Warner Brothers have really painted themselves into a corner. If the entire DC cinematic universe had been a flop, as this past weekend’s JUSTICE LEAGUE was a flop (and undeservedly so, it bears mentioning; for my official review of the film, check out vampires.com!), they could just scrap everything and start over. With rumors of them getting rid of Ben Affleck as Batman and starting fresh with a new upcoming trilogy of Batman films, it would seem this is the plan. Problem is, the only true bona fide hit (in terms of both critical consensus and box office clout) WB has had thus far with its DC cinematic universe is WONDER WOMAN, and the latter is firmly a part of that universe. With that Aquaman movie in the works, and a Flash movie coming later, they aren’t about to do away with what they’ve constructed. They are too heavily invested at this point. But what they have built isn’t working, not like they want it to.

NOTE: I blame the poor box office performance of JUSTICE LEAGUE on them releasing it on the heels of THOR: RAGNAROK. They should have known better. The two films are dividing the audience, and fans are preferring the Odinson.

Reports are that the upcoming DC films will be standalone features. I think this is the way to go. WB tried to jump ahead; they gave us the Avengers, if you will, before they’d given us Thor, Captain America, and the Hulk. They tried to go for the big payoff first thing. They built the tower upside down, with the pinnacle as the foundation. Now they need to focus on the individual pieces. Make them each as good and as strong as WONDER WOMAN. Then and only then give us a sequel to JUSTICE LEAGUE. And go all WRATH OF KHAN with it. Course correction time, WB.

I’ve given this one a bit of thought, and there’s no way to look at it that doesn’t equate to it being bad news for Marvel. Like, really bad news. More than any other creator, Brian Michael Bendis deserves the credit for making Marvel what it is today. Think back to the time before him, before his AVENGERS: DISASSEMBLES rewrote the rules. The Avengers, all of them, were second-string or even third-string characters. The idea of Iron Man being Marvel’s hottest property would have been laughable to any comics fan. Marvel had the X-Men, and after that they had Spider-Man, and then there was everything else, and the everything else got short shrift both by the creators and the readers. Bendis changed all that. Today, where the Avengers are the biggest thing in Marvel Comics, in comics in general, arguably, that’s due to what Bendis started, what he shaped.

Now Bendis has signed an exclusive deal with DC. He’s going to work for the Distinguished Competition. This is great news for DC and DC fans. It is potentially devastating for Marvel. Of the five “architects” who shepherded Marvel’s overall narrative the past few years, and made said narrative so damn good–Bendis, Aaron, Fraction, Brubaker, and Hickman–only Jason Aaron remains. The new creators that Marvel has brought in have not yet proven themselves to be worthy successors. And Marvel is going to need all the talented storytellers it can get. There’s Aaron. There’s Soule. There’s Slott. Who else they got? Who will be the new architects? And will they be up to the challenge? DC just got a LOT more formidable.

Racists raised hell over the casting of a black woman as Valkyrie. I didn’t know. I hadn’t heard anything. Nor does it matter. The racists claimed the movie would bomb, and it was a MONSTER hit. As for those people, Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, put it succinctly: They are “horrible people” who “should crawl back under the rock and stay there.” I concur completely.

What troubles me, though, is the possibility that not ALL the ones doing the bitching are racists. Some of them could be mere passionate fanboys. Is there any way *I* could ever be in agreement with them? I wouldn’t want to ever be found agreeing with the horrible people. Yet I have bitched myself over changes made to characters with a longstanding history. I was fine with Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie. But was that because SHE was fine, i.e. that I found her gorgeous and effective in the role? No. I DID, but that isn’t why it didn’t bother me. Thompson’s character was identified as *A* Valkyrie, not necessarily the Valkyrie from the comics. (I believe THAT Valkyrie was shown briefly–being killed–in that flashback/memory scene with Hela.) But they made Heimdall a black guy, and in the comics he’s white, and I was fine with that. Is it only where more minor characters are concerned that I give moviemakers a pass? Aquaman isn’t a minor character, and I don’t mind that they made him Polynesian. I would, however, have raised holy hell if they’d made Captain America–Steve Rogers, that is–Asian, or Peter Parker Indian. I simply must admit to myself that sometimes it bothers me when they change characters’ histories, in this case their ethnicity, and sometimes it doesn’t. It depends on the character.

This isn’t BASED ON ethnicity, though. I’d raise an equal amount of hell if they made Black Panther a white guy. (Not that it could ever happen.) The comics depict the Panther as a black man. And I think they should have cast a partially Asian guy as Iron Fist, because the character in the comics is established as being part Asian. I’m a hardcore stickler for established continuity, period. Except when I’m not. And it seems particularly arbitrary for me.

Anyway, THOR RAGNAROK is amazing. Possibly the best Marvel movie yet. with perfect casting. Skin pigmentation never entered into my mind when I was watching it.

It would have, though, if the Hulk had been any color but green, so I guess SOMETIMES skin color matters.

A little time and distance–and the fact that I just got around to reading the final issue–have, I hope, lent greater clarity to my appraisal of the “event.” For all its controversy, and the fact that it felt a little drawn out to me, the ending was satisfying. It was great to see the real captain America come back and kick the sand out of fake Nazi Cap. Those who claimed that it somehow tarnished the character of captain America are, I believe, wrong. And now Nazi-pseudo-Cap is going to be a recurring villain, looks like. I dig it. With a white supremacist sympathizer in the White House and white supremacists marching in the streets, it seems fitting that we’d have this new villain to represent that. Two visions of America–of Captain America–one false, one true; one evil and one good; the one promising to stand, always stand, in staunch opposition to the other. That’s potent allegory, there. And those scenes in SECRET EMPIRE: OMEGA, which consisted of the real Cap and the fake Cap debating ideology, that was some powerful, heady stuff.

On the flip side, the whole thing would have worked better if Marvel hadn’t diluted the character by deciding to make the Falcon a Captain America, too. Now that we’re into LEGACY, will Marvel make like Kobik, the living Cosmic Cube, and put things right again, by restoring the historical characters to their rightful places? Tony Stark is Iron Man. Steve Rogers is Captain America. Bruce Banner is the Incredible Hulk. Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Sam Wilson is the Falcon. I’m not saying they should get rid of the “new” versions of those characters–although I despise Amadeus Cho as a Hulk. I just want them to stop trying to replace the characters I’ve always known and loved with new faces. There is room in the Marvel universe for all those characters–and for new superhero identities, too. (Hint, Marvel. Take a hint.)