Category Archives: TV Shows

Reviews of TV shows.

Spotlight: The Lion Guard – Kion

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Yes, I watch Disney’s The Lion Guard. So what? I am not as big a fan of it as some are, but with my other choices being The Walking Dead or Beavis and Butthead, I have made do with what I have. (For those of you wondering how I can skip out on such a compelling show as The Walking Dead, please remember that I have stated that I do not like horror stories, the genre which includes zombies.) I will take talking lions and cheetahs and baboons – oh, my! – over the undead and stupid caricatures at every opportunity.

The Lion Guard focuses on Simba’s heretofore unknown son, Kion. The second born cub of Simba and Nala, and Kiara’s younger brother, Kion is given the responsibility of protecting the Pridelands and the “Circle of Life” by leading a team known as the Lion Guard. Their mission is to defend the Pridelands from invasion, as well as the imbalance due to the greed of the creatures that live in and around the territory controlled by Simba and his pride.

Other than his royal heritage, what gives Kion this right and responsibility? He has inherited the power of the “Roar of the Elders.” When Kion roars, the great lions of the Pridelands’ past roar with him. This gives his own roar quite a big boost, allowing him to knock down and scatter the enemies that continue to trouble the Pridelands and threaten the Circle of Life. Turns out, Scar had this roar, too, when he was a cub. But he got to like wielding it too much and thought he could use it to get Mufasa out of the way and make himself king.

Well, when he asked or demanded that his Lion Guard – made up of lions from the pride – help him overthrow Mufasa, they refused. Enraged, Scar used the roar on his own Lion Guard. This presumably killed them, and the fact that Scar used the roar for evil cost him his ability to use it. It also made him the skinny, unhealthy looking lion we saw in the first Lion King film.

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Now there has been a big to-do over Kion’s Lion Guard. This Guard is supposed to show “diversity” in that the only lion in the Guard is Kion. The rest of the animals in the Guard are Bunga, a honey badger; Ono, an egret; Beshte, a hippopotamous, and Fuli, a cheetah.

It is more than slightly laughable to think that this mixed bag of animals is a good representation of “diversity” for children. Eventually, the children will grow up to learn that animals in the wild do not mix like this. Egrets, honey badgers, and hippos all do their own things, while cheetahs will get up and leave a kill when a lion starts walking toward it and them. Because lions are bigger than cheetahs, the smaller cats have very, very little to do with them, mostly because they do not want to be the lion’s side dish at the dinner table.

You can see that I give the “diversity” aim of The Lion Guard the respect it deserves. Why, then, do I continue to watch the show – even to avoid a series like Beavis and Butthead? I watch the show because the lead character and his male friends are actually allowed to be smart, chivalrous boys.

Allow me to explain: if you watch Sofia the First or Elena of Avalor with your daughters/nieces/sisters/whichever, you have seen the girls lead the boys in everything. They are braver, smarter, more compassionate, and completely better in every way than the men in their lives. Although the main male characters in these shows might not be bumbling, fumbling fools ninety percent of the time, the side male characters often are.

Now, admittedly, The Lion Guard has a character that falls into this category ninety percent of the time. This would be the honey badger, Bunga, Kion’s best friend and the adopted nephew of Timon and Pumba. Bunga’s position in the Guard is the bravest – he is so brave he “[borders] on stupid,” to quote Kiara. Most fans find him annoying and want him dead.

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I think that last part is a little harsh. I agree that Bunga is irritating, but this is a children’s show, people. And Bunga’s voice actor should get a chance to pay for his college education, too, so I do not want his character dead. If he could be a little less stupid and a little more observant, I would not say no to that; dead, I will not accept.

Bunga is the only member of the team to act in a consistently dense manner. The other two male members of the Guard – Beshte and Ono – are far from unintelligent. Beshte is the hippo and the strongest in the Pridelands. He is therefore the quintessential gentle giant, and there is nothing wrong with that. Andre the Giant was a gentle giant; gentle giants are good characters. And Beshte also has a temper that will flare up occasionally, so he has a little spice mixed in with the sweetness.

Ono leans toward the studious know-it-all trope. The keenest of sight in the Pridelands, Ono acts as the Guard’s eyes, looking for trouble and yelling it out to the Guard. While Ono has many of the nose-in-a-book stereotypical trappings, the difference is that he will fight without too much hesitation. He has mixed it up with vultures, hawks, and land animals, no mean feat for a bird that is not a raptor. It usually makes up for his skittish or know-it-all failings.

Kion is, by far, the one who breaks the mold of the modern formulaic boy. He is polite, friendly, calm, fierce, and quick-thinking. Even Avengers Assemble struggled with portraying the male heroes in this fashion, as you will find if you read the posts about the series here on my blog. The male Avengers – especially Hawkeye – were portrayed as fools in most of the episodes at the series’ start. This is due to the fact that the writers began telling the story of Assemble through a liberal-ified lens in the first season and kept it going through the second (and they seem to be reverting to that form with a vengeance for season four).

