Hey everybody,
It’s Christmas Eve, so I thought I’d share my rambling thoughts on Hawkeye, the Disney+ miniseries that attempts to get Clint Barton home in time for Christmas, while confronting the ghosts of his past as the Ronin.

We mainly follow Kate Bishop, who as a young girl was rescued during the Chitauri attack on New York by Barton, and has ever since aspired to be like him. While Kate and her mother Eleanor attend a charity auction gala, Kate discovers a secret auction in the basement where items recovered from the Avengers Compound are offered for sale. The auction is interrupted by the Tracksuit Mafia, who make off with a watch; Kate manages to defeat the mafia while wearing the Ronin suit, though later on they catch up with her. After seeing a news report of the Ronin’s return, Barton rescues Kate but her apartment catches on fire, so they have to abandon the suit.

The return of the Ronin has prompted the Tracksuit Mafia to hunt for Barton at the instigation of their boss, Maya Lopez. Barton uncovers links to Eleanor Bishop’s fiancé and the Mafia, and discovers that Lopez is after the Ronin because he killed her father. Barton attempts to recover the watch from Lopez but is apprehended by a masked assailant who is revealed to be Yelena Belova. Yelena later catches up with Kate and explains her mission to kill Barton. She further reveals that she has been hired by Eleanor, who is working with Lopez’ “uncle”, who is revealed to be the Kingpin.

As events come to a head, Barton is able to convince Yelena that he and Natasha were friends, and she sacrificed herself for the whole universe. Eleanor is arrested, and Kate is able to incapacitate Kingpin using trick arrows, though he is able to escape. Lopez confronts him after learning he engineered her father’s murder, and a gunshot is heard. Meanwhile, Barton brings Kate along as he is reunited with his family for Christmas.

I’ve missed a great deal of the twists and turns of plot out here, because this is quite a hefty storyline, but it’s also really great – in fact, I would hesitate to say it is one of the best Disney+ Marvel shows I’ve seen so far! I’m not particularly a Hawkeye fan, but I do believe he was always somewhat relegated to a side role in the Avengers movies, which is a shame when you consider the fact he used to actually lead the West Coast Avengers back in the day. It was nice to see him in his own show where, while he’s not necessarily front and centre all the time, he passes on the mantle to Kate Bishop. I know a lot of the internet doesn’t seem to like the show because of her, but a lot of the internet seems to hate on Marvel shows simply because they include significant female roles. Which is just stupid.

There are so many tie-ins to the Defenders in this show, I think that’s a major part of why I enjoyed this one so much. The big one, of course, is Kingpin, played by Vincent d’Onofrio, who created the role in the Netflix Daredevil series. I am a very big Daredevil fan, so was a big fan of this. Maya Lopez is Echo, a fairly complex superhero who is slated to get her own Disney+ series in 2023, which I am very excited about! I’ve read there are hints that Laura Barton, who owns the watch that was a catalyst for so much of the action throughout the series, as well as suddenly steps up almost as a partner to her husband’s superhero persona at times, might actually be the SHIELD agent Mockingbird, which could be really quite something if that is used in the future. 

Overall, it’s a very different type of Marvel show, with a lot of the New York high society glitz undercut with the organised crime underbelly of the city. I really enjoyed it, perhaps in part because I didn’t expect very much from it. Like I said, I wouldn’t call myself a Hawkeye fan, but the show turned out so well that I was really impressed!

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Hey everybody,
It was my birthday last weekend, and I sat down to watch the middle Spider-Man film, Far From Home, which I’d picked up a while ago. I’m not a huge Spider-Man fan, it has to be said, but I’m sure it was about twelve months ago that we watched the last one, and we’ve recently been watching a bunch of Marvel stuff, so I was somewhat in the mood for it.

The film picks up after Endgame, and does deal with some more of the fallout from The Snap in interesting ways – like, part of Peter’s class disappeared while the other part aged five years, and so on. It’s interesting to see how the writers give us these little bits and pieces, though the tone is much lighter than, say, Falcon & Winter Soldier, where there are more serious issues raised with the repatriation council, etc. At the end of term, Peter and his class are going to Europe so arrive in Venice, where coincidentally there is a huge elemental incursion by some kind of water-being. A masked, caped superhero flies in to dissipate the elemental, and is revealed to be working with Nick Fury and what is left of SHIELD. He later tells Peter that his name is Quentin Beck, and he has been chasing down these elementals across the world. After the Italian press dub him “l’uomo del misterio”, he adopts the name Mysterio and explains that there are elemental creatures that have rampaged through his universe, so he has come to Earth-616 to pursue them.

The next elemental attack is predicted for Prague, but Peter’s class is initially headed for Paris. Fury manages to reroute them to the Czech Republic, so that Peter can help Mysterio to deal with the attack. Along the way, Peter is given a pair of glasses bequeathed to him by Tony Stark, with the EDITH AI system in them. Peter doesn’t feel worthy of the gift, however, so gives them to Mysterio, whereupon we learn that he is none other than a fraud, a disaffected Stark Industries employee who is working with other former colleagues to gain some recognition by using illusion tech to make himself appear to be a superhero.

When MJ inadvertently recovers part of the illusion projector in Prague, Peter begins to see what has happened. Mysterio’s next target is London, where Peter’s class is due to end their trip, and a confrontation happens over Tower Bridge that sees Peter eventually able to overpower Mysterio. However, Mysterio publishes a doctored video that makes it look like Spider-Man is responsible for the attack, and reveals to the world that the superhero is none other than Peter Parker.

