, quibble or quiz! No diatribe, debate, discussion or dirge! No fanservice, filibuster...

No quip, quote, quibble or quiz! No diatribe, debate, discussion or dirge! No fanservice, filibuster...

- He may be a two-bit jerk punching above his weight class, but he has the villain-speak DOWN. I can only assume that he spent his evenings leading up to this one just watching and rewatching old footage of the FF confronting Dr Doom and taking notes. This is a guy who has some assumptions about how successful a super-villain he is going to be.

Finally, something that I didn't remember about Photon but that kind of makes me like him more:

- As I said, he didn't turn out to be working for AIM, where about one in three guys who aren't in beekeeper outfits have villainous identities. No, he was a Maggia guy, which makes it much more likely that this is just something that he came up with on his own, that it might be a decent second job - in addition to his main gig as a mobster - to be a goof in a green mask that he probably sewed himself. I have to admit: fairly endearing.

SO, that's the secret behind my affection for generic 70s super-villain Photon: misremembering a lot of details and affection for dumb goofs. Until next time, I remain,

JOHNATHAN

Introducing the Living Between Wednesdays Podcast!

Hey guys! Dave and I have decided to start recording a weekly podcast and dropping it on Wednesdays. I thought my comic book commentary could be enhanced if you could hear my boyish, squawky voice.

We are still working on the logo, and when it's ready we will be posting the episodes on iTunes. For now you can listen here.

The podcast is divided into three main sections: news/gossip, what we're reading/recommending, and a weekly discussion topic. This week we talk about Marvel's Secret Wars event.

Enjoy!

How Has Sgt. Fury Lost His Shirt This Time?

Sgt Nick Fury is the toughest son of a bitch ever. His original comic series, Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos is a Stan Lee/Jack Kirby triumph. The book is everything macho, with the Howling Commandos bravely following their fearless leader into battle after crazy battle. Usually a good percentage of the Commandos are pretty battle ravaged by the end of each issue, and Sgt Fury himself always, always loses his shirt completely. I don't know how many shirts would realistically have been issued to a WWII Sergeant, but Fury is definitely blowing through the U.S. Army's uniform budget.

I would say close to half the time Fury is just ripping his own shirt off and blaming it on battle. Sometimes he has a shirt on in one panel, and then is just wearing tatters in the next. No explanation. None needed.

Let's look at some great moments in shirt loss.

Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #1

Cause of shirt loss: threw a grenade at a tank and got caught in the explosion.

Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #2

Cause of shirt loss: It seems to just kind of disintegrate while he's firing a machine gun.

Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #3

Cause of shirt loss: This is actually how the issue opened, Fury shirtless in the snow. So, who knows?

Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #4

Cause of shirt loss: I would like to say it was related to the lion that shows up in this issue, but as far as I can tell Fury just takes it off at some point off-panel.

Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #5

Cause of shirt loss: Fury voluntarily removes it so he can sword fight Baron Strucker.

NOTE: Fury doesn't actually lose his shirt in #6, even though he was in the desert the whole issue. On to #7!

Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #7

Cause of shirt loss: Almost everyone loses their shirt in this issue, so I think he maybe ripped his open in solidarity. Unclear.

The shirtless shenanigans continue, and eventually he meets Captain America and Bucky:

It just never stops. Sadly, the shirt loss epidemic doesn't spread to Captain America.

Nick Fury possible goes through more shirts than Bruce Banner. It's definitely a close race.

Avengers #4: The Avengers Defrost a Madman and Make Him Leader of Their Team

So we all know the story: Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, falls to his icy death during World War II. The last thing he sees before succumbing to the ocean's frigid grasp is the mid-air explosion that kills his teenage sidekick, Bucky. Two decades later, our hero's frozen body is discovered by The Avengers while they are searching for the Hulk in the Arctic. 

The story was first told in The Avengers #4. It's a classic by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It's also hilarious.

It wasn't exactly the Avengers who found Cap's body first. It was actually a group of Inuit who were worshipping the frozen man as a god, because comics were sensitive about other cultures in the sixties. Namor arrives on the scene and is unimpressed. He breaks up the party and just straight tosses Captain America back into the ocean.

Thankfully the Avengers happen to be bopping around the Arctic in their submarine, and someone (Iron Man?) tells Iron Man to throw the brakes on.

They quickly recognize the costume of Captain America. But is it Captain America? Could it possibly be?

"Let's not be hasty...it could be another man wearing Captain America's costume and holding his shield."

Then Captain America wakes up and flips the fuck out.

"I'll smash you all!"

This is seriously so sad. And it gets sadder.

"He is dead -- he is! And nothing on Earth can change that!" Just wait forty years or so, Cap. I think you are going to be unpleasantly surprised.

I love the quick shift from mourning Bucky to "Anyway, who are you guys?"

Cap, being Cap, is quick to gather himself together and let them know that he is indeed Captain America. And that he hates being Captain America.

He tells them, and the readers, his whole sad story. The Avengers listen, but decide that maybe there's a chance this guy isn't who he says he is. Maybe this guy is some sort of con artist who got himself a Captain America suit, froze himself in a block of ice, and bobbed around the Arctic Ocean waiting for the Avengers to pass by in their submarine! Only one way to make sure!

