Author Archives: The Sector M

Fanboy Movie Review #15 — Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

[Note: I do not consider myself a movie critic. What follows is just one fanboy’s opinion based off of a single double viewing of the film. Oh, and there are SPOILERS ahead for this movie, Wandavision and Loki, so take heed.]

Folks, this is a hard entry for me to write. I’m normally pretty glowing in my reviews of Marvel projects, and maybe a little more forgiving of their flaws, simply because the interconnected nature of the MCU is quite literally a dream come true.  

So, it’s going to be tough love today, unfortunately. It’s been a while since I’ve felt the MCU had a true misfire. Opinions vary on that score, of course, but even when the MCU is not at its best (Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World, I’m looking in your direction), the movies have been watchable. I would have to rank this movie down in the lower tiers. Strap in, folks, here we go:   

First Impressions:

I like Doctor Strange, not just the movie from 2016, but the concept of the character and his role in the Marvel Universe. I thought he was fantastic in Infinity War and Endgame. The way he was used in No Way Home didn’t thrill me, but he’s a character that’s powerful enough that he can overwhelm a story if you’re not careful. I think there was a better way to handle his interactions with Spider-Man, but that was a minor issue in a movie I really loved.

I had heard that this movie experienced significant rewrites and reshoots, which started to make my spider-sense tingle, especially since the initial director backed out. But, I can’t blame the guy; Jon Watts directed all three of the MCU Spider-Man movies. He deserves a chance to step away.

Since the torch passed  to Sam Raimi, I wasn’t too concerned, as I really love him as a director. The Army of Darkness is one of those movies that I can quote from beginning to end, pretty much right up there with Big Trouble in Little China, The Princess Bride, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The first two Spider-Man movies with Tobey Maguire were also incredibly good. I, for one, was glad to see Raimi return to Marvel. At first…

Yeaaaaah!

What I liked:

All the Sam Raimi-isms — Like I said, I really enjoy Sam Raimi’s visual style. The monster cams, the extreme reaction shots, the (ahem) break-neck pace. By the end, some of the choices were starting to grate a little, but there is no denying that he directed this film. His stamp, for good or for ill, is indelibly marked all over the movie.  

Wanda believes she’s the protagonist — If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I really love literary villains. In one of my posts, I talk about how villains should always behave as though they are the central hero of their own story. Most villains don’t, and shouldn’t, think they are a villain, and behave accordingly. Thanos in Infinity War is a good example. Even though Wanda does some truly horrific deeds, she still doesn’t think she’s a monster. For most of the movie, anyway. More on that in a minute.   

High production values — This is a major Marvel release, and that means incredible visuals, great sound editing, and overall a polished product, at least from a technical perspective. In that way, it definitely delivers.

The acting — One of Marvel’s  strengths has been the casting and talent of the performers. I think every on-screen actor that appears here turns in a great performance, even if the material they are handed doesn’t give them much to work with. I think we’re lucky to have Benedict Wong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, and of course Elizabeth friggin’ Olsen. The amount of talent they have is astounding.

The Illuminati reveal — I did love this part of the movie, even if it didn’t really go anywhere in the end. We finally get to see Captain Carter in live action, along with Mr. Fantastic, and PROFESSOR X. Wow wow wow. Even though Inhumans wasn’t a good show, I like Anson Mount as an actor. I would love to see Black Bolt return in some capacity…though obviously not this version of him.  

Zombie Doctor Strange — This is peak Sam Raimi, right here. An undead Doctor Strange who forges a cloak out of damned souls….OH YEAH! (*said in the Yello voice from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off*) Extra points that Doctor Strange starts sorta talking like a pirate, which seems to be a thing when you’re either undead or a deadite. Love it.

Wow…

Wanda’s realization that she’s actually the antagonist — Wanda has a Falling Down moment at the climax of the film. She has somehow been able to justify everything she’s done up to that point. Seeing the children she hoped to mother completely terrified of her, to see them rally around the Wanda from that universe, it’s a cold splash of water to the face, allowing Wanda to come back to the forefront from being the Scarlet Witch. She realizes that she is the villain of the piece. Some top-shelf acting from Elizabeth Olsen (on both sides of that scene) really goes a long way.

Boy, that’s and understatement.

What I DIDN’T Like:

Where’s Kang in all this? Or Vision? — I thought that the breaking of the timeline in Loki would be a catalyst for this movie, but there is zero mention of him or any of his other incarnations. You might make a case that there’s a difference between alternate timelines and alternate universes, but I suspected that Kang would be the next Big Bad, to use a Buffy term. Worse though, is that Vision is mentioned once, but Wanda never attempts to seek out White Vision or even find a universe where the original vision is still alive. He’s treated, effectively, as though he doesn’t exist. Considering the end of Wandavision, that’s a really odd choice.

No? Nothing? Okay…

Is this the same Wanda from Wandavision? — Speaking of that show, the version of Wanda we see here doesn’t seem to be the same one from the end of Wandavision. I thought the whole interlude had taught her that she needed to learn to refine the use of her powers to avoid hurting more people. I also thought she had made her peace with the illusory nature of her boys and Vision. But here, she is hyperfixated on getting the boys back, even though they weren’t real in the first place. This leads me to my next point.

What is the deal with her kids? — It’s the same two boys from Wandavision, but in the Hex, they were supposed to be the kids she had with Vision. That was all an illusion. Since Vision is an android, we can make a pretty decent guess that he can’t actually father children with her. (I’m fairly certain that wasn’t a concern when Ultron built the body.) But in the multiverse, however, Wanda apparently does have these kids. So, are they magical conjurations as well? Or did she have them the usual way? If the latter, who’s the father? It’s such a central point to Wanda’s character, but there is no real explanation of who, or what, these kids actually are.

The dark side of the Bruce Campbell cameo — I love me some Bruce Campbell, but this…this gets darker the more you think about it. So, a pizza-ball street vendor asks for payment for something a punk kid steals, and in the altercation is about to spray mustard into some arrogant Doctor Strange cosplayer’s face. Mustard. Even if he had succeeded, it would have done zero harm. In return, Strange puts a curse on him to do physical harm to himself for several weeks. Besides just the physical trauma, it seems like it would be pretty hard to eat, drink, or sleep as your limbs act on their own accord. While we see him in the end stinger, in reality that man would be dead. The whole thing is played for laughs, and is completely unnecessary.

If chins could kill.

So, how long does it take to drain America’s powers? — There are a number of internal inconsistencies in this movie. I don’t want to go into all of them, but one of the biggest ones was this: At the beginning of the movie, Soon-To-Be-Zombie Strange has trapped a demon, one that’s about to escape in the next few seconds. He makes the choice to take America’s universe-hopping power for himself. He’s holding the demon with one hand, and draining her power with the other. The implication is that Strange believes he can take the power in the moments before the demon gets loose again.

At the climax of the movie, Strange and Wong trap Wanda in a spell sphere. She’s also about to break free, so Wong prompts Strange to take the power. Again, the idea is that Strange can do this before Wanda busts out and kills all of them. And yet, Wanda captures America and has her in her temple for potentially hours while Strange and Christine walk through the ruined universe to find Third-Eye Strange, fight him, set up the spell using the Darkhold, then get Zombie Strange to the temple, fight off the spirits of the damned, and then finally get over there to disrupt Wanda’s ritual.

Wanda can’t take the power from Strange? — The frustrating part about America being a living McGuffin (amongst the things), is that Strange taking her power is likely for nothing. It’s never mentioned anywhere in the movie, but if Wanda can drain the power from America, who’s to say that she couldn’t do exactly the same thing to Strange himself? Even if he crossed that threshold, and killed America for her power, Wanda could almost certainly turn around and take it from him on the spot. She soloed against Kamar-Taj, and barely broke a sweat against dozens of the most powerful wizards in the world. As much as I would like to give Strange the benefit of the doubt, the silver bullet they keep bringing up might not actually help them.

