Thursday, April 21, 2016

The New Heroes Debuting in Captain America: Civil War

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Captain America: Civil War makes its official debut in two weeks, setting the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe against each other.  However, the heroes involved in this Civil War will not be limited to those who have already appeared in the previous dozen MCU movies; two new heroes will also be making their debuts in this movie.  Spider-Man is one of the most popular comic book heroes on the planet, so I doubt there’s all that much new I can say about him (not that that will stop me from trying…).  Besides, I’ve already talked about Spider-Man quite a bit in previous articles (links in the Spider-Man section).  Black Panther, however, is much less well-known, so I will focus more effort on him in this article.

We don’t know a ton about these characters in the MCU, so I will give a history of the character in the comics, followed by a rundown of what we know about them in the MCU.  Finally, I will talk about where they are going to appear next (spoiler:  the answer to both is “their upcoming solo film”) as well as possibilities for future storylines and appearances.

We’ll start off with Black Panther.

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Black Panther

The Character

T’Challa is the prince-then-king of Wakanda, the fictional African nation which serves as the Marvel Universe’s sole provider of vibranium thanks to a vibranium meteorite which landed there thousands of years earlier.  The country is ruled by the Panther tribe (of which T’Challa is a member).  The leader of the tribe is called the “Black Panther” and is permitted to eat a special herb which enhances the person’s senses, reflexes, strength, speed, and the like.  The Black Panther also wears an advanced suit made entirely of woven vibranium which affords him a high degree of protection.  He also uses various vibranium weapons, such as his vibranium claws and “energy dagger.”  Finally, the Black Panther has a strong connection to the “Panther god” who gives him his powers.

Wakanda itself has become a highly-advanced nation thanks to its experimentation with vibranium, as well as one of the wealthiest nations in the world thanks to its control of such a highly valued resource.  Wakanda has discovered a method for melding its advanced technology with its mysticism, similar to the Asgard that we have seen in the MCU.

The MCU Equivalent

As of now we do not know too much about T’Challa beyond the fact that he is portrayed by Chadwick Boseman and sides with Iron Man against Captain America for reasons unknown (but which probably have something to do with the Winter Soldier).  At one point it was suggested that T’Chaka (his father) would also appear in this movie, but if that is the case then I think there’s a good chance that he will be killed, considering that T’Challa is the one suiting up as the Black Panther.

Future Appearances

The Black Panther solo film is currently scheduled for release on February 16, 2018, just 3 months before Avengers: Infinity War Part 1.  At this point very little is known about the solo film beyond the director (Ryan Coogler) and the rumor that there will be multiple female leads.  It’s likely that Andy Serkis will appear as Ulysses Klaue, though that hasn’t been confirmed.  Following this movie, Black Panther will almost certainly appear in at least 1 of the Infinity War movies and perhaps both of them.

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After Phase 3, I think it would be really interesting to see Black Panther paired up with other heroes in his future appearances.  One definite option is for one of the post-Infinity War movies to be titled Illuminati and follow the heroes’ decision process in splitting up and protecting the Infinity Stones after Thanos’ defeat.  In the comics, the Illuminati was a group originally consisting of Namor, Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Black Bolt, Doctor Strange, and Professor X which represented the full superhero community and met to exchange information and make decisions impacting the entire community.  Among other things, the group shot the Hulk into space and later each took one of the Infinity Stones to keep them safe.

An Illuminati movie after Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 could see Tony Stark, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Black Bolt, Star Lord, and Thor (as an example) coming together to represent different groups and splitting up the Infinity Stones for their own safekeeping.  However, one of the Stones gets stolen, suggesting that someone could try reassembling the Infinity Gauntlet during Phase 4 and beyond.

Another option for the second Black Panther movie is to bring in Namor as an antagonist.  The two of them have an interesting history in the comics, with both representing highly advanced nations that sometimes work together and more often compete.  Of course, this is assuming that Marvel Studios can actually use Namor…

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The Character

Peter Parker is a regular nerdy New York City high school student when he is bitten by a radioactive spider on a class field trip.  The bite gives him various spider-based powers such as superhuman strength, speed, senses, reflexes, and the like, as well as a “Spider-sense” which warns him of impending danger.  “With great power comes great responsibility,” so Spider-Man uses these abilities to fight crime in New York City, balancing his crime-fighting career with the typical struggles of high school.

The MCU Equivalent

Thus far we’ve seen all of one picture of Spider-Man in the MCU—and that’s about as much as we know about him!  Last year (after the Sony deal came through) Kevin Feige indicated that Peter Parker had already been bitten by the spider and started to fight crime as Spider-Man, though right now he is little more than an urban legend.

Here is the released biography for Spider-Man:
Recruited personally by Tony Stark, teenager Peter Parker aka Spider-Man brings his youthful energy and exceptional — though not totally mastered — skills to Iron Man’s team.”

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Future Appearances

Obviously, Spider-Man’s next appearance will be in Spider-Man: Homecoming, which is scheduled to be released on July 7, 2017—the only other option before then is for him to appear in Doctor Strange (not a bad team-up, but not something they’ve exactly announced).  Following his solo film, Spider-Man’s next appearance will be in either one of the Avengers: Infinity War movies or in the sequel to his own movie; from what I understand Marvel and Sony are planning to produce a full trilogy of Spider-Man movies which will see him progress through high school, and they want him making appearances at least once every year for the foreseeable future.

After his initial appearances, I see Marvel and Sony putting a lot on Spider-Man’s shoulders in Phase 4 and beyond.  Spider-Man could easily team up with any of the heroes in the MCU, and could be used to give star power to any “risky” movies they want to try (a la Iron Man in Phases 1-3).  As the youngest Avenger by far, Spider-Man would be an excellent “in” for Marvel to introduce more young heroes on the big-screen, such as Nova, Miss Marvel, Miles Morales, Darkhawk, Stature, Miss America… the list could go on.  Spider-Man as a young but experienced hero would make a good mentor for these other young heroes.

Assuming that the MCU continues past Phase 4, Spider-Man could even become the leader of a future iteration of the Avengers.

Further Reading

“All-New, All-Different Marvel:  Spider-Verse
“All-New, All-Different Marvel:  MCU Teams

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The most interesting and compelling aspect of this movie will be the conflict between characters that we have gotten to know over the course of a dozen movies.  Tony Stark has appeared in no less than six movies before Civil War; Steve Rogers has appeared in four, not counting Loki cosplaying as Captain America in Thor: The Dark World.  We know these characters:  they have their differences, but they work together and fight together.  To see them at odds with each other will be a huge draw for this movie.

However, that’s not to say that the new heroes will not be an interesting part of this movie.  Early buzz suggests that Spider-Man in particular is one of the highlights of Civil War.  Meeting these heroes and finding out their motivations for taking sides in the conflict will add some additional depth and breadth to the movie.  Hopefully both of these characters will live up to the expectations that we have for them and go on to make a lasting impression in their future appearances.

Which of these two new heroes are you most excited to see in Civil War?  Are you more excited to see Spider-Man done the right way, or are you more excited to see Black Panther in live-action for the first time ever?  Let me know in the comments!

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