The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Review

Marvel is keeping it going with a second live action show connected to the movies. Following up on WandaVision this one is more of a down to Earth story with two characters still trying to move on after Cap seemingly died or at the very least is super old right now. Personally I’m in the “he’s dead” camp myself but you never know when he might pop out to mess with everyone. This one’s a good show and I would put it above the WandaVision show. As it all takes place in the modern day you can expect a lot of setup for future events.

The show starts with showing us where the two characters are at. Falcon is in a rough spot financially since being an Avenger and a top ranking government agent doesn’t pay very well. (I still have major issues believing this by the way. There’s absolutely no way the government could let this happen. Even without Tony there should be some way he should have a lot of money right now since being a free lance government worker pays really well and with the Avengers press and such that should add up.) He and his sister may even have to sell their boat which is causing a lot of tension between them. Surely Falcon can find a way to get past this but it’s going to be difficult.

Meanwhile the Winter Soldier is trying to deal with his guilt of murdering so many people back when he was a Hydra agent. He is going to mandatory counseling to deal with this and has been working as a vigilante to try and commit a lot of good deeds to overwhelm the negative ones. It hasn’t stopped his nightmares though and he needs something big to take his mind off of things.

Well, they’re in luck. A terrorist organization known as the Flag Smashers have popped up. They go around burning buildings and destroying property to realize their goal of “One People One World” Effectively, they are saying that the world was better during the 5 years when everyone was blinked out of existence and they want everyone to go back to that time. They are led by Karli, a super soldier who is willing to do whatever it takes to get this mission accomplished. Sam and Bucky are going to need to unite forces to stop her.

Right off the bat it was nice to see some pseudo Avengers action here. One of the highlight battles was definitely when they engage the Flagsmashers on the train and get some assistance from the new Captain America, John Walker and his partner. With 4 on 4 effectively you figure the heroes would win but they still get rolled up like a burrito. It just goes to show that they are still lacking that power hitter to win the day but it was a well balanced fight that went back and forth.

All of the battle scenes here are on point. There’s a lot of good choreography throughout. That said, Falcon and John feel incredibly outmatched here since they are normal humans dealing with super soldiers. They should be getting rolled every time they try to fight because the gap is just too huge at this point. Especially as in later films we’ve seen more of what the super soldier serum could really do for Cap. It’s not a level of power that you can easily match.

The show only lasts for 6 episodes but it gets to accomplish a whole lot within that time such as plot setups for the future and different developments that will be relevant to the films coming up. One character who was fleshed out really well here was John. I rather liked the guy and thought that Sam and Bucky were way too harsh on the guy. He really was just trying to help initially but all they had to offer him were insults and a bad attitude. You can see where his character arc is going from there from the start though.

It’s a classic Ironwood kind of path although handled with a lot more subtlety. By the end you can’t even say John is fully evil or anything. The fact that his emotions run away with him is incredibly dangerous though so he’s likely going to end up more like Punisher than the actual Captain America. Still, I look forward to seeing more of him. He’s a versatile fighter who was usually fighting against bad odds and still did well.

His 2 on 1 fight against the other heroes was impressive, so impressive that you could make the case he would have beaten either one of them 1 on 1. That would scale him to possibly being even a little stronger than Steve who was initially getting overpowered by Bucky at times although I suppose since then he had surpassed him. John does have a whole lot of combat experience though so it makes sense. To him the whole thing must feel unfair as two vigilantes are trying to take away the shield he got from the government. Mix that in with the other events from that day and he had a really rough time of it.

On the government crowd we also have Sharon who finally gets to appear in the universe again after being gone for a long while. She’s a fun character and definitely doesn’t seem to have an issue with murdering her opponents though. She has managed to survive for a long while on her own which has definitely had an effect on how she sees things. Sharon will be an interesting character to keep an eye on.

Zemo also gets a big role here. Yes, I do think the heroes busting him free as part of the plan was an extremely risky plan that could have easily backfired. I disagreed with it from the start mainly because of how many innocent people would and probably die die during the escape. It’s glossed over but they had to free a ton of prisoners to keep the guards busy and we see a lot of guards getting knocked out during the chaos. Considering that all of these villains were incredibly dangerous like Zemo, I doubt they would be taking prisoners.

