So my favorite Marvel film has been taking a pounding this week, from the usual nay-sayers who wanted it to be Batman, or who wanted it to be just the first one again (suggestion – watch the first one again!) I’ve heard Ultron called a generic villain, and read that Evan Peters was a better Quicksilver in Days of Future Past.
Okay, I’m not going to review this film. Because, if I were to review this film, you’d get about 1800 words, all of which were various combinations and permutations of these: “Oh”, “My”, “God”, “This”, “Film”, “F___ing”, and “Rocks.”
This is my favorite Marvel Studios film to date. None of them have been bad. A couple (Iron Man 2, Thor 2) were not what I wished they could have been. I’ll still watch them any day over, say, Ben Affleck in Daredevil or Man of Steel and any of its ill-begotten spawn. But Age of Ultron is my dream Avengers movie.
The tell-off. It’s one of our favorite dramatic devices, isn’t it? It’s so satisfying. Great tell-offs which come to mind include everything from Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence to Louise Jefferson telling off the snotty bigot-of-the week; from Flo telling Mel “Kiss my grits!” to James T. Kirk telling Khan to… Oh yeah, he just said “Khhhhhaaannnnnn!”
But we knew what he meant, and we loved it. (And wow, I just dated myself!)
But there’s a problem with most tell-offs, excepting Thomas Jefferson’s… they don’t actually accomplish a damn thing. In most cases, they don’t even make us feel better. They may seem satisfying, if you don’t think too hard; but in truth…? Telling off someone, be it a co-worker, family member or friend, creates animosity and hurt feelings; it damages relationships and often makes working or living together impossible. Really, it’s something from the realm of wish-fulfillment fantasy (“I’d like to tell him off!”) that has no place in practical reality.
So should it really be one of our favorite dramatic devices?
Steve Englehart’s work is special to me. I discovered him (indirectly) at the tender age of nine at the school book fair. I went to a small private school with about a dozen other kids in my fourth grade class. You’d think our book fairs would have been less spectacular than the ones in public school, but they were a hundred times more magical. Perhaps it was the library, a parlor in an Eighteenth Century mansion and one of my favorite places on earth when I was little. (I visited recently and saw that it had been gutted and turned into another classroom. How traumatic to see your childhood refuge come to such a fate!) Perhaps it was the lack of hovering adults, which my public school book fairs had possessed in abundance, telling me the books I wanted were too old for me, too focused on the sciences, too whatever. Whatever it was, the small, private school book fair was an event to me, and it was there, in 1974, that I found a Marvel Comics calendar featuring pictures of most of their now-iconic characters. I had just started reading comic books, and I knew none of these colorful personages save Spider-Man, who after all had his own cartoon still running on weekday mornings. Continue reading