It’s a good film, nothing too strenuous to watch, although it did amuse me thinking how the elemental attacks are meant to be video projections, and yet the illusion in Venice is able to physically destroy buildings along the way. I had read that Jake Gyllenhaal wanted to portray Mysterio as sincere as possible to begin with, which clearly worked because I was almost distraught when he turned out to be the baddie!

The movie plays around a lot with fake news and the like, with Mysterio’s illusions and his denouncement of Peter at the end. In the end-credits scene we also learn that Nick Fury has been on vacation in space, and it was a pair of Skrulls masquerading as Fury and Maria Hill. What’s going on there? I have no idea, though apparently it’s something that we’re still waiting to resolve. It’s becoming a bit convoluted at this point, all this stuff, I have to say! I liked the first raft of movies, where clearly Fury was recruiting to assemble the Avengers, but now it seems to be a lot more veiled. I like a bit of mystery, don’t get me wrong, but when you think this film came out in 2019, and it’s currently expected to pay off in Secret Wars next year, that’s quite a wait. 

At any rate, I thought the movie was fine, and a good backdrop to painting miniatures!

As you may well know, though, I’ve become slightly obsessed with Marvel Champions LCG this year, and after a couple of weeks off in the autumn, I’ve been back into playing and collecting. I’d picked up the Sinister Motives campaign expansion for myself as well, and had thought I would keep it for Christmas but after watching the movie I decided to allow myself an early Christmas present and played the Mysterio scenario earlier this week.

It was actually really good, as well. I’ve read some fairly neutral reviews of this one in particular, but I enjoyed how it plays around with the whole illusion thing, adding in encounter cards to the player deck, which then get dealt to you as additional encounter cards. I was trying out Spectrum and Doctor Strange, another recent acquisition, and while they were doing some good work between them it was by no means a pushover scenario.

I thought the mechanic of adding cards into the player deck is interesting, and oddly enough have just finished up the Dream-Eaters campaign for Arkham Horror that uses a similar idea as well. Whereas previous games like Marvel Legendary have added in cards like this, which would annoyingly need to be re-sleeved to play, here it doesn’t matter – indeed, the campaign guide does state that you should plan for drawing these encounter cards, which can be especially important when you could potentially end up with 3-4 encounter cards in front of you!

It was a good game, and I was just about able to scrape a win, with the death blow dealt while both heroes were at 2 health remaining. It’s definitely good to invigorate the villains pool with more options, I have to say – I’m looking forward to getting a few more when the jolly fella comes down the chimney on Sunday and brings another box!


The six-episode Loki series picks up the trickster god’s story when he escapes from New York with the tesseract, following the Avengers time travelling during the events of Endgame. He drops into the middle of a desert landscape, and is apprehended by officers of the Time Variance Authority (TVA), who arrest him for “crimes against the sacred timeline”.

Loki escapes punishment by agreeing to help the TVA to hunt a particular Loki Variant that is playing havoc with the timeline, and he realises that the Variant is jumping around the timeline, hiding from the TVA at so-called nexus events, apocalypses and the like which mask the Variant’s actions. Travelling to a hurricane in 2050 Alabama, Loki discovers a female version of himself, who goes by Sylvie, who has set timeline-reset charges at numerous points to distract the TVA, whereupon she sneaks into their headquarters followed by Loki. The two manage to escape from the authorities by jumping to 2077 and the imminent of the moon Lamentis-1, however the fact that Loki and Sylvie begin to form a bond creates an alert that brings the TVA in once more.

Loki and Sylvie begin to expose the truth of the TVA, that all of the workers there are themselves variants of people from Earth. Loki and Sylvie are brought before the Time Keepers, the ultimate authority in the TVA, but Sylvie reveals them to be nothing but androids. Loki is sent to the Void at the end of time, where Sylvie deduces the real mastermind behind the Time Keepers is hiding. Sylvie manages to send herself there, and teams up once more with Loki and a number of other Loki variants, who enable the pair to find the way to the Citadel at the End of Time. There, Loki and Sylvie meet with He Who Remains, who explains that he ended a multiverse war by using the creature Alioth to consume all other timelines and variances of himself, and created the TVA to ensure the timeline did not branch any further.

He Who Remains offers the pair a choice – kill him, and unleash another multiverse war, or replace him as the true head of the TVA. Sylvie sends Loki back to the TVA and kills He Who Remains, which unleashes the multiverse, with too many timelines for the TVA to cope with. Loki tries to warn the TVA but they do not recognise him, and it is revealed that one of He Who Remains’ variants is in control of the TVA.

This is one hell of a series, and I have to admit, I didn’t really “get it” until I had finished watching it all, and could sit back and see what exactly I had been watching, and what was going on. I suppose it helps to know that He Who Remains is Kang the Conqueror, or at least a variant of him is Kang the Conqueror. I’ve since read he is also meant to be based on Immortus, which makes some sense – the Avengers villain who keeps all timelines in check. Comic book time travel and the like is never easy to follow, of course, but Immortus is meant to be the future version of a number of different cosmic evildoers, and Kang the Conqueror is one such entity. Kang the Conqueror is a classic Avengers/Fantastic Four villain, with a long history that goes right back to the early 1960s in terms of comic publication. 

