Image: Marvel Studios.

Ohayo, my outstanding outgoing mail packages! Apologies for being late; all I can do is promise that it’s another extra-long installment, thanks to the abundance of great letters you guys keep sending me. So, this week: Some hard truths about the Avengers, some Wonder Woman plot holes filled, way more Tom Bombadil than is strictly necessary, and more!


Remember, Death Is Thanos’ Actual Girlfriend

Jeremiah K.:

My question concerns the MCU Avengers and what will happen to the core group following the third and fourth movies. All my friends believe that at least one major character is destined to die. Their reason for this is that it will cement Thanos as someone not to be messed with and for the secondary reason that the actors/actresses contracts are ending/getting to big.

I can understand this, however, I’m not certain this will happen. Wouldn’t Disney stand to make more by keeping all characters alive even if the current actors aren’t signed? I can. It imagine the MCU would kill a core member and never plan to use them again until the universe is rebooted.

Hope you can clear this up since you know how it will turn out in the end.

Is a major Avenger going to die somewhere in Infinity War and the fourth Avengers film? Absolutely.

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Why would Marvel kill a major Avenger? Like you said, to cement Thanos as the ultimate Big Bad, an immensely powerful foe that can even kill an Avenger—just as they did to a somewhat lesser extent when Loki killed Coulson in the first movie. But there’s actually an even better reason why Marvel will probably do this: Because they have to.

It’s no secret that Marvel locks down its actors to some pretty extensive deals—most of them signed for six films, I believe—but now, thanks to the team films and Civil War, at least some of those contracts are close to done. And guys? Not every actor will want to sign a new contract. Actors get tired of making another damn film in the same damn franchise every two or three years, and playing the same character, and maybe even of just putting on the damn costumes. It is highly unlikely that all of the people playing the various Avengers will want to keep doing it after the fourth film.

Is it in Marvel’s best interests to keep all its major actors on board? It absolutely is, and Marvel knows it. Marvel would be completely fine with all of these guys in their roles for the next decade at least. These movies make so much goddamn money, and a primary reason for that is its single, consistent universe. Marvel will absolutely avoid switching actors for as long as possible. But if they don’t have a choice, let’s try to figure out who the doomed Avenger might be:

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Robert Downey Jr./Iron Man: Doesn’t have to headline his own Iron Man pic anymore, can just show up and shoot a couple of months and appear in as many Marvel movies as he wants. It honestly seems like he’s game for anything as long as he doesn’t have to do too much in it… but maybe Marvel is using him as much as it can now before he decides he’s done? It’s hard to say, but with there being an excellent Iron replacement in Don Cheadle/War Machine, this is a strong possibility.

Chris Evans/Captain America: If one of the four top-tier Avengers is gonna die, I have to guess Cap. Somehow, it’s Chris Evans’s contract with Marvel that’s always getting brought up in the news, and Evans always saying he loves the character and other nice things, but never quite promising he’s going to continue on. Plus, Marvel has hit the Winter Soldier storyline hard, so thematically and narratively it would make a ton of sense for Sebastian Stan to step into the costume.

Chris Hemsworth/Thor: Honestly, Thor hasn’t made a single appearance in a Marvel movie beyond his own and the two Avengers films. He’s the most likely actor to have time left on his contract, which correlatively means he’s the least likely to be burned out on the role. Given how much fun he seems to be having in Thor: Ragnorak, it’s harder to see him walking away—and with Natalie Portman/Jane Foster gone, there’s no obvious replacement for him at all.

Mark Ruffalo/Hulk: What’s true for Thor is true for Hulk, only moreso, since Ruffalo has never needed to headline a film. But the flipside of this is that Hulk is the least prominent of the four main Avengers, and thus the one that’s least necessary. But you can flip it over again and realize this makes Ruffalo possibly the cheapest of the four main Avengers, and the least likely burned-out—and he’s one of the most loved and he’s on a ton of the merchandise. I say he’s safe.

Scarlett Johansson/Black Widow and Jeremy Renner/Hawkeye: The two 1.5-tier Avengers—part of the original team, but not leads, despite how bullshit this is in Black Widow’s case—are in trouble. They were both set up in Age of Ultron to have tragic deaths later (“I have a loving family!” “I can’t have a loving family and my life is forever incomplete!”), they’re both pretty much “main” Avengers without being on Avengers-themed birthday decorations, and clearly they’re not getting their own movies anytime soon. If Marvel manages to keep RDJ, Evans, Hemsworth, and Ruffalo, one or both of these two will likely die in their stead.

