Sunday, June 2, 2019

A Marvel-ous Ending

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

The view from the bleachers is melancholy, but satisfied.  It is also hopeful that the sheer majesty, and both the regretful but exhilarating feeling manufactured by this climatic event, didn’t blur or diminish the great end to the most spectacular superhero experience – ever.

With the spoiler prohibition now lifted discussing “Avengers: End Game” is fair game.  Although, if you are still clinging to ignorance, worry not – this is more about what we mere mortals can take from this departing franchise than any particular “End Game” scene.  Oh, and it has nothing to do with traditional sports.

I have come to appreciate my generation, the relatively small and overlooked Gen-X, for this fact: We will be the last generation to remember a pre-internet/information age and were its first navigators.  That said, the humble comic book was my introduction to superheroes.  It was a good day when I could talk my folks into buying me a pack of Topps baseball cards and a comic book from the old High’s store in Leonardtown.  I vividly recall the anticipation while holding a new comic in my hands.  What overwhelming challenge would the hero defeat?  How would the world…or the universe…be saved?  Beautiful artwork.  Suspenseful storyline.  Humanity’s fate in the balance.  All of it for just 35-cents.

That probably sounds antiquated (or altogether lame) to today’s kids, who have grown up on adrenaline-inducing blockbuster superhero movies.  It’s a fair assessment, but I’m still glad to have a connection to comic books, for that is how superheroes first captured our imagination. 

I am equally grateful for the technology that has enabled comic book heroes and villains to properly transition to the big screen.  That technology brought the Marvel Cinematic Universe to life - and what a ride it has been.  Starting with “Iron Man” in 2008 and now culminating with “End Game” in 2019, Marvel has taken us on a decade-plus, 20-ish film adventure that would have been unimaginable to my 10-year-old self while flipping through an early 80s Spider-Man comic. 

Now the future is uncertain.  More movies will be made, of course, and the franchise and the remaining characters will evolve.  But this run by Marvel, and the Avengers movies in particular, was a cultural apex for comics and superheroes that will be difficult to repeat.  The coalescence of heroes allowed for complex storylines, seemingly omnipotent forces of evil and I-can’t-get-enough-of-this, keep-you-coming-back-for-more battles – and the big screen was the big stage it all needed.  Even I’ll admit that a modest comic book would never have done it justice. 

Beyond the struggles between good and evil (a predictable plot), what Avengers always got right, and what should be its lasting legacy, is the power of collaboration.  It took a lot for all these powerful characters to coexist and adopt a common cause.  I would imagine (because that’s all I can do), that if you can fly, possess great strength or are legitimately a god, it’s hard to check your ego and operate within a team structure. 

The Avengers story line always included that struggle and, ultimately, their collective realization – sometimes at the passionate urging Nick Fury - that they were far more powerful united than separated.  The diversity of the heroes - in skill-set, background, generation, nationality, race and gender (and even life-form) - was certainly no mistake either.  The immediate message: No one is strong enough, not even Thor or Hulk, no one is smart enough, not Tony Stark or Shuri, and no gender or race is singularly adequate to defeat the challenges ahead.  The lasting message for the mere mortals: We all need each other. 

The choice Avengers leaves us with is simple, yet enormous.  It is a question for all humanity.  Are we going to do this together?  Are we going to unite and solve global issues like climate change and national issues like income disparity, racism, sexism, homophobia and gun violence?  Or will we close ranks and cordon off society based on petty differences?  If we choose the latter, a “Thanos” of some sort will ultimately win our end game, for unlike the comics, real life doesn’t guarantee a happy ending.

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