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Review: Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #17

Like a cinnamon sugar pretzel for Auntie Ann’s, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #17 is a sweet treat of a comic book and a hell of a bit of icing on the cupcake that was Kate Leth, Brittney Williams, and (for the second half of the series) Rachelle Rosenberg’s run on the title. Patsy has finally come into some money thanks to getting back to the book rights to the romance novels and has decided to treat her friends to a nice shopping spree. (Color me jealous.) Cue a bevy of montages, food court scenes, and a celebration of friendship, queerness, and even a touch of fandom at the end.

I really like that Leth and Williams focused on the core cast of Patsy, Jubilee, Ian Soo, and Tom Hale in Hellcat #17. Before the shopping action even starts, we get some playful banter between Patsy and Ian, and it’s hard to believe that they were hero and villain sixteen issues ago until bonding over musicals. The bonds and interactions between characters have been my favorite part of Hellcat so far, and Leth indulges this by going full slice of life in the series finale. Williams counters with some wonderful (and wearable) fashion and adorable set dressing like Patsy’s cat themed cover set and slippers on the first page with a touch of Brooklyn sunlight from Rosenberg to show this is a perfect day. While also being a celebration of fun and friendship, Hellcat #17 also embraces body positivity with the diverse body types of its main cast, and an any outfit can look cool/cute attitude. (Someone needs to show me where Ian got his.)

Hellcat is still a superhero comic, and there is a “villain”, but Leth and Williams have a couple twists up their sleeves as the “Somnambulisters” transform from Z-list villains to vampires and finally big fans of Hellcat and queer teens. Williams uses choppy panels with simple backgrounds, puffs of smoke, and punching when it seems like Hellcat is fighting some of Jubilee’s vampire frenemies. However, she opens it up when it’s revealed that Stevie and Danica are Patsy’s biggest fans, and that fact ends up being facepalm-worthy thanks to dialogue from their very friendly villainous dialogue. (Also, one of the pair sits out during the brawl to take pictures like the other is visiting Patsy’s booth at a convention.) Speaking of dialogue, Kate Leth writes fast-paced, melodramatic teen dialogue and can cut to the core of the subtext behind the banter, which is that Stevie and Danica love each other. It’s a super cute touch to Marvel’s most queer-friendly book that featured a gay bookstore as a hangout/place to meet attractive gingers, like Tom Hale.

In its first issue, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat set out to be a comic book about super-powered individuals who just wanted to make ends meet, have a good, and not fight costumed villains or have run-ins with the authorities. Sure, there were fights against the Black Cat and journeys to hell along the way, but Hellcat #17 recaptures the spirit of Kate Leth and Brittney Williams’ original thesis for the series. Patsy doesn’t knock out the Somnabulisisters, but instead listens to them and finds out they have a passionate for Hellcat and each other. She doesn’t send them to jail, but helps them return their costumes to “Goth Topic” and even recommends they visit Tom’s LGBTQ bookstore to help them with their feelings for each other. This is just like Patsy helping Ian find work moving books at Tom’s store in Hellcat #1 instead of throwing him in jail for badly attempting to steal an armored car as Telekinian.

Even though it has quirky jokes and fierce style thanks to the dialogue of Kate Leth, the facial expressions and costume design of Brittney Williams, and a palette that uses just the right amount of pink from Rachelle Rosenberg, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat is a comic all about community building through organic friendships. It’s great to see characters go from awkward half-strangers or acquaintances from days past, like Tom who was in the Patsy Walker romance comic many moons ago, to friends in arms and finally, in shopping. That’s why it’s fitting that Hellcat #17 doesn’t end in a cliffhanger or final battle, but an overhead shot of friends spending time together.

P.S. Marvel editorial and future creators better not forget about Ian Soo, who will always be my bi bae and had a great arc throughout the series, and his backstory even tied into some of the villain fights.

P.P.S. This comic pair wells with “Safety Dance” by Men without Hats.

Story: Kate Leth Art: Brittney Williams Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #16

In Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #16, writer Kate Leth expertly weaves together a tapestry of plot threads and connects Patsy’s  “pandimensional stress flu” to her general feelings of inadequacy about balancing superheroing and a temp agency plus her strained relationship with arch-frenemy Hedy Clarke. She, artist Brittney Williams, and colorist extraordinaire Rachelle Rosenberg use reality warping illnesses, hell dimensions, and magic in general as a metaphor for negative feelings and interpersonal tension. And along the way, Williams continues to make Hellcat one of the cutest comic book existence by even making a demon named Belial hella adorable. (He’s so cute that he made Itty Bitty Hellboy jealous.)

