MCU ’22 Pitch 10: Blade 2: Moonshine

The Deal: I pitch movies set in the Marvel or DC cinematic universes. Also other things. This pitch is a direct sequel to my Blade 1 pitch.

Usual caveat applies to diverse movies: it should be written/directed by people from that community, so Black writers, directors, and professionals of every stripe available, to get a more authentic vision.

We open on a hunt. Blade is stalking his way through a farmhouse. He finds a splash of blood on the wall. He pours a little colloidal silver on the blood, and it reacts, making him think that it belongs to vampires. Blade smiles a fangy grin. He continues to stalk through the home, coming to the rear. In the back yard, he can see a gathering of men, but not quite what’s happening. Men in white robes are gathered in a circle, and we hear their leader speaking as Blade pushes the sliding door open. These aren’t technically Klan robes; they’re more knock-off Khonshu robes, but there’s enough similarities it will read.“We call upon Lord Khonshu, and seek his favor, his blessing, and his avatar. And we offer up this sacrifice.” Hanging off a tall wooden cross is a beaten black man.

Blade charges, attacking. It’s subtle, to start, but only his silver weapons are effective; they’re shrugging off his other attacks. The leader, Dr. Druid, removes his hood. “Brothers, kill the interloper.” The others remove their hoods, and begin to transform into werewolves. Blade is in trouble; he’s surrounded by werewolves, stronger, faster, more pack-minded than vampires. He’s slashed across the chest, buffeted by blows. An engine roars, and a white motorcycle flies over stalks of corn, knocking one of the wolves back and skidding to a stop behind Blade. “The avatar!” Druid proclaims, as Moon Knight extends a hand to Blade.

“Come on!” he yells. He grabs Blade’s hand, and pulls him after the bike as he roars off, Blade contorting as they go to slide behind him on the bike. Blade’s hurt pretty bad, fighting to stay upright on the bike, before passing out and falling. I kind of like the idea that he impacts wetly on the concrete, with a blood splatter spelling on the screen, “Blade 2: Moonshine.”

Blade wakes up in a small home, lots of hard wood, fairly rustic. “I assumed you wouldn’t want to be taken to a hospital,” Moon Knight says.

“First place the wolves would have checked.” Moon Knight gives him a stiff cup of black coffee. “That was amateur hour.”

“You were expecting vampires?”

“Their blood reacted to silver. Didn’t expect a pack of angry wolves. You Khonshu? Or at least his avatar.” He shakes his head. “Sacrifice not up to snuff?”

“Khonshu’s an asshole, but he’s a judgmental asshole. He doesn’t like live sacrifice- neither do I.”

We hear Layla over a radio. “Sierra to Kilo.”

Moon Knight keys his handset. “Go for Kilo.”

“You two stirred up a hornet’s nest. They’re still hiving. Their Golf is still breathing, at least. How’s Bravo?”

“Recovered.”

“I heal fast,” Blade says.

“What do you hear?” Moon Knight asks.

“Paranoia and confusion,” Layla says. “They can’t decide if you showed up to rescue Bravo or protect them from him.”

“Call the play.”

“I’m staying here, make sure Golf is safe. If they move on him, I can swoop in.”

“Keep us posted. We’ll come running.”

“Why don’t we hit them now?” Blade asks as he puts the radio down.

“Because the ones you saw are the alpha pack- leaders from packs across the valley. One howl, and there’d be a hundred of wolves descending on that yard. Two, and it would be a thousand. This is more than a you, me, and Red Scarab problem.”

“I might have a favor I can call in.” Blade texts with Luke. He’s busy, working on a Heroes for Hire gig. But Sam Wilson’s down in Louisiana, just a hop and a skip from him. He’ll put in a call. “How would you feel about an Avenger?”

“A Thor or a Hulk could even the playing field.”

“I don’t have a chit that big to cash in. But Captain America’s kicking around.”

“The one with the wings?” he asks skeptically.

“I heard that,” Layla says, walking in and getting into the fridge. “You want anything, True Blood?” she asks Blade.

“Their guest?” Moon Knight asks.

“Back in his cage. And the moon is back behind cloud cover for the rest of the night. They won’t try again until tomorrow.”

“That gives us time to prepare.”

We cut to the morning. Sam has his wings briefcase, and knocks on the front door of a small home. “It’s probably crap,” he says into his phone, talking to his sister. “The last time Luke gave me an address, it was a prank. Wish we didn’t have the same people in Harlem. Least this time he paid for first class.” Blade answers the door. “I’ll have to call you back.”

Cut to later, inside, where they’ve clearly been talking. “So it’s a bunch of werewolves?” Sam asks.

“Redneck werewolves,” Moon Knight says.

“I’m… out,” Sam says.

“What?” Blade asks.

“I may not like redneck werewolves, but, hostage aside, I’m not on board stabbing and killing hundreds of people.”

“They aren’t just minding their own business, here,” Moon Knight insists. “They’ve tainted the moonshine they sell under the table. It’s how they spread lycanthropy. It will also spread the old fashioned way. Think a pandemic spread by biting- and the virus makes people very bitey. Worse, it spreads a lot faster if the initial population is multiplied a few times.”

Sam sighs. “I’m back in. At least for getting the hostage free and sabotaging their moonshine production. But we pull back on loss of life. Steve wouldn’t want me getting blood all over his shield.”

“Maybe white wasn’t the best color for your suit,” Blade mocks him.

The next night, they assault the compound, hoping to rescue the hostage before the full-on assault. They succeed, but Sam gets snatched in the bargain. The old sacrifice was Moon Knight’s inside man, before he was discovered. You could make him Werewolf by Night (who will be debuting in a Halloween MCU special on Disney+, apparently), or someone else.

From him we learn plot details, and it might make sense to spill some of the beans from him here, now. Dr. Druid hopes that he can kill Moon Knight and replace him as Khonshu’s avatar, in the somewhat misguided belief it would let him control the wolves directly (he’s largely been getting by with lycanthrope supremacist soundbites, but they’ve resisted anything beyond their own agenda).

They all sustained pretty horrific injuries in the raid; they all have healing factors so we might as well get our money’s worth, plus it gives us an excuse to wait until the next night for their assault. The others go to bed, and Moon Knight has a conversation with Khonshu. Khonshu is livid that he’s loafing. He says that they have to wait until morning, to recuperate- that if they go back tonight one, maybe all of them, will be killed. Khonshu says he’d resurrect him; he’s not worried about himself, but they only have the one shot- if they screw it up, it will take too much time for them to regroup, heal and mount another operation- by then Druid will be too strong (I want it in this scene to feel like Khonshu’s affections are perhaps waning, that he’s contemplating Druid’s offer). Subtly, Khonshu disappears into the empty door past Layla’s (there are four bedrooms total).

Layla has Tawaret in her room. Because it’s funny, the hippo goddess is sitting in a twin bed, kicking her legs behind her like a tweenage girl. “I never understood the Twilight thing, but Blade… him I could see choosing over Taylor Lautner.”

“I’m a married woman. And vampires, even ones who can walk in the daylight, creep me out.”

“You’re only married to 1/3 of Marc. That means you’re 2/3 single.”

“I don’t think it works that way; I especially don’t think Marc thinks it works that way. Now shoo. I’m supposed to be sleeping. And healing.” The hippo leaves, in the direction of the room where Khonshu disappeared.

Inside Blade’s room, we see him tending to his wounds. Since it’s his movie, he gets the coolest injuries, including having to remove a werewolf claw, essentially a small knife, out of his leg. He’s also talking on the phone with Misty (because it would be weird if he were on the phone with his mommy and we’re running out of supporting cast). “Good old boy werewolves?” she asks, in her weary way.

“These definitely mean harm.”

“You quoting Dukes of Hazard?”

“I wasn’t there for the General Lee. But before someone explained ‘white-washing’ to me, or what that flag on their car meant, it was hard to beat the driving.”

“Look, I appreciate 3 AM calls as much as the next girl, but you’re in a different time zone, so it’s 4 here, and you’re in a different time zone, so we can’t even make the fun kind of 3 AM mistake. So why’d you ring?”

“It’s getting to me. Vampires spread as an afterthought, and even when they form alliances, it’s about power. This goes the other way. These good old boys… they’re willing to become monsters. They hate so much they’d give up being men to keep the world from moving on without them.”

“They’ve always been monsters; that’s why they don’t hesitate. And I don’t know I see all that much difference. Both vampires and these werewolves are willing to do horrible things to keep what they think is theirs- and what big eyes they’ve got. They think they should control you for your skin, me for my gender. They have monstrous ends; of course they’ll use monstrous means.”

“Thanks,” Blade says. “I needed to hear that.”

“So it’s easier to kill them?”

Blade sort of chuckles. “Been spending too much time with Captain America. Almost starting to feel respectable.” She laughs with him.

They go in stealthy, dispatching a few wolves on the way in. They find Sam. He isn’t responsive- though he’s still in costume. They manage to carry him outside, but they’re ambushed by Druid and a gaggle of wolves. They’re worried; there are more than the previous night, when they got the hell kicked out of them and lost Sam. That’s when Druid starts chanting.

Sam falls to the ground, and starts puking. One of the avatars reacts to the putrid smell. “God. What is that?”

Blade, whose nose is more sensitive, snarls, and says, “Moonshine.” Sam howls as he starts to transform into Capwolf! (For the uninitiated, that is a Captain America werewolf!) Knight wants to kill him before he can fully transform- that their odds are already long, and fighting a flying Capwolf would overwhelm them; Blade intervenes. “We kill him to make things easier on us, how are we any better than them?”

“I don’t care if we’re better than them, especially if ‘better’ means ‘dead.’”

“Marc,” Moon Knight’s Steven Grant persona says. “We can’t kill Captain America.” Annoyed, Moon Knight looks to Layla, who kind of shrugs.

“I think he’s right,” she says. “And it probably makes it worse; the white Captain America lasted eighty years. He’s had it like eighty weeks.”

“Actually,” Steven again, “there was a Black Captain America. Fought in the Korean War. Fascinating story.”

“Steven, what did I say about spending time on the dark web?”

“That it’s only for purchasing illegal weaponry and peculiar pornography.”

“And not to believe anything you read there.”

“Peculiar?” Layla asks.

“Jake’s into some… things.”

“Calling them ‘things’ only makes me more intrigued,” Jake says.

Moon Knight relents. “I hope I don’t live to regret this.”

“Well I hope we live,” Layla teases.

As soon as he’s turned, Sam attacks Moon Knight, because Druid, who is controlling him, wants to prove he’s the better avatar. At first Blade and Layla fight the wolves, until Layla realizes she’s got a tactical advantage with the wings, and starts doing fly-bys.

Sam abandons Moon Knight at Druid’s direction, and takes off after Layla. Aerial fight! (I didn’t even plan this one, we just got lucky that the Moon Knight series created a winged heroine!). Sam, as both the more experienced flier and as the main martial threat, eventually wins; I’m going to say he manages to knock her into a tree, taking her out of the fight for some time.

Because Blade’s making a beeline through wolves for Druid, Sam attacks him next. Blade does his best not to injure him, even as Capwolf slashes at him with his claws. Blade does nick him a couple times, but he’s intentionally not doing too much harm. Eventually, they’re wrestling for control of Blade’s sword. Blade is either going to have to run Sam through or lose. So he tries a different approach, and pleads with him, “You know how much it means for you to be in that suit? Don’t make me cut you out of it.”

Capwolf grabs Blade’s blade by the blade, and his skin sizzles. For a moment Blade is horrified Sam’s going to break it then gut him. Then Capwolf speaks, haltingly. “Silver- pain- cuts through, helps me concentrate.” Blade hands him a silver throwing knife, and Sam holds it by the blade, and squares to Druid. Blade and Sam fight Druid hand to hand; I’m going to say, to make the fight interesting, he’s been getting high on his own supply, so at a crucial moment he can wolf out, so he’s a werewolf mage fighting the pair of them. Because it’s his movie- and because he’s more willing to kill-Blade delivers the killing blow.

With Druid gone and Capwolf on their side, they turn the tide. The next-most senior alpha takes over, and howls loudly, calling wolves from miles away. Fighting gets dire, until Steven Grant takes over. He mentions watching a documentary about wolves, that while wolves in captivity tend to have an alpha, in the wild packs are families. In the wild, someone who kills their alpha is a threat- they’ve proven they aren’t pack material. “If someone moves into your neighborhood and kills the head of your HSA, you aren’t likely to bring them biscuits.”

“So Sam takes one of them to a cotillion?” Layla offers. “Just pick the prettiest werewolf.”

“I’m pretty sure they’re all boys, from what I see bouncing,” Moon Knight says.

That could work, too,” she says/

Blade smells at the air. His specialty might be vampires, but he knows enough about werewolves to identify the alpha. He points him out, and Sam fights him. The others have to buy him space at first, but it quickly becomes clear that the other wolves aren’t trying to hurt them- they want to watch the fight.

Sam bests the alpha, but because he lets him live, the others submit to him. Capwolf tells them to abandon their plan- to wolf for themselves. “And stop being racist!” he roars directly into camera.

We cut back to their staging cabin. Moon Knight and Layla are loading their car. “You sure you don’t want to come with us?” Layla asks.

“New York this time of year is cold and wet,” Moon Knight says. “That seems like it would be your kind of thing.”

“I’ll need to stop in on some family, but otherwise… I don’t know where I’m headed. Haven’t figured it out.”

“Well, lock up when you go. And if you drink all the beer, buy more beer.”

“Yeah,” Layla says. “You wouldn’t like him when he’s thirsty.”

“And a mellow red wouldn’t go amiss,” Moon Knight says, in Steven’s voice. “Or an aged scotch,” Jake Lockley’s voice this time.

They get in the car, and as they drive off we pan around to see Sam, still a wolf, leaning his head out the window, his tongue lolling out of his mouth as he sniffs excitedly at the air.

Blade enters the cabin sometime later. He’s got a lot of liquor, as requested by Moon Knight’s various personalities. “Wonder if each one of him has a different liver,” he wonders idly. He hears a phone start to ring. I think it’s the silly propaganda song from Captain America: The First Avenger.

Blade walks over to find Sam’s phone on the floor where he dropped it, nearly out of battery. We can see from the caller ID that it’s Sam’s sister. “Hello?” he asks.

“I was looking for Sam.”

“He’s at the doctor.” He realizes what that could imply, in Sam’s line of work. “Should be routine.”

“Yeah. Well… something strange is happening here. Kind of strange he might need his suit for.” We pull back, to see a single zombie, tied up with ropes by her sons. It groans, and we cut to Blade riding his motorcycle south. He’s joined by another cyclist, who nods at him, before his skull catches fire, and we go back to credits (personally, I’d bring back Nicolas Cage… unless Marvel has bigger plans for him in the MCU).

Mid Credits scene: Okay, I’m just swinging for the fences at this point. We show the front door of Bloodstone Manor from the inside. There’s a thunderous, booming knock.

We cut to the porch, where Brother Voodoo just knocked. From behind him he hears a posh British woman, her voice full of threat. “Not entirely sure your sort are welcome here. Sorcerers. The family’s been hunting monsters since before there were Americas. Some might wonder if you’d throw in with that lot.”

“Elsa,” he says, “charming as ever.”

“Jericho. Never where you’re wanted to be.”

“And where’s that?”

“Some bloody place else, I’d imagine, because you aren’t welcome here.”

“I’m starting to wonder if I should be taking this personally.”

“You personally ruin my day every time you darken my doorstep. Come over once for tea or a chin wag, maybe then I’ll consider us mates.”

Voodoo opens up a portal; he can use a sling ring, or we can do something else entirely. “Elsa, get your gun. There’s monsters in need of slaying.”

She lays a somewhat comically large gun across her shoulder, and follows him into the portal. “Well, you know how much of a slut I am for saving humanity from the things that go bump in the night.” The portal closes behind her.

End credits scene: We’re in Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum. “This is going to hurt,” Dr. Strange says. Sam screams, as he de-wolfs.

“Ow,” he says, still curled into a small, pained ball on the floor.

“People never listen when I tell them something is going to hurt.”

“Is he going to be okay?” Bucky asks, as Sam continues to moan on the ground.

“What do I look like, a doctor?” Strange deadpans, and we cut to black.

MCU Sequel Pitch: Thor 5: Hel and Back

This is a pitch for a direct sequel to Thor: Love and Thunder, in part to fix what didn’t quite work in that movie, in part just positing where the story goes from here. It isn’t connected to or assumed to be in continuity with my pitch for the Incredible Hercules (or my other Marvel pitches more generally). Many of the characters are the same, and I’d certainly pitch trying to bring in characterization along those lines, because Hercules can be a really fun, somewhat ridiculous character in his own right, if he doesn’t get pigeon-holed into a villain role, and has historically been one of the Avengers.

This will, obviously, have spoilers for the latest Thor movie. Watch that first, if you’re worried about that.

*             *             *

We open cold, on Valkyrie and Jane in bed together. “That was… unexpected,” Jane says. “I came here looking for magic, but…”

“Not to be full of myself, but that felt magical to me,” Valkyrie replies, and Jane blushes.

“No, I’m… I’m sick. Dying. Even now, I can feel it…” Valkyrie pulls Jane to her, and holds her, stroking her shoulder. A tear slides down Valkyrie’s cheek; she’s not ready for another tragic romance. We zoom into the tear, then out of another sliding down her cheek.

We’re modern-day, now. Valkyrie is sitting in an Asgardian pub, and wipes the tear away before polishing off her beer. She stands up, wobbles, and falls over. Her assistant helps her up, and helps carry her out. Now, personally, I would place Lady Sif as the assistant… but she could be an entirely new character if we want. Either way, my intention is to set her up as a potential love interest for Valkyrie. We cut to the Marvel logo.

The next morning, in Valkyrie’s office. She pours a bottle of beer into a mug to drink. Her assistant is looking at her, and she shrugs. “Hair of the dog.”

The assistant kicks a bottle on the floor, one of many. “Pretty sure you’ve polished off the whole litter at this point- enough to make a whole coat.” Because I’m a Disney nerd as well as a Marvel one, I’d have there be, in total, 99 bottles, one for each Dalmatian puppy.

“Who,” Valkyrie tries to get up to make her point, but sways, falling back into her chair. “Who do you think you are? Questioning your sovereign?”

“Asgard is a people- and my concern is for them- not for the ass on the throne.” Valkyrie knows that she’s calling her an ass, not just referring to her ass, and tries to get up to throw her weight around, but again falls, this time knocking her wheeled chair spinning out from behind her desk as she falls to the floor.

Excitedly a guard runs into the room. “Highness!” They exclaim, before realizing Valkyrie isn’t behind her desk. “Highness?” Valkyrie holds up a finger above the desk, as if telling them she needs a moment. There’s scuffling, awkward scuffling as she tries to get up without using that hand, clearly struggling, before the assistant steps in.

“Tell me,” she says. “We’ll get it sorted.” They say it’s an Olympian, making trouble along Asgard’s border. The guard leaves.

“I’m on it,” Valkyrie says, trying to get up, but not quite able. “In a minute.”

“I’ve got it,” her assistant says, and calls Thor.

Thor arrives at the border with his young Thor Girl, to find Asgardians beaten and wounded, and trolls rampaging. The pair makes quick work of the trolls. There’s a tear in the fabric of reality, smashed there by Hercules’ mallet, which trolls continue to push through. There are 3 basic solutions: if we want, we can have Dr. Strange or America Chavez show up to fix the tear; it can heal on its own once there are no longer trolls holding it open, or Thor can use Stormbreaker to seal the rift (essentially the reverse of the Bifrost).

One of the guards gives Thor a scroll from Hercules, challenging him at a time and place. He largely shrugs- unconcerned over a pissed off Olympian. Right now he has more concern over Valkyrie. He drops Thor Girl off with Valkyrie’s assistant, before taking Valkyrie out for brunch.

Valkyrie stares into her beer, and we zoom into it, and out of a different beer Jane, now the Mighty Thor, is pouring for her. Jane hands it to her, and she’s about to drink it, before stopping, and setting it down. “You’re amazing,” Valkyrie says. “Beautiful, but so strong. I could love you so easily… but I couldn’t stand to lose you.” She strokes Jane’s cheek.

“It’s okay,” Jane gingerly kisses her forehead, “I think what I need right now is a friend.” Valkyrie takes Jane’s hand as we zoom back into and out of the beer. Valkyrie is still staring, until Thor snaps her out of it. I think everyone has taken to calling her “Val” because she hasn’t told them her real name- she’s still that closed off.

Valkyrie, clearly still deep in her feelings, tries to pivot to something lighter, breezier. “So how has fatherhood treated the Lord of Thunder?”

His eyes narrow, but he recognizes the “Lord” part as her teasing him about their meeting on Sakaar. “Oh… it’s given me a new appreciation for what Loki and I put our parents through, but also, for why they put up with the pair of us.” Now I want this to be an important moment for Thor. I think we’ve pushed him too far into an arrogant, oblivious direction… so it’s something of a correction. “But I didn’t ask you here to talk about me or my daughter. I wanted to speak, about this morning.”

“Have you never arrived to battle hungover? Or still drunk? I could have handled it.” She’s trying to convince herself far more than Thor.

“I’m not here to lecture. I’m here because I owe you an apology. After we lost in Wakanda, I couldn’t take care of Asgard. I couldn’t take care of myself. You held our people together when no one else could have…”

We linger a moment, as one possibility dawns on her. “You can’t fire me,” she says… but she almost wants him to, so she can get back to drinking her pain away.

“No. I wouldn’t dream of it. But I’m sorry I wasn’t here for you while you were here for Asgard. I’m sorry I didn’t see how much you were hurting. I know what it is to crumble under too much weight.” He puts a hand on her shoulder. “You don’t have to bear it alone.” She starts to lift her glass, before setting it down and pushing it away. It’s slow, but she folds into him.

“I miss Jane,” Valkyrie says.

“Me, too,” he says, and pats her shoulder. I imagine we use some of The Eagles Hotel California as we transition.

We zoom again into the beer, but this time when we zoom out, we’re in an entirely different place, filled with bright light and white halls. We’re in Valhalla. Jane takes a drink from her beer, but it’s daintier. “Seem to have lost some of your appetite,” Heimdall teases her.

“The longer I’m here, the less in touch with the Thor I was I become.”

“I wondered if paradise was losing its luster.”

Is this paradise? The food’s good, the company better. But it’s just a place. Like staying in a nice hotel-but one you can never leave.”

“And what if I said you could?”

“Is the alternative entropy, or nonexistence?”

“That is the subject of some debate, seeing as it’s all entirely theoretical.”

Her scientific curiosity is piqued, and she’s becoming more animated. “So there’s a door, and no one knows what’s on the other side of it.”

“So far as we know, no one’s ever gone through. There is some concern that it’s a one way trip- if we leave, we can’t come back. And where do dead heroes go if Valhalla is closed to them?” He lets the question linger. “And some,” we pan over some heroes who are having a gay old time, likely the Warriors 3, “have simply fought as long as they want, and are happy for the rest. But I’m not done; I have a son to raise. And I’m getting the sense you’ve more adventures left in you.”

“What do you need from me?” she asks.

We cut back to Asgard. Personally, I’d like to have this fight in and around the statue of Jane as Mighty Thor in Asgard, but you could set it in the same place as Thor fought trolls earlier. Valkyrie’s assistant, who I’m just going to call Sif on the assumption we’re using her for it, is there, with Thor Girl. “Should we have brought a child to a fight?” Sif asks.

“We were no older than her when we started fighting frost giants,” Thor says.

“And you’ve never recovered from all the blows to the head,” Sif quips.

“Besides, she has the most capable minder in Asgard. Not a woman alive I’d trust more with her safety.”

We cut to Valhalla, and the woman no longer living he’d trust more. Jane and Heimdall have assembled a team for a breakout, including the Enchantress… and an unknown Asgardian lass who we will eventually come to know by the name Angela. The Warriors 3 distract some Valkyries who are watching a door with ornate runes carved into it. Now, my preference would be for us to pay Rene Russo to come back as Frigga, and have her use rune magic to open the door, acting as the final member of their little escape attempt (maybe hidden until the last second under a hooded cloak). But if we’re using this to bring along Enchantress, she could work, or literally grab someone and say they, too, know rune magic. They open the door, and it’s blackness beyond. Jane hesitates, as much because it’s empty as because it’s clear Frigga isn’t coming with them. But eventually she tells Jane to go- to give Thor her love.

Back in Asgard, other Asgardians gather. It’s… not that odd for gods from other pantheons to challenge an Asgardian, Thor in particular. They had largely sporting relations between them. There’s even concessions, one beer-slinger stopping to offer Valkyrie her usual mead. She opens her mouth, reaching, before looking to Thor. He gives her a gentle, encouraging look, and she says, “None for me, today.” He’s confused, but moves along. Thor gives her a smile, and she’s… a little awkward. Mostly because she’s not really tried coping sober and it’s harder than it looks.

Hercules arrives. He uses his mallet similarly to how America Chavez from Doctor Strange 2 uses her fists, punching holes in reality. He swaggers through one, onto the battlefield. “Asgardian,” he points his mallet at Thor, “you have stolen from Olympus, and tarnished the name of Zeus. I would have you answer this disrespect.”

Thor sighs. “I’d honestly rather not.” Hercules is just… baffled. “I have a daughter.” He points to Thor Girl on the sidelines. “And while I believe in teaching her that some trials must be met with martial force, that is an option of final resort, not first. Real heroes use their words.”

“Confounding Asgardian!” Hercules bellows, charging and swinging his mallet.

Where things get spicy is, like last time, Hercules’ entrance tore a hole the trolls can get through. At first, Asgardian guards and Thor Girl mop them up, but not only do smaller trolls stream out at a faster pace, but their big bruiser, Ulik, shoves through. That’s when Valkyrie enters the fray. “I haven’t fought sober since I lost…” she pauses, and more quietly adds, “my heart.”

“It’s easier to hit an opponent when you’re not seeing double,” Thor says, grappling Hercules. Throughout the fight, Thor rallies her with encouraging words, and in the process wins over Hercules, who recognizes in him the heart of a wise and noble warrior, to the point of ending hostilities.

Hercules glowers. “I know Zeus to be vainglorious. I’ll not bloody a noble soul to salve his wounded pride. I yield- though I do not surrender.” Hercules joins them in turning their attentions to Ulik. He takes a licking, and it requires all of them wailing on him to drive him back through the portal.

But this time the portal doesn’t close, not until dead Loki claws his way out of it (looking earily like he did after his death at Thanos’ hands). He’s escaped the underworld to tell Thor that Jane is there- but that things don’t look good for her. Hades is aware of her, and closing in. If he wants to save her, he needs to do it, now. As he finishes delivering the message, a hand large enough grab him in its fist pulls Loki back into the underworld, and the portal shuts behind him.

“I’ve had many a glorious adventure in the underworld,” Hercules brags. “I feel in your debt, for the trouble caused. If it would restore my honor, I would gladly escort you through Hades’ halls. It’s been too long since I kicked him in his rancid toga.”

“So we’re going to Hel?” Valkyrie asks.

“The underworld, but yes,” Hercules says.

“And you’re bringing the child, aren’t you?” Sif asks.

“I was smaller than her, the first time I went to Hades,” Hercules brags.

“Frigga help us, now there’s two of them,” Valkyrie says. Hercules smashes a new portal. “I’m a queen,” she says. “I’m not walking.” It’s playful, not us turning her posh.

We cut back to Jane and Heimdall. I’m imagining sort of a barren forest, jagged, deformed, dried out trees scraping at the blackened sky (there are stars to light it, but they are more distant and their light weaker than the stars we know). Their band is quiet, because they know they’re in hostile territory, even if they don’t know it’s technically the Olympian underworld. They’re set upon by shades (we could, if we have money to burn, use CGI for dead villains in this fight- ones who could reasonably be in Hades). Angela is surprisingly adept at fighting. But for all their skill and vigor, it’s clear they’re being overwhelmed. Then we hear music start up, and Heimdall looks to the horizon. “What in Odin’s name is that?” Heimdall asks, squinting with his magic eyes.

“That’s our ride,” Jane says with a wide smile. We cut to the portal Hercules smashed, and the goats pulling the ship scream, for a moment in time with the singer screaming in a song before the music turns up (I’m specifically thinking the scream from AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, which might be worth bringing back, but it’s hardly the only song with that kind of scream in it). The ship flies through the air, and the heroes knock back skeletal pegasi as they fly, before the heroes all jump down to Jane’s group.

Valkyrie is surprised Thor jumped with them. “I thought you were staying to land the ship,” she says. In the background, we see the ship crash, and hear the goats scream (just their usual scream, not implying any actual harm comes to them). Thor winces. “I’m sure it’s fine.”

The heroes all band together fighting shades. At one point, Thor Girl is knocked back, landing somewhere behind Jane, with Mjolnir landing at Jane’s feet. Jane picks up the hammer, and transforms into the Mighty Thor, knocking back the shade that had knocked down Thor Girl. By then, Thor Girl has recovered, and Jane tries to hand her the hammer back. Thor Girl holds out her hand to take it, but the hammer essentially splits; Jane’s is hollow, the center portion forming Thor Girl’s smaller (but proportional) Mjolnir. And not a minute too soon, as Hades arrives. I’d go big, burning blue guy in a toga. He should resemble the Disney version enough that Thor Girl will throw one of his catch phrases at him as she attacks him first (also, how damn adorable would that be, the littlest Thor flying right at the big bad through the rest of the fighting?). I’m thinking something like, “Let’s get ready to rumble” or even “Hades, Lord of the dead, hi, how ya doing?” before smacking him right in the face with her hammer. I might even go so far as to have the kid take the name ‘Meg’ from the movie’s heroine (Waititi does seem to dislike naming characters…).

As the others beat back shades, the three Thors beat on Hades. Hades pulls a deal out of his toga: that he’ll let Thor take Jane, or he can have his brother, Loki, holding the Loki shade in the palm of his hand. Thor just isn’t playing that game. “I’ll get Jane safely away from you, but I’m coming back for my brother,” he says, pointing Stormbreaker at him. Hades is worried, since that makes it a lot more likely he loses all the marbles, and so orders all his forces to attack. I’m going to say the Loki shade stabs Hades and escapes to fight with them, before he steps between Thor and a fatal stabbing from behind by Hades. The Loki shade disappears into a dust of stars (as Frigga did in Dark World and Odin in Ragnarok), and Heimdall smiles, because he knows exactly where Loki’s gone. During the fighting Valkyrie is a beast; she’s gotten really good with Thunderbolt, but during a pause, Angela gasps. “Runa?”

Valkyrie’s confused. “Nobody’s called me that since,” as she turns, she’s mobbed by Angela, who absolutely smothers her in kisses. “But you’re…” We probably hear it in her voice, but we flash for a moment to the absolutely gorgeous slow-motion moments from Ragnarok, and see Angela taking a stabbing that was headed for our Valkyrie, whose name we’re only just finding out is Runa.

“I’m here,” Angela assures her. “Death herself couldn’t keep me from you- not for long.”

Moved by all of their reunions, Hercules offers to keep Hades busy while the rest of them escape, seemingly sacrificing himself. Heimdall leads them out of the underworld, Stormbreaker proving able to cleave them a path away when they reach the right spot.