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If you drop by the Disney channels, even for the advertisements alone, you will find them to be mostly girl-centered. This is not just with shows like Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, and Elena of Avalor. Disney has a whole series of ads called “Dream Big, Princess” to inspire girls to be anything they want to be. They also have advertisements for Lab Rats, Descendants, and other shows which make boys look like brainless idiots and girls look like uber women in training.

This is not only unrealistic and disheartening, it is dangerous. What is your son/nephew/brother or the boy next door supposed to achieve with these caricatures as his models? Disney has no “Dream Big, Prince” television ads encouraging boys to be great men like Prince Phillip, Prince Eric, or even Kristoff in their last big film, Frozen. Instead they push the popular narrative that boys are mini-barbarians or mini-buffoons in training who will someday grow up to be Big Barbarians or Big Buffoons.

If I had to bet, this is one of the reasons why The Lion Guard has taken off. Throughout the series so far, Kion has rarely failed to be a good little boy. In the first episode of the series, Kion ends up in the Outlands after chasing some marauding hyenas out of the Pridelands. While on the other side of the border, he bumps into a female hyena named Jasiri.

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At first, Kion is suspicious of Jasiri, referring to her as “hyena” and being snappish when he speaks to her. But when Jasiri proves to be totally unlike the other hyenas, Kion starts treating her better. He proves that his earlier conduct toward her was a lapse in judgement and a jump to a conclusion when he comes back to defend Jasiri from the same marauding hyenas at the end of the episode. Though Jasiri proves to be a capable fighter, there is never a hint that Kion should apologize for coming to help her or defer to her as some fighting goddess he should worship.

In fact, at one point during the battle, he thrusts Jasiri to the ground in order to headbutt a hyena she has not seen coming. Not only does the move show fast thinking, it proves that Kion’s earlier behavior was a mistake he has since recognized and corrected.

And so far in the series, when fighting alongside a girl, Kion does not leave his manly concern for her at the edge of the battlefield but keeps it with him at all times. Jasiri even thanks Kion for his help in this show, a rare thing in modern media. (Just look up Avengers Assemble’s “Captain Marvel” episode from season three to see why I say this.)

This is not the last time that Kion behaves in a chivalrous manner toward a girl, either. Although they have the regular spats any pair of siblings would, Kion treats Kiara with a respect that is the exact opposite of simpering worship. It also has overtones of a greater reverence than most boys in modern media show their sisters. It is an esteem which comes from a healthy dose of – *gasp* – chivalry!

Yes, I just said that the lead character in The Lion Guard possesses chivalry. Kiara is still a poor fighter in the series; this is to presrve the timeline for the story. We saw Kovu point out twice in The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride that Kiara’s fighting tactics were less than stellar, and the television show did not change this fact. In The Lion Guard, Kion had to come to his sister’s direct defense in “Can’t Wait to Be Queen.” He also showed a fair bit of attachment to, and concern for, her in “The Rise of Scar.” Kion also demonstrates a chivalrous deference and love for his mother, Nala, in the episode “Never Roar Again.”

But the best episode to show Kion’s sense of chivalry so far was “The Search for Utamu” because it was his most obvious display of the virtue. It also added a healthy dose of chilvalry to the other Guard members’ characters as well.

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In this episode the lone female member of the Guard, Fuli the cheetah, overexerts herself while she is supposed to be resting. Cheetahs can only keep their amazing speed going for a few minutes. After that, it can take them up to half an hour to get their breath back. Once a cheetah makes a kill, it has to sit beside the animal for at least that long to get its breath and then it can eat.

This is why it will get up and walk away when it sees a lion coming to check out the kill. Not only is the cheetah smaller and weaker than the lion but, when out of breath, it cannot outpace the lion.

Fuli is still a cub, and as of this episode she did not believe that she had any limits. Her inevitable exhaustion after her lone escapade leaves Fuli vulnerable to an attack from a group of vultures. When the male Guard members learn about her danger, they all rush to their female friend’s defense. Kion especially shows anger at the vultures when he blasts them into the distance with the Roar of the Elders (which is probably why we did not see them for some time after this episode).

So while Fuli and Jasiri are both female characters who can manage their own affairs – and who often say they can look after themselves without interference from “foolish males” – they have both landed in situations where they needed Kion and the other boys’ aid. And while Kion respects the abilities and competence of his two female friends, he also treats them with the special regard that they deserve as girls.

This does not diminish the girls’ fighting and survival abilities and, amazingly, it does not make the boys’ desire to protect them when they cannot defend themselves appear silly. This showing of chivalry is a great thing, as it spotlights a virtue which male characters have been denied in similar series – created by Disney and other companies – for far too long.

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Another way our male lead demonstrates his chivalry is by his dealings with Kiara’s airheaded “friends,” the lioness cubs Tiifu and Zuri. While the Guard has Bunga, the typical “boys drool” character, Kiara is saddled with two lioness cubs who are more concerned with their looks and social status than with anything even vaguely important.