“…”

The lack of material for America Chavez — I think that Xochitl Gomez does a good job with a character that has almost no backstory, and no real character development. America is treated like a walking, talking McGuffin that’s occasionally snarky. What a waste of potential. I really hoped this would be a grand entrance for both the actress and the character into the MCU, but the character comes off as the bratty, streetwise trope that we’ve seen any number of times in other things. Also, she’s been to 73 universes and never heard of Spider-Man? What the—?

The Fall of Kamar-Taj — I understand the need to show that Wanda is now an Omega-level threat. I thought they established that quite well, but where it fell apart from me was when Wong orders “Fortify Your Minds!” I mean, Wanda’s powers were always about affecting people’s minds, of getting in their heads. If you have a way to ‘fortify your mind’ as a wizard, shouldn’t you have already done that? In game terms, maybe it’s best to cast mind blank before combat if that’s an option. Also, one guy running away is enough to open a hole in the shield? Ugh.

Wong is a pushover — Wong is the Sorcerer Supreme. He, more than anyone else, has an idea of what damage Wanda can do with the Darkhold. One of his wizards even sacrifices herself in a pretty brutal way to make sure Wanda is deprived of the Book of Vile Darkness. When captured, he tells Wanda that she can torture him all she wants, but he won’t tell her anything more. She threatens some of the other wizards, and he folds like a card table. There’s no attempt to resist, or any thought of Wanda trying to get into his head, perhaps even trying to convince him that its Strange asking for the book instead of her. For a character that we’ve seen that’s so great about being a moral compass for Strange, and a solid, reliable presence, this has plot contrivance written all over it. It doesn’t do the character justice.

They done did you wrong, Wong.

A multiverse of…three? — There’s a quick cutscene of Strange and America crashing through universal barriers, but other than that, we don’t get to see much of the multiverse. There’s our universe (kind of a given), the 838 universe with the Illuminati, and the destroyed universe where Third-Eye strange resides. I guess for a movie with ‘multiverse’ in the title, I was expecting more variety than just three.

The execution of Strange-838 — I understand that the conflict with Thanos played out differently in Universe-838, and that Strange was responsible for the destruction of a whole universe. While it was a sad scene to see Black Bolt simply say “I’m sorry” and kill his friend, it rankles me a bit that the Illuminati didn’t attempt to reform their friend, find a way to help him, or simply imprison him. They just execute him, and that’s that. I can’t speak for all the members of the Illuminati, but are you telling me that Captain Carter and Professor X in particular would have just been okay with that? No attempt at a redemption, just death? Superheroes should not be in the execution business.

And then they lied about it.

Fall of the Illuminati — Hoo boy. First, maybe don’t tell the bad guy the exact nature of Black Bolt’s powers. Second, for the world’s smartest man, what was he doing? Stretching his arm out to do…what? Punch her? Pat her on the shoulder? While Mr. Fantastic is busily getting spaghettified, and then promptly popped like a balloon, his (remaining) companions do nothing. And if Wanda can do that, why would she bother engaging Captain Carter in hand-to-hand combat at all? Why not a quick balloon-popping for everyone? Then, she drops a statue on Captain Marvel with the implication (the hand-falling gesture) that the hero is dead. Yeah, the Carol Danvers Captain Marvel flew through a concentrated barrage from Thanos’ ship without any hindrance whatsoever. A statue falling on her would be less than nothing.

Like I said, the Illuminati thread just sort of ends without accomplishing anything but slowing Wanda down temporarily, and really not even that. Xavier makes the most progress, in a scene that reminded me of him trying to lock away the Dark Phoenix in Jean Grey, but that fails, once again, with no tangible return or lasting results. I would have almost preferred that we scrub this section completely and get to spend more time with Wanda, Strange, and America. Those three characters could have used it.

 

Action economy, people. It’s a thing.

Doddering around the Book of Vishanti — I could tell immediately when we got to this part of the movie, from the musical cues, to the camera angles, that the Book of Vishanti would be a non-starter. And so it was. Instead of sprinting towards the book, knowing that one of the most powerful beings in existence is hot on their heels, intent on their destruction, they screw around, wasting what precious seconds they had. In game terms, you’ve got maybe three rounds before the boss gets there. You’ve got one round to get to the book, one round to find the spell you need, and one round to cast it. Sure enough, no sooner has Strange got the book in hand, it’s destroyed without being useful at all.

Since it’s clear that the Darkhold is the polar opposite of the Book of Vishanti, and the Darkhold exists throughout the multiverse, doesn’t it also stand to reason that the Book of Vishanti might also exist in other universes? That possibility is never explored, or even given a line mention. Once the good book is destroyed, it’s never mentioned again. That’s a lot of screen time invested in a McGuffin for it to have zero effect on the outcome.

Slow, dramatic walking as the world is about to end — The movie has a real issue with building up events as important, perhaps even all-important, and then promptly deflating them by having the characters react to them in a ho-hum fashion. The Book of Vishanti was one, but the interlude with Third-Eye Strange really takes the cake. Strange and Christine walk nonchalantly through the ruined universe (he has a repaired cape that allows him to fly at this point), find the Sanctum, and then slowly walk up the staircase. May I remind you that during this interlude, Wanda has America in her clutches, and no one is around to stop her. There is zero sense of urgency in any of this. I could just hear Sgt. Avery Johnson from Halo yelling, “Let’s move like we’ve got a purpose, Marines!”

Get. It. In. GEAR.

Doctor Strange checks out — Strange is not responsible for resolving the conflict in his own movie. In fact, as cool as Zombie Doctor Strange is, he doesn’t contribute much to the crux of the action. He hands that completely off to America with a just “go kick her ass” pep talk. America attempts to fight Wanda for three seconds before realizing she can’t win, then on her own decides to give Wanda what she wants. It’s a great twist, leading to one of the best moments of realization in the movie, but the whole thing is resolved without Strange really doing much. Again, what a weird way to go.

There’s no redemption for Wanda — I know a fair few Wanda Maximoff fans, and this was a hard one for them to watch. Wanda makes an incredible villain here. That chase scene through the tunnels really makes her seem like a cross between Carrie and the Terminator, but once she realizes what’s she’s become, she just ends it.

For the sake of the aforementioned fans, I hope that isn’t actually the end for Wanda. Otherwise, that is a great character that’s just tossed into the bin. If Marvel has a redemption arc for Wanda in mind, you certainly couldn’t tell if from this movie. She just drops a mountain on herself as the story just seems eager to be done with her rather than see her try to undo the harm that she’s done. Also, just like Captain Marvel, unless she intentionally willed herself to be vulnerable, dropping the temple on herself wouldn’t have killed her. It’s a frustrating way to handle her exit.

Unresolved Questions:

Too many to count. I’ve addressed a number of them in the entries above, but this movie really does leave me with so many more questions than answers, and not just about the story. How much studio interference was there? What concessions were made? What did the original story arc look like? What was left on the cutting room floor that might have made more sense than what we got in the end? I guess we’ll never know.

Conclusions:

It’s definitely exciting and visually appealing…but, too much of it is on the surface or winds up being a confused mess. There’s too much of “Wow, that was cool. Don’t think too hard about it.” That phrase might as well be the motto of the entire movie. Unfortunately, a second viewing only made the cracks stand out in even sharper relief.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is an odd puzzle piece for the MCU. It doesn’t really fit with what was established in the movies and shows that led up to it, and it doesn’t seem to further the somewhat meandering Phase IV continuity moving forward. Heck, it doesn’t even seem to jive with itself half the time. I expected that this movie would leverage what Loki had set up with Kang, even if it was only a line mention. It didn’t, and that seems like a big missed opportunity.

