A new year means a new crop of superhero movies. Well, it means a lot of things but that’s the one I’m focused on right now. There’s a long-running tradition where I take a look at the year’s upcoming movies, share my thoughts, and offer some recommended reading. And so, with Black Panther a week away, the time has come to dive in. And since this year, there are eight major superhero movies, I’m going to split it into two installments, with the second one coming later this year. Ready?
Black Panther (February 16) – Yeah, you’ve probably heard about this one by now. After T’Challa’s introduction in Captain America: Civil War, the Black Panther is back for Marvel’s first movie with a black lead. (And a black director and mostly black cast.) Culturally, this is an event along the lines of the Wonder Woman premiere and everything I’ve seen looks amazing. The cast is incredible (Also? Just found out that the Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman, is my age. I can’t even wrap my mind around that.), director Ryan Coogler is fresh from the excellent Creed, and the early reviews are universally positive. (Putting aside the racist groups who plan to review-bomb Rotten Tomatoes, of course.) Like Wonder Woman, there’s an audience that’s been waiting years for this, and like Wonder Woman, it looks like it might be worth the wait. There’s not much more I can say – this one looks really good and it’s going to be a hit.
Recommended Reading – OK, so there’s this. Writer Christopher Priest’s five-year run on Black Panther is my favorite Marvel series ever. It’s a smart political thriller that’s funny and sometimes dives into the weirdness of the Marvel Universe and basically put Black Panther back on the map. Before he came along, T’Challa was a third-string former Avenger, and Priest made him Batman but also King of the most technologically advanced nation on Earth. And as the first black writer to handle the character, he dealt directly with some rather dicey Marvel characters and attitudes from years past and made Wakanda something special. He created a bunch of the characters from the movie, like Everett K. Ross and the Dora Milaje. His run is collected in a series of trade paperbacks that I can’t recommend highly enough. That said, the first hunk of his run takes the Panther to New York and it takes a while to get him to Wakanda. So if you want Wakanda, I’d recommend the current series by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Really!) and Brian Stelfreeze. The first volume, “A Nation Under Our Feet” should be readily available and is very good.
Avengers: Infinity War (May 4) – Another one you’ve probably heard about, this is the first of two Avengers movies to wrap up the first ten years of the MCU. Thanos is assembling the Infinity Stones, which we’ve seen in a whole bunch of movies by now and attacking Earth directly. You know who’s in this one? Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Falcon, War Machine, the Guardians of the Galaxy (including Nebula and Mantis), Vision, Scarlet Witch, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and Spider-Man, plus various supporting cast members. It has the potential to be absolutely ridiculous, but also amazing. The thing is, we already know all these characters so that cuts down on introductions. You know Dr. Strange’s deal, here’s what happens when the Hulk crashes through his roof. I’m going nuts imagining some of the pairings we could see (A Sherlock reunion with Dr. Strange and Everett Ross! Or Parks and Rec with Ant-Man and Star-Lord! And how does Spider-Man deal with the existence of Rocket Raccoon?), and it’s directed by the Russo Brothers who handled the last two Captain America movies and were there at the birth of two of my favorite TV shows. This should be pretty rad. My only question is which Community cast member the Russos are getting into this one. I mean, I know which one I’m hoping for…
Recommended Reading – This is loosely based on the Infinity Gauntlet series from a few decades back but even though people consider it a significant piece of the Marvel Universe, I’ve just never been able to get through it. It’s beautifully drawn but it’s mostly cosmic nonsense. Plus, the characters involved in the comic are quite a bit different from the movie (More X-Men and Fantastic Four, no trace of the Guardians or Black Panther). You’ve seen ten years of movies leading up to this – that’s probably all the backstory you need.
Untitled Deadpool Sequel (May 18) – I assume this is the actual title of the movie and the fact that I groaned at the possibility might mean that I’m all full up on Deadpool. I liked the first movie just fine, but two years later, I remember almost none of it. And as much as I’m into the director of John Wick coming aboard, I am not at all happy about the addition of Cable. I mean, it’s kind of funny that Josh Brolin will be playing both Thanos and Cable in two Marvel movies that will be in theaters at the same time. But man, Cable is just the worst. He’s a boring character who spent decades in search of a personality or reason to exist and other than a brief stretch in the late nineties when his book was actually really good and spunkybuddy Larry Young was a supporting character, he’s just a glowering mass of ill-defined character. You can point to Cable as the moment where I turned away from Marvel for years – he’s utterly generic; has a name that has nothing to do with his powers, personality, or appearance; and he’s tied into about ten different bad storylines in the hopes that he’ll finally have a reason to exist. I hate Cable. I don’t really care about Domino either, but she’s a little less egregious. But we’re stuck with the both of them and their alternate future nonsense. I mean, it’ll probably be fun and the people who were really into the first movie will probably enjoy this one, but a little Deadpool goes a long way for me. That sounds grumpier than I meant it to – I’m sure I’ll have fun and get some laughs and then probably forget every single joke within a few weeks. I’d be a lot more positive if not for Cable.
Recommended Reading – I did enjoy the Deadpool run by Gerry Duggan (with co-writer Brian Posehn for a while) particularly when they just made Scott Adsit a regular character. Years ago, there was a series called Cable and Deadpool which might make for a good introduction, but I haven’t read it. Because Cable.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (July 6) – OK, how weird is it that Marvel is putting out three movies this year by Fourth of July weekend? Space ’em out guys! I liked having November movies the last couple of years. But then, Disney is putting out three Marvel movies, a Star Wars, and the Incredibles sequel by this time. I don’t know what they’re doing for the second half of the year. I kind of think they’re just going to bail on the entertainment industry and start making hot tubs or something. Regardless, I am very much into this. I really enjoyed the first movie (even if I wish we’d gotten to see the Edgar Wright film that could have been), and Ant-Man is one of my favorite characters in the MCU. I mean, the bit when he gets big in Civil War is pretty much my favorite thing in the series. And this one promotes Evangeline Lilly to title character status as well as bringing in Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne, and freaking Walton Goggins. Oh, and Randall Park plays Jimmy Woo and I’m desperately hoping that’s the setup for an Agents of Atlas movie. I’m assuming there’s some sort of continuity shenanigans, since I can’t imagine Scott’s just going to have a solo adventure midway through Infinity War, but that’s a minor matter. I love Ant-Man so much, you guys.
Recommended Reading – Writer Nick Spencer did a very good Ant-Man series just recently, with a Scott Lang who should be recognizable to movie fans. Also, Paul Scheer was a supporting character. And, heck, pick up one of those Agents of Atlas collections. Even if Jimmy Woo isn’t there to set up a new franchise, that was a darn good series.
Believe it or not, there are still four more superhero movies this year, including Sony’s attempt to make a Spider-Man related movie without being able to use Spider-Man. But we’ll get to those when they get a little closer in October or thereabouts. Remember when I used to just be able to talk about two movies and we’d be done for the year?