So the benefits didn’t outweigh the dangers there. At that point you could easily be rooting against the heroes for the rest of the show and I wouldn’t blame you. It was pretty shocking how dubious a decision that was. Zemo’s a fun guy though. He’s certainly as villainous as ever but he does agree that the Flagsmashers are a big concern since the guy really doesn’t like the super soldier serum. He’ll be an ally at least for a little while but he’s not someone you can turn your back on.

Joaquin is Falcon’s main army contact and the guy does pretty well for himself. He certainly isn’t someone who is ready to fight with a bunch of super soldiers but he does well when needed and finds out a lot of info. Then there’s Falcon’s sister who is fun enough. She helps to keep him grounded and is doing what she can to stay afloat.

Now let’s look at the two main characters and the main villain. Falcon leads the title card so as you can imagine he is effectively the main character here. A big part of the story is his character development from giving away the shield to ultimately deciding to take on the mantle. You’ve probably seen certain shots from the final episode between the film announcement and the big deal it got but he will certainly be entering a new status quo going forward.

I would like for Falcon to get a super soldier serum of his own just because I don’t think it’s possible to compete for long without powers but maybe that is coming up. He’s a good character here and there’s a lot of nice banter with Bucky. Falcon does fumble the ball towards the end though with his speech about how Karli wasn’t a terrorist. You can understand the idea behind this and not rushing to conclusions, but he shouldn’t have used her as an example.

Let’s face facts here, she blew up several buildings that still had innocents inside, she was going to blow up a bus of government officials to send a message and she was just getting started. She was getting more and more extreme throughout the show so calling her a terrorist is fair. His main comeback seemed to be that she had a good message but your intentions and goals don’t matter when you cross a certain line.

After all, there are tons of villains who had goals that people may even agree with but the methods are what nullify them. The universe is over populated so you may agree with Thanos on reducing it, just not by destroying people. Adam Taurus fought to help give the Faunus equal rights which everyone agreed with but he wanted to do that by murdering people so it voided the cause. It’s the same thing with Karli. Maybe they can think of a way to make the world better but it doesn’t change the fact that she and her Flagsmashers were absolutely 100% terrorists.

So I think Falcon got caught up in his feelings a bit there with a character who had just threatened to murder his sister an episode ago but otherwise he was a fun lead. It’ll be good to see how he handles the mantle in the next season. Meanwhile Bucky is definitely the more down to Earth guy in the group. I would say it seems like he was nerfed quite a bit to make sure he wouldn’t just outshine the rest of the cast though. Based on how well he fought Captain America he should absolutely be dominating these Flagsmashers. Unless it’s 4 to 1 or something he just has way better combat experience and his arm is on point. There’s a 1 on 1 fight where it’s fairly even near the end and I feel like Bucky should waste the guy.

On a personality level though Bucky is finally getting past his old feelings of guilt so I think we’ll see a more confident version of him if we get a season 2. It’s no secret that I’ve never been a Bucky fan in just about any incarnation but he’s not bad here. At least I’m glad we don’t have to deal with the mind control and such anymore. Now he works pretty well as an anti-hero and the banter with him and Falcon is always a positive. His super rushed romance that doesn’t go anywhere could have been skipped though.

Finally we have Karli. In case you couldn’t guess, I was not a big fan of hers. In part it’s because I don’t exactly see her group having any tangible ways to make the world a better place. Okay, she’s upset that half the world came back and destroyed the world unity that people had. Since she can’t destroy half of the population to bring things back to normal (Although I wonder if that was the plan pre-Covid. If it was, then that changes everything) how does she propose the world make this situation work? She doesn’t offer any solutions throughout the whole show.

Presumably she tried peaceful options earlier based on her dialogue but we never even learn what her proposal is. She always goes right to burning buildings and beating people up so there isn’t even any kind of agenda that you can get behind. Ultimately that’s why I can’t get behind Karli because her group didn’t seem to even have a tangible goal.

There’s also a guest star that shows up here but I won’t go into that here as it’s probably the first guest star from one of these shows that I didn’t even know was in it. So that was a nice surprise and her role is pretty good. She gets to show off her skills rather quickly. Including cameos and guest appearances like this also helps to cement this as something really in the universe which is always nice to see.

As always Marvel delivers with a lot of impressive effects here. The show does really feel like you’re watching an extended movie which is always impressive. TV Shows have certainly come a very long way from how they used to be. It probably helps that this is a mini series. I also like how the events seem really important to the movies. With a show like Agents of Shield no matter how many times they may say it was canon or the show would have references, you suspected that nothing big would ever happen because the execs would worry that people wouldn’t watch it. Sure enough, Shield is basically not cannon to the extent that nothing there mattered if you just watch the movies. While the movies could somehow back out of the events for WandaVision and this show, I find that to be 99% unlikely. There just seems like no way it would be possible. The events here are massive which is nice to see.

