This post is part of a year long effort of monthly themes – a focus to point my attention at each month that revolves around either a culture I’d like to learn more about or a piece of popular culture that I’m in the mood for or simply love. This idea stemmed from the popular practice of Norsevember, which I participated in whole-heartedly in 2020.
Welcome to Marvelous March (or Marchvel, as some like to call it)! Now, you might be wondering what happened to February. Well, it’s complicated, but the high council of galactic rulers deemed that the two months had to be switched due to the show WandaVision. It was practically and theoretically impossible for me to watch this show without completely diving back into the Marvel Universe, which I have done in an obsessive way that has family and friends concerned (just kidding, I don’t have any friends). February will proceed when Marvelous March has ended, and it will be known as Frenchuary. More to come on that in a month.
As I am consuming so much Marvel content, I decided to do weekly updates instead of a big post at the end. This lets me write more and dish about what I loved and hated as I go. For masochistic reasons, I decided to watch a bunch of the movies that I’d never seen, before starting in on the MCU movies that I absolutely already love. Thus, you will be seeing a bunch of pretty bad movies listed in these first few posts, and I apologize for that.
I had low expectations for X-Men Apocalypse. This second series in the Fox X-Men franchise has been a mixed bag by all accounts. I remember enjoying First Class, thinking Days of Future Past wasn’t nearly as good, and had heard almost nothing but bad about Apocalypse. Part of my goal for this Marvelous March is to watch all the Marvel movies that I avoided or missed out on for whatever reason. This is going to include some real stinkers because I likely didn’t see these for good reasons.
That said, I watched Apocalypse from beginning to end and was engaged the entire time. This isn’t an easy thing for me to do with movies unless I legitimately enjoy them. I even found myself thinking about it for some time afterwards. I will probably never watch Apocalypse again, and there are innumerable things wrong with the movie, but it does enough right that it kept my undivided attention for a solid two hours.
The biggest highlights for me were:
- Evan Peters – This guy steals the show in every one of these movies as Quicksilver. I won’t pretend that his particular brand of super speed makes any sense, but it sure is fun to watch (for instance – he seems able to stop within his own speed, to perform funny actions and entertain himself, but in doing so suggests that he isn’t just super fast but has the ability to stop time or slow it down while also moving at light speed within it. I’m certain this is not something the MCU Quicksilver was able to do).
- James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender – There is something I appreciate about these two guys, and it is that regardless of how prestigious they might become as actors, they still bring their all to these genre roles, even when they have mediocre scripts to perform. Seeing them act off one another is a joy no matter the context. I’ll be a little sad to see them likely replaced in the MCU. Jennifer Lawrence, on the other hand, clearly did not want to be in this movie at all because her lack of any kind of delivery is almost stunning.
- Some of the costuming is really good. I like the way the X-Men suits at the end of the movie looked, iconic but modern. This is a mixed bag though because some of the costuming is truly awful. Who the hell designed Psylocke’s purple jumpsuit? That thing looked like it was pulled straight out of a low-budget 80s action flick.
Again, I am surprised at how much I enjoyed this movie. Apocalypse, despite a solid effort by Oscar Isaacs, was a disappointment. Sophie Turner as Jean Grey is severely miscast, an obvious effort to cash in on an actor of the moment in favor of someone who can actually pull off the role. The rest of the cast might be largely forgettable, which is a shame, but we’re looking at a reboot soon so I can’t be too upset. I plan to watch Dark Phoenix as soon as I can find it, and I’m again trying to keep my expectations low given who is in the central role.
Fantastic 4 (2015)
If it were possible to have lower expectations than I did for X-Men Apocalypse, I did for this re-imagining of the Fantastic 4. When this movie was released, all I ever heard from anyone was how truly awful it was – from top to bottom (one reddit user recently described it as the worst movie they’d ever seen). I went into this expecting to see an unfinished movie with horrible acting and no visible plot.
Again, I found myself surprised. I watched this movie from end to end without once ever wanting to quit it. Is there something wrong with me? Do I have a blind spot for superhero movies? I don’t think so. I remember how bad X3 was. I haven’t loved every MCU movie either, falling off of them completely until the Ragnarok/Black Panther/Infinity War trio smacked my fandom back in its place.
Fantastic 4 isn’t a good movie. Some of the casting decisions are questionable – mainly Miles Teller, who does a fine job acting in the movie but never feels like the Reed Richards of the comics. The 2005 Fantastic 4 movie had similar issues in its casting of Ioan Gruffudd. My reading of comics Reed Richards is that he is mostly just a giant nerd, with not much charisma to speak of, but then casting directors keep trying to pin these charismatic actors into the role when it most likely needs to go to someone who isn’t a leading man. This also would fix the problem of casting Reed as the main character when it’s always really been about the team.