We’re likely going to need more of an epilogue than these stories tend to get, because we’re tying up a lot of loose threads. Angela is there, as Valkyrie pours the booze down the drain in their new place. It’s a meaningful moment for Runa, but Angela… Angela just can’t keep her eyes off her. She goes to her, and they kiss. This is a kiss three movies in the making. It better be a showstopper.

We go to Heimdall’s home. I’m assuming his wife survived, and he reunites with her, and with his brave son from Love and Thunder. It might pay instead to set this scene somewhere public, so Heimdall’s son could run off to play with Korg’s kid, and Heimdall could smile at Korg and his partner.

We cut to the Thor family. I’d put them in the odd little pod from the end of Love and Thunder. Thor tells Jane, half-joking. “We have a daughter,” introducing her to Love.

“We?” she deadpans.

“You know how when two people adopt a kitten together. Just because one of them goes to Valhalla for a few years before returning to life, it doesn’t mean they don’t have any responsibility for the kitten.”

Years?” she asks.

“It’s been several.”

She totters under the wight of the idea. “It felt like days…”

“It felt like decades…” he says, and brushes her hair back.

“I missed you,” she says, curling into him.

“I missed you, too.”

“So I guess it’s my turn to change out the litter box.”

Thor Girl stomps angrily. “You told me I had to go to the toilet!” she says angrily.

“I’m not having this argument again,” Thor says. “When you’re outdoors, if you want to use the sand, fine. But I refuse to have a bucket of sand for a toilet indoors. Never again.” Jane gives him a confused look. “I had an odd childhood, growing up with Loki.”

We fade to black. “The Thors will return in Thor: Ride of the Valkyries” then go to credits.

Mid-credits scene

Hades falls, limp, to the ground. “Already down?” Hercules mocks, a little winded, but otherwise jolly. “Last time, I swear you lasted at least twice as long. I actually feel a little guilty, like maybe I should have held back, if just to protect your ego.” Hercules shrugs, then uses his mallet to smack another hole in reality to leave.

But we linger on Hades in the foreground. He stirs, starting to rise as we pull back, muttering about Hercules, when he is stabbed through the back with a black sword.

“No, don’t get up, I’ll seat myself.” We match cut, Hades’ head in a similar position in frame, as we pull back, to reveal Hela seated on the throne in the underworld. “Better to rule here,” she says to the head like she’s talking to Yorick’s skull, “but I don’t have to tell you.” She unceremoniously chucks the skull offscreen, and we cut back to more credits.

More credits, then an end credits scene

Loki arrives at Valhalla. He’s met by his mother, who embraces him. “My son,” she says. “I’m so proud to embrace you here. I knew I would, in time…”

If we have Frigga, I’d end it there, because that’s a really sweet conclusion to his arc.

But if not, I’d have him greeted by the Warriors 3. They lead him inside the hall, and relate that there’s a possible way out, if a dangerous one. Loki claps one of them on the back and says he’d like to hear more, but first he’s going to sit down and have a well-earned drink. Alternate line that’s probably too far, but would likely be worth the price of admission just to see Tom Hiddleston say it: “First I’m going to drink enough ale to seduce a horse,” because referencing Loki giving birth to an 8-legged horse is absolutely the second best note to end on.

MCU ’22 Pitch 9: Incredible Hercules

The Deal: I write pitches set in the Marvel or DC cinematic universes. Also sometimes other things. This pitch isn’t a direct sequel, but follows the end of Thunderbolts 2, a sequel to Thunderbolts 1.

The Pitch: Okay, I know I said I wanted to introduce Amadeus Cho in my pitch for Iron Man 4, and I’m assuming we did. But I feel like I didn’t do it justice, and I’d need to introduce him here, anyway, to the wider audience. So I’m doing something I haven’t before, and I’m adding an additional scene to Iron Man 4, really to flesh out things I didn’t describe in detail (if you want to see where this fits with that pitch, go here):

I’m imagining Pepper giving a press conference to announce this initiative, saying she doesn’t want to live in a world without an Iron Man, so she intends to find the next one. Reporters start asking questions, starting with dumb ones like whether or not she’s sold the show to HBO. Finally, one asks how you can replace the smartest man on Earth. That’s when Amadeus Cho stands up and says, “Sixth. I’m Amadeus Cho, the Seventh. Seventh smartest human on Earth, just ahead of Vision, not the seventh Amadeus Cho in an unbroken line of self-importance. I believe Ms. Potts is currently number 6, though I don’t expect that to last. ” Pepper, intrigued, pulls him aside. He tells her, “You won’t choose me; there’s too much of Tony in me, and if you’re building a new Iron Person from scratch, why would you start off with the same hubris and relative character defects? But you’ve a better chance of success if I work with you. It’s taken me years to develop my models- it was helpful, the five years half the population was missing; not a lot happened, so I had a nice, solid chunk of time to refine my models.

I’m imagining now that Cho would be riding shotgun with Pepper as we set up Riri Williams for her own TV show, called Ironheart. Anywyay, onto this pitch:

We open on a television screen, 2008. On the screen is news footage, taken from the Incredible Hulk. We see a young Asian boy riveted to the screen, as Hulk smashes. His mom comes in, surprised he’s awake, before realizing he’s crying, and holds him. She pats his back and says she knows the Hulk is scary. Casting would be tough, because you need a kid who is the definition of precocious. The kid is defiant, and says “I’m sad. Dr. Banner is trapped inside the Hulk. He just wants to be left alone so he can fix things. Why they won’t they leave him alone?” He grabs onto his mother’s shoulder, and we can cut away.

I’m assuming this takes place after the Replacement 4’s series, and Hulk is relatively well liked, and relatively in control of himself. This sets off Ross, who has spent years plotting his revenge against the Hulk, working to assemble his Thunderbolts as an anti-Hulk squad. So he does the unthinkable: he gives Hulk the same treatment as the Abomination- by shooting him with the gamma bullet at the end of the Thunderbolts 2 credits. Not only does this bring out an old Hulk, but a feral one. Bruce has just enough of a hand on the wheel to try and steer him away from population centers and run, but he can’t de-Hulk- there’s nothing he can do to calm down (if we want to really drive this wedge home, Hulk runs to Natasha’s grave, tries to meditate there while playing the recorded message from the Quinnjet). It fails, and he tears the tree there out and throws it towards the horizon.

When we meet Amadeus Cho, at first, he seems like ADHD personified. But what we come to realize is that he’s an evolution; most human beings follow a single thought at a time, start to finish; they might get distracted and do something else in the middle, and then resume the first line of thought (we saw Tony do this a lot while inventing), but Amadeus has the first truly multi-threaded brain in our species, capable of following complex and parallel thought processes. He sounds like a crazy person because we can’t follow him, and because human language really can’t express multiple ideas at the same time (about the only media that can is comics and maybe video, and even then, you can really only express a very simple pictorial idea and a more complicated textual one- there are definite limits; note to directors: illustrating his thought processes with a comic page with multiple colored text boxes appearing on screen in parallel with lines forming around them even as he, in the center, moves around, might be a good idea).

Amadeus Cho watches footage of a more feral looking Hulk rampaging as the military attacks. Cho is eating a Ho-Ho at a food counter. Cho, irritated, asks if they can turn that Fox News crap off, to which the cook snaps, “No outside food.”

He shoves the entire thing in his mouth, then says, through a very full mouth, “See, no Ho-Ho.” He chews then swallows and adds, “And it’s certainly not outside anymore.” The cook says that he’s lucky he’s a good customer. “Good customer? I’m single-handedly putting your daughters through med school and braces.” The cook wrinkles his nose and tells him it only covers state school. “Well, bring back the cookie dough pie and we’ll talk Ivy League.” Amadeus is handed his food, and on his way out the cook says that he always knew Hulk was no hero- he’s a menace.

Cho wolfs down the food as he’s walking, walking faster and wolfing faster as he goes. Suddenly, we’re in his home, at his computer talking to his bratty little sister. He walks her through his snooping, that he found on the dark web posts from IPs that correspond to Ross’s office, enquiring about equipment related to the 2008 Hulk Incident, as well as the disposition of a black site prisoner called Sterns. He says the evidence seems to support the idea that Ross has done something to the Hulk. She yawns, and he launches into the next part of his plan.

She mocks him, for writing to superheroes like a baby. He tells her they aren’t fan letters, he’s staging a rescue. He wants to save the Hulk, and he needs muscle. He tells her he deduced the secret identities of half the heroes in New York, and sent them messages to their home addresses. They’ll have to respond. She tells him she thinks that’s just stalking, and super creepy if he did it to any of the heroines, to which he’s dumbstruck and says, “Uhhhh…”

Cut to a family style restaurant (think a T.G.I. Friday’s), with a banner over a section near the door declaring it reserved for “Friends of Hulk,” meeting at 4. Amadeus is alone in the section, with appetizers spread out, and a cake with a Hulk face applique on it. He checks the time, it’s almost 6. “Well, it looks like it’s just you and me, Hulk-cake,” he sighs, before collapsing face-first into the cake. Someone walks in and Cho sits upright, the Hulk applique and some frosting sticking to his face like a mask. He wears the applique for a moment before tearing it off, and introducing himself to Hercules. Now, before the latest Thor featured a cameo, I offered my suggestion for Hercules: Joe Manganiello. One, he’s one of the few actors built right for the role. Two, he’s one of the few actors who I think could pull off that combination of fun, fierce and fantastical that you need for the character (he needs to, in the same scene, be both the most and least human of the Olympians).

Cut to later, Hercules and Cho have demolished the spread, and Hercules has drunk his weight in beer. Hercules slaps him on the back and tells him for a mortal he can eat with true Olympians. Cho tells him that he burns a lot of calories being the 7th smartest man on the planet. He thanks Hercules for coming. He thought there’d be a better reception, that Hulk would have more friends. Hercules says that Banner has many, the Hulk but a lucky few. He launches into a fantastic tale (he’s a little inebriated at this point) of the Hulk aiding him in the defense of Olympus, against, “Was it trolls? Frost giants? Gorgons? Hell, all of them!” Amadeus watches as he weaves the myth in real-time. Hercules should feel larger than life, but also like a blow-hard, like we can’t know if he’s half the hero he thinks he is. Amadeus assumes he came only for the free food, but at the end of the night, Herc insists they carry out a plan, that “the Hulk is a true friend, and so, too, is Hercules.” Cho asks for pies to go, and clarifies he means whole pies, not slices, that he’ll need the calories to figure out where the Hulk is, and where Ross will be, to figure out where best to intervene.

We cut to Hulk, mid-rampage, fighting the military. He’s winning; even whatever anti-Hulk tech they’d prepped is just no match for what Ross has wrought. We get the biggest guest-star we can, Sentry would probably be best, but a Thor could work in a pinch. They subdue Hulk enough to try and calm him down. It fails. Then they get the snot kicked out of them. That’s when Ross approaches with the military, prepared to use a modified gamma bomb designed to overwhelm the Hulk’s cells while just burning away any other organics caught in the blast- including the small hamlet inside the radius.

That’s when Hercules shows up, causing a distraction, during which Amadeus Cho manages to get Bruce Banner, who finally de-Hulks after all the exertion, finally able to wrest control. He tells Amadeus they have to figure out a way to kill him. Amadeus tells him no, they’re going to find a way to save him. Bruce, groggy, asks Cho if he knows how to fly a helicopter, who says it seems straightforward enough.

Hercules and Cho meet back up. Banner gets back on his meds, which do help even him out, and he’s able to think calmly enough now to understand what’s been done to him, and he thinks he understands a way to undo it. But there’s a problem. There are radioactive isotopes Ross added to him when he dosed him. That was how they tracked him. The other problem is that the equipment he needs is ultra high end, not available commercially or even for sale in some instances. So he’s going to have to steal it. And it will be clear really quickly even to Ross and his team of dunces what he’s doing and where he’ll have to go next. That predictability means his mission is already doomed.

Herc and Amadeus have a better idea. Bruce will leach the isotopes and enough of the extraneous gamma radiation to be able to control himself. Ross shot him with a concentrated gamma bullet, one designed to fragment on penetration; day 1 it might have been solid enough to remove surgically, but it’s been broken down into pellets. It would take a surgical team a week to get them all out- only they’d be rapidly metabolizing during that frame, so they’d get halfway through before they’d be gone. So even if he’s dumping radiation, it will continue to ramp- so they still need a longer-term cure. But they can take the heavier tracking isotopes, and enough of the excess radiation to be able to throw Ross off the scent.

As they’re leading Ross on a goose chase, Herc asks why Amadeus is such a fan of the Hulk. “Bruce might not be as smart as me, but compare him to flighty intellectuals like Tony Stark and even to an extent Hank Pym, guys who just couldn’t stay in one lane and truly innovate- Bruce has done more for physics than either man in any other field- an Einstein level paradigm shifter. I haven’t found my gamma radiation, yet, but Bruce the intellectual is my hero, and Hulk the tragic inversion is sort of what all geniuses fear- that our work will be turned monstrous, used for purposes we never foresaw and couldn’t protect against, that we’ll hurt people, despite our good intentions. That Bruce is trapped within that roiling chaos machine just adds to the pathos.

“I’ve read literally everything he’s ever written, every paper published, every interview, and I even hacked the DoD just to get at his personal correspondence, letters, emails, voice mails, even a very lovely, sentimental Valentine he gave to his first grade teacher. She was a fox, so I totally understand what eight year old Bruce was thinking. I did a lot of this when I was little. I don’t know. I guess I’ve always felt like a Hulk inside, and a Bruce outside.”

We do a lot of montaging, and it becomes clear Ross is closing in on Bruce, so Cho and Herc put in a desperate, last-ditch trap, as likely to get them caught and arrested. The plan essentially hinges on Bruce regaining control and being able to save the day.

I think the climax comes to a head when Ross is about to bomb them. Hercules is pretty sure he can survive, and wants to eat the gamma vial. Amadeus is skeptical. “No offense, dude, but if you’re wrong, I’m not sure anyone could stop a rampaging Hulkules. But if I can’t handle it, I know you can stop me.” Hercules doesn’t feel comfortable letting a mortal take that risk, and grabs Cho by the jacket- but he’s already riggled out of it, leaving Hercules with nothing but a fistful of cloth. By the time he realizes he’s been duped, Amadeus has injected himself with it.

“I think Bruce knew it might come to this. I think that’s why he put it in a vial with a needle. In case we needed it.” He doubles over in agony. “Oh crap, that feels like heart-burn through my veins. I don’t think I’ve ever felt every vein and artery in my body all at once. Even for me that’s a lot of information to process.” Cho falls to the floor, and at first Herc protects him with his body, taking several falling rocks that could have hurt him, before Cho turns into the Totally Awesome Hulk.

Ross drops a few bombs, but ultimately, the thing they drop is the Red Hulk. This obviously takes place after Thunderbolts 1, just because it’s a mystery there, and here, two steps inside their cave, Cho figures out it’s Ross (because he’s a genius). They fight Ross to a standstill, at which point he tells them that in the military what you learn is if at first you don’t succeed, “Keep dropping bombs.” They realize he was talking into a radio. Bombing commences. But one very specific bomb is the one that truly means trouble: it’s the Abomination. Ross and the Abomination are more than they can handle, but Amadeus keeps them occupied in part by keeping Ross talking. “You created me, dickhead. And did that to yourself. You’ve created at least two more Hulks. You are walking hubris… with a really impressive moustache. I’m a little jealous of it, even though, moustache-envy aside, I’m totally awesome. So that’s three gamma bombs you’ve dropped on the world- no, four, I almost forgot about your daughter.” Ross punches him, and snarls that he’ll keep her name off his lips. “All in an attempt to compensate for the first you let off the chain. Oh, yeah, I know it was you who screwed up the test that irradiated Banner. What is this, twenty years you’ve been trying to cover up your own mistakes. That has to be some kind of record. Like an incompetent one, obviously.”

Banner arrives, again in charge as professor Hulk. He and Amadeus are able to rope-a-dope Ross and Abomination long enough for Hercules to pull a Sampson and knock the mountain down on them- holding the entrance to their cave long enough for the two Hulks to get free before letting the rest of it fall. I think Banner names them both honorary Hulks. Hercules considers it, and wonders “If I have to be green- because I’m open to it,” he says, holding one of them under each arm. We roll credits.

Mid-Credits: We visit Ross. I’m going to say he is, in addition to his Thunderbolts team, running the Raft prison as his own little personal Guantanamo. The base is on high alert, because there’s been an escape, specifically out of the green wing (this news agitates Ross especially- it’s where the gamma-powered creeps go). “Blonsky’s gone,” the guard leading the way says. There’s a big, Abomination-sized hole in the rear of his cell.

“Obviously,” Ross says, nonplussed.

“He took someone with him.” He tore through an empty cell into another, to pluck out its inhabitant.

“Sterns,” Ross says, and we zoom in on his eye as it turns red.

More credits. End-credits scene: “And you can fix me?” Abomination asks; it’s almost tragic, the pain in his voice.

“I said perfect,” the other man says. “Do you recognize this Emil?” he asks, twirling a glowing green bullet in his palm.

“From the size and shape, I’d say it’s a .50 caliber Raufoss, though it appears to have been altered.”

We pull back, enough to see green lips part from teeth in a distressing smile. “Very good. Ross used a similar bullet on Banner. My design, of course. Ross always lacked vision.”

“And who’s it for?”

“I blame two men equally for my sorry state- men who, ironically, must survive longer to conclude my research. Did you know you can tear a dozen pieces off a fly before it expires from the stress? I wonder if its replicable across species…” we pull back, and see the Leader in all his now-green glory.

MCU ’22 Pitch 8: Thunderbolts 2

The Deal: I pitch movies set in the Marvel or DC cinematic universes. Also other things. This pitch is a direct sequel to Thunderbolts 1.

The Pitch: Okay, the ten-ton red elephant in the room: William Hurt passed away. That means a new Ross, or replacing him in the plot. You could get some of the same mileage with Leonard Sampson, especially as the jealous ex trying to get Betty back… but I’d prefer a recast, personally. And don’t forget the mustache.

“You owe me,” Ross says from offscreen, as Yelena retrieves gear from a locker.

“Fignya,” Yelena says.

“Your sister owed me, and her corpse is apparently on another planet in the past. So you owe me.”

“Do you even believe that?”

He pauses. “I’ll pay you.”

That was never in doubt. But I am super hero, now. I do not do dirty work.”

“Nothing dirty. Maybe clean-up. But I’d never ask you to put a bullet in anyone who didn’t deserve it.”

“I am Avenger.”

“Young,” he adds with a cough, and she glares, but doesn’t skip a beat.

“Jealous, with your ‘red Avengers.’ I will not put bullet anywhere they would disapprove.”

“I’ll make sure you have deniability.”

“Fine.”

“And we’ve got a dress code.” He’s holding up a red wig.

“Nyet,” she says angrily, reacting to the implication she has to be her sister to be effective.

“Red or black. Pick your poison.”

We cut to later, Ross entering a room with the other Thunderbolts. “Lady and Gentleman, allow me to introduce you to the Black Widow.” Yelena has dyed her hair black.

“I thought you died,” Deadpool starts. “And were taller. And a redhead. And older. And more…” he starts pantomiming busoms.

“I thought you were mute,” she says, and at first he’s taken aback, thinking she’s referencing X-Men Origins, a movie only he remembers, and his eyes go wide as we push in on them, then we pull abruptly back, and see she’s stuck a knife in his throat. “Oh, I was thinking of you now.”

“As you can see, she likes to make an impression,” Ross says.

“That’s why I wear a red suit,” Deadpool says hoarsely, after pulling her knife out.

“You’re coughing blood on me,” Punisher says coolly.

“Sorry,” he groans.

“It’s… ironic you’re acting like children,” Ross says, “because this mission is personal to me. It’s my daughter. Betty. She’s gone missing.”

“She’s with the Hulk,” Deadpool says, leaning back in his chair with a big bucket of popcorn in his lap, throwing a few kernels back; he has his mask rolled up enough to accommodate this. “I’ve seen this movie before. And read the book. She’s got the hots for the Hulk. The pair of them sneak off to the nearest closet for seven minutes of green heaven, and you waste a ridiculous amount of tax-payer dollars being the world’s creepiest overprotective father.”

Punisher eyes the popcorn, considering taking a handful. “I wouldn’t,” Ross warns. “There’s a hole in the bottom.”

“I buttered it myself,” Deadpool says. “Wink.”

“Widow, would you mute him again?” Ross asks.

“I mute when I deem it necessary,” she replies.

“Great. I’ve hired another insubordinate.”

“Takes one to know one, Old Spice,” Deadpool says. “Unless you’re going to tell me the U.S. Army is sanctioning this little op.”

“They are… but they don’t have all the details, or I wouldn’t be on it. My daughter has been irradiated, and is now rampaging on her own.” Ross puts up a slide. It’s Red She-Hulk, having largely torn through her clothes and essentially naked.

“No one told me we got the R rating. Those are red boobies.” The slide isn’t in focused until Deadpool points like in the Dicaprio Aviator meme, obscuring for the audience anything salacious.

“I’ll have you chemically castrated if you can’t reel it in, Wilson.”

Deadpool zips up, gasps, and adds in a high voice, “Little pinch.” Yelena offers him her knife to fix his problem. “Nope, best option is to reverse the tracks.” We hear zipping and a tear. “Oh, sweet Polar Express.”

“I’m choosing to ignore him, I’d suggest the rest of you do the same,” Ross continues. “So far as we’ve been able to ascertain, Betty has not been in contact with Banner. But we do believe she’s been receiving help. Money. Identification. Transportation. She’s been able to stay under the radar in a way that leads us to believe that someone is helping her stay hidden. We’ve been watching Banner. I don’t even think he knows Betty’s gone missing.”

“What’s the play?” Antivenom asks.

“We’re going to split into teams. If she’s being helped, we might be able to track that connection, and use it to find her. That’s subtler work. Natchios, Belova, Castle, you’re on that.” He points next to Deadpool and Antivenom. “You two can take what she’s dishing out; you’re with me.”

“And we’re going to throw three darts at a map and see if we get lucky?” Deadpool asks.

“She’s still my daughter. She’s going to end up someplace she feels safe- but also, some place she thinks I won’t be able to find her. I’ve got three potential locations, one for each of us. Either of you make contact, and you’re to observe only. Sheriff and a couple of his deputies bumped into her; all they found was pink mist. I think you can survive contact- but I wouldn’t test the theory.”

We linger on Yelena, and match cut to her at the Young Avengers’ HQ. Bruce gets pulled up as a hologram on a phone call, and recognizes Hulkling. “I thought we figured out I’m not your father,” Bruce says.

“Nope. Sorry. Nothing like that. We got a, tip. Ross is trying to hire himself a Black Widow.”

“Ross. Oh, kid, just walk away. I spent half of my life working on a gamma bomb- and it’s still only the second most dangerous thing I’ve ever been near. Ross is number one with a bullet.”

“Bullets do not frighten me,” Yelena says.

“Oh, you’re Nat’s sister. She was… I miss the hell out of her.”

“Me, too,” she says.

“But seriously. Whatever Ross is up to, you don’t want any part of it. He’s unstable. Dangerous. And think about who’s saying that.”

“Is worse than you think,” Yelena says. “He’s more dangerous. Because his daughter is missing. And she is red Hulk now.”

“Betty? Damnit… that explains her call. Where’d you hear this?”

“Orientation. When Ross hired me.”

“Ah. Makes sense. And you’re doubling for our side.”

“Or tripling for his,” she says with a knowing smile.

“I see the resemblance. Nat had a smile just like that. She was trouble, too. Look, I got to make a call. Where can I meet you?”

“I’ll text a location.”

We cut to a courtroom, where an aging judge mutters, “This is highly unusual.”

She-Hulk paces. “I understand, your honor. But this is about Spider-Man’s good name.”

“Then he can show in my court and clear it himself.”

“And we would love for the opportunity. But as you can see, the courtroom is filled with U.S. Marshals. They’re here with orders to arrest my client if he shows.”

“Is this true?” the judge asks. One of the Marshals confirms it. “Fine. Then I’ll grant your request for your client not to be compelled to appear. Now, Mr.” the judge turns to the plaintiff, who is now sitting on the stand, beside the judge. “Frogman. You claim to… is that my ring?” The judge looks at their finger, and sees a tanline; the Frogman is wearing their missing ring. The judge whacks the Frogman on the hand with their gavel and takes their ring back. “Case dismissed.”

She-Hulk barely notices. She’s looking at her phone, which says that Bruce is calling.

We cut to Jen and Bruce driving in a convertible. “So… Betty, huh?” she asks.

“Don’t start, with that look.”

“I just… she’s the one who made you go smash in your pants,” she stops and makes a face, “made your heart go smash?”

“We’ve got a lot of history.”

“Of smashing?”

“We were colleagues.”

“Of smashing?” He’s silent a moment. “Trying to think of a response that doesn’t become dirty if you add ‘of smashing’ to it?”

“We were close…”

“To smashing?”

“I asked her to marry me, before all this.”

“Oh…” she says, and for a moment we think she’s pivoting to serious, “so you definitely smashed then.”

“How are you more of a teenage boy than I ever was?”

“Low T?”She-Hulk slides the car to a stop. “We’re here.”

“Oh, good, I thought you were just trying to kill an entire family of possums at once.”

Yelena has set up a tiny version of Ross’ brief, with maps. On walking in, Bruce immediately says, “She isn’t any of those places. If she’s hiding from Ross, and your intel says she is, she wouldn’t go to locations he would even know about.”

“That doesn’t narrow it down,” Yelena says. Jen flips through a dossier and starts taking pictures and texting.

Bruce produces a piece of tech. “It measures gamma radiation. I built it to track down the Red Hulk. It worked on him,” he points it at Yelena and it doesn’t make noise, but it reacts when he aims it at himself, and then at Jen. “Works on us. Stands to reason it could find Betty.”

“What can I do?”

“Stay with Ross’ team. Whoever is helping may have given her a way to shield herself from the scanner, and if possible, we want to avoid a direct confrontation with Red Hulk.”

She-Hulk puts down her phone. “I’ve got Jess and Trish working it on the ground. They’ll follow the electronic trail.”

“We’ll follow you back to Virginia.”

We cut to a small, crappy motel at night. Elektra is there, and hands Frank and Yelena room keys.

“I don’t trust her,” Punisher says as Elektra slips into his hotel room.

“I don’t trust,” she responds, pressing against him.

“We’ve got a mission.”

“And I have my own objectives.” She kisses him. Frank tries to resist… but it’s Elektra, could you?

Yelena waits until later that night before sneaking out. From a car, we watch her slink to a motorcycle parked on the opposite end of the building. Yelena goes to the school from the Incredible Hulk, the same building where Sterns took Bruce. She discovers Betty hunched over a computer, accessing Sterns’ files.

Yelena creeps expertly, but Betty picks up the keyboard and smashes it in half as she transforms. We see Betty’s clothes shredding as she rises. Quick-cuts, as Betty charges through a shelf of books, seizing Yelena and shoving her through a wall. A moment later, we see Red She-Hulk smash through a window, landing in the foreground. She’s wearing Yelena’s catsuit, which doesn’t fit her great, to the point it won’t zip up all the way…

We cut to the motel Bruce and Betty stayed in during Incredible Hulk. We pan through the lobby, into a back room with monitors. I’m going to say we go seedy with it, and the rooms are all wired up, too. Antivenom finishes reviewing footage, before calling Ross. “She hasn’t been here. But I will leave a local creep for the authorities, so it wasn’t a total wash.” We pan back, to see that the hotel manager is webbed to the wall.

I’m assuming we’re going more for comedy in this scene than anything exploitative; we can keep Yelena mostly off-screen or hidden behind things. But Yelena comes to, to discover her catsuit was taken. “I bet this never happened to Natasha.” She finds a janitor’s uniform, but it is ten sizes too big. So she turns to the school’s mascot costume, which just happens to be a Black Widow spider. As she’s leaving the school, she runs into Deadpool.

“Love the new costume,” he says.

“What are you doing here?”

“My story sense was tingling…. You and Elektra are, shall we say, redundant?”

“Right. Because two girls on one team is too many.”

“Because you’re both bad-ass but human women with flexible moral compasses- with black hair. So… one of you is not what she seems. And aside from seeming to have spent the night in Frank’s hotel room- and who would say no to that– she’s where she’s supposed to be.”

“What do you want?”

“Like money? Just because I’m a mercenary you think I’m for sale?” She gives him a cock-eyed look, because she’s done her share of merc work. “I’m… actually here because I want to help. See… I think Ross shot his daughter up with Hulk juice.” Her nose crinkles. “Not that way; apparently we didn’t get the ‘R’ rating, and she’s his daughter. But I have… ethical issues about human experimentation. So maybe Ross shouldn’t be the one to find Betty- even if I’m pretty sure she could use some help. Though, honestly, you, in that?” He gestures to her mascot suit. “Payment enough.”

Jen calls her PIs on the phone. If it’s too expensive, you can always just show her end of the conversation. But I’ll assume we’ll get the both of them on a party line with some split screen. “Your hunch was right. Our operative literally ran into her at Culver University- right before Betty ran her through a wall. We think the scanner will be able to pick up her trail, but if she’s as strong as I am, she could be across the country by now- you might have to be ready to pick up the trail somewhere else.”

Yelena tries to sneak into her hotel room still wearing the mascot costume, only for Punisher to sneak up on her. “That a part of your plan, or just your night life?”

“You’re one to talk; you reek of Natchios’ perfume.”

He smiles, slightly. “Nice bluff.”

“Not bluff. I’m down-wind.” She slips inside her room. Deadpool is sneaking into the rear window, catches his boot, and falls flat on his face.

“Nice distraction,” he says, raising a thumb enthusiastically from the floor. “What next?”

“I need a shower. I smell like the floor of a men’s locker room.”

“Sounds fun. I like to be big spoon.”

“I do not need doof-a.”

“Aw, was that your first joke? The Punisher would be so proud.” He plops down on the foot of the bed.

Yelena closes the door behind her, and we linger on Deadpoool. “Ignore the furry strip show happening on the other side of that door…Blind Al doing naked calisthenics. Weasel and Weasel from Suicide Squad performing analingus in a plastic child pool filled with chocolate pudding. Ooh, I might have to keep that one…”

She-Hulk pulls up to Leonard Sampson’s home from Incredible Hulk. “I should have known…” Bruce says from the passenger seat.

Sampson opens the door. “Bruce,” he says tensely, before sliding into therapist mode. “We haven’t spoken since you were a fugitive.”

“I remember. You were sleeping with my fiance.”

“Ex-fiance. And as much as I love our little tet a tets, I’ve got an online session in a few minutes.”

“Where’s Betty, Leonard?”

“Don’t you remember, Bruce? She left me for you.”

“You’re being evasive, Dr. Sampson.” Sampson’s eyes are glowing green.

“Uh, Bruce,” She-Hulk says, because the gamma sensor is going berserk pointed at Leonard.

“It’s okay. Let them in.” Inside, Betty is wearing one of Sampson’s button-up shirts. “Bruce…” she runs to him and embraces him.

“I was so worried.”

“I knew you’d come.”

“What happened?”

“My dad. In a screwed up attempt to keep me safe. Turned me into a Red Hulk.”

“That’s… exactly the kind of crap he’d pull.”

“And there’s a problem. She isn’t me.”

“I know what you mean.”

“No. You don’t. She isn’t me, and she’s trying to take over permanently. She isn’t content simply to smash. She wants to be in control- all of the time.”