Is that how Wasp fights? She just stands in front of bad guys and is like "Fight's over, unless you want to hit a girl!" Nice strategy.

So anyway, Cap convinces them by being really good at fighting. If he wasn't awesome at fighting, do you think they would have decided immediately that he wasn't the real McCoy? Or do you think they would have taken into consideration that he was JUST DEFROSTED MINUTES AGO AFTER BEING FROZEN FOR TWO DECADES?!

Wait, wait, hold up. He knew the, ahem, Eskimos were worshipping him? What? How?

The Avengers drive their submarine back to New York City. They disembark first, because Cap is napping after the exhaustion of being defrosted and then forced to fight four Avengers for no reason, and are immediately turned into stone statues by some mysterious villain. Cap exits the sub minutes later, and sees 1960s NYC for the first time.

"And why am I bothering to wear my gloves right now? And how did my shield fit through this hatch? And could someone please take me to a hospital? I've had quite an ordeal."

He sees the Avengers as statues, and assumes they are just statues of the Avengers. Makes sense. Then he checks out some ladies.

The girls are still as lovely as ever. All of them. 

The people of New York start to recognize Captain America, because he's dressed like Captain America. One police officer is reduced to tears. It's pretty great.

Rather than go to a hospital, which he should definitely do, Captain America goes to a hotel that he certainly has no way of paying for. He falls in love with television before he even gets his boots off.

I like to think he spent like five straight days just watching television. We need to talk about the costume he's wearing, because he never takes it off in this comic, not even to sleep. It must be SO GROSS. He was found frozen in the damn ocean wearing it.

You might think he's just going to move forward and become an Avenger and become a well-adjusted citizen of the 1960s. This is not the case, because Lee and Kirby are great storytellers. Instead we get pathos and extremely sexy panels like this one:

That panel might be the best thing I have ever seen. It's certainly the sexiest thing.

Cap's lovesick pining for Bucky reaches extremely creepy levels when poor, unsuspecting Rick Jones enters the room.

Aaahh! Run, Rick! Run for you life!

For real, is this going to happen every time Steve sees a young man? Rick does not even look like Bucky. But try telling Cap that:

Seriously, Rick. Get the hell out of there.

"I don't know who the Hulk is, lad. Sounds like a cool guy, though."

Cap pulls himself together, sort of. Rick awesomely deflects Cap's insane ramblings, and Steve decides he needs to convince Rick that he is not crazy. He does this by becoming a commanding asshole.

"He thinks I'm some sort of madman! Well I'll prove to him that I'm not! By putting on this costume!"

They look at some photos from the docks, find one of their suspect, and Cap goes on the hunt. The next panel pretty much sums up Captain America's lot in life:

Cap eventually finds the menace who turned his new friends into statues, using the most inefficient method ever:

For real, he went around New York City carrying a photo and looking in windows.

Anyway, Captain America takes out some thugs and even gets some quips in while he's doing it.

This is where things get really weird. In a reverse Scooby-doo twist, Cap removes the villain's human mask to reveal a crazy-looking alien. My favourite part of this panel is the reaction of the hired goons:

A bunch of stuff happens. The Avengers stop being statues. They all end up back in the Arctic to fight Namor.

Stan Lee continues to not hide his crush on Captain America:

"If only there had been heroes like the Sub-Mariner in my day! And maybe a man who could fly and ignite himself! And a boy who could do the same! What invading we could have done!"

The Avengers move to attack Namor, but Namor has an "ace in the hole," as he says because that is a term that an Atlantean would probably be familiar with. Namor has captured Rick Jones, and he will kill him. Except Cap isn't going to sit back and let Bucky, er, Rick get killed.

"Make one move towards me, and the boy's life is--WHA?!!" is so funny.

Namor gets sick of this shit pretty quickly. He tosses Captain America aside like a bag of garbage.

Long story short, Cap does find a way to out-maneuver him. The Avengers win the day, and then pop the question to Captain America, who says yes without even hearing the offer.

"Like a man!" Wasp is like "I'm right here, guy!"

And that's the story of how a mentally unstable, severely traumatized Steve Rogers became an Avenger.

"Thanks, five different-shaped Buckys!"

He moves into the Avengers mansion, never receives any treatment of any kind, and a couple of issues later he slaps Rick Jones across the face when he dares to wear Bucky's costume. Because Rick thought that was what Cap wanted. And can you blame him?!

"Get out! GET OUUUUUUTTTT!!!!"

My point is, there's no way the movies could possibly be too heavy handed by comparison when it comes to having Steve Rogers obsessing over Bucky.

Age of Ultron!!!!!

As you may have guessed, Dave and I were more than a little excited for Age of Ultron. We wanted to take a little time after seeing it on the 30th to allow for everyone to see it before we take them to Spoiler City. Also, we both wanted to see it more than once before we recorded our thoughts. I am pleased to announce that we both LOVED IT.

