Endgame Pregame: An Outlier’s Take

Avengers: Endgame opens in domestic wide release tonight, the ostensible culmination of 20+ cinematic outings, television series on multiple platforms, and more hoopla than you can shake an infinity gauntlet at.

Do I have tickets? Yes. Am I looking forward to it? Kind of.

In the buildup to Infinity War last year, the main question on my mind was about medium specificity. Would the experience of reading a major print crossover event translate to the big screen, provoking similar reception and emotive modes?

For those of you who love this verse through its screen incarnations, and don’t know the print side as well, major print crossover events are something Marvel does to for its readers at least once a year. They interrupt the storylines of the existing individual series, creating mega-narratives that span multiple simultaneous titles, including new ones created especially for the event. The total continuity can run many dozens of issues over many months, all servicing an event that they hope forces you to buy titles you don’t really want will change the universe forever.

At least until the next reset/retcon/event a few seconds later.

Sound familiar?

(Marvel Comics, Astonishing X-Men #6)

Going into Infinity War, I had recently fallen off the wagon of keeping up with my print pull at all, thanks to the massive, lugubrious, and epically poorly-timed Marvel print event (Secret Empire) that brought us Hydra!Cap.* This was a bummer for a lot of reasons, and to be frank, I’m still trying to get my comics reading mojo back. The event itself was a chore to read, didn’t have enough story to support its massive size, and mostly made me resent how it was stalling out the storylines of individual characters I follow, so they could go participate in team-ups of uneven entertainment value. In other words, your typical Marvel crossover event.

I’m of the school who, during these events, sighs and waits things out, until they get back to “normal.” So, in other words, I walked into Infinity War hoping that this bizarre readership ritual would not be translating to the big screen at all, and that we’d somehow get a best-of scenario, where the weird and delightful little moments of well-loved characters interacting for the first or rare time would yield the kind of consolatory joy it absolutely can in the print events.

Unfortunately, Marvel Studios continued to be masters of medium adaptation, the first time ever it was a negative. I left the theater feeling manipulated, tired, and annoyed, like I had survived a fandom hazing but had no interest in returning to this text again for the pleasure I never found in my first viewing. Yes, I cried. A lot. I love these characters and watching them die hurt, a lot, even though I knew it wasn’t going to “stick” for a lot of them. But I had the same hollow feeling all the Marvel print events I’ve read have left me with so far: We all know these new massive changes/deaths/disasters won’t last, not really, and since I didn’t find the overall story that engaging, I mostly felt manipulated for my tears by a bloated, pointless, spectacle that bluntly, didn’t deserve them, and was trading on my love these characters earned before this tale ever started.

I know I’m in the minority regarding Infinity War. My sense is that the majority of the fandom thought it was great fun, and I’m not the critic who is here to convince others their experience of a narrative is invalid, as long as no one’s coming after mine either. My perverse stance occasioned my first ever opportunity to be the curmudgeon at the table (the MCU panel at Arisia this year), which was a weird feeling, to say the least. I’m usually just here to love what I can love, and interrogate the rest.

And since Infinity War? I’ve been doing what I do during print crossover events: waiting forever for the finale so things can start getting back to normal.

I would love for Endgame to knock my socks off, to be the payoff that makes all of this worth it. Tell me a story I love, give me some real moments with the characters I love, and I’m a cheap blockbuster date, I really am. I’m writing this piece in part to attempt a purge of my accumulated disgruntlement, so I can go in “clean” and get the most I can out of this. Wow me, Endgame. I dare you.

But I admit that back when I was buying my tickets for tonight, and was utterly shocked by how much they cost for the first screening option, I was once again overcome by the faithful replication of the print event experience: resentment over how much this all has cost, and relief that it will be over soon.

*If you were under a rock for this, the internet can help. Also, please tell me where I can find a similar rock, for next time, thanks in advance.

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