Kion treats both these fluff-brained characters in general with a respect they have never earned, only rolling his eyes once when talking to them in “The Rise of Scar” and telling them off, rightly, when they allowed Kiara to go to a meeting with a known enemy on her own in “Can’t Wait to Be Queen.” The only explanation for his willingness to consider these two girls as anything remotely resembling “family” is the fact that they are girls – and oh, yeah, they happen to hang out with his sister.

As I have already mentioned, Kion continually shows quick-thinking during the series. Unlike Star Trek: The Next Generation’s unending roundtable discussions in the midst of calm and battle, most of the Guard’s tactics and strategies are actually made by Kion, either on the spur of the moment or through hours of training between patrols. The other members of the Guard follow his orders and decisions, though not always without question or input. In comparison to other male leads (in the modern Disney brand and other franchises), Kion is far more intelligent than the talking heads would have children believe boys can be.

It is also refreshing to see that, even when Kion must trust his friends to come up with a plan, he does not effusively kowtow to them after this. He accepts their advice and praises his friends’ plans without being a sycophant, congratulating them on their quick-thinking before turning back to the task at hand. Or paw, in his case.

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Something else to note about The Lion Guard is Kion’s fighting prowess. The four leading male characters in the show are good fighters, but Kion is the best of the bunch. Where the girl often comes to the boy’s rescue in current children’s television shows, Kion is rarely in need of such a save. And when he does need the help of a female character, such as in “Never Judge a Hyena by Its’ Spots,” Kion shows by his dialogue that he thinks just as deeply and quickly in such situations as those where he is supposedly “in control” of the circumstances.

Thus far, The Lion Guard has proven to be a better series than I had anticipated. It is a show with a male protagonist who is chivalrous, competent, and smart. Though I take issue with some of the show’s themes, one thing which I really appreciate and cheer on is Kion’s quiet, unabashed, and completely proper masculinity.

Hopefully, this is the beginning of a trend. Shows which focus on female leads are wonderful inspirations for girls, certainly. But boys need television shows with male characters who are not only unafraid to be boys, but who have a sense of chivalry, along with smarts and fighting ability. They have been denied this for a long time, readers, and The Lion Guard is a more than welcome anticipation of a change in the fads. From what I have seen so far, we need more shows like this one. So, ‘til the Pridelands end –

Lion Guard defend!

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Star Wars Rebels – They Came That Close!

So close… and yet so far…

Have a gander at this scene from “The Occupation,” the next episode of Star Wars Rebels to air this coming Monday.

I was never sure what to make of the Kanan/Hera romance, so this near-kiss was surprisingly sweet. On top of that, glancing through the comments below the clip was almost as much fun. While a couple of remarks really weren’t that funny or likable, seeing the number of people moaning at the person who ruined the moment was.

Of course, yours truly couldn’t let them have all the fun on youtube. That just wouldn’t be sporting. 😉 Enjoy the clip, and remember that you can catch more episodes of Star Wars Rebels‘ final season on Disney XD, readers!

May the Force be with you!

The Mithril Guardian

Avengers Assemble: Secret Wars – Rescuing the Heroes

It is not usual for me to review Avengers Assemble in bits and pieces. Previously, the closest I came to doing that was with season three of the series. And that was because the showrunners and writers did not air the episodes one after another – not on a regular basis, at least.

This is what they are doing again now, but with longer breaks between installments. Remember, readers, “Avengers No More” came out in August. It is now October, and they have aired eleven other episodes only in sporadic chunks over the course of two months.

Personally, I find this irritating. I do not know enough about television schedules to say why Disney XD is splitting the series up like this; maybe it is to make room for shows from other series that air on weekends. The timetable seems to have no rhyme or reason, though, and that always drives me a little crazy.

Since I did a review of “Why I Hate Halloween,” I will not include that episode in this post. Although I will say that it is definitely one of my favorite installments in this series so far, and it seems to have been set before the Avengers were teleported across the Marvel universe. I say this because (spoiler alert), in “The Once and Future Kang” we find one of the Avengers has been transported into the future. And he has subsequently aged.

By this episode, the Avengers’ B Team has been keeping Earth safe while Dr. Jane Foster searches time and space to find the original Avengers. In “The Once and Future Kang,” she tells the B Team that she has discovered their locations. In order to rescue the team, however, she has to send the Mighty Avengers after them. The way they will return is by using a “tether” – a device that acts as a teleporter – to pull themselves and the Avengers back to the present time and place.

Jane does this after the B Team has had to stop a monster from destroying the Statue of Liberty. She accidentally brought said creature to NYC when working on the devices to bring back the Avengers. And while I still do not like her, I admit that watching Carol Danvers rescue a deaf girl from the Liberty torch was a good scene. Yes, I still think she is useless, but the fact is it was a good scene.

Anyway, “The Once and Future Kang” shows Wasp and Vision teleported to the future to rescue the Avenger trapped there. They do not know who it is, but they know who is running the place – Kang. They soon learn that the Avenger they are after is none other than Falcon, now twenty years older than he was when the cabal transported him out of the present time.