This is the easiest game of MFK ever.*

This is the easiest game of MFK ever.*

There's a lot to unpack with this movie, so I thought it would be easiest to break it down by character, and then leave room for some general thoughts at the end. I could only use screencaps from the trailers for this post, obviously.

Iron Man

Still lovable!

Still lovable!

RG: We've said a number of times in our reviews of the Marvel movies that Tony Stark was a perfectly realized character pretty much from minute one of the first Iron Man movie. We also noted that Iron Man 3 did a lot to make him more human and more heroic. I was worried that this movie would start to shift Tony into a bit of a villain. That his arrogance would take over and he would do something irredeemable that would be built upon in the upcoming Civil War movie. We knew going into Age of Ultron that Stark is responsible for Ultron's existence, so it wouldn't be surprising to have him be at odds with his teammates for this entire movie. I can't tell you how happy I was that it wasn't the case.

DH: It’s one of my few beefs with this movie that, even though Tony seems to have quit being Iron Man at the end of his last movie, he’s still wearing the armour here with no explanation. I guess you could read the conclusion of that movie as more like, he doesn’t need the armour anymore, but is happy to pitch in if his pals need a hand.

RG: I think maybe he doesn’t do solo Iron Man gigs anymore. But he’s now filling his time building a custom Avengers tower for all his friends to hang out in. Because he’s totally sane.

I like that Tony got help from his science bro, Bruce Banner, creating Ultron. Yes, his teammates were rightfully pissed about those two secretly building an evil robot, but Tony admitted his mistake pretty much immediately. It was clear he knew he screwed up, and the fights and arguments between teammates that we saw in the trailers and preview clips turned out to be a lot less tense than they would lead you to believe. Yay!

Pre-coitus.  

Pre-coitus.  

DH: The ad campaign and the publicity leading up to this movie made me feel like it was going to go a lot darker, and probably end with the team splitting up and Tony and Steve hating each other’s guts or something. And that was not the case. I mean, who knows what the future (and Captain America: Civil War) holds, but I left the theater on a high note when I expected things to be much more bleak.

RG: And of course Banner and Stark’s tight friendship led to a truly awesome fight scene between Hulk and Hulkbuster Iron Man. It was not only fun to watch, but it was full of funny Tony quips. I liked that he was trying to chat with Hulk like he’s still Banner.

Pre-coitus.  

Pre-coitus.  

DH: That Hulkbuster fight is really something. There’s a bit where Iron Man is blasting Hulk with a laser from his hand, and it’s making a really cool laser sound, and...I dunno, it just reverts me to childhood somehow. I mean, Iron Man is inside another giant Iron Man armour and he’s blasting a mind-warped Hulk with a crazy hand laser! Who the hell ever thought we’d see stuff like this in a movie?

Also, this scene is one of many where even though a giant superhero battle is taking place, and entire city blocks are being flattened, the safety of innocent civilians is always priority number one for these guys (well, maybe not for the Hulk in this scene). For me, the primary function of superheroes isn’t just about fighting bad guys, or each other--it’s about saving lives, usually in a way that unfortunately isn’t realistic, but then again, that’s what makes it escapism. And I love that the Marvel movies are reclaiming that.

RG: Yes, that was huge. There was so much attention to protecting civilians.

I really loved Tony’s interactions with Steve Rogers in this movie, starting with him calling Captain America on his objection to Tony's swearing. You could tell that there is still a lot of tension between them, but definitely mutual respect as well. I LOVED the wood chopping scene, obviously. Not only because I loved the conversation between them, and I loved fantasizing about having those two men chop wood for me, but also because Tony Stark is not above pitching in and helping with chores. When would that guy have ever chopped wood before?

It made me really happy at the end when Tony, before driving off, asks Cap if he's alright. It was a really nice moment. Cap probably should have returned the question. But we’ve established in these movies that Cap is a bit of a rude, lying car thief.

Also, sort of obscure, but it made me happy when Cap retrieved his shield using some sort of magnet-based Stark technology. I like that Tony is helping his friend out, and that Cap is letting him.

DH: I was reading some Lee/Kirby Cap stories from Tales Of Suspense, and he totally has that magnetic-retrieval gizmo, so it’s canon! Of course, he ditches it almost immediately, saying it throws off his balance or something, but whatever.

RG: Nice!

Tony was very funny in this movie, as usual, and it would have been a great send-off for the character if RDJ had decided to make this his last Marvel movie. But, of course, we’ll be seeing him in at least one more (probably three more, right?).

I'm pretty into farm-casual Tony Stark.

I'm pretty into farm-casual Tony Stark.

DH: Depends on how many dumptrucks of money Marvel drives up to his door, I guess. But yeah, once again Whedon excels at Tony Stark dialogue. I really hope they don’t turn Tony into a monster dickweed in the next movie, like the one he turns into in the Civil War comic series.

RG: I really don’t think they will. No one wants that.

Quick final thought on Tony: His shitty chill lounge party music is inexcusable. Falcon should make him a mix tape.

 

Thor

Goddammit, Renner. Get out of the shot.

Goddammit, Renner. Get out of the shot.

