Xaimi's Nerdy Blurbs: 2019

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Avengers Endgame: We're left to Marvel

Exactly one year ago, you and I sat down for an impromptu therapy session. A chunk of the world grieved for the lives lost after Avengers: Infinity War. 

Critics want to talk about what Infinity War and Endgame did right, what it did wrong, what was left out. Vindictive movie goers continue to spoil the latest title for others. Marvel fans, myself included, focus on the significant differences between the comic arc and the movies. Not today friends.

“It’s not about how much we lost. It’s about how much we have left.”

That’s right Steve; fans young and old cling to the past eleven years, but we can find what it means to move forward beyond the Avengers we know. The next few moments together discuss not only how I feel about Endgame , but reflect on the bounty it left us for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! If you have yet to see Endgame or ANY of the movies leading up to it, you continue forward at your own risk.

Source via Know Your Meme

Multi-verse is MCU Canon

Multiverse has been canon in Marvel Comics for at least 5 years now. It’s the reason Into the Spiderverse even exists. Kevin Feige’s MCU has yet to touch on this...until now. 

Tony Stark may be the brains and martyr of Endgame-- we thank you for your service-- but Scott Lang’s Ant-Man is the Avenger’s unsung hero. Twenty-three days after Thanos snapped his fingers and did his step, the remodeled Avengers find the Mad Titan on a distant planet, decapitate him, and get nothing for it.

Not a goddamned thing. No stones, no solutions, and no idea how to move forward as individuals or a team. Five years later, they are still dead in the water. Each of them trying to move on except for Natasha. She holds together the remnants of Avengers’ HQ surveillance and keeps communication open with their allies.

“I keep telling everybody they should move on. Some do, but not us.”

They have no way to move on until Scott reappears from the Quantum Realm via luck and suggests a “time heist.” If the Avengers can map the Quantum Realm, they can travel back in time to specific points where the infinity stones were, acquire them, return to the “new” present (more on that later), and undo what Thanos did. 

Professor Hulk is what one would call a "Family Size" snacc. Source: Marvel Studios via Quora

Loki and 2012

When Professor Hulk is sent back to 2012-- the setting for the first Avengers film-- to acquire the Time Stone, he meets the Ancient One. Takes some convincing for her to give up the stone, but before she does, she reveals that her current reality is just as real as our present day (2019) post-snap reality. Remove a stone and that creates a branch in time. Meaning the team must make sure to put the stones back at their original point in time when the job is done.

What does this have to do with multiverse?

Tony, Scott, and Steve were sent to 2012 as well to acquire the Mind and Space Stones. Steve succeeds with his mission, but Scott and Tony fail due to a collision course with 2012-Hulk; it sends the suitcase containing the Tesseract clattering open right next to the manacled God of Mischief himself, Loki. He picks it up and disappears.

Tony and Steve devise an alternate way to grab the Tesseract, but there’s no further mention of Loki or that incident for the rest of the movie. The six stones in the Avengers’ possession are returned near the end of the movie, but what about 2012’s Space Stone? It’s not in its original place because Loki has it. This means 2012 now has a branch in its timeline where everything that happens after is up in the air. 

Does Loki return the Space Stone to that timeline’s Thanos? Does he keep it for himself? Does he prevent the death of his adoptive Mother?

BAM! Multiverse made canon.

Following so far?

Tale of Two Gamora

Peter Quill’s Gamora serves as Thanos’s sacrifice for the Soul Stone in Infinity War. She’s fucking gone and we can never have that particular one back. However, we do get 2014’s Gamora back for a brief moment before she “disappears” after Thanos and his army are dusted. We see Quinn and Gamora during the final battle, but after the dust settles (not apologizing for that one), Quinn is on an active search for her using his ship’s computer.

Now to those of us paying attention, Stark’s snap has more implications than offing Thanos and the Mad Titan’s entire army. We will never know what Stark specifically thought, but the stones will dole out exactly what the wielder fathoms at that moment. Think of it as a wish from Aladdin to the Genie; make too vague a request and you might not get what you want. This means Stark’s mental projection to the stones had to be something along the lines of “Destroy Thanos, his army, and anyone that fights for him.”