We cut to a dark basement room. A red-skinned man with a massive head is thrown into a chair. He’s bleeding, and skittish. He’s the Red Leader. Ross skulks around the room as we pull back, revealing it was Punisher who caught him. “Sterns,” Ross growls.

“Didn’t know we were supposed to be exclusive,” Leader says. “After all, you’ve been creating Red Hulks without me.”

“What in hell are we looking at?” Yelena asks.

“Sterns?”

“I would have presumed it obvious… but I am intellectually superior, so perhaps that’s the reason why. Where gamma irradiation has, in the case of our dear General and Dr. Banner, created muscled Hulks, In the case of the female of the species, it’s crafted outgoing, charismatic specimens, that balance intellect and strength. And in my case, I got brains for days.”

“On purpose?”

“Truth told, I was attempting to isolate the characteristics of the female Hulks, striving for a better balance. But this seems to be an even better outcome than I hoped for.”

“Then why have you helped my daughter evade me?” Ross seethes.

“Figured that out? I wasn’t done. My research is still in its pupal stage. I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit that thwarting you also made it all the more entertaining.”

“Playtime’s over, Sterns. You can tell me where my daughter is, or I can pop that overripe grape of a head of yours.” We see Ross’s shadow eclipse an increasingly frightened Leader’s face as he hulks out, before we cut away.

Bruce and Jen are talking to Betty and Sampson over tea. Suddenly the gamma scanner goes off, despite it not facing any of them. “I didn’t touch it,” Jen says, startled.

“No,” Bruce says. “They’re here. We have to get Betty away.”

Sampson tosses Bruce keys. “Take my bike. It’s out back. We’ll hold them off.”

“Uh, we will?” Jen asks. “I guess we will.” They sneak out the back. “Um, are we going to survive this?”

“You’re about as strong as Betty. And I,” he unbuttons his shirt to reveal some kind of uniform as his hair turns green, “can hold my own.” He gets long, green hair, and a little more muscular.

“So… you become a glam rocker?” Just then, Antivenom collides with him, but Sampson catches him, and throws him through his front window. “So you just rock, then?”

A grenade lands in the middle of the room, and She-Hulk drops down on it, absorbing most of its force. Punisher, on the porch, loads another grenade into an under-barrel launcher, before having to duck a thrown coffee table. “That was irritating,” Antivenom says, brushing himself off.

“I know this could impact unit cohesion and everything,” Deadpool says, “but, and I mean this in all sincerity, maybe we shouldn’t help the madman who conducted unethical medical experiments on his own daughter.”

“Can’t believe I’m saying this,” Punisher slings his rifle, “but Wilson’s got a point.”

“I’m giving the general the benefit of the doubt,” Antivenom says, squaring to Deadpool. Deadpool vs Antivenom fight!

I’m assuming at some point they’re wrestling, and Deadpool tries to get Frank to tag in. “Frank, little help?”

Punisher shrugs. “You convinced me not to help. I’m not ready to throw in against Ross.”

Elektra is about to deploy sais dipped in neurotoxin against She-Hulk from behind, when she’s attacked by Black Widow. “Nyet,” she says, knocking one of them out of Elektra’s hand. “Go!” Widow says to them. “Ross is in pursuit!”

They get in She-Hulk’s convertible. Antivenom has enough of an upper hand fighting Deadpool to tear Sampson out of the car as they drive away.

We cut to Banner and Betty driving away on a motorcycle. Ross is in a helicopter following, and starts to unbutton his shirt as he turns red. Ross drops in their path, smashing their bike. Banner hulks, and for a moment we get Red vs Green Hulks, before Betty transforms. Red She-Hulk aligns with Ross- because she wants to be free, and Banner is likely to help Betty be rid of her. They smack Bruce down, before She-Hulk drives her car into one of them. This fight is closer to even, but Bruce is still hurt from being tag-teamed earlier, and eventually the Red pair win. Betty is about to run, but is caught jumping by Ross, who smashes her into a rock, before shooting her with a tranq that puts her down. Banner stirs enough to try to pursue, only to get smacked back several times by Ross, eventually dehulking again.

Antivenom and Elektra are nursing their wounds on Sampson’s porch. The rest of them are sharing tea as Bruce and Jen arrive. “Ross got Betty.”

“We should head back to base,” Punisher says. “We’ll make sure he does the right thing.”

“We’ll come with you.”

Frank bristles. “I may not owe Ross allegiance, but that’s not the same as leading the rest of you back to him. At least not yet. I’m giving him a chance, first, to make it right. After that, you can spit-roast the old bastard for all I care.”

“Ooh,” Deadpool says.

“Not like that.”

“Nuts.”

“That work for you?” Frank asks Elektra and Antivenom. They’re annoyed at having been beaten, but all told they’ve been treated pretty well, for prisoners. Punisher gives Sampson an address. “Wait there. If I’m not satisfied with Ross, I’ll tell you where to find him. And keep your Widow.”

“Works for me,” Yelena says.

“That mean I’m not getting kicked out of the tree fort?” Deadpool asks.

“I know what happened to you. That’s why I didn’t shoot you for following your conscience. Just know, you do that again, I know how much punishment you can take with your healing factor.”

“A threatening pun? Ooh, punish me, Daddy Frank.”

We cut back to the Thunderbolts HQ. Betty is tied to a chair in the center of the tent; subtly, there’s a hexagon on the floor in oil. Once all the Thunderbolts are inside, Red Hulk tears the tent away, and his flame lights the oil, revealing a pentagram on the ground. Ghostrider is there, his skull flaming red. “Now, Rider,” Ross says, and he screams out an incantation.

Suddenly, they’re in Hell.

“There aren’t many humans foolish enough to summon me,” says a deep voice belonging to a man in red sitting on a throne. I’d suggest Henry Golding; seriously, watch Persuasion and tell me he couldn’t talk just about anyone into selling their soul. That’s your Mephisto.

“Yeah. Spooky-scary,” Red Hulk growls. “I want my daughter back.”

“Your soul’s already mine, Ross, and soon, but I think you’ve brought enough tender with which to bargain.”

“What?” Frank asks. “No!” Suddenly they’re back at their base. They’re all human again, and Frank shakes Ross. “What did you do?”

“He sold our souls,” Ghostrider says. “Don’t know if it would hold up- but I can tell you arbitration in Hell is just as awful as it sounds.”

Frank calls Sampson and tries to give him the coordinates. “Frank? You’ve been missing for a week. The Hulks went home. The Widow’s in New York. Is Betty okay?”

The camera pans down on Betty, still tied to a chair, looking unconscious. As we zoom in, her eye opens, and her pupil turns red.

Credits. Beginning-credits scene. Back in Hell. Mephisto is back on his throne. A demon scurries up to him. “My lord, the battle fares poorly.”

“Can we win?” Mephisto asks.

“I do not believe we will survive the night.”

Mephisto opens up his palm. In it are red and black orbs, corresponding to the souls of the Thunderbolts. “I’d hoped to hold these chips for longer. A pity to have to cash them in so soon… but better to rule in Hell, eh?”

“I wouldn’t know,” his minion says, as we return to credits.

Mid-credits scene. “I wasn’t here,” Frank says to Yelena.

“Neither was I,” she says. They both leave the hotel from Incredible Hulk. We linger on a door, before cutting inside.

“I thought I lost you,” Bruce says.

“I thought you lost me, too,” Betty says, and embraces him. They kiss, passionately, before Betty stops. “Oh, are we safe?”

“I spent the five years of the blip learning tantra. Like Sting.”

“Woof.” We cut outside of the hotel room, pulling back, as the music cue from Young Frankenstein, Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life, plays. We return to credits as that music plays.

End credits scene. Bruce, in the hotel robe, sneaks out for ice. He stops, realizing there’s someone behind him. “What’s the phrase?” Ross asks. “If you can’t beat ‘em…”

“Join ‘em?” Bruce asks.

“Not the way I’ve heard it,” Ross says, and fires a gun into him. And that’s how we end, Bruce Banner bucking backwards as a glowing green bullet pierces his chest.

And for anyone wondering just what the hell the #SecretSexMustache hashtag was, it’s a line from Thunderbolts 1.

MCU ’22 Pitch 7: Heroes for Hire 2: Operation: Kingfall

The Deal: I pitch movies set in the Marvel or DC cinematic universes. Also other things. This pitch is a direct sequel to Heroes for Hire 1.

The Pitch: We start on a briefing largely presented by Daredevil and She-Hulk. She takes point, and has a more aggressive, prosecutorial demeanor. “Some of you have been Avengers, most of you have met them. This isn’t a task for them; theirs is a world of moral certitude, wholly pure good versus nightmarish evil. Our task is more subtle and more difficult, requiring us to exist within a world of gray.”

“I prefer black and white,” Punisher says, slamming home a magazine for emphasis; for further emphasis, he isn’t wearing the red skull uniform from the Thunderbolts, but his black and white uniform. “A world where the bad guys are dead, and everyone else is safer.”

“Please hold comments to the end,” Daredevil says coolly.

She-Hulk eyes him angrily, seething with a desire to smash, before continuing calmly, with a glint of humor in her eye. “The Kingpin is, first and foremost, a real-estate mogul. It is through those channels, and using those contacts, that Fisk built an underworld empire with ties to every known ethnic gang in New York City, with tendrils that go up and down the coast, and reach all the way into Pride territory in Los Angeles. It’s also where he derives his legitimacy and power; he’s been on a first-name basis with every Mayor we’ve had since the Chitauri invasion, and not a one of them has condemned him, not even when he spent time in a federal prison. He is more dangerous than any other criminal figure precisely because he has that deniability, that presumption of innocence, that invincibility. Leave that intact and he won’t see the inside of another cell, but damage it, and he becomes vulnerable.”

“Get me a vantage point and enough gun to cross the distance,” Punisher begins, “I’ll show him just how vulnerable he is.”

“This man’s a psychopath. You all know that, right?” Hawkeye asks, pointing a thumb at Punisher.

“I’m sorry, are arrows suddenly nonlethal?” Punisher asks.

“Quiet,” Daredevil yells. “We’re not here to police one another. Today, we’ve got a higher call to answer. Some of our alliances are going to be uneasy ones, but if we’re taking the fight to Wilson Fisk- and I mean really taking it to him- we’re going to have to accept any help we can get. But… I understand everyone has to follow their own conscience. Anyone who doesn’t want to work with Frank, doesn’t have to. But there are ways that he can hurt Fisk’s empire that the rest of us cannot.”

“That’s because he’s a domestic terrorist,” Hawkeye says.

“Not all of us are lucky enough to be spies and have SHIELD and Nick Fury okay the bombs we set,” Castle says. “And I’ve never killed anyone I didn’t intend to. You think your aim’s that good? You think Sokovia would agree?“ Hawkeye tries to throw a punch, but Spider-Man catches his fist with a web.

“Oh, come on,” Hawkeye says, as Punisher reels back to sucker-punch him. But he takes a boxing-glove arrow to the face, and we pan to see Kate Bishop is the one who fired it.

“I have always wanted to use the boxing glove arrow,” she says, overly proud of herself.

Punisher turns back angrily towards her. He does not draw, but even his scowl’s enough she kind of flinches. But Daredevil’s there, the angel on his shoulder. “Punching a man while he’s webbed up? Come on, Frank; you deserved that one.”

Punisher glares a second longer, before smiling, licking the blood off his lip. “Wasn’t very sporting,” he admits. “I’ve never had a lot of patience for Avengers sanctimony. They’re sloppy. Maybe when the threats get big enough, they deserve some more leeway… but you’ll never convince me that putting Stark in that armor instead of an actual soldier didn’t lead to a higher body count. And I’m still not sold on Operation: Kingfall. Or joining, however temporarily, your little band of Heroes for Hire. I’ve had a bad history with mercenaries.”

There’s a lot of that sentiment, actually; they came, out of respect, to hear the pitch, but so far the pitch has been more a presumption that they’re in. “Think that’s my cue,” Luke says, and stands up. Luke is the hype man for the Heroes for Hire; always has been. But this is still going to need one hell of a sell job. “I been a lot of things, in my day. But the one I kept coming back to was helping people. I know a lot of you were here through the worst of it. Kingpin took near everything away from us. So this could feel like revenge, petty, and mean-spirited, and frankly, beneath all of us.

“I also know those were lean times. We had to share the pot we pissed in. And I wouldn’t blame anyone who couldn’t do that all over again.” His face falls, like this is the ‘everyone who isn’t in can leave moment,’ “But the trick is we won’t have to. Kingpin’s stepped on a lot of toes, hurt a lot of good, reputable people’s businesses. And this is New York, so of course some of them are billionaire industrialists who don’t take kindly to having a criminal elbow his way to the head of the table. What I mean to say in all of this is: we’ve already been hired, ethical, corporate sponsorship. I’m talking salary, comped meals, new threads.”

Colleen Wing slaps Danny on the back, assuming Luke means Rand is picking up the check. He plays coy, but also lets everyone make that assumption. Most of us will, too, because Luke continues with the pitch. “Did I forget to mention he insisted we have this thing catered?” Servers start bringing in a spread on carts in silver serving dishes, fancy things, and at least for a moment, this wins people over.

We cut to later. Hawkguy is talking to Spider-Man over pizza; Spider-Man has his mask rolled up so he can eat. “We’re Avengers,” Hawkeye complains. “You’re supposed to have my back. I’m telling- wait, who’s in charge of the Avengers? Is it me?”

“It can’t be you. It’d be me before it was you.”

“Get back to me when you hit puberty. You’re just lucky there wasn’t a Young Avengers, then, or you’d be sitting at the kiddy table.”

“The kiddy table?” Kate asks.

“And by that I meant…” Clint turns towards Spider-Man, only to see that he’s leapt to the other side of the room. “He’s supposed to have my back…”

“That’s why you have me.”

“No one else brought their sidekicks…” he mumbles.

“I’m your partner– not that way. And I’m the only person but the guy in the red leather pants- which I’m very jealous of- whose gone toe-to-toe with Kingpin.”

“We’ve all, oh you mean when he rag-dolled you around a toy store. Sure. That’s a great reason to bring you along. Like distracting a pit bull with its favorite chew toy.”

It’s a great opportunity to catch up with some old friends, Jessica Jones checking out Hellcat’s new costume, that kind of thing. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little behind on the Netflix Marvel shows (I think Luke Cage and Defenders are the only ones I finished watching all the way through), but there were a lot of great characters so there’s plenty of room to have them bounce off of one another.

Daredevil catches Punisher sneaking out. “I work better alone,” Frank says, before we know Daredevil is there.

“Maybe. But you haven’t come any closer than the rest of us to neutralizing Fisk.”

Neutralizing. Cute. Put me in a room with him, and he won’t leave it.”

“We don’t want him murdered. A dead Kingpin just opens up his influence and his territories to a successor. But a deposed Kingpin, one who falls, and hard, as an example to anyone else who would build that kind of empire…”

“What would you need me to do?”

“There are industrial drug processing facilities; most of the heroin on this seaboard pass through there.”

“None of it belongs to Fisk or his empire.”

“I think, whether his hands are technically on any criminal activity in the city, one of the reasons he has the clout he has is that he’s guaranteed the safety of every criminal working. Maybe they aren’t his facilities, but damaging them damages him, regardless.”

“Why not just call the cops?”

“I did. One of them was raided, eight weeks back. Everything was boxed up, put into evidence. Two weeks later it was back in one of their facilities, like it never happened. Same serial numbers. Same bricks of drugs. There isn’t a cop they can’t own or threaten- none with any kind of life expectancy.” That pisses Frank off.

“You make a compelling argument, councilor.”

“You going to be okay?”

“You aren’t that kind of counselor.”

“I’m not trying to be. But I’ve been alone. Isolated. It’s better to have people.”

“Not doing what I do.”

“I think especially doing what you do. Talk to Nick Fury. Talk to Hawkeye. Even if you don’t want to come in and work with them, doesn’t mean grabbing a beer couldn’t help you feel more human.”

“Humans make mistakes, sometimes lethal ones. I don’t want to be a man. I don’t want to feel. I want to be a machine, one that punishes the ones nobody else can.”

“Fine, Frank. But at the end of this, I’m buying you a beer. You don’t even have to drink it, but you’ll sit and listen while I drink mine.”

“Feels like a very Catholic punishment,” Frank says with a smile.

“Thought you’d appreciate that…”

During the party, Jessica conspicuously takes a call; Danny will be missing when she does. She’ll be back by the time things are winding down, the last one remaining is Jessica Jones. She’s had a few, and he tries to be gentle with her, and offers to get her a rideshare.

“Can’t. I threw my last driver into the Hudson. It was a case. He assaulted some fares, blackmailed them with photos. I might have taken the case a little personally.”

“He live?”

“He limps. But he gave up the extortion and assault.”

“And you’re stuck relying on the kindness of strangers.”

“Usually Trish gives me a ride. Did. Until she started working for the Single Female Lawyer.”

“It’s good to see you.”

“Careful. I wouldn’t want to upset Claire. I still owe her for some stitches.”

“She… moved on.”

“Oh…”

He gives her a ride home. She has him stop, neither of them realizing until that moment that they’re where Jessica killed his wife. “I know what you lost here,” she says. “And I need to tell you I’m sorry. I’m sorry you lost Reva. I’m sorry you lost me…”

“I didn’t have to lose you. What happened? That wasn’t you. Not telling me, though, letting me care about you without telling me… that was.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I know.” The scene is him comforting her, but then asking, “You need some coffee?”

“I am one coffee short of an Irish coffee.”

They find an all-night diner. “You mind if I ask what happened, with the nurse?” she asks.

I happened, mostly. End of the day, she didn’t want to date one of us; I think she chose me because I felt like a less self-destructive version of Matt… until I wasn’t.”

“Self-destructive? I have no idea what that’s like,” she says wryly.

“Quite the pair we make.”

“Flawful, is what Trish calls it, though half the time she pronounces it like filafel and I get hungry.”

“But either way, you ‘feel awful?’” he asks with a grin, but then it fades. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I tried. I wanted to. I stayed close, because I knew I didn’t have a right to tell you, just to make me feel better, but I was hoping an opportunity would present, where it would be for you, even if it also made me feel better. Only… carrying it made me a wreck. And then you noticed… and tried to unwreck me.”

“That… is not how I’d have described that night.”

“Different kind of wrecking…” they both share a smile, “but I knew I screwed up. I couldn’t fix it without hurting you. I couldn’t stop it without hurting you. It was a slow-motion accident- I could see it all happening, but I couldn’t do anything but watch.”

“You know what I hate? You believe that’s true. To this day. You don’t understand how different things could have been, if you’d just been straight with me.”

“Maybe,” she’s noncommittal, and looks away.

“Jess,” he puts his hand over hers, and she meets his gaze.

“I’m still in love with you.”

“That was not what I expected.”

“Sorry,” she tries to take her hand back, but he holds it.

“Wait. Just because it wasn’t what I expected, doesn’t mean I want you to go.” He positions his hand so he’s cradling hers, instead. “It took me a long time to see why it hurt so much, finding out the way I did. It wasn’t just the betrayal, it was because you were the first person since Reva- the only person since Reva… I don’t know. I don’t know if I can do this. But I have tried to move past you, and I don’t think I want to. But if- and I mean if– it’s got to be slow. I’m not taking you home- well, I’m taking you home, but not- you know what I mean.”

“So you’re into me but you don’t want to bang it out? Maybe you aren’t right for me.”

“I think between the two of us our issues would be the life’s work of a gifted shrink- if either of us were the kind to see one. It’s a lot. It’s going to take a lot of time. Patience.”

“Not my strong suits, I know.” She’s stand-offish, before she switches to vulnerable. “But some things are worth working for.”

In the background, through the front window of the diner, Felicia swings by. We cut to her swinging through street level, before she lands on a roof. A moment later Spider-Man lands on the wall next to her. “Felicia, fancy swinging into you, here. Wait, that was lame…”

“Spider,” she says. “Were you stalking me?”

“Stalking? No. I might have been swinging around outside the party for a couple of hours hoping I’d see you because… I wanted to talk to you.”

“Should I consider myself down one more life? Because if you’re here to lecture me about the terrible things I’ve done, you can save your breath. You can’t make me feel worse than I already do, letting an animal like Kingpin corner me like that.”

“Hey! Whoa! Felicia… I wanted to talk because… because I talked to Mr. Murdock.”

“Mr. Murdock?”

“He… did some legal work for my family, and it’s still weird calling him ‘Matt.’ But he told me… what you went through, and that part of how they manipulated you into stealing again was playing me against you. And… I feel terrible for putting you in that position. I wanted what was best for you, but I see now that I put you in a position where you could be hurt, instead. That’s why I came tonight. It’s why I want to help take Kingpin down. Because I know there’s no way I could say sorry enough to make up for it, but I can at least make sure the people who hurt you see justice.”

“Oh, Spider,” she says, and peels up his mask to kiss him.

We cut back to Luke, waving from his car as Jessica enters her building. Her office is unlocked, and for a moment we’ll play up the idea of danger. A figure is seated behind her desk, cloaked in shadow. “Well?”

She flicks on the lights, blinding Iron Fist. “These things take time. Before tonight, he wouldn’t even talk to me. And I’m surprised you’re not using Trish. Everyone else seems to be.”

“She’s got a conflict, since she worked for him. And was busy tonight. But obviously you were my first choice.”

“I’m not screwing him for you.”

“I wouldn’t ask. If you screw him, screw him only for you. But this… this is for Luke. I love him like a brother, but… you see the worst side of people. So do I. Luke sees the best. Even when he’s dealing with the worst.”

“Wow. You just aren’t capable of saying the right thing.”

“I didn’t mean you. I more meant the Hand. And vampires, apparently. And I don’t want Luke accidentally selling his soul to the devil.”

“Especially not if he’s going to drag the rest of us down to hell with him?”

“Luke’s my priority. The rest of us are certainly a compelling second. And if you’re not concerned, you can always quit.”

“You’re right. He was evasive. He doesn’t want to talk about it. Which means there’s something there. And I can’t let him screw this up just because I’m screwed up.”

Iron Fist stands up, and starts moving towards her door. “For what it’s worth, he always talked about you. Even when he was with Claire.”

“That’s sweet. And you should know, if you break into my place again, I’ll give you an enema with your own Iron Fist.”

“I have never seen what he sees in you.”

“Sorry you’re not his type,” she shuts the door on him.

We cut to a storage facility. Close in on a lock on a storage space, before She-Hulk’s green hand seizes it and tears the lock clear.

Hellcat opens the door, while talking. “I feel like, as my lawyer, you should probably be telling me not to do things like this.”

She-Hulk steps inside the storage space. “I’m not your lawyer, I’m your employer. It wouldn’t be ethical for me to also represent you. But I can talk to Matt about representing you. And we’ve tried the legal route. There isn’t a judge in the city Kingpin hasn’t bought or threatened; most wouldn’t even take my calls, let alone consider a document request.”

“And what makes you think Kingpin has actual documents in here, let alone ones confirming criminality?”

“He doesn’t- at least, not here. This is the start of the maze, not the end of it.”

“What makes you think there’s any cheese at the center, though?”

“Why isn’t this all an elaborate trap? Because he came up through real estate. Which means somewhere, he has to have records. Maybe not the kinds that would stand up in a court, but at least the kind that would stand up to other criminals. This is a start.”

We do a flyover of an industrial facility as the sun rises over the horizon, before finding Frank at a high position, overlooking the area with binoculars. He watches a guard exit a door, and jots down the time, before opening a thermos and pouring himself a cup of coffee. Daredevil lands behind him.

“You make more noise than you think you do,” Frank says, not looking up.

“You’d be surprised.”

“This isn’t a two-man job. All you’re doing is increasing the chances we get seen.”

“No. I’m here for support.” He’s got a satchel, with some kind of food that travels, maybe a couple of hot dogs. Frank brought supplies, and he looks at them. “Sometimes a hot meal makes a difference.” Frank shrugs, and accepts a hot dog.

Frank and Daredevil eat together. “Take it you lost the toss,” Frank says.

“I brought you in because I can see past our differences. But I also know not everyone can. I volunteered to work with you.”

“So no one else would have to.”

“So no one who couldn’t see the utility in what you do. And because I’m the only one who had a chance of convincing you not to just kill everyone here.”

“Couldn’t.” Frank hands him the binoculars, before stopping himself, “Right. The patrols they use at night, are hired hands, from a legit security company. Innocents. Likely means the cleaning staff are, too. Could be others. We’ll have to be careful.”

“I’m not just talking sparing the janitors. I want to save as many lives as I can.”

“You can’t save everybody,” Frank says bitterly.

“I had to learn that the hard way. But we save who we can.”

“I’m not taking chances. Not with my life. Not with yours. Not with anyone’s.”

“Fine. The plan will be yours. But I go in first. I put down everyone nonlethally that I can.”

“And if I have to plug someone to save you?”

“You’ll do what you have to do.”

“But can you live with that?”

“Are you, a lapsed Catholic, asking a fellow lapsed Catholic, if I can handle the guilt?”

“They really drill it into you, don’t they. But we find a way to get by.”

“It’s a sin not to.”

Later, She-Hulk arrives to her office with two coffees. She puts one on the desk beside Trish, in her civilian clothes. “You get any sleep?” She-Hulk asks.

“I’m a cat. We’re nocturnal.”

“I’m not going to have to find a place for a litterbox for you, am I?”

“Only if you’ve got a really weird fetish, and triple my fee.”

“You’re joking.”

“Of course. The tabloids would pay ten times my fee for the pictures alone. If I were for that kind of sale, I wouldn’t be working for you for a little scratch.”

“Cute. What have you found?”

“Raw intel, so far.” Trish leans over the printer, as it spits out another page. “I’ve been pulling any document related to the papers we found. But it’s all gibberish legalese. I could negotiate you under the table if it were something related to signing for a pop album… but this is way beyond me.”

“That’s because it’s shell companies within shells.” Jen starts arranging papers on her table. “This company exists only as a legal fiction- essentially a cut-out pass-through for this entity, which is essentially a holding company for this one…”

“I honestly can’t tell if you’re Beautiful Minding or just screwing with me.”

“I… might have taken a few of the pages home with me and been up all night researching in parallel…”

“I knew it!”

“That’s why you’re the PI.”

“But Fisk must have an army of lawyers. It would take forever to decode all of this, and in the interim they could be spinning up all new fictions to distance themselves from whatever we find.”

“I had that thought, so I called in a few favors.” Jeri Hogarth and Foggy Nelson enter, trailed a few steps behind by Matt Murdock.

We cut to Alias Investigations. There’s a knock on the door, and Jessica starts. She slept in her clothes, and stumbles to her door. It’s Luke, with food. “Figured after a night like that, you were going to need something to settle your stomach. Breakfast burrito?”

“Depends. Were you planning on staying to eat with me?”

“I can go, if that’s a deal breaker.”

“The opposite. I’ve had enough breakfast burritos come back on me, I don’t know it’s worth the risk. But for company? I can choke back my gag reflex.” We can tell from the look on his face he might have something to say about her gag reflex,” she notices what she said, too late. “Don’t. Too early.”

“A gentleman never comments on a lady’s gag reflex.”

“You’re as much of a gentleman as I am a lady,” Jessica says, taking a very unladlylike bite from her burrito. “God, that’s better than sex.”

“Not the way I remember it,” Luke says around a daintier bite.

“No, but I’m not sure my stomach could handle that much excitement. I… have something of a confession. About last night. It wasn’t a coincidence, that I was the last one there, or that I had a few too many. I wanted to talk to you… and I was anxious about it, so…”

“I put that together. That’s why I’m here. I wanted to talk to you, too. It’s why I offered you the ride. It’s why we stopped for coffee.”

“That’s… part of it. But I was also… I know it isn’t Danny, bankrolling you going after Kingpin. He tried to keep his cards close to the vest, but you and I both know Danny Rand would have been basking in the spotlight last night… if he was the one footing the bill. And it was written all over his face, too. So if not Danny, who? I doubt Potts or Stark would pony up, after we stole their Hulkbuster.”

“Borrowed, technically.”

“And I know there are a fair few billionaires in the city, and they’re just as petty and preening as you’d expect. But who hates Fisk enough to risk pissing him off?”

“Jess, this is just a social call.”

“Luke- it can’t be. We can’t compartmentalize. We can’t be Luke and Jessica in the sheets, Power Man and whatever on the streets.”

Power Man? I guess I just think of us as Luke Cage and Jessica Jones wherever we’re at.”

“You know what I mean.”

“I do. And I get it. Believe me, I looked this gift horse in the mouth. I looked everywhere else I could think to, too. Guy has no criminal record, no known associations with any crime, organized, petty, or otherwise. If I didn’t believe this was both the right thing to do and safe, I wouldn’t have asked any of you to join me. I care about you too much.”

“Danny will be touched- as touched as he’s capable of being, anyway.”

“He can be a prick, but he’s capable of more than you might guess. And I wasn’t talking about Danny. I care about you too much.”

“I think I feel my burrito coming up.”

“I hear you. It’s too early, in the morning and in whatever this is-” she lunges for her trashcan and dry heaves. “Oh, you meant literally.”

“False alarm,” she says. “Wait.” She dry heaves again. “Nope. I think we’re safe.” Luke is staring at her. “What? I get egg in my hair?” We can see that he’s staring at her with adoration.

“You look perfect, Jessica.”

“And you’re-” she dry heaves again.

“Maybe the burritos were a mistake.”

“No,” she says, looking up, “they were worth it. Oh god-” she lunges one last time, and we cut away before we find out if it was dry or not.

We’re back in She-Hulk’s offices. We pan across a table that has been colonized by take-out containers from several different restaurants, to signify they’ve been here through three meals worth of day. To justify dragging her in, Hogarth gets to give the summation of what they’ve found. The gist is that Fisk’s paper enterprise, while spanning continents and wrapped in incorporations from dozens of countries, at some point they all refer back to contracts or other companies that mention one location. It seems to be a clearing house, where all of their full contracts are stored.

Quick cuts, of the employees closing up a bank. We watch the last of them leave, and pan up to see Spider-Man and Black Cat swing to the top of the building. She lands a moment before him, opens an electrical panel and places clips bypassing electrical circuits. “So…” Spider-Man lets the word out slowly, “I know I said this seemed like it was more in your wheelhouse, so I’d follow your lead? Well, I’m regretting that decision, and, if I’m being completely honest, freaking out a little bit.”

Cut inside a vent, as Black Cat leads him through. “Trust me, Spider. I’ve been breaking and entering since you were just an egg in a sack.”

“Wait. Are you older than me? And why does that make my tights tighter, or is it just the confined space?”

“Are you sure that’s not the view?” We don’t have to show that with the two of them wriggling through vents he’s got a nice view of her butt, but we should at least show the reverse, before he tries to maintain professionalism.

“And how long have you been doing this?”

“Dad took me on my first bank robbery when I was three, unless you count the ones he carried me in a harness.” She stops, and uses an EM measuring device to test if the alarms are still operational. Quick insert shot of the bypassed electrical panel on the roof.

They drop directly into the safe deposit box room. Felicia has a list of deposit boxes she will quickly and expertly open as they talk. “Do most banks just have a direct route through the vents to their safe deposit boxes? Because knowing that might have made me consider a different career trajectory.”

“Most don’t. This one had a clerk get stuck behind the time lock one night; she suffered some mild brain damage by the time they found her in the morning, and the insurance company said they’d either need to remove the time lock or connect to the vents to ensure no one could suffocate inside. Most of this job is research and knowledge; only 10% of it is catsuits and air vents.”