Hellcat #16 is all about Patsy Walker the human being, how she’s changed over the past 16 issues, and who she wants to be. Is she a superhero, is she a queer and superhuman friendly entrepreneur and job creator, or is she just a sad, freaked out woman? Leth and Williams give Patsy all these qualities as she keeps switching up reality and even sends everyone to hell for a spell. The supporting characters, like Jubilee and her landlady Sharon King, are mostly played for comic relief with Jubilee changing form yet again to a Bela Lugosi-style vampire, and Sharon remaining focused on getting her building back in the midst of demons and mean girls. Their comedy keeps Hellcat #16 from getting overly dramatic and makes sure the book never loses its sense of fun.

Rachelle Rosenberg’s colors act as kind of tether in a comic that is constantly switching mood and locale, much like its heroine. She uses a pink background interchanged with a devil red in the foreground to show Hedy’s unlikely romance with Belial, who she calls Benny because sweater rocking, dog petting demons deserve pet names. Throughout Hellcat #16, she uses a light orange to show Hedy’s trip to Hell, which is much smoother than Patsy’s and ends with her getting a boyfriend. Orange is less intense than the reds that Rosenberg predominantly uses for Hell and makes it easier to relax and laugh off the non-stop drama of Daimon Hellstrom, who banishes people to Hell first and then asks questions.

Daimon is a hilarious character, and it’s nice that Leth and Williams brought him back before the end of the series complete with overwrought dialogue and pentagram. A shared laugh over his ridiculousness is the first time that Hedy and Patsy haven’t been antagonistic towards each other and is the first small step in repairing their relationship that ends with an apology, hugs, and ramen. Holding grudges sucks, but revenge is also a powerful feeling, and sometimes it takes the pissy Son of Satan to drive that point home.

Towards the end of Hellcat #16, Kate Leth and Brittney Williams tag team with powerful dialogue and timely panel angles to create an overflow of emotion as Patsy talks out her feelings to Belial, who is taking on the form of her best friend, Jennifer Walters aka She-Hulk. Williams does an extreme close-up of Patsy’s face and eyes as she admits that Jen’s injury shook her up. Patsy’s misses Jen’s ability to be a rock in the midst of dealing with all the stressful things in her life. But Belial, who is honestly the nicest demon in existence, switches to Jen as Williams’ art fades away, and Patsy cries in her arm and finds a bit of catharsis. It’s super tender and a great reminder of how important their relationship is. And even if Hellcat is ending, the bond or lack of one between Patsy and Jennifer is an important part of Mariko Tamaki and Nico Leon’s Hulk series.

In Hellcat #16, Kate Leth, Brittney Williams, and Rachelle Rosenberg prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that feelings are tougher to come to terms with than supervillains or hellions. They do this while throwing together the previous Hell dimension storyline and the current short flu arc to create one tasty concoction of a showdown between Patsy and Hedy. Also, Williams continues to draw Jubilee as the cutest X-Man turned vampire ever.

Story: Kate Leth Art: Brittney Williams Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #15

patsy-walker-aka-hellcat-15On the outside, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #15 seems like a special catch-all holiday special issue with Patsy, the temps, Jubilee, and special guests like her landlady Sharon King and Ms. America enjoying some mid-February cheer after some stressful times with Civil War II, Hedy, and most recently, Black Cat. But then writer Kate Leth, artist Brittney Williams, and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg make a comic take a turn for the reality warping thanks to the common  With trips to Hell and magical bags, Hellcat has always been pretty trippy to go with its slice of life meets quirky street level superheroics, but it’s mostly been contained into special locales. But the weird visuals have arrived fully formed at Patsy’s temp agency building, and Williams gets to draw all matters of mostly adorable and occasionally creepy images intruding on the “real world”.

In addition to featuring a fierce, sentient tiger plush named Mr. Sniffles, chibi Jubilee, and a Canadian flag rocking Ms. America, Leth uses Patsy’s sickness and possible new powers to zero in on how she is changing. She has spent so much of Hellcat fighting and dealing with drama that as soon as it’s party time, she sneezes out the personification of her stress and negative feelings. Instead of doing yet another team up with friends and save the day plot, Leth has Patsy fight her own battles and use her words and agile kicks to overcome her fears. Mr. Sniffles is pretty much Patsy’s subconscious so she uses her knowledge of herself and what’s she really freaked out about (US politics in 2017.) instead of her past or insecurity. It’s also kind of nice to have a superhero uncertain about how the United States is going to turn out under Trump, and this feeling stems from Patsy’s deep friendships with women, queer people, and people of color in both her home, work, and superhero circles.

