Nothing beats a good Marvel villain reveal. In fact, if there’s one thing the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been able to do especially well - and, let’s be honest, there’s a lot more than just one thing - it’s taking those characters that comic book readers know darn well are malevolent, and still making it a shocking surprise when said characters’ villainous intentions are unveiled onscreen. Somehow, the folks at Marvel Studios keep pulling it off.
The MCU is a franchise built on decades-old source material that faithfully adapts all the big twists of Marvel Comics lore while somehow still keeping them fresh and genuinely surprising. It’s one of the many things that makes watching the films and shows of the MCU so rewarding for fans old and new, and it’s what will continue to make the franchise relevant for generations to come.
- Photo: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Throughout the opening half of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, there are a handful of hints dropped that Ego the Living Planet may not be the all-star, David Hasselhoffian dad he claims to be - but nothing to suggest he’s the genocidal maniac he turns out to be.
That revelation comes in three simultaneous parts. The empathic Mantis connects with Drax over the loss of his family, and then comes clean about the danger presented by Ego. At the same time, Gamora and Nebula try to pulverize one another, then form a sisterly bond, and then discover an underground lair filled with the skeletons of dozens of Star-Lord’s half-siblings.
But the most painful twist of all is the metaphorical twist of the dagger in Peter Quill’s heart as he hears the father he’d always dreamed of utter the following words about Peter’s mother:
I returned to Earth to see her three times. And I knew if I returned a fourth, well, I'd... I'd never leave. The Expansion... the reason for my very existence would be over, so I did what I had to do. But... it broke my heart to put that tumor in her head.
The legendary Star-Lord reacts appropriately, blasting his dear old dad to smithereens. And sure, that’s only the beginning of what ends up being a father/son skirmish to the bitter end - but it’s a hell of a start.Great reveal?
- Photo: WandaVision / Disney+
It’s all relatively fun and games in Westview, NJ, until Wanda Maximoff pops down to neighbor Agnes’s basement in search of her kids, and suddenly, the Scarlet Witch's sitcom life goes full horror.
Out of the shadows with a smirking “You didn’t think you were the only magical girl in town, did you?” proclamation steps Agnes - only, it’s not Agnes.
“The name’s Agatha Harkness. Lovely to finally meet you, dear.”
Then, in a scene that could only happen in WandaVision, Agatha turns her villainous reveal into a genuine theme song. “Agatha All Along” is still burning up the charts, and that’s certainly not a mystery - never has a heel-turn been so perfectly captured in verse:
Who's been messing up everything?
It's been Agatha all along!
Who's been pulling every evil string?
It's been Agatha all along!
And she killed Sparky, too.Great reveal?
- Photo: Spider-Man: Homecoming / Sony Pictures Releasing
A few minutes into Spider-Man: Homecoming, the audience knows that Adrian Toomes is the Vulture, and it isn’t long before Peter Parker catches his avian foe without a mask on.
Thus, it’s a pretty straightforward superhero-versus-supervillain story from there, a veritable game of cat-and-mouse, with no silly secret identity shenanigans to get in the way.
Then, Peter knocks on the door of his date Liz to pick her up for the prom... and the Vulture, her father, answers.
Anyone who claims they watched this scene for the first time and didn’t gasp is a certified liar. Spidey himself never really recovers from the shock, even after a fraught car ride and Adrian’s subsequent, stoplight-symbolized revelation about Peter’s own alter ego.
“Good ol’ Spider-Man,” the Vulture quips, putting the sinister in Sinister Six and permanently transforming a laughable comic book villain into a truly personal peril.Great reveal?
- Photo: Spider-Man: Far From Home / Sony Pictures Releasing
The scene in which Peter Parker slowly but surely convinces himself to hand the E.D.I.T.H. glasses over to Quentin Beck is full of tension for anyone aware of Mysterio’s comic book reputation - and anyone else in the Spider-Man: Far From Home audience sharp enough to pick up on Beck’s too-good-to-be-true nature.
Then, Parker leaves the Prague bar to go find MJ, happy and confident he’s made the right decision.
But he did not.
As soon as he’s out the door, the bar begins to flicker around Beck as its illusory, holographic nature is revealed. For a moment, Mysterio looks surprised by the development, but then he throws his hands in the air, snickers, and says, “See? That wasn’t so hard.”
The bar’s few non-holographic patrons break out in applause, and the jig is fully up. From there, Beck delivers exposition via a toast, laying out exactly how he and his team of Tony Stark haters just bamboozled Spider-Man - and some select members of the audience - into entrusting a supervillain with world-threatening technology.
“To Peter Parker! Poor kid."Great reveal?