“That is the best part.”

“Onlybecause the renovations are recent. Vents get super dusty. The fur on my forearms, that’s as much for cleaning as I go as for style.”

“Yeah, definitely. I wash this suit so often. You end up with the weirdest stains from crawling on walls.”

The boxes are filled with MCU McGuffins, maybe a Gem of Cyttorak, or things of that ilk- things that link to heroes, to villains. And if some end up being fakes, who cares? Black Cat places the last of them down in front of Spider-Man.

“That’s everything?”

“Yep.”

“Are you just that good, or is everything a lot less secure than I’d like to think it is.”

“Never give a girl a choice like that if you want a straight answer, Spider.”

“I don’t think I’m going to sleep tonight.”

“If you want, I’ll let you, but I have a feeling either way, you’ll be spending the night with me.”

We cut to a large, fortified facility. There are armed guards everywhere. “And we’re sure about this?” Hellcat, back in costume, asks. “I’m not strictly against being shot at, but those mercs look like they know what they’re doing, and I’d hate to get to the end only to hear that our princess is in another castle.”

“That’s why I’m here,” Jen says. “I’m going to give you a Hulk-sized distraction.”

“And by that you mean…”

“You could pirouette through the front gate in your birthday suit and no one would even glance in your direction.”

“I think you underestimate the power of my birthday suit.”

“I… think if I respond to that I might create a hostile work environment. Trish may have been my first girl-crush.”

“That… was probably the sweetest come-on I’ve heard in a long while.”

“I just, I mean teen me would squee at getting to meet you.”

“And now-you?”

“Trying to keep professional distance. But open to coffee, maybe, once I’m no longer technically your employer. But for now- get in position. Your distraction’s coming right up.” She-Hulk jumps down to street level. Hellcat swings down, in the opposite direction.

The compound has a wall around it, large enough that guards with automatic rifles are posted on top of it. She-Hulk runs through one of the pillars, sending chunks of stone flying. The guards scramble in the direction of the collapse, only for another of the pillars to give as she runs through it.

We watch as Hellcat swings into the courtyard, and slips inside. She checks the specs she downloaded for the building, on which she’s highlighted to most likely room. She slips inside a room to avoid a guard. When one enters behind her from the opposite direction, she knocks him out, and drags him inside, pocketing his keycard.

Hellcat slinks down the hall, then down some stairs. She finds a locked door where she expected the records to be. Because I’d kind of like to give Hellcat a moment in the sun, I’d make it a guard room, instead; so she has to have a quick, John Wickian fightscene in the confines of the monitor/guard supply room, using her tools and what’s around to fight off a half-dozen guards, using the confined space to her advantage. On the opposite end of the room there’s another door, this one leading into the storage she was looking for.

The room is larger than she expected, with wall to wall cabinets. Hellcat calls Jen over an earpiece. “Found it. But there’s a lot more in here than I planned for. How long can your distraction keep them occupied?”

Cut to She-Hulk, who is essentially juggling mercenaries in the air. “The tough part is mostly keeping them from hurting themselves or each other.” Another arrives, and fires off a shot. She kicks her shoe off with enough force that it knocks him back into a wall, struggling to breath.

Back with Hellcat. She finds two extra heavy duty cabinets- high tech, almost alien looking. “I think I’ve found the important stuff. You think you can carry out two cabinets?’

“Drop me a pin.” She-Hulk smashes her way inside. Hellcat shows her the fancy cabinets, and she tucks one under each arm. “See you back at the office,” she says, and then jumps away.

There’s a knock on the door at Nelson and Murdock. It’s night. The DA walks in. “This better be good, Karen. I only came because of your help in the Fisk case. Don’t make me regret it.”

“You won’t,” Karen says, leading them into the conference room.

Foggy is there, with documents spread out over the conference table. “As you may not be aware, my firm is suing Fisk Industries for predatory lending practices, monopolistic practices, and fraud, amongst other things, related to his development projects in Hell’s Kitchen. As part of routine discovery, his lawyers delivered 13 boxes of documents, 13, on a manifest with only 12. We only realized the error after our staff had spent hours perusing the documents, including how they linked to our case I suspect the manifest implies they intended to omit documents that should have been handed over, and either someone in their offices made a mistake or had a fit of conscience. Now, it is my legal opinion, as an officer of the court, that it is my duty to turn these documents over to your office where they seem to be part of a criminal conspiracy, and I’m going to stress that as soon as this information is understood to be in our possession, steps will likely be taken to remove incriminating evidence or goods. Act now, or I might as well be giving you really itchy toilet paper- but if you act now, I’m likely talking to the next Mayor of New York.”

Finally, we cut to Kingpin, sleeping peacefully. He’s woken by a phone call. He’s largely unconcerned, because as he explains it, “Even if they managed to take sensitive documents, they’ll have no provenance, no chain of custody. They won’t be able to prove they haven’t printed them up themselves, no legal way to tie them to our operations. Of course. Deal with it in your way.”

Kingpin hangs up, then goes to a wall safe, and opens it, to check for something. It can be a McGuffin, or something related to Vanessa. It’s there, and safe.

Suddenly, we’re watching him through his security cameras. Before he shuts the safe, the camera goes to static. As he passes through them and off camera, they go off, one by one, until he lays in his bed. The footage of him opening his safe plays again, and we see a zoom as he inputs in his passcode 71967; it’s Black Cat, hacked into his security feed, watching his cameras on the smart lenses embedded in her domino mask.

“You’ve got the papers?” she asks, turning to Spider-Man.

“Picked them up from Murdock myself. Is… this okay?”

“Cold feet? Maybe booties aren’t the right footwear for a New York night.”

“I know he hurt you. Hurt a lot of people. But we’re framing him.”

“No. We’re just putting evidence of his crimes somewhere it will actually connect back to him. But if you don’t want to, I can finish the job myself.”

He exhales. “No. You’re right. He’s only out and hurting people based on technicalities, gaming the system. Just like he gamed me to hurt you. That’s more than enough reason to do this.”

They sneak inside. Felicia opens the safe, and they place documents and stolen items inside, enough that it would barely fit, if one of the papers weren’t blocking the lock- the kind of mistake you could understand someone making late at night.

They sneak out again. On the roof, Felicia bypasses one alarm, which she’s marked, “Security Company.” On another, she’s marked, “Police,” and trips that alarm.

Cut to cops arriving at Kingpin’s. He answers the door in silly underwear. “Everything’s fine, officers, fine. I have no need of assistance.” He sees that his safe is mysteriously open, and then that it’s filled with things he didn’t put there.

“Listen, sir, I’m going to need you to let me inside? We have reports of a break-in. I’m going to need to see ID, and make sure you aren’t the perp trying to bluff me.”

Kingpin’s face falls. He knows he’s lost. “It’s all right, officer. I can vouch for Mr. Fisk’s Identity.” It’s the DA. Kingpin shakes their hand, and identifies them by name, even thanking them for showing. “I’m sorry, Wilson, but you don’t understand the situation. I’m not the cavalry riding in- at least not for your side. I’m here with a warrant, to search the premises.” They hand him a folded piece of paper.

“This is absurb,” Kingpin howls. “I thought these pointless raids ended for good after I made sizeable contributions to the fraternity of police and your election campaign.”

“Wilson. Call your lawyer. He’ll tell you what I’m about to. Shut up. This is happening. All you can do is make things worse by talking.”

Relatively quick cuts. Cops finding the open safe. Cops locating stolen goods, taking pictures, collecting it in evidence bags. Kingpin perp-walked out the front door.

Cut to daytime, his lawyer speaking to reporters. “My client has been framed. It is obvious that jealous elements within the state are seeking a reason to embarrass and harass my client. But he is a strong, proud New Yorker. We don’t cower from a fight- we fight!”

We’re back in She-Hulk’s offices, but this time the entire crew is assembled. “He’d likely win, too,” Daredevil says. “The evidence they have, right now, is circumstantial. Possession might be 9/10 of the law, but it’s not 9/10s of a stolen goods conviction. And right now he has the full faith of the power structures of New York, businesspeople, politicians. We’re going to make all of them feel vulnerable- and make sure they all blame Fisk.

“Frank and I have scouted out the drug operation. We’re hitting it tonight. By morning, every criminal for a hundred miles is going to worry about everything they’ve ever stashed.”

She-Hulk takes over. “The rest of you will be hitting this facility. It was originally run by S.H.I.E.L.D.- they were going to start building helicarriers here in New York, until Hydra hijacked the first three in Washington. When the project disbanded, Fisk bought the property. Thanks to Ms. Hogarth, Mr. Nelson and Ms. Paige, we’ve connected the dots that it’s where Fisk has been storing stolen and contraband goods. Every time a blaster gets dropped in a fight, every piece of tech the Chitauri left behind, scrap from all those Ultron drones, Stark tech stolen during the Armor Wars, you name it, he’s been stockpiling it- even bought up the Vulture’s operation when Toomes went to prison. They’ve been supplying every hood on the seaboard with exotic weapons. It is a heavily fortified base. We have to fight our way in, and open the bay doors; they installed the doors, but not the pumps that keep the base dry- so it will flood in a matter of minutes. Should be enough time for Kingpin’s people to evacuate, but nowhere near enough time to move all the contraband or stolen tech. Questions?” Spider-Man raises his hand, and waits to be called on, which she does, obviously annoyed.

“Is it too late to change our minds and go with the Punisher, instead?”

“Yes,” Luke snaps. “But none of you have to come, if you don’t want to. This is an all-volunteer army. I won’t hold it against anyone who doesn’t think it’s worth the risk. Anyone who doesn’t want to, can leave, right now.” It’s uncomfortable, because he’s kind of peer-pressuring them.

“Anyone who doesn’t want to come tonight, just don’t show,” Iron Fist says. “No pressure. We all fight for our own reasons. And we choose when not to for our own reasons, too. Luke, can I talk to you after this?”

The rest, save for Jessica, file out, later.

“I want you to be straight with me. I’ve let you go this far implying I was funding your little operation. But I’m not about to watch you emotionally blackmail kids into doing your dirty work.”

“Kids? Spider-Man’s like thirty. He’s just got a thyroid problem or something.”

“Cut the jokes. Who’s your benefactor?” Luke remains tight-lipped. “You get anything?” he asks, looking to Jessica.

Luke’s eyes open wide. “Same Jessica. Lying. Manipulating.”

“Don’t. My job is finding out what other people are hiding. I may not have volunteered, but you never asked if Danny wanted me to probe. You’re the one hiding things. Deliberately. Even now.”

“Condition of our contract. Our benefactor demanded anonymity until the end of the job.”

“Then how do you know it’s not just a rival crimelord?”

“Because I’ve been the rival crimelord. And because I did my homework- or, I hired Trish to do it for me.”

“Et tu…”

“She hasn’t killed a wife of mine, yet, Jess.”

“That’s… messed up.”

“It is. This is messed up. I’m in love with you… but I can’t trust you.”

“Yeah. Lot of that going around.”

Luke hits a button on the intercom. “Trish?”

Hellcat enters. “I was thorough. Patient. Luke’s been putting this together for months, so I had time to do it right. He’s clean. Maybe a little eccentric. But show me a billionaire who isn’t, and within a day I’ll tell you what kind of kinks he’s hiding in his closet- and the more zeroes the stranger it’s going to be.”

“So how strange is he?” Jessica asks.

“Stranger than Xavier or Spector, but not as strange as Stark.”

“But he’s clean?”

“No underworld ties. Not so much as a parking ticket- he’s got a driver, but still. He squeaks.”

“And let’s not forget,” Luke interjects, “even if he didn’t, this is the Kingpin. He’s wounded. But we’re taking our shot. We can’t miss. Or he’ll be more dangerous and less vulnerable than ever before.”



Spider-Man/Black Cat Break into Kingpin’s condo, leaving stolen valuables from his deposit box




Luke, Jessica, Hawkeyes, Iron Fist, Colleen Wing, Misty Knight Break into Kingpin’s armory. It includes piles of Chitauri gear, and tech from every villain and supervillain (and a few heroes), including some surplus Iron Man/Ultron tech. Basically, when Vulture’s operation was busted up by Spider-Man, it was bought up and better funded by Kingpin.
Daredevil/Punisher Fight their way through a facility. But first they destroy their vehicles, so they can’t move any equipment or drugs. Daredevil’s job is to flush them out, Frank’s is to prevent anyone from taking anything of value, and for that he uses bean-bag rounds. “This is Frank Castle. This facility is rigged to blow. You have just enough time to get to safe distance if you run. Now. Try to take anything, and I’ll put you down. Try to stay and fight, and my pointy-headed friend will make you regret it. I want you to live through this, because I want you to get the word out- Kingpin can’t protect you- he can’t even protect himself.”


I imagine we’ll do a bit of an Ocean’s 11 Riff, as a framing device we have them discuss the plan, occasionally intercutting that, but then go into it actually happening.

We start at the front door. Luke and Iron Fist argue with Colleen and Misty because no one thought about how they’d actually break in- they should have brought Black Cat, or at least a She-Hulk to smash it down. Suddenly, a USB arrow, like the one from the Avengers, fires into the door, and it opens. “Why do you even have that?” Kate asks him.

“I don’t know. Ask Nick Fury.”

“You know you could have walked it over here, right?” Iron Fist asks. It’s probably too much to have him do the hand on the elbow raised fist gesture (and might be duplicating the joke from earlier by Jessica, too)… but I’d at least consider it.

They enter, and from here on in it’s a lot of fighting. It’s also an opportunity to play around with any tech we want to from previous films that might be fun, so the Shocker gauntlets, or what have you. It’s also an opportunity, if Sony wants, to have some proto villain gear show up. For the sake of synergy with the Spider-Verse movie, I’d probably have Tombstone running security. He’s probably tough enough to take on most of the heroes we brought along on his lonesome, especially with random baddies plinking away. If they’re along for the ride, during the fight, Spider-Man and Black Cat infiltrate and open the bay doors, turning it from a fight to a fight in an underground facility that’s flooding!

Meanwhile, likely intercut, Daredevil and Punisher are back at the drug facility. It starts with a bang, as Punisher blows up all of the vehicles in the parking lot, including a bunch of panel vans used for transport.

Frank comes over the loudspeakers in the joint with a message: “This is Frank Castle. Some of you call me the Punisher. This facility is rigged to blow. You have just enough time to get to safe distance if you run. Now. Try to take anything, and I’ll put you down. Try to stay and fight, and my pointy-headed friend will make you regret it.” We show Daredevil dropping down on one end of the place. “I want you to live through this, because I want you to get the word out- Kingpin can’t protect you- he can’t even protect himself.”

Daredevil gets essentially a supersized version of his hallway fight as he takes on the stragglers, some armed. And Frank, true to his word, is posted at the exit. He shotguns the first mook to try to run with a brick of drugs. He shotguns another, who was raising a gun, as several more scurry past. He turns, shotgunning one of them, who draws a gun and was going to try to shoot him in the back. This one, however, we pause on, as one of the others helps him to his feet. Frank’s using bean-bag rounds. If we need to sell this harder to make it fit within his character, we can make it a primarily trafficked workforce- people who didn’t want to work for Kingpin, so Frank doesn’t mind letting them live.

Eventually, Daredevil bursts out as the last few flee, limping. “That everybody?” Frank asks. Daredevil listens, and confirms theirs are the only heartbeats left in the facility. Then he asks about the safe distance. “Safe distance is right about here,” he points at their feet, before hitting a detonator. The explosion is relatively tame and contained; the point was destroying the facility, its equipment, and the drugs.

We have kind of an afterparty, similar to the party at the beginning. Clint Barton sidles up to Frank. “I heard you managed to go a whole day without killing anybody.”

“Day’s not over yet, Avenger,” Frank growls, but is mostly messing with him.

“Boys,” Kate says, putting an arm around either of them, before immediately backing off, “nope, immediately regretted both ‘boys’ and the contact.”

“So what’s it like, having a sidekick?” Frank chides.

“You want her, you can have her,” Clint says. Kate is offended in a cartoonishly over the top fashion, but our attention is drawn by Cage clanging on a glass.

Luke seems like he’s about to give another speech, but instead he tells them their benefactor wanted to introduce himself. Now, this particular reveal relies on having access to Sony properties. You could use Victor Von Doom as a backup, or maybe build out someone else; if we need to be creative we could always use Ezekiel Stane. If Sony is willing to play some but not all ball, you could use Silver Sable, too.

But my preference would be that Luke introduces them to their mysterious benefactor, none other than this universe’s Norman Osborne. I’d have him played by Willem Defoe, because that would twist the knife further for Spider-Man- since the last time he saw Norman he was trying to stab him with his own glider for murdering Aunt May. Peter’s unnerved, maybe even freaks out a little, say, webbing Norman’s hand to his chair. “Wait. You don’t understand, he’s-”

“Evil?” Norman asks with a smile. “They say no one can amass billions of dollars without being evil. But I give to the poor. I provide my innovations to poorer countries at cost. I daresay my record as a philanthropist is more sterling than Tony Stark’s.” Peter is incensed, but Norman reacts in a human way, “I’m sorry. I know some of you knew him, and while at times I viewed Tony as a business rival, I also appreciate everything he did, for all of us. After all, he brought my son back to me.” We introduce our new Harry Osborne, who, yes, was blipped.

“Harry?” Peter asks quietly.

“I paid you, handsomely, to deal with Kingpin. He was a blemish, a distortion, injuring commerce and enterprise in the greatest city in the world- all due respect to the Golden City. And I don’t know if Luke told you- I asked him not to, because I wanted to, but as a bonus for eliminating Fisk, I’m granting each of you a full-ride scholarship to the school of your choosing, good for any of you to use, to grant to your children, sidekicks, a loved one, or to give to someone in need. Whatever rise in the cost of school, for my lifetime, I will cover all expenses for a four year degree. And if any of you are scientifically minded, I’ll pay for a doctorate- provided you consider interning at Oscorpe after you graduate. I’ve taken the liberty, too, of making sure that any taxable benefits will be compensated for, as well, so you won’t need to worry about paying that out of pocket. You’ve done something extraordinary, for New York, for the country, and for capitalism- and it’s because I’m a capitalist that I believe so strongly in compensating a job well done.”

Later, Spider-Man and Black Cat sit on the top of the Oscorpe Tower. “You remember how we met?” he asks.

“I remember you were… depressed.”

“My aunt died, the woman who raised me. Norman Osborne killed her. But not that Norman Osborne. This one was evil, unhinged after being exposed to a chemical agent in a different universe. Maybe this one is like Mr. Stark. Maybe he’s just trying to do the right thing.”

“But you don’t think so?”

“I tried to help him- to cure him. That’s why he was close enough- he got close enough to hurt May because of me.”

“You can’t save everyone.”

“No. But May taught me you got to try.”

“She sounds like she was a great lady. I’m sad I’ll never get to meet her.”

She’s trying to comfort him, but it lands wrong. “Would you have? You don’t even want to know my real name. You don’t even want to see me with the mask off. Is any of this real to you?” His heart’s breaking; he isn’t attacking her, but feeling, in this moment, that he gave up everything to be Spider-Man, and he’s only this second realizing that a relationship with a woman who only wants to be with Spider-Man isn’t enough.

She pulls off his mask, and helps him peel away her domino mask. “I’ve known who you were since the first night we met, Peter. I haven’t been hiding you behind a mask, afraid you wouldn’t measure up- I’ve been hiding me, afraid that I wouldn’t, that if I dropped the sex kitten act… you could never be satisfied with just Felicia Hardy. Because I love you, and this is so real it terrifies me.”

“Felicia,” he cradles her cheek in his hand, “I love you, too.” They kiss.

Roll credits. Mid-credits scene: Matt Murdock is waiting in a bar. Frank Castle rolls up, and sits down. “Might as well call them over. I clocked them from the door.” They’re joined by Hawkeye and Nick Fury, who sit down with him. Hawkeye sets a beer down in front of Frank.

Daredevil says, “I didn’t become a preacher for a lot of reasons, but most important is I was never comfortable preaching, but I’ll say this: what we do, and especially what you do, Frank, it’s hard. It takes a toll. And if you let it, it will eat you. And I worry, not for your soul, but for what happens to Frank Castle when he’s hollowed out, when he stops caring, when he stops being careful. We might not agree on a lot, but I think we both never want you to kill someone you didn’t mean to.”

Frank glares bullets, before picking up his beer. “I can drink to that.”

“Settle a bet,” Hawkeye says, talking to Fury. “Natasha swore up and down you had a Doomsday plan, for a rogue state like Latveria, or if Ultron had tried to take and hold Sokovia. Basically, the idea was you rev up Hulk and this guy,” he points at Frank, “and drop them at opposite ends of the territory.”

“Never happened,” Fury says confidently, but somewhat quieter, somewhat mischievous, adds, “so far as you know,” before taking a swig. We go back to credits.

Another mid-credits scene. Luke arrives home, to find Jessica sitting in the dark, waiting for him.

“Jess-”

“I owe you an apology. A lifetime of them, probably.”

“I’m not looking for apologies. I’m looking for a way to trust you. I want to. I know I shouldn’t but…”

“No,” she says, standing up. “You shouldn’t.” She kisses his cheek. “But I hope I can change that.” She walks out, and we resume credits.

We start in close, Norman Osborne’s reflection as he looks out over the city at night. We hear a sinister voice, one that should at least hark back to his Goblin voice. “You think they bought it?”

“Why wouldn’t they? I’m not some thug. I’m a respected industrialist and inventor. If anything I remind them of Stark.”

“You think any of them suspect it?”

“I think the blind lawyer must. They say he can tell a liar by his heart rate. Then again, he wouldn’t be the first polygraph I beat.”

We pull back, enough to see in the reflection a shadowy, cloaked figure who could be the Green Goblin. “Then the appropriate question is are you ready to take over New York’s underworld?”

Osborne turns. “I’m not, Parker. You are. Which is why this is the last time you and I will be in the same room together.”

We finally turn to see our next villain. “Parker Robbins is gone. Call me the Hood.”

MCU ’22 Pitch 6: Young Avengers 2: Along Came A Spider

The Deal: I pitch movies set in the Marvel or DC cinematic universes. Also other things. This pitch is a direct sequel to Young Avengers 1.

The Pitch: Miles is our POV character. Peter, in costume, drops Miles off at Kate’s condo, which is being used as a headquarters for the Young Avengers (we can sub in Eli’s place from the Cap show, if that’s preferable- it could be fun to have granddad rattling around being crotchety, but also there as a cautionary tale- and I imagine the bushy-tailed optimism of Peter would contrast hilariously with his worst-case-scenario realism). Miles feels like he’s being dropped off at a babysitter’s. Peter mentions his uncle Aaron reaching out after his accident, and him seeming like an okay dude; now he feels sorry about ruining his ice cream.

Ms. Marvel, the old new girl (nobody counts Black Widow, who most of them assume is a plant from the older Avengers to keep an eye on them, a babysitter, essentially) introduces him around; “Personally, I like her. Before Yelena got here, everyone assumed I was Carol’s spy. But it’s not just that she’s taken my place as the team’s assumed narc- she’s actually really cool once you get to know her. She’s got a big, lovable dork side, you just have to be patient enough for her to show it to you.”

We follow Yelena as Miles and Ms. Marvel continue the tour. She moves like a spy, surreptitiously glancing behind herself as she makes her way outside, where she says, “I feel like babysitter. I don’t change poopy underoos.” She meets with a man we won’t recognize, yet (unless he does show up in Iron Man 4/the Riri Williams show), but he’s Ezekiel Stane, Obadiah’s son.

“Something stinks here. Dad wasn’t always the, uh, most ethical businessman, but his intel was always on point. Stark left these kids a lot of money and a lot of tech, tech that, frankly, didn’t belong to him to give away. Sure, he invented some of it. But so did my dad, and his teams, and researchers like me. But unlike dad, it’s never been my style to go off-half-cocked. That’s why I’ve got you watching them, so I know what we’re up against.”

“You are at least half a cock,” she tells him. He legitimately can’t tell if her English is screwy or if she’s screwing with him (I have my theories…).

We cut to Kate telling Teddy she kind of set something up for him, through Clint, calling in a favor. Kate was talking to Nadia, his mom, and she seemed to imply that she and Emil hadn’t been intimate since he was irradiated, and, now that she’s got him on hold she realizes maybe this is the kind of thing she should have asked Teddy about first but she’s got his birth father on the line and it’s probably already rude to have kept him on the line this long while she spirals, so she connects him to Bruce Banner (depending on how game Ruffalo is it could just be a phone appearance), or we could do video, hologram, etc. (Also, why doesn’t everyone call Ruffalo Hulk Buffalo?).

“Doctor Banner?” she asks awkwardly.

“Hello? Clint wouldn’t tell me what this was about. Is this one of those sick kid things?”

“Well, he is a kid, and he’s green, so…”

“Green? Oh. I’m not sure what you’ve heard, but my condition mostly keeps me from, uh, that.”

“I, er, Clint mentioned some, uh, difficulties,” Kate winces.

“Not the conversation I pictured meeting my biodad,” Teddy also winces.

“But you remember Mrs. Blonsky?” Kate asks.

“Blonsky, Blonsky. Oh, crap. Nadia. Nadia Blonsky. Oh… we connected after what happened to Emil. I was trying to help him out. Get control. At least get him to start wearing pants- it was seriously riling their neighbors. Nadia was really sweet. Loved Emil, but… it hurt her, what he’d become. We were working together, under constant threat of discovery by SHIELD, or one of his mood swings. She always told me her son was Emil’s.”

“That’s… uh, not what she told me. So, uh, Dr. Banner, this is Teddy.” They both give a kind of awkward, broken smile and a half-wave and hold it. “Okay, I can totally see the resemblance right now.”

“Kate,” Wiccan says, pushing her towards the door, “remember that conversation we had about how it stops being help past a point, so you really need to make an earlier exit?”

“Yeah, but I still have trouble realizing when- oh, you mean now,” she finishes as the door shuts in her face.

“I, uh, don’t know if you might be interested in some pizza,” Eli says to Kate. At the mention, Lucky the Pizza Dog bounds into the room, her leash in her mouth.

“You said the ‘P’ word- but not any of the usual ones. So we’ll definitely have to get her one. I don’t know if I should… or I might have to let out my costume, or at least abuse some Pym particles.”

“How about we agree to go for a run to jog it off after?” At the suggestion, Lucky gets even more excited.

“I have to go with you, now. Contractually obligated. You do not want to see her disappointed.” Kate scritches Lucky.

They pass by Miles and Ms. Marvel, and we stay with them. “I, uh, heard a rumor that your, uh, boss, I guess, went out with my Spider, er, mentor?”

“Yeah, she flew him across a battlefield once, which, I guess is sort of the superhero equivalent of aerial spooning. She said it was like cradling a slightly large baby.”

“He’s definitely not the largest Avenger,” Miles agrees.

“But no. Didn’t happen. And even if it had, it’s not like the two of them making out would mean we would have to make out through some weird superhero transitive property.”

“Uh,” he freezes.

“I mean, we could, if you’re bored or something.”

“Uh.” He is broken. She has broken Miles.

“I am messing with you. But it’s… actually not any fun when you’re this gullible, like punting an exceptionally vulnerable baby, like drop-kicking a baby Kal-El swaddled in a kryptonite diaper.”

“Thank God. My Spider-Sense was going insane.”

“You don’t call it your Miles Tingle?”

“No. Why?”

“Just what I heard.”

“I actually was trying to figure out how to broach that…”

“Troubling segue, but go on. Absolutely worst-case I slap you with phenomenal cosmic power.”

“In our itty bitty living space?” They share a conspiratorial smile, before Miles blurts this all out very fast. “Okay, so I am an anxious bundle of radioactive puberty. I have to carry my laptop in front of my lap between every other class because I wasn’t in control of my body before I was mutated and half of the reason I wear a mask is because I am constantly making horrified and stupid faces, even as I try to hide my nerves by telling jokes like Peter… Serafinowicz, the live-action Tick guy, I am a , uh, super big fan.”

“Okay, that was… that was a lot. I think it would be easier for us to make out than try to deal with all of that?”

“Really?”

“No. I was just stalling for time. But I will tell you something true: we are all in over our heads. All of us Young Avengers. We are trying to fill shoes that… aren’t fillable. I’m never going to be Carol. You’ll never be Peter… Serafinowicz. Riri will never be Tony Stark. But you can be Miles. And I can be me. And if all of us are the best ‘us’es we can be, hopefully that’ll be enough. And… if it’s not, at least we’ll get to face those who fell before us with our heads up high, and we’ll fail amongst friends.”

They pass by Yelena, who was listening, and it gives her pause.

“You’re not developing a case of feelings on me, are you Belova?” we hear from her earpiece; it’s Stane, watching her on hacked security cameras.

She holds her thumb up between her pointer and ring fingers in a fist (it’s called a Shish) at the camera and says, “Stuff your half-cock.” She tears the wiring out of the back of the camera, before noticing she is no longer alone. “I don’t like Big Brother.”

“I don’t like mine, either,” it’s Speed. “Just because he got the cooler name, and the cooler costume, and the more versatile power-set, doesn’t make him better. His hair might. I am jealous of his hair, just a little- not the color, just what he can do with it. I didn’t actually know you had an older brother; everybody knows about Black Widow, obviously, I can’t forget a woman in a catsuit. God bless whoever invented the catsuit-“ he’s gone and back in a flash, “Andre Courreges, apparently.”

“It’s expression,” Yelena says, somewhat annoyed by him. “From 1984. Orwell?”

“Never re-” he’s gone and back again, “read it, and bleak. But I totally get why you hate Big Brother. Seems like a knob. Speaking of… Riri tends not to take kindly to us destroying her cameras, our torrenting on her supercomputers or microwaving fish in the communal microwave. Or maybe it’s just me she’s got a problem.”

“It isn’t,” Riri says from the doorway. “I would have a problem with anyone doing those things. You just are the only person who does literally everything that pisses me off. It’s uncanny, and impressive. But Blonde Widow, if you want, I can have you black-listed from the cameras; they’ll turn off when they see you. But otherwise we need our security operating on all cylinders.”

“Then you need to secure your network,” Yelena says, squaring to Riri. This is a tense moment. Yelena’s new, so is Riri, both trying to live up to a legacy that would crush a lesser person; but Riri is better than Tony. She doesn’t see a rival- she sees an opportunity.

You are a spy,” she says, beaming. “Plenty of companies hire people like you to find the holes in their security. You should do that for us. I know we’re both… kind of the new girls, around here. I want to show the older Young Avengers I can pull my own weight. And… what better way than to show that we can work as a team just as well as they can?”

Yelena’s touched. Her entire story to this point has been searching for belonging, so having someone reach out to her, even in this small way… it’s a big moment. Yelena follows Riri back to her lab. Yelena’s kind of impressed; Riri has taken apart some really beefy weapons (like a Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifle), and Yelena makes an idle comment about wanting some armor of her own. Riri admits she’s been thinking along those lines- she never really understood why Tony didn’t build armor for everybody. Certainly a Hulk might not get much benefit, but imagine Hawkeye’s aim but with the draw-strength of an Iron Man suit. There’s the issue, maybe, of putting too many eggs in one basket- maybe if there’s a single technological vector that can be attacked the Avengers would be too vulnerable, but systems could be designed completely independently, if that’s the concern. She thinks Tony just liked being the only Iron Man- War Machine notwithstanding- that he needed to feel special. “I think I’m damaged in the other direction; I don’t know if I could handle knowing someone on my team got hurt, and I could have prevented it if not for my pride.”