RG: Thor was really delightful in this movie. As we have said before in these reviews, his chill, laid-back attitude works well in a group situation. He's so friendly! And he also looks very funny in any real world situation, which is why I would have loved to have seen a lot more of him at the farm. But he had to fly off to do something very confusing.

I know much has been said on this matter, but seriously what was that scene with the hot tub time machine? He grabs Selvig for...some reason...strips naked and gets into a pool in a cave for...some other reason that I don't need to know about because fine...and, I dunno, watches a bit of Guardians of the Galaxy? Whatever. 

DH: I think the filmmakers knew that a wet, shirtless Chris Hemsworth was something that a lot of moviegoers were hoping to see, and they didn’t care if how we got there made any sense or not. Just the frame or two of it that we saw in the trailer was probably responsible for at least half of the box office gross.

"Aaaah! 'Tis cold!"

"Aaaah! 'Tis cold!"

RG: Well, yes. I was personally more into the many scenes of Steve Rogers strutting around in ludicrously tight shirts. Under Armour is getting their money's worth from that sponsorship deal!

I couldn't even wait until the Captain America section of this thing to start posting pictures of him.  

I couldn't even wait until the Captain America section of this thing to start posting pictures of him.  

RG: As much as I did not care for that cave scene, I loved seeing undercover hoodie Thor on campus.

Thor leaving the farm so abruptly was kind of like “Farm chores, eh? I’m out!” He would have been so helpful! I guess he wouldn’t have been able to fit into clothes borrowed from Hawkeye. (Aside: were we to believe that Steve Rogers was wearing Clint’s borrowed jeans on the farm? Because they should have been very tight and capri-length on him if that were the case).

I'd believe that's Hawkeye's shirt though.

I'd believe that's Hawkeye's shirt though.

DH: It would have been really funny to see Thor trying to squeeze into Clint’s clothes.

RG: A musical montage of Thor trying to fit into Clint’s clothes!!!

Thor stepping on that Lego and then trying to hide the damage was great. I especially liked that scene because neither Thor nor Captain America would know what Lego is or that it's ok to break it.

I loved Thor at the party, especially trying to one-up Tony when they were talking about their (absent) girlfriends. He ends the conversation by saying “Jane is better,” and that’s just such a Thor thing to say. He doesn’t have much of a filter. Also loved that he brought hardcore Asgardian alcohol to the party so Captain America could get his drink on. I wish I wish I wish we could have seen drunk Steve. Although we saw plenty of drunk Chris Evans on that press tour, so I guess I can imagine how it would have gone.

Thor’s face when Captain America was almost able to lift Mjolnir was so great. And his relief when he couldn’t lift it! Thor actually had a lot of the great comedic moments in this movie.

Looks like Thor took his annual shower before this party. 

Looks like Thor took his annual shower before this party. 

RG: I loved all of Thor’s fight scenes. He and Captain America both had some really amazing fighting moves in this movie, and I loved it when they fought together, especially when he hits Cap's shield like a baseball with his hammer! They've been practicing!  I would love to see a lot more of Thor palling around with Captain America.

"So...Blackhat, huh?" 

"So...Blackhat, huh?" 

DH: “Look, they’re lining up!” “Well, they’re excited.” Holy crap, did I love that opening raid on the Hydra base. I think the way we just jumped right in mid-battle was great, especially how we were sort of following them, trying to keep up, when they were all introduced. The opening action scene really sets the James Bond tone of this thing, what with all the globe-trotting that follows as well.

RG: As you said to me, it makes you kind of sad when they allude to the other raids that we missed. I hate that we can’t see every second of their lives!

Thor bringing Vision to life, Frankenstein-style with lightning, and then vouching for him immediately was awesome. Thor was a pretty cool dude in this movie when he wasn’t abruptly leaving.

DH: I can’t remember if Vision has ever even tried to lift Mjolinir in the comics. But it made for a good storytelling shortcut here--we know we can trust this guy instantly--and it got a HUGE reaction on opening night with all the comic nerds in the audience. That whole scene is really cool, with the little mini-battle amongst the Avengers, then Thor coming in and you don’t know what side he’s on at first--is he trying to destroy the Vision, or bring him to life? We’ll get into it more below when we discuss Vision in greater detail, but he was one of my favourite parts of the movie.


Black Widow

The girl one!

The girl one!

RG: Black Widow was awesome in this movie and I won’t hear otherwise. I think Whedon went out of his way to give her a lot of great scenes, awesome action, and intriguing character elements to encourage Marvel to finally make a Black Widow movie. A lesser director would have reduced her role a lot in this movie, given that she was pregnant during filming.

DH: I remember after the first time we saw it, I was a bit disappointed that she, the only female team member at that point, got taken hostage by Ultron. But then someone we were with--you, maybe?--reminded me that Whedon had to rewrite parts of the script to accommodate her pregnancy, and that made me feel a lot better about it. Also, she was only held captive for, like, five minutes of screen time, and I never felt like she was helpless.

RG: She was never helpless. She didn't even seem worried. And then she did some cool spy shit to get Hawkeye's attention. She's got this.