In terms of the MCU, Kang is set to be in the upcoming third Ant-Man film, as well as the fifth Avengers movie, which seems to be his big moment as that film is subtitled The Kang Dynasty. Given how long and convoluted the character’s history is, I think it’ll be interesting to see how the MCU handles him as a super-villain.

Sylvie is an interesting addition to the roster, being I think partly based on elements of The Enchantress, a classic Thor villain. Indeed, that’s who I thought she was meant to be at first, but I guess this is an example of the MCU being based off the comics, and not merely producing them as straight-up adaptations. 

I thought the series was interesting for the fact that it serves as a further stepping stone in the overall multiverse saga that is currently going on, and introduces us to the big villain (although we perhaps didn’t realise this at the time). If you were expecting an exploration of Loki in terms of his Asgardian heritage, and looking at things from that perspective, then it’s going to be a disappointment. I know the intention with the show was to allow Loki to grow without the shadow of Thor being around, but it feels quite odd to divorce Loki from all of that. While the elements of the Time Keepers and stuff is perhaps appropriate for what Loki is all about, I think the fact the TVA is depicted as a sort of 1970s “modern” office building, all beige and tan and the like, it seems to detract from Loki as a god of mischief. I suppose that was part of the pun at first, maybe, but I can’t help feeling like there was a missed opportunity with the character, despite the fact I recognise that the timeline stuff and He Who Remains is all necessary to the overall plot of the current multiverse saga. Does that make sense?

There is a season two of Loki in the works, although it seems very much like that second series will be TVA-centric, given the returning cast. I believe it’s due for release in the middle of 2023, so I suppose now that we’re firmly with the idea of the multiverse, and building towards Kang as the villain, it could begin to dig deeper into what we can find out for that? I guess we’ll see…

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Back in the summer, my wife and I started to watch our way through the Phase Four stuff of the MCU, but we didn’t get too far before deciding to re-watch everything from the beginning, in timeline order this time. However, after Captain America and both seasons of Agent Carter, I think we burnt out a little, and started watching other stuff. At any rate, now that Phase Four has come to an end with the second Black Panther movie, which we saw on a recent date night and thought was really great, we’re once more trying to watch the stuff from Phase Four that we haven’t yet seen.

For those of you who might be wondering what I’m on about, Marvel’s Phase Four kicks off the three-part Multiverse Saga, much like the first three phases were all about Thanos and the Infinity Stones. It’s not super clear yet who the big bad of this phase is going to be, as the stories have been a bit all over the place, with a lot of criticism of the way the TV shows on Disney+ has been spewing out. That said, of course, it now appears that the main villain of the piece is going to be Kang, but for now we’ve had quite a lot of content that has served more as a postlude to the Infinity Saga than anything else.

Doctor Strange 2 is one of seven movies in this phase, and seems to work a lot off the WandaVision TV series. The multiverse idea is first introduced in Loki, and I believe the third Spider-Man film, No Way Home, further expands on this, though I haven’t yet seen that movie to comment. I have a lot of catching up to do!

Following a dream in which Strange and a mysterious girl are being pursued by a demon, Strange ends up rescuing the same girl from another demon in New York. Introducing herself as America Chavez, she explains that she has the power to travel the multiverse, and the demons want that power from her. Strange recognises the runes on the demon as witchcraft, and visits Wanda Maximoff for help but realises that she has sent the demons after Chavez. Since she gained the Darkhold grimoire, and became the Scarlet Witch, Wanda has learnt of the multiverse and has discovered a universe where she lives with her two boys for real.

Wanda attacks Kamar-Taj to get to Chavez, but Chavez manages to flee with Strange to an alternative version of Earth (Earth-838). Wanda uses the Darkhold to “dreamwalk”, taking possession of the version of herself from that universe, to continue her pursuit of Chavez. However, one of the sorcerers from Kamar-Taj destroys the Darkhold, breaking the spell, so Wanda forces Wong, the Sorcerer Supreme, to take her to Mount Wundagore, the original source of the Darkhold’s power, where she can continue her dreamwalk.

Strange and Chavez are apprehended on Earth-838 by Karl Mordo, who in this universe is the Sorcerer Supreme, and who takes them before the Illuminati, a group dedicated to preventing multiverse incursions. The group consists of Peggy Carter, Black Bolt, Mr Fantastic, Maria Rambeau, and Professor X. The Illuminati initially distrust Strange, as their universe’s Strange had used the Darkhold to defeat Thanos, but was executed for taking his power too far. Before they can pass judgment, Wanda arrives, and is able to defeat the Illuminati while Strange and Chavez escape, with the help of Dr Palmer who in this universe is working with the Illuminati to study multiverse incursions. The three attempt to find the Book of Vishanti, which can nullify the power of the Darkhold, and Strange finds himself in his dream from the start of the movie – however, Wanda follows them and destroys the book, taking over Chavez’ mind and sending Strange and Palmer to another universe.

Strange finds his counterpart, who has been corrupted by the power of the Darkhold, but is able to defeat his alter-ego. He then uses the power of this universe’s Darkhold to dreamwalk into the corpse of the Dr Strange Chavez originally arrived with in Earth-616, where he is able to confront Wanda on Mount Wundagore. Corpse-Strange tells Chavez she needs to trust herself, so Chavez opens a portal to Earth-838, where Wanda’s children recoil in horror from their “mother”, prompting Wanda to realise the error of her ways. She uses her power to destroy all copies of the Darkhold across the multiverse, and bring down Mount Wundagore – apparently giving her own life to do so, and Chavez restores Strange and Palmer to their respective versions of Earth.