“And you start with me?” This question is more dangerous than it appears at first blush; on the one hand, Yelena is pleased to be included, but on the other, Riri could be intimating she sees Yelena as a weak link.

But Riri is smarter than she is, smart enough to see the interpersonal pothole and step gracefully over it. “You asked,” she says with a smirk, that both says that she brought it up to begin with, and she’s not about to get pulled into drama like that. “So what can you tell me about spying?”

“Spying is the art of discovering what everyone is hiding.”

“And what are you hiding?” Riri asks.

“Lots of things. All of the things I did in service to the Red Room. Most of the things I did training to join the Red Room. Almost everything I did after leaving. How I feel about most of these… children around us; I feel like recruit to Mickey Mouse Club. Come along, sing a song, join the jamboree.”

“You’re not hiding that last one so well,” Riri says with a smile. “But I hear you. I thought some of the same things, when I first heard about them. I was special- a prodigy- as worthy a successor as Tony Stark was likely ever to find. Then I started pulling down footage of their fights, their work. There are no kid gloves, here; a terrorist or an alien dictator decide you’re not going to stop him, and he doesn’t stop and ask if you’re an old-looking fifteen or a young-looking twenty-something, he just tries to kill you. And yeah, sometimes I wonder if Speed and Teddy have two brain cells between them to rub together.”

“I thought it was Hulkling and Wiccan who rub together.”

“You’re messing with me, aren’t you?”

“I am,” she says, pleased with herself.

“But watch them in a fight. When the chips are down. When someone they care about is in danger, or just when they know they can make a difference. It can be a lot, I’m not going to lie- pimples, puberty and, er-”

“Premature ejaculation. Last Action Hero! Good line, great movie. Schwarzenegger can be really funny.”

“So why did you join the Young Avengers?”

“Nyet. Too harsh. Bonding? Good. Excellent. My guard comes down, I don’t think of you as coworker, or powersuit woman. I think ‘friend.’ But you must ease in, like, almost, seduction.”

“I’m serious, Yelena. I wasn’t certain I belonged here, at first, so I get that inclination. But I also got over it. And I get the sense that isn’t you. And I’m not asking because I’m assessing the level of threat you pose, I’m asking because I want to get to know you, Yelena, the person.”

Very nice execution. I am Russian, we do not trust easy, but you I want to trust.”

Riri touches her hand. “You don’t have to tell me now, or even ever. But if you ever want to, Yelena, I want to be a friend.” She lets her go, and we see a pensive Yelena, and we see her make the choice to open up.

“I felt I owed it to my sister. We had so little time, but I knew she wanted me to find something of my own, a family, like she found.”

“I thought the two of you reconnected with your… adoptive folks.”

“Eh. I love Alexei as far as you love something so stupid. And I love Melina as much as you can love someone so manipulative; I want family with no asterisk-”

“Or without feeling like having one is exposing your ass to risk? None of our families are perfect, but it’s hard to beat the family you forge yourself. Not based on proximity, or genetic happenstance, but who wants to be with you, who cares about you, and who sticks through.”

“I think that’s what Natasha wanted. Hawkguy told me she died to save me. She wanted to be there for me, but when she couldn’t… I think this is where she would want me to be, so I’m trying to be here.”

At a pizzeria down the street, Hawkeye walks through a crowd balancing three slices of pizza. She gives one to Eli, one to Lucky, and then sits down with the third herself. “I’m jealous,” he says.

“Of my jalapeno-pepperoni-olive? You should be, it’s really good.”

“No. You got to work with Clint. I’d… I’d give about anything for a chance to suit up with granddad. I still can’t tell him this is what I do… he’d… absolutely crap adamantium bullets- and I don’t just mean the ones Winter Soldier shot into him in the eighties.”

“It was…” I’d probably sizzle-reel from the show, but Kate recognizes the moment, and tones down her own excitement, “okay. Was that why you wanted to get pizza?”

Eli’s caught flat-footed. “I definitely didn’t do it because I want to spend time with you as a person.”

“Okay,” she says, putting together what’s happening, “so I’m definitely unhappy to be spending time with you as a person, too. And if you want you can even have a bite of my slice. The pizza, not- I’m just going to suggest we never talk again, do whatever we can never to be in the same room. Maybe I should go be a West Coast Avenger, and you can handle this coast.”

“Part of what I like about spending time with you is your uncanny ability to say the wrong thing in every situation, but always in a way that leaves me feeling good.”

“I’m relieved I make you feel good- okay, I’m just, I’m not talking anymore.”

We cut to a rooftop, where Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel land gracefully. “Nobody around here likes to patrol,” she says. “Apparently they expect Kang to just ring the doorbell. I mean, technically he did, last time, but still.”

“Patrolling is probably the only thing about this that I like,” Miles says. “I mean, some of that is that literally everything else there’s a good chance there’s a psychopath who wants to murder me, likely because of something Peter, um, a lot of people really take loving or hating Peter Serafinowicz very seriously. I once had to kick Morbious through an Apple store over an argument about Shaun of the Dead.”

“You know I know his actual name, right? I mean, you absolutely need to tamp it down. But your Serafinowicz dodge isn’t fooling anyone. And I even really dig the guy. He was the fun kind of odd in Running Wilde.”

“I’m going to, uh, hang upside-down for a little. It’s a Spider-Man thing. It’s not a shame-hang.”

She leans down to talk to him. “Buddy?”

“I told you, it’s not a shame hang.”

“Good. Because like I said earlier, all any of us can be is the best us possible. You’re a wide-eyed little goof who has trouble keeping his mouth shut; you’re going to have a lot of fun with Speed, when he’s not being a tempestuous jerk. And I’m sure Peter Serafinowicz, wherever he is right now, is proud of the Spider-Man you are right now, and even more proud of the Spider-Man you’re going to grow into.”

“You, uh, you want to do an upside-down Spider-Man kiss?”

“It’s definitely on my bucket list. But watching Teddy and Billy, I know what I don’t want. I don’t want to ever worry that my personal life could wreck being a part of this team. They fit together like they were designed to, like I could never even imagine one without the other. So yeah, at some point, I want to have an upside-down kiss- not necessarily with a Spider-Man- but only with someone who really means it, and isn’t just a roiling ball of hormonal angst.”

“I’m not sure I’m ever going to not be that.”

“Then you and Speed are going to be very fast friends.”

“I see what you did.”

“In the meantime, might I suggest a cold shower for your mouth.”

“I… am confused.”

“Ice cream. I meant us getting ice cream, and bringing it back to share with everyone.”

“Okay, that makes sense.”

“Wishing you had your laptop right now?”

“Only all the time.”

We cut back to Teddy, Billy and Speed, watching TV and snacking. “I think Kate likes me,” Speed says, zipping from one side of the room to the other as he eats from several different plates of food.

“I thought you were into Yelena,” Teddy says.

“I think they both like me.”

“What’s not to like?” Billy asks. “You’re arrogant.”

“You ate all the bugels,” Teddy complains.

“There’s always more bugels,” Speed says, returning with a full bowl.

“Withdrawn. And that is pretty cool.”

“I teleported you to Tibet to watch your favorite band play,” Billy complains.

“That was also cool. And I’m also not interested in getting in the middle of this outpouring of brotherly love.”

Speed sits down. “It’s not my fault all of you move at the speed of frozen molasses. By the time a girl even shows interest it’s like a romance shoe-horned into the end of the Lord of the Rings- the extra extra long version. I don’t care if you killed the Lich King on a technicality, we’ve barely said ten words together over the course of years.”

“Yeah, you really need to get out more,” Billy says.

“Slash stop hitting on our coworkers,” Teddy adds.

“Or, at least, you know, learn subtlety.”

“Oh, God, you want me to go slower,” Speed whines.

“No, we want you to stop treating girls like a slot machine, putting in a quarter, and pulling the arm and moving on if it doesn’t pay out immediately.”

“I need to get nachos.” Speed leaves the room.

“Too harsh?” Billy asks. Teddy holds up his fingers to say a bit.

Speed enters the kitchen, nearly running into Stature. “Oh, sorry, didn’t see you there,” he says.

“Yeah, I get that a lot. Usually when I’m half an inch tall…. but whatever.”

“No… I know what that’s like, feeling overlooked.”

“Yeah?”

“I know I can be… a lot. When I was younger, I’d find diaries or whatever of people around me and read them… because I wasn’t mature enough to understand the violation that was. It means I don’t have a lot of… illusions about how people see me, what it’s like to be around me. Sort of wish I did, but honestly even still I’d probably have come to the same kinds of conclusions, just less… conclusively. All of this is a circuitous way of me saying I’m sorry I made you feel small… and if we could, I’d really like to start over with you. Try to be a friend, first, and a teammate second, and someone who has potential for more only if and when you want to consider that.”

“I think I’d like that. But there’s one problem…” Stature starts to grow. Tommy’s eyes grow wide, and maybe for an instant in her shadow we see her becoming something with a different shape than Stature, before cutting away.

We cut back to the TV room, where Teddy and Billy are cuddling. They hear a crash from the kitchen. Teddy starts to get up, but Billy waves him off. “Let him take some of his frustrations out on our cookware.”

Kate and Eli arrives back home. Eli says, “I’m going to wash the sweat and pizza grease off.”

She frowns, and he sprints away for a shower. Kate rounds the corner into the kitchen, where a ticked looking Yelena is staring daggers at her. “I don’t like you,” she says.

“That’s not true. We had that whole awkward macaroni conversation.”

“I mean I am angry with you.”

“Oh. I get that. A lot.”

“Why you take Eli?”

“He took me out for pizza…”

“You know what I mean.”

“I’m not sure I do.”

“Do you even like him? God, this is so high school…”

“I don’t know, but I do know that’s not your business.”

“Then maybe I should make it my business. What is it? The gauntlet is thrown.”

“No,” Kate says. “There’s no gauntlet. Eli asked me out. You want to ask him out, it’s a free country.” As Kate’s about to leave the kitchen Yelena grabs her wrist, and we realize it’s about to get heated as we cut away.

Teddy’s phone goes off. Then Billy’s. It’s the alarm app that Riri built for them. Teddy growns. “Uggh. Hasn’t anyone told crime it’s not allowed to happen when I’m bloated from too many nachos?”

“Apparently crime didn’t leave a forwarding address. And you can shapeshift around your bloat.”

Teddy does, but still looks pained. “Sure, but I still feel bloated. And logy.” They look for everyone else, but can’t seem to find anyone. “Do you think this is revenge, because we’ve been on the couch all day?”

“Whatever it is, we can’t just not respond just because everyone else went out for pizza.” Lucky pads into the room, hopeful. “Nope. Sorry, girl; I’ll have to owe you.” The dog hangs her head, disappointed.

We pan through the floor, into Riri’s lab. Her helmet starts to make noise, and she silences it, as Yelena slides back into the lab. Yelena’s ticked off. “Everything okay?” Riri asks, barely looking up from her soldering.

Yelena lets out a frustrated sigh. “Feeling like I don’t belong,” she says.

“Oh?” Riri says, setting her tools down. “What happened?”

“It’s too high school…” she covers her face and sighs, before saying, “Hawkgirl went for pizza with Captain Junior.”

“There’s only one Hawkeye on the team, you can probably just call her that, and… you’ve got a thing for Eli?”

“Why not? I like the way he fits in suit.”

“Fills out.” Riri is starting to get suspicious; Yelena’s English is idiosyncratic, not outright bad, and she’s right, this is too highschool. “I’m not sure I get the appeal. Don’t get me wrong, he’s cute, but ‘Patriot.’ The name’s been problematic since at least they named a missile that. I could see Speed keeping up; right now he’s a puppy who hasn’t been house trained, but…”

“I don’t want to talk about your love life- I don’t even want to talk about mine.” Yelena uses her frustration as an excuse to close the distance.

Riri holds up a gauntleted had. “Stop it right there,” her gauntlet hums and glows. “I don’t know who the hell you are, but you aren’t Yelena. And you take one more step towards me-”

“Clever human,” the Super Skrull says, closing on her. She fires, and the Skrull shifts his chest into orange rock to absorb the shot. Riri manages to get her mask up, but he’s stretched his hand inside of her suit, covering her airways, essentially drowning her in his skin as we cut away.

Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel return, bearing ice cream. But there is no one there to eat the ice cream.

We cut away, where Billy and Teddy have responded to a call for help. There isn’t anyone there, so they’re discussing maybe making a date of it. Billy realizes they aren’t alone, and attacks a piece of furniture that turns back into a Skrull. “How did you-”

“With my mom, you kind of get used to staying vigilant about things that might not actually be there.”

“Roger.”

Yelena shows up at the mansion. She’s weirded out because everyone else besides Miles and Kamala are gone. “Not, like, walked out for a bite. But… just not here. I checked Riri’s recordings. Only Bill and Ted left like normal people.” They are bemused that she mentioned them as Bill and Ted, when in walks another Yelena. This one plays coy, says that the other Widow must be the imposter. It’s a humorous scene, because they know almost literally nothing about her, while both of them know a lot about Miles and Kamala. Eventually, Yelena speaks Russian, and the fake her tries, but her accent comes out pretty Boris and Natasha, and Kamala points out, “She’s speaking Klingon.” Miles had already gotten behind her, and zaps her, and the Super Skrull reveals himself and attacks. Big superhero kitchen fight.

They’re able to hold him off long enough for the others in Riri’s lab to wake up and escape, turning the tide. Super Skrull flees, leading them to Teddy and Wiccan, who are barely holding their own against a couple of seemingly normal Skrulls. They aren’t. They were just pretending.

Just to give it a little flavor, there’s Super Skrola Classic, who has Fantastic Four powers, an Avengers Super Skrull (this guy will likely be the biggest bruiser, with a Hulk Hand, a Thor Hand with his own Mjolnir, an Iron Man Unibeam in his chest, and just to make him extra nuts, he has two more sets of limbs, so he can wield a bow, Cap’s shield and a Widow bite) and an X-Men Super Skrull (to give the kids a fighting chance it’s the original five X-Men in their relatively underpowered days).

The kids take the Skrulls apart, and that’s when Super Skrull finally divulges the truth: Teddy is the son of Captain Marvel (the Kree Warrior) and a Skrull Prince. He originally brought Teddy there to be safe during the war between the Kree and Skrull, but his father sent him to fetch him, in the hopes that a Kree/Skrull royal would be able to help craft a peace where others could not. Kamala asks Hulkling if that makes them cousins or something, since he’s the son of the original Captain Marvel and she’s the sort of adoptive daughter, “Slash stalker” Speed adds unhelpfully of the second one.

Yelena says, “I believe we are found family.”

“That’s crazy,” we’re interrupted by Wiccan reacting to Hulkling. But Hulkling pulls him in close and intimate.

“Dude, I can’t just sit around eating bon bons while an intergalactic war I might plausibly be able to stop is going on.”

“I know. You’d get bloated, and you’d hate it.”

“You know what I mean. People are dying.”

“I’d die without you.”

“Then I guess you’ll have to come with me.”

We end on a gay kiss, as music swells, before we cut to black.

Beginning Credits Music. At first we can’t quite recognize it, because it’s kind of a distorted synthesizer version (perhaps playing with the start of the Baroque Hoedown). Riri leads the team inside, in a red and gold band leader uniform, and puts a blue sailor’s cap on Yelena. I’m otherwise not sure what’s funnier, but I think getting versions of classic Disney character costumes with open mouths for the actors’ faces to be visible through would be the best route.

Viv
Pluto
Patriot
Pete
Hawkeye
Daisy Duck
Wiccan
Timothy
Speed
3 Nephews/3 Pigs
Hulkling
Dumbo (Shapeshifting)
Ms. Marvel
Minnie Mouse
Riri
Mickey Mouse
Spider-Man (Miles)
Goofy
Stature
Jiminy Cricket

Riri leads them in a choreographed rendition of the Mickey Mouse Club theme. In the places where Donald insists that the song be about him, Yelena yells, “Donald Duck!” enthusiastically. Note, that while Hulkling shape-shifts into Dumbo, he shape-shifts himself into a Dumbo suit similar to the ones everyone else is wearing.

“I’m in Hell.” Yelena says during a pause in the singing. It might be going too far to have Yelena try to pull her sidearm and pull the trigger, only for Speed to replace it with a water pistol, so she sprays herself in the face instead and say, “Hell is surprisingly moist.” But I’m leaving it in here, because I can, and at least right now it’s amusing me.

Mid-Credits Scene: Stane is on the phone with Yelena. A black widow spider crawls into his palm. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s adorable that you’re catsuit-spy with a heart of golding this. But pulling your chute is not an option. I don’t care how much these brats are starting to fill the role of surrogate family for you. I paid you an ungodly amount of money. Widows aren’t cheap- but they will be, if screw this up. Your business, and more importantly, your sisters’ livelihood, is only as good as your reputation, and right now I’m holding it in the palm of my hand. So you complete the job, or I squeeze.” He closes his hand around the spider and makes a fist, before hanging up. Yelena, angry, perhaps even scared, stares hatefully forward.

We cut back to Stane’s hand. “You sure that’s wise?” a processed voice says. “You’re threatening a very dangerous creature.” We pull back, and can see that it’s Prowler, speaking to him. I’m not going to spoil much, but my thought was that it’s actually Miles’ cousin in the armor- that it belongs to his uncle, but in the next story we’re going to use his cousin, instead, in the Prowler armor.

“I’m not scared of some Russian spy.”

“I meant the spider. I don’t like spiders.”

“Black widows get a bad wrap. They can kill a child, or a sick adult, but to everyone else, they just cause pain. Pain I can handle.” He wipes the smeared spider on his clothes, and we see two puncture wounds in his palm before we cut away.

Pitchmas 2021, Part 5: Spider-Man and the Future Foundation

The Deal: I pitch movies set in the Marvel or DC cinematic universes. Also other things. This starts as a sequel-ish to Fantastic Four as I described it. If you don’t want to read that pitch, the gist is Doom has sullied their names, and they’re time-displaced from the 60s, broke and largely without any tech to their names- so they’re in a remarkably similar position to Spider-Man at the end of No Way Home. This is also being bumped up a few weeks, because of some timely casting thoughts (you’ll know them when you see them… unless you’re reading it even a few days later, then it may not be timely at all… insert your own Marvel pun here).

We start with Reed and Sue in bed. No, not like that. They’re sleeping. Reed mumbles a name in his sleep, then sits bolt upright. Sue asks him what’s wrong. “What’s a Peter Parker?” he asks.

Sue yawns. “I don’t know. Did he pick a peck of pickled peppers?”

Reed is using some kind of 3D hologram computer thing to search online. “I think that was Piper. Nothing on the internet- I mean, nothing useful– there are dozens of Peter Parkers in this borough, but… it’s a tickle in my brain. I can’t even describe it, let alone explain. But that name. It’s important, somehow.” He gets up, and is already on his way out of the room. “I’ll be in the lab, honey.”

“I guess I’ll just try to go back to sleep then…” she drops frustrated back onto the bed. She closes her eyes and sighs wearily. “No, I’ll make coffee.”

We cut to a little later. She enters his lab, with two cups, now dressed. “Oh, thank you, darling,” Reed says, stretching across the room to take his. “So I have fascinating news. One, magic really is just technology we didn’t previously understand, though I’m in the process of inventing a new branch of mathematics to be able to- but more importantly, someone used it to make us all forget ‘Peter Parker.’”

“Who?” she asks, because the spell has already made her forget him all over again.

“Right. I’ve been able to change the shapes of the impacted neurons in my own mind to circumvent the spell, but I also invented an innoculation,” he’s already stretched an arm with an injector, and shoots the serum into her arm, startling her.

“Reed, we’ve talked about this. It’s not okay for you to inject people with new inventions without consent- informed consent.”

“Sorry. I get caught up in my train of thought and completely forget. The spell made all of us forget Peter Parker.”

“You mean Spider-Man.”

“Precisely. But the reason this has been on my mind, is that the morning of the spell, I received this email.” He pulls it up as a hologram. “Purported to be from Tony Stark, but clearly arrived after his death. It’s supposed to be automated, triggered by Jonah Jameson outing Parker to outrage and vitriol, apparently asking me, as the currently most intelligent adult available, to take Parker under my wing. My to-do list kept trying to ping this information; I don’t know if it was a flaw in the spell, my coding, or just the spell not being calibrated to handle a brain made of chewing gum, but his name kept creeping into my dreams.”

“Should I be worried you’re dreaming about underaged boys?”

“He’s an adult. College-aged. And just the name. My dreams are typically equational, not prurient; I’m not Johnny.”

We cut to Johnny, and show bouncy bed springs from below, and his face, bouncing, sweaty, from enough of an angle for a moment we worry what we’re about to see. Then we pull back, and see he’s jumping up and down on the top bunk of a bunk bed.

“Come on, I’m bored.”

“It’s night,” Ben grumbles, “you’re supposed to be sleeping.”

He drops onto his butt, bounces to the floor. “I’d say you’re supposed to be grumping, but you’re holding up your end on that.”

Ben sighs. “Matchstick, I got a complexion you could only fix with an angle grinder, and most of the rocks on my face are still cracked from our last fight. Stretch still don’t know if they’ll ever properly ‘heal,’ and somehow I’m still sore. I need my beauty rest.”

“Why, are you worried about getting uglier?” We see he’s actually hurt by this, and Johnny flops down beside him. “Oh, come on, Ben! I always teased you about your mug.”

“Yeah, but it used to be subjective. Now… well, look, it’s a face only the blind could appreciate, even then, only from afar.”

“Okay, it’s just sad when you rag on yourself. So let’s go. Let’s do something. Anything has got to be better than moping around here. We could mini golf.”

“No, we can’t. Last time we tried, I snapped the club like a toothpick.”

“Right. Motion control games.”

“They suck.”

“They suck a lot less than having to replace controllers every time you try to hit ‘X.’” Ben sighs, resigned. “Or, I could make us some BLTs.”

“Now you’re speaking my language.” Okay, it’s at this point that I’m actually forming an interesting casting thought. We raid the Community closet for this movie. Jeff Winger as a brainy but dickish Reed (or Abed, and lean into Reed on the Spectrum, and use Jeff for the antagonist, instead). Donald Glover as Johnny. Either Annie or Britta could work for Sue (their takes would of course be different, I’m not suggesting they’re interchangeable). And Chang for the Thing. He’s already played a Jewish Asian in Community. It… works better than it has any real right to, frankly.

“Sorry to interrupt, but I actually have something for us,” Reed says from the doorway.

Now, for this sequence, I’d probably do a Sinister 5 kind of thing; Spider-Man’s bench continues to be impressive enough that I think that could work. I’d stay away from characters we’re using in Sinister 7, which does limit us somewhat.

Spider-Man is fighting a team led by Kraven featuring Lady Octopus, Rhino, Electro & Sandman. At first he’s quipping, doing okay… but they’re wearing him down, just too many villains, especially now that Kraven has pegged that all they have to do to make him act recklessly is threaten civilians. Lady Octopus knocks Spider-Man back with her metal arm, and Kraven catches him, ready with a ceremonial dagger. He plunges it down, but it hits an invisible forcefield.

The Fantastic Four arrive, and make short work of the villains, who expected a 5-on-1, not a fair fight, and Spider-Man rallies. As part of the fight, Sue ends up in the water, and uses an invisible forcefield to make an air bubble around her.

After the fight, Spider-Man is apologetic. “I’m so sorry,” he says, as they watch from a rooftop while the cops cart the bad guys away. “I wanted to handle it myself. I should have called the Avengers- would have…”

“But they don’t remember you,” Reed says. “Well we do, Peter.”

“Uh…”

“Magic is just science we don’t understand. Well… I’m working to understand it. So we know who you are. And just as importantly, we want to help. You’re practically a kid. You shouldn’t be taking this kind of weight onto your shoulders. Not alone. We don’t have a lot. But what we have is yours.”

“Reed, did you… read?” Sue asks. “Like the whole email? Because what we have just got a lot more substantial. Tony Stark didn’t just ask you to look after Peter. He gave you a grant of millions of dollars to do it.”

“We should probably talk to someone about that.”

We smash cut to a legal office (you’ll see what I did there in a second). My preference is always for She-Hulk, because I like the character more, but Matt Murdock is all but certainly cheaper. She explains, “The money is coming out of a fund Starkset up for philanthropic enterprises, nominally overseen by Pepper Potts. Her administration has been largely hands-off, because Stark set up automatic triggers using his Friday A.I. to watch out for certain circumstances. Like this one. The money is yours if you agree to watch out for a Peter Parker’s well-being. There isn’t a lot of detail as to what that entails.”

“I have some thoughts,” Reed says. “But one thing I did want to check in on… does it say the funds can only be used to see to the well-being of Parker… or can they be used more expansively.”

“As I read it, you have a wide degree of latitude. It’s always possible Ms. Potts or the foundation could ask how the funds are being used, or even seek an injunction if they feel they aren’t being used wisely, but even in that scenario, I’m not certain there’s even the possibility of a clawback, since there doesn’t seem to be an enumerated mechanism.”

Now, this idea basically builds off the one that I mentioned in the Iron Man 4 pitch; I’m going to both assume, for our purposes, that happened, but also like it was a blip, and didn’t create any kind of permanent infrastructure, that this is basically an attempt to codify that and make it lasting.

We do a quick build-up montage, as Fury’s dingy hideout is turned into a state of the art laboratory. Peter enters. “This is amazing.”

“I’ve always been partial to fantastic,” Reed says, “but it’s all thanks to you.”

“All I did was get found by Mr. Stark.”

“You impressed Tony- and not many did. Tony wanted to provide for your future. I’m… trying to build on that idea. And before anyone else arrived, I wanted to thank you. Plenty of people in your situation would want to, what’s the phrase, take the money and run?”

“I’ve learned the hard way that it shouldn’t be about me. The world is bigger and better than just me. And I’m excited to meet it.” Here’s where it gets fun.

Amadeus Cho (Note: this comes after Incredible Hercules), Riri Williams, Moongirl, Prodigy and any other child geniuses/prodigies we can think of enter the room. “Welcome to the Future Foundation,” Reed says. “The minds in this room are some of the greatest of your generation. You will build a future that will make men like Tony Stark, Hank Pym and myself pale in comparison. You have the opportunity to build something beautiful and utopian, solutions to problems that don’t devolve into punching. Spider-Man here is our example; what he did to help people some would have written off as villains speaks well to his character, and well of those who raised him.”

“I’m just… Peter. That’s already enough pressure. I guess, I’ve seen enough people who just wanted to provide for their family, or right an injustice, who ended up on the wrong side of things… I don’t like people getting hurt, when what they really need is help.”

We pull back, and see that Sue is feeling left out already. We hear Johnny before we see him, “I can’t believe you’re jealous of his test-tube babies.”

“I used to be his test-tube baby,” Sue says sadly.

“Gross.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I was worried my sister might be sitting sullenly in a lab somewhere being gross.”

“You are such a dork.”

“Did you know dork means whale dong? The internet is awesome.”

“Don’t believe everything you read on wikipedia.”

“That sounds like what you’d name an encyclopedia of micropenises.”

“Then you’d be all over it,” Ben says as he enters.

“Hot foot,” Johnny says, setting Ben’s foot on fire. Ben hops on one foot as he smothers it with his hands.

“Real mature.”

Sue sighs. “This was weeks in the making,” she says. “When it started, we were partners. But every day, he’s gotten a little more distant. This is such a great thing we were doing… and now it’s a great thing he’s doing, while I watch from the sidelines.”

“So,” Ben says, “why don’t you get off the sidelines?”

We follow her into the room. “Ah, Susan,” Reed starts. “You all know Susan. Most of you spoke to her on the phone. I would posit myself as the brain of this operation, but the heart, the soul, the hands- the rest, really- is her. I have been known to disappear into my puzzles and problems, but if you ever need something, she’s the person who can help. I hope I’m not signing you up for more than you want, dear.”

She smiles, awkwardly. This story is, in part, about Sue feeling unseen and neglected, and I absolutely want to display the emotional truth of that… but it’s also a balancing act, because it won’t have the depth, either, if we don’t show the moments of true and genuine affection between them, too.

Later, Sue is sitting with the geniuses. “So,” Amadeus leans forward, “what are you hoping to accomplish, here?” She’s confused. “I guess I assumed we’re like a think tank, right? So we’re here to solve a particular problem.”

“Yes, and no,” Sue responds. “You’re here to solve the future. Reed, if he hadn’t been ripped out of our own place in space-time, likely would have single-handedly advanced human technology twenty years. But he sees the same possibility in all of those here. You have all, already, single-handedly created math and technology that could change the world- should change the world. Ms. Walters has already put us in touch with a good patent attorney. What we’d like to do is, with your individual permission, of course, file those patents under your names, but place royalties accrued into a general fund that can be used to continue the Future Foundation indefinitely. No funds or fees will go to any of the adults here. But if you’d prefer, we can set aside all or some of those funds for your family or your personal use, as well. You’ll be provided an opportunity to speak to Ms. Walters or Mr. Murdock individually- while we will be compensating them for their time from Tony Stark’s grant, in these matters they are your representatives- to help you understand whatever elections you make, and of course any selections will require, for those of you under 18, parental signature, as well.”

“What about rent? Or food?” Peter asks.

“The stipend we have from the Stark foundation should be enough to pay room and board and cover the cost of this facility for this inaugural class. After that, it all depends on contributions, and how quickly Reed’s patents and any others become profitable.”

At first Sue does get to be involved, but what she complained about continues to happen. Quickly, what looks like the A story, about the Foundation, is going to become the B, as Sue spends time at the harbor, trying to deal with her melancholy and loneliness.

It comes to a head when Sue, on one of her sabbaticals, misses a mission with the other 4. Spider-Man subs in, and she arrives home to see their triumphant return. She watches, invisible, as they celebrate, as she feels more and more like a fifth wheel as they celebrate one another.

She leaves, but on this walk, she’s approached by a strange man. He’s handsome, and offers to walk with her. As they hit the waterfront, he invites her to his place out on the water. He takes her to the dock, and she asks where his boat is. He says where they’re going, they don’t need boats, and jumps in the water. His clothes go floating up behind him, and she says “You’re insane if you thinks I’m skinny-dipping with a man I just met… “she drops off as he climbs out of the water, his moist skin glistening in the moonlight. “Okay, that might be the single greatest possible argument for skinny-dipping with a man in the moonlight I’ve only just met…” He assures her she doesn’t need to remove her clothes, but she will need to her own supply of air, which he’s seen her create before. “You were there,” she says, putting together that he saw their fight with the Frightful Five.

“I was. And I was instantly enchanted, so much so that I barely remembered to intervene. But please. Come with me. We both know I could scarcely touch you if you didn’t allow it, and I would lay my life down at your feet before I allowed harm to come to you- even from myself.”

She pulls away from him. “But why? Why me? Why like this? Why not just call it a night, and get coffee tomorrow?”

“Because I know you’d go back to him, and that would break my heart. Not for myself, but because you deserve a man who adores you like I do. You deserve to be treasured, and cherished. And he doesn’t. He won’t. I doubt that he can. Even if it’s just to spend a night away, even if you never allow me the touch of your skin, I plead that you not return, just this one night. After that, if you still want to go back, I won’t seek to stop you, and you won’t have to wonder if you’re stuck, staying with him in a rut because he’s convenient and there.”