What I liked about this movie:
- The Thing – Despite his CGI getting a little claymation at times, this is what the Thing actually looks like. That 2005 version where he was barely bigger than anyone else was ridiculous. The Thing in this version is menacing and huge and you believe he can lift boulders. It isn’t perfect, but I think it works. My only issue with him in the film is that his actor looks way too much like Tom Holland. It was distracting, at least until he goes full rock-face. Also he needs to have pants on.
- Sue Storm – I actually liked Kate Mara in this role. Much more than I liked Jessica Alba. She doesn’t get much time to shine, and they do her character a real disservice in the acquisition of her powers (she doesn’t even get to go on the trip, which is a decision that mystifies me), but I liked her as the character.
I think that’s about it. I wanted to like Michael B. Jordan as the Torch, and he does well, but his cockiness comes off as nasty for most of the movie, and he’s best before he gets any powers at all. Doom is a mess in this, and probably what ultimately tanks the whole thing. The actor is not imposing at all, neither before or after his transformation. His powers make no sense, nor are they ever explained at all. He just seems to show up as a god, when in comic book lore he earns all of what he gets through sheer intelligence and grit. He’s an interesting villain in the comics, but here he is just a chaos vector with bad programming. He might as well be a robot.
So, more bad than good probably, but ultimately watchable. I am glad they decided not to continue with this cast/vision though because I think the MCU will do the 4 more justice than this or any other cinematic version has done.
Legion is a show I’d always meant to watch, but my ability to stay invested in most television programs is limited. This month has been vastly different – mostly thanks to WandaVision sucking me back into regular programming. With the aforementioned show only coming out once a week, I needed something go fill in the gaps and Legion has done so admirably.
I knew practically nothing about the character of Legion, or David Haller as he is more often known. Due to my ignorance, I watched a few episodes and then decided to read a run of Legion-centered comics, and boy are they different beasts. The Marvel comics version of Legion has him as the schizophrenic son of Charles Xavier, and one of the most powerful beings on the planet. He is able to tap into hundreds of different personalities in his own mind, each with a different power ranging from the benign to the outright devastating, but his ability to control any of these at any given time is based largely around his emotional and psychological state. The comic run I read was quite good, but only served to illustrate just how different the show’s direction has gone.
Now that I’ve finished the first season of the FX version of Legion, which ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, I am generally fine with the direction the show has taken versus that of the comic. If the show had been somehow set in the future where the X-Men property is properly established in the MCU and they were able to forge some links between Legion and his father, that would have been really interesting. As it is, I’m kind of glad they didn’t try to shoehorn the show into the current Fox-owned X-Men stuff as it seems to have largely worn out its welcome.
In some ways, Legion the show is a typical cast-powered show, with a range of talent. I think Dan Stevens is great as the central character. He has a Hugh Laurie-level of range when it comes to being crazy but also charming and likable as a central figure. The rest of the cast compliments him well and manages to hold their own in the occasions of his absence (like when they are all in his head dancing to his mad dreams). Of particular delight to me is the presence of Jemaine Clement, who I assumed was a cameo when he first popped out of nowhere and am now delighted to learn that he’s simply part of the cast. In other ways, this show is completely different from anything else out there to the point that I am impressed they were able to make it. It’s artistic to a fault at times, but also does a vivid job of painting what mental illness could look like in a world where superheroes exist.
I’m definitely invested in this show and will be watching the other two seasons this month, even if it does feel pretty disconnected from the main Marvel line. They are careful not to mention much, with only the word “mutant” there to even link it to a broader Marvel universe. I do secretly hope we’ll see a Charles Xavier show up, but I suspect the show won’t name him like that. It seems content to be very separate from anything to do with comic books.
Spider-Man: Wings of Fury
One thing I did not expect to find while planning out my Marvelous March was a novelized prequel to the events of Spider-Man: Miles Morales – the video game that came out last year (which I played through last month, cheating on my Marvel month a bit). Wings of Fury, by Brittany Morris, is just one of three books I managed to buy, all kind of in the same series of video game-based novelizations and all based in the Marvel universe. I read through Wings of Fury in three days, and genuinely enjoyed it. This took an effort of separation from the content, a suspension of disbelief I guess beyond what I normally take to books, because it’s quite a ridiculous story.
The narrative takes place after the events of Marvel’s Spider-Man, the amazing 2018 game that, along with 2020’s Miles Morales, stands as the best Spider-Man has ever been in digital form. Miles and Peter are fighting crime in the city together, with Miles just learning the breadth of his abilities and receiving training from Peter on the regular, when a group of flying villains makes an appearance in the city. Vulture is shown to be behind the events, along with a new villain named Starling and her Crows. The book ends up having some strain of nanobite virus infect most of the city, turning them into giant birds that nearly destroy NYC, until they are of course stopped and cured by Miles quick thinking.