Although 2014 Gamora chooses to aid the Avengers in this 2019 battle, it does not mean she would not still fight for her father after preventing his wish fulfillment. Thus, we do not know if she decides to go off the grid, or if she was reduced to ash during Stark’s snap. 

So, there may be no Gamora for Quill to find.

Let’s take this a step further. The year 2014 literally has no Thanos, none of his Children, or his militia. What does this mean for this timeline? Remember, in our main timeline, Thor and his people lose their home, manage to escape to space, but get wrecked due to Thanos in 2018. Does this not happen in the near future for 2014’s new reality?

The Captain Americas

The flood gates were thrown open for Captain America in the multiverse too.

1) During Endgame’s epilogue, Steve is sent to return the Infinity Stones they borrowed to their moments in time. He should have returned within ten Earth seconds. When Hulk flips the switch for Steve’s return, there’s no sign of “...America’s ass…” until Bucky and Sam glance off-screen. 

Source: T-Shirt design by Portrait Team via Teepublic.com

Steve has returned, but he’s much older-- senior citizen old. He explains that he returned all of their stones, but chose to take a moment to experience life- advice Tony gave him long ago. He reunited with the love of his life in another timeline and even got married, then, returned to 2019. He gives his shield to Sam, and when Sam tells him it feels like it belongs to someone else, Steve assures him it does not. Thus, the Captain America title is passed on to Sam, just like in the comics.

Fans have asked whether or not Steve’s extended time travel changed the original 2019 timeline-- thus was he never Captain America?

1a) How did two Steve Rogers co-exist in the timeline our Steve chose to live out his dreams in? My theory is that our Steve went to a point in time where he was injected with the serum, but did not end up frozen. A cut-scene shows the buff Steve we are used to seeing dancing with Peggy, the love of his life. So we know for sure the Steve in that scene had the serum, otherwise he would not have that appearance. This does not answer what happened to the other Steve in that timeline, but it does not have to.

2) When our Steve retrieves the Mind Stone from 2012, he has to convince the Hydra agents in the elevator to give it to him. The 2012 Avengers do not learn about the Hydra infiltration until much later in the MCU, but our 2019 Steve knows and whispers “...Hail Hydra.”

Holy fuck all the ducks! If you don’t understand what this does to the reality for that 2012 timeline, consider this: Our Steve is forced to kick his own 2012 ass in order to keep the Mind Stone. When the 2012 Steve eventually awakens from that beating, those Hydra agents will still be under the impression that he is in league with them!

Marvel Comics fans will eat this up: The 2017 comic arcs, Captain America: Steve Rogers and Secret Empire, has Captain America aligned with Hydra. So not only did the Russo Brothers give us an Easter egg comic reference, they also changed the course of 2012’s reality in tandem with the Loki event mentioned earlier.

Future of the MCU

Making multiverse canon is already enough hype for the Marvel Studios phases, but there’s still plenty of juiciness in the MCU’s future if we focus on the present arc in Endgame. Characters we have come to know and love (or hate) received plenty of development. Here are a few ideas to whet the palette:

1) As mentioned before, one Gamora is missing/dead and another is guaranteed deceased. What does this mean for the Guardians of the Galaxy third installment that we know goes into production after director James Gunn finishes his current project(s)? Will it be a prequel? Will it include Thor since he decided to hop on board to discover himself? The script for the third GotG movie was complete before Infinity War, but we have no idea whether or not the events in Endgame affect Gunn’s script.

1a) If GotG picks up where Endgame left off, this may be the movie that leads into an X-men crossover. In 2015, Marvel Comics debuted Black Vortex. The story details how the Guardians of the Galaxy and the all new X-Men work together to defeat a common enemy. Their foe possesses a powerful object called the Black Vortex. Kitty Pryde, ultimately absorbs some of the Black Vortex’s power and, unlike others before her that were imbued with some of its power, she gets to keep the boost. She also ends up engaged to Star-Lord!

The MCU already took a few liberties that would require changing the storyline for the Black Vortex arc a little bit, but now that Disney acquired 21st Century Fox, a post-credits GofG three scene can point towards this mash up!