Sue texts Reed to tell him not to wait up, that she got a room near the pier, and a glass of wine and just needs an evening away. His phone buzzes on the laboratory table; he doesn’t notice it.

I think it’s Amadeus who brings it up to the kid geniuses. “So, this is weird, right… but my equations are incredibly predictive. I knew Reed Richards was going to start the Future Foundation likely before he did, and guessed his initial line-up with 93% certainty. It’s not a brag it’s just… behavioral modeling. And… my modeling predicts something bad is going to happen?”

“Should I start polishing my helmet?” Riri asks.

“Uh…” he really wants to make the dirty joke on the tip of his tongue, but Moongirl is super young and he’s hoping he can stall long enough for the temptation to pass.

“It gets dents and scuffs I have to polish out- never mind. Is it a helmet kind of problem, is the salient question?”

“I’m not sure. Sue’s unhappy. Reed’s been spending more of his time with us, and she’s feeling left out, and unfulfilled. Missing out on an emergency situation just, it makes that worse.”

“You can really predict what’s going to happen?” Peter asks.

“Not what. That. I can predict that something will happen. Sue’s not coming back tonight. Maybe she meets somebody. Maybe she gets mugged in the park. Bad things happen tonight.”

“Helpful,” Moongirl says.

“Actually… knowing that something will happen is half the battle,” Riri says, wearing her helmet. She holds out her gauntlet, and projects some camera footage of Sue going into the water with a stranger. “From there it’s just a matter of tracking her phone to the docks, and pulling up a camera when her phone stopped moving.”

“Um… is anyone else worried she’s not coming up for air?” Peter asks.

“With him? I’m not sure I can blame her not wanting to come up for air,” Riri says. “What? Like I haven’t seen the way either of you look at Sue.”

“Fair enough,” Amadeus shrugs. “But then the question becomes… what do we do with it?”

“We shouldn’t tell Reed,” Peter says. “If it’s nothing, if it’s innocent, then we’re inserting ourselves in their relationship in a way that isn’t healthy for them or us.”

“And if it’s not?” Riri asks.

“Then it’s probably better it come from family.”

Ben and Johnny investigate, Ben in his hat and trenchcoat. It’s a relatively quick scene, since the video mostly tells the tale. But they find some lockers nearby, with her phone inside, and her keys and wallet. There’s no sign of a struggle. They reason one of two things have happened, that either she went willingly, or there’s some kind of coercion. And they can’t verify which without Reed.

Spider-Man is with them when they tell Reed, who is largely nonchalant. His posture is mostly, “I don’t want Susan to feel obligated, not to me, not to us, not to the Foundation.”

“Sure,” Johnny says, “and I get that. But what if she was threatened. There are any number of ways she could have been coerced. If she’s okay, we can leave her alone. The bigger issue is going after her.”

“Best we could come up with was having you stretch into a diving bell,” Ben says.

“Depending on how far down, I don’t know that I could hold a bell shape indefinitely. We might be better off figuring something else out.”

“I… might have a solution.” Peter is… weird about bringing it up. “But none of you can ever say anything. To anyone. Ever. Not even to me.” Quieter. “Especially not to me.”

They go to Stark Tower. There’s a secret elevator that goes down. “Did Tony have Iron Man diving suits?” Reed asks, his curiosity clearly peaked.

“It’s just better if you see it for yourselves.” Peter shows them an undersea bachelor pad. It is just as Love Motel as you might initially assume. Johnny is enamored. “One time, when Mr. Stark had a martini, he told me about this place. Before he and Ms. Potts started dating, he’d bring women down here to, seal the deal. Apparently bringing women underwater, or taking them for a ride on his private submarine, was sometimes what it took.”

“What I think the kid is saying is this whole place is six degrees from Tony’s undercarriage,” Ben says.

“Likely less,” Reed remarks.

We go back to Sue. Namor’s underwater palace is phenomenal, beautiful, but also exotic. And he really is into her, in all of the ways that Reed just hasn’t been able to be. So she’s legitimately torn. Namor seems like he really values her, and Reed… doesn’t need her. He’s found his calling, his people, his place. I think that is what makes this arc work- it feels like a tragic ending to their love affair…

And then she finds out that Namor, while absolutely adoring her, is going to completely screw up the world. He was there to begin with doing reconnaissance for his entrance to the United Nations. He was going to demand they recognize Atlantis as a nation, and then the ceding of all bodies of water connected to the oceans to him- that humanity had proven themselves bad stewards, and he was going to take over where they had proven incapable. That would mean no more territorial waters for countries, that instead the beaches would become shared territorial property. He is fanatical in his description; refusing to hear that no country would yield to his demand, let alone all of them, that what he’s demanding would at best make him a rogue state, but likely a global ecoterrorist.

She argues for another solution, that his problem is exactly the kind of thing she and Reed built the Future Foundation to solve- that they can solve pollution and garbage and make the oceans clean and habitable again. But he doesn’t trust humans. Even if Reed manages a solution, humans can’t even get ahead of climate change, even as disasters ramp up and kill increasingly more of the population. That is why they aren’t right for one another- Sue’s is ultimately a hopeful view of the future, and Namor’s isn’t (and maybe can’t be, because he’s responsible for so many sea lives that hang in the balance).

It’s then that Reed arrives, having heard enough of Namor’s rant to know the score. Namor’s sad, and when Sue looks like she wants to go, says, “I won’t stop you.”

But she turns, and squares to him. “I’m afraid I have to stop you.” They have a big old fight, culminating in the destruction of Namor’s palace. He’s essentially too strong for them, especially in the open sea, but Sue makes sure that he knows he’d have to destroy her to get to them- that he relents, and departs.

I’m in a weird mood today (or maybe I’m just incensed by the misogynist fury pointed undeservedly at the actress), so I’m going to suggest Amber Heard as Sue Storm. And I’d wave just so much money at Jason Momoa to be Namor, because it would be hilarious (and because he has, thus far, actually been a stand-up dude and supportive of Heard). Come on, think about it. Ridiculous, trolling casting. Otherwise, any dude who can rock a tiny pair of green trunks will do.

Back in the lab, Reed confronts Susan about her betrayal; Reed, for all his aloofness, is genuinely hurt to find that Sue went with Namor willingly. “I don’t understand, Susan. I know I can be an imperfect partner, immensely flawed, even. But even in your disappointment, I don’t see how you could choose to treat me this way.”

“I didn’t think you’d notice I’d gone,” she says, then quieter, “I didn’t think you’d care.”

The pain in her voice absolutely melts him. “Susan…” his voice catches. “That’s my fault. I get so caught up, in trying to fix things, things that are my fault, things that happened because I wasn’t where I should have been, or who… and I neglect the most important people in the world to me. I don’t want to pursue invention for invention’s sake, or to make a better world in the abstract. I want to make a better world for you, for us, for our family, for our children… but I recognize that a single-minded pursuit of that cannot come at the expense of our relationship, cannot come at the cost of me neglecting you, neglecting to tell you that, Susan… I would be lost without you. And I don’t mean in the sense that you compensate for my faults, and make me a better man that I otherwise would be- though you do. I mean that without you I am far from fantastic; I’m not even a man, clanging tools together in a cave. I can imagine a life without limbs, without my intellect, but a life without you? Blackness. Bleakness. Empty. And it should not take a fishman in a tight bathing suit to prompt me to tell you that you are my world, and I am truly sorry for that.”

“That fishman did fill out his bathing suit,” she teases. “But I’m sorry, too. This is not how you should find out I’m unhappy, or feeling alone. You might not always be the partner I want… but I still have a responsibility to be the partner you deserve, too. And, nicely though he filled out his bathing suit, Namor is not the kind of man I could ever fall in love with, because he lacks the quality I need most in my life: hope. Hope that the future can be better than today, and that we can get there, together, if we work hard enough to build it. Which means I’m stuck with you.” He wraps an arm around her.

We pull back, and can see that the future geniuses have been watching. To make it cute, silly, and marketable, they’re watching through a Spider-Bot (as seen at a Disney Theme Park near you). “We did a good thing, guys,” Riri says.

“And ladies,” Moongirl adds.

The girls leave, and we linger with Peter and Amadeus. “Want to talk about it?”

“I don’t know if I’m ready,” Peter hedges.

“Well, if you ever need-

We go to high-speed nervous rambling Peter, “So I think I had what they have but then she forgot because of a magical spell and I thought at the time it was best to leave her alone so she didn’t have to worry about being attacked for knowing me but seeing them work through things makes me miss her and wish, well, wonder, if maybe I made a mistake, if it should have been a love conquers all moment instead of me sacrificing my happiness to protect her, and now I’m sort of seeing this other person who’s really neat and sweet and I feel like my heart and my head are clacking like those weird little silver ball desk things constantly.”

“You understand I’m the only person in the world who could keep up with that, right? I am… not well-versed in women and adjacent issues. But what I can say is this: what happened in there happened in part because you are one of the most emotionally intelligent people I’ve ever met. I think if you listen to the Peter in here,” he points at Peter’s chest, “that you’ll know what you want, and what’s right, and how to navigate the differences between those two things.”

“Could your equations tell me what to do?”

“No. They might be able to tell me what you will do, but figuring out what you should do… that’s something only you can figure out.”

We start credits. Mid-credits scene. Lawyers and repossessors exit the elevator just behind Peter and Amadeus. The lawyers hand Amadeus paperwork, as the repossessors begin to box everything up.

“What the hell?” Peter asks.

“It seems Victor Von Doom, which apparently is his real, legal name, somehow, sued Reed for damages done to his face. And won. The entirety of the grant and all assets procured therewith are being seized. Dr. Doom just beat the Fantastic Four without lifting a finger.” More credits.

End-credits scene. The elevator opens again, this time it’s She-Hulk. “You’re to cease and desist all seizure,” she says, handing the paperwork to the overseeing lawyer. The FF arrive from the other room. As the repossesors and layers leave.

“What’s going on?” Sue asks.

“Doom seized the grant. Apparently they served illegal notice, but managed to force a trial anyway. Matt and I did our best to fight it when we found out, but… he’s taking all of the money Tony gave you. But, Reed’s patent for unstable molecules has already been approved, and a licensing deal struck with several chemical-producing conglomerates. Licensing fees alone are going to keep the lights on in this place for the foreseeable future, as well as cover the cost of any equipment already purchased with Tony’s funds. Wisely, the unstable molecule patents were all filed under the Foundation’s name, so Doom can’t access them. So the Future Foundation is here to stay.”

We start with Reed and Sue in bed. No, not like that. They’re sleeping. Reed mumbles a name in his sleep, then sits bolt upright. Sue asks him what’s wrong. “What’s a Peter Parker?” he asks.

Sue yawns. “I don’t know. Did he pick a peck of pickled peppers?”

Reed is using some kind of 3D hologram computer thing to search online. “I think that was Piper. Nothing on the internet- I mean, nothing useful– there are dozens of Peter Parkers in this borough, but… it’s a tickle in my brain. I can’t even describe it, let alone explain. But that name. It’s important, somehow.” He gets up, and is already on his way out of the room. “I’ll be in the lab, honey.”

“I guess I’ll just try to go back to sleep then…” she drops frustrated back onto the bed. She closes her eyes and sighs wearily. “No, I’ll make coffee.”

We cut to a little later. She enters his lab, with two cups, now dressed. “Oh, thank you, darling,” Reed says, stretching across the room to take his. “So I have fascinating news. One, magic really is just technology we didn’t previously understand, though I’m in the process of inventing a new branch of mathematics to be able to- but more importantly, someone used it to make us all forget ‘Peter Parker.’”

“Who?” she asks, because the spell has already made her forget him all over again.

“Right. I’ve been able to change the shapes of the impacted neurons in my own mind to circumvent the spell, but I also invented an innoculation,” he’s already stretched an arm with an injector, and shoots the serum into her arm, startling her.

“Reed, we’ve talked about this. It’s not okay for you to inject people with new inventions without consent- informed consent.”

“Sorry. I get caught up in my train of thought and completely forget. The spell made all of us forget Peter Parker.”

“You mean Spider-Man.”

“Precisely. But the reason this has been on my mind, is that the morning of the spell, I received this email.” He pulls it up as a hologram. “Purported to be from Tony Stark, but clearly arrived after his death. It’s supposed to be automated, triggered by Jonah Jameson outing Parker to outrage and vitriol, apparently asking me, as the currently most intelligent adult available, to take Parker under my wing. My to-do list kept trying to ping this information; I don’t know if it was a flaw in the spell, my coding, or just the spell not being calibrated to handle a brain made of chewing gum, but his name kept creeping into my dreams.”

“Should I be worried you’re dreaming about underaged boys?”

“He’s an adult. College-aged. And just the name. My dreams are typically equational, not prurient; I’m not Johnny.”

We cut to Johnny, and show bouncy bed springs from below, and his face, bouncing, sweaty, from enough of an angle for a moment we worry what we’re about to see. Then we pull back, and see he’s jumping up and down on the top bunk of a bunk bed.

“Come on, I’m bored.”

“It’s night,” Ben grumbles, “you’re supposed to be sleeping.”

He drops onto his butt, bounces to the floor. “I’d say you’re supposed to be grumping, but you’re holding up your end on that.”

Ben sighs. “Matchstick, I got a complexion you could only fix with an angle grinder, and most of the rocks on my face are still cracked from our last fight. Stretch still don’t know if they’ll ever properly ‘heal,’ and somehow I’m still sore. I need my beauty rest.”

“Why, are you worried about getting uglier?” We see he’s actually hurt by this, and Johnny flops down beside him. “Oh, come on, Ben! I always teased you about your mug.”

“Yeah, but it used to be subjective. Now… well, look, it’s a face only the blind could appreciate, even then, only from afar.”

“Okay, it’s just sad when you rag on yourself. So let’s go. Let’s do something. Anything has got to be better than moping around here. We could mini golf.”

“No, we can’t. Last time we tried, I snapped the club like a toothpick.”

“Right. Motion control games.”

“They suck.”

“They suck a lot less than having to replace controllers every time you try to hit ‘X.’” Ben sighs, resigned. “Or, I could make us some BLTs.”

“Now you’re speaking my language.” Okay, it’s at this point that I’m actually forming an interesting casting thought. We raid the Community closet for this movie. Jeff Winger as a brainy but dickish Reed (or Abed, and lean into Reed on the Spectrum, and use Jeff for the antagonist, instead). Donald Glover as Johnny. Either Annie or Britta could work for Sue (their takes would of course be different, I’m not suggesting they’re interchangeable). And Chang for the Thing. He’s already played a Jewish Asian in Community. It… works better than it has any real right to, frankly.

“Sorry to interrupt, but I actually have something for us,” Reed says from the doorway.

Now, for this sequence, I’d probably do a Sinister 5 kind of thing; Spider-Man’s bench continues to be impressive enough that I think that could work. I’d stay away from characters we’re using in Sinister 7, which does limit us somewhat.

Spider-Man is fighting a team led by Kraven featuring Lady Octopus, Rhino, Electro & Sandman. At first he’s quipping, doing okay… but they’re wearing him down, just too many villains, especially now that Kraven has pegged that all they have to do to make him act recklessly is threaten civilians. Lady Octopus knocks Spider-Man back with her metal arm, and Kraven catches him, ready with a ceremonial dagger. He plunges it down, but it hits an invisible forcefield.

The Fantastic Four arrive, and make short work of the villains, who expected a 5-on-1, not a fair fight, and Spider-Man rallies. As part of the fight, Sue ends up in the water, and uses an invisible forcefield to make an air bubble around her.

After the fight, Spider-Man is apologetic. “I’m so sorry,” he says, as they watch from a rooftop while the cops cart the bad guys away. “I wanted to handle it myself. I should have called the Avengers- would have…”

“But they don’t remember you,” Reed says. “Well we do, Peter.”

“Uh…”

“Magic is just science we don’t understand. Well… I’m working to understand it. So we know who you are. And just as importantly, we want to help. You’re practically a kid. You shouldn’t be taking this kind of weight onto your shoulders. Not alone. We don’t have a lot. But what we have is yours.”

“Reed, did you… read?” Sue asks. “Like the whole email? Because what we have just got a lot more substantial. Tony Stark didn’t just ask you to look after Peter. He gave you a grant of millions of dollars to do it.”

“We should probably talk to someone about that.”

We smash cut to a legal office (you’ll see what I did there in a second). My preference is always for She-Hulk, because I like the character more, but Matt Murdock is all but certainly cheaper. She explains, “The money is coming out of a fund Starkset up for philanthropic enterprises, nominally overseen by Pepper Potts. Her administration has been largely hands-off, because Stark set up automatic triggers using his Friday A.I. to watch out for certain circumstances. Like this one. The money is yours if you agree to watch out for a Peter Parker’s well-being. There isn’t a lot of detail as to what that entails.”

“I have some thoughts,” Reed says. “But one thing I did want to check in on… does it say the funds can only be used to see to the well-being of Parker… or can they be used more expansively.”

“As I read it, you have a wide degree of latitude. It’s always possible Ms. Potts or the foundation could ask how the funds are being used, or even seek an injunction if they feel they aren’t being used wisely, but even in that scenario, I’m not certain there’s even the possibility of a clawback, since there doesn’t seem to be an enumerated mechanism.”

Now, this idea basically builds off the one that I mentioned in the Iron Man 4 pitch; I’m going to both assume, for our purposes, that happened, but also like it was a blip, and didn’t create any kind of permanent infrastructure, that this is basically an attempt to codify that and make it lasting.

We do a quick build-up montage, as Fury’s dingy hideout is turned into a state of the art laboratory. Peter enters. “This is amazing.”

“I’ve always been partial to fantastic,” Reed says, “but it’s all thanks to you.”

“All I did was get found by Mr. Stark.”

“You impressed Tony- and not many did. Tony wanted to provide for your future. I’m… trying to build on that idea. And before anyone else arrived, I wanted to thank you. Plenty of people in your situation would want to, what’s the phrase, take the money and run?”

“I’ve learned the hard way that it shouldn’t be about me. The world is bigger and better than just me. And I’m excited to meet it.” Here’s where it gets fun.

Amadeus Cho (Note: this comes after Incredible Hercules), Riri Williams, Moongirl, Prodigy and any other child geniuses/prodigies we can think of enter the room. “Welcome to the Future Foundation,” Reed says. “The minds in this room are some of the greatest of your generation. You will build a future that will make men like Tony Stark, Hank Pym and myself pale in comparison. You have the opportunity to build something beautiful and utopian, solutions to problems that don’t devolve into punching. Spider-Man here is our example; what he did to help people some would have written off as villains speaks well to his character, and well of those who raised him.”

“I’m just… Peter. That’s already enough pressure. I guess, I’ve seen enough people who just wanted to provide for their family, or right an injustice, who ended up on the wrong side of things… I don’t like people getting hurt, when what they really need is help.”

We pull back, and see that Sue is feeling left out already. We hear Johnny before we see him, “I can’t believe you’re jealous of his test-tube babies.”

“I used to be his test-tube baby,” Sue says sadly.

“Gross.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I was worried my sister might be sitting sullenly in a lab somewhere being gross.”

“You are such a dork.”

“Did you know dork means whale dong? The internet is awesome.”

“Don’t believe everything you read on wikipedia.”

“That sounds like what you’d name an encyclopedia of micropenises.”

“Then you’d be all over it,” Ben says as he enters.

“Hot foot,” Johnny says, setting Ben’s foot on fire. Ben hops on one foot as he smothers it with his hands.

“Real mature.”

Sue sighs. “This was weeks in the making,” she says. “When it started, we were partners. But every day, he’s gotten a little more distant. This is such a great thing we were doing… and now it’s a great thing he’s doing, while I watch from the sidelines.”

“So,” Ben says, “why don’t you get off the sidelines?”

We follow her into the room. “Ah, Susan,” Reed starts. “You all know Susan. Most of you spoke to her on the phone. I would posit myself as the brain of this operation, but the heart, the soul, the hands- the rest, really- is her. I have been known to disappear into my puzzles and problems, but if you ever need something, she’s the person who can help. I hope I’m not signing you up for more than you want, dear.”

She smiles, awkwardly. This story is, in part, about Sue feeling unseen and neglected, and I absolutely want to display the emotional truth of that… but it’s also a balancing act, because it won’t have the depth, either, if we don’t show the moments of true and genuine affection between them, too.

Later, Sue is sitting with the geniuses. “So,” Amadeus leans forward, “what are you hoping to accomplish, here?” She’s confused. “I guess I assumed we’re like a think tank, right? So we’re here to solve a particular problem.”

“Yes, and no,” Sue responds. “You’re here to solve the future. Reed, if he hadn’t been ripped out of our own place in space-time, likely would have single-handedly advanced human technology twenty years. But he sees the same possibility in all of those here. You have all, already, single-handedly created math and technology that could change the world- should change the world. Ms. Walters has already put us in touch with a good patent attorney. What we’d like to do is, with your individual permission, of course, file those patents under your names, but place royalties accrued into a general fund that can be used to continue the Future Foundation indefinitely. No funds or fees will go to any of the adults here. But if you’d prefer, we can set aside all or some of those funds for your family or your personal use, as well. You’ll be provided an opportunity to speak to Ms. Walters or Mr. Murdock individually- while we will be compensating them for their time from Tony Stark’s grant, in these matters they are your representatives- to help you understand whatever elections you make, and of course any selections will require, for those of you under 18, parental signature, as well.”

“What about rent? Or food?” Peter asks.

“The stipend we have from the Stark foundation should be enough to pay room and board and cover the cost of this facility for this inaugural class. After that, it all depends on contributions, and how quickly Reed’s patents and any others become profitable.”

At first Sue does get to be involved, but what she complained about continues to happen. Quickly, what looks like the A story, about the Foundation, is going to become the B, as Sue spends time at the harbor, trying to deal with her melancholy and loneliness.

It comes to a head when Sue, on one of her sabbaticals, misses a mission with the other 4. Spider-Man subs in, and she arrives home to see their triumphant return. She watches, invisible, as they celebrate, as she feels more and more like a fifth wheel as they celebrate one another.

She leaves, but on this walk, she’s approached by a strange man. He’s handsome, and offers to walk with her. As they hit the waterfront, he invites her to his place out on the water. He takes her to the dock, and she asks where his boat is. He says where they’re going, they don’t need boats, and jumps in the water. His clothes go floating up behind him, and she says “You’re insane if you thinks I’m skinny-dipping with a man I just met… “she drops off as he climbs out of the water, his moist skin glistening in the moonlight. “Okay, that might be the single greatest possible argument for skinny-dipping with a man in the moonlight I’ve only just met…” He assures her she doesn’t need to remove her clothes, but she will need to her own supply of air, which he’s seen her create before. “You were there,” she says, putting together that he saw their fight with the Frightful Five.

“I was. And I was instantly enchanted, so much so that I scarcely remembered to intervene. But please. Come with me. We both know I could scarcely touch you if you didn’t allow it, and I would lay my life down at your feet before I allowed harm to come to you- even from myself.”

She pulls away from him. “But why? Why me? Why like this? When not just call it a night, and get coffee tomorrow?”

“Because I know you’d go back to him, and that would break my heart. Not for myself, but because you deserve a man who adores you like I do. You deserve to be treasured, and cherished. And he doesn’t. He won’t. I doubt that he can. Even if it’s just to spend a night away, even if you never allow me the touch of your skin, I plead that you not return, just this one night. After that, if you still want to go back, I won’t seek to stop you, and you won’t have to wonder if you’re stuck, staying with him in a rut because he’s convenient and there.”

Sue texts Reed to tell him not to wait up, that she got a room near the pier, and a glass of wine and just needs an evening away. His phone buzzes on the laboratory table; he doesn’t notice it.

I think it’s Amadeus who brings it up to the kid geniuses. “So, this is weird, right… but my equations are incredibly predictive. I knew Reed Richards was going to start the Future Foundation likely before he did, and guessed his initial line-up with 93% certainty. It’s not a brag it’s just… behavioral modeling. And… my modeling predicts something bad is going to happen?”

“Should I start polishing my helmet?” Riri asks.

“Uh…” he really wants to make the dirty joke on the tip of his tongue, but Moongirl is super young and he’s hoping he can stall long enough for the temptation to pass.

“It gets dents and scuffs I have to polish out- never mind. Is it a helmet kind of problem, is the salient question?”

“I’m not sure. Sue’s unhappy. Reed’s been spending more of his time with us, and she’s feeling left out, and unfulfilled. Missing out on an emergency situation just, it makes that worse.”

“You can really predict what’s going to happen?” Peter asks.

“Not what. That. I can predict that something will happen. Sue’s not coming back tonight. Maybe she meets somebody. Maybe she gets mugged in the park. Bad things happen tonight.”

“Helpful,” Moongirl says.

“Actually… knowing that something will happen is half the battle,” Riri says, wearing her helmet. She holds out her gauntlet, and projects some camera footage of Sue going into the water with a stranger. “From there it’s just a matter of tracking her phone to the docks, and pulling up a camera when her phone stopped moving.”

“Um… is anyone else worried she’s not coming up for air?” Peter asks.

“With him? I’m not sure I can blame her not wanting to come up for air,” Riri says. “What? Like I haven’t seen the way either of you look at Sue.”

“Fair enough,” Amadeus shrugs. “But then the question becomes… what do we do with it?”

“We shouldn’t tell Reed,” Peter says. “If it’s nothing, if it’s innocent, then we’re inserting ourselves in their relationship in a way that isn’t healthy for them or us.”

“And if it’s not?” Riri asks.

“Then it’s probably better it come from family.”

Ben and Johnny investigate, Ben in his hat and trenchcoat. It’s a relatively quick scene, since the video mostly tells the tale. But they find some lockers nearby, with her phone inside, and her keys and wallet. There’s no sign of a struggle. They reason one of two things have happened, that either she went willingly, or there’s some kind of coersion. And they can’t verify which without Reed.

Spider-Man is with them when they tell Reed, who is largely nonchalant. His posture is mostly, “I don’t want Susan to feel obligated, not to me, not to us, not to the Foundation.”

“Sure,” Johnny says, “and I get that. But what if she was threatened. There are any number of ways she could have been coerced. If she’s okay, we can leave her alone. The bigger issue is going after her.”

“Best we could come up with was having you stretch into a diving bell,” Ben says.

“Depending on how far down, I don’t know that I could hold a bell shape indefinitely. We might be better off figuring something else out.”

“I… might have a solution.” Peter is… weird about bringing it up. “But none of you can ever say anything. To anyone. Ever. Not even to me.” Quieter. “Especially not to me.”

They go to Stark Tower. There’s a secret elevator that goes down. “Did Tony have Iron Man diving suits?” Reed asks, his curiosity clearly peaked.

“It’s just better if you see it for yourselves.” Peter shows them an undersea bachelor pad. It is just as Love Motel as you might initially assume. Johnny is enamored. “One time, when Mr. Stark had a martini, he told me about this place. Before he and Ms. Potts started dating, he’d bring women down here to, seal the deal. Apparently bringing women underwater, or taking them for a ride on his private submarine, was sometimes what it took.”

“What I think the kid is saying is this whole place is six degrees from Tony’s undercarriage,” Ben says.

“Likely less,” Reed remarks.

We go back to Sue. Namor’s underwater palace is phenomenal, beautiful, but also exotic. And he really is into her, in all of the ways that Reed just hasn’t been able to be. So she’s legitimately torn. Namor seems like he really values her, and Reed… doesn’t need her. He’s found his calling, his people, his place. I think that is what makes this arc work- it feels like a tragic ending to their love affair…

And then she finds out that Namor, while absolutely adoring her, is going to completely screw up the world. He was there to begin with doing reconnaissance for his entrance to the United Nations. He was going to demand they recognize Atlantis as a nation, and then the ceding of all bodies of water connected to the oceans to him- that humanity had proven themselves bad stewards, and he was going to take over where they had proven incapable. That would mean no more territorial waters for countries, that instead the beaches would become shared territorial property. He is fanatical in his description; refusing to hear that no country would yield to his demand, let alone all of them, that what he’s demanding would at best make him a rogue state, but likely a global ecoterrorist.

She argues for another solution, that his problem is exactly the kind of thing she and Reed built the Future Foundation to solve- that they can solve pollution and garbage and make the oceans clean and habitable again. But he doesn’t trust humans. Even if Reed manages a solution, humans can’t even get ahead of climate change, even as disasters ramp up and kill increasingly more of the population. That is why they aren’t right for one another- Sue’s is ultimately a hopeful view of the future, and Namor’s isn’t (and maybe can’t be, because he’s responsible for so many sea lives that hang in the balance).

It’s then that Reed arrives, having heard enough of Namor’s rant to know the score. Namor’s sad, and when Sue looks like she wants to go, says, “I won’t stop you.”

But she turns, and squares to him. “I’m afraid I have to stop you.” They have a big old fight, culminating in the destruction of Namor’s palace. He’s essentially too strong for them, especially in the open sea, but Sue makes sure that he knows he’d have to destroy her to get to them- that he relents, and departs.

I’m in a weird mood today (or maybe I’m just incensed by the misogynist fury pointed undeservedly at the actress), so I’m going to suggest Amber Heard as Sue Storm. And I’d wave just so much money at Jason Momoa to be Namor, because it would be hilarious (and because he has, thus far, actually been a stand-up dude and supportive of Heard). Come on, think about it. Ridiculous, trolling casting. Otherwise, any dude who can rock a tiny pair of green trunks will do.

Back in the lab, Reed confronts Susan about her betrayal; Reed, for all his aloofness, is genuinely hurt to find that Sue went with Namor willingly. “I don’t understand, Susan. I know I can be an imperfect partner, immensely flawed, even. But even in your disappointment, I don’t see how you could choose to treat me this way.”

“I didn’t think you’d notice I’d gone,” she says, then quieter, “I didn’t think you’d care.”

The pain in her voice absolutely melts him. “Susan…” his voice catches. “That’s my fault. I get so caught up, in trying to fix things, things that are my fault, things that happened because I wasn’t where I should have been, or who… and I neglect the most important people in the world to me. I don’t want to pursue invention for invention’s sake, or to make a better world in the abstract. I want to make a better world for you, for us, for our family, for our children… but I recognize that a single-minded pursuit of that cannot come at the expense of our relationship, cannot come at the cost of me neglecting you, neglecting to tell you that, Susan… I would be lost without you. And I don’t mean in the sense that you compensate for my faults, and make me a better man that I otherwise would be- though you do. I mean that without you I am far from fantastic; I’m not even a man, clanging tools together in a cave. I can imagine a life without limbs, without my intellect, but a life without you? Blackness. Bleakness. Empty. And it should not take a fishman in a tight bathing suit to prompt me to tell you that you are my world, and I am truly sorry for that.”

“That fishman did fill out his bathing suit,” she teases. “But I’m sorry, too. This is not how you should find out I’m unhappy, or feeling alone. You might not always be the partner I want… but I still have a responsibility to be the partner you deserve, too. And, nicely though he filled out his bathing suit, Namor is not the kind of man I could ever fall in love with, because he lacks the quality I need most in my life: hope. Hope that the future can be better than today, and that we can get there, together, if we work hard enough to build it. Which means I’m stuck with you.” He wraps an arm around her.

