MCU: The End
I scraped 860 words that begin a long critique of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Scores of comic panels were pulled for examples and research. However, after seeing Thor: Love and Thunder I decided to go into a different direction.
Go read the comics; these movies are garbage.
I was completely enchanted by the MCU ten years ago. Because of that, I began reading the Marvel comics. It is absolutely clear that the movies do not understand why the comics work. Instead of writing a long winded take down of these boring bad movies I will share some of my favorite runs of Marvel comics (that the MCU adapted recently) and why you should read them.
Ms. Marvel blew me away when I first read it. I have always been a fan of Spider-Man and the daily pain that is being Peter Parker. Ms. Marvel takes that heart and tells a new perspective on that story. Kamala Khan is immediately charming. Her burning desire to become a superhero is infectious. What complicates this want is her identity. Kamala wants to be like Captain Marvel. Not only because she is a hero but because she is the ideal American. White, blonde, and big breasted with high high heels. Kamala hates her own skin.
The first run of Ms. Marvel deals with this inner turmoil. Once she gains her ability to polymorph, “embiggen”, she falls into the gulf of expectations meeting reality. Her hero worship came from a place of internalized racism. As she figures out her powers she realizes that her strength comes from being her authentic self.
G. Willow Wilson weaves a wonderful tale of religion, community, and family. The story is heartwarming and the characterizations of Kamala, her friends, and family are strong. Every interaction with her friends contains juicy morsels of teen drama. Due to the nature of Kamala’s powers, battle can resolve in chaotic and fun ways.
Adrian Alphone drives the story of Ms. Marvel with his art. The characters’ proportions are exaggerated and their expressions match. Alphone knows when to shorthand character features. When the comedy strikes, the characters’ looks enhance the situation. In the quiet moments Alphone draws the characters with empathy and care. Ian Herring colors the panels with browns, blues and yellows. The iconic red sash takes on a sacred otherworldly feeling with its vibrant color. The art is so quintessential to Ms. Marvel that it feels weird when I see her in different styles.
If you are new to Marvel comics read this series ASAP.
Start with: Ms. Marvel #1–19 for the original run.
The Mighty Thor is just cool. She uses Mjölnir in ways Thor never could. The hammer flies and turns nailing enemies in wide arcs. Thor Odinson struggles with being unworthy of the hammer. Asgardia is thrown into chaos when Odin reappears with his evil brother Cul in tow. Meanwhile, Malekith, the king of the Dark Elves, is inciting incidents over the Ten Realms to start the War of the Realms.
There are a lot of moving pieces in this series but it never loses focus on Dr. Jane Foster as The Mighty Thor. Jane Foster struggles with her footing as a god. She tries to copy their mannerisms and their fighting styles. However, as the series progresses her Jane Foster life melds with her as Thor. She keeps her identity a secret from everyone. Mjölnir gives her the ability of a god but at a cost. The reader is constantly reminded that being Thor is killing her. But, Jane pushes on regardless of the damage. Her superpower isn’t being worthy but it’s her resilience.
There is only one complaint I have with the series. The comics try too hard to be “feminist” that they veer into pop feminism. Asgardia is ruled by the All-Mother Freya until Odin comes back. The arguments between the two boils down to, “men cause issues while women solve them”. However, this argument lands because Odin is a terrible ruler, father, and god. If Odin wasn’t so evil throughout his comic history this would not work. There is a “girl power” scene that MCU movie Endgame blatantly ripped off, but it works better in the comics because most of the women are characters we have seen throughout the run. Still wondering why Jean Grey shows up though, that one was very strange.
Jason Aaron’s writing is pretty solid but the art by Russell Dauterman is mythical. The art is grounded but it embraces the fantasy of the realms. The rainbow bridge always looks stunning. The Mighty Thor costume is perfect. The Norse monsters and creatures nail the menacing aura. When Mjölnir flies I feel it.
Start with: Thor (2014) #1 or Mighty Thor (2015) #1
I never liked Hawkeye. My first exposure was Jeremy Runner sleepwalking through his performance as Hawkeye in the movies. He is just a bowman with zero super powers next to gods and mega men. Matt Fraction’s run on Hawkeye acknowledges this point and says, “exactly that is why Hawkeye is fascinating.”
Hawkeye sucks. Not only as a superhero but as a person. Clint is a total asshole. He refuses help and is bullheaded. Clint will burn a bridge without thinking about crossing it.
But Clint is not the only Hawkeye in the run. Kate Bishop is the co-lead with Clint. She keeps people at a distance but does this with a “charming” personality. At every moment she uses wit and confidence as emotional barriers. She doesn’t take any situation seriously because she believes confidence will make up for a lack of ability. Her carefree attitude puts herself and others in danger. Both Clint and Kate suffer from pushing people away but the contrast is compelling to read.
The breakout star is Lucky, the Pizza Dog. At first it seems Lucky is there to bring levity in the story. However, Lucky provides emotional support for the Hawkeyes. He breaks down their armor and opens them up to love. Be on the lookout for the issue told from Lucky’s point of view. It’s a treat.
David Aja’s art looks simplistic at a glance. But, thanks to the wonderful coloring by Matt Hollingsworth the art pops. The Hawkeyes’ shade of purple is perfect for the characters. Blues, blacks and reds can overwhelm panels to reflect the mood of a situation. Aja renders Kate’s shallow bubbly attitude beautifully. Clint is perfectly drawn grizzled and tried.
The only thing holding Hawkeye back is some of the humor. But for the most part, the comic is funny. The Russian Tracksuit Mafia are fun villains who constantly say “bro” as conversation filler.
Hawkeye made me care about a character I had zero feelings for. I had a blast reading this recontextualization of Clint. It is also a great start if you want to learn more about Kate.
Start with: Hawkeye (2012) #1
The MCU used to be special to me. So I understand the resistance to abandon it. But, if the MCU mangles these iconic stories into a subpar product why even bother? What is the point of holding on? After a dedicated decade I am finally done caring about these shallow stories. There is nothing to be gained intellectually even from critiquing it. This is my end with the MCU.