Due to his dreamwalk into a corpse, Strange develops a third eye in his forehead, and in the mid-credits scene he is accosted by Clea, a sorceress who demands his help to fix an incursion he has caused. Together, they head off into the Dark Dimension.

There is a hell of a lot going on in this movie, but by keeping such a tight focus on essentially just two characters, Wanda and Strange, it is able to fit in all of this without feeling like it is cluttered or too busy. Which is such a good thing when you consider that the movie is dealing with something as potentially confusing as the multiverse. Indeed, the story manages to get across its idea of there being multiple universes really quite well, although I have heard that some of the criticism of this is the fact that every version of a person from across the multiverse has the same background, which is a bone of contention for some. I’m not a big Doctor Strange fan in terms of the original comics, and I’m not hugely familiar with the multiverse in the source material, so it didn’t bother me – indeed, it actually made things easier to follow.

There is a distinct horror feel to the film, which is possibly down to director Sam Raimi, but it is interesting to see Wanda become a villain in this story. Now, I loved WandaVision, and rewatching it over the summer, that was really reinforced. During the course of the series, Wanda realises the havoc that she has caused by taking over peoples’ lives in order to make herself happy, and many critics have mentioned how the story arc essentially repeats itself here. I think I would argue that actually, the book explains the corrupting power of the Darkhold, and it becomes easy to see how Wanda, who is grieving for the loss of Vision, plus the loss of the life she had made for herself, who is likely fixated on the idea of a normal family life, then having this dark magical artefact whispering to her that she can get back to that life. I can see how she would fall once again into that role – it’s not quite a villain, although she’s clearly an antagonist for the story. I suppose my one criticism here is that there is no time for any kind of resolution for her in the same way that we saw in the show. Wanda realises what she was doing was wrong, so makes it right by sacrificing herself, and then it’s done. I hope we haven’t seen the last of her, so I had hoped that perhaps there would have been more to round her story out. 

The Illuminati was a huge highlight for me, which made it all the more awful when they were just dispensed with in short order. Peggy Carter as Captain Britain probably gave the best outing, so it’s great to see Marvel still use her even if it is only in bit-parts like this. I don’t think Jemma really appreciated how huge my reaction was (I nearly dropped my cuppa!) when we had not only John Krasinski’s Mr Fantastic appear, but then Patrick Stewart reprising his role as Professor X! No matter how bad those films got, I still love Bryan Singer’s X-Men films, and it gives me nothing but joy to see this happen in the MCU. Whether we’ll ever get the X-Men, and whether they will ever live up to the “originals” if they recast, who can say. But the fact that we have now had a glimpse of them is just wonderful. It just makes me sad that the Illuminati only had like 10-15 minutes of screen time, most of which was them dying off.

The original Illuminati included the likes of Mr Fantastic, Black Panther, Namor, and Iron Man (as well as Strange himself), so whether their presence here could herald a new group that might come about when the Fantastic Four have been more formally introduced, who knows. The fact that Namor has now entered the MCU is a good sign, though, and hopefully we’re headed more for the sort of cosmic stuff with Fantastic Four that we could get a really interesting team here.

At any rate, the film was pretty good, and seems to set up a lot for the future, as well as tying up a lot, making it a firm centrepiece film for the MCU. I like that, it really feels like we could get more of these ensemble movies in the future, along the lines of Civil War being ostensibly a Captain America film, but actually there’s a lot more to it than that. With no Doctor Strange 3 on the roster so far, it does make me wonder what the mid-credits scene with Clea is all about. Surely you don’t get Charlize Theron starring as Doctor Strange’s eventual wife, talking about incursions and the Dark Dimension, without a plan for a follow-up! I’m not that familiar with the comics, as I mentioned, but Baron Mordo seems to have been desperately under-used, so maybe we’ll get a third film that gives a star-studded, mind-blowing pay-off for all of that?

Fingers crossed…

The Falcon & the Winter Soldier

Hey everybody,
As we attempt to catch up with all of the stuff in Phase Four of the MCU, I thought I’d ramble on here for a bit with some thoughts on it all as we make our way through! For those of you who, like me, have no idea what’s going on, let me present you with a brief introduction to the next Phase, as I have been trying to research it!

Phase Four kicks off The Multiverse Saga, entering a new story following the Infinity Saga that we had been watching between 2008 – 2019. There are naturally a lot of references to the events of Endgame, as we see the fallout from the Snap and whatnot, as the movies and TV series continue the timeline into the post-Avengers era. The exception here though is Black Widow, which takes place shortly after Civil War. Things kick off with WandaVision, set in the weeks following Endgame, and we progress through The Falcon & Winter Soldier, Loki, and other TV series for a total of eight shows, and seven movies. There’s a lot to watch there, for sure!

