Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The top 10 greatest MCU Heroines

Last week the 2016 Marvel Cinematic Universe season kicked off with the premiere of Agent Carter season 2. It was two hours of great entertainment and I look forward to the rest of the season. It also made me want to do a little MCU-celebration. As a nerd the best thing to do is a top 10 list and in honor of agent Peggy Carter I'm going to list the 10 greatest heroines in the MCU.

Some would jokingly question whether there even are enough heroines in the MCU to make a full top 10 list, and while there is a point about the number of male heroes being much bigger than the number of heroines you can most certainly find enough badass ladies to make a list like this while still having some left overs, including one possibly controversial omission in this case.

For this list the basic criteria for getting on it is that the character has to be female, have appeared in an MCU movie, tv-series or short and is of the heroic nature. The ranking is based on the amount of appearances the character has within the MCU, how much character development they've had, how badass they are in general and some subjective personal bias (why even deny it?).

With that said, let's get to it, beware of spoilers. These are the top 10 greatest heroines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

10. Bobbi Morse

 Played by: Adrianne Palicki
Appears in: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (28 episodes)

Bobbi is an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (if you're not spelling it out in writing you're doing it wrong) that first appears in the second season of the television series. She starts out as an undcover agent who's infiltrating HYDRA but then joins the main cast as one of the team's main heavy hitters and overall big sister to the younger characters.

She is largely defined by her dedication to S.H.I.E.L.D. and the good that it does, and while that is a noble trait it's caused her a few problems as well. When the organisation came crashing down around her and was subsequently rebuilt Bobbi questioned her role in it all and made a few less than stellar choices. But no matter what issues she's faced with, at the end of the day Bobbi will do what's right and help out to the best of her ability.

There's also this really sweet part where she beats the crap out of the people that had been torturing her for hours upon end and it is just amazingly satisfying to see her do it. Bobbi Morse easily deserves the #10 spot on this list.

9. Scarlet Witch

Played by: Elizabeth Olsen
Appears in: Avengers: Age of Ultron

The life of Scarlet Witch, aka Wanda Maximoff, is not a happy one. As a young child she saw her country and family torn apart by weapons manufactured by Stark Industries. It left her with an intense hatred for the billionaire and future superhero that was so strong that she willingly subjected herself to experiments that gave her powers. Then, in a plot for revenge, she joined forces with a homicidal robot to kill the Avengers. When she realised that said robot was going to go even further than that she switched sides and became a proper superhero.

Scarlet Witch is the only character on this list that starts out with villainous goals and motives that gray rather than all white. She's never an all out bad guy as she does her best to take care of her war ravaged home country. It's just her rage that gets the better of her. It's really one of the more interesting back stories amongst all the MCU heroes.

She's also one of two MCU heroines whose abilities are something besides being good at fighting, the other one isn't on this list. She's got weird mental abilities and can blast fools with red energy. I very much look forward to how they'll further develop her character and abilities in future movies. Until then her singular appearance nets her this #9 place.

8. Trish Walker

Played by: Rachel Taylor
Appears in: Jessica Jones (12 episodes)

The first civilian character on this list. Trish has no super powers or special training. She's a former child star turned radio host, who happens to be best friends with a super strong lady named Jessica (more on her further down) who's waging a personal war against a mind controlling madman. Trish's role would typically be the emotional support for the main character, and while Trish most certainly excels at that she goes above and beyond said role as she refuses to let that be all she can do.

Trish will never just sit back and just let things be without her say. She'll always have Jessica's back, help her out no matter what and even do her own investigations without Jessica's knowledge. Even beyond that relationship Trish has overcome obstacles like and controlling and overbearing mother and a drug addiction, refusing to let those things define who she is.

Trish is the only who gets to decide who she is. Her strong adherence to that philosophy and her dedication to her best friend is why she's #8.

7. Jemma Simmons

Played by: Elizabeth Henstridge
Appears in: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (51 episodes)

A young, english-born genius biochemist and agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. who wanted to see more of the world than just the S.H.I.E.L.D.-laboratories and thus joined agent Coulson's special field team. She's sweet, caring and optimistic, and still remains so despite being betrayed and by one of her closest friends who also nearly drowned her, being completely helpless to stop another one from dying, having to kill a man and surviving for six months in the most hostile of territories imaginable. Her experiences may have taken her to darker side of herself than she's wanted and it has strained her relationship with her life long friend Fitz. But at her core Simmons is still the same good hearted science geek she was when we first saw her.