Overall, I’m not sure if the MCU is served by this movie’s presence. Unless future installments refer back to the events here, such as a return of Wanda, I don’t think this one is required viewing. If you’re not a Sam Raimi fan, or if you have an aversion to horror in your superhero movie, it’s definitely a hard pass. Even if you are a fan of those things, it still might be worth skipping. I wish that weren’t the case, but here we are.

And that’s the way this fanboy sees it.


Update #3: Patreon Re-Launch!

Hey folks,

My new Patreon is now live and ready to go! It’s taken a few months of revamping other stuff, such as my website and store, but now there are new tiers, new rewards, and tons more fun stuff ready to go!

Oh, Captain My Captain!

Here’s some of the new stuff you can unlock, depending on your chosen tier:

  • Access to Patreon-only short fiction
  • Discounts on everything in the Sector M store
  • Early access to cover reveals, sample chapters, and other author-y goodness
  • Cooperative storytelling to develop the lore of the Sector
  • Invites to online Sector M hangouts, Q&A sessions, and more

So, if you like what I do, I would ask you to support Sector M on Patreon at whatever level makes sense for you. I would never (repeat never an infinity amount of times) ask anyone to give more than they can. Instead, I want the Patreon to be a community of SF/F fans and gamers who want to revel in their collective geekery and fandom, and build something new.

With that said, please go check out the membership tiers. If you have any questions, feel free to email at TheSectorM@gmail.com or use the contact form on my website.

See you around the Sector!

Si vales, valeo.

-MC


An Open Letter to the Cast of Avengers: Endgame from a Humble (and Grateful) Fanboy

Dear Cast of Avengers: Endgame

This next Tuesday, April 26th, marks three years since the release of the final installment of the Infinity Saga. At the time, I wasn’t sure if anything could truly cap off 11 years of the MCU, including 22 movies and one helluva setup with Infinity War. I should’ve known all of you would knock it out of the park.

Of course, the odds of any of the actual cast reading this are admittedly pretty slim, but writing this is cathartic for me after the emotional roller-coaster that is Avengers: Endgame that still lives rent-free in my head now in 2022.   

Ohhhhh Yeaaaaah! (*said in the Kool-Aid Man voice*)

First, the general stuff:

This goes out to not only the cast but the crew as well. It took a literal army of people to bring this movie to life. No matter what your role was on this film, on or off the screen, it’s clear that your passion for the work came shining through in a way that’s seldom seen. I’m sure there were a myriad of frustrations and obstacles that we, as the viewing audience, will never understand or even know existed. But you persevered, laboring to create something truly beautiful.

And what you have created is nothing less than a love letter to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As both a comics fanboy and movie enthusiast, I am humbled by the feature you collectively delivered. Truly. Humbled. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You have no idea what your work means to me.

There are a few folks in particular I would like to address. Obviously, I can’t cover everyone involved in a production this size (this may lead me to write a Part 2 to this eventually), so let me simply say that every actor who made an on-screen appearance played their part to perfection. Every single one. The MCU has always had pretty inspired casting, and I can safely say that the acting here is phenomenal across the board. I love you all.

Okay, now the specifics:

Jon Favreau – Where would we be if you hadn’t directed the original Iron Man? For me and many of my friends, it’s been our collective dream to see an interconnected universe where these heroes could team up and interact with each other. You set that in motion, and I’m really happy (note the use of the word) that you have maintained a recurring character. I always look forward to seeing him, and wow-oh-wow did your scene with young Morgan strike home, post-funeral scene.  While it’s not strictly on topic, I have really enjoyed The Mandalorian and other Star Wars projects that you and Dave Filoni have created. I look forward to many more.

Alan Silvestri – I’ve been listening to your Endgame score while writing this letter. It’s so evocative. There’s pain, and despair, but there’s a slender thread of hope that runs through it. One of the hardest things about watching this movie was seeing all these characters I love in such pain, and you underscore it beautifully. Let me add that I’ve been a fan of your scores since Back to the Future. Your work regularly appears on my writing playlists. Your ability to inspire, or to break my heart, through music is astonishing. When your Avengers theme comes on, I feel like I can fly.

The Russo Brothers – You did the impossible. You brought a million disparate threads together, weaving them into a tapestry worthy of Odin’s great hall. Your contributions to the MCU in the past have been top-tier. Winter Soldier and Civil War are visual poetry. And now with Infinity War/Endgame, you have created the crown jewel of the Infinity Saga. You should be proud.

Tom Holland – I know that you weren’t in this film very much, but every moment with Spidey is absolute gold. You really twisted the knife in Infinity War with your “I don’t feel so good, Mr. Stark” line. I’m still not sure I’ve recovered from it. And then, the look on your face when the tables were turned at the end here — wow. Peter’s vulnerability is something that really shines through every time you’re in the role. Also, as I said in my No Way Home review, that was pretty much everything I could have ever asked for as a life-long Spider-Man fan.

YAAAAAAASSS!

Jeremy Renner – The first scene of this movie really allows you to shine. As a parent, it really struck home. The confusion, which quickly turns to fear, it was all there on your face. This was a Clint that was hard to watch because he was just so dead inside, and we as the audience were witness to the moment it happened. I think you are a fine actor, and I think that this is some of the best work I’ve ever seen from you. I was also very pleased by the Hawkeye Disney+ series. I hope that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Clint Barton.

Scarlett Johansson – What a legend. Thank you for being an integral part of the MCU since Iron Man 2. I know that death in the comics, and often in the movies, can be more of an inconvenience that anything else. That wasn’t the case with Nat’s death. It felt pretty permanent, and thus more real. I gotta say, Endgame had me crying about six different times, and I when saw Nat fall, I was bawling. No more red in her ledger. She made the hard call. It was incredibly harsh to watch, but what a way to go out.

Paul Rudd – I have to tell you that Scott’s reunion with Cassie was incredibly moving, and one of many places where the screen was suddenly blurry for, ahem, no well-explained reason. There are so many emotions playing across your face in that moment. I love that Ant-Man is the key to the Avengers’ eventual victory, and that you had so many great moments. You, sir, are a national treasure. I look forward to seeing you return in Quantummania.  

Mark Ruffalo – You took one of the most challenging characters to portray in maybe of all of Marvel, and you make it look effortless. I can’t even imagine the level of motion capture rigs and general weirdness it must take to turn in a Hulk performance. I loved seeing Professor Hulk in this, where Bruce had found a kind of balance with the dual sides of his nature. While Tony may have defeated Thanos in the end, it was the Hulk that undid the Blip. Half of the universe returned to life because of his direct actions. As accolades go, that one doesn’t suck.

Chris Hemsworth – Of all the Avengers, Thor is the one who internalized the failure to stop Thanos the most, taking him down a self-destructive path. I know that a lot of it gets played for laughs, thanks in part to your incredible comic timing, but those moments when we see Thor reflect on his role in events is moving. He’s always the hero who is exactly where he needs to be when it matters most, so for him to fail by a matter of seconds was gut wrenching. I noticed in the recent Thor: Love and Thunder teaser that Thor is trying to find his place in the universe after all of that. I am here for it.

5 Years Later

Chris Evans – Oh Captain, My Captain! I remember seeing Cap standing alone on the field facing Thanos, hurt, dirty, with a broken shield in hand. I knew that this would be the last movie where you played Steve Rogers, and I was painfully aware of how that confrontation played out in the Infinity Gauntlet comics. I remember sitting in the theatre thinking, “Oh god, this is where we lose him.” Even when it all seemed hopeless, when the Avengers were scattered, we see that Steve is ready to fight to the last.