2) Kevin Feige confirmed a standalone Black Widow film is in the works. IGN reported that he told Comicbook.com Widow’s movie will not be R-rated. He did not confirm whether or not the script is complete, but the writer and director are listed in the interview. 

That’s all good and well, but Black Widow dies in Endgame. Irreversible death, Natasha sacrifices herself so that Flint can retrieve the Soul Stone. The state of her character in this timeline is the same as the first Gamora; the action is permanent. This means viewers can say with strong conviction that the pending Black Widow movie is either an origin story or and alternate timeline. No other way about it. Maybe the writer will finally explain the Budapest reference Natasha and Clint kept making.

3) The potential outcome I am ecstatic about leads to an A-Force-esque movie. The A-Force comic arc is a female powerhouse Avengers team featuring Captain Marvel, She-Hulk, Medusa, Mighty Thor, Nico Minoru, Singularity, and Dazzler-- the first of its kind for Marvel. 

Valkyrie’s Tessa Thompson, Scarlett Johannson, and several other MCU actresses have been quite vocal about a female-led movie for the franchise. Yes we got Captain Marvel and an untitled Black Widow entry is on the way, but it would be pretty damned slick to see a full team on the big screen. Tony’s demise in Endgame leaves a vacancy for the Iron Man title. With multiverse in effect and a cast of powerful female characters already established, what’s stopping a Riri Williams casting for Iron Heart? 

Source: Marvel

Look, I’m not expecting the last idea to happen right away, but if we got Spider-man Homecoming that last minute, anything is possible in ten years. Besides, audiences were given that glorious splash page view of the MCU ladies preparing to rip Thanos’s army a new one while Carol ferries the gauntlet. It screams A-Force.

Feeling Far From Home

Where Infinity War left me longing to break Thanos’s ankles, Endgame left me with a sad melancholy. Sad because I lost Stark. Hell, all of us lost Stark. Melancholy because Steve finally fills the hole in his heart, but discontent because not only does the torch pass end an era, but both him and Stark receive more grace in death and life respectively than Natasha or Gamora ever will.

Sam Wilson accepting the Captain America mantle moves my spirit because not only is it a nod to Wilson embracing the helm in the comics, it’s a subtle nod to Truth: Red, White and Black. The 2003 comic spans seven issues and reestablishes the origins of Captain America; Steve Rogers is not truly the first Captain. Isaiah Bradley, an African American man, is. When old man Steve tells Sam, the shield is not in the wrong hands, he means it.

Seeing Pepper Potts don her custom Iron Man suit made me squeal because I remembered unlocking that playable character suit in the Lego Marvel Super Heroes video game back in 2013.

Yes, I’m sad to see this phase of the MCU come to a close, but we still have one more movie in the phase to look forward to: Spider-man: Far From Home. Until then, we’re left to Marvel over how far the MCU has come and most important, where it is going.

Until Later Guys,

Xaimi ^_^

Monday, April 1, 2019

Alita: Battle Angel - Finally

What kickstarted your adventures into anime and manga?

The now defunct Borders Books and Music had a decent manga and manwha library for a North American retailer. Around that time, TokyoPop, Dark Horse, and a few other publishers released English translations of popular series. My internet access was rudimentary at best, so while everyone else slurped down the popular anime of the time-- Naruto, Bleach, Hellsing-- I discovered the following sweet gems: Zombie Powder (see Bleach artist Tite Kubo), Black Cat, Saiyuki, and Battle Angel Alita.

Originally released in Japan as Gunnm, Battle Angel Alita is the story of a young cyborg woman, Alita (Yoko/Gally) that wakes into a world she does not recognize, with no memory of her past, and a prosthetic body built by the kind, but reserved Dr. Edo. She has no idea where to start digging for her memories, until a life or death situation awakens her innate prowess in the ancient fighting art of Panzer Kunst-- a Martian style thought to be lost and only taught to Berserker warriors. She enlists as a Hunter Warrior, believing that she will find herself through her fists. Gunnm spends three full arcs following her literal and figurative transformations as she develops in this world.