We pull back, and can see that the future geniuses have been watching. To make it cute, silly, and marketable, they’re watching through a Spider-Bot (as seen at a Disney Theme Park near you). “We did a good thing, guys,” Riri says.

“And ladies,” Moongirl adds.

The girls leave, and we linger with Peter and Amadeus. “Want to talk about it?”

“I don’t know if I’m ready,” Peter hedges.

“Well, if you ever need-

We go to high-speed nervous rambling Peter, “So I think I had what they have but then she forgot because of a magical spell and I thought at the time it was best to leave her alone so she didn’t have to worry about being attacked for knowing me but seeing them work through things makes me miss her and wish, well, wonder, if maybe I made a mistake, if it should have been a love conquers all moment instead of me sacrificing my happiness to protect her, and now I’m sort of seeing this other person who’s really neat and sweet and I feel like my heart and my head are clacking like those weird little silver ball desk things constantly.”

“You understand I’m the only person in the world who could keep up with that, right? I am… not well-versed in women and adjacent issues. But what I can say is this: what happened in there happened in part because you are one of the most emotionally intelligent people I’ve ever met. I think you listen to the Peter in here,” he points at Peter’s chest, “that you’ll know what you want, and what’s right, and how to navigate the differences between those two things.”

“Could your equations tell me what to do?”

“No. They might be able to tell me what you will do, but figuring out what you should do… that’s something only you can figure out.”

We start credits. Mid-credits scene. Lawyers and repossessors exit the elevator just behind Peter and Amadeus. The lawyers hand Amadeus paperwork, as the repossessors begin to box everything up.

“What the hell?” Peter asks.

“It seems Victor Von Doom, which apparently is his real, legal name, somehow, sued Reed for damages done to his face. And won. The entirety of the grant and all assets procured therewith are being seized. Dr. Doom just beat the Fantastic Four without lifing a finger.” More credits.

End-credits scene. The elevator opens again, this time it’s She-Hulk. “You’re to cease and desist all seizure,” she says, handing the paperwork to the overseeing lawyer. The FF arrive from the other room. As the repossesors and layers leave.

“What’s going on?” Sue asks.

“Doom seized the grant. Apparently they served illegal notice, but managed to force a trial anyway. Matt and I did our best to fight it when we found out, but… he’s taking all of the money Tony gave you. But, Reed’s patent for unstable molecules has already been approved, and a licensing deal struck with several chemical-producing conglomerates. Licensing fees alone are going to keep the lights on in this place for the foreseeable future, as well as cover the cost of any equipment already purchased with Tony’s funds. Wisely, the unstable molecule patents were all filed under the Foundation’s name, so Doom can’t access them. So the Future Foundation is here to stay.”

Pitchmas 2021, Part 4: Spider-Women: Edge of the Spider-Verse

The Deal: I pitch movies set in the Marvel or DC cinematic universes. Also other things. This pitch isn’t a direct sequel, but Miles did get his abilities in Sinister Seven.

I think we open on Miles Morales for a prologue. He’s listening to music, walking to school; he attends the same school as Peter Parker did. He walks by an alley, and we see, in shadow, a hulking figure. He’s bearded, and looks disheveled enough he passes as homeless, for the moment. Miles glances back at him, experiencing his very first Spider-Sense. He rubs his temple, and gets some painkiller out of his backpack, and continues walking. There’s another alley. This time, the figure is there before Miles, waiting. Just as Miles is about to cross the threshold of the alley, he’s snatched up by Ghost Spider, sometimes called Spider-Gwen or Spider-Woman. She swings him to a nearby rooftop. Miles is surprised, but trying to play it cool. “So you got the powers, and nobody thought to get you some webshooters, a costume, maybe a little self-defense training?” she asks him.

“I’ve been working on my costume,” Miles says a little sullenly. He might just pull out his sketchbook.

“Yeah, no offense intended, kid. Your Spider-Man should have handled this. Spider-Woman? Whatever it is you’ve got here.”

“Actually,” Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew, in the red and yellow, lands beside her, “we though it best to leave Miles alone. Let him have a chance at a normal life. And we keep an eye on him.”

“Shoot, was it your day?” Julia Carpenter swing in, in the black and white Spider-Woman costume, landing besides Jess.

“I was in the neighborhood,” Jess says. “And the arrangement’s still new. Especially when I couldn’t raise Spider-Man…”

“He’s still missing?” Silk asks, landing beside Jess. “That’s worrying.”

“Is that everybody?” Ghost Spider asks.

“Unless Arachne’s cutting class again,” Julia says, and they wait a moment, before deciding she isn’t coming after all.

“Wonderful. This actually saves time. I’m Gwen Stacy. But not your Gwen Stacy.” She takes off her mask. Now, for my money, I’d say it’s worth springing for Emma Stone, and really, she deserves it after troopering through the two Amazing movies. “I’m here, from an alternate dimension, because anyone with Spider-related powers is being hunted, and across universes Miles is a pretty prime target. He rarely has the kind of experience under his belt that would let him survive the attack- and I’ve seen seasoned Peter Parkers fall to the Inheritors. Ones with symbiotes, ones in Iron Man armor. I cried the day they killed Spider-Thor, because, if even he was vulnerable…

“But we’re spiders. We live to fight another day. So first things first, anyone who you know or think has powers that fit, you should bring. Lady Spider’s developed, well, these things,” she rolls up her sleeve to reveal a big, chunky bit of steam punk wrist tech. “The inheritors are… bloodhounds. They can smell us. This messes with their ability to track us. Not terribly fashionable, but it goes better with my outfit than a big bloody hole through the chest.”

“No,” Spider-Woman says. “I’ll go with you. They take Mile someplace safe. If you seem on the level, we’ll meet back up. If you’re not, I’ve only put my head in the snare.”

“We don’t have time to pussy-foot around.”

“Lady, I don’t know you from Eve, and I get traps instead of breakfast every morning, so we’re doing it my way. But if you’re so concerned, give them your little cloaking doohickey.”

“It will only hide one of them.”

“Or only let your people track one of them. Volunteer?” Julia puts up her hand, and Ghost Spider tosses her the device. “You get any static, and you split off. Lead whoever it is away from Silk and Miles, then ditch the doodad.”

The others swing off, with Miles hanging off of Silk’s neck. Ghost Spider asks about her origins, that she’s very take-charge, military? “SHIELD, back in the day. I volunteered for an experiment. They told me it was a vitamin supplement; apparently it was the blood of some kid vigilante in New York.”

“Spider-Man?”

“That’s always been my guess. I thought, since the experiment was being run by my parents, I could trust them, but they also didn’t tell me they were secretly working for Hydra all along. Hydra used them; threatened to expose them as double-agents if I didn’t join them. Some of the time, I could not tell you where my true loyalties were. As a result, I was always playing everyone, and the only person whose side I knew I was on was my own. I got exceptionally good at reading liars, and if you lie to me, even once, I’ll snap your neck just like ‘my’ Gwen and drop you off a bridge.” (Note: So far as I know, MCU Gwen is alive and well…. But I love this line enough I’m leaving it in anyway, even if it would need to be changed- though I suppose it’s possible this Jess is from an alternate world).

Ghost Spider and Spider-Woman head back to the their base. Jess meets Lady Spider, a steam-punk Spider-Woman who is nearly as technophilic as Tony Stark. She gives Gwen another cloak; Spider-Woman declines the one offered to her, and wants more information.

Gwen tells her story. She was bit by the Spider, Peter continued working with Dr. Connors, in part trying to save her from DNA that he was worried would kill Gwen. An Inheritor shows, Morlun. Peter’s experiments have turned him into the Lizard, and he stands between Morlun and Gwen; Morlun goes through him. Morlun is making short work of Gwen when Lady Spider shows, giving Gwen a cloak that also acts as a transporter, and they’re able to escape.

Meanwhile, an inheritor attacks the three other Spider-People, knocking Miles off of Silk’s back. Julia swings away, trying to lead him off. We follow her, and a moment later hear “Julia,” forcefully in her mind. It startles her enough she bobbles her swing.

“Madame Web what-”

“There’s no time, child. You must return to Silk, or he’ll consume them both.”

“But-”

“No time!” Web says more forcefully, and Julia turns, and is surprised not to see Morlun chasing her.

“Where the hell?”

Morlun made a bee-line for Miles. Silk swing into him, and he backhands her into a dumpster, and lifts Miles up. “I do so love the flavor of young spiders,” Morlun says, “before their first swing under their own steam- like a veal calf.”  

Julia returns, surprising Morlun (who is largely blind to her presence unless she’s in his sight-line), swinging into him, smashing him painfully into a brick wall; the force spider-webs the wall. Julia helps Silk and Miles to their feet, and they square towards Morlun, who is already struggling to his feet. “We can take him together,” Julia says.

“No,” Madame Web says forcefully, her likeness flashing in the sky behind them, and they all react, all of them hearing her this time, “you cannot. Flee, or you will surely perish.”

Julia throws a glowing purple psychic net around Morlun, and Cindy sprays him with web fluid, then they run.

Back at the Lady Spider’s lair, Madame Web emerges. She is an older, white-haired woman, with a cloth across her eyes. She looks pretty much like Aunt May from the comics; I’d probably go so far as to make her an alternate dimension Aunt May, one where Peter gave her a transplant to save her after an attack, which attuned her to the web and the weaver. “What do you know of totems?” she asks.

Spider-Woman is defiant; she’s had a lifetime of people manipulating her, and scaring her, and she doesn’t move easily. “Wooden. Kind of creepy. Tend to congregate in poles.”

“Save your venom for our foes, Jessica,” Web says.

“Just who the hell are you?” Jess asks, taken aback by the reveal of her identity.

“Madame Web,” Julia says from the door.

“Julia,” Web’s tone softens. “I’m so heartened that you’re safe.”

“We’re hardly safe,” Silk says, winded. “That monster was hot on our trail.”

Web cocks her head. “He will not attack here- not yet. He will need time to heal his injuries- though that will provide but a moment’s reprieve.”

“Another lair bites the dust,” Gwen says. “I’ll start packing the essentials.”

“Wait,” Web interrupts. “Morlun knows where we are. But does that make this his trap, or ours?”

“Are they prepared for the fight that’s coming?” Lady Spider asks.

“They will have no choice but to…” Web stops, “wait. Where’s Mattie?”

“Mattie?” Miles asks.

“Mattie Franklin,” Web says. “Arachne.”

“Does everyone but me have a name and a costume?”

“Madame Web’s wearing more robes than a costume,” Julia offers.

“They’re comfy,” Web says. “You can’t expect a woman my age to flit about in drafty spandex.”

“Hey!” Jess snaps her finger, “what about Maddie?”

“Morlun knows of her. She’s in danger.”

We cut to a classroom. We’re going to hover over a young girl who’s about the right age, even though, subtly, there’s an empty seat.

Morlun smashes his way inside, caving in a window and the wall surrounding it. He picks up the teacher and screams, “Where is Franklin!” Timidly, a young boy’s hand goes up, shaking more the higher he raises it in the air. “Martha Franklin!” Morlun yells.

“Mattie’s home sick with a chest cold. She sounded awful in her message. I emailed her work so she could keep up.”

Morlun looks at him like he’s the true monster (because seriously, if we don’t lean into at least a little comedy, here, this Spider-Verse stuff can get real dark). “You sent work to a sick child?” Morlun disdainfully flings the teacher and we cut to the Spider-Women swinging through the city. They’re all wearing the cloaking devices.

“You’re sure we didn’t just voluntarily strap bombs to ourselves?” Jess asks.

“I don’t know what it does,” Julia says, “but it seemed to make it harder for Morlun to know I was there. And I trust Web.”

“I don’t. And I trust you less for keeping her from me.”

“She’s not picking up,” Cindy says. “Which could mean she’s in class. Or the bathroom. Or ditching. Or talking to a boy. Or patrolling.”

“I thought we were going to slip a tracker into her costume,” Julia says.

“We have. She keeps finding them, and taping them to pigeons.”

Gwen chortles, and they all land on a rooftop together, where they stare at her. “Okay, I get why right now it’s not that funny… but it is pretty funny.”  

“This isn’t getting us anywhere,” Jess says, punching a wall. “Our only advantage right now is that there are more of us than there are of him.”

“Yeah, I’ve seen that movie,” Silk says. “As soon as we split up, the slutty one dies first- sorry, Jess.”

“Feels a little pot calling the kettle black,” Spider-Woman says.

“She’s not wrong,” Lady Spider communicates with them over their cloaking devices. “Franklin could be anywhere inside a triangle from her home, to her school, to your meeting place.” A hologram projects a map of part of the city, along with a triangle. “From there, I’ve mapped likely patrol routes, factoring in her height, vantage points, securing webbing anchors. If you split into two teams, you can maximize the chances of finding Mattie before Morlun, without spreading our forces so thin he can isolate and overwhelm us.”

“I’m going with Ghost Spider,” Spider-Woman says. “I still don’t trust these people. You two watch each other’s backs.”

Madame Web finally gets to have her Totem talk; depending on whether the telepathy FX are more jarring or the communicator ones, she’ll use the less obtrusive method of communication. “What do any of you know of totems?”

“Animals that are symbols of great power?” Julia offers.

“And responsibility?” Silk asks.

“Precisely. Totems are… animal heroes, similar in concept to the demigods of Greece. Have you ever wondered why so many of Spider-Man’s foes are animalistic? Rhino. Vulture. Lizard. Octopus. Rabbit. Armadillo. Gibbon. The Spider-Totem, which all of you are connected to, is the most important, because they are connected to the web between realities- the same web we traversed to your world, and the same web the inheritors use to stalk their prey.”

“And let me take a wild stab,” Jess says, “that Spider-Totems are their prey.”

“Indeed. Their name they chose because they view themselves as the Inheritors of all things, conquerors on a scale that would make Alexander look like Wilson Fisk and his petty empire. They consume all totems, but they hunt us for sport, because of a prophecy, that the spiders would be their undoing. 

“Great,” Jess responds. “So how do we stop them?”

“The prophecy… was incomplete. It speaks of a Scion, a Bride, and an Other. It would seem they hail from your world- which is why the Inheritors have, until now, refused to come here. They assumed that unless disturbed, your world would remain oblivious of the Web, until your Spider-Man stumbled across it.”

“You’re saying Spider-Man found it?” Jess said. “Did something happen to him?”

“I believe he crossed the Web into another world, at once garnering the Inheritor’s attention, and showing them that your world was less guarded than it had ever been- and might ever be again.”

“So you’re saying you didn’t bring Morlun down on us, you followed him here?”

“Yes,” Lady Spider cuts in. “My tech is crude, but it was able to detect Morlun’s arrival on your world. The prophecy has been the only thing holding the Inheritors back; it made the Inheritors cautious, deliberate. They’ve culled tens of thousands of Spider-Totems across realities; I shudder to imagine what they would do unhindered.”

We cut to a rooftop, hanging off from a slightly peculiar angle. Below, we see Mattie Franklin, Arachne, swing by. Three seconds later, Morlun bounds after her, closing the distance.

Subtly, there is a webbed foot in the foreground (I want this so subtle most people don’t see it on first viewing). We cut in close, Mattie swinging by, as she’s tackled mid-air by Morlun. She uses his momentum against him, rolling him over her body and flinging him into a wall as she lands gracefully on a fire escape.

Morlun leaps at her, faster than she expected, and they crash together down into a rooftop with him on top of her. The impact is brutal enough she coughs blood, which Morlun wipes from her lip and tastes. “The blood of young spiders is always so invigorating.” We start to hear a car alarm going off; it’s distant enough it sounds like it must be on the street, at first, but it’s getting louder, until an entire damn taxi cab bounces into Morlun, smashing him into a water tower. Spider-Girl lands gracefully behind it, and grabs up Mattie and swings off. This Spider-Girl, for the uninitiated, wears a costume very similar to Peter’s, but obviously, tailored to a lady. 

“Since when does Spider-Man have boobs?” Mattie asks.

“Since he got old and flabby. But I’m Spider-Girl- Mayday Parker. His daughter. From the future.”

“Cool.”

“Now Mattie, I’m going to throw you as hard as I can; Uncle Wolverine called it a fastball special.”

“Who?”

“You’ll love him when you meet him; everyone loves Logan, he’s an angry little teddy bear. But when I throw you? Swing away, okay? My friends will be here any minute, and we’ll take care of Morlun; we  know how to deal with him, and I don’t want you getting hurt.”

Spider-Girl throws her, before swinging back towards the roof where she left Morlun. “Where the?” her line is cut off as he attacks her from behind. He’s fast, brutal. She fights like a Spider-Person, but he’s personally killed hundreds of them. She’s outmatched, and the fight doesn’t last long. He pins her against a wall, his arm across her throat as he leans into her (personally, I’d remove the ‘psychic’ part of their vampirism and just make them drink blood, but whatever the mechanism, he’s leaning in for the kill, when he’s kicked from behind, and when his head hits the wall it’s webbed in place. Spider-Girl collapses to the ground. Morlun reaches up to tear through the webbing, only for that hand to get webbed to the back of his head, then the other when he reaches up to tear through that webbing.

“Not the sharpest tool in the belt, is he?” Arachne asks. Spider-Girl, wheezing, peels back her mask enough for blood to dribble out of her mouth. “Gross.” Arachne is shaken, but trying to keep up the Spider-patter, because it’s always worked for Peter, and she’s trying to be strong. “Your friends are right around the corner, May? Come on. We’re all heroes, here; don’t expect me not to recognize a heroic sacrifice when I see one.”

Morlun screams, tearing the chunk of wall he was webbed to away, shredding through the webbing in the process. “Two for the price of one? I’m starting to feel like a glutton.”

“Actually,” Ghost Spider lands beside Mattie, “her friends were right around the corner.”

Spider-Woman, Silk and Julia Carpenter all land with them, “And so were yours,” one of them says.

The Spider-Women wail on Morlun for a bit; it’s still a brutal fight, as he’s able to bloody most of them in the process, as Madame Web helps Spider-Girl slink away to safety. Morlun tries to flee, but is stopped by the arrival of Lady Spider. She prevents him from using his tech to call home, before stabbing him through each limb with her metal arms. He shoves himself towards her, willing to stab himself four times over so long as he can get close. She splays her metal arms, tearing his flesh (I imagine, for the desired rating, this will likely have to be done in silhouette, or perhaps just from reactions shots of whichever Spider person feels the most innocent).

“Damnit,” Gwen says, kicking an air conditioner.

“We needed him alive,” Lady Spider says.

“Why?” Jess asks. She’s not squeamish about a monster killing itself.

“Because the Inheritors have beaten death,” Web says. We cut to their spire on Loomworld, then inside, to row upon row of clones. Most are hidden by mist/fog, but we can make out the row of Morlun clones. “When they die, their consciousness is sent to their clone matrix; if you can capture one alive, you can remove them from the board. But if they die… they are reborn.” One of the clones opens his eyes, as his pod opens up.

“They’ll just keep coming, until we’re all dead,” Spider-Girl says, haunted by her near-death experience.

“Mayday!” Web scolds.

May shakes her head. “Sorry. Got my bell rung harder than it’s ever been.” Web touches her face gingerly.

“It’s understandable to be afraid; only a fool would not be. But we are Spiders, and not so easily cowed.”

Now… depending on runtime, you could end it there, as a lead-in for next year’s Spider-Verse. But I’m just going to assume we’re a little too light, and could use one final action set-piece. Plus, it’s more dramatic to have the Spider-Women, now much the worse for wear, have to take on a refreshed Inheritor- it ups the ante considerably.

I’d probably stick to Morlun’s perspective for this scene. He warps back into our world, and travels to their headquarters, able to smell them. From the neighboring rooftop, he’s able to see, in a red and blue vision that’s almost like thermal, nine red orbs, all connected by a web, and all looking like spiders as a consequence.

Morlun crashes in. He fights brutally, shooting for quick, maximum damage, mowing through the Spider-Women, who go down with just enough fight to be convincing… but only just (think Hulk vs. Thanos at the beginning of Infinity War). Morlun is heaving, but triumphant. But he pauses. He scans around the room. “I felt nine of you.” We can see that there are only eight down, including Madame Web. “But now I only see eight.”

“About that,” Miles says from Morlun’s back, suddenly appearing (Miles, for those of you who don’t know, can become invisible), wearing his black and red costume, and hitting Morlun with the full force of his venom blast in the head.

The Spider-Women start to get up, their worse injuries melting away, to reveal Julia and Madame Web had used their telepathy to convince Morlun he was doing more damage than he actually was. They beat on him, a stream of fists and kicks, more even than he can rally from, culminating in a stream of leaping punches that put him on the ropes, with every single one of them getting in at least one good lick, before Lady Spider says, “Legs.” Spider-Girl and Julia use webbing and psychic webs to bolt his feet to the floor. “Arms.” Two spider-people each grab one of his arms and restrain him, with Lady Spider levering her metal appendages to break Morlun’s arm.

“Tooth,” Web says.

Gwen reaches into his mouth and tears out of one his teeth, before dropping it; it cracks on the floor, spilling liquid out. “You’re not swallowing cyanide this time, asshole.” Even wounded, even with one arm broken, it takes all of them to wrestle him into a metal straight-jacket with a clamp over the mouth.

Once he’s sealed inside, Lady Spider yells, “Clear,” and they all step back. She hits a button on her gauntlet, and a jolt of electricity travels through Morlun. He tries to fall, but his legs are held in place, so he just kind of sags. Lady Spider hits another button, and we zoom in to the collar, where little needles jab into Morlun’s neck. His eyes roll up into his head and he goes limp, starting to fall forward. One of them webs his back, so he doesn’t fall forward; last thing they need is his leg breaking and slicing his femoral artery. They carry him into a modified metal shipping container. It has a drain, and a sprinkler system. Lady Spider hooks him to an umbilical tub. “The clamp will keep him fed, sedated and hydrated; the umbilical keeps it charged and supplied. If I have a free moment, maybe I’ll design similar to deal with his waste, but for now that’s why there’s a drain.”

“Gross,” Mattie says.

They have a pow-wow. Lady Spider tells them they’ve struck a blow, and a significant one; they’ve never taken an Inheritor alive before. But it’s also a minor victory, in a war they’ve been losing on every front- a war they’ve all just been recruited into.

“Um, excuse me?” a familiar voice says. We do a reverse shot, all of the Spider-Women clustered together since there’s nine of them to fit in one shot, and opposite them is Spider-Man, alone in the doorway, the same rough amount of space alotted to him in the shot as any one of them in the reverse (playing up how relatively alone he is in that moment). Attached to his finger is a sticky note (get it?) with the words, “Spider-Man, come quickly” on the front (there’s an address on the back but we don’t need to see that). “I think somebody was looking for me.”

Cut to credits.

Mid-credits scene: There’s a pounding on the door. A web-gloved hand opens it, and we see an older Dr. Strange is outside, winded. “I need to see Peter.” We keep old man Peter offscreen, mostly because Tom Holland is going to look weird in old man make-up. “I’ve checked it and rechecked it, and Peter, if your son stays here, with you, you die. Your wife dies. Your daughter dies. And he dies. Followed swiftly by every other Spider Totem in existence. Peter Parkers across the multi-verse, Gwen Stacies, MJs, Miles Moraleses, Miguel O’Hara’s, May Parkers.”

“Will I ever see my son again?” he asks from offscreen.

“That’s a difficult question to answer, Peter, because this threat is going to happen across all realities at once, all timelines. It is a crisis across infinity; I don’t know if any of us will live to see the end of it.”

End-credits scene: We see the spire on Loomworld again. This time we even throw in a title, “Loomworld, Earth 001.” It’s possible, at this point, that we won’t have cast the Inheritors. Any we have, can be in this scene, but we hear the patriarch, Solus, arguing with one of them about Morlun. Solus isn’t happy; Morlun went against him in going to the MCU, risked the entire family. But he also won’t stomach a Totem holding his kin hostage. Karn is an easy one to include, since all you need is to design the mask and shove an intern inside. We pan across a fancy board room table as the arguing commences, before we see a strange combination of Victorian era dress clothes, and an intimidating looking mask.

“Karn, I want you to track down your wayward brother for me, and kill every spider you find.” Karn seizes his trademark two-pronged fork (a bident?), and we cut.

Pitchmas 2021, Part 3: Spider-Man: Into the Venomverse

The Deal: I pitch movies set in the Marvel or DC cinematic universes. Also other things.

First things first, dealing with complaints: while this functions as a quasi-sequel to Spider-Man: No Way Home, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, and Sinister Seven : Absolute Carnage… it’s not one. It’s the beginning of a new thing, what will likely be a pentalogy of interrelated movies (similar to what I’ve been doing on the DC side with the big Green Lantern event movies– which is also kind of a cheat).

During the end credits scene from Sinister Seven, Peter Parker gets some of the symbiote on him, and he and Brock get shunted back to Venom’s original Earth. They swing to the top of the building, and see that the city is mostly on fire. Peter’s symbiote slides away, and we see just how devastated he is by the destruction. But for the moment we linger on Eddie and Venom, who have a conversation; Venom is convinced they’re back on their original version of Earth; Eddie is skeptical, because this place is nuts, destroyed, and still smoldering. He hasn’t been gone long enough for this to be their world. Venom finally says something to the effect that, “I know it does not seem possible, Eddie, but this is the world from which we originated.” That thought steals Eddie’s breathe away, and we pull back, to see Peter staring out over the city.

That’s when he hears a familiar voice: MJ (yay, we get a Zendaya cameo! Of course, if she wants, we’ve got a symbiote with her name on it…). She’s soothing, giving him little tidbits of what happened, but telling him it’s okay, now that he’s here, now that he can save them, that they’ll need him to be strong- that she needs him to be strong- but that right now, more than anything, she needs him to hold her and tell her everything is going to be okay.

He reaches out to her, but hesitates, because his Peter tingle is going nuts. During that lull, she’s hit with a black shield. Now, I’m good whichever way we want to slice this; original Cap in a symbiote is cool, but so is Falcon Cap. Either way, Captain America in a symbiote hits “MJ” with his shield, which is also covered in symbiote goo. She falls, fast enough Spider-Man can’t try to shoot a web to save her, and impacts the ground. But the sound isn’t right. He’s been doing this long enough he’s heard people splat. This was almost like a stone dropping. The poisons are coated in a crystalline shell; when they’re unattached, they are spindly and skeletal (around human height and size or larger), but once they absorb a humanoid, they take on that person’s proportions (so a Rocket Raccoon Poison would be tiny, but a Hulk Poison would be huge).

Cap explains that it wasn’t really MJ at all, but one of the Poisons. “They do to the symbiotes what the symbiotes do to us, only it’s parasitic, invasive, and permanent. You touch a poison, and you become one of them- forever.”

“And what happens to the host?” Peter asks, his life sort of flashing before his eyes.

“They convert the host body, keeping any metahuman abilities it might have. Anything else is eaten up, used as fuel for the conversion process.”

“And the person’s just… gone?” Peter asks.

“You see flickers of them, but-”

“Was that really MJ?”

“No- or probably not. They’re telepathic. They can read what you want, what you need, and convince you that’s what they’re giving you. It’s convincing, because we all see it, whatever they’re projecting. It’s fooled everything we’ve thrown at it, magic, other telepaths.”

“I sensed it,” Peter says.

“Not enough you didn’t try to make out with it,” Venom says.

“But if he can hone that, it could be a game changer,” Cap says.

“Wait,” Venom puts up his clawed hand. “How do we know whether or not you are just a different poison, rescuing us from the first, because you wanted his meal?”

Cap smiles. “You don’t. But that caution will serve you well, here.” Cap leads them back to his safehouse. This world proves to have oddball versions of lots of Marvel’s existing characters, but also the Fox and Netflix and TV characters, you can also pull in alternate reality, What If characters, so if you wanted to have Haley Atwell do a live-action Captain Carter/Britain… you could. Characters could possibly be played by different actors to ease the budget, but I am all for us having a ridiculous cast, nigh unto an Avengers movie, and I feel like the box office of No Way Home justifies it. In the time Eddie was gone, Carnage’s babies have spread like a plague to most of the Earth’s metahumans. Most of the actors could probably be paid peanuts compared to their usual salary, because they’re doing voice gigs (they’ll be under symbiotes without their faces exposed, completely CG) and can bang out their role in an afternoon, with maybe a handful of them actually being face to face (likely the more main characters… it would likely be a fun excuse to get Hugh Jackman into a movie with Deadpool, if only for a few minutes).

Most of these would be expendable if the actor either doesn’t want to play ball, or wants too much (expendable in the we could do without, or kill them quickly to up the stakes). Since we’re drawing from the comic, the only two I think we need to have, hero-wise, are Dr. Strange and Deadpool; Strange would have his face covered, giving us as close to the design of the blue-faced strange costume as we’re likely to ever see. As far as what we’re adding, the pair I view as necessary are Michelle Williams She-Venom and Danom, Dr. Dan, both from the previous Venom movies. If we want we can leave them here at the end of it… I’m not terribly invested in the side characters from the Venom franchise, but it would be a good opportunity to tie off those stories.

She runs up to Eddie and throws her arms around him, and they have an emotional reunion. Danom follows her, and stands behind her, eventually introducing himself to Spider-Man as “Danom,” before the symbiote peels back and he calls himself “Dr. Dan,” and offers his hand for Spider-Man to shake, but Peter doesn’t take it, and a beat later he retracts it and says, “You’re right; I’ve really got to stop trying to touch people.”

“You’re trying to grope the kid now?” Eddie asks Dan.

“Man,” Peter says, “Spider-Man.”

“You’re trying to grope the man now?” Eddie asks again.

“Really not much better,” Peter mumbles.

Dan recognizes the name. “We had one of you. He did not last long. Hon? That Spider-Kid still with the poisons.”

Man,” Peter says feebly.

“Oh yeah. He’s creepy.”

“Hey,” Eddie interjects, “I think we all need to give Spider-Boy a little respect and call him by his proper name.”

Peter rubs his temple, then says, “I think I should go talk to Cap.”

But once Peter’s gone, the atmosphere changes, and Dan steps to Eddie. “You know what I like about this? You can’t just throw your weight around anymore.”

Eddie, who is much bigger, puffs out his chest, and pushes it into Dan. “Really?”

One of Dan’s tendrils grabs Eddie from behind the head and flings him across the room.

Looming over him, Dan demands, “Stop trying to bang my fiancé in front of me.”

“In front of you? I would never- this isn’t your way of not-so-subtly telling me about your kink, is it?”

“It does sound kinky,” Anne says.

“Don’t egg him on,” Dan complains.

“He does have a point, Eddie,” she agrees sternly. “It’s not cool trying to bang me in front of him. At least have the decency to do it behind his back.”

“That is not… damnit.” Dan, frustrated, stomps off.

She helps Eddie up with one hand, but holds him close. “Fun as it is to wind-up Dan, he’s right. I’ve moved on. I love you enough I want you to, too.”

“You love me?”

“The way you love a puppy who won’t stop shitting in your underwear drawer; you know it’s too stupid to understand why it isn’t housebroken enough to live indoors. And Eddie- I mean it. This needs to stop. We’re fighting for our survival here. I don’t have time to coddle you.”

We linger just long enough to see how much it hurts Eddie, before cutting away to Spider-Man, talking to Cap.

“We tried that,” Cap says. “The last you, in fact, our you- he had the same idea. It didn’t work. What we found out, subsequently, is that the symbiotes leave traces, antibodies, maybe they’re eggs. But there’s enough of the symbiotes left that even if you try to fight the poisons without, they can still take you over if they touch you- faster, it seemed, like the symbiote will fight the corruption, but without that barrier it barely touched Parker before…”

“Okay. So how long do they have to make contact?”