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a six-part show that was initially released from March 2021, and is set six months after the events of Endgame. Despite being given the mantle of Captain America, Sam Wilson struggles with the idea and eventually decides to give the iconic shield for a government museum centred on the First Avenger. Sam continues his super-heroing as Falcon, and learns of a terrorist group called the Flag Smashers who seem to be trying to recreate life during the Blip. Wilson teams up with Bucky Barnes to try to foil the group, heading to their headquarters in Munich, and are followed by the new Captain America, Johnny Walker, who is keen to work with Sam and Bucky, but they refuse. During the fight in Munich, however, it becomes clear that the Flag Smashers are actually a group of super-soldiers, so Bucky approaches Baron Zemo for intel, breaking him out of prison and travelling to the crime haven of Madripoor to pick up the trail. (Madripoor is a location fairly important within X-Men lore, and marks the first instance where we begin to see the fact Disney now has control over the Mutants following their acquisition of Fox).

There, they discover that the mysterious Power Broker has hired a Dr Nagel to recreate the super soldier serum, but the three are compromised and are able to flee to safety with the help of Sharon Carter, who is a fugitive from the US following the events of Civil War. They find Nagel and learn he has created 20 vials of the serum, which was stolen by the leader of the Flag Smashers, Karli Morgenthau. They head to Latvia to track her down, but the terrorists are actually in Lithuania, attacking the Global Repatriation Council. While in Latvia, however, Bucky is accosted by Ayo, who demands Zemo account for his murder of King T’Chaka. Zemo is able to discover Morgenthau’s location, and the three are joined by Walker who is keen to bring her to justice himself. However, Sam talks to her alone, asking her to end the violence, but a fight ensues due to Walker’s impatience. Zemo destroys most of the serum Morgenthau had, but Walker apprehends him and secretly takes the final vial. Ayo and the Dora Milaje arrive for Zemo, and another fight ensues, during which Walker is humiliated and Zemo escapes. A further fight with the Flag Smashers leads to Morgenthau killing Walker’s partner. It becomes clear that Walker has taken the serum, though, when he pursues one of the super soldiers and kills him with the iconic Captain America shield in front of a horrified crowd, who are all filming him.

Walker is stripped of the mantle of Captain America, though does not take it well. However, he is approached by Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine, who recruits him for an unspecified purpose. Bucky tracks down Zemo to Sokovia, where he hands him over to the Dora Milaje, from whom he asks another favour. Sam has returned home to help fix up the family boat, and Bucky delivers to him a briefcase from the Wakandans containing a new wing suit. He and Bucky train, as Sam begins to come round to the idea that Steve Rogers intended for him to take up the mantle of Captain America after all. Receiving intelligence that the Flag Smashers appear to be targeting a GRC conference in New York, Sam heads there with Bucky and Sharon. The Flag Smashers take the GRC hostage, and Walker shows up in an attempt to atone for his discharge from service by taking Morgenthau in. However, he is unable to step up to the plate and it falls to Sam as the new Captain America to rescue the members of the GRC. In the wrap-up, Walker is branded US Patriot by Valentina, again with no real purpose specified. Sharon, who is revealed to be the mysterious Power Broker, kills Morgenthau and is given a pardon by the US government, and reinstated to her former post in the CIA – however, it transpires she intends to use her position to sell government secrets.

I really enjoyed this series, I think it’s a really nice continuation of the Captain America strands from the main movies, while allowing for some of the more quieter moments to develop, similar to what WandaVision gave us. There are plenty of scenes where you could never imagine seeing that amount of character development in a movie, but here it’s really broadened out. Something I particularly liked was seeing Bucky in Wakanda, where he was finally free of the Hydra mind control.

There is no shortage of action, of course, and with the procession of fight after fight after fight, it definitely feels like a six-hour action movie, taking a very different approach to WandaVision’s episodic feel. While I suppose there’s nothing inherently wrong with that approach, it can feel slightly exhausting overall! But in terms of the epic scope of this storyline, it really brings together everything that we’ve come to expect from the blockbuster movies of the MCU.

The show has a very powerful message as regards having Falcon, a black superhero, take on the role of Captain America, which was surely enhanced at the time it was first shown, given how the world was still in the wake of the George Floyd murder. I’m in no way qualified to talk about these kinds of issues, being British and white, but there is still something really gratifying to me to see these things addressed. I will never understand why people can treat other people differently based on their skin tone, so in general I’m bemused why it should be an issue – we’re all just people, trying to do the best we can, after all – but the fact that it is an issue leads to things like this making me pleased. But let’s not become too political here.

I think the main reason to enjoy this series is seeing how the fallout of the Blip is handled. The fact that half the population of the planet disappeared for five years, then reappeared after those who were left behind had the time to readjust, is really quite a fascinating idea, and while the political ramifications of global repatriation are somewhat secondary (or even tertiary) to the action, it’s nevertheless good to see this kind of story strand being picked up for a backdrop. While Marvel have said their TV shows are intended to spotlight characters who would otherwise not necessarily get their own feature film, they are also being used to explore the wider themes of the MCU that would perhaps otherwise not be seen as massive draws to the action-adventure crowd. We all know how badly viewers reacted to the politics in The Phantom Menace, after all…

However, several story threads seem to have been left hanging at the end of the finale, and despite some initial rumblings about a possible season two, it seems likely that most of these will be taken up in the fourth Captain America film, New World Order, which is set for a May 2024 release. Too long to wait, for me!

Black Widow (2021)

Yesterday, my wife and I watched the new Black Widow movie, which I have to say, we both really enjoyed! It’s a prequel of sorts, taking place shortly after the events of Captain America: Civil War, and the fracture of the Avengers. It struck me as a little bit odd, coming out now rather than at the time, but this is a film that has been in the works, to some degree, for years.