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My main problem with this episode is: what’s his mom going to say? Sure, it is cool to have a Falcon who looks and sounds like Anthony Mackie’s film counterpart. But what in the world is Sam’s mother, who is alive in the Assemble universe, going to say about his rapid growth? One day he was a seventeen/ninteen year old kid going to college. Now he is suddenly an adult. Both she and the Avengers missed his transition from boy to man, meaning there should be a period of adjustment needed on all sides.

This is not the first time Marvel has pulled such a stunt, of course. In the X-Men comics, Colossus’ baby sister was kidnapped by an interdimensional bad guy who trained her in his arts and her powers for six or seven of his dimension’s years. But for the X-Men, seconds passed between Ilyana Rasputin/Magick’s disappearance and reappearance. She vanished as a frightened six year old and returned as a scarred, yet bright and chirpy, thirteen year old girl.

Colossus, as you might imagine, had a hard time wrapping his head around this. I am having a similarly hard time wrapping my head around Falcon’s transformation. It is not that I do not like him – I think Falcon is a really cool hero. It is just the whole idea of sending someone off into the future (or another dimension), and bringing them home at an older age which gets me.

Other things to like about this episode were Vision and Wasp. Vision, as usual, stole at least half of the show without really trying. And it appears that Wasp has finally lost that chip on her shoulder. Hooray!

There is also the fact that we got a glimpse of Kang’s face beneath the blue mask he wears, showing he grew older, too. I may have a hard time reconciling my heroes’ accelerated ages, but when it comes to the bad guys, I rarely have any sympathy for them. Kang does not get any tears from me.

Next on the list is “Dimension Z.” Scott Lang, a.k.a. Ant-Man, gets sent to rescue an Avenger from what is apparently 1930s New York. This version of the city is under the thumb of Arnim Zola. Here, Scott finds three of his teammates: Captain America, Hawkeye, and Black Widow. He helps them escape Zola’s HYDRA goons and they take him to their hideout, explaining that they are not actually in the 1930s when they get there. (Whew! I had had enough time travel at that point, anyway!)

Zola captured the gang early on, but they escaped and have been trying to free the people of Dimension Z from his control ever since. This has not been easy because Zola has the people wired with cybernetic implants. If they disobey him, he fries them. This also rules out using an EMP to fry him. That certainly is convenient, isn’t it?

The episode is a good one for Hawkeye. Although he plays around with the 1930s New York accent and slang, it’s less of a joke this time and more him trying to lighten the mood. Widow is usually aggravated by his period repartee, but she slips a couple of times and uses the lingo herself, showing his attempts to cheer everyone up aren’t wholly failures. Cap does not seem to mind the fun Hawkeye and Widow have with the jargon either way, which is nice.

Despite her fussing, Widow comes through the show with flying colors, too. While growling at Hawkeye for his attempts at humor, she works well with him here. This is a far cry from their earlier team-ups in the series, which had her constantly bickering with him when they were on a mission. She gets to give Scott a “suck it up and have some confidence in yourself” pep talk as well, which is in keeping with her character.

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Scott does nicely here, as compared to previous episodes in season four which present him as a bumbling, fumbling fool. (No, I am not counting “Sneakers” when I talk about those shows.) He gets to prove his brains and his heart, which is a pleasant change from the writers’ earlier treatment of him.

Captain America does not, sadly, get by nearly so easily. For some bizarre reason, the show writers decided to reference Marvel’s HYDRA Cap fiasco in “Dimension Z.” Though Cap is freed of the HYDRA influence fairly quickly, and while I can see how having him under Zola’s spell serves the episode’s plot, I really wish that the writers had not done this to him. Bad enough they have to demean me and other readers by mistreating him in the comics; when they start  messing with him in their other media, I become even less amused.

With this caveat out of the way, I have to say Steve did not do terribly outside of this event, which literally was not his fault. The whole reason Zola wanted him in Dimension Z was so he could highjack Steve’s body; doing this would mean he would not have to rely on those mechanical bodies we have seen him using thus far in the series.

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At first, Steve resisted Zola’s attempts. But he and Hawkeye were captured together, so Zola zapped Clint to make Cap stop fighting him. While I still do not approve of the HYDRA Cap reference, I have to admit, this scene hit me right in the “feels.” It showed the brotherly affection between the First Avenger and Hawkeye, who stubbornly insisted Steve not surrender despite the fact that another zap would have killed him.

In a way, this scene bridged the gap between the original – and better – comics and the new ones today. I only wish the writers would show these relationships between the Avengers more often in Assemble. It is truly inspiring.

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T’Challa got sent after the Hulk in “The Most Dangerous Hunt,” which was actually more fun than I was expecting. Transported to Asgard, Panther finds Hulk being hunted for sport by Skurge the Executioner. Using a magic crystal in the head of his axe, the Executioner can control Banner’s transformation. When Banner gets too tired to run, Skurge says a spell to make him the Hulk. When the Hulk gets within a hair of smashing him, the Asgardian hunter speaks a counter spell which makes him Banner again.

