In the spirit of Avengers: Infinity War having the grip of the infinity gauntlet itself around last few weekends’ box offices, I wanted to tell you all that I’ve been thinking hard about the intricate and ambitious machine that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Forthcoming, my movie discussion podcast The Wild Brunch — available wherever your fine podcasts are downloaded — has on its docket our most recent relevant episode concerning said MCU magnum opus, A: IW, with our own assembly of LA’s mightiest comics nerds, so I’ll post essential links when the ep drops. Otherwise, trust that I’m hard at work on a meatier piece concerning my own personal opining over this behemoth-of-a-movie and all the thusly machinations that furnished its place in the comic book filmic pablum, but in the meantime, I just wanted to whet your ooooooobvious collective appetite with a little Marvel-y tidbit: a taste of the roster draft game I’ve been preoccupied playing with myself that I like to call SUPERHERO FANTASY LEAGUE.
Since Avengers: Infinity War is the sum total of ten years worth of comics-to-film content, I thought it only fair that, as I approached the premiere, I took in the broad spectrum of characters adapted and introduced in these movies and play S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury, and choose my very own Earth’s mightiest favorites, based on standards of merit according to me and only me, and draft those favorites into a fabled super team all my own.
It’s a fantasy league based in a fantasy world. Care to enlist?
If you want, screen grab some of your own fave MCU characters from your own fave MCU movies and — cough — ASSEMBLE THEM into a roster and post that roster the comments section of this post. Maybe we pit team against team, engage in trades, and indulge in some spirited shit-talk, you know, like any normal fantasy league, and we can see which of our superteams, hypothetically, stands the best chance to come out on the other end unscathed of Thanos’ intergalactic jazz hand doo-wop apocalypse.
So, without further ado, let me debut to you here and now my all-star lineup of MCU MVPs.
STEVE ROGERS aka “CAP” (from Captain America: Winter Soldier)
I mean, the OG characterizations of Captain America were never really my cup of tea, but I don’t really drink tea, anyway, so it never stood a chance. I got not beef with boy scouts, but he’s a little too And The Band Played On for me, and, no offense, but I’m just not super into flag-waving right now. But, this covert-ops-esque “Agent America” that stealth free falls and cracks skulls and audits vet PTSD self-help groups in Cap film number two not only sets the right tone for the rest of a) his series and b) the whole universe, but it is also the beautiful beginning of Steve’s evolution into what basically becomes Captain America: Rogue Nation. He’s a superhero without a superteam, a man without a country, a rebel with a cause.
TONY STARK aka “IRON MAN” (from Iron Man Three)
Seems counter-intuitive to put this guy and Marvel’s Ultimate Yes-Man, Cap, in the same all-star supergroup BECAUSE WHO WOULD SING LEAD VOCALS, and I mean, OK, I’ve grown pretty weary of Tony “Quips” Stark, what with RDJ playing everything a little too droll all the fucking time. But, Shane Black is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers, so perhaps this installment in the draft is a little bit skewed. What makes it stick for me, though, is that in this third, and what could end up being the final, installment in Iron Man’s arc doesn’t even let the eponymous hero be the hero. It’s Tony Stark that’s the hero, and this movie is not called Tony Stark Three. The circumstances of this film pits our genius engineer against a worthy red herring backed by an even worthier foe, putting His Starkness to the ultimate test and forcing him to use both the tools that come to him naturally and also the tools he’s gained from his dual life as an Avenger. To such a degree that it is in this film where Tony Stark becomes fully defined as a character.
HULK (ok, Banner, too) aka “THE CHAMPION OF SAKAAR” (from Thor: Ragnarok)
I’d like to think it’s hard to argue with me on this one. Hulk in a hot tub? C’mon.
OKOYE (from Black Panther)
This HBiC right here is the ultimate bad-ass in a technologically advanced nation full of ultimate bad-asses. She’s so bad-ass, in fact, that King T’Challa straight-up has to check in with her before he does something else that will also be bad-ass. Okoye is the ultimate good soldier, not unlike Cap, and evolves within just the first film’s narrative similarly to how Cap takes his sweet time evolving over the course of four fucking films. When she’s faced with potentially having to execute her beloved W’kabi in the final action set piece of Black Panther, her willingness to follow through with the act is heartbreaking, but also, it’s like, WHOA, THIS WOMAN DOES NOT FRONT. Her devotion is to her nation and its people, what she and the elite all-female fighting force, Dora Milaje, are sworn to protect no matter what. Despite the rigid sense of duty and devotion to Wakanda’s throne she covets, though, she’s also a free and open thinker, adaptive, and a morally nuanced “modern” woman. She fucking does her job, but in a pinch, she will break rank and start a fucking revolution if it’s for something she believes is right, and when that revolution comes, best believe you don’t want to be on the fool’s end of that spear of hers, amiright?
ROCKET (from Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. I & II)
What can I say? I want this rabid little motherfucker on my team, yo. Not only does this particular role continue to be the best work Bradley Cooper has ever done, but the pathos elicited for “it” in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. I — as “it” is the end result of a series of violent and invasive genetic experiments — was palpable. Rocket’s origins manage to fully justify the shitty attitude, the hyperbolic Napoleon complex, and the all-around general love for total chaos and anarchy. In the immortal words of alternate cinematic universe Agent Fury, Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson in 1997’s Jackie Brown): “When you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherfucker in the room, accept no substitutes.”
