2016 was a big year for Marvel with several large event series in comics, and big film releases like Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange. They even released a comic where an alien duck is a misanthropic private investigator.
There were some big changes this year in the Marvel Universe, and even the strangest, weirdest, most psychedelic moves the company made have lasting ramifications going forward. Between Captain America’s secret alliances to Doctor Strange’s in-universe implications for the Ancient One, the Marvel universe pulled some wild left turns this year. These strange things made comic readers go, “WTF”? and then forced them to repeat it as the company stuck with these changes, making 2016 a truly bizarre year for Marvel fans. There’ll be plenty to scratch our heads over next year, but until then let’s recount the weirdest things that happened in the Marvel universe this year.
1. Nazi Captain America
This is the big one, and the one that sort of kicked off a line of questions from Marvel fans asking: “Wtf Marvel?” Steve Rogers was an old man for a bit in the comics before regaining his youth to become strong and hot again. The only problem is that it also made him a Nazi. Technically, it was revealed that he was part of HYDRA, but those guys are like Nazis with laser guns, which is just as bad.
In a strange, ongoing plot, Captain America’s memories were tampered with, giving him a fake memory of his youth when he was indoctrinated (fake) by a HYDRA agent as a child. Even though he’s not really a HYDRA agent, the whole reveal, then subsequent “gotcha!” felt unnecessary and a comic story version of “clickbait.”
2. Civil War II
Where to begin? Civil War II is the sequel to Marvel’s first Civil War comic event, a story that would form the basis of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Like the first Civil War, CWII pit two opposing teams of superheroes led by Iron Man and Captain Marvel respectively. These heroes fought each other on opposite ends of an ideological conflict based on the idea of predicative justice, that is using visions of the future to persecute crimes before they even happen.
While the story was meant to be a kind of meditation on the surveillance state, Civil War II mostly served to kill off a bunch of characters like War Machine and Bruce Banner, and turn Captain Marvel and Tony Stark’s Iron Man into strange exaggerations of themselves, twisting Danver’s militancy and Stark’s cynicism to the point neither character is recognizable.
The ending? A bunch of dead bodies and a new status quo with Captain Marvel as de facto world leader. The new Captain Marvel and Iron Man comics will hopefully flesh out the two characters who were given short sticks during Civil War II.
3. The Ancient One
Sure, the canon Ancient One for the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a Celtic woman living in Tibet who looks like Tilda Swinton. That’s fair considering the MCU is an alternate reality from the main Marvel Universe. But here’s the thing that’s still weird about the whole thing. The implication of her character, in-universe, is that she’s an old sorceress, but why Tibet? Ireland has a long history of mysticism, and thanks to the current Doctor Strange and the Sorcerer’s Supreme comic, Sorcerer Supremes come from all different regions, practicing all different kinds of magic.
This means the film’s Ancient One goes out of her way to make sure people think she’s Asian, or Marvel is trying to tell us the strongest practitioner of Tibet’s mystic arts is a white woman.
4. Sex in Luke Cage
Why all the coffee euphemisms for sex? “Getting coffee?” “Robust blend?” This is just a weird thing that’s only central to Luke Cage’s part of New York City. I don’t recall Matt Murdock suggesting an “espresso break” when he was out with Elektra.
5. The X-Men are Back
This one is a bit more welcome than the other weird moments on this list, but is included because it kind of happened out of the blue. I’m talking about the “ResurrXion” of the X-Men. After years of being relegated to side heroes, and the threat of sterilization and extinction brought on by the rise of the Inhumans, the X-Men are finally back in center-stage with a new event series, “X-Men vs. Inhumans,” and a slew of new team and solo comics. It’s great to see Marvel’s allegorical team of social consciousness back in the main Marvel fold, but the speed in which “ResurrXion” is approaching is a little jarring. Here’s hoping its high stakes are worth it in 2017.