The whole yo-yo effect has left Bruce terrified. He has been in control of his power for so long now that not being able to change at will scares him more than his previous, involuntary transformations did. It is actually kind of nice to see Banner this vulnerable; before we only saw his distaste for becoming the big guy, period. Since the writers have allowed him to control the change, it adds a new dimension to his character.

Only one thing in this episode really annoyed me. This was Hulk returning to his old baby speech pattern for most of the adventure. While I doubt I will have much of a problem with it in Thor: Ragnarok, here it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I guess it was because it made Hulk sound more like a beast than a person – which was the point. Skurge considered him nothing more than an animal, after all, not a fellow sentient being.

Panther came out of this show very well, too. He got to demonstrate his intelligence, his honor, and his heart. We also got to see what he is like when enraged, since Skurge was able to reverse the spell and use it on T’Challa. No one understands wrath like Bruce does, and watching him assist the suddenly helpless Black Panther was a great moment.

I have to admit, though, that I did not see the Hobbit reference coming. Really, Marvel writers? Stealing from Tolkien now, are you? Too bad you won’t study him rather than pilfer from the surface of his work. Maybe if you actually learned from him, your comics would be entertaining again.

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“Under the Spell of the Enchantress” was not quite as torturous as I thought it would be, mostly because by the end, Thor got to be Thor. I still find Captain and Miss Marvel to be awful, flat characters, but having the Son of Odin break Amora’s spell when he saw Miss Marvel in danger was a good scene for him. I think the reference to Frozen might have been a bit much, though.

Thor’s characterization was just as good in “The Return.” Here we learn that Loki orchestrated the events of “Avengers No More.” We also see that he is now suddenly taller and has more brawn here than he did in prior episodes. By the way, fellow writers, what the Sam Hill is up with that five o’clock shadow you gave him?

Anyway, this episode was pretty good. Though no one seemed the least bit phased by Falcon’s age, which felt a little off, the story was quite the pick up from the season’s earlier fare. Cap got his shield back and Hawkeye actually got to figure out how to save the day – using an idea this author had considered five or so minutes before the crisis point of the show arrived, no less. 😉

Thor, as I said, shined in “The Return,” but so did Vision. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that Loki badly underestimated him. Scott got to notice an important fact, which Miss Marvel unsurprisingly missed and dismissed, while Jane Foster was allowed to be the super genius she is. And she did not even have to leave her apartment to do it. I really hope they do not give Mjolnir to her. It would spoil her part in “The Return” so badly.

Finally, I have to say that I enjoyed the various nods to Thor: The Dark World in this show. The film itself did not have a great plot and got bad reviews for it. I liked Dark World nonetheless, mostly because I never go to a Marvel movie to watch the bad guys. I go to see the heroes, and I thought the second Thor movie did right by them. Watching the writers tip their hats to it was fun.

On the whole, I was more impressed with these five episodes than I was with four of the ones I reviewed previously. But as I said in my post on “Why I Hate Halloween,” now is not the time to become complacent and think Marvel is cleaning up its act. Certainly, these recent shows offer us fans some hope that the company will value our patronage more than PC grandstanding. But now is not the time to bank on such an assumption.

Part of the reason I say this is Loki’s gleeful warning at the end of “The Return.” “Strange things are coming,” he tells Thor’s back when the Prince of Asgard leaves the detention center. Tony still has not come home yet, and the writers here did nod to the HYDRA Cap debacle. I find these small instances in the show more than a little worrisome.

So we are not out of the woods. These are hopeful signs and, if unaltered by the future, I could say they were a turning point. But the future is not the present. Therefore, I advise caution before commitment, as well as the firm hope matters will change for the better.

But to quote Aragorn, son of Arathorn, the only thing we can do now is say, “We shall see.”

Avengers – Assemble!

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A Review of Marvel’s Avengers: DISK Wars

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Marvel’s Avengers: DISK Wars

Recently, I learned that Marvel has again gone to Japan to have a new anime series written utilizing its heroes. So far, the prospective series is titled New Future Avengers. It will spotlight the Avengers Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, and Wasp training children who have somehow acquired superpowers.

I did not learn this through my usual sources, readers; they were rather lacking in details on the series. No, I learned this through a search in my WordPress Reader, discovering that someone had posted the handful of available particulars for Marvel fans to find on their blog.

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New Future Avengers

There was one thing the writer said which upset me. When he or she mentioned that the Wasp would be part of the show, the writer added “Finally!” to the sentence.

For a moment, all I could do was blink at the screen. My next reaction was, “What do you mean ‘finally’? Wasp is one of the main protagonists in Marvel’s Avengers: DISK Wars, which finished its run almost three years ago. She hasn’t exactly been forgotten, and the fact that she was in DISK Wars makes it no surprise that they would add her to the roster in New Future Avengers.”