She jumps out of a plane on a goddamn motorcycle, which rules, and she just generally kicked so much ass. She was funny, she was great with Hawkeye’s kids, she pushed Banner into a pit after kissing him to make him Hulk out...she’s the best.

Not action figure worthy!

Not action figure worthy!

RG: My only beef with Widow in this movie was that the blue glowing lights on her costume made no sense. Not very stealthy.

I liked the romance between her and Banner, but what I really liked was her very close friendship with Hawkeye. Clint's big reveal showed how close he and Natasha really are. So much more interesting than just a romantic or casual sex relationship between them! I liked when she referred to Clint as her best friend.

I also love her close friendship with Captain America. There were a few nice little moments in this movie to show that they have grown closer since Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

DH: Black Widow is so good in these movies, and the fact that she has these non-sexual relationships with her teammates, like Cap and Hawkeye, is pretty awesome. As you said, way more interesting. And I think her and Bruce are a strange fit, one that has no comic precedent, but it works.

Bruce Banner: boyfriend material.

Bruce Banner: boyfriend material.

RG: I think Banner is one of the few characters Widow hasn't hooked up with in the comics. That may have been another reason Whedon wanted to make it happen.

There was something that bothered me about various characters in this movie teasing or commenting on Natasha and Bruce. I just feel like Natasha would be a little more discreet than to invite that much attention. She openly flirts with Bruce at the bar in the party scene, walks away, and instantly creepy Captain America is there to be all “Sooooooo...Natasha is pretty hot for you, huh?” Was he watching the whole thing? Someone should have invited Agent 13 to this party to keep him occupied.

I know people were reading all sorts of anti-feminist things into her reveal to Bruce Banner that she can’t have children, but I really think she was just letting him know that he needs to come up with a better reason than ‘we can never have children’ to deny himself a relationship with her. She almost said it with a shrug. It’s a bleak and upsetting thing that was done to her, but she’s aware that she is among people who all have lots of messed up stuff in their lives. She is reminding Bruce that he is not the only monster among them.

DH: There’s a really good podcast at Empire Online where Whedon talks about that scene in the first movie, where they first meet, when he pushes that crib and says “I don’t every time get what I want”, which of course was written and filmed at a time when they had no idea where their story would go. The crib being there wasn’t even scripted, it was just part of the set decoration. But that detail is going to make revisiting that movie, after the conversation the two of them have about children in this movie, pretty interesting. It sounds like Whedon developed this thread mostly based on the chemistry of the two actors, which was a good impulse to follow.

RG: Well they are the two who are slumming it in these movies.

The movie ends with Black Widow as one of the leaders of the Avengers! She rules!

 

Hulk

"Listen, Hulk thinks you're a great girl, but Hulk is not looking for a committed relationship right now!"

"Listen, Hulk thinks you're a great girl, but Hulk is not looking for a committed relationship right now!"

DH: Once again, these movies get the Hulk right in a way that his solo movies never quite did. Ruffalo is perfect as the haunted, tormented Banner, especially after the fight in Johannesburg. And the effects used to bring Hulk to life just get better and better. I wonder if we’ll ever get to see what Wanda showed him to make him go into an advanced state of Hulkamania (my girlfriend Hillary’s term for it)?

RG: She showed him the Batman vs Superman trailer. Zing!

DH: I also wonder where we’ll next see Hulk--along with Thor, he’s one of the only cast members who doesn’t seem to be popping up in Captain America: Civil War next year. My guess is he’ll get a big moment in Avengers: Infinity War Part II. But I do like the idea of him just flying off and seeing where that Quinjet takes him. Apparently Marvel doesn’t have the rights to do a solo Hulk movie--I imagine the deal is similar to what they have now with Sony and Spider-man--but he works best as a supporting character in these movies anyway.

RG: I’m kind of fine with not having a solo Hulk movie, even though I love Ruffalo as Hulk. I basically don’t want anyone else to get a solo movie until Black Widow gets one.

I’m a big fan of the Science Bros montage when they are working to create Ultron in this movie. I am actually pretty surprised we didn’t hear the words ‘science bros’ spoken at all. I figured they’d throw that shout-out to the fandom in there. I do really like Bruce and Tony’s friendship a lot. And I like that Banner is an expert in...all science?

DH: Was it “bio-organics” that Tony said Banner was a genius at? Just say “science," Tony. Stop making shit up.

"I'm a doctor, dammit! Not a bio-organicist!"

"I'm a doctor, dammit! Not a bio-organicist!"

RG: I thought the ‘lullaby’ thing with Widow was cool, and it establishes that they would have spent a lot of time together building trust while working on that. It adds more weight to the love story. Poor Bruce, though. He goes from ‘It’s fun to flirt with Natasha’ to ‘I can’t possibly be in a relationship with anyone’ to ‘Sure, what the hell? Let’s run away together’ to ‘Scratch that, I’m leaving on a jet plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again’ in this movie.

That final jet plane scene with Hulk, by the way? Nice nod to the end of Captain America: The First Avenger.

DH: I didn’t even pick up on that! Good catch.