Here be spoilers…

It’s obviously not an origin movie, as we had a lot of that for Natasha in Age of Ultron, but it still manages to give us a similar sort of feel all the same. We get a short flashback at the very start, where we see Natasha and her family, before flashing forward to the “present day”, and Natasha is out on her own once again. After a run-in with Taskmaster, who (it turns out) is after her for some vials she is unwittingly carrying. The vials came from her “sister”, Yelena Belova, and when the two meet up in Budapest it transpires that the vials contain an antidote to the chemical controls used on the Widows by the Red Room. Natasha, who believed the Red Room destroyed when she and Hawkeye assassinated General Dreykov in Budapest, teams up with Yelena to put an end to Dreykov’s control once and for all.

In order to get to Dreykov, they break out Alexei Shostakov from prison – their “father” and 1980s Soviet super soldier. He guides them to Melina Vostokoff, their “mother”, former Widow herself and currently working for Dreykov as a scientist. Melina alerts the Red Room, and all four are taken prisoner, however it soon transpires that Melina is trying to help Natasha bring Dreykov down. The Red Room is revealed to be a floating facility anchored near St Petersburg. Dreykov reveals that both he and his young daughter survived the bomb attack, although he was forced to use technology to keep her alive as the Taskmaster. Dreykov calls all the Widows to help him take down Natasha, but Yelena has recovered more antidote and deploys it just in time. Melina manages to disable one of the engines keeping the Red Room aloft, though fortunately they are all able to escape, Yelena killing Dreykov in the process.

Everybody goes their separate ways, Natasha heading off to help her fellow Avengers. In the post-credits scene, Yelena visits Natasha’s grave and meets her handler, La Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, who tells her the next target is Hawkeye, who she says is to blame for Natasha’s death.

I really liked this, as I said at the start. It is pretty much classic Marvel movie, with plenty of action but also a lot of humour. I think the dynamic of dysfunctional family that is used throughout the latter stages of the film really helps with this, though also having the character of Yelena being a bit sassy and stuff was a nice touch. She has a lot of time with Natasha, of course, and I particularly liked the back-and-forth they have over superhero poses. I believe Yelena is being set up to take over the mantle of Black Window in future MCU outings, starting with Hawkeye. I haven’t yet seen any more series’ since WandaVision back at the start of the year, so I definitely need to catch up here. Especially since we have the magnificent Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the role of the Contessa! That was lovely, I have to say.

David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov was almost light relief really, though the film worked really well having so much light relief – even if some of these moments were coming from a dark place. Rachel Weisz as Melina was also a very solid choice, it was interesting to see her in that kind of mother-figure role, after having been in so many action films herself back in the day. In the middle of all the dark humour though, Scarlett Johansson cuts a much more serious figure, as she takes on her personal crusade against Dreykov in an attempt to free the “enslaved” Widows under his control.

There is of course a lot of action as well, with the destruction of the Red Room at the end reminding me a lot of the helicarrier stuff at the end of Captain America 2 – intentional? I don’t know. The earlier film gave us a lot of Natasha, after all. While Black Widow is less the spy movie that Cap 2 manages to be, and more straightforward revenge flick, we do get some elements of espionage to keep us on our toes.

It was really great to finally be able to sit down and watch a Black Widow solo movie, something that I don’t think I’d been expecting after the bumpy road over the last 16 years of its genesis. While perhaps not as tortured as Spider-Man, this is nevertheless a character who was fought over before coming into the MCU for Iron Man 2 back in 2010. She’s popped up in so many of these films since, with some serious parts to play, that I’m just so thrilled that she finally gets her own movie.

I don’t want to get into the whole “female superhero thing”, because people far more eloquent than I have already discussed such things going back to Captain Marvel and before. But suffice it to say, there really was no need for it to have taken this long for a solo film to be made. Black Widow was established as an Avengers headliner back in 2012, after all. I did kinda like the way she was becoming a bit like Nick Fury though, where she had a significant part to play in any film she was in, but like Hawkeye, she wasn’t destined for her own movie. But as time went on, it kinda went beyond the joke. I mean, she was a huge part of Winter Soldier, after all. However, we’ve got her movie at long last, and it’s great. It still feels a bit odd that it’s essentially out of sequence, being released as the first movie in Phase Four while taking place shortly after the film which launched Phase Three. But I guess that’s just me being weird!

May retrospective

Hey everybody,
Well this has soon come round again, hasn’t it? Doesn’t seem like five minutes since the last retrospective blog, does it now?! I’ve not actually been posting all that much on here throughout May, unfortunately, and I doubt that June will be very busy at all, given that we’re eagerly awaiting the birth of baby number two, but I hope that I’ll be able to do something. At any rate – it’s not the time to look forward right now, it’s time to look back!

May has seen the temporary culmination of my Ossiarch Bonereapers army, with three heroes joining the ranks of the rest of the models that I’ve painted up for the army. Arch-Kavalos Zandtos, Vokmortian, and the Mortisan Soulreaper have been a nice way to finish things off, I think!

I’ve got somewhere in the realm of 1400 points painted up now, which is very exciting, though I do think I need to get more basic troops done before I can call this army done. I’m hoping that the new edition of Age of Sigmar will bring us some more models, as I’d really like to get a unit of those archers, if nothing else!