Longtime readers might know that I like Marvel’s Wasp/Janet Van Dyne very much. Her performance throughout Earth’s Mightiest Heroes was my first introduction to the character. She made me laugh, and I usually agreed with her when she threw out the zingers along with the sting blasts. When I watched DISK Wars three years ago, I was impressed with Wasp’s characterization in that series, along with the depictions of her fellow heroes. My impression of the series made it into the long-winded post Three Marvel TV Shows here at Thoughts on the Edge of Forever.

To save you the time of looking that article up, let me add that after seeing this person’s post on New Future Avengers, I decided to go back and watch DISK Wars. I wanted to see if I had rated the show rightly three years ago. Some of the posts which this author has been reading about other, older Japanese anime series inspired me to go back to see how I would describe this series now that I am (hopefully) somewhat wiser than when I watched it first.

Going back to DISK Wars, I felt a little anxious. What if it wasn’t as good as when I had first enjoyed it? What if I had been wrong to praise it so much? Not all Japanese anime, just like not all American entertainment, is great stuff. They have R and X-rated shows in Japan, too, you know. Despite the jitters, I went to Google and found a source where I could watch DISK Wars with English subtitles again. (I speak next to no Japanese and read even less.)

About three episodes into the series, my nerves melted away as I remembered just how much fun the show is. Undoubtedly, most of this is due to the spot-on depiction for Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Wasp, Spider-Man, and the other Marvel characters that appear in the story.

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Some modern concessions were made in the series, of course; it is not entirely an homage to the original comics. Iron Man is much like Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, Fury resembles Samuel L. Jackson, and Hawkeye works for SHIELD. He is a little stiffer than I would like, but he is allowed to show some of his normal personality on occasion, so I let that slide.

The villains also act in-character; while MODOK, Whirlwind, Diablo, and a few of the others behave in a sillier manner than we are accustomed to seeing here, the fact is that it is kind of hard to take a floating head with miniature arms and legs as seriously as you would the Red Skull. The Japanese writers’ decision to make MODOK act to the ridiculous degree that he appears is hardly an insult to fans, new or old, in this viewer’s opinion.

And the thing is that this propensity for being outlandish does not make MODOK less dangerous. It just makes it more fun to watch him get thrashed. I mean, when was the last time we were allowed to have an absurd villain get beaten handily – not to mention outright laughed at while he was defeated?

That actually used to happen in the original Marvel Comics. If you read Hawkeye’s first encounter with the Beatle, you will understand why I say this. It never hurts to hand the heroes a hilarious villain they can knock down without breaking a sweat. Sometimes, it really is that easy to win a battle with a bad guy – at least the first time around.

The third clincher for the series is the children who end up partnered with the Avengers. This bears some explaining; at the beginning of DISK Wars, we learn that Tony has developed a new type of super villain capturing device called a DISK. Using the DISKs, the authorities or the bad guys can digitally secure a villain – or a hero – in an alternate dimension where the subject doesn’t require food, sleep, or trips to the bathroom, as a friend who recently began watching the show pointed out.

Now Tony does not develop the DISKs on his own. He has the help of a brilliant Japanese scientist, Dr. Akatsuki, who has two sons still living in Japan. Dr. Akatsuki is aiding Tony in designing and building the gizmos, which are the size of a wristwatch. His two boys are named Hikaru and Akira. Seeing how much he misses his sons, Tony decides to invite them to the presentation for the DISKs so their father can spend some time with them after being absent for two years. How can such a plan go wrong?

Well, let’s see you hold a demonstration for a powerful new device at a maximum security super villain prison and see how things go for you.

Yes, Tony has the venue for the DISKs set up at the Raft on Ryker’s Island. Pepper apparently told him this was a bad place to have the party but, typically, Tony blew off her concerns by saying, “What could possibly go wrong?”

Uh, Loki could hire five celebrities and use them as his DISK-controlling minions, thereby freeing the villains from their cells so they could fight the heroes at the party? And he manages to have them export a few villains to the SHIELD Helicarrier, too, effectively hamstringing the agency so they cannot send the heroes the backup they desperately need.

Yeah, no one would have seen something like this coming at all – especially not the stupendously brilliant Tony Stark.

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Finally, one of the villains ties up Pepper, forcing the assembled heroes to stand down or she will be killed. This allows Loki to entrap the heroes present at the Raft in DISKs. Spider-Man, whose alter ego Peter Parker has been Tony and Dr. Akatsuki’s lab assistant for the past two years, is the one hero in attendance who avoids getting locked in a DISK.

Enter the kids. Turns out, the DISKs can only be controlled by a person who has had something called a “Biocode” installed in their body. This Biocode allows the user to connect with one of the five classes of DISKs: Tech, Energy, Animal, Fight, and Power. Tech is obvious; a hero or villain who uses technology in his crime spree/hero work gets locked in a red or Tech DISK. A villain/hero with animal characteristics or an animal codename gets a yellow DISK, while one who uses martial arts and weapons’ training lands in a blue Fight Class DISK. The villain/hero that can produce energy gets put in a purple DISK. Power Class DISKs are for villains or heroes with enormous physical strength; this class of DISK is green.