RG: One problem I did have with the Bruce/Natasha love story was how it ignores Betty Ross. I mean, if Banner could be in a relationship, wouldn’t it be with Betty? As I said in our review of The Incredible Hulk, I think the Bruce/Betty romance was the strongest of any two characters in any of these movies. She crazy loves him! Maybe Banner is going to check up on her in that plane.


 

Captain America

I mean, look at this guy. How am I supposed to write captions here?

I mean, look at this guy. How am I supposed to write captions here?

DH: Cap has really come into his own as the solid foundation for these movies--an unswerving leader, a moral center, and a kick-ass fighting machine. But he’s really funny, too! “I miss the days when the weirdest thing to come out of science was me”, etc.

RG: Cap can really come into MY own as a solid founda...sorry. Continue.

DH: I can’t believe I’m living in a world where I can go to the movies and see one of my favourite comic characters so perfectly realized as a big-screen action hero. It can’t have been easy to make this character not seem totally foolish to a moviegoing audience, but they’ve structured his arc so well. A lot of credit is due to Chris Evans, obviously. This might be my favourite movie translation of a comic hero since Christopher Reeve’s Superman.

Why haven't I seen this in IMAX yet, seriously?

Why haven't I seen this in IMAX yet, seriously?

RG: You know I agree with all of that. I just...I love him so much. I went into this movie like “Ohmygod, he’s going to say things I haven’t heard him say before!!!”

There was some pretty major character stuff for Cap in this movie. He is, as you said, established early on as the team’s fearless leader (loved the Captain America speeches in this movie, by the way), but also as someone who is still an outsider who doesn’t quite know what his place is in this world beyond being a hero. He seemed downright miserable at Hawkeye’s house. He actually looks angry when he sees Hawkeye’s kids. Cap has no poker face.

I love the weird parallel between Cap and Bruce in this shot.  

I love the weird parallel between Cap and Bruce in this shot.  

DH: Yep, great inspirational Cap speeches. “If ya get hurt, hurt ‘em back. If ya get killed...walk it off.” Sean Connery in The Untouchables wishes he had something that badass to say to Kevin Costner.

RG: When Cap angrily busts that log into smithereens during the WOOD CHOPPING SCENE, I’m guessing it probably caused audiences to shriek with delight and awe worldwide. It was a great moment.

Oscar clip.

Oscar clip.

RG: I like these hints of the deep frustration and sadness that Steve is carrying inside him. He never lets it  interfere with his job, but anytime he’s not fighting he is heartbreakingly forlorn.

Forlorn, but with really amazing eyelashes. I mean, really. Just extraordinary.  

Forlorn, but with really amazing eyelashes. I mean, really. Just extraordinary.  

RG: I do think he is happy with where he is at the end of the movie. I think he’s being sincere when he tells Tony that he isn’t the same person he used to be, and no longer dreams of a family and a house. Captain America’s destiny isn’t to get married and have kids. He’s a soldier and a leader and a hero and an icon and the Avengers are his family. He’ll probably get a lot more respect and less teasing from this new crop of Avengers. I think it’s a turning point for him. I hope so, anyway.

He would probably like to get laid, though. His virginity remains intact by the end of this movie, as far as I’m concerned. As far as Chris Evans is concerned, too.

Oh God, I totally predicted that we would see a Scarlet Witch-induced nightmare flashback scenario where Steve would finally have that dance with Peggy, and I also predicted that I would cry and cry and cry. I did not cry, because the flashback was short and weird, but still. Sad! I feel like Bucky should have been in that flashback too, since he’s probably on Steve’s mind a lot these days. I also just think we should slot Sebastian Stan into every movie.

DH: Cap’s costume in this movie is a nice combination of everything that worked about his other uniforms in the previous films And the running gag about his disapproval of Tony’s salty language is very funny.

RG: That was great. Would have loved it if Cap had let out a crazy string of profanity, but “son of a bitch” worked too. Either way, loved that we got to share in one of the Avengers’ inside jokes. I also like that Thor doesn’t make fun of him. Thor’s a good dude.

I love the costume. I feel like the stylists on these movies need to cool it with the sideburns, though. Like, are they trying to see how long they can make them before we object. I object! He looked perfect in the first movie! Has he been spending the past few years watching 90210 reruns?

As I mentioned before, Cap’s fighting moves were awesome in this movie. It’s pretty damn awesome when he throws his motorcycle at that jeep. I will say, though, that I think he has intentionally trashed a motorcycle in at least three of these movies. You’d think a guy who grew up during the Depression wouldn’t treat motorcycles as disposable objects.

 

Hawkeye

This fucking guy.

This fucking guy.

DH: My love of Hawkeye is pretty well-documented at this point, and I was happy to see him finally get a personality and a backstory (even if it isn’t from the comics--I guess it’s sort of from the Ultimate comics, but the less said about those, the better). I did feel like Jeremy Renner was a bit old to play this character, who is much more of a young punk in the comics. But now, with him being a secret family man, it has been back-engineered to make sense. He’s got some great fighting moves in this film, and I love his big inspirational speech to Wanda during the final battle. I’m really into the idea of Hawkeye as just this working-class dude. Everyone else is a hero for these deeply personal reasons, but he’s just a guy doing his job.