And in focusing on Patsy’s “secondary mutation”, or whatever the Disney/Inhuman friendly phrase in this day, Leth and Williams don’t neglect her supporting cast. Ian and Tom Hale are hopefully off smooching somewhere, but Sharon King, Ms. America, Bailey aka Attache, and Jubilee each get a moment of badassery, insight, or cuteness. Sharon is really the only character with both feet firmly in the real world of rent and bills, and her resignation-filled dialogue bits are some of Hellcat #15’s funniest scenes. She gets to punch something too. True to her reputation, Ms. America does a lot of punching in this comic and also gets an adorable pajama set from Williams and Rosenberg. And Jubilee seems to be the one constantly getting transformed in different going from tiny to giant in turn of a few pages and is also very understanding about the changes in Patsy’s life and power set.

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Brittney Williams’ artwork on Hellcat has occasionally featured chibis, but she gets to all out with them thanks to Patsy’s new sneezing abilities. Chibi Jubilee puts Skottie Young’s baby covers and Marvel Tsums Tsums to shame especially when she starts petting Mr. Sniffles. But Williams can tap into horror too when Patsy sneezes out a giant wasp that leads to a lot of sad reaction faces from her friends. Rosenberg takes a break from her soft, happy palette and uses an angry pink background for the wasp attack. If you look at the background of every panel, you can tell Patsy’s emotional state instantly thanks to her colors, which furthers Hellcat #15’s goal of being an intense exploration into her character and a general turning point.

Kate Leth, Brittney Williams, and Rachelle Rosenberg throw out a bunch of crazy ideas in Hellcat #15, including connecting the sniffles and Scarlet Witch-lite reality warping powers, and most of them stick thanks to the fact that the weirdness stems from Patsy’s own issues. Also, Jubilee shapeshifting into a cloud will never not be hilarious.

Story: Kate Leth Art: Brittney Williams Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.2 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #9

Hellcat9CoverPatsy Walker AKA Hellcat #9 reaches new heights of fun, happiness, and queerness in an issue that features Jubilee being the best assistant ever and rocking the cappucinos, Tom Hale singing “Poor Unfortunate Souls” at karaoke, and a couple of bad boys from Patsy’s past showing up again. Writer Kate Leth delivers a script full of puns, heartful character moments, and just a touch of sadness as Patsy is still coping with her BFF, She-Hulk, being in a coma thanks to Civil War II. Artist Brittney Williams gets to show off her flare for action as Jubilee and Patsy get to team up against her ex-husbands, Mad Dog and Daimon Hellstrom. She can do misty eyed romance and enthusiastic friendship as well, and her fun, fierce, and cartoonish art style solidifies her as one of Marvel’s best current pencilers. And colorist Megan Wilson gets to add hellfire red to her usual pink, blue, and yellow palette, especially as Daimon ends up being too hot to handle.

She doesn’t get much panel time in Hellcat #9, but Leth, Williams, and Wilson elevate Hedy Clarke to arch-nemesis in the space of a single page. Most of the time, Hellcat is a slice of life sitcom, a quirky superhero adventure, or a Saturday morning cartoon, but the opening page of this issue is pure film noir. There’s a close-up on a martini glass and a cold blue backdrop from Wilson. Williams gives Daimon Hellstrom a classy suit, and Hedy Clarke, a red and black dress that pairs well with her stone-faced stare Hedy gives him when she lies about Patsy. And Hedy’s evil plan is pretty damn ingenious as she feeds on Daimon and Mad Dog’s negative feelings toward Patsy and lets them cut loose when she isn’t really in superhero mode. Plus Daimon Hellstrom is quite the powerhouse, and Leth and Williams show that as he ends a fight with one wave of his staff and a creepy pentagram.

Luckily, Hellcat #9 isn’t all darkness and evil. There are puns too. Most of the issue (except for the end of comic fight) is concerned with Patsy trying to make ends meet at her temp agency as she must balance paying rent on her building with paying her employees. Combined with her feeling down about She-Hulk’s injury, Patsy is running out of steam. Enter Jubilee, who is a happy ray of vampiric sunshine into the comic’s supporting cast. The spare roomwhere she holds court is super adorable with its mix of typical office trappings, like an espresso machine and mini fridge, and baby stuff for Shogo Lee, like a Wolverine plush, toy dinosaurs, and way too many sets of alphabet letters. Williams’ skill at background jokes comes in handy in this space, especially when Jubilee’s Magneto mug is concerned. “Magneto was old” could sort of be a thesis statement for Hellcat  as its characters are more concerned with helping out their friends and making ends meet than grand ideologies.