I opened the manga thinking I would get the usual big-eyed pushover protagonist followed by me rolling my eyes and closing the novel. What I got is a series that resonated in so many ways. I’ll try to keep my strong women rant brief, but HOLY SHIT I LOVE A STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER! You’ve heard me mention this before, but I felt out of place growing up because my interests were considered unlady-like. So, seeing Alita break literal legs,compete in Motorball (think Blitzball out of water and on rollerblades), take on strong warriors of all genders, and still cry or struggle with naivety was refreshing.

Then, all went quiet. I finished the manga, never knew the anime made it stateside, missed that Playstation 1 game release, and mused over cosplaying Alita. But that was it. If you had told me James Cameron looked to helm a live action adaptation around the same time I happened upon the manga, I probably would have squealed.

But, I never knew.

Instead, the years after 2003 gave us painful memories like Avatar: the Last Airbender, two Hitman (iterations based off the games), Dragonball: Evolution, Death Note, Ghost in the Shell, Street Fighter: the Legend of Chun Li, and Speed Racer-- aka Hot Wheels ™ the live action. The anime community weathered a lot of torment, but I think nothing cut deeper than Evolution. I mean, we’re still referencing how it hurt us…

Thus, you can imagine my wariness when I learned last year that Alita Battle Angel was in production. Watching the trailer ignited hope and worry in equal doses. Hollywood does not have a happy history with anime adaptations, but complicating things further is that Gunnm is a cult classic; Gunnm is to Ghost in the Shell as Equilibrium is to the Matrix. Mention the latter in each example and the fans flow in abundance. For this adaptation to succeed, it would have to attract positive attention in groves.

I caught an early screening of the film in IMAX 3D. I usually avoid paying extra for 3D, but this particular screening offered the tickets at a discount rate. Thus, I saw Alita the way the directors intended it to be seen. I decided to forgo the 3D option during my second viewing and I can honestly say the lack of extra effects did not hinder the experience. After watching it twice, I feel Rodriguez and Cameron succeeded where many have failed.

Cameron chose to script the adaptation as a coming of age story, and while I disagree with this approach, his reasoning behind it is sound. The early screening finishes with a 30-minute Q&A with cast members and the co-directors. Here, Cameron explains that reading Gunnm while raising his young daughter was perfect timing. He felt that Yukito Kishiro crafted a female protagonist with depth without relying on the usual tropes for women in the Shonen/Seinen genre.

Audiences unfamiliar with the manga or anime, are lured into the movie because you want to see how Alita develops in this new world. Does she allow the corrupt, loathing despair of Iron City to cloud her positive outlook, or will she change the pecking order through sheer grit? This is a movie you can enjoy as an adult, but you can bring your young niece or so to and they actually take away multiple life lessons.

Alita incorporates several of the early manga volumes into one two-hour movie, so die-hard fans will take issue right away with the timeline of events or item/character origins-- Damascus Blade found with Zapan-- yet the directors managed to succeed for this exact reason; you do not have to read the manga or watch the anime in order to follow the live action. Only those of us that are fond of the series would notice the inconsistencies or liberties taken.

After diving through various reviews and articles, I noticed some critics feel that Alita Battle Angel failed overall financially. True, most of the box office revenue came from China sales, but compare Alita’s $400 million to the $169.8 million box office sales for the Ghost in the Shell live action adaptation. Dragonball Evolution brought in approximately $57.5 million worldwide. The numbers speak for themselves. A cult class protagonist beat out the live action rendition of the series that inspired the Wachowski siblings to make the Matrix!

The nerd culture community are vocal--sometimes to a level of toxicity-- about live action remakes for their beloved series, but I believe Rodriguez and Cameron gave us hope with this entry. Yes, the love interest plot felt forced and Alita’s big eyes still bother me, but the dynamic duo gave us a work of art that made Kishiro-san cry with actual joy. Cameron deferred to the series’s creator every step of the way. Even changing script details because Kishiro-san told him that certain behaviors are not in Alita’s nature.

I’d say given Hollywood’s track record, us nerds won this time.

Until Later Guys,

Xaimi ^_^

Random side thought: Hey @RoosterTeeth and @DEATHBATTLE , how about Alita versus Motoko Kusanagi?

Ghost in the Shell (2017) Box Office Gross
Dragonball Evolution Box Office Gross