RG: I did not see the family man Hawkeye reveal coming at all. I was THRILLED! Somehow Hawkeye became the dreamiest Avenger! Fighting bad guys while making plans to remodel the dining room?! Forget about it!

I loved everything about those farmhouse scenes. I could have used another three hours of farmhouse.

DH: People love to crap on Hawkeye because he’s just a guy with a bow and arrow, but that’s one of the reasons I love him. He’s on a team with super-soldiers, mutants, monsters, and gods, and he is just a guy with a bow and arrow. So what does that tell you? Just how goddamn good does he have to be with a bow and arrow to stand amongst these guys? That, to me, is really cool. And he finally emerged as an interesting guy on the big screen as well.

Fine, here's another picture of Hawkeye.

Fine, here's another picture of Hawkeye.

RG: He deserves to be there every bit as much as Black Widow. She doesn’t have super powers either. Neither does Tony, really. Or Falcon, or War Machine...they all just have weapons that they are good at using. So what is the damn difference? I don’t think the question is whether Hawkeye deserves to be an Avenger, it’s if Jeremy Renner deserves to be an Avenger. And I think the answer to that question is NO. But he was good in this movie. Whatever.

His "family man" reveal makes his comments about Black Widow being a whore even more confusing! What is wrong with this idiot?!

I liked that Hawkeye was questioning his contribution to the team a bit in this movie, and that his wife pointed out how important he is to making them work as a team. All of this self-doubt kind of came together in that rousing speech to Scarlet Witch, which I really loved (“The city is flying...the city is flying”).

His costume was cool in this movie.

DH: Yes, but get that guy some headgear! Preferably with a big “H” on it.

 

And The Rest...

 

Vision

This guy is going to be fun at future Avengers parties.

This guy is going to be fun at future Avengers parties.

DH: I wasn’t really sure how Vision would work out here. His origin is a bit convoluted, and a real departure in some ways from the comic--yes, he’s a creation of Ultron, like in the comic, but he’s also J.A.R.V.I.S., and he’s got the Mind Gem...it’s a lot to take in, but it works incredibly well and I think a lot of the credit must go to Paul Bettany’s performance. He has just a cool, calm, serene attitude that is really interesting. It also helps that it’s Paul Bettany in costume onscreen, and not a CGI effect. I love his final scene with Ultron so much, where Ultron says, “They’re doomed (‘they’ being humanity)”, and Vision responds that yes, they are, but that a thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts, and that he and Ultron are privileged to be among them. And, like everyone else, he has some really funny lines, like when Ultron calls him naive and he says, “Well, I was born yesterday”. I can’t wait to see what else they do with Vision in future movies.

RG: Vision was so, so great. I mean, really. I’m not gonna lie, when I first heard Vision was going to be introduced in this movie, I thought it was a weird choice. Vision is a great character that shouldn’t work at all in a movie like this, but man!

That conversation between Vision and Ultron at the end was THE BEST.

 

The Twins

Live fast, die young.

Live fast, die young.

RG: Loved what a badass Scarlet Witch is. Looking forward to seeing more of her. Loved Quicksilver more than I expected to. Really enjoyed his tracksuit Eurotrash look. Not too sad we won’t see more of him. He had a good death. As much as I dislike Renner, I’m glad Hawkeye wasn’t the one who died.

DH: I thought Quicksilver was well-used--I think I’m the only person on the planet who liked this iteration of him more than the one we saw in X-Men: Days Of Future Past--but his death here meant something, and I wouldn’t want them to cheapen it by bringing him back or saying that he somehow survived.

I also really dug Scarlet Witch. She’s kind of a problematic character in the comics because her powers are so poorly defined--or, at least, defined occasionally, then redefined by the next Avengers scripter--but here they basically just made her into another Phoenix, which is fine. I like her and Pietro’s fakey Russian (I guess?) accents, and I also like how creepy she was in the early scenes. She was sort of skittering around like Samara from The Ring or something, and it was pretty cool.

 

Ultron

Oddly sexy.

Oddly sexy.

RG: The trailers did a good job of concealing how funny Ultron is. Seriously, a lot of the big laughs are Ultron lines. My personal favourite: “I can’t physically throw up in my mouth…” after he describes Captain America. He’s a Whedon villain through and through.

Ultron also looks amazing. And James Spader is so great (and a little sexy? Am I wrong? Sexy Ultron?). When Ultron is first coming to “life,” his dialogue with J.A.R.V.I.S. is so great. Normally a robot villain is sort of meh for me, but he was awesome. The Lil’ Ultrons were super easy to kill, though. I probably could have taken a dozen or so out myself.

DH: Throughout the movie, I was not always feeling Ultron’s motivations. The whole “computer programmed to end war decides he needs to end humanity” idea is pretty played out, but that end scene with Vision really brought it full circle and redeemed it for me. Lots of hilarious one-liners. This wouldn’t be a Joss Whedon movie if he didn’t have a funny villain. My favourite was probably when he ripped off Ulysses Klaw’s arm and was like, “Oh, sorry! I’m sure that’ll be fine.”