Elizabeth Olsen/Scarlet Witch and Paul Bettany/Vision: Both too new to the series for their deaths to have any real impact. Although there’s a damn good chance Vision is destroyed—probably when Thanos takes the Infinity Stone out of his forehead—but he’ll eventually be rebuilt.

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Anthony Mackie/Falcon and Sebastian Stan/Bucky: Although both have been Captain America’s supporting characters, I think Mackie has been given too little time as Falcon for his death to have any impact, so why bother, while Stan’s Bucky is too integral to Captain America for him to die. There’s clearly going to be more to the Cap/Winter Soldier story than just leaving him in a Wakandan prison.

Don Cheadle/War Machine: Since he got fucked up in Civil War, he’s probably safe in Infinity War, assuming he even gets out of bed for it

Chadwick Boseman/Black Panther: Black Panther hasn’t yet begin his solo movie career. His movie would have to bomb for him to be put on the chopping block in Avengers 4. I think Marvel is worried about this—because of all that darn diversity—but I don’t think it needs to be worried at all. He’ll have more solo movies, so he’s safe.

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Brie Larsen/Captain Marvel: Doesn’t even technically exist yet. I’m more worried about her movie actually getting made than her dying.

Tom Holland/Spider-Man: HAHAHAHAHA NO. He’s stuck as Spider-Man for many, many years, no matter how badly Sony screws their side of the Marvel universe up. He will regret his decisions.


User Terror

Darryl T.:

There’s a scene in the first Matrix where Morpheus explains to Neo what the Matrix is. Morpheus tells him the following:

“The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.”

Later we understand that anyone who dies in the Matrix, also dies IRL. However, Neo and the rest of the freedom fighters use the above reasoning to justify killing countless minds, and the audience is led to cheer this killing. How is Neo not a terrorist? The movie does not even have a scene where anyone expresses regret for killing untold numbers of the enslaved. Is it morally defensible to kill happy prisoners who don’t know they are imprisoned?

It’s a rather fine line. Neo and what we generally consider terrorists both have a disregard for the safety of civilians, and both think they’re fighting for a greater good. (Rogue One’s Saw Guerrera is another example of this.) However, Neo is specifically trying to fight the Matrix and its agents, and happens to not be particularly concerned about civilian casualties. He’s fighting his enemy, and if regular people get caught in the crossover, oh well.

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But Neo is not trying to spread fear, he’s just fighting evil computer programs with receding hairlines. Terrorists are specifically trying to make their targets afraid, to make them change, leave, or give up. They inflict civilian causalities purposefully to stoke that fear, hence, you know, the “terror” part of their name. Neo isn’t doing that.

As for your ethical question, it’s not one with an easy answer. Is freeing the bulk of the human race worth the deaths of many individuals? Would you be able to sleep at night if you shot a bunch of prisoners, knowingly or unknowingly, in the head for some theoretical greater good? Al I can say for certain is that a true hero would try to save or spare every innocent civilian he/she possibly could. (Insert traditional Man of Steel screed here.)



Image: DC/Warner Bros.

Watch Your Language

LizTaylorsEarrings:

Hello PM! Like most of the world, I was enthralled at the world of Wonder Woman. But something about their knowledge base is bugging me. When Diana meets the DCEU version of the Howling Commandos she speaks Italian and Chinese (I assume Mandarin?) to Sameer.

1) How does she know contemporary words in languages? Sure, she knows hundreds of languages but wouldn’t she know the ancient versions? The Amazons are thousands of years old!

2) When she deciphers Dr. Poison’s notebook, would she really grasp those scientific concepts? Isn’t she from a time when “Aether” was considered an element? I have no doubt that the Amazons know their stuff. But their stuff is from thousands of years ago!

It’s not like this is ruining anything for me; I’m just wondering. I would be willing to accept some sort of magical literal Deus Ex Machina that lives in their Tower of Plot Devices and Cool Shit and tells them about some science and new languages but not, like, what electricity or a steam engine is. Thanks!

The movie might be content to wave its hand and just mutter “books,” but I’ve got your back.