PETER PARKER aka SPIDER-MAN (from Spider-Man: Homecoming)
Every top tier team gotta have some youngblood, you know? And this incarnation of Spidey has all the spunk and sass of his best manifestations from the comics and past films. This is truly the best depiction of a fifteen year old genius orphan from Queens who wakes up one morning a with superpowers the result of a bite from a radioactive spider, man. His overwhelming desire to be a part of The Avengers super-cliche, and not any of his high school cliches, and ultimately to prove himself to surrogate father-figure, Tony Stark, is wholly refreshing, because they’ve finally characterized Parker as a kid who’s actually allowed to know and be comfortable with his place in the world. The reluctant nerd, Parker, has finally been vanquished, because he is a bygone archetype because nerdom is now mainstream, which makes this particular version of the character the most believable the titular hero has ever been.
Also ***SPOILER*** in light of the very Kansas-esque (yes, the band) demise of some of our favorite, and newest, MCU characters in Avengers: Infinity War, I know that this particular above mash-up of Avengers, old and new, has no chance of existing. Old guard, I think, has to retire, and new guard has to rise up to take their place. Plus, contracts are up, and it’s become public knowledge that actors like Chris Evans and Robert Downey are ready to retire their armor and their shield, respectively. My theory is that, in the follow-up film to Infinity War, due out next year, we’ll see the surviving old guard somehow manage to trade places with our fresh-cut newbies that were so surprisingly offed by Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet, and it’ll pave the way for a whole new team, a whole new franchise, and another ten years of billions of dollar in ticket sales for Marvel Studios.
That being said, since I’m not really providing any content of substance this week, incorporating narrative arcs from the film and the comics, I though I’d drop a few hopeful top picks for Avengers 2.0 —
THIS IS… MARVEL’S AVENGERS FANTASY DRAFT LEAGUE!
His highness, the King is the obvious option for the Avengers’ new leader. Of course, splitting time between ruling Wakanda and running an elite Government superhero program might prove a challenge, but with Shuri, Nakia, Okoye, and the rest of the Dora Milaje at his side, I’m confident he’d be up to both tasks. Although, yes, I realize the disparity in making T’Challa choose between governing his own African nation, and basically, working for, like, The Man.
Word is, since Bucky has finally completed his Wakanda study abroad program, and been appropriately debugged of that pesky Winter Soldier mechanism, in future films he may adopt the guise of White Wolf. Although I have no arguments if it’s a direction MCU decides to go, I’m also not sure we need another white face to spoil any of Wakanda’s beautiful beautiful beautiful blackness.
We’ll discuss it more in a minute, because in the comics Sam Wilson does actually don the shield in light of Rogers’ end, and I think the MCU might be poised to make the same torch pass in the films. Falcon is yet another dope character that’s gotten a lot of background play, but, c’mon, he’s proven himself ready for prime-time.
I could be wrong, but I don’t think we’re quite done with the One Eyed Norse Space God like we might be with some of our other first wave Avengers. With the advent of forging the replacement for his hammer, Mjolnir, and the franchise reinvigorated thanks to the fucking joyous Thor: Ragnarok, this might be one old vet that still has a little avenging left in him.
This bitch ain’t done yet, broh. No one blames the MCU for torpedoing Hawkeye because, JESUS, enough, bro, ALL ARROWS POINT TO: Y’BASIC. But Black Widow got consistently and repeatedly underplayed. Once the MCU gets its shit together and blesses us with her forthcoming solo film, I think we can count on the ultimate Russian superspy to fire off a bunch more rounds.
THE IRON SPIDER
We got a fresh take on Spider-Man in Infinity War thanks to Tony Stark gifting Parker a new Iron Man-esque ensemble, complete with AI-powered metal spider legs. This tech is gonna help afford our Friendly Neighborhood Genetically Altered Stark Industries-approved teenage superhero every opportunity to get into lots more trouble, and after the intergalactic exploits of Infinity War — my dude hitched his web to a motherfucking SPACESHIP — his neighborhood just got bigger.
I mean, if Wakanda’s princess genius wunderkind doesn’t end up a Stark Labs intern, donning some badass Bast-inspired Iron Man armor, then the MCU has made a waste of a the most perfect Avengers 2.0 set-up.
Look, I just want this bitch to get some peace.
A mercenary can dream, can’t she?
FALCON as CAPTAIN AMERICA II
Like I said, in the comics, Sam Wilson hangs onto Falcon’s wings, but picks up Cap’s shield. Bye, Steve, you’ve served your country well, but let’s let Captain Falcon take to the skies!
RIRI WILLIAMS as IRON MAN II
Yo, Riri, Shuri, I don’t really give a shit, just get one of these women inside a Mark XXV or XXX or whateverthefuck, and let’s set our pulsar blasters to OH MY GOD YES.
MILES MORALES as THE FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN II
Even if Peter Parker stays in the MCU, and works full-time with The Avengers as Iron Spider, I think it creates a really generous opportunity for Miles Morales to joint the MCU, donning the web-head as the more friendly, neighborhood type, just like in the comics, and keep a his “sense” on he and Parker’s home turf in NYC.