So the start of the month was almost consumed with Age of Sigmar and getting the Bonereapers into shape. I’ve also got some more games of Warhammer Underworlds in, which has been really nice, including with the original Shadespire set.

It’s been really nice getting to play the game, and I’m hoping that I can pick up some of the Direchasm expansions when the world returns to normal and they’re actually available to buy again… fingers crossed!

It’s not all about the Mortal Realms, though, as I’ve also made a return to the grim darkness of the far future. Specifically, with the Sisters!

Sisters of Battle

It’s been far too long, of course, but I’m really glad to have finally made an effort with these ladies. I’ve gone for a custom scheme, though intend to play them as Order of the Sacred Rose – I’ve written at length on my plans for the army, here and here, so please do check those blogs out!

I very nearly had a game of 40k the other week, though my buddy JP had a drunken night and figuring out the rules for a system we’ve barely played was not to be! I’ve got a game of Necromunda lined up with James next weekend, which should be good because I’ve only ever played it solo up to now! So gaming is slowly coming back on the radar, even if it will be curtailed while I look after a newborn again!

Jemma and I have started to watch the MCU again, working our way through Phase One during May. There’s probably a lot more to talk about with these things, although at the same time I feel like there isn’t really a great deal that I can add that has already been said. Two Iron Man films, Thor, Captain America, and the Avengers movie. I do find origin films to get a bit same-y after a while, and this is very true of the MCU, where you get to feel like they’re just giving us yet another superhero who comes into his or her power (actually, I guess they’re just male) and fights the bad guys, gets beaten down, comes back stronger and saves the day.

There is a definite élan to the first Iron Man, which updates the action from Communist China to Afghanistan during the War on Terror superbly well. Indeed, that’s one of the great things we see during the series as a whole, the way that they’re updated and made relevant, almost. For sure, they all exist as pure escapism, and they’re all just great adventures that you can sit back and bask in the effects without needing to really think. But I do find it quite fun to watch the development of Iron Man, the one that started it all.

The Avengers is also an amazing film for the fact it managed to pull together so many A-list stars and not feel like it favoured one too heavily. It was nice that we’d been having hints and shadows of SHIELD since the very beginning, but that film very definitely exists in a SHIELD world. It’s almost ten years old, and I still can’t quite believe they managed to pull it off!

Phase One has got some great stuff in there, though. I think it’s possibly because of the fact that they’re starting off, and so all the big names are being established. Things are definitely getting more niche in some of the post-Infinity Saga stuff that we’re hearing about! There’s a lot to enjoy in this first act, I found myself in particular enjoying Captain America more than I remember, and Jemma was appreciative of Thor as a sort of classic fantasy movie merged with the conspiracy-theory stuff based here on Earth. Things definitely began to get unwieldy after this, although I do think Phase Two managed to keep a fairly decent lid on things until it all seemed to go nuts in Phase Three. But that’ll be for another blog!

Now then. I was up in the attic recently, trying to choose my next book, and I came across a stack of unsorted Magic cards, which seem to have been my last purchase from maybe 12-18 months ago? Feels like it might be longer, though I’m not 100% sure. Anyway, it brought back a lot of memories, and I have been doing a bit of tinkering with some things, in the hope that – as I said before – real-life gaming may well be on the cards once again.

They’re mostly from Ikoria, though some M20 in there as well. I need to get to grips with what I’ve missed since I was last interested in all this stuff. Was it War of the Spark, last time I paid attention? Can’t remember… It’s been a long time, anyway, though seeing these things, and flicking through them, and even the smell – it’s all triggering those fond memories, and it’s got me wanting to build decks again! Let’s hope that it won’t all be for nothing, though…

I think it’s a pretty safe bet that you can expect to see some more Magic blogs here, as I attempt to catch up with what I’ve missed!

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers Age of Ultron

I missed this at the cinema back in May, as I took too long trying to convince people to go see it with me. So as soon as I saw the DVD released on Monday, I snapped it up like a snappy thing, and this afternoon finally sat down to see what I missed five months ago.

Ohmygod, it was just so awesome! While I was a little confused at the start, it nevertheless turned out to be a really great action movie, and definitely worthy of its place on the shelf alongside the, what, ten other movies in the MCU now? Yeah, it was a really good ride. As to its relationship to its predecessor – man, that’s like asking a parent which of their children they prefer. There are reasons to like both films, you can’t say one was better than the other. Sure, the first Avengers movie felt a lot more polished, but I feel most of its appeal comes from the continued bafflement that arises out of the fact that Marvel actually managed to pull an Avengers movie off.

We start with some great action as the gang storm a secret HYDRA base, where experiments are being done on the two “miracles”, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff. Yes, they’re actually mutants, and no, nothing is made of the fact Magneto is their father – the ongoing studio spat between Marvel and Fox seems to be causing some serious issues in the source material, but anyway. The Avengers escape with Loki’s staff (unfortunately, Loki himself doesn’t make an appearance), and Iron Man begins to use the power within to create a legion of soldiers that can help protect the world. Something goes wrong, and he winds up creating the villain hell-bent on destroying the world instead – he creates Ultron. The big robot escapes to eastern Europe, where he finds Pietro and Wanda, and all sorts of crazy starts going down when they realise he’s after the huge deposits of vibranium (the metal from whence Captain America’s shield is made) in Wakanda (sadly, no Black Panther, either), and when they attempt to stop him, Wanda/Scarlet Witch messes with everybody’s mind, and the mission is an unmitigated failure – particularly when Hulk basically goes on a rampage that not even Iron Man in the Hulkbuster armour can contain.

