Avengers Assemble!

Critical Perspectives on the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Terence McSweeney

Wallflower Press

Avengers Assemble!

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Pub Date: March 2018

ISBN: 9780231186254

310 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£24.00

Pub Date: April 2018

ISBN: 9780231186247

310 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£70.00

Pub Date: March 2018

ISBN: 9780231851220

310 Pages

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Avengers Assemble!

Critical Perspectives on the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Terence McSweeney

Wallflower Press

We are living in the age of the superhero and we cannot deny it. Avengers Assemble! is a vibrant and theoretically informed interrogation of one of the defining and most financially successful film franchises of the new millennium. In the first single-authored monograph on the topic of the Marvel cinematic universe, Terence McSweeney asks, "Why has the superhero genre reemerged so emphatically in recent years?" In an age where people have stopped going to the cinema as frequently as they used to, they returned to it in droves for the superhero film. What is it about these films that has resonated with audiences all around the globe? Are they just disposable pop culture artifacts or might they have something interesting to say about the fears and anxieties of the world we live in today?

Beginning with Iron Man in 2008, this study provocatively explores both the cinematic and the televisual branches of the series across ten dynamic and original chapters from a diverse range of critical perspectives which analyse their status as an embodiment of the changing industrial practices of the blockbuster film and their symbolic potency as affective cultural artifacts that are profoundly immersed in the turbulent political climate of their era.
A magnificent book. As insightful and comprehensive as it is engaging and timely, this full-length examination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a rewarding read for passionate superhero fans as well as researchers in the fields of film studies, political science, and cultural studies. Marc DiPaolo, Southwestern Oklahoma State University, author of War, Politics, and Superheroes: Ethics and Propaganda in Comics and Film
This is a timely and entertaining volume that will prove very useful in the development of genre courses in the next few years as the superhero genre finds its place in taught modules across film and media programmes. The work is scholarly and well referenced in ways that open it to further reading and research, but accessible to undergraduate readers. The author takes an epistemically specific approach that is not inappropriate given the avowed focus on the MCU specifically, rather than the superhero genre on the whole or its historical roots. As such, the range of contemporary readings on terrorism, conflict, and the power structures of the twenty first century (mainly American) is again both timely and informative. Intellectually, the breaking of the MCU into its industrially determined ‘phases’ again focuses the chronology but also opens new arenas of interrogation. The ‘phase two’ section demonstrates the degree to which the frames of reference change between 2008 and 2013, freeing the franchise (and scholarly debate) from some of the immediate trauma narrative tropes of the first phase, and allowing the discussion to delve into some of the more liminal spaces of the MCU, such as in Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy on gender and fantasy. The final section on the recent television incarnations of the franchise is useful without delving too deeply into the political economy of transmedia in the Netflix age (which is another topic entirely) Harvey O'Brien, University College. Dublin
Acknowledgements
Prologue: The Heroes We Need Right Now?: Explaining ‘The Age of the Superhero’
Introduction: Superheroes in the New Millennium and ‘The Example of America’
PHASE ONE
1. ‘That’s how Dad did it, that’s how America does it … and it’s worked out pretty well so far’: The Stark Doctrine in Iron Man and Iron Man 2
2. Allegorical Narratives of Gods and Monsters: Thor and The Incredible Hulk
3. State Fantasy and the Superhero: (Mis)Remembering World War II in Captain America: The First Avenger
4. ‘Seeing … still working on believing!’: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Destruction in The Avengers
PHASE TWO
5. ‘Nothing’s been the same since New York’: Ideological Continuity and Change in Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World
6. ‘The world has changed and none of us can go back’: The Illusory Moral Ambiguities of the Post-9/11 Superhero in Captain America: The Winter Soldier
7. Blurring the Boundaries of Genre and Gender in Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man
8. ‘Isn’t that why we fight? So we can end the fight and go home?’: The Enduring American Monomyth in Avengers: Age of Ultron
THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE ON TELEVISION
9. ‘What does S.H.I.E.L.D. stand for?’: The MCU on the Small Screen in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Marvel’s Agent Carter
10. The Necessary Vigilantism of the Defenders: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist
Conclusion: ‘Whose side are you on?’: Superheroes Through the Prism of the ‘War on Terror’ in Captain America: Civil War
Epilogue: The Superhero as Transnational Icon
Filmography
Bibliography
Index

About the Author

Terence McSweeney is senior lecturer in Media Arts and Technology at Southampton Solent University. He is the author of The War on Terror and American Film: 9/11 Frames per Second' (Edinburgh University Press, 2014), Beyond the Frame: The Films and Film Theory of Andrei Tarkovsky (Aporetic Press, 2015) and the co-editor of Millennial Cinema: Memory in Global Film (Wallflower, 2012).