As far as badass credentials go, she doesn't have the same extensive list of feats that others on this list have. But she's pulled off something that none of them have done so far. Those aforementioned six months, she was on an alien planet, that was actively trying to kill her and keep her from getting away. But through sheer wit, determination and some impressive hunting Simmons survived long enough to be saved. If that's not badass I obviously don't know what the word means.

She's a different kind of heroine, but she should not be underestimated and has done more than enough to earn place #7.

6. Pepper Potts

Played by: Gwyneth Paltrow
Appears in: Iron man, Iron man 2, The Avengers, Iron man 3

Like Simmons and Trish, it's less likely that you'll find Pepper on the field of super hero battle. She prefers to fight corporate battles and to try to make Tony Stark behave like a responsible adult. She starts out as Tony's secretary and is later promoted to CEO of Stark Industries (Tony thought he was dying but she's quite frankly better suited for it), and she also has time to help thwart super villain plots, makes friends with S.H.I.E.L.D. and save Iron man's ass at least once in every Iron man movie.

She's compotent, ambitious and one of the most realistic characters in the entire MCU. Her lack of abilities and special combat training are neither a pro or a con. It just means that she has to work with what she's got, and that is a clear enough head to not let all the insane super hero stuff going on all the time overwhelm her. Even temporarily turning into a nanomachine infused, super strong, regenerating badass in one of the greatest MCU moments of all time didn't really phase her.

Pepper Potts is just cool in her own way, and that's enough to get her the #5 ranking on this list.

5. Melinda May

Played by: Ming-Na Wen
Appears in: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (53 episodes)

Melinda May is one of the most reputable S.H.I.E.L.D. field-agents in the MCU. She's a veteran pilot and soldier and pretty much the biggest badass that the good guys have. She's even earned the nickname "The Cavalry" for a legendary mission she pulled off. She hates that nickname because the mission scarred her mentally and she lost her warm personality. She became strict, distant and turned away from field duty to hide behind a desk, all of this also ruined her marriage.

That's all before the series proper even started. She's gotten better since in that she's out on field duty, kicking ass, acting as a mentor for younger agents and opening up again. But she's still harsher than before and the mentally scarring won't ever completely leave her. But that doesn't really matter, she's got a job to do.

May was broken, but she picked herself back together, and even though she's not quite who she used to be she just deals with it. There's a nice a complexity there that combined with her amazing badassness is more than enough to give her the #5 spot.

4. Daisy Johnson

Played by: Chloe Bennet
Appears in: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (54 episodes)

Out of all the characters on this list, Daisy probably the one who's had the most traditional journey towards becoming a hero. She was a small time hacker with uncanny skills that was discovered and picked up by S.H.I.E.L.D. In custody she peeked the interest of agent Coulson who took her under his wing, got her trained and gave her a chance to do something more with herself. Daisy took that chance and with each passing season of the series she grows more and more as a hero and a leader.

While she's trying to be the best S.H.I.E.L.D.-agent that she can be (it's her life now as described by Daisy herself), she's not blind and will openly question the shadier aspects of their proceedings and tries to see things from bigger perspective.

Daisy is constantly growing as the world shifts around her and she's just trying to keep up. It's this continual growth in both abilities and personality that makes Daisy a fascinating character to watch and why she's #4.

3. Black Widow

Played by: Scarlet Johansson
Appears in: Iron man 2, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron

Black Widow is probably the most recogniseable heroine in the MCU to date, having appeared in major roles in four movies and for the longest time she was the only female in the otherwise male dominated Avengers team, we're up two ladies now. She's a former KGB-agent and assassain who defected and began working as a super spy for S.H.I.E.L.D. Through her sheer cunning, guile and impressive martial arts skills she's able to hang with the Avengers as they fight mad gods, alien armies and homicidal robots. Based on her badass credentials alone and the number of important appearances it's a given that she has a spot on this kind list.