When everything looks shot to hell, Hawkeye steps up by taking them all to his home in the country (who knew?), where Nick Fury reappears. He manages to reunite the gang in their darkest hour, and they head off to Seoul to stop Ultron attempting to create a human body for himself. As Ultron begins to upload his consciousness into this body, Scarlet Witch reads his mind and discovers his plans for world destruction, which prompts the twins to turn on him. As the Avengers arrive, they all band together to stop him, and manage to gain the synthetic body, though Ultron captures Black Widow.

Iron Man threatens the unity of the group once again when he uploads JARVIS into this synthetic body, but while both Quicksilver and Captain America attempt to stop him, Thor intervenes and manages to awaken the android – it’s Vision! Turns out he has been empowered with one of the infinity stones, and the fact that Vision can lift Thor’s hammer seems to settle the argument as to who’s side he’s on. The team then head back to eastern Europe to confront Ultron and rescue Black Widow, but all hell breaks loose when Ultron uses the vibranium to make a machine that tears most of the city from the earth: the idea being, he’ll raise it high enough that, when it crashes back down to earth, the shockwave will destroy everything across the planet.

A massive set-piece battle ensues, and while the good guys manage to evacuate the people from the city with the arrival of Nick Fury in the helicarrier, Quicksilver is apparently killed in the process. This makes Scarlet Witch mad, and she annihilates Ultron’s army of copies, before tearing the heart out of his main body. Unfortunately, one of the drones manages to drop the city, and it takes Iron Man and Thor to basically overload the system and make it detonate while still in the air. Scarlet Witch is saved by Vision, and apart from Quicksilver’s death, it seems all ends reasonably well. The film ends with Captain America and Black Widow addressing Falcon, War Machine, Vision and Scarlet Witch as a new team. Interesting!

The fact that I’d intended that summary to be a paragraph, and it turned into four, kinda shows just how much is going on in this movie. There is a lot of action, but there’s also a lot of character development, as we see strands from each other movie pulled together in new and interesting ways that was as much of a pleasure to see as lots of stuff blowing up. We get a particularly interesting insight into Black Widow’s past and training, which almost makes me think there’ll be no Black Widow standalone movie, though of course, having appeared in about half of the Marvel movies, an origin story would kinda be awkward. Unless there was so much background here to make us want to explore it more? Who knows. She’s a really awesome character though, and while there are some awkward moments with Bruce Banner (I feel a bit like the romance there is a bit too forces), she’s generally pretty amazing.

Captain America: Civil War is the next movie slated for the MCU timeline, which seems a little weird as Iron Man and Captain America, while having their disagreements as per, end this movie on pretty strong ground once more. So it’ll be interesting to see how the animosity builds between the two – unless that was why they ended on such strong ground here? Hm.

At any rate, this was a really great film that I enjoyed immensely. Ultron was hilarious, it’s great to see the gang back together of course, and I’m definitely excited to see where they go next.


Captain America The Winter Soldier

So I watched The Winter Soldier today, that turned out to be a pretty great film in the end! Something that continues to please me about the MCU films is just how good the sequels are. So many films get unnecessary – even embarassing – sequels, it’s good to see these proper continuation-style stories. I’m no longer a big comic reader, having burned myself in the past buying £100s per month, but The Winter Soldier is one of those classic storylines, like the Age of Apocalypse or Civil War (oh, hey, wait a second!)

It was categorically awesome to see the Falcon enter into the universe at last, though this film drops so many exciting bits and pieces into the mix that there were some really exciting reveals here! As ridiculous as it sounds, however, I was actually more interested by the mid-credits scene, where we get our first look at both Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, who are of course set to star in the upcoming Avengers sequel, Age of Ultron. Exciting times there. While we probably won’t actually get a House of M movie, I’m still excited to see Magneto’s kids enter the MCU (oh, sorry Fox, that’s right, they aren’t supposed to have that tie anymore, are they…bah!)

Now, I love a good chase sequence. That whole thing with Fury in the hummer was just awesome, I have to say! One of many fantastic set-pieces in the film, many of which unfortunately run far too shortly, if I’m honest. Cap’s escape from the Triskelion was great, but could also have used some more. The finale was really excellent, though. How I wish that really had been Jenny Agutter kicking ass, instead of a disguised Natasha…

Anyway! Really good movie, looking forward to next year’s Civil War now – especially if we might actually get Spider-man in this one!

Marvel Legendary Villains

I also had a game with Marvel Legendary: Villains today – aptly enough, against Nick Fury. It was a bit of a peeve for me that there isn’t too much variety among the villains you can play in this game – the ‘regular’ core box feels like it has a broader base to choose from. At any rate, this was the first time in a long time where I’ve lost a game of Legendary – I didn’t seem to have the right mix of villains coming out, and Nick Fury’s effect on a Command Strike really whipped me. However, it was still a good game.

To round out what is quite the Marvel-centric day, here’s Felicia and Ryon Day playing Lego Marvel Super Heroes in their own inimitable style:

I do so love Geek & Sundry, and Co-Optitude, while it isn’t something that I thought I should like, not being a video gamer and all, this whole series is actually pretty damn great! Definitely worth watching, and investigate some of the other stuff on the channel!