But then…

Then we get perhaps my favorite moment in any MCU, set to this piece of music. There used to be these promotional posters that just said “Marvel Universe” on them. They were entirely covered with overlapping superhero art. There was one of those hanging up at the local comic shop (local being a relative term) when I was a kid. I used to stare in awe at it. Every single hero on that poster had a story, an origin, dreams, challenges, victories, and defeats.

Yeah, this one. I’m still in awe of it.

Seeing Cap lead the Avengers into battle one last time took me back to that poster, a reminder of my earliest interest in Marvel comics. Of course, finally hearing you say “Avengers, assemble!” was the cherry on top. Thank you for a great run as Captain America.

Robert Downey, Jr. – Here’s the thing about Iron Man for me: My love for the character is second generation. I got it from my Dad, who read Iron Man comics as a kid in the late ’60s. He encouraged me to read the comics, and love of the character is something we’ve bonded over. His birthday is in May. Since Marvel tends to kick their summer off around that time, practically every year I’ve had a movie to take him to around his birthday. In 2008, we saw the first Iron Man together in a little theatre in East Texas. When we saw Endgame together, it was in the same theatre. We ended our journey with Tony Stark in the same place it began. Just thought I’d share that.

You are a once-in-a-generation casting for this role. Others might have been able to do him justice, but you took the very real pain from your personal life and used it to bring Tony to life in a way that felt right, felt true. I am thankful for every second of every appearance of your Tony Stark. From the bottom of my fanboy heart, thank you.

Part of the journey is the end.

Truth is, I’m super selfish. If you had played him 100 times, I would want to see 101. I know that there comes a time for all things to end. And as heroic ends go, Tony’s is pretty hard to beat; he not only defeated Thanos, but saved the life of every living being in the universe. Every character we see from now on in an MCU film owes Tony a debt of gratitude. We’ve already seen the shadow that his absence casts, particularly over Peter Parker. I am curious to see how his legacy unfolds moving forward, especially as we get into shows like Armor Wars and Ironheart.

I’m sure that you’ve heard this a million times by now, but I sincerely mean it:

I love you 3000.

And really, that goes for everyone associated with this movie.

You are all my heroes.

Thanks for all your time and consideration.

Si vales, valeo.

– Matt Carson


Update #2: Sector M Store Now Live!

Hey folks,

I’m proud to announce that the brand-new Sector M store is now live! (The old Redbubble store I had for years is no more.) You can find the new store here on Etsy.

Here’s a look at a few of the new designs. I have some stuff with both versions of the Sector M logo as well. There are many different iterations of each design: magnets, stickers, T-shirts, gaming steins, and a whole bunch more.

Along those lines, I’ll be slowly adding new items to the store in addition to new designs. What’s there now represents the tip of the proverbial iceberg. If you see a design that you like, but I haven’t added it to a particular type of item, feel free to drop me a line at: TheSectorM@gmail.com or use the contact form on my website. Either way, it will get to me.

One note: There are fixed prices on many of the items, which can make for some odd price points on some of the stuff. Where possible, however, I’ve tried to price the items appropriately. For instance, T-shirts in the old store had a base price of $26 and some change. Now, all T-shirts in the store are $19.

Just to make the deal a little sweeter, I’m running an Easter sale all weekend. Use discount code EASTER2022 to get 20% off your entire order today through Sunday! And if you wouldn’t mind, show the store some love by smashing that “follow” button at the top of the page.

As always, thank you for your continued support. The Sector wouldn’t be the same without you!

Si vales, valeo.

-MC


Fred vs. Hannibal: Strange Headcanon #1

[Full disclosure: I wrote the bulk of this blog post a while back as a fun, tongue-in-cheek sort of writing prompt. As it deals with some themes of war, and we find ourselves watching in collective horror at what’s going on in Ukraine, I’m putting a mild trigger warning on this one.] 

So…

The pandemic has seen me return to a number of my favorite shows. Needing a little levity and excitement, I decided to pick up all five seasons of The A-Team. I have fond memories of seeing it as a kid, and let’s face it…you just can’t be unhappy when that iconic theme song is playing. It is simply the way of things.

*cue that theme song*

Well, in one of the earlier episodes, Face, Murdock, B.A., and Hannibal are on a mission in South America. As it’s pretty warm there, we see George Peppard wear a bandana around his neck like an ascot as he merrily smokes cigars and fights the assorted baddies in that week’s episode. At that moment, I was struck by how much Hannibal looked like an older, extremely badass version of Fred Jones from Scooby-Doo.

He love it when a plan comes together.

And that got me to thinking: What if the two men were actually the same person?

What follows is the resulting story as my mind started making connections between the two.

_______________________________________________

The child that would come to be known as Fredrick Jones, Jr. was born in the autumn of 1932 in Crystal Cove, California. The son of the mayor, he never knew his mother who (supposedly) left when he was very young. A curious and intelligent child, Fred had a natural knack for mechanics, gimmickry, and gadgetry, particularly in the area of building traps. He was also fascinated by the True Crime comics of his day, leading him to take an interest in investigation and deductive reasoning. This would lead him to meet and befriend Norville “Shaggy” Rogers and his Great Dane, Scooby-Doo, the incredible genius Velma Dinkley, and the woman who would become the love of his life, Daphne Blake. 

Fred and Daphne in early 1950.

As he grew to be a teenager, he excelled at sports and athletics, turning into a handsome young man who was socially popular. Even with all the attention, he only had eyes for Daphne. The four of them would solve many mysteries and strange occurrences before founding Mystery Inc. officially. Upon earning his driver’s license in 1949, his father rewarded him with a bright teal Volkswagon minibus, one of the first ever sold in the United States. Shaggy would paint green flourishes over it sides, while Daphne and Velma added orange daisies. Together, they dubbed the van the “Mystery Machine.” The vehicle would come to symbolize their unique bond, and it would become their home for the next two years as they toured the country, investigating hundreds of supernatural phenomena and mysterious happenings.

The Mystery Machine.

In every instance where they meddled, they found it was someone merely attempting to frighten people with clever light shows, special effects and — most notably — personal disguises. While the majority of the disguises turned out to be rubber masks that could be easily pulled off, a fair few of them used makeup, wigs, and spirit gum in ingenious ways to give their appearance realistic and convincing details. Little by little, Fred learned from their disguise techniques, stowing them away to one day become a master of disguise himself.

During this time on the road, Velma kept a detailed journal of their adventures. Years later, a copy of this journal would wind up in the hands of executives at Hanna-Barbera, who would translate the colorful adventures contained within into an animated series named for Norville’s mystery-solving dog.

In early 1952, Mystery Inc. went their separate ways. Velma went to MIT on a full-ride scholarship for math and science. Daphne went to study architecture in places across Italy and France. Norville and his dog became nomads, continuing to seek out adventure and oversized hero sandwiches wherever the winds of fate might carry them. With a tear in his eye, Fred handed Norville the keys to the Mystery Machine to aid them in their travels, and said good-bye.

One of the last photos of them all together. (March, 1952.)

The breaking of their band was hard on Fred, but the loss of Daphne made the familiar sights of Crystal Cove too painful to bear. Wanting to get away from it all, he secretly created a false identity for himself and enlisted in the Army. Knowing that his father would not approve, Fred signed his papers with the most non-descript name he could think of, one that would be virtually impossible to track: John Smith. He would likewise wear gloves at almost all times to keep from being tracked by his fingerprints.

His exceptional physical abilities, combined with his innate leadership skills and cleverness, made him a natural choice for the Green Berets. Once in training, he drilled on a host of skills, including operating small arms, parachuting out of a plane, and outflanking and out-thinking an enemy in virtually any environment. In short order, he deployed to Korea in the final year of the war. The unorthodox methods he employed while in the field won him the nickname “Hannibal,” a nom de guerre he would carry for the rest of his life.