Overall, Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a pretty good show. We have a solid cast of characters and a lot of interesting plots going on. I do think the two heroes did really overstep their boundaries as heroes and acted like vigilantes quite a bit. Not a problem as I rather enjoy vigilantes but it’s never really portrayed that way which is odd. You’d think they would be full fugitives by the end of the film no matter what results they got. I particularly enjoyed John Walker’s character arc as he tried to use the mantle well and be the best hero he could be. Whenever I see him swinging Cap’s shield around I do wonder how people don’t straight up get murdered though. Never forget that the shield is made up of Vibranium. You feel like a single shot would utterly shatter someone. I think this show has a better chance of getting a season 2 compared to WandaVision but at the same time the odds are still small since this will probably continue on into the movies. If you haven’t seen this show yet then I would definitely recommend checking it out.

Overall 7/10

Thunderbolts Classic Volume 1 Review

I haven’t read many comics from the Thunderbolts. Actually, this is probably the first collection that I’ve checked out from them. The concept is always interesting as it was a group of villains who banded together to act like heroes. The current group is more of a heroes for hire team while this one is comprised of actual villains who are just trying to trick the world. It’s a fun comic and the concept is sound. It’ll be interesting to see where the series will go from here as the rest of the heroes will likely try to expose them once word gets around.

The Avengers and Fantastic Four were destroyed during the battle of Onslaught so there aren’t many heroes left to help out the average joe against the swarms of villains who are still out there. Baron Zemo decides that he will take advantage of this situation to win the trust of the world and eventually get rich as they give him access to more and more things. It’s an ambitious plan, but he knows that it can be pulled off! That being said, will his team be able to band together and overpower the villains or will they quickly be exposed?

This was during the classic 90’s so the art is big and bold. It works well for these comics and the fight scenes are definitely nice and intense like you would expect them to be. All of the character designs are the iconic ones from the classic days and you can’t help, but feel nostalgic when you see a character like Spider Man who looks so much like how he did in the 90’s TV show.

Speaking of which, he was one of the guest stars in this collection. He gets into a scuffle with the Thunderbolts as he tries to clear his name from a crime. The villains end up helping him out although Baron Zemo is not pleased with this decision. The Beetle took the initiative there since he found out what a nice guy Spider Man was. While Spider Man was losing to the group, he was trying not to hurt them so he underestimated the group. At least he was still holding onto his spider sense and felt like the real Spider Man. Naturally, I would have been happy if he had ended up winning of course.

The other big guest star was the Hulk as he went up against the Thunderbolts. He looked really good as he was totally in control of himself and acted very strategic. He certainly put the team in their place and you actually are rooting for him here since the Thunderbolts aim to destroy him. His partner was a skilled warrior who made for a good ally as well. I wonder what was happening in the Hulk comics at the time. Whatever situation he was going through, it looked like an interesting one and the fight between Hulk and the Thunderbolts was one of the highlights of the collection.

Baron Zemo’s plan was certainly genius as his team came together at a crucial time for the world. People accepted his group rather quickly, but I suppose that they were desperate for new heroes. Zemo’s alter identity was cool as he tried to act like Captain America or Superman. He was a symbol of hope for the world and while he had no fancy super powers, his athletics were enough for him to still deal some damage. He’s the lynchpin of this operation and without him, the whole team would fall apart.

Of course, that’s what Moonstone is gunning for. She seems to want Zemo out of the picture for some reason, possibly just so that she can become leader. Moonstone’s already thrown a few wrenches into the leader’s plans, but Zemo doesn’t suspect anything yet. This is a plot that will definitely become a big focus as the issues go on. While she is not quite as likable as Baron Zemo, she’s still a very interesting villain and is written well.

The Beetle used to be a classic Spiderman villain, but he has moved on since he always lost to the Wallcrawler. He has developed a bond with Screaming Mimi and starts to want to do the right thing after Spiderman helps him out. While his romance subplot is a bit much, it’s handled decently well and isn’t moving too quickly. He’s definitely one of the weaker members of the team, but his tech always keeps him in the fight. Atlas is the heavy hitter of the group and he’s grateful to Baron Zemo for giving him this chance and also saving his life a while back. Atlas seems to want to be a hero right away as he becomes friends with the mayor’s secretary, but he’s definitely going to have to deal with a conflict of interests situation very soon. I’m not a big fan of this guy, but he is more heroic than most of the other members and he can be quite tough as he grows larger and larger.