She's also a very interesting character in that she may the most self-possessed character in the entire MCU. She's mainly level headed, professional and aloof, making her seem difficult to approach. But on a whim she appear to be friendly and flirtatious, timid, vulnerable and scared in order to trick and decieve her foes into revealing their plots. In more comfortable settings she show a dry, sarcastic wit, fierce loyalty and compassion that make her a great aunt for little girls. She's pofessional without being stuffy about it and level headed but still able to let loose from time to time. In a way I think that's the kind of control that everbody wishes they had over themselves.

This may be the most controversial ranking on the list since she's so well recognised and undeniably cool. But for whatever reason Marvel Studios and Disney refuses to give Black Widow her own movie and continually stir up controversy by excluding her from the merchandising. It's no fault of the character. I just felt that the lack of her own story lowers what would otherwise be an unassailable top position. But she most definately belongs at the #3 spot.

2. Jessica Jones

Played by: Krysten Ritter
Appears in: Jessica Jones (13 episodes)

Jessica Jones and her gritty street world is the latest addition to the MCU canon, and it is a most remarkable one at that. Jessica herself is the only proper anti-hero on this list, with only Scarlet Witch being anything close to that distinction. Jessica is crass, sometimes outright mean even to those that mean her well, cynical, short-tempered and has a major case of PTSD that leads her into some very destructive and alienating behaviour. That's the start of her story at least. She then spends 13 episodes trying to conquer her demons, save at least one innocent person from the same traumatising fate, redeem herself in her own eyes and finding the strength to just go on.

Jessica Jones is remarkable for the preserverence she displays in the grimmest of situations, the transformative and difficult journey she goes through and how even at her worst you can find that glimmer heroism within her. But she's more than that. She's a prime example of how super heroes can mean something and how their stories can be used for more than just grand entertainment. There are a grand number of articles that analyse the way the character is used to portray dealing with being a victim of abuse and some describing how they find Jessica and her story to be not only relatable but empowering as it accurately depicts an immensly delicate subject.

Jessice Jones may not be as recogniseable as others on this list. But she's a unique super heroine with a fascinating story and in some ways she just means more than the others. I think that's a good enough reason to give her the #2 place on this list.

1. Peggy Carter

Played by: Hayley Atwell
Appears in: Captain America: The First Avengers, Agent Carter (one shot short), Agent Carter (tv-series, 18 episodes), Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant-man, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2 episodes), Avengers: Age of Ultron (illusion)

This is agent Peggy Carter. Her story takes place during and after the MCU version of the second world war. She's fought all manner of evil organizations and their agents, including HYDRA and Leviathan. She deals splendidly with the male chauvinism of the era. She's one of the founders of S.H.I.E.L.D. (which I think you've all gathered is quite a big deal in the MCU). You can find her in more corners of the MCU than just about any other character (just look at that list of appearances). She is an amazing character and and utter delight.

I'm going to show my bias flag here quite a lot, but I just love this character. Peggy's motivation are solely to fight the good fight and do whatever she can to make the world a better place. She doesn't have a dark or tragic back story that pushes her forward (the tradgedies of her life come later). She's just a good person, and while that may not be very interesting to a lot of people I've always found the most joy with them. But don't think it's just my gushing that puts her here. She's as capable a fighter as any of the others, just as sharp-witted and has a long list of accomplishments to her name.

Ultimately though, I've placed her as #1 for a number of reasons. She's arguably appeared more in the MCU than any of the others on this list, her skills are a nice balance between the physical and the mental while still being a perfectly normal human being, watching her do what she does and just interact with a number of characters makes me happy and, most importantly perhaps, she's the first of these characters to appear in the MCU from a chronological stand point. She's been fighting super villains for longer than the other heroine on this list and that has to count for something.

The #1 greatest heroine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is agent Peggy Carter.

The MCU continues to grow and more heroines are on the horizon (Captain Marvel, Elektra, Mantis and more), and the heroines that do exist already continue get more developed stories and personalities. There's still a lot of ground left before the list of heroines is as long as that of the male heroes. But we can at least look at all the MCU heroines and take some happiness in that they're all freaking awesome in general.

Have a nice day.

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