“John Smith” reports for duty. (September,1952.)

After leaving Korea, he was tapped for Officer Candidacy School (OCS), where he underwent his transformation from an enlisted soldier to an officer. Over the next few years, the Army would invest heavily in Hannibal’s education, heaping upon him extra training and learning opportunities. He excelled at every turn. He was among the first American ‘advisors’ to reach Vietnam in the late ’50s. While the fighting did not quite reach the fevered pitch that it would a decade later, Hannibal wearied of fighting.

By 1962, Hannibal’s term in the Army was almost up. He toyed with the idea of leaving the fighting behind and settling down. While on leave in the United States, he looked up Daphne, hoping to rekindle their old flame. He proposed on the spot. Unfortunately for Hannibal, she was already considering an engagement to Jack Harmon, a successful businessman. While Daphne still harbored feelings for Hannibal, she ultimately chose Jack over her old Mystery Inc. friend and lover. Hannibal was still an adventurer, still destined to travel the world, where as Daphne had dreams of starting a family.

Though brokenhearted, Hannibal knew that Jack was a good and decent man who would take care of Daphne. Hannibal and Jack parted ways as reluctant friends. With nothing left for him in the United States, Hannibal re-enlisted in the Army and once again shipped out to Vietnam. In 1965, Jack and Daphne welcomed a baby boy into their family, Fred “Kid” Harmon. Hannibal would visit them often when he returned to the States, where his namesake would recognize him as “Uncle John.”

“Kid” Harmon. (November, 1985.)

In Vietnam, Hannibal would continue to make a name for himself. While he remained fit and operational, his blonde hair slowly turned into a silvery gray, but his signature blue eyes remained bright, however. While never a hard drinker, the years of war and conflict did see him pick up the habit of smoking cigars, particularly Cuban panetelas.

Hannibal on leave in 1971.

Always one to surround himself with talented people, he came to build a new core team in the jungles of Vietnam, somewhat modeled after his experience with Mystery Inc. Shortly before the Tet Offensive kicked off in 1968, he recruited and befriended four other Green Berets: the handsome, fast-talking swindler, Templeton “Faceman” Peck, the half-crazed Huey pilot with an invisible dog, Captain H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock, and the tough-as-nails Sergeant Bosco Albert Baracus (or simply “B.A.”), who would prove to be the most capable fighter Hannibal would ever encounter.

While Hannibal hadn’t planned it that way, the four of them mirrored the structure of Mystery Inc. Hannibal was once again the leader, with Face as the resident convincer and influencer, and Murdock as an analogue to Norville’s zany antics. Oddly enough, B.A. was the genius of the group like Velma had been all those years before. Instead of a scientific genius, however, Mr. Bad Attitude himself was an absolute wizard when it came to vehicles and mechanics. The four of them together had a knack for kit-bashing what they needed for the mission out of the materials at hand, including elaborate traps, which Hannibal excelled at building. 

The four of them would come to form a crack commando unit tasked with the most difficult missions the Vietnamese theatre could throw at them. They were known as Alpha Team during their early exploits, a name which would later be shortened to the A-Team. They would become the most famous soldiers in Vietnam, though H.M. Murdock’s role as the team’s resident pilot would remain ambiguous, at least as far as the Army was aware.  

The A-Team attending a funeral in full uniform.

At various times, they would cross paths and run missions with the likes of fellow Green Beret, Michael Arthur Long, the ingenious bomb specialist, Angus “Bud” MacGyver, noted college athlete, James Crockett, and decorated Navy SEAL, Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV. There was even a friendly rivalry that developed between fellow helicopter pilots Murdock and Stringfellow “Stray Dog” Hawke.

In 1972, their commanding officer, Colonel Morrison, ordered them on a super secret mission to rob the Bank of Hanoi in an attempt to end the war. While they were successful in completing the mission, they returned to their base to find it utterly destroyed and Colonel Morrison killed. Without any evidence that they were ordered to rob the bank, it appeared to the Army that the A-Team had gone rogue. Upon reporting in to clear their names, they were arrested.

From Col. Decker’s casefile. Photographer unknown. This mission would alter the trajectory of their lives.

These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground, where they survived as soldiers of fortune. Glad to be back in his native California, Hannibal found that he had traded the steaming jungle terrain of Vietnam for the concrete jungle of modern-day LA. For the next 10 years, the four of them used their skills to fight for those in need, sometimes for pay, sometimes out of the necessity of the cause.

Still wanted by the government, and pursued by the tenacious Colonel Lynch, and others like him, Hannibal mounted a successful mission back to Vietnam in late 1982 to recover the gold taken on that fateful mission. Once in hand, they divvied up the money. H.M Murdock gave most of his away to various animal charities and checked himself into a military psychiatric ward to avoid suspicion. Face spent his reward on the finer things in life, but his pockets were soon emptied. Hannibal anonymously invested his earnings into his adopted nephew’s fledgling racing career.

If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them…

Yet, the part that made Hannibal’s heart soar was when B.A. spent his reward on a black and gray 1983 GMC Vandura with red turbine wheels, a spoiler, and slanting racing stripes down the sides. B.A. had supercharged the engine, reinforced the frame with bulletproof panels, and installed secret compartments, including weapon storage and even a full photographic and printing suite.

B.A. had prepared for them a mobile command center, a home away from home, a vehicle that would be emblematic of their loyalty to one another. Once again, the man from Crystal Cove, who had worn many names in his lifetime, and helped countless people, slipped into the seat of a van with his closest friends to seek out adventure in the great unknown.

Photo from shortly before their nationally televised court-martial.
(August, 1986.)

_______________________________________________

There you have it, folks. If you write fan fiction of either property, feel free to take this information and do with it what you will.

This was an interesting thought experiment for me that I really enjoyed writing. Would you like me to do others in a Strange Headcanon series? Would you like to continue the timeline of this particular thread? If so, leave me a like or a comment to let me know.

Take care, and thanks for reading!


Update #1: New Sector M Website

Greetings Sectorians,

Just a quick announcement to let you know that the new Sector M website is now up and running.

*And there was much rejoicing.* Yaaaay!

In the coming months, I’ll be adding the Sector M store as well as Patreon support. Obviously, this site is a work in progress. I encourage you to check it out and let me know what you think.

If you have any comments or suggestions on how the site could be better, there is an email form on the Contact page here. Don’t hesitate to use it, okay?

There’s more in the works, so watch this space for more updates.

Si vales, valeo.

-MC


My Journey to the Place of Red Corn

Late last year, I had the pleasure of visiting my first Mayan ruins at Chacchoben in the forests of Mexico’s coastal state of Quintana Roo. My tour group set out in the morning from Costa Maya on an hour-long trip by van inland to the ruin site itself. Our tour guide was a gentleman by the name of Gabriel, or Gabo for short.

Photos don’t do it justice. Trust me.

Gabo is an interesting guy for a number of reasons. First, he is the answer to the question he gets a lot from tourists: “Where did the Mayans go?” 

“We’re still here,” is his usual answer. Gabo is himself of Mayan descent. In fact, Gabo came from a place in Mexico where the Mayan language is spoken primarily. He learned Spanish as a second language as a kid in school. En route to the ruins, he gave us a bit of history on the Mayan culture, his heritage, and even the Mayan counting system, which used lines and dots with dividing lines to represent escalating multiples of 20, 400, and 8,000.

The leaf/football symbol represents zero.

We arrived at Chacchoben, which means “The Place of Red Corn.” It is located next to a brightly colored traditional Mexican cemetery. I’ll come back to that in a moment. The ruins were rediscovered in 1972 and subsequently excavated in 1994. The area still has places that have not yet been excavated. Occasionally you could see this with an otherwise ordinary hill revealing a fragment of a stone wall peeking through gaps in the dirt. 

