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Review: West Coast Avengers #1

Spinning out of her fantastic Hawkeye run, Kelly Thompson kicks off the next stage in Kate Bishop’s heroic career and makes her the leader of the Avengers with artist Stefano Caselli and Triona Farrell. Well, it’s the West Coast Avengers to be honest, and they fight lands harks and 200 feet Tigras and are funded by Quentin Quire’s reality TV show and camera crew. But questionable credentials aside, Thompson and Caselli have created something special: a comedic superhero team in the vein of the classic “bwahaha” Justice League International for 2018. Caselli can do literal big action and big funny as well as romance (Kate’s boyfriend from Hawkeye is on the team as the rookie superhero, Fuse) and even capture the watercolor beauty of traveling through America Chavez’s star portals. He gives West Coast Avengers a blockbuster scope while not sacrificing the humor or quirkiness.

Like most team superhero first issues, West Coast Avengers #1 is all about assembling the team and setting up the team’s first obstacle. Thompson and Caselli create this new Avengers squad from a highly organic place: Kate Bishop freaking out. Seriously, fighting land sharks with a bow and arrow and some martial arts is a tall order. There’s also the more logical place that most superheroes in the Marvel Universe are clustered around New York City and really there needs to be a dedicated, experienced superhero team to protect the West Coast, especially the United States’ second biggest media market, L.A. (Sorry Runaways!) Thompson and Caselli immediately set up the team’s key relationships by having Kate call in the other Hawkeye, Clint Barton and her BFF, America Chavez to help out with the initial threat. They have an easy conversational rhythm in the heat of battle, and Barton especially fits into his supporting role with Stefano Caselli drawing hilarious reaction shots of him watching Kate ride a herd of sharks into the ocean or his responses when Fuse acts about Kate’s ex Noh Varr, who wasn’t invited to the team.  He also acts as the connection

The two wild cards on West Coast Avengers are Gwenpool and Quentin Quire, who brings in the reality TV show angle and makes sure everyone around him knows that he’s an omega level mutant and the strongest member of the team. Since the mid-2000s and the New Warriors, the reality TV superhero angle has been used a lot in comic, but Thompson and Caselli don’t use it for broad brushed satire. Instead, they use the sound bites for characterization and quick moments of levity like when Quire and Gwenpool blow something up in the background while Kate is doing a semi-serious confessional. During these big gags, colorist Triona Farrell’s palette is bolder and absurd than her usual sunny SoCal color choices with the soft purple of Kate’s costume or the glow of the horizon.

West Coast Avengers is a grounded world of ex-boyfriends and sprawling and eating pizza after a hard day’s work, but it’s also a world of Looney Tunes Gwenpool guns and this never gets old, land sharks. Stefano Caselli uses reaction panels to wink at the audience and say, “Yes, this book is weird. Enjoy it!” It can segue from a romance beat to a comedy beat and then an action beat and back again in the space of a couple pages like when Kate and Fuse are making out, run into Quentin Quire and Gwenpool aka “useless Deadpool knockoff” bickering about a wet towel prank to jumping into action via an America star portal. West Coast Avengers has a light tone without devolving too much into parody. For example, giant Tigra is a very real threat to the team and also an opportunity for team leader, Kate Bishop, to exercise situational ethics as she begins with getting Tigra’s old teammate Clint to try to talk her down before bringing in Quentin Quire with the psychic knockout punch.

In recent years, Marvel Comics has had several strong comedy titles in their lineup (Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Howard the Duck, and Max Bemis’ Worst X-Man Ever come to mind), but Kelly Thompson, Stefano Caselli, and Triona Farrell bring the funny to a team superhero book in West Coast Avengers.  It also continues the fantastic arc that Thompson has crafted for Kate Bishop over the past two years and providing a new home for the madcap antics of Gwenpool, the goofiness and salt of the earth earnestness of Clint Barton, the laconic punching of America Chavez (Hopefully, she isn’t relegated to team chauffeur.), and the pompous edginess and untapped potential of Quentin Quire. In one issue, a team with an interesting dynamic has been assembled as well as a bad guy that fits the tone of the book so all in all, West Coast Avengers #1 is a win.

