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.

Marvel-lous!

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!