This ficus tree is likely more than a thousand years old, possibly more.

Chacchoben is not nearly the largest set of Mayan ruins in Mexico, but they are in remarkable shape considering their age. They date back to the Classic Period of Mayan civilization from about 250 to 900 CE. I’ve heard different estimates of when these ruins were built, but it is likely around 500–700 CE. It can be hard to wrap your mind around just how long ago that was. I had to remind my young son that the buildings there were the oldest that he had ever seen, by quite a large margin.

The people give you a sense of scale.

We toured through plazas and temple complexes in a large loop that goes around the entire site, up and down stone staircases that are narrow enough that it’s easier (and safer) to traverse them sideways. Next to the main temple, there’s even an ancient cieba tree. The branches that grow straight out from the trunk were thought to represent the levels of the heavens, earth, and underworld.    

This is the Cieba tree near the temple in the picture above.

Oh, one other thing that Gabo mentioned, something he was very passionate about: Ancient aliens didn’t build Chacchoben, the Mayans did. None of us had asked him that particular question, but he said it early on in our conversation, almost as if to get it out of the way. I can definitely see why this might be a point of contention for him, especially since there are so many History channel specials out there that talk about ancient aliens.

One place I found of particular interest was one of its most mundane. There was a market square with rows of open stone bleachers that formed a perimeter around a large open space. Gabo explained that this would have been used for town meetings and ceremonies, as well as a farmers market. What struck me most about them was that they still could be used as a market today. Much like the Agora in many Greek cities, this was the beating heart of the community. Almost every citizen would have interacted with it at some point in their daily lives.

Just imagine what life was like here.

Gabo further explained that most of the stone would have been covered in a type of bright white paint. This would allow tradesmen to bring in goods at night when it was cool using only a tiny bit of moonlight.

Speaking of paint, the ruins would have been covered in plaster and painted all sorts of vibrant, almost neon colors. As magnificent as the ruins are as they stand today, we are just seeing the dull under layer. There was one place, at the back of one of the temples, where there is still a tiny bit of the original pigment and plaster. Here it is:

Amazing.

Even in that state, however, there is a definite sense of wonder that you get standing there. These buildings aren’t just for ceremony. No, this is where thousands of people made their home. The echo of their lives still resonates through that place.

Remember the cemetery I mentioned earlier? It’s possible that bright colors we see there are an echo of this tradition. Many of the paints used there are made from natural pigments, so it gives us a potentially tantalizing clue as to the amazing palate the Mayans might have used to paint their buildings.

Once again, photos don’t do it justice.

It certainly makes you wonder why the Mayans might have abandoned this place if they had taken such pains to build them in exacting alignment with the sun and stars. I asked Gabo that very question. He was of the belief that it might have been something as simple as an extended dry period. A crop failure of just one year could have been devastating enough, but if it had gone two or three years in a row, the Mayans might have been forced to find a new place to live just to survive.

This is the back of the of the temple next to the cieba tree. In fact, you can see it in the back ground, just to the right of center

Sooner than I would have liked, it was time for us to load up in the van and head back out to the port. I have to tell you that seeing these ruins has really reignited my interest in Mesoamerican cultures, something I’ve had since I was a kid. At some point in the future, I would dearly love to take a tour of the Mayan and Aztec ruins throughout Mexico and Central America.  

I don’t know if I will ever again have the chance to visit the Place of Red Corn, but I can tell you that I am incredibly grateful to have visited it this once, and walk in the footsteps of the ancients.


Fanboy Movie Review #14 — Spider-Man: No Way Home

[Note: I do not consider myself a movie critic. What follows is just one fanboy’s opinion based off of a single viewing of the film. Oh, and there are SPOILERS ahead for this movie, Loki and Hawkeye, so take heed.]

At the time of this writing, Spider-Man: No Way Home has taken the world by storm, clocking in at a whopping 1.6 billion at the box office. According to Box Office Mojo, it’s already surpassed Black Panther to take 4th place in the top domestic earners of all time and 8th place worldwide. That’s crazy in the best sense of the word. I only wish that Stan the Man was still with us to see not one but three versions of his famous creation save the day on screen. Together.

YAAAAAAAAASSS! (I might be a little excited.)

Since we are going to be talking about different actors playing the same character, I’m designating them in order of chronological appearance, so:

  • Peter-1 – OG Spider-Man/Tobey Maguire
  • Peter-2 – Amazing Spider-Man/Andrew Garfield
  • Peter-3 – MCU Spider-Man/Tom Holland

First Impressions:

There was no way I wasn’t going to see this movie. I wasn’t super keen on heading to a packed theatre to see it, but I did so anyway. Tom Holland has proven himself an inspired casting choice for Spider-Man, and seeing him in the role would have been enough to motivate me. The studio leaks that said that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield would reprise their roles as the titular character gave me a little pause. Not because they weren’t great, but I was somewhat worried that too many things would try to be smashed together into one movie. You don’t have to look any further than 2007’s Spider-Man 3 to see how a story can falter for having too many elements going on at once.  That many characters on screen, even with a long run time, can be challenging to land just right.

All of my concerns proved unfounded, however.  To say that this movie sticks the landing is the understatement among understatements.

What I LIKED:

DAREDEVIL! – I let out an excited yell in the theatre when Charlie Cox showed up as Matt Murdock. And this within days of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk showing up on Hawkeye. It still remains to be seen how much they are like their Netflix appearances, but to have them as an official part of the MCU after being consigned to legal limbo is incredible. Now that it’s been established, I hope we start seeing Charlie Cox show up in other Marvel projects and eventually headline his own series or movie again. 

Peter-3’s Sense of Compassion – Peter didn’t take the easy way out. At any time he could have pushed the button and made the issue of the villains (literally) disappear. Even when they turned on him, his goal was to help them, a decision that ultimately costs him dearly. Yet, he still does it. At the battle at the Statue of Liberty, his goal wasn’t just to punch them, but to cure them. It all calls back to Peter’s innate humanity and compassion. Yeah, he got a little carried away with Green Goblin there for a moment, but it’s hard to blame him. And, wow, can Norman Osborn take a punch. That formula must’ve been really something.

Real Consequences – I’ve heard it said that nothing in the MCU feels like it has any real stakes since it can be undone or retconned easily enough. That’s less of a problem with Marvel movies and more an issue with comics in general, I think. But here, Peter’s choices have lasting consequences. From the looks of it, the aftermath of this movie doesn’t feel like it will be overturned.

Returning Heroes – If there’s a trope that’s my literary kryptonite, it’s the returning hero. Especially if the hero was thought lost or has been away for a long time. Seeing Peter-1 and 2 show up again is a warm hug straight to the heart. It’s great to see Tobey and Andrew step into these roles when we weren’t sure if we would ever see them wear the red and blue again. Love it.

“Maybe she didn’t die for nothing, Peter.”

Aunt May Says the Words – When Spider-Man showed up in Captain America: Civil War, I had assumed that this version of the character had witnessed Uncle Ben die as well. My guess was that after seeing that event happen twice on screen that the screenwriters (wisely) didn’t want to show us all that again. From how this played out, it looks like Aunt May might have been with Ben when he died instead. Spider-Man is, unfortunately, fated to lose someone he loves dearly. Yet, he always takes that loss and transforms it into something positive. We hear Marisa Tomei say the immortal words that Stan Lee left us with all those years ago, and it really hits home. Tom Holland brings such a wonderful vulnerability to the character, and his performance is so good in that scene that it feels like the loss we see on screen is really happening.     

Spider-Man vs. Doctor Strange – I normally don’t like it when superheroes fight, but I felt this one was justified, even if I think Strange should have at least heard Peter-3 out. While it would seem that Strange should just be able to roll over Spidey without issue, that Peter was able to use math to find a way to beat Strange at his own game shows us just how smart our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man really is.