Screaming Mimi has really changed from when she was a big villain as she’s very timid and soft spoken now. Her vocal powers are pretty original as she can make barriers, fly, and do all kinds of things with them. The Banshee would be proud! I could definitely see her turning good since she doesn’t even act like a villain here, but seems to just follow whatever the group is doing. Hopefully, she will have a stronger personality as the issues go by so she isn’t just led around, but she seems like a nice character.

Jolt was the final member to join the team and she came around at the very end. The character is decent as she is always ready for a fight and she bounces back from bad situations very quickly. That being said, her origin story is rather intense and it’s really my main negative for the collection. For around 5-6 comics, we are constantly reminded of how painful it was for her to gain her powers through the experiments. It’s also just sad as she was kidnapped and nobody even knew or suspected. Luckily, she was able to escape on her own, but it was a rather dark subplot for what was otherwise a very light themed comic. The heroes managed to stop Zola and his experiments, but the villain unfortunately escaped to fight another day.

Finally, we have the Fixer. He’s a tech wiz who acts openly evil and loves just having an excuse to shoot everyone who gets in his way. He still gambles a lot on the side and definitely has no real thoughts of turning good so it will likely be very tough to convert him. He was one of my least favorite members of the team and actually, he was my least favorite member. He didn’t really add anything to the team dynamic and we already had the arrogant character in the form of Baron Zemo.

One of the more interesting plots here is about how the villains start to like being regarded as heroes and even help out a little when it’s not necessary. It’s safe to say that The Beetle is the first character to start thinking about being a hero. Atlas and Screaming Mimi start to get on board pretty quickly as well. Baron Zemo and Moonstone typically have the original goal in mind, but if the Fixer were to also start liking the hero gig, they may have to follow suit. As Moonstone and Zemo are the two biggest villains, it’s hard to see them turning over to the side of heroes so it may be time for a new leader for the group. Hopefully the members will make the right call and based on some of the covers for future volumes, at least some of them might. The comic series definitely ran for quite a while.

Another fun part of the collection was when the Thunderbolts battled the Masters of Evil. The fun part is that the Thunderbolts technically are the Masters of Evil so Baron Zemo is outraged at the fact that someone is copying his group. The two groups clash on two occasions, but we still don’t know who the new leader of the group is. Either way, it was a lot of fun to see the two groups fight each other and it was actually pretty evenly matched. Both groups have some talented fighters. That being said, in defeating the group, Zemo essentially gave one villain a hint as to what his secret identity was, which could come back to haunt him later.

For now, the Thundebrolts are mainly focused on earning a reputation so the series is essentially a villain of the weak story for now. I actually like this approach, but I’m sure that the plot will really start to move once the mayor gives them more privileges. SHIELD still doesn’t trust the Thunderbolts and with good reason, but I have a feeling that the Thunderbolts will be given too much power very quickly. That’s when they will have to decide if they want to be heroes or villains!

The final issues also show us each character’s origin story and then how they came together. I suppose that this was due to happen at some point. I enjoyed seeing the team come together as Baron Zemo definitely handles it in a different way than someone like Cyclops or Captain America would. The origin stories were also decent and Baron Zemo’s got to show us how the original Zemo handled his affairs. The apple didn’t fall very far from the tree in this case. Zemo’s reaction to Captain America dying against Onslaught was pretty humorous as we don’t get to see what villains think of the news too often.

Overall, Thunderbolts is a fun concept and this collection was a nice read. You’ll be able to blast through it thanks to the clear art style. The Avengers and other heroes are not around, but we still got some guest stars like Spider Man and the Hulk. The Black Widow also gets a cameo to a guest star as her role is small enough to be counted as either one. She gets some pretty good lines and hints that she knows what the Thunderbolts are scheming and will put a stop to it. Nothing like a few threats between “heroes” right? There’s a lot of action here and watching villains take down other villains is pretty rewarding. It’s hard to say where the plot will go from here so you’ll want to stick around for the next volume. The only thing that holds this comic back is Jolt’s backstory and at least it’s just mentioned and not shown. I still recommend this comic if you’re looking for some fun fights and good dialogue.

Overall 6/10