Story: Kelly Thompson Art: Stefano Caselli
Colors: Triona Farrell Letters: Joe Caramagna

Story: 8.4 Art: 8.7 Overall: 8.6 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Hawkeye #16

hawkeye16coverThis era of Hawkeye draws to a close as Kelly Thompson, Leonardo Romero, and Jordie Bellaire deliver a story full of punching, trick arrows, and quips that still resonates emotionally. Sure, the clones and time travel might be a little too much, but the light, delightful tone of the story makes it work. Hawkeye #16 is Kate and Clint’s last stand against Madame Masque and Eden Vale, who can use people’s blood to bring them back through time temporarily, including some of the greatest ranged weapon using villains in the Marvel Universe. In a previous issue, Eden told Kate that she could bring her mother back. And to spice things up even more, there’s also Kate’s mental suggestion ability having father waiting in the wings as a wild card. It’s a slugfest of an ending that shows how Kate has built a great, if a little crazy life for herself and still leaves a couple plot threads for Thompson to play with when a book featuring Kate Bishop comes back in August.

Throughout his run on Hawkeye, Leonardo Romero has shown a real knack for connecting readers to the action starting with Kate and Clint with their backs literally up against the wall surrounded by a horde of enemies. Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye paid homage to Rio Grande. This is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid transposed to the key of Humphrey Bogart playing Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon. The noir tones of the earlier issue have been replaced with hand to hand combat and sort of siege warfare. The fight scenes really work when Romero draws a sequence from a rooftop vantage point to create an activity and trick arrow filled double page spread or tightens up and shows a one on one battle in a nine panel grid like Clint fighting his former mentor, Swordsman and kicking his ass.

Romero and Jordie Bellaire also capture these nigh flawless close-ups of characters before a big emotional beat like Eden realizing her quest for vengeance is hurting innocent people, like a young girl who reminds her of dead daughter. Bellaire does something beautiful with her palette later in the book using a faded blue to reunite Eden with her daughter for one last moment juxtaposed with a faded pink flashback of  of Romero’s art is clever, fluid,  never boring, and when he trades out arrows with shields, I think he will be a perfect fit for Captain America.

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Humor and sass are two of Kelly Thompson’s greatest strengths as a writer, and the sass level is doubled when Kate and Clint are both together in Hawkeye #16. Honestly, along with Romero’s art, the sass is the reason why Hawkeye is one of my favorite Marvel books. I’m dying to see what goofy thing will come out of Clint’s mouth or a choice portion of snark quip that Kate will deliver. And the best and most adorable parts is when Kate and Clint make the same joke at the same time because they have the best, bad strategy at the same time involving exploding arrows and heart to hearts. Romero and Bellaire’s storytelling skill at drawing the reader’s eye to the main action on the page as well as some great deadpan reaction shots allow Thompson’s jokes to hit and not have to go into narrator mode until the every end because every private eye story worth its salt has to end with an insightful voiceover.

Kelly Thompson, Leonardo Romero, and Jordie Bellaire pull out all the cool archery move/surprise superpower/generally badass stops in Hawkeye #16, which reads like the third act of a particularly thrilling buddy action movie. However, it’s not entirely caught up in the cool, and Kate finds a little bit of closure with her whole supervillain dad/dead (Or not so dead) mom situation thanks to the help of her new friends in L.A. Kate Bishop, the best Hawkeye, might not have the best life, but she does have a pretty good one.

Story: Kelly Thompson Art: Leonardo Romero Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Story: 8.7 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

 

Review: America #5

America #5 1America takes a break from time and portal jumping to give us the Amerikate team-up that many fans have wanted since Ms. America first called Kate Bishop aka Hawkeye “princess” in Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers. It’s spring break and America is visiting Kate in Venice Beach to catch some sun, drive fast cars, and also get some moral support when she meets her childhood friend, Magdalena, outside of Las Vegas. Their Gabby Rivera  and Kelly Thompson penned banter is quick witted, and Kate’s P.I. skills start connecting some of the dots in the larger plot. But the main event of America #5 (America and Magdalena use to be sparring partners as pre-teens.) is the art of Ramon Villalobos and the colors of Tamra Bonvillain with Brittany Peer.

