Ask anyone: A laughing stock is just about the worst kind of stock you can be. Darn it all, though, the MCU – especially the MCU of the last few years – just keeps working overtime to make its characters come off as just that. Here’s a look at three of the worst offenders, plucked from the mind of a comic book nerd who didn’t have anything else going on on a Tuesday.
To be super duper clear, this isn’t about M.O.D.O.K.. Nobody needs another self righteous nerd on the internet who can only feel joy when he’s proving how much more advanced his comic book palate is than those of the writers at the MCU, whining about M.O.D.O.K. and his pinchable little tuchus in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Don’t get me wrong – I love M.O.D.O.K. exactly the way you’re supposed to love M.O.D.O.K.: at arm’s length, semi-ironically, the same way you love KISS or your buddy who’s still doing keg stands in his 30s. Between Quantumania and the Patton Oswalt series’ goofy takes on the character, the recent shot at a serious version in Square Enix’s Avengers, and the panoply of other M.O.D.O.K. interpretations from the last nigh-on 60 years of comics, there’s more than enough M.O.D.O.K. to make up for a version that you may not have cared for.
But Darren Cross? The Corey Stoll character from the first Ant-Man movie? The unstable businessman driven to violent madness by brash scientific experimentation? Wild to turn him into a head with a butt. Did you know that the Darren Cross from the comics sort of rules? He’s been a member of the Hellfire Club, and he had a Pym Particle-infused heart transplanted into his body, giving him wild and unstable powers. He’s related to Blade. He’s wild. There could’ve been some crazy stories there, but Marvel went the “make him a living Funko Pop” route instead. It’s hard to imagine we’ll see another Darren Cross on the big screen.
Black Widow wasn’t all bad. The family sequences were fun. Florence Pugh and David Harbour could probably read Ayn Rand and still be charismatic, and for longer than I care to remember, audiences have been begging for a movie where Rachel Weisz mind controls a pig, so it was nice to see Hollywood finally admitting that they work for us, the viewers.
But man, a lot of it was a drag. The biggest bummer for comic book fans was probably Taskmaster. In the comics, he’s something in the ballpark of an evil Deadpool – a fast-talking mercenary with a sword and a very short list of powers. Despite looking like he bought a knockoff Mask of the Phantasm costume on Temu, he’s made an impact. The stuff that Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan wrote for him in the mid-2010s was especially fun. By the time 2021 rolled around, he was one of the last B-list villains worth getting excited to see interpreted for a big budget movie.
Tragically, what we got was a Dark Knight Rises-style character swap where it turned out that Taskmaster was actually the big bad’s daughter the whole time. After years of doing mean things because a bad man made her, she learned to not do mean things, thanks to a science vape that undoes the patriarchy.
It could have used a second draft, is all.
The good Quicksilver
That’s not fair. “The better Quicksilver.” “The fun Quicksilver.”
Black Widow could have been a fluke. In a post-Endgame world, maybe it was just a weird off day for a franchise that had just dismounted from over a decade of worldbuilding and more or less stuck the landing. The Multiverse Saga was coming. Big things were on their way.
Then WandaVision came out, and despite some wild and memorable swings, the ominous vibes intensified. Frustrating reveals — and lacks of reveals — piled up. Monica knew an aerospace engineer, remember? That was probably somebody cool. Shame we never got around to it.
Most damningly, in a series about warped realities, in a larger segment of a franchise theoretically focusing on the multiverse, the show brought Evan Peters into the MCU to play Quicksilver – the version that everyone loved, even in X-Men: Apocalypse. The writers would have to be spiral-eyed-moon-man-bananas to toss fans that kind of nugget without going somewhere amazing with it.
Smash cut to Ralph Bohner. Sad trombone. Hilarious.