WARNING: Every word of this editorial is a spoiler for Avengers: Endgame.
Avengers: Endgame came with so many emotions. It truly was a culmination of everything the Marvel Cinematic Universe has worked toward over the past eleven years. I’m a big crier in movies. Is it sad? Tears. Is it unbearably cool? Tears. Is a woman getting to do something that a ten-year-old me never could have imagined she’d see outside of the pages of a comic book? Tears. Endgame was basically scenes like this from start to finish, but we’re going to touch on a few that check more than one of those boxes. Mainly, the nod to Marvel’s A-Force.
I want to first add some context for those who felt like the all-female team up scene felt “forced,” “out of nowhere,” or “pandering.” Such a team not only exists in the comics but was critically acclaimed. That team was called the A-Force and, despite the aforementioned acclaim, it had a criminally short run (2015-2016). So, why would something so well-received by critics (who become critics because they are fans) get tossed in the bin after such a short period of time? The run tanked due to low sales after being described as “decidedly feminist.”
Since we’re not here to dive into the deeply toxic culture running rampant within the comic book industry right now, let’s just acknowledge that the team exists and hop on over to the Endgame talk. Yes, Marvel’s A-Force comic was unprecedented and fiercely feminist. Yes, it died well before it should have. But Endgame gives a sliver of hope that the short-lived comic run may not be the last time we see the ladies of Marvel showing villains of the universe exactly what girls are made of.
The MCU hasn’t always done right by its women. Some of that’s because the epic saga started eleven years ago, when the zeitgeist of social awareness was much less aware, but it can also be attributed to the industry as a whole still learning how to handle female characters. Though it’s unlikely we’ve seen the end of the series’ struggles with female representation (especially intersectionality), Avengers: Endgame feels like a huge leap forward.
Yes, the film focuses on the main six (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, and Black Widow), of which there is only one woman. Rationally, it should, as Endgame is meant to be the close of their chapter. And, unfortunately, that also means that overall the women don’t see as much screentime. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t given their opportunity to throw big, impactful punches.
We’ve seen a lot of our favorite ladies fall over MCU’s tenure. Unfortunately, it’s rarely been done well. I might not ever get over Black Widow’s death, but she is certainly an exception to that rule. While the story wouldn’t have been able to progress without the Soul Stone her death procures, it’s much more important that Natasha dies fulfilling her character’s purpose. She had red in her ledger, and that red is now gone. Laziness has led some to characterize the character as a self-serving spy, but the reality is that there’s only one member of the Avengers both old and new with more loyalty than her.
Natalia Alianovna Romanova paved the path upon which the rest of the women in the MCU have run. It’s not five boys and one girl anymore. The end of this chapter of Marvel’s cinematic journey doesn’t just signal a changing of the guard, but a new era for the women of the universe. We literally see the gauntlet handed off from a man (Peter Parker) to a woman (Carol Danvers) to get it where it needs to go. What transpires next isn’t about whether or not Captain Marvel is strong enough to get the job done on her own. It’s about the fact that she doesn’t have to.
As she flies toward the van to get the Gauntlet to what they hope is its final destination, the rest of the MCU’s female heroes fall into place around her in support. Women we’ve spent the whole run with, like Pepper Potts as Rescue, all the way to brand-new additions like Shuri and Okoye march together with one uniform purpose. There’s no squabbling over who’s in charge or rank. They’re simply there to get the job done. One by one they drop into the scene ready to ride or die to save the universe. They fail. And then they all get back up and continue the battle.
It’s not just a singular incredible moment in a film filled with countless other amazing scenes. It signals a chance for something more. Many of these women haven’t even met one another before, yet they fall in line and march together in the heat of battle without a second thought. If ever given a chance to expand on the A-Force, things will be messier. They’ll have their differences. They’ll disagree and clash as we’ve watched the teams of the MCU do countless times and, when the time comes, they’ll march into battle all over again.
Like the MCU as a whole, whatever future the A-Force has will deviate from the comics to focus on the women who have enough of a tenure in the franchise to warrant excitement around a film that focuses on them. It’ll still likely be led by Captain Marvel, but we’ll get to see underused characters like Valkyrie, now queen of Asgard, shine. Whip-smart Shuri on tech, with warriors like Okoye, Wasp, Gamora, and Nebula on the front lines. Scarlet Witch fulfills the need on the magic front, along with Mantis and her own brand of empathy.
With these incredible women that we already know comes the opportunity to branch out to other characters as well. Five years ago, the general population didn’t even know the Guardians of the Galaxy existed, let alone that we would be willing to die for a tree. The larger MCU as a whole has acted as a springboard for lesser known, or more ridiculous sounding stories (here’s looking at you, Scott Lang) for years. There’s no reason to think that will change as the universe continues to expand.
All of this is to say that prior to Avengers: Endgame, it would have seemed impossible to think that an A-Force story could be on the horizon. Whether as its own thing, or whether it starts off as its own team-up in future Avengers storylines, a heart-wrenching and fulfilling ending did exactly what great endings are supposed to do: signal the chance for even brighter beginnings for something all-new. Maybe even all-different.