Now, the plot of this thing is ridiculous – more-so than even most comic book tales. It was hard to take it seriously at some point, even though I enjoyed the diary-like quality of Miles’ narrative of the events. The book is very young adult, as it should be given the main character. That said, there were some discontinuities that bothered me. The whole birdemic incidence of the book is never mentioned in the game that directly succeeds it, which seems pretty odd considering it was nearly a world-altering event. The discontinuity continued in the inability of Miles to do anything remotely scientific, and odd choice of characterization considering his ability in the game is near genius-level.
Like with many things this month, I went into Wings of Fury with pretty tempered expectations, and found myself pleasantly engaged and surprised with it, despite the lunacy of its plot. It was fun. That’s ok in books occasionally. I’ll be curious if the other two books I plan to read have the same level of entertainment, or if they try to take themselves too seriously.
Various Comic Runs
- Legion Volume 1: Prodigal – This is a fun series, though quite different from the television program. David Haller has a Scottish accent, is completely insane, and has powers rivaling nearly every on the planet (when he can access them). He plays an odd type of anti-hero in that he’s often trying to be the good guy, but like the Hulk often screws everything up without realizing it. You can see the seeds of him becoming something incredible, but his own psychosis gets in the way too much for it ever to manifest.
- House of M – Obviously I started this due to the WandaVision craze that is sweeping myself and most of the world right now. As much as I don’t want to spoil the show for myself, I felt the need to imbibe something, anything, after those first couple of glorious episodes. House of M is good, and has many of the details that are in WandaVision, but is also very different. In the comic, Wanda Maximoff has had some kind of psychotic breakdown and used her reality altering powers to literally create a utopia, at least for mutants as they are the ones who take charge in this idyllic world. The whole volume really speaks to how much power she wields.
- Vision Volume 1 and 2 – Reading the House of M and watching WandaVision also led me to checking out the Vision run from a few years ago. In this, Vision has created himself a synthezoid family. He and Wanda have fallen out, but he still seeks the normal-ish life that he seems humans around him having. He wants the family, the suburban life, the fake dog. It’s fun reading House of M and the Vision series because there are nods all over the show back to these two comic runs. Sparky, from the last episode, is the latest direct attribution to this series.
- Scarlet Witch Volume 1: Witch’s Road – This volume has a beautiful cover, with some gorgeous art inside to go with it, but that’s where anything good about it ends. I don’t know who was in charge of this run, but it’s a mess. The story is fine, as much as it’s a solo superhero story about one of the most powerful beings on the planet who all of the sudden just seems incredibly diminished. The problem with the volume is that it’s severely disjointed, with plot elements from the first couple issues completely disappearing and never coming back up. The worst part is that artistic shifts throughout the volume, with each issue having a different style. This can work if styles match stories and they’re all consistently good, but some of the styles in this volume are just shit. The last issue, which I couldn’t even bring myself to fully read, looks like it was drawn by an angry teenager and I hated the way it looked as much as its possible for me to hate something. Really disappointed with this entire run. Wanda has potential in goods hands, but this isn’t it.
I am also playing a veritable plethora of video games, but I haven’t delved far enough into them to write much yet, so look for those later. There are both far too many Marvel games, and also far too few. Thankfully, there are some that are very much scratching that Marvel itch. Here’s a list of what’s on my docket for the month.
- Marvel’s Avengers – Crystal Dynamics ill-released 2020 game that I’m actually quite liking despite its mess of a launch and roadmap. Thor plays exactly how I want him to play, and that might be enough.
- Marvel’s Spider-Man – I played this when it came out in 2018, but having just finished Miles Morales (which I’ll likely play again this month), I felt compelled to upgrade to the PS5 Remastered version and I’m in love with this game all over again
- Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 – Having not play one of these games since the ps2 days, it’s been interesting to see how familiar they feel to games from that era. So far, this isn’t a particularly great game, but it does have a bunch of characters and it’s fun.
- Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite – Oh boy is this a frustrating game. There are parts I absolutely love, and parts that make me quit immediately (largely the Capcom parts if i’m honest).
- LEGO Marvel’s Avengers/Super Heroes – These are exactly what they sound like, but I have a soft spot for LEGO games and these are fun.
- Marvel Contest of Champions and Marvel Strike Force – Two mobiles games and both with gacha mechanics that are surprisingly enjoyable. I’m not sure how much I’ll play of these, but they fulfill that Marvel itch when I’m away from anything else.
It has been a week so far in Marvelous March. I have consumed more Marvel content in seven days than most people probably consume in a lifetime, and it’s been cathartic to be perfectly honest. This takes me back to my childhood in a way that few other things do, and I also just love the Marvel universe for all that it brings to people. There is plenty to criticize in anything to do with violence and heroics, but if I have a moral blind spot, it’s probably for these Marvelous people.