Villalobos uses texture and body language to create the rapport between Kate and America, which is like two old friends instantly picking up where they left off.  They spend an entire page chatting hilarious about comfy pillows, and Kate is definitely there to empathize and accommodate with pizza and a pull-up bar that helps America think and process. Villalobos draws them in a variety of relaxed poses in the early going because it’s basically a big sleepover complete with Bonvillain’s welcoming, orange Southern California twilight. Re-establishing this bond definitely makes the tight and close car chases, punching, explosions, and killer final page more urgent and riveting.

America #5 is awesome because it’s an action romantic comedy starring two queer and one questioning woman. Rivera, Thompson,  Villalobos, and Bonvillain aren’t afraid to surrender to melodrama a little bit in sepia toned flashbacks that show the deep bond between America and Magdalena. These scenes are intense like any teenage crush, and it’s seriously relatable to see Kate “translate” Magdalena’s current day texts to America. America definitely has that feeling in the pit of her stomach about someone she cares about deeply and romantically even her words about Magdalena seem guarded. But she has always been more of an action and reflection person, and a close-up of her holding Magdalena’s flowers tells us everything we need to know about her feelings. Bonvillain’s colors for them is pretty too.

The conflict in America #5 is definitely driven by the metaphorical bandages of America #5 5America and Magdalena’s long simmering romance being torn off, but Rivera, Thompson, and Villalobos keep the comic centered in the friendship between America and Kate. It’s honestly one of the best ones in the Marvel Universe. Who needs complex space/ex-girlfriend/boxing plots when you could have a “Just A Girl” car karaoke complete with Kate and America’s smiling faces and hair blowing in the wind. This scene is a moment of pure exuberance and relief in the midst of traffic and drama and is immediately undercut by a biker in the rearview mirror. This image nicely transitions America #5 from the chilling to the action portion of the story though instead of going for a cheap page turn reveal. Villalobos builds suspense and then lets Kate and America cut loose. He fills the page with plenty of helicopters, bikers, and cyborgs for them to punch until they ‘splode.

Action, romance, opening up, friendship, and quips on quips on quips, America #5 is the team-up comic that we deserve. Gabby Rivera and Kelly Thompson’s writing for America and Kate is so entertaining that I could read an entire comic of them eating pizza and chatting, and their bond also allows America to open up and be vulnerable just a little bit in the quiet moments where she thinks no one is watching. Ramon Villalobos continues to be the master of body language and non-verbal cues to craft characters, and his car chases are a thing of a beauty. Tamra Bonvillain and Brittany Peer go both hot and desolate with their color palette like America’s feelings and the Nevada desert respectively.

To quote the comic itself, if you like “slaying monsters, the patriarchy, and extra large pizzas” plus heart wounding feelings and art that is the polar opposite of house style, America #5 is the book for you.

Story: Gabby Rivera and Kelly Thompson Art: Ramon Villalobos
Colors: Tamra Bonvillain with Brittany Peer

Story: 8.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Hawkeye #2

hawkeye__2Kate Bishop really struggles being effective in the superhero/PI life in Hawkeye #2 as superheroes aren’t treated the same in L.A. as they are in New York. Her first client, Mikka, going missing and her investigation of the creepy Take Back Control (TBC, it has feel of a white supremacist group outfitted by mimes or Madame Masque.) organization provides the meat of Kelly Thompson‘s plot while artist Leonardo Romero continues to use Hawkeye-vision to show Kate’s thought process while she’s fighting/being a detective. And Jordie Bellaire continues to be one of the best colorists in the game using green and purple when Hawkeye does something triumphant, red when’s she stressed, and lots of shadows to give the comic a Southern California noir feel.

Thompson makes Kate a complex, interesting character by making her extremely competent at doing the whole archery and not so good at the whole being a private eye thing. (Maybe, she should hire Veronica Mars to tutor her for the P.I. license test, or just nab the answers…) She loses track of Mikka plus her stalker and doesn’t really ingratiate herself to the police, who keep asking her if she’s a P.I. or a vigilante. And it’s a good one, will Kate fight crime within the law or outside it using her arrows and fists? (She’s definitely better at the second one.) However, Thompson shows that the Mikka case going south isn’t just her fault as the police turn a blind eye to the Internet harassment she faced calling it a “grey area” instead of something very harmful. Cowboying up might be the only option anyway.

