The D23 Expo this week brought out a lot of news from various parts of the Disney empire and as we watched no new movies this week I’ve opted to just talk about what happened during that and the upcoming plans as known from the studio. Growing up a comics fan since the early 80s, it’s still surreal to see these things come to life as big budget films and draw the attention, talent, and more that it does. It’s the golden age of superheroes for the 21st century and I’m just enjoying the ride for as long as it lasts. While I prefer DC when it comes to comics, Marvel character are the core of my childhood and I’m enjoying seeing them brought to life like this.
The fourth phase of films are coming up next year and it looks like we’re got a short phase as the just-announced Black Panther II seems to be Phase 5 slotted in 2022. Phase four has me excited just because it is a period where it’s going for more interesting projects with some really strong and diverse creative. Black Widow has plenty of unknowns in terms of how it’ll be structured but it’s utilizing one of my favorite villains in Taskmaster, who made a huge impression on me in this issue. The character was just distinctive with the color and design against the green background and the story was hella-fun. And look at that cast of Avengers!
The film that I’m really the most curious about is The Eternals simply because the thing is such a huge unknown. I have some of the old Kirby stuff and some of the 80s series but I have absolutely no memory of it. With the really intriguing and unexpected cast involved, and the inclusion of the Black Knight in it as well, I have no idea what to expect. And like Black Widow, it’s an unexpected director with Chloe Zhao coming on for it. It’s all under the “Marvel Machine” so I’m not expecting any real issues with it but the opportunity to expand in some crazy new direction here – and not just be a new cycle of familiar Avengers characters – is exciting.
Similar can be said of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, a wonderfully named film that continues the trend of not using numbers or just the character name. With this one bringing in a pretty solid cast itself and also finally bringing in the real Mandarin, I’m looking forward to seeing a more grounded hero coming to the forefront. They’re likely ejecting a bunch of what made up the original comics but there’ve been lots of appearances in the decades since then with updates that they’re going to pull from.
While Doctor Strange was just Iron Man with magic to a lot of people, the first film is a big favorite of mine due to it bringing magic into the game and expanding the world overall. The next one going out as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness delights me as a title and working in some other characters such as Wanda is an ideal way to expand on things since the foundations of the film are going to come from the Wandavision series.
I’m also really excited for Thor: Love and Thunder if only because it’s going to piss off a lot of people. So nyah. Natalie Portman has had an amazing career since Beautiful Girls and while not every project clicks, I’m hopeful that working with Taika Waititi is exactly what she needs within this franchise. I love Kenneth Branagh but there are a lot of issues in early-run character films and Thor certainly had them. While Thor: The Dark World tried to make her more critical to the plot it wasn’t executed well and other parts of the film weighed the whole thing down. Portman really didn’t have a lot to work with and her difficult experiences on the films have been made more than clear. Which is why her coming back and working close with Waititi definitely has me ready for this and since I enjoyed a lot of what they did in the Jason Aaron run of the comics with this.
This weekend also had more reveals about the Disney+ experience in terms of what Marvel Studios is doing for limited-run series. One really has to go into them expecting them as a singular event, not a multi-season project (though there’ll be some that might get renewals). This is a way to expand and explore things that are harder to do in films and are a kind of hybrid thing I’d long hoped for. We have four that were previously revealed and talked about with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Loki, and Hawkeye. This weekend saw three new ones announced with no timelines or details revealed for the most part.
I’m most excited for Moon Knight and even thought Kit Harrington might have been announced for the project. I don’t recall when I got into the book but it was toward the end of the run in 1983 where we had these gorgeous covers that just drew my eye on the newsstand. The character is a simple vigilante type and played well within the general street level aspect of a lot of stories but we’ve also seen it go a lot bigger over the years. The character has also drawn a lot of attention from great creatives and I suspect the more recent Jeff Lemire series is where they’ll draw inspiration from for an introduction.
While I’m not sure they’ll do it, I’m really hopeful that the She-Hulk series can deal with an origin story while having Jennifer sticking to her legal eagle profession. The character has been around forever and I loved her as a part of the Fantastic Four back in the day – John Byrne knew how to present her – but it was the Charles Soule series that delivered a great meta series but one that also dealt with the real-world elements of superheroes and villains. Which is something that Spider-Man: Homecoming touched on in how events played out that created the Vulture. I’m definitely keen on this series but casting is going to be super-critical.
The clamor for a Ms. Marvel series has been there for several years now but the reality is that you had to introduce Captain Marvel first. Add in a five-year gap between the last two Avengers films and there’s a mythology that can be touched on in-between that explains why young Kamala Khan grows up wanting to be just like her idol. This series is going to be a lot of fun since it’ll deal with a teenage character and have the same kind of energy of the Tom Holland Spider-Man works, something that is in general lacking among the various films and TV projects since they focus on older characters. I love the character but I struggled with G. Willow Wilson’s stories in the original run that lead into Secret Wars, which was a jumping-off point for me. That’s where I’ve been with way too many Marvel comic series over the years which is why my hope that a live-action version will really deliver.
Which projects are you looking forward to?