Ultron’s lips were kinda weird, though. He looked a bit like Audrey Two from Little Shop Of Horrors.

 

Falcon

RG: We got a little taste of Falcon in this movie. I really can’t wait to see more of him. I was glad he was invited to the party (and that he mentioned Cap and his ‘missing person case’). I liked seeing Steve and Sam playing pool at the party. I just love superheroes hanging out doing friend things!

DH: I was pretty happy to see him on the team at the end, with a lot more red in his costume. I guess they probably had to distinguish his costume’s colour scheme from War Machine’s a bit more? And seeing it again this weekend (your second time, my third!), I noticed just how stoked he looks to be an Avenger. I don’t know if that’s Anthony Mackie or Sam Wilson who’s excited about it, but I suspect it’s a bit of both.

 

War Machine

RG: Don Cheadle stops by to steal every scene he’s in. I’m very excited to see him join the Avengers team. I loved him telling that same story to everyone at the party, and his look of satisfaction when people laughed at it. Also, his reaction to Vision phasing through robots in the final battle was hilarious.

DH: If Tony’s retired, shouldn’t Rhodey just be Iron Man now? I’d be fine with that. Cap is probably pretty happy to have some more army guys on his team now.

 

Nick Fury

I really like Fury's button-up sweater.

I really like Fury's button-up sweater.

RG: I don’t know why Laura Barton was so stealthy when she told Tony that their tractor needed fixing as a way to lure Tony into the barn for a secret Fury meeting. I mean, Cap knows Fury is alive. And then Fury was just hanging out with everyone in the farmhouse later. So why the secret ops? Eh, whatever. It was cute.

I was trying to figure out who would have known that Fury was even still alive. Maybe all of them? Thor probably didn’t even know that he died, or returned, or was on that helicarrier at the end. I don’t feel like Thor gets filled in on a lot of things. He’s probably also like “what’s Hydra?”

DH: “What’s a robot? What are nuclear codes?” Poor dope.

RG: Here’s a question: when did Fury decide to start wearing his eyepatch again? Didn’t he burn it at the end of Winter Soldier? I guess he and Stark had coffee sometime between this movie and that one and decided to go back to their eyepatch and Iron Man suit, respectively.

DH: He probably just realized that his crazy scars and dead eye are not really any less conspicuous than his eyepatch.

 

Agent Hill

RG: I just want to say that Agent Hill has been in three movies now. Time for some character development. I doubt we’ll see it in Civil War, since there are already about 97 heroes in that movie.

Say...Are Agent Hill and Rhodes dating? If so, I am pro THAT!

DH: Yeah, they were kinda hanging out at the party, weren’t they? I like that idea.

 

Random Thoughts:

RG: I was really happy to see our ‘Cap’s orders’ friend from Winter Soldier working for S.H.I.E.L.D. on the helicarrier at the end. He got promoted!

DH: I love that guy!

RG: I loved seeing the vintage Captain America war propaganda posters in the background on the wall in the Avengers Tower. Tony would have put those up to annoy Steve.

Loved the petty debate between Cap, Thor and Iron Man at the end about whether or not Vision being able to lift Thor’s hammer means he’s worthy. “You put the hammer in an elevator, the elevator’s not worthy.” Cap is comparing Vision to an elevator!

DH: It reminded me of the conversation in Gremlins 2 about the rules governing Mogwai/Gremlin transformations, and how the whole not feeding them after midnight would be affected by time-zone changes, etc. What I’m saying is that this and Gremlins 2 are basically the same movie.

RG: Kinda bummed that we didn’t get to see the sleeping arrangements at the Barton farm. Maybe in the director’s cut (which is hopefully nothing but extra farm footage). Did Fury spend the night too? Did they actually sleep there? I’m confused about the farm timeline.

I liked the scene at the party where Tony and Thor are explaining why Jane Foster and Pepper Potts aren’t there. But seriously I wish Jane was played by a lesser movie star so we could see more of that character.

Really excited about the new Avengers facility in upstate New York (away from civilians!). Looking forward to seeing more of it in Civil War.

DH: I love that the movie ends with a significant lineup change--pretty standard Avengers stuff, you gotta shake it up every few adventures. I also think it’s pretty cool that Captain America is now the sole white male Avenger, on the team with two women, two African-American guys, and a robot.

All your favourites! 

All your favourites! 

RG: This movie was a real gift to superhero fans. I have nothing but gratitude for everyone involved with the making of these Marvel movies. The anticipation for this movie kept me buzzing for months before its release, and I was ecstatic when I finally watched it. And they’ve already started filming Captain America: Civil War, which I seriously can’t wait for. As much as I love an Avengers movie, I really love a Cap-centric movie. And a Cap-centric movie that sees the return of Bucky, plus more Falcon and Black Widow? Yes, please.

In conclusion, more movie scenes with the Avengers sitting around drinking and eating Chinese take-out, please!!!

Cap drinks beer just for the taste. That's cute.

Cap drinks beer just for the taste. That's cute.

*Marry Cap, fuck Tony, kill Bruce (put him out of his misery). Alternate: Marry Ruffalo, fuck Evans, kill Downey (he's had a good run).