Romero’s art and Bellaire’s colors keep the pace of Hawkeye frenetic while occasionally hawkeye__2-1letting up on the pace to find Mikka and/or the TBC to show easily and precisely she takes out a couple of frat boys harassing a woman in an alley. Bellaire uses the purple to outline her plan, and then Romero jumbles the archery and martial arts in a whirling dervish of a double page spread that also includes her meeting a new acquaintance named Johnny, who is a decent guy. Bellaire shows Kate’s feelings towards him by He even admits to basically being the damsel in this situation as he and Kate are set upon by an army of harassers kickstarted by a TBC meeting.

Hawkeye #2 reminds me of the old Captain America stories featuring the Hatemonger as people start to act on their worst instincts (Which are instincts that they already harbor so they’re not completely off the hook as far as I’m concerned.), and Romero’s panels become cluttered with bodies charging at Kate. Unlike the the slick panels of her fight against the frat boys, it reads more like the big cliffhanger at the end of one of those far too numerous zombie TV shows with pained expressions from Romero, and a black, white, and grey palette from Bellaire. The beach turns from a place of fun to a possible slaughter pit in the blink of an eye.

Like arrows twanging in the Venice Beach night, there are shards of humor in the fairly dark world of Hawkeye #2. I know I have made many comparisons between comic and the TV show Veronica Mars (Kate’s ally Quinn has the personality of Piz and the computer skills of Mac.), but the inclusion snarky humor in the midst of some pretty dangerous situations is one thing they both have in common tone-wise. Kate’s asides give us a break from the intense action and also continue to make her a likable character to boot even if she is slightly cocky. But it comes with the codename, and who wouldn’t want to have the confidence to say they’re attractive in the middle of an alley fight.

Just like its protagonist, Hawkeye #2 is a confidently written, drawn, and colored comic, and its portrayal of Kate Bishop as simultaneously a badass and out of her depth is refreshing in a type of story that is sadly often populated by one-dimensional action women and damsels in distress.

Story: Kelly Thompson Art: Leonardo Romero Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Story: 7.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Hawkeye #1

hawkeye1coverHawkeye #1 did something that I never thought would happen: it filled the Veronica Mars sized West Coast P.I. hole in my heart. The comic follows the misadventures of former Young Avenger and current unlicensed private eye Kate Bishop as she helps the helpless folks of Venice Beach with archery skills, her keen insight, and loads of sass when she isn’t dodging questions about the “real Hawkeye”, Clint Barton. Kelly Thompson, Leonardo Romero, and Jordie Bellaire produce a comic that is easy on the eyes, easy to follow yet full of detail, and also deals with some real world issues as her first case involves taking down a social media harasser.

The first thing that struck me about Hawkeye #1 is how well-constructed the pages were at both a spatial and a color palette level in a similar manner to David Aja, Annie Wu, and Matt Hollingsworth’s seminal Hawkeye run. For example, Kate is following around a suspicious surfer dude when she sees the signs of an even more suspicious bank robbery. Romero orders the page in a linear way to help readers piece together what Kate is observing. For example, the opening setpiece featuring Kate stopping a bunch of masked bank robbers isn’t just speed lines and pin-up poses. Romero has a great sense of economy with layouts using a double page spread full of small panels and pointing out the both the bad guys and the innocent bystanders before unleashing Kate’s kicks, punches, trick arrows, and bow whipping. (It’s the Medieval version of pistol whipping.) He and Thompson use this action scene to show that when Kate is in archer superhero mode, she’s precise and unstoppable. P.I. Kate, however, is feeling the struggle as she accidentally parked in the wrong spot by her apartment/office. And it’s nice to see a piece of fiction that understands how small big city apartments are other than Broad City and Spaced back in the day.

In the bank robber scene among others, Kate’s line of sight is emphasized by Bellaire’shawkeye1interior colors, but she uses  a sultry SoCal pink instead of the sterile infrared of “detective vision” in the Batman Arkham games. (Those games are super fun though.) Bellaire continues to be the master of matching color to mood with a well-placed shade, like a pleasing purple, when Kate gets her bow and is ready to kick some president mask wearing robber butt, or a high pitched orange when she is chasing creepy Internet stalker guy later in the comic.