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So: The gods made the Amazons to fight and kill Ares. They secluded them on Themiscyra, protecting them until the time was right for them (or one of them, at least) to go out and destroy the god of war. The Greek gods have the ability to give them some magical goodies, and they shielded the island from almost all eyes; they clearly want the Amazons to be prepared, which is also why they learn every language they can for when it comes time to venture to the outside world. The gods would need to plan for the future, because they had no idea when Ares would resurface, which would mean they’d also need to keep the Amazons up-to-date in forms of communication with mortals, as Diana mentioned.

So the short version here is that the gods figured out a way. Maybe they stocked the library with books from 800 BC to 1800 AD., maybe the books actually change language themselves, adapting to the language as it was being spoken over the centuries. Or maybe the gods just created the Amazons to understand all languages all the time from day one, and Diana (and the other Amazons) haven’t figured this out yet. It all explains why Diana would be up-to-date on modern English but have no idea about the products of the Industrial Revolution.

This is not entirely without precedent, by the way. In the early Wonder Woman comics, Diana was given the wisdom to speak and understand all languages by the goddess Athena, including Martian! Plus, the Greek gods were not especially renowned for their forethought; making sure Diana (and maybe the other Amazons) could speak 20th-century English is an impressive amount of planning for them. There was no way they’d think to cast a “keep up-to-date on the technology of the world of Man” spell.

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As for Diana’s immediate grasp of science and chemical warfare, I’m chalking this down to her having a brilliant, intuitive mind that grasps the advanced chemistry quickly, and/or maybe Dr. Poison was really good about explaining things in her notebook, in case it needed to be passed to an evil German officer who didn’t know squat about chemistry.



Image: Marvel Comics.

Pym Particulars

Sam T.:

My esteemed not-actually-a-postman, as a long time Hank Pym fan, it’s always frustrated me that basically his entire character has never been able to leave the shadow of one misdrawn comic panel. I believe it’s obvious the one I’m speaking of, where Hank hits his wife, forever dooming his character as a wife-beater. As I understand it, this was meant to be an accident, but the artist misunderstood and drew it as being intentional.

I feel like despite having a lot of potential for character greatness, this always overshadowed him. My question is, do you think that Marvel could or should ever retcon this, or at least explain it away as some kind of accident or mind control?

I don’t think it should, and here’s why: Hank Pym’s infamous physical abuse of his wife, Janet Van Dyne/the Wasp, is such a huge, important moment, for both the character and comics in general. When he started out, Hank Pym was a character that Marvel never got a grasp on. He was Ant-Man, then Giant-Man, then Goliath, and then Yellowjacket. He was one of many brilliant scientists in Marvel universe, but he was overshadowed by Tony Stark and Reed Richards. Meanwhile, the Wasp basically had his same super-powers, but was much more interesting as the Avengers’ most prominent female member.

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For good or ill, accidentally or not, the first time Hank Pym ever became interesting as a character was when he hit his wife in 1981. It finally made him unique among Marvel’s vast cast, and thus it came to define his character. It was also one of the first times a superhero had done something awful. He wasn’t under the control of some extradimensional demon, he wasn’t exposed to some alien substance, it was just him—having emotional problems caused by a mental breakdown. The incident was one of the first times a bona fide superhero was revealed to have a true dark side, and it’s defined him ever since; not just in pop culture, but as a character, as he continues to struggle to make up for it, and to keep that darkness inside him at bay.

As a one of the many, many people who suffers from depression, I find a hero that has to continually battle himself to be relatable and compelling. Marvel writer Sam Humphries put it best when talking to Evan back in 2013:

Hank has a chronic condition. There is no cure, there is no endpoint, there is no end of the labyrinth where you can say, “I’ve escaped!” You focus on managing your condition, you work hard to live a life as normally as possible, and understand that it’s not going to be as easy as it is for the people around you. This is a fact of life for hundreds of millions of people with chronic condition. I’m epileptic, I can never be cured, I can just focus on making every day better than the last. This gets really interesting when you put it in the day-to-day context of being an Avenger.

As for retconning it, well, it’s so fundamental to his character that it can’t be easily replaced; chances are it’s the first thing anyone thinks of when they hear the name Hank Pym. It would certainly be possible for some writer to retcon it and say that Ultron went back in time and used nanomachines to mess with the chemicals in Hank’s brain, rendering him mentally imbalanced and thus not responsible for his actions. But I hope not. You’re right, Hank Pym is more than just that moment—he’s every moment after it, too



Knowledge Is Half the Something-or-Other

Jeff D.:

Why do Fans need to know EVERYTHING? I read your letter about the person hoping they would explain how Han Solo learned what Chewie’s name was. I get that as fans we always want a bit more, but don’t fans realize how cool things are when you DON’T know everything?