You can see where this is going, right? Tony, because of his armor, is part of the Tech Class. Cap is Fight Class since he relies on his martial arts and shield throwing skills in battle. Wasp gets an Animal Class DISK because her codename belongs to an animal; even though her stings are energy based, her moniker puts her under the animal label. Hulk, clearly, qualifies for Power Class due to his enormous strength while Thor lands in Energy Class for the simple reason that he can generate lightning – a form of energy.

Hikaru and Akira, along with three other lucky children attending the shindig, receive partial Biocodes when the Installer Akira was tasked with protecting is damaged. Loki already had a Biocode installed in his body and those of his celebrity minions; his is a master Biocode that can release a villain from any and all of the five classes. Naturally, he did not want his superstar henchmen to try and overpower him, so they have a single Biocode installed, which means they can release a villain from just one of the five classes. (Yes, they still follow Loki anyway. How long would they last if they tried to ditch him, hmm?)

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The reason that Loki wanted Akira’s Installer destroyed is he does not want anyone he cannot control using a Biocode. And, since the Installer is damaged, he is somewhat successful in avoiding having direct challengers who can fully release the heroes trapped in the DISKs.

Because their Biocodes are limited, the kids can release their Avenging partners for a maximum of five minutes. At the end of that time, the heroes instantly return to their DISKs. Though the children can speak to the Avengers using a holographic interface, which allows holographic miniature images of the heroes to interact with the real world, they have to wait up to six hours for their Biocodes to recharge before releasing their battle partners again.

As you can guess, this causes no end of headaches for everyone concerned. Not only are the Avengers forced to haul three tweens and two teenagers into combat with them, they are entirely dependent on the children and Pepper for social interaction. When the World Security Council accuses Colonel Fury of conspiring with Loki, arrests him, and puts SHIELD on lock down, matters are further complicated for the team. Things go from bad to worse when they have to escape to Tokyo after said Council forces the U.S. president to register all superheroes living in America in order to keep them off the streets.

If you are wondering why anyone would want to do this in such a crisis, ask yourself who has the most to gain by keeping the heroes and SHIELD out of his way.

Got the answer yet?

Yep, it’s Loki pulling the strings that force the Avengers to set up shop in Tokyo. They get away with this by striking a deal with the strongest and most dangerous villain in Japan; the Silver Samurai, head of one of the biggest Yakuza organizations in the Land of the Rising Sun. He owns more politicians and officials than Loki, and he is so feared that when he tells them to do or not do something, they listen. Even the powerful World Security Council cannot trump good old-fashioned Mafia connections – especially in Japan.

While some may be put in mind of Pokémon by the Avengers’ forced residence in DISKs controlled by children, to me, that is a non-existent issue. I admit that it is a little odd and even hard to swallow. But come on, who among us has not wished to have a personal guardian angel we can call into plain sight for help? We all have one but most of us never get to see them in this life.

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More to the point, there are many themes in DISK Wars that make it well worth watching. Although not as pronounced as in Zoids: Chaotic Century, this series also hammers home the idea of fighting to reach one’s full potential, adding the caveat that you cannot steal it from someone else. You have to work for it because it is yours alone; only you can find it in battle with yourself, the world, and the villains who will challenge you throughout your life.

The most prevalent theme in DISK Wars is that despair is not stronger than hope. Loki and Red Skull, who takes over as the main villain in the series for five or ten episodes, say many times that they wish to see the heroes and children lose heart. These men hate the good guys’ optimism, their belief that circumstances can improve, even if the heroes themselves do not live to see things change for the better. It was a timely admonition three years ago and it is an apt reminder now: despair is one of the worst evils in the world, an evil which only hope can conquer.

Cap gets a speech at the end of episode two that is not just in-character, it absolutely makes a viewer want to stand up and cheer as it emphasizes another theme in the series. At this point in the story, Loki has the heroes on their knees, held down by various villains they have fought and defeated many times over the years. Noticing Steve’s defiant stare, he hits the First Avenger in the gut and taunts him by asking if it hurts.

Admitting it does, Cap quickly adds that the physical pain will eventually fade, so it means nothing in the long run. Loki’s gleeful torment of the heroes, however, has hurt them all far worse. And that, Cap says, means that they or someone else will stop Loki at some point in the future.

Mirroring his speech to Coulson on the Helicarrier in The Avengers, Loki asks who could possibly make him pay for his actions if the Avengers are all in DISKs. Cap promises that sooner or later those who believe in justice will rise up to fight and defeat Loki, although the heroes who inspire them may no longer be available to defend them.

While he speaks, the five children who will receive partial Biocodes are already on their way to save Pepper so the heroes can fight back. It is a crescendo moment that does not lose its potency three years after a first viewing. If anything, it takes on a deeper meaning as time goes on.

