The Six Things Every MCU Superhero Has In Common


As noted in the first entry, Marvel Studios' protagonists are almost always afflicted with personal demons inversely-proportional (and directly connected) to their strongest virtues - they are, in effect, their own arch-enemies. Ironically, this has led to one of the most pervasive but also most misunderstanding-based criticisms of the entire multimedia project: the claim that The MCU is lacking overall because it's lacking in "great villains." The truth of that, of course, is subjective; but what it misses is that the non-emphasis on villains as primary story-movers is rather clearly by design: Rather than adhere to the static-hero/episodic-enemy superhero template laid down by the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher Batman movies in the 90s (i.e. a hero who doesn't change from sequel to sequel confronts a new enemy whose actions drive the plot in each installment) and followed by almost every genre-entry between then and the birth of the MCU itself.

Related: Marvel’s Phase 3 Timeline Is Completely Out of Order

Instead, the Marvel cycle has overwhelmingly favored narratives where the heroes confront the manifestations or consequences of their own failings as primary narrative focus - with villains mainly acting as obstacles within or facilitators of those consequences. That means that sometimes even the most "powerful" villain is less important than their thematic function (in Thor: Ragnarok recognizing that the personification of the End of The World himself is not, in fact, "The End of The World" represents Thor's ultimate evolution to Asgard's rightful king), but chances are when a Marvel villain does "matter" they'll take the form of the hero's direct-opposite. How better to reinforce that war-with-self theme in a visual narrative? Plus, having already established that MCU protagonists tend to fall in love with surrogate-mothers and struggle to please surrogate (or literal) dads, an envious sibling is all but inevitable.

The most literal form of this dynamic is, of course, actual brothers Thor and Loki clashing over the complicated affections of their actual father (see also: Ragnarok's Hela). This is followed close by Wakandan cousins T'Challa and Killmonger each trying to take the same throne to please a different deceased, imperfect papa (see also: Black Bolt and Maximus of The Inhumans - not that anyone was watching to find out). Killmonger, of course, also dons his own leopard-themed palette-swap of the Black Panther armor for the climactic battle, making him also of a kind to "symbolic mirror" nemeses like Yellowjacket, Iron Monger, Whiplash, The Abomination and Winter Soldier. Even when only incidentally connected, analogs to internecine familial conflict tend to be pronounced. The Red Skull resents that common-born Captain America received the same powers he did - which also handily describes Kaecilius and Yellowjacket for that matter.

This scenario also spills over the the Netflix side of the Universe, with Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Punisher all battling dark dopplegangers toward the end of their respective series. Just about the only MCU leads who don't have "evil twins" as yet are Star-Lord, Spider-Man and Jessica Jones... and arguments could probably be made that their respective antagonists still "count" to one degree or another.

Page 5: Squad Goals

Key Release Dates
  • Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
  • Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
  • The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
  • Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
  • Venom (2018) release date: Oct 05, 2018
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
  • Silver and Black release date:
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 release date:
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