Just like the beaches of Southern California are generally prettier than Marvel’s version of Hell’s Kitchen, Hawkeye #1 has a brighter and broader sense of humor than its East Coast superhero/P.I. sister title Jessica Jones. Kate Bishop is a bottomless pit of sass, snark, and timely pop culture references, and I could honestly read an entire comic of her bantering with her surf shop owner neighbor or fighting off clients that want a piece of Clint Barton after that whole killing the Hulk thing in Civil War II. (Or a piece of him in a sexier sense.) It’s also super hilarious when she randomly points out attractive humans’ abs while doing serious P.I. things. Distraction is everywhere. This heavy dose of visual and verbal comedy makes Kate Bishop even more of an endearing character and keeps the comic from doing too much navel gazing as Kate is trying to find an identity of her own as Hawkeye out in Venice Beach.

Even though it squarely fits in the action comedy genre, Hawkeye #1 touches on a very important problem: the online harassment of women. It even mentions things like proxy servers and VPNS, which allow harassers to be anonymous and use multiple accounts and IP addresses after they are blocked or  banned from various forms of social media along with the authorities’ apathy or ignorance towards victims of harassment. Except they’re not match for a superhero with parkour and archery skills, and Kate easily finds the harasser and scares him into not sending creepy emails to the talented student blogger, Mikka in a couple powerful moments. Kate’s first case wraps up in a single issue, but Hawkeye #1 does have a bit of a downer ending. That’s 2016 for you, and the creepy conspiracy plotline creates a throughline between Hawkeye and All-New Hawkeye where Kate and Clint chased down some frightening SHIELD/HYDRA espionage and genetic mutation business.

Hawkeye #1 is as beautiful as a sunset on Zuma Beach (Aka you should visit there on your next trip to Southern California.) and also satisfies on the wit, superhero action, and P.I. mystery fronts too thanks to some creative synergy from Kelly Thompson, Leonardo Romero, and Jordie Bellaire. Intrigue, sass, and complex, yet simple to follow page layouts create a winning comic book combination.

Story: Kelly Thompson Art: Leonardo Romero Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

What Could Be Expected in Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

After its initial success with Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America and Thor, Marvel Studios quickly realized that it had a formula for success on its hands and seemed ready to take advantage of it.  To do so though required a plan, and studio head Kevin Feige soon had broken down the movies into various phases, with the most recent Ant-Man signaling the end of phase 2.  Aside from the developments inside the movies, there have been some developments outside the movies which have affected the universe as well, chief among those the partial reversion of the rights to Spider-Man back to Marvel, or at least the use of Spider-Man inside the shared universe in a collaboration with Sony.

At the moment, we kn ow the entire lineup for phase 3, starting with Captain America: Civil War and continuing through two new Avengers movies and the Inhumans.  What might be expected in the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?  The release of the newest Fantastic Four might signal some of the changes which we can anticipate ahead (there are some spoilers below).

Ant-Man and Wasp

waspMany expected Ant-Man to be one of the bigger disappointments thus far in the MCU, due to its ongoing problems with the direction, after it passed from Edgar Wright to Peyton Reed.  It seemed as though the studio was not going to take any risks with the character as they could not even confirm his role in any future movies.  This presumably will all change now that the movie has been released.  Although it can’t compare to the financial success of the year’s other Marvel movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, it also is noteworthy as being a better critical success, with a better rating at Rotten Tomatoes than Avengers.  With both financial and critical success it seems as though there will be more to come from these characters.  As was hinted at the end of the movie, there is still a lot of story left to tell as well, as the end hinted that Janet van Dyne might not be truly lost.  Furthermore Hope van Dyne was presented with a Wasp suit by her father.  There could be a lot of places to take the story of the two heroes, though one in particular might make the most sense …

Micronauts

micronautsThe Micronauts are a bit of an oddity in comics.  They started out as a line of toys, who were written into comics after in the 1970s after Marvel writer Bill Mantlo saw his son open a box of the toys.  The series started as somewhat of a standalone, but slowly was incorporated into the Marvel Universe, with appearances by some other mainstream characters.  While the rights for the characters do not presently rest with Marvel, there is a long publication history with the characters and as the rights rest with other smaller comic companies, it would likely not be too difficult to reacquire the rights.  Furthermore for the film studio that might try to replicate the runaway success of Guardians of the Galaxy, they might look smaller instead of bigger and find their next surprise hit there.  There would be some hurdles, but also there might be a few benefits, as Janet van Dyne disappeared into the smallest dimension, the Microverse.  This small universe is not in itself small, but the pathways to enter it are, and could give an explanation as to where the character disappeared.  They might find Janet in the Microverse, but they might also be able to find some other heroes there as well…

