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Marvel Mergers, Spider-Verse & Stan Lee’s Passing: Marvel’s 2018 in Review

2018 has been another year of misery and depression. Luckily, Marvel offered some cracking times at the cinema and on television. Well, more-or-less. Marvel-wise, 2018 will be remembered for several things: The huge success of Black Panther, James Gunn getting fired by Disney because they are idiots, and the sorrowful passing of Stan Lee. But, we can talk all about that and more in a minute. Let’s do the time warp and go through Marvel’s offerings, from the MCU, Fox, Sony, and anything else that comes to mind.

Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies

Promo photo of Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther sitting on his throne

The unstoppable MCU celebrated a decade of superheroes and box office success, with perhaps its best films yet. First out was Black Panther, an extraordinarily brilliant superhero movie, perhaps the best of the MCU. Its sheer impact with black communities launched it into the stratosphere as an epic piece of culture. The film’s afrofuturism wowed audiences, and the film tackled political and racial themes without batting an eyelid. Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan delivered amazing performances as T’Challa and Killmonger, heading a near all-black cast. Plus, who doesn’t love armoured rhinos?

There was an unfortunate sour note regarding the film’s popularity. The dated, dusty, and mostly irrelevant Oscars considered creating a new award for “Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film”. In other words, Black Panther, other superhero films, and genre films could be delegated to this category, denied nominations for Best Picture. That, and the new award was to be made just to draw in audiences due to dipping ratings. Well, that’s what happens when you get Jimmy Fallon to host. Anyway, everyone freaked out about it, and the Oscars made the smart move to withdraw the idea. I hope Black Panther at least gets nominated for Best Picture, giving superhero films some sense of respect in the elite of Hollywood.

Next up was Avengers: Infinity War. If Marvel Studios wasn’t an independent company run by creative people who were willing to get risks, this film (and many others) would not exist. The fact that the villain wins an all-out victory was one hell of an ending. Thanos, the galaxy’s most chintastic purple maniac, used a magic glove and discount Chaos Emeralds to wipe out half the universe. Sitting in the cinema in haunting silence, watching beloved superheroes turn to dust, will remain with me for many years. You know a film is good when you leave physically trembling.

The third film was Ant-Man and the Wasp, a welcome comedy after Infinity War sucked all joy out of the world. Hilarious and brilliantly creative with Ant-Man and Wasp’s size-changing powers, the film has some intriguing villains, and while the plot is a little complex, it was still a tone of fun.

In other news, while Thanos wiped out half the universe, Disney were determined to consume what remained. Oh, and make stupid decisions, like fire James Gunn as director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which has been delayed to 2021. In short, some alt-right conspiracy theorist dug up tweets from a decade ago posted by Gunn, which he had withdrawn long ago. Why? Because Gunn send some mean things about the bad-haired buffoon in the White House. Disney, not giving a toss about Gunn or the potential future of one of their most profitable brands, but rather their squeaky clean image, promptly fired Gunn. And, oh look, he’s now over with the enemy, making Suicide Squad ‘s sequel. The entire cast of the Guardians films supported Gunn, with Disney getting a bollocking from around the world. Wait to go, Mickey.

Marvel Cinematic Universe TV Shows

In the other realm of the MCU was the television series. We had a relatively cracking year of new shows and new seasons. Runaways, which technically started in 2017, ended its first season in January, with the second to start soon. What began as a high school drama about broken friendships into a crazy awesome show involving dinosaurs, aliens, and former Doctor Doom, Julian McMahon, appearing as a bad guy. We also had Cloak & Dagger, on Freeform, a small scale urban drama with two brooding but likeable leads. There was also mean to be New Warriors, but that has yet to surface.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. aired its fifth season, which, to say the least, was disappointing. After the fourth season was absolutely spectacular, the follow up was a rather dull, plodding escapade that felt like it was meant to tie-in with Infinity War, but never made it. Highlights included a Kree-controlled last human colony, Fitz and Simmons finally tied the not, Graviton finally showed up, and Phil Coulson retired from spy life. Hopefully, the sixth season will be an improvement.

Over on Netflix, all four of the Defenders solo series aired their second/third seasons. Jessica Jones was out first, with another great performance from Krysten Ritter, but felt a little wasted in places. The villains weren’t as interesting as Kilgrave, the pacing dragged, and characters acted like jerks a little too much. Still, it did have some interesting focus on addiction and the like.