The Scooby Gang – Some of my favorite moments in the movie are when Peter-3, Ned, and MJ are together as friends and trying to determine what they’re going to do. The chemistry of those three actors is fantastic. Spider-Friends…go for it!

Still got it.

The Sinister Six Five – Each of the villains had their moment to shine with stand-out performances by Alfred Molina and Willem Dafoe as Doc Ock and Green Goblin, respectively. Seeing both of them step back into these roles is a real treat.

J. Jonah Jameson – If ever there was an actor who really nailed it in bringing a character from the comics to life, J.K. Simmons did that with the bombastic editor-in-chief of the Daily Bugle in Peter-1’s continuity. Seeing him reprise his role in the MCU is a real bright spot. Any time we get hear him say, “He’s a menace!” I am there for it.

Happy Hogan – This one hurt. This really brought home the extent of what Peter had to sacrifice to win the day. We see the full extent of Strange’s spell in effect here. Jon Favreau helped start the wheels of the MCU turning with the original Iron Man. I’m always glad to see him as a recurring character. I hope he’s able to keep going with Happy for as long as he wants.

Venom – If I’m being frank, I haven’t been a big fan of either of the Venom movies that have come out. I didn’t hate them, but I wouldn’t say that I liked them. I was a bit concerned by the stinger in Venom: Let There Be Carnage. I didn’t really want that version of the character in the MCU. Thankfully, we got the best of both worlds. Tom Hardy’s character was banished back to his own continuity, but we got a trace of the symbiote left behind that could be a catalyst for other stories. Since Secret Wars is in the production pipeline, maybe that’s where it will come into play.

What I DIDN’T Like:

Doctor Strange’s Initial Spell – As a long-time D&D player, I have a special appreciation for the wish spell. Specifically, how you should approach it carefully and go into it with clearly defined goals and intentions. If you’re asking a wizard to cast wish on your behalf, you should probably have a bit of a chat beforehand, yeah? Make sure that you’ve thought it through, worked through all the possible ramifications, and set the conditions that are important to you. I know this is a plot device showing itself here, but it’s odd that Strange would put such a major spell in motion without knowing all the caveats Peter wanted in place. Also, from the way it’s presented, Strange would have blanked his own memory if the spell would have gone off. He has that wonderful “So long, kid,” moment at the end of the movie, but here it looks like he’s ready to edit Peter out of his life without hesitation.  

Doctor Strange’s Final Spell – I had a disconnect here, and I’m curious if anyone else had this as well. The first spell was designed to make everyone forget that Peter Parker was Spider-Man, not to forget Peter entirely. My understanding of it was that everyone would still know that Spider-Man exists, but they would lose all knowledge that Peter Parker was the one behind the mask. So, those who knew Peter personally, like say Flash Thompson, wouldn’t forget that he exists. When the spell is finally unleashed at the climax of the movie, however, it makes everyone forget who Peter Parker is entirely. Ned and MJ don’t just lose the memories of Peter-3 being Spidey, they don’t know him at all. Yet, everyone still knows that Spider-Man exists. Anyone else feel that this didn’t exactly add up?

Take my advice, I’m not using it.

Doctor Strange’s Sudden Lack of Empathy – Okay, I know it sounds like I’m ragging on Strange a lot here. Benedict Cumberbatch turns in a great performance, as always. My issue with this portrayal of the character is that he’s willing to condemn the Sinister Five without much thought or contemplation on the matter. Where is his Hippocratic Oath in all this to do no harm? Even if it was their fate to die, clearly that can be changed as evidenced by the ending of the movie. He’s the one who said that simply killing people means that you lack imagination. If someone could find a way to defy fate, it’s the guy who literally messes around with the source code of reality. That he’s not willing to hear Peter out on the matter strikes me as weird and puts the characters into direct conflict with each other.

Some Connecting Scenes – Seeing the three Spider-Men fighting together around the Statue of Liberty was mind blowing. A few of the scenes of them interacting as Peter Parker, however, felt a little ad-libbed. Mainly, I’m talking about the lab scene and where Peter-2 is popping Peter-1’s back. The direction in those scenes felt suddenly unsure and flat, whereas much of the rest of the movie had a much more noticeable dramatic weight to it.

*mind blown*

Unresolved Questions:

How was Electro brought into the spell when he didn’t know Peter-2’s identity? What becomes of Peter-1 and Peter-2’s timeline since their villains were redeemed? Harry Osborn from Peter-1’s timeline became the Green Goblin (and subsequently died) only as a result of his father’s death. Does the newly reformed Norman Osborn returning to the moment before he died change all that? What about Doc Ock who went into the water near a raging ball of fusion? One hopes that Doctor Strange had the presence of mind to return them to someplace safe. Speaking of whom, how does the fracturing of the multiverse at the end connect to the same effect we see in the Loki series?

Beyond that, what will become of all three Spider-Men? Will we ever get to see Tobey Maguire in the role again? What about Andrew Garfield? Would that change the outcome where he lost Gwen Stacy? Regardless, if the studios haven’t approached Emma Stone about playing Spider-Gwen at some point, I feel like they’re missing a step.

Lastly, what will happen to our beloved MCU Spider-Man? When we leave him, he’s all alone in the world. He has no family left, his friends have forgotten him, and even the Avengers won’t remember him if they bumped into him on the street. While that means that he can operate as Spider-Man without the fear of a backlash to those he cares about, Spider-Man has never been a lone wolf. His relationships and attitudes towards other people have been a big influence on him. Where will he go from here?

Meta in the extreme.

Conclusions:

What a ride. What. A. Ride. I have enjoyed the MCU offerings post-Endgame, but there hasn’t been the same unified meta-structure as in the Infinity Saga. This movie feels like it sets in motion what Doctor Strange will have to contend with in Multiverse of Madness this May. That feels like the next big narrative thread that the next cycle of movies will explore. So, in addition to being an incredible accomplishment of its own, No Way Home gives us that next big landmark, and delivers it in a larger-than-life way that I wouldn’t have thought possible. I honestly could not ask for more from a Spider-Man movie.

Of course, it’s also a big reset button to everything we’ve built up for Peter-3 so far. I do hope that future installments (which given the incredible earnings of this film make them virtually guaranteed) will start to rebuild the Wall-Crawler’s interrelationships. We get a hint of that in the donut shop scene, but we need more of it. A lot more. Regardless of where the franchise goes from here, I think Spider-Man: No Way Home absolutely deserves every penny it’s earned.  

And that’s the way this fanboy sees it.


State of the Sector Address: 2022

My Fellow Sectorians,

Now that the holidays are behind us, I’m happy to come before you today to talk about 2022.

Geeks, nerds, pop-culture aficionados, lend me your ears.

I have big plans for Sector M, so I thought I would take a few moments to outline what I’m working on currently and let you in on my plans for the future.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right in.

A new day dawns, bright and filled with promise.

On the Horizon:

Website Update: First, my author website is long overdue for an update. I’m going through every page and link to see what needs to stay and what can go. My goal is to have a refreshed site somewhere around the end of February. [Update: the new site is live here.]

Patreon Revamp: I’m also in the process of completely overhauling my Patreon benefits. I’m going to add new tiers, new ranks, and lots of cool rewards. There will be ample opportunity for us to build something worthwhile together. So, if you like what I do, please consider supporting Sector M on Patreon when the time comes. My current plan is for the new stuff to go live in May. In the meantime, I’m pausing donations from all current Patrons until these new updates go into effect.

New Merch: While all that is going on, I’m reworking my merch store, too. It was on Redbubble, but I am planning to migrate my store over to another platform, possibly Printify. This will give me more flexibility to bring you all new designs, better pricing, and additional options beyond just T-shirts and mugs. I will unveil the new store here when it goes live, which I’m hoping is in the April timeframe. [Update: the new merch store is now live here.]