Fantastic Four

fantastic fourThe Fantastic Four is one of the best known Marvel properties that does not lie within the company’s grasp at the moment, instead being controlled by Fox.  While Fox has managed to control the X-Men franchise strongly enough with some decent movies, the Fantastic Four has mostly been a sequence of failures.  The first of the series was good enough to warrant a sequel, but this was before the wake of Marvel movies changed how fans expected superhero movies to turn out.  Marvel Studios was looking to be innovative, not just rehash generic action/sci-fi plots with superheroes thrown in.  The most recent attempt by Fox to revamp the Fantastic Four might have been an attempt to do the same, to get some new excitement into the mix, but it evidently did not turn out that way.  Critical response (and probably financial) will mean that the characters will have to be shelved for a while before the public has forgotten enough about them.  Using the Sony/Spider-Man approach, lending the characters back to Marvel Studios might be a wiser choice, one that would probably make more money for both, and one which would keep the fans happy.  By this point though, with two origin movies behind them, it might make sense to jump straight into the Fantastic Four with them already established as heroes.  They could exist in a similar sense to Hank Pym in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, unknown but still present.  More so, one of the places that is visited by the Fantastic Four is the Microverse, and if they were stuck there then it would be an easy bridge between Ant-Man and the return of Marvel’s first family.

Namor

namorIt is not entirely clear where the rights to Namor presently rest.  Kevin Feige has indicated that Marvel, if they desired, could make a Namor movie, but that there would be some “entanglements”.  Rights to the movie have rested with Universal, but seem to have at least partially lapsed.  What remains is speculated to be the same arrangement with 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, that Marvel creates but Universal distributes.  While it was not a problem when the Marvel Cinematic Universe was still nascent, it seems moving forward that Marvel likes to create and distribute, and to get rewarded financially at 100% for its efforts.  It might make exceptions for Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four but maybe less so for Namor.  Another factor to consider is what DC Comics will manage to do with its own movies.  The other of the big two comic companies is playing catchup, but also has the benefit of controlling the movie rights to nearly all of its characters.  They have already greenlit an Aquaman movie, but it remains to be seen just how well it will do.  Aquaman is after all a hero that is taken not so seriously in pop culture, but if DC can make it work, maybe it will give Marvel second thoughts about its own underwater hero.

Thunderbolts

thunderboltsThe fact that DC Comics is playing catchup in the movie game can also be to the advantage of Marvel.  Marvel has already taken its gambles and seen those pay off, as with Guardians of the Galaxy.  DC Comics, who are eager to catch up, are also taking their own gambles, and chief among those is the Suicide Squad.  Featuring a group of villains forced into a heroic role, it might catch on, or it might flop.  Fans certainly will not be very familiar with the concept, and the concept in itself is strange enough that it might not work.  On the other hand, it might work, and if yes then it could serve as a gamble that Marvel gets to witness the results of without gambling anything itself.  If popular it could use its own villain-turned-heroes team the Thunderbolts and catch the wave of people wanting more Suicide Squad before a sequel to the DC movie comes out.  If played right as well it could help quieten those that think that the MCU’s villains are the weakest part of the movies.

Defenders

defendersMarvel is already a long way along in its development of the Doctor Strange movie, and holds the exclusive rights to the Hulk as long as he is not the featured character in a movie.  A Namor movie could be forthcoming depending on the success of Aquaman, and if Fox sees the benefits of doing so, a collaboration might be in the works to return the Fantastic Four and associated characters to the MCU, which would include the Silver Surfer.  Those four make up the original four members of the Defenders.  For those that are getting a bit tired of seeing the Avengers over and over again on the big screen, it might be an excuse to feature this other Marvel team (although Marvel is working on a street level Defenders television show as well.)  One interesting aspect about this team is that as opposed to the Avengers that the original team is made up of all non-street level characters, meaning that the stakes could be higher and that bigger things might happen as a result, such as …