Luke Cage was next, with a mix series, that infamously sent Claire Temple to limbo about three episodes in. It had some great bad guys, but the series’ ending felt incredibly forced. The biggest surprise was the vast improvements to Iron Fist, ditching the slog of the first season and dedicated itself to improving the pacing, story, and characters. Then, Daredevil’s third season wrapped up the year, harkening back to what made the first season great. The welcome return of Vincent D’Onofrio as the Kingpin, and Wilson Bethel as Bullseye was an absolute blast.

But, then something weird happened. Netflix began cancelling the Defender TV shows one by one. Could it possibly be because Disney announced their own streaming service to rival Netflix? Will wonders ever cease?


20th Century Fox has been bought by Disney, so expect the House of Mouse to revive all of the studio’s franchises and milk them to death in the space of three years. One good thing is that both the X-Men and the Fantastic Four may or may not appear in the MCU at last. Presumably, this mans Fox’s long-running X-Men film franchise will either be rebooted or fused into the MCU.

On TV, both Legion and The Gifted continued to expand the film universe with their second season. Film-wise, Deadpool 2 was a rip-roaringly fun movie, but didn’t quite live up to the success of the first film. Despite supposedly setting up the X-Force, Deadpool 2 didn’t do much with them, and the jokes felt a little too on the nose at times. Then, a “third” Deadpool movie was released for Christmas, in reality a PG-13 version of Deadpool 2.

If you are wondering about Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants, well, it is a bit of a mystery. Dark Phoenix, which already looks like it might burst into flames, was pushed back to next year. The New Mutants looked like a promising horror film, but after being delayed to 2019 as well, and with tales of major reshoots, this movie may be DOA. There is also that Gambit movie, which continues to escape the quicksand that is its own development hell. I’m still waiting for that X-23 film to be announced.


Sony Pictures has had an unusual year. In an attempt to make money off the Spider-Man brand, Sony announced many, many plans for spin-offs. Morbius, Kraven, Black Cat, Silver Sable, and someone named Jackpot are all getting their own films as part of a connected universe that won’t feature Spider-Man himself. The first tentpole in this presumed new shared universe was Venom. As expected, Venom was a bit of a mess. Profoundly silly, Venom’s sole redeeming factor is Tom Hardy‘s wacky performance Eddie Brock, by way of doing an impression of John Leguizamo‘s role as Luigi in the 1990s Mario movie. It felt like watching a crumby remake of The Mask.

But, then, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse came out, and Sony struck gold. Receiving rave reviews and potentially being the best animated film of the year, Into the Spider-Verse is superb to say the least. A celebration of all things Spider-Man, with Miles Morales making his cinematic debut, Into the Spider-Verse is the potential film franchise that Sony should focus on, then a bunch of dreary live action films no one wanted.

Other News

Spider-Man had huge success elsewhere with the PS4 game, considered not only the best Spidey video game, but the best superhero games since Batman: Arkham Asylum. Disney announced their own streaming service, which would have a number of new shows for the MCU – a Scarlet Witch show, a Loki show, and a Bucky Barnes and Falcon show.

Speaking of Disney…again, Marvel are beginning to make their appearances across the world at the Disney theme parks. The parks in California, Paris, and Hong Kong will have Marvel Lands opening within the next five-to-ten years. There isn’t much information over in California, but we had to bid a fond farewell to A Bug’s Land. Paris’ second park will have a major overhaul, with a Iron Man rollercoaster and Spider-Man ride making up the Marvel area. Hong Kong saw the opening of an Ant-Man ride, with a major Avengers opening at a later date.

In more sadder news, we lost a number of famous Marvel alumni, who defined the comic book industry. Steve Ditko, co-creator of Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Captain Atom, and Blue Beetle, a renowned inker and writer. Gary Friedrich, best known for his Silver Age stories for Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos, and co-creating Ghost Rider. Marie Severin, a prominent writer, artist, and co-creator of Spider-Women. And, of course, Stan Lee, former editor of Marvel, a writer, artist, and co-creator of just about every major Marvel character imaginable. Stan Lee’s impact on culture, film, television, and comic books is incalculable, and we shall miss him terribly. Watching next year’s Marvel films will have no doubt bring about some tears.

2019 is on the horizon, and with it will come new films, TV shows, and comic books to enjoy.

What were your Marvel-related highlights of 2018? What are you looking forward to next year? Leave a comment below, or on our Twitter and Facebook feeds.

About the author

Mark Russell