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Finally, you have to enjoy the interplay between the Avengers and the kids, not to mention the familiar mannerisms and speeches of the Marvel heroes. I do not know if New Future Avengers will be allowed to keep to the heroes’ original patterns, as DISK Wars did, and at the moment it really does not matter. New Future Avengers will be what it will be. DISK Wars is an entirely worthwhile series to watch – though I admit, I would not have put Deadpool in even one episode, let alone the two wherein he has a part. Despite this, however, the series does justice to its audience and its material, so I do not mind watching it.

My biggest wish in regard to the story is that Marvel and Japan would send DISK Wars stateside. I do not see how the series could not take off here; it is almost as good quality as Zoids: Chaotic Century, and we know how much of a success THAT was in the States. The zoid models sold like crazy!

Watching the show in Japanese is fun – I enjoy listening to the Japanese voice actors, although I would have no idea what they were saying ninety percent of the time without the subtitles. But subtitles are not for everyone, and that makes this show hard to share with others, which would not be the case if Marvel had it translated for the American market.

They have already done this with a couple of other anime series based on Marvel characters. The short Japanese Iron Man series was condensed into a film, translated into English, and sold on DVD here in the United States. DISK Wars is too long for such condensing, but released as a serial on Cartoon Network or Disney XD – I think it would take off faster than some people might believe.

But that will probably never happen. Or if it does, DISK Wars will bypass the television and go straight to DVD. Either way, do not knock the series until you try it, readers. It really is a good show.

Avengers, Assemble!…

…Or should that be “D-Smash”?

Zoids: Chaotic Century – Discovery

Yesterday, I posted an article describing the Japanese cartoon series Zoids: Chaotic Century. Today, I have decided that it is not enough simply to talk about this series I love so much. I have to show it to you as well, readers.

Below you will find the first six episodes of Chaotic Century. (Sorry for the poor quality of the film and sound – these were the only full episodes I could find!) They are in numerical order and they are in English. If you like what you see here, you can purchase the DVD Zoids: Chaotic Century – Discovery here at http://www.amazon.com. Discovery is the first DVD of the series, which you can acquire in its entirety on eleven discs.

I do not know how many copies of the DVDs are out there now, but they are worth your time and money. If you cannot or do not want to spend the money to purchase them (which I kind of already did), then look ye to the videos below and their compatriots on youtube! There is more than one way to wear a hat – or to pilot a zoid. 😉

Check out the videos at your earliest opportunity, readers! See you on the battlefield!

The Mithril Guardian

 

The Boy From Planet Zi

 

The Mysterious Fiona

 

Memory

 

The Protectors

 

Sleeper Trap

 

Jump! Zeke!

Zoids: Chaotic Century – A Series Review

Technically, I already did a review of the Japanese series Zoids: Chaotic Century. But not too long ago I became curious to see if Zoids had become a topic of conversation on WordPress. After all, that was the raison d’etre for my Spotlight! posts; I started them to put the word out about not only my favorite Japanese “mecha,” but to start a conversation about my much loved anime.

At least, that was what I hoped would happen. Aside from a few likes, nobody seems really interested in discussing Zoids, whether it is Chaotic Century’s zoids or any of the other series. So I sort of let the matter drop, going back to my usual Spotlight! posts and remembering the show fondly, as always….

Then I had the trailer for Zoids: Field of Rebellion recommended to me, and my Zoidian fervor re-engaged itself – with a vengeance!

Not that my love for zoids is ever very far away from me. One of the things I have learned about the stories I enjoy is that, no matter where I go or what makes me set them aside, my favorite characters in fiction will reassert their importance to me when I least expect them to do so. They also seem to like doing this to me when I need them most.

One of the reasons that Chaotic Century has a special appeal to me is not simply because I was young and impressionable when I first saw it. I associate certain things with how the show makes me feel. A beautiful autumn day, an open horizon, a certain tangy, alluring bite in the air – these are triggers which still make me itch, even now, to find a zoid and hop in its cockpit.

I know that zoids do not exist. I have known this for years. But there is still something that I can sense in the air sometimes that makes me feel as eager as I only did when I watched or thought about Zoids. The trailer for Field of Rebellion not only intensified that childish wish, it made me hope for a film based on at least the zoids themselves, if not on Chaotic Century.

If Takara Tomy or another Japanese company is actually thinking of turning Chaotic Century into a film, then all I can say is: “Go for it! Go For It! GO FOR IT!!!!” I have wanted a zoids film – or a series of films about zoids – for as long as I have been a fan of Chaotic Century. But as I grew older and watched other shows I enjoyed made into films, seeing how they were abused and mangled by Hollywood, I began to fear that a film about Chaotic Century would destroy the story and the characters I loved so dearly.

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For this reason, I have decided to inaugurate a series of Spotlight! posts that will focus on the characters from Zoids. I do not want these great characters who still visit me when I need their encouragement to be destroyed as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Transformers, and other childhood friends have been. No amount of CGI zoids or fantastic storytelling would save a film that abused these characters, and this is something I wish to