World War Hulk

wwhThis has been a long rumored development in the MCU, but also not one that has not yet come to fruition.  Marvel has been careful to include in story arcs from the comics, and it has made for some great connections for fans of both mediums.  Although World War Hulk is not necessarily the best all time Hulk story, it is up there, and would be a better vehicle for putting a new spin on the Hulk stories, more so than what we are seeing at the movies, with both Hulk movies fitting the same general pattern of the Hulk being hunted by the government after smashing up a bunch of stuff.  It would also allow the character to move beyond the Avengers, which is a connection that is not as strong in the comics.  Also if all the pieces fell into place, it would mean that a lot of the major players from the crossover might be able to make it into the movie, save for the X-Men.

Hawkeye

kateRumors abound that another major character will die in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War (especially that there are pictures from the set of a funeral sequence), and without any other way to verify this other than by seeing a movie that will not be released until 2016, it still seems likely that one of the characters that might be easiest to kill off would be Hawkeye.  He is among the less popular of the main characters in the MCU, and has been almost a footnote to the movies series, appearing to provide fans with another superhero, but also one that doesn’t really do much.  Even if he does not die in the movie, it is also worth noting that the character is one which is on the verge of retirement, being somewhat older than the other heroes and with responsibilities to his family.  This could leave open the possibility for a Hawkeye movie except not as we might expect.  As the movies expand in popularity it makes sense to be closer to four quadrant movies, and one way to do this is to introduce more female characters.  If Clint Barton were to retire on screen, it could open the door for Kate Bishop to step up, providing the MCU with another superheroine, and one with a lot more of an edge than Clint.

She-Hulk and Spider-Woman

shehulkOn that same note, if Marvel is looking to keep its female fans happy it might look to develop these characters as well.  Most of the main Marvel superheroines would be tied up elsewhere, with most of the major heroines being members of the X-Men, and other such as Sue Storm or Medusa mostly only operating as parts of teams.  Others such as Elektra and even Hellcat are tied to the television series, which mean that only a few major female characters would be left to get the big screen treatment.  She-Hulk and Spider-Woman could both be strong contenders to hold down their own movie, especially if Marvel did something unexpected and went off the script with the Spider-Gwen version of Spider-Woman.  It would also help to fill the ranks of the Avengers, a team which needs to be mixed up a bit from time to time to keep the roster fresh and the fans intrigued.

Ka-Zar

tigraKa-Zar is one of the longest running Marvel characters, but also one that has not had a very solid fanbase in modern years, although unquestionably popular among many.  Although Marvel is keen on taking risks, could it make the Savage Land work the same as it made Guardians of the Galaxy work?  The Savage Land is the source of many stories within the Marvel Universe, though most of them with the X-Men.  Why might the MCU be interested in the Savage Land?  It is a fantasy setting, and while it does not match up with other heroes, could still serve as an explanation for the re-appearance of some characters who also happen to be Avengers – Hercules, Tigra or even the Black Knight.  It might be a stretch, but Marvel will be looking for new blood for its Avengers as it moves forward, as is evident from the new roster after Age of Ultron.  Tigra especially might be interesting, as she not only is her own character, but is also indirectly responsible for the development of Hellcat, whose non-superpowered version is already set to be introduced in the Marvel television show Jessica Jones.

Iron Man 4

iron manThis is perhaps the biggest question to solve in phase 4.  A big part of what made the MCU so popular is that it based its hopes on the initial movie, Iron Man.  If this movie had failed so too would the plans for the shared universe.  Success would probably have still come the way of the studio, but it would have been a longer road.  Part of the runaway success of the original Iron Man was that Robert Downey Jr. was perfectly cast as Tony Stark, what some might say is not even really acting as he seems to be mostly playing himself.  That having been said, superheroes never really age but actors and actresses do.  While the studio can get a few more years out of Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson (all in their early to mid 30s), and even a lot more out of Paul Bettany (whose character the Vision wears so much makeup as to be ageless) and Elizabeth Olsen (who is in her mid 20s), it can probably expect less out of Robert Downey Jr, who is now 50.  They might push him for a couple more movies, but eventually he will need to be replaced, and the biggest question would then be by who, as the character is one that is of highest importance to the MCU.  There might be no bigger question heading forward in the MCU than who will fill this role.