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And speaking of adorableness, the karaoke bar sequence is Hellcat #9 at its most queer friendly as Tom Hale and everyone’s favorite bisexual Inhuman Ian Soo aren’t victims, but joyfully singing, drinking, and maybe even falling in love. Tom’s choice of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” is kind of perfect, and the play of pink and blue from Megan Wilson creates a warm, tingly romantic feeling. (Full disclosure: I had a boyfriend, who had that as his go-to karaoke song too.) Williams also uses glances, little bits of hearts, and hilarious reaction shots from other characters to slowly craft the romance. Also, Leth writes Jubilee as the perfect wing woman with her slick one-liners about Tom not just being Ian’s boss. They should just kiss already, but this is a superhero comic and the smooching is put on hold for fighting. For now, at least.

Hellcat #9 is a flat out fun read as Kate Leth, Brittney Williams, and Megan Wilson put Hellcat and her friends through the wringer while also letting them live a little and enjoy life. There’s action, comedy, romance, plenty of cuteness, and a cliffhanger that is like something out of Stranger Things.

Story: Kate Leth Art: Brittney Williams Colors: Megan Wilson
Story: 8.5  Art: 9.5 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #7

hellcat7In Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #7, writer Kate Leth, artist Brittney Williams, and colorist Megan Wilson wrap up the ongoing conflict between Patsy Walker and Hedy Wolfe, her former best friend who is making money off old comic books about her life. And along the way, they tell excellent Alias and She-Hulk stories paying homage to the work that Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos, Charles Soule, and Javier Pulido on these books while giving it a Hellcat twist. One of the nice things about a long shared universe that creators can use past relationships and narrative tricks to add layers to their story, and Leth does this especially in Patsy’s struggles with being the “star” of a romance comic as well as her terrible relationship with her mom, who tried to bargain Patsy’s life for her own on her deathbed.

This issue does get pretty serious with legal terminology flying everywhere, and Patsy being forced to relive her past too. But as in the previous six issues, Leth, Williams, and Wilson season the story with plenty of fun, bright colors, and some humorous cartooning from Williams. It is really clever how Williams incorporates gag panels into an arc of a superhero comic, such as fourth wall breaking shots of the artist herself getting Patsy to sign a book, Luke Cage reading his own comic (Power Man and Iron Fist) while Patsy and Jessica scheme, or Hedy and her evil cat Betty furiously reacting to Jessica Jones’ sarcasm in a scene that wouldn’t be out of place in an old Peanuts strip. These moments give a little comic relief from the darker places that Hellcat goes and show one of the advantages comics has as a medium: quick visual humor.

HedySux

Hellcat #7 also happens to be one of the best Jessica Jones stories in years even if the emotional focus is more on Patsy and to a lesser extent, Tom Hale, who reflects about living in Centerville (Patsy’s old home and the setting of the comics featuring her.) as a closeted gay man. Jessica gets to use her P.I. skills, wit, and even her superpowers to help find dirt on Hedy and help her fellow superhero, Hellcat. She plays an active role in the plot while also being a wife and mother as Luke and Dani come to the book signing. Patsy and Jessica don’t have the same bond that they do in the Jessica Jones TV show, but Leth and Williams start to forge a relationship between them as they have a contest to see who can jump, fly, or vault into Hedy’s window while swapping sarcastic banter. (Some dark colors from Megan Wilson makes these pages extra sneaky.)

HellcatConfrontation

Like the first arc of Alias where Jessica protected Captain America’s secret identity, she ensures that Hedy doesn’t out Patsy to anyone who might harm her like the current court case where she is trying to get the rights back to the Patsy Walker romance comics. However, Leth takes an extra step and makes the subtext text by having a gay man, Tom Hale, talk about how he had to keep his sexuality under wraps while living in a small town, which is a relatable situation for many queer folks and also connects to Patsy wanting to give her secret identity only to her friends and confidants. And it’s a pretty powerful moment when Hellcat “transforms” back into Patsy Walker to confront Hedy about how her mom made life a literal hell for her, and that Hedy is continuing Dorothy Walker’s legacy by reaping the financial benefits. While Patsy is usually adorable smiles and winks, Brittney Williams gives her a fierce, intense expression to show she means business along with some big hand gestures.

Whereas Hellcat #5 was more of a traditional superhero brawl, Hellcat #7 is a mix of a legal drama and P.I. story that lets Kate Leth, Brittney Williams and Megan Wilson go a darker place plotwise and visually while showing the importance of friendship in Patsy’s life as Jessica Jones, Jennifer Walters, and even everyone’s favorite ginger bear Tom Hale help her finally get her life back and track so she can help the young superpowered people of New York also have better lives through her temp agency.

 

Story: Kate Leth Art: Brittney Williams Colors: Megan Wilson
Story: 8.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

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.