Tolkien put in Tom Bombadil and know one knows for sure what that guy’s full story was, but it still added a cool factor to the books. Warhammer 40,000 has its missing unnamed primarchs (which makes no sense because they did something so horrible their names have to be struck from the records, unlike the other 9 primarchs that only, oh, converted to Chaos and want to burn the galaxy).

Isn’t there a point where fans should just take the advice from MST3K? “If you’re wondering how he eats and breathes, and other science fact, just tell yourself its just a show, I should really just relax.” Thanks!

A few things:

1) Yes, it’s usually a good policy to leave some mysteries alone, for fans and creators alike, as your imagination is often better than whatever they’d come up with

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2) However, fans who love a movie/show/comic/book will always want to get more invested in it, and almost invariably have questions they want answered, especially things that seem to be plotholes

3) Answering these questions is like 80 percent of the point of “Postal Apocalypse”

4) I find it deeply, deeply unsettling that you feel that Tom Bombadil added a “cool factor” to Lord of the Rings

A jackass. Art by Greg Hildebrandt.

5) Seriously, look at this jackass



Danielle Panabaker as Killer Forst. Image: CW.

Frost Bitten

James H.:

Long time fan of yours since the days of that other site that I couldn’t check at work because I was afraid of what might happen on government computers. Now I’ve quit, and you’re in the post-apocalyptic future answering letters (I might have missed something in there).

My wife has been shoulder surfing The Flash with me and wanted to know what happened to Caitlin Snow a.k.a. Killer Frost at the end of season three. While I can explain the what, I can’t really figure out the why of her heel turn. She’s Earth-1 Caitlin, not Earth-2, check. Flashpoint Caitlin seemed mild mannered. Are we supposed to believe that Flashpoint Caitlin’s persona was taking over? Was Caitlin just freaking out because of her powers emerging and she steered into the curve? Do her powers actually have the side effect of destroying her emotions? Any help breaking this down for us would be appreciated.

Her metahuman powers, no matter which Earth or timeline she received them, have the effect of turning her evil. For some reason, despite the fact this hasn’t seemed to happen to any of the other evil metahumans running around (or at least hasn’t been acknowledged as being a possibility), this is universally accepted by the SuperSTARs team as true.

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To be fair, given the freak storm/dark matter explosion that turned people into metahumans and altered their DNA to give them some totally insane powers, the change also altering the brain to shift personality and morality shouldn’t probably be seen as that absurd. If it lets you shoot snow from your fingers or allows you to travel through mirrors, why couldn’t give you a new morality, too?

If nothing else, Danielle Panabaker is so much more fun as Killer Frost than Caitlyn—and is having way more fun, too, it seems—that I’d be totally fine if she stayed evil for a season or two. Knowing The Flash, she’ll probably be back on the SuperSTARs team when Barry returns from his Speed Force vacation, with only a few lingering trust issues. But Caitlyn with an icicle-sharp edge is much better than regular Caitlyn.



Mull and Droid

Cheryl J.:

With the announcement of the original Skywalker lightsaber being put up for auction got me wondering: what movie prop, costume or otherwise item would you yourself must have, given that money is no object?

Honestly, I could die happy with a full-size Tom Servo and Crow from Mystery Science Theater 3000. They wouldn’t even need to be used on the show; lots of people actually sell great replica of the ‘Bots, given that creator Joel Hodgson primarily made them out of stuff he found at a dollar store (3D printers also help nowadays). Honestly, once I manage to save some scratch and find a place that actually has room to display two large, adorable robot puppets, this is an eminently attainable goal.

So here’s my real answer. I want this:

R2-D2, as he was when serving drinks on Jabba’s sail barge—the one that was actually in Return of the Jedi. I want the headgear, and I want to use it as my personal bar. Don’t give me that infinitely more functional Bar2D2 shit; I want Artoo, as turned into a waiter-cum-cocktail server as seen during Luke Skywalker’s attempted execution. And I shall use the tears of people bemoaning my corruption of a major piece of Star Wars cinematic history to season my Old-Fashioneds.


The best letter death match continues, and the slaughter is immense and intoxicating! Is that weird? Oh well. Send your questions, concerns, arguments that need settling, and whatever else to postman@io9.com, and vanquish your letter-writing foes!

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