“It’s not instantaneous. You can get away with punching them. But if you try to grapple… that’s how we lost Hulk.”

“Okay, then what we need is weapons. Where’s your reality’s version of the Iron Man suit, Mjolnir,, the Infinity- wait, they have a Hulk?”

“We have a Hulk,” a Poison Loki says from the doorway. He was using his illusions to be a character we wanted to be able to use but whose actor said ‘Nah.’ An instant later, Poison Hulk smashes through the wall.

 Cap tells everyone to scatter and rendezvous at location 4. Cap fights Hulk long enough for everyone to escape; an angry Hulk beats him until he expires. Poison Loki chastises. “No! Hulk! Too much smashing!” Hulk calls him a “Puny God” and threatens to strike him, and Loki flinches.

Venom and Spider-Man leave together, along with Anne and Dan. They fight a Poison Sinister Six. Anne and Dan help at first, but they’re obviously novices, so it takes the two of them to take out Poison Kraven, leaving most of the fighting to Venom and Spider-Man.

Spider-Man is badly injured. He hallucinates Aunt Man, or Happy, or maybe Tony in his armor, and we see his hand outstretched, before cutting back to Venom beating Poison Doc Ock down with a piece of rebar. Venom calls for Spider-Man, and the camera turns to show Poison Spider-Man, who says, “Spider-Man’s not here anymore.” It comes down to Spider-Man vs. Venom, with Spider-Man winning handily, holding a limp Brock up and calling for a poison to convert him.

Reinforcements arrive, including Venompool. His bullets make quick work of the free poisons, but the converted are still up for a fight, until Antivenom arrives with Dr. Strange, the one from the Thunderbolts, with the red symbol. The remaining poisons, including Spider-Man, think he’s a black and red, and flee.

Venom asks Strange Venom to bring a Carnage here, but Strange is reluctant. The conversation is interrupted by Venompool. He fights with Strange, upset with their dwindling numbers, that their plan has been to run and hide, run and hide, each time losing more people. “That’s how we lost Cable. Domino. Firefist.” He snickers. “Okay, they didn’t all have great names, but they didn’t deserve to die because some feckless, unemployed surgeon confused himself for Captain America.”

“We recruited one of those, remember? It didn’t help.”

Venompool hits Strange. “I wasn’t done listing people I blame you for getting killed.”

“You’ve lost a lot,” Strange says, levitating off the ground, “so I’ll let you have that one.”

“Yukio. Negasonic. Vanessa. And now the kid’s gone, too. I can’t speak for anybody else, but I’m done waiting for Handsome Gandalf to get me killed.” He storms off.

The other Venoms are shocked, and one asks what they should do. Strange tries to play it cool, but he’s just as hurt, because Wade’s been his lieutenant from the beginning. “Wade does this every few people we lose. He’s been fighting this fight longer than anyone but me; the losses have been extra hard on him. But we need to meet up at location 4, and pick up any other survivors.“

Anne and Dan have a tense moment hiding out in a largely destroyed building; she feels like they abandoned Eddie. His reasoning is he’s a doctor; he couldn’t just let someone die because Eddie was too preoccupied putting a piece of rebar through someone’s head. This is the place, if we want a face heel turn for Dan, and for Anne to end up with Eddie, for that to happen; frankly, I prefer Dan for her, despite the format usually preferring the screw-up ex instead (almost always romanticizing unhealthy behavior in the name of a man reclaiming his “territory”).

They decide to stay at location 4, which turns out to be the Baxter Building, a copy of the home of the Fantastic Four (they built satellite buildings across the globe, so the Four had nearby operating bases to deal with crises, that otherwise function as tech magnet schools). Strange tells Venom they had to keep the location hints simple, so Wade could remember them; he was unstable before the symbiote, but the alien had made him even more volatile.

Just then we cut to Venompool, on the streets. He’s got his hands up, and is surrounded by poisons. “You know what they say? If you can’t beat them, join em. You guys get dental? With teeth like these, I could really use it.” One of the free Poison shambles towards him. The Poisons grab hold of Deadpool; most hold him down, but one or two of them are actually trying to sooth him. “Does it hurt? Should I have a safe word? I’ve always been fond of sarsaparilla. As a word, and a drink, and like that, I’m thirsty. I’d even choke down a YooHoo. Oh, who am I kidding, my safeword has always been ‘Goldilocks.’ I’d let that big, blond Asgardian hammer me til Sleipnir came-” as the Poison touches Deadpool, he screams, and we cut to black, maintaining the audio. “Kidding,” Deadpool says, “It tickles my taint.”

“No, you’re doing that,” one of the Poisons tells him.

“Spoilers,” Deadpool says.

We cut back to the safe house, where Venom again asks that Strange summon a Carnage. “You understand this isn’t like Magic: The Gathering, I can’t just pull a Carnage out of my deck.”

“Or ass. I’m not particular about which side. And you pulled all of us,” Eddie insists.

“No,” Strange replies, “I didn’t. Some of those here are from this Earth. The rest received symbiotes from this dimension, despite hailing from alternate ones. When the symbiotes began to lose, they called out, across realities, for their champions. The symbiotes themselves summoned most of you here.”

“So you can’t do it?”

“I didn’t say that. Most of my strength is reserved, for keeping us and the Poisons inside the mirror dimension; sorcerers usually only open one large enough to contain a fight- I captured the entire city. I’m not sure the Poisons have even noticed yet- because there’s a hypnotic charm near the boundaries- I learned that trick from Wanda. But I can try- though you realize there’s an even chance that Carnage simply decides to try to kill all of us, instead, right?”

“He wouldn’t be Carnage if he didn’t. I once heard Fury had a doomsday plan for Latveria, if Dr. Doom ever became to- drop Hulk at one end of the country and Punisher at the other. Carnage is similar, and if the Poisons really are afraid of him, that could give him the advantage we need.”

“Peel back your symbiote.” Brock hesitates, and Strange waves his hand, and the symbiote peels back, revealing Eddie’s chest. Strange draws a symbol on him. “You’ll be the anchor. If Carnage gets off the chain, I can banish him by banishing you.”

“Now when you say ‘banish..’”

“Portal with a sling ring. Or putting a hole through your chest large enough to disrupt the symbol.”

“I was afraid you meant that.”

Strange brings a Carnage, who reacts badly to Venom. “You ain’t my daddy. Look like him. Smell like him. Bet you even taste the part. But you ain’t him.” There’s a pause, before he says, “But you’ll do.” Carnage attacks all of them.

“Aw, mommy and daddy are fighting,” Poison Spider-Man taunts as he arrives. “I bet it’s not over which of their little bastards they love the most.” They cause a little damage, one of the Venoms falls, but Carnage is a game-changer. He’s able to slice through the Poisons like a hot knife through butter, and they’re actively afraid of him. Spider-Man manages to snag Strange and return to home base.

That’s where we learn that their leader is Poison Dr. Doom, and that Poison Deadpool earned his trust by telling them where to find Strange. For the moment his magical defenses keep the Poisons at bay; because I want something visually fun, the Poisons can approach, but once they get too close, they get zapped by orange electricity and flung violently backwards. It’s fatal to the unbonded ones, unpleasant to the big ones.

Finally, we cut back to Dan and Anne. She’s very worried about Eddie. “And I’m worried about my patient.” He softens, and puts his arm around her and kisses her head. He offers to let her rendezvous with the others, if she wants; as soon as his patient can move he’ll catch up. He wishes there were anything he could do to spare her from this horror- no one deserves this- not even Brock. As he’s reassuring her, we see a Poison creeping up the wall behind them, snapping its weird little mouth open as it prepares to lunge, before being webbed in place.

“You two might want to, uh, worry more about the horrible thing wanting to eat you both.” We see Dan’s patient. It’s Spider-Man, our Spider-Man. He’s bandaged, and clearly worse for wear, but alive, and not a Poison. Dan tells him he’s not well enough to move. “Yeah, well, it’s not safe to stay here, either.” The three of them swing off, even as their hideout is swarmed by unbound Poisons.

Back at the Baxter Building, the Venoms aren’t sure what to do next. Tragedy keeps walloping them, again, and again. There’s a leadership void, with most of them reluctant to follow Eddie, because, well, his reputation as a screw-up precedes him. They realize Strange is missing, that he was their target all along. They badly, desperately need a win, and it’s at that moment that Poison Deadpool is thrown into the room, all webbed up.

Spider-Man saunters in, flanked by Dan and Anne. Deadpool tries to speak, and Spider-Man fills his mouth with webbing; not just a single shot of it, but a prolonged spray, lasting several seconds. Deadpool spits it out.

“I’ve had dreams like that, only in the dreams I wasn’t wearing a mask so I could swallow. Wait, is the ‘kid’ old enough that my dreams like that aren’t going to get me sent to the dream hoosegow?”

Literally no one is paying attention to him, because they’re all so happy to see Spider-Man and the two Venoms. Eventually, Deadpool interrupts: “I truly hate to break up the love-fest- half the reason I did this was hoping to be thrown a triumphant hero’s orgy on my return-”

“That is not a thing,” one of them says.

“Hercules swears it’s a thing. Anyway. Like I tried telling these three, I surrendered. On purpose.”

“To the Poisons?” Anne asks.

“Both times. I got myself Poisoned, so I could come back here and give you the skinny on them.”

“That’s a stupid plan,” Brock says.

“Your plan was to use Hannibal Lector in a symbiote, and hope he killed more of theirs than ours? But my plan’s stupid.”

“Hey,” Spider-Man says, “it sounds like we’re on the same side, and that everybody’s plan was stupid.”

Venom growls, but Deadpool laughs, before launching into what he learned. “First, I know where they put their headquarters.” Because it’s San Francisco, it would probably be cool to have it on Alcatraz, but there’s plenty of other historical options. “Second, I know who’s pulling the strings.” We show Poison Doom on his throne. “Third, I like being tied up, and I can feel my mind ‘poisoning’ even as we speak, so that was, retroactively, probably a smart call, and not just because it provides plausible deniability about how much I enjoy being tied up.”

One of them who would have a reason to know, asks, if they have their own Doom, why they would need Strange. “Because Victor Von Doom is a jack of all trades, but a master of none. He’s a technologist almost as good as Tony Stark. He’s a scientist second only to Reed Richards. And a sorcerer just behind Strange. He is the world’s biggest second banana, which is why he’s such a jerk. But they’ve got scores of magic-types, just no one of Strange’s caliber. Or maybe it’s just that the barrier he erected prevents any of them from opening a gate out.”

“So your plan really was stupid,” Anne says. “You traded Strange for information that their plan required capturing Strange.”

“And, where and how to get him back out, plus, the location of Doom’s teleporter that they’ve been using to bring in more poisons. They don’t breed, at least not at the stage where they can take on a host. We break in, get Strange, destroy Doom and his teleporter. Once they can’t replenish their numbers, we can whittle them down.”

The Venoms leave the room to discuss the plan, leaving Carnage to watch Deadpool. They spar, a bit, Deadpool goading Carnage in close before revealing that he cut his way out of the webbing. He attacks Carnage and webs him up.

We cut to the other room, where they’re discussing. Through the doorway, we can see Deadpool putting Carnage over his shoulder like it’s a sack of toys and he’s a horrible Santa, and jumping out the window. “My Peter-Tingle, damnit, now May’s got me doing it- my Spider-Sense.” Peter says, pointing at the fleeing Deadpool; they run after him.

Deadpool drags Carnage into Doom’s throne room. At first Doom is congratulatory… until Carnage stirs. He blasts him with sonic waves from his gauntlets, which disrupts Carnage’s symbiote. It’s also loud enough Deadpool sneaks up to Doom and puts a sword through his chest. That gets the other Poisons rushing the throne room.

We cut to the Venom strike team, led by Venom and Spider-Man. They fight their way through a team of Poison Avengers; Anne and Danom stay behind with the other Venoms to fight them, while Venom and Spider-Man press on for Strange.

They fight their way to the holding cells, finding Strange held captive by other magic users that take turns probing his defenses for weaknesses. Occasionally he turns one of their attacks back on his attackers. When he creates that opening Spider-Man and Venom strike. The element of surprise is enough for them to create an opportunity, which Strange exploits to sling-ring them all onto a snowy mountaintop- you all know the one.

We cut back to the throne room, where Deadpool abandons Carnage to deal with the teleporter. Subtly, Doom is now missing, as Carnage cuts through increasingly more Poisons. Deadpool finds the teleporter as Doom tries to use it to escape… only to realize at the last moment that Deadpool has rolled active grenades in it with him. It explodes.

Things look dire for our Venoms. The Poison Avengers are winning, and free Poisons are gathering around the fight, lunging at Venoms at every opportunity. That’s when Strange, Venom and Spider-Man arrive, and are enough to turn the tide, chewing through the Poison Avengers.

We cut back to Carnage, who’s been overwhelmed. A veritable army of poisons are holding him down, suffering casualties even as they choke him under their sheer number. Deadpool arrives, shooting first the free Poisons, and then helping free Carnage. They slice and dice their way towards the others. Rocket Venom (or someone else with the right kind of experience) reveals he set a bomb on their generators, one that will blow the entire island. Strange teleports them away at the last moment.

Strange and Venom have a conversation. Venom thinks they’ve won, but Strange realizes that the Poisons were coming from somewhere, that they’ve beaten back the first wave, but there will likely be others… “This is no longer their fight. I will send you home- all of you. Those who are from this reality, may choose to stay, or I can send you to another reality as a refuge. But all of us staying here, we’re too appetizing a target.”

Strange says he’s going to send the Venoms home, that those who remain can handle sweeping up the remaining poisons. Dan and Anne decide to stay, it’s their home, and they want to stay and help rebuild it, so they can start the family they want. I think Strange tells Eddie that things got worse when he arrived, in particular with the Poisons being able to track them, because his suit is from the original line that sired all of the symbiotes remaining on Earth, so they were connected. Eddie opts to go, and we’ll spin it as a noble decision, not a pouty one, especially where Anne is concerned. “I want you to be happy, Anne, deep down, I do. But there will always be a part of me that’s sad that you can’t be happy with me, that I can’t be the one who makes you happy. And I want to be that better me, you know? But if I stay I don’t know that I can.”

“You’re already a better you,” she says, and kisses him.

“Look,” Dan says, “if you want, you can be the best man.”

It takes him a minute to understand what Dan means. “Really? That would mean the world.”

Eddie hugs Dan. “We were talking,” Anne said. “And you go through something like this, these people are closer to me than anyone I’ve ever known. They’re friends, family.”

So they do an impromptu little ceremony. Dr. Strange presides. Dan gets his hand a little too close to the book Strange is holding, and it tries to bite him. “It’s not a Bible; you probably don’t want to touch it.” Everybody forms either black or white formal wear out of their symbiotes; most keep their faces covered for largely budgetary reasons. We do enough of the ceremony to get to the speak now part, and Eddie raises his hand. Strange and Anne share a look, with him gesturing to his sling ring, essentially offering to teleport Eddie away, but she gives a subtle little head shake to warn him off.

We let the moment linger. “I just wanted to say, it’s not an objection, but I wanted to say that I love the hell out of both of you, and I’m just so touched that you let me be a part of your love, and your life. Sorry, probably not the right moment.”

Strange shrugs, and continues. “By the powers vested in me, by the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth, by the Omnipotent Oshtur, by Agamotto’s light, by-” Peter gives Strange the cut it gesture, and he pivots, “I now pronounce you, husband and wife, and invite you to share your first wedded kiss.” It is a hell of a kiss, because the symbiotes are like Viagra. “I said kiss, not bliss; there are children present.”

Man, damnit,” Peter mutters, “I’m a Man.”

“Sure you are, buddy,” Eddie says to him.

We cut to after. Venom tries to convince Anne and Dan to come to the MCU. “It’s pretty much the same, only San Francisco didn’t get destroyed. New York, a little, but it’s mostly fine, now. But there, I’m not a signal flare for a band of interdimensional monsters to come and eat my loved ones.”

“Someone’s got to pick up the pieces,” Dan tells him.

“And it might sound silly, but I want my kids to grow up in the same San Francisco I did, not a facsimile.”

“No,” Eddie says, “I get it. If they were my kids, I’d want the same thing. I’m just- I’m gonna miss you.”

“We’ll miss you, too. Spider-Man?”

Peter’s so jazzed to have someone call him Spider-Man. “She called me Spider-Man!” he says under his breath.

“Take care of this big lug, okay?”

“Sure thing, miss, ma’am, uh…”

“It’s time,” Strange says. He sends Venom and Peter home. Peter discovers he has 178 missed calls.

“Sounds rough, kid,” Eddie says, and slaps him on the back, and turns to leave. “I probably still owe you one. Or maybe a couple, now. If you need me, you know where to find me.

Credits.

Mid-Credits scene: We show the exterior of Xandar, along with white text, “Xandar” followed shortly after by, “the Venomverse”. We cut inside the Nova citadel, where a similar teleporter to the one Doom tried to use sits. Doom teleports in, before he and the teleporter are caught in an explosion. Doom, smoking but still moving, holding the wound in his chest, slinks down the hall. In the central chamber sits a floating crystalline throne, which Doom kneels before. “My operation was lost. The sorcerer escaped.”

We pan across the throne room. We see Poison versions of the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Shiar Imperial Guard, the Super Skrull, Warlock, Nova, Silver Surfer, with two large things in shadow floating in space beyond that could well be Poison Galactus and Poison Ego. Sitting in the throne is Poison Thanos, who tells Doom, “There are other sorcerers, and our numbers remain vast. And now we know there are countless other realities to conquer, and we will Poison them all.” He gives the same, creepy little smile he gave at the end of Avengers and we cut to black.

Pitchmas 2021, Part 2: Sinister Seven

The Deal: I pitch movies set in the Marvel or DC cinematic universes. Also other things. This pitch is a direct sequel to Sinister Six.

Note: Part of the challenge of these pitches is that I’m making guesses based on the shifting landscape of Marvel’s universe; to accommodate this, I moved this pitch from last week to this one, figuring I could adjust as necessary over the week. Since my first Sinister Six pitch, we’ve had a Venom and a Spider-Man movie, and as a result some things I assumed were givens have now been altered; I haven’t seen No Way Home yet, and may not for some time, since my local drive-in is shuttered for the winter. The main difference is I assumed Carnage would still be around, and a threat, which Venom needed help with- and not you know, in a different reality. Now, I’d switch his character’s motivation towards fixing the Symbiote’s dietary restrictions in that first movie, but it otherwise plays pretty much the same. Now, on with our feature presentation.

The Pitch

We start on a rainy night. Venom swings through the streets like Spider-Man, the symbiote first humming a version of the Spider-Man cartoon theme, before it bursts out into a boisterous version of the chorus with his own lyrics:

Venom Suit, Venom Suit

Eats scum from their heads down to their boot (alternate line: Friend to chickens and a hoot,)

Alien goo and sexy too,

Lethally protects you and you!

Look out!

Here comes the Venom Suit!”

Venom lands on a rooftop, and Eddie’s face is revealed under the mask. “I don’t like your song,” Eddie says

“Why not?” the Suit asks.

“For one, it’s entirely about you. I’m not even in it.”

“You’re in it. Because you’re in me.”

“You make it sound like I’m you’re luggage.”

“That’s it exactly. You’re my carry-on.” Eddie’s annoyed, but doesn’t pursue it further. Lightning slashes the sky, and the suit winces. “I do not like the lightning, Eddie.”

“I know, buddy,” Eddie says, but he’s cut off by another flash of lightning, this one closer; the symbiote recoils from Eddie, nearly tearing clean off him.

“It weakens us,” Venom says, as another flash hits a transformer near to them. In the initial strike, we can almost make out the fact that the symbiote is trying to tear itself in half- we see two distinct symbiotes. When the transformer explodes, coating the rooftop with fire and sound, the symbiotes sheer. It’s a moment before the torn away symbiote’s shape becomes recognizable, but it is Carnage, reborn. His symbiote face peels back to reveal Cleatus Kassidy beneath it.

“Nice to see you, Eddie,” he says, “but I got to run.”

He leaps off the roof. Venom is there an instant later, but he can’t tell where Carnage ran. There are a handful of people on the street, any of whom he could be, and a manhole cover missing from the sewers. Eddie wants to pursue, but Venom is terrified. They gave killing Carnage their absolute best shot, and he shrugged it off like it was nothing. He prevents Eddie from pursuing long enough that Carnage has definitely gotten away. We do whatever opening credits we’re going to do, at a minimum, flashing the title with a bloody, “Absolute Carnage” splattered beneath the words “Sinister Seven” (and yes, we are taking inspiration from the Oceans flicks and adding a member of the crew and going up by one for the sequels).

We get a quick montage of Eddie doing research, because the Six have changed their hideout. Venom, desperate, returns to the Sinister Six headquarters, and demands Ock pay what he owes, namely, that the Six help defeat Carnage. But he’s followed by Carnage and his new crew including Shriek wearing a black and white symbiote of her own, which resembles her comics ensemble. That’s right: Carnage’s symbiote and Venom’s made babies (note: in this reality, Kassidy did get the death penalty, leaving his Shriek available, and consequently more feral). Ock and his team are still licking their wounds from their last whupping, and unprepared for the onslaught. Carnage captures Vulture and offers to spare his family if Vulture agrees to work for him- and threatens to recruit his daughter in his stead if he doesn’t. We also see them seize Jackal. The remaining members of the Six scatter, recognizing the fight as unwinnable (and villains being a superstitious and cowardly lot).

Venom doubles back, and follows Carnage. He’s also recruited the Hobgoblin, who also knows where Man-Spider and Lizard have been working together. I might give Shriek a backstory with Dr. Connors, that he experimented on her while she was in custody, trying to remove the herding/pack mentality from human beings (her abilities have been linked to the opposite, a panicked, every man for himself kind of instinct). She seeks revenge on him.

We cut to Connor’s lab. Peter unmasks, and offers his services as a lab assistant to Dr. Connors (personally, I’d bring back Dylan Baker, because he’s phenomenal, and can do that mentor thing no problem, but also can pivot to sinister in a way that would make him perfect for this role). See, Pete, because he’s been Spider-Manning, hasn’t really been able to hold down a job, so on paper he looks like the world’s biggest flake. Connors is patient with him, but says that even before he got the spider bite, he wasn’t much of an assistant; he spent his time there geeking out, and it got bad enough he had to hire an intern to pick up the slack, before Peter fully ghosted him to work for Octavius (who, faithful readers will remember, he ghosted for Tony Stark). That’s when we meet Connors’ new lab assistant, Miles Morales. He’s getting some college credit in exchange for the gig, and money for college… once he’s old enough to go. Pete thinks a moment, then offers that if he ever needs a second assistant, he’s one swing away. Connors stops him, and says that he’s still going to help him- him and his clone. We hear the sound of web-swinging, before a four-armed Spider-Man swings into the room. “I don’t know, I’m sort of getting used to the four arms,” he says. “Though I don’t miss the thousands of eyes. Or being hairy like a sasquatch.” Pete gets a call from Aunt May, and tells them he has to go, and swings out the window.

Miles confronts Connors about their mysterious donor- that it’s Spider-Man. Connors doesn’t confirm it, or deny it. Miles tells him that, ethically, they shouldn’t be keeping their experiments a secret. He says that until they have a breakthrough, there’s nothing to publish- nothing to share- and he wants to make sure it’s safe before exposing anyone else to the mutagenic compounds in Spider-Man’s blood. 

The window opens, and they turn back, expecting to find Peter. But it’s Carnage. Man-Spider attacks him, and Carnage makes quick work of him, dropping a writhing little ball of symbiote onto him that turns him into the Doppleganger. Carnage next attacks Connors, who starts to change into the Lizard. As his mouth snaps open, Carnage jams a symbiote inside, and holds him while it takes him over. In the commotion, Miles hides, but has a terrarium with a spider smashed over him in the commotion, and he’s bit by its former inhabitant. Venom, watching from a nearby rooftop, calls Ock.

Cut to Peter Parker’s rooftop. He’s marching, maskless, saying, “No no no no no no no.” We pan, and see that he’s reacting, badly, to Ock and Venom. “The last time you two were on this rooftop I was sucked into a black void before spending a week chained in a sadistic nightmare.”

Venom, not being a monster in this iteration, tries to apologize. Ock cuts him off. “You care for your clone, yes? And Dr. Connors?”

“Are you threatening them? What kind of a team-up is this?”

“They are already under threat, and not from me. Carnage has them. They are in the thrall of his sadistic symbiotes.”

“Are you saying they’re all sadistic or just his?”

“The red ones,” Venom’s symbiote says, “are mad. We have a saying amongst the Klyntar, that black and white are all right. Black and red, everyone’s dead.”

“Well thank God there’s a nursery rhyme,” Peter says, rubbing his eyes. “And they can be helped?”

“Symbiote and host can be separated. Must, in most cases, before the symbiote kills the host.”

“Oh. Good. What nightmare isn’t better without a ticking clock?” Peter asks. He shoves his mask back on. “I don’t see that I have a choice.”

“You could call your Avenger friends,” Ock taunts.

“You think he didn’t?” we hear a commanding voice from behind them. We see that Sam Wilson Captain America is landing on the rooftop.

This is your cavalry?” Ock complains.

“Short notice. Everyone else is dealing with a Kang situation,” Sam says (we can swap in whatever else might be a more appropriate reference).

“So that’s six, right?” Peter asked. “Contract fulfilled. We can stop recruiting and take the fight to Carnage? Or are you doing that thing from that old Ocean’s 11 series, where each time you have to add a character and a number to the movie.”

“There wasn’t a sequel to the ‘old’ Ocean’s 11,” Ock protested.

“Kid’s 6. Anything older than Blue’s Clues is prehistoric,” Venom said.

“Blue’s whose?” Peter asked, to which Ock chortled.

We cut to street level. Carnage’s symbiotes are chasing Cloak through the streets. He calls out for Tandy, before he hears her scream “Tyrone.” He follows the scream to the rooftops.

Carnage is there with his makeshift family. “You spoke to Brock for an article about homeless youth and underground drug experiments. Nobody cared. Color me shocked. But the experiments made you slippery, and your friend, well, she’s a beacon if I ever saw one. Her? I have no use for. I learned a long time ago that I do my best work in the dark. But you… we could have a lot of fun with you. But you’re slippery. So I was never going to be able to catch you on my own. I needed leverage.” Shriek produces Tandy, held inside her symbiote. “I have a soft spot for tragic love, so I’ll give you one chance to save ‘Tandy.’ You accept one of my symbiotes, and I let her go.” We show he’s got a finger crossed behind his back.

“I want to say goodbye.” Cloak floats near her, then engulfs both Shriek and Dagger in his cloak, before disappearing- but not before Carnage tags him with one of his symbiotes. Cloak lets Dagger out of his cloak somewhere else. They have a tearful goodbye, as Cloak tells her that he can feel the symbiote taking him over- that she needs to run- because when it does, it’s going to chase her. She doesn’t want to leave him. He tells her he isn’t- that she’s going to save him- she just has to pick her moment. He disappears, reappearing with Carnage. He lets Shriek loose. Then they all teleport to where he left Tandy. She’s gone.

The story follows a similar arc to the Maximum Carnage storyline from the books, Carnage’s team sewing panic in the streets, which Shriek is able to turn into unrest and rioting; she’s used Connor’s work and her new symbiote to create the opposite of what he was working on, a low-level sonic pulse that freaks people the hell out on an animal level; he’ll jibber about the reptile brain, mention those sonic pest repellers; it’s especially effective on the young, who have better hearing, and also fewer social ties, and because the first riot is mostly kids, that freaks out the older cohort. So by the time the heroes are organized, Carnage has built himself a bubble of innocent rioters to hide behind- they can’t take the fight to them until they clear out the civilians. 

But just like the original Maximum Carnage, it’s a combination of Captain America’s inspiration for them to be their best selves (I imagine mentioning the solidarity he saw in New York during the Chitari attack, Sam, not yet an Avenger, took volunteers from his group therapy to do disaster work), and a combination of Dagger’s light powers, that get the people enough in their right minds to disperse. I’m imagining an additional rub, that while he’s not officially, numerically part of the team (got to save something for the sequel) Morbius studies Shriek’s impact, and discovers there’s a biological component; yes, it is primarily a psychic plague, but it works symbiotically with a biological one, that lowers inhibitions while increasing adrenaline and rage- even if they can get the crowd to calm down, the moment someone stubs a toe it all goes to hell all over again, unless they can deal with the underlying, symbiote-based infection. I’d probably have him be attacked by a symbioted Jackal, who mocks his abilities, and he has to defeat, to be able to carry out his cure. So it’s the three of them in tandem that deal with Shriek’s influence.

Then the heroes take the fight to Carnage. We get a cool aerial Cap vs Vulture fight, a heartfelt Dagger vs. Cloak fight (him swallowing her up and her using her light from inside to reach him). Venom fights Carnage, while Spider-Man handles his Doppleganger. I guess Ock fights Lizard. Kraven and Scorpion fight Hobgoblin and Shriek. Dagger is able to clear the symbiotes off of people, everyone except Carnage. See, there isn’t anything underneath it- he’s just the symbiote, the face we’ve seen having been recreated by its shape-shifting. I think as the other symbiotes are removed, they return to Carnage; it makes him slightly more powerful, but also takes the hosts out of the fight. So in the end it’s everyone still standing versus Carnage. He ends up climbing to the top of a tower where, buffeted by attacks, he’s struck by lightning, and his charred body falls to the ground, shattering.

Mid-Credits Scene

Venom apologizes again to Spider-Man for dragging him into this. Peter, with a little reluctance, takes his hand and shakes it. We go in close, as the Venom symbiote reaches a tendril from Eddie’s hand onto the back of Spider-Man’s. It should read, in the moment, like the symbiote wanting to shake his hand, too, since he’s a real hero.

Ock is waiting in the wings, wanting a similar moment, and Peter notices. “You touch me, Otto, and I’ll tear off your arms. The, uh, metal ones, I mean.”

“You touch the kid again, and I’m tearing off all your limbs,” Venom adds. “Wait. Aw, crap.” Venom starts to do the thing he did at the end of Venom 2, and disappears; instinctively, the suit covers Spider-Man, too, to try to protect him, and inadvertently drags Peter with them, giving us, for the briefest moment, the MCU debut of symbiote Spider-Man.

Sam is on Otto in an instant, assuming he had something to do with the kid’s disappearance. Otto is just as flummoxed, and concerned, as he is. “I knew the boy before he grew into a Spider-Man; I briefly dated his aunt, and considered him a son. My concern for his welfare is equal to your own, and my befuddlement at his disappearance equal, too.”

Sam asks Connors, who is out of his depth on this one. Sam leaves, saying he needs to consult with some nerds.

End Credits

We cut to Carnage’s charred remains on the ground, and can see that the eyes are moving, if only just. He’s remembering the moment he was struck. We saw it as lightning, but really, it was a message, carried on electricity, across the stars. We zoom across galaxies, to the homeworld of the Klyntar, a writhing ball o symbiotes. We push through the goo, into a dark throne room, on which sits a gaunt, terrifying figure. We zoom in, pushing close, until we can just see one of his eyes beneath wispy white hair. He opens one blood-red eye, and we cut to black.