The Sector M Podcast: I am blessed to know a number of truly geeky people, and we’ve got opinions. Boy howdy, do we. Thus, I’m going to try my hand at podcasting to share our thoughts, hopes, and opinions with all of you on a whole host of geeky and nerdy topics. I’m still in a fact-finding mode on this, so more on it as it develops.

Σε έκανε να φαίνεσαι!

Now the Author-y Stuff:

Finished #6, Started #7: 2021 was a difficult year to be creative (for many reasons), but I was able to finish my sixth novel at the beginning of July. It’s a fantasy book that I hope will be the start of its own series. After a few months for edits, polishing, and querying (see below), I started my seventh novel on Halloween. This is my first excursion into the cyberpunk genre with some fun twists. It’s also a book that might truly be a standalone, a one-and-done. I’m trying to have a working draft by Halloween of this year.

I’m Querying #3: My third novel is a military sci-fi/space opera novel. Some version of this story has been with me for a long time. It’s changed a lot over the years, but I’m glad to finally arrive at a point where the on-paper version has aligned with my vision for it. As I said in my Alive and Kicking post, querying is not for the faint of heart. It can be pretty brutal, and it’s definitely a marathon and not a sprint.

The Sector M Blog: For a few years I haven’t been in a position to regularly contribute to this blog, but that is changing. My plan is to release an original piece of blog content on the third Friday of each month (with a few exceptions). The first one will post two weeks from today on January 21. In addition, I hope to have more announcement-style blog posts to keep you apprised of merch additions, writing updates, news, and more. Currently, these are the dates I plan to post a new blog entry:

Facebook No More: This happened a while back, but it bears repeating. I have put the Sector M Facebook page into indefinite limbo. I did not delete it, but it is no longer an avenue I use for communication. It just doesn’t align with what I want to do anymore, and I was at a point of diminishing returns with it. I would encourage you to follow me instead on Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads. Also, I highly encourage you to follow to this blog.

Strange Reports from Sector M: If you’re new here or you want to get an idea of my writing style, my anthology of short fiction is available through Amazon in both an e-book and hard copy format. It’s 13 stories ranging from very short flash fiction to full-length novellas. A veritable sampler platter of genres, you’ll find urban fantasy, military sci-fi, and even some horror within its pages. You can find it here.

Say it with me: “Greetings, Starfighter. You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the Frontier against Xur and the Kodan armada.”

How You Can Help:

If you like what I do, here are some of the things you can do to help Sector M grow:

Follow this blog: If you’re reading these words, please follow this blog. This platform will be a large part of my online presence moving forward. The number of followers will be something of a barometer on how much I’m able to get the message out, so please join either by regular subscription (the “follow” button should pop up in the bottom right-hand corner), or follow by email.

LEAVE A REVIEW!: Sorry for the all-caps treatment, but leaving a review is one of the greatest things you can do for an author aside from buying a book. This goes for any independent author, not just me. Reviews, especially on Amazon, are the key to the site’s referral algorithm. So, please-oh-please, if you buy one of my books, please also leave a review. Please and thank you. 

Support Sector M on Patreon: As I stated earlier, I’m in the process of reworking my Patreon experience with new perks, new rewards, and more ways to be collaborative with the Sector M community. When it’s ready, I urge you to give it a look and see if it’s for you.

Tell a friend: No, this isn’t a pyramid scheme. It’s the fact that folks who love science fiction, fantasy, and geek/nerd pop-culture tend to flock together. Word of mouth is extremely important, so if you know of someone who might also enjoy my work, please tell them.

Contact me: I have a dedicated email address for all things related to Sector M. If you have an idea or suggestion to make things better, or just want to drop yours truly a line, you can contact me at: TheSectorM@gmail.com.

Well, that about wraps it up for the State of the Sector for 2022. It is my intent to make this kind of update a yearly thing in early January. Whether you are just now finding out about Sector M, or you’ve been here from the beginning, I appreciate you all.

Thank you, and may the stars shine for you alone.

Si vales, valeo.

-Matt Carson


Alive and Kicking

[No, not the Simple Minds song of the same name, but you’re welcome to listen to it as you read ahead. Go ahead, here’s the link.]

Howdy, folks! Wow, the last year has been quite a roller-coaster ride. I wanted to take a moment to let you know what’s going on with me and a little of my plans for where Sector M goes next.

It’s nice to add captions again.

So, I had to take most of the last year off of a lot of my side projects (like this blog) to be able to concentrate on my own health, the health of my family, and to settle into a new job unlike any I have had before. Definitely not an easy task when that’s all happening during a pandemic. The year 2020 definitely took its toll, and most of 2021 has followed suit. But, I am happy to report that all of my crew are present and healthy at the time of this writing.

My new job, while great in many respects, has taken up a lot of the mental bandwidth that I was using to run table-top RPGs, write blogs, create board games, and a dozen other projects I had going on in the background. It’s starting to even out, however. Slowly the lights in my mind are starting to come back on.

This *might* be a clue. Maybe. Possibly.

So, what have you been up to all this time?

While many of my side projects came to a halt, I am happy to report that I have made some modest progress on my books, which I’m happy to share here:

1.) I am actively querying the first volume in my military sci-fi/space opera series. For those who have gone through this, querying is not a process for the faint of spirit or weak of heart. Any positive energy, thoughts, or karma you’d like to send my way will be graciously accepted. 

 2.) I’m in the process of editing my 5th novel (fantasy). It’s going a lot slower than I would like, but I am making some progress. While many authors dread editing and revising, I find it refreshing. Filing down the rough edges and putting in the time to make the book better than it was sets my little fanboy heart  all aglow.

3.) I finished the first draft of my 6th novel (also fantasy) in July. First drafts are always a flaming dumpster fire, and this one feels a bit more flaming dumpster fire-y than most. Still, it was an experiment that succeeded far better than I thought it could. It might be a while before I get to walk in that world again, but I’m eager to return to the setting and the characters in the future. I’m already missing it.

4.) I started my 7th novel on Halloween of this year. Also an experiment, this is the first time I’ve written something so complex in the cyberpunk genre.  It’s certainly one of the more ambitious projects I’ve tried to take on. While many of my books have potential sequels and mark the first of a series, this one is meant to be a one-and-done. We’ll see if that holds up as I get more into it and get to know the cast of characters.

A little Optimus. You know, just ‘cuz.

What’s the future of Sector M?

I am working on the next State of the Sector address, which I intend to publish the first week of January. Here’s a little of what we’re going to cover:

New Blog Schedule: I am hoping to get back to releasing blog posts on a regular basis. Right now I’m aiming for at least once a month, possibly more. I was recently able to visit a few museums that deserve their own posts. Plus, I’ll be writing about a bunch of other geeky/author-y stuff to boot.

Merch Store Updates:  I plan to migrate my existing merch store over to a new platform. I hope to have some new designs ready to coincide with the launch. [Update: the new store is now live here.]

Patreon Revamp:  This will involve a ramps-down reconstruction of the Sector M Patreon with new tiers, exclusive content and swag, hangouts, and a bunch of other goodies.

That’s just for starters. I have some other initiatives in mind for 2022, but like anything it all comes down to time, availability, and money to get them off the ground. Thankfully, I have some fantastic people backing me up on these.

The gears have been turning slowly during this pandemic, but they have been turning. It is my hope that this new year will be conducive to getting back up to speed. If you’re reading this, I want to thank you for your support and interest in what I do. It means the universe to me. Several universes, in fact. 🙂

So, again in the words of Simple Minds, don’t you forget about me. Until next time, I’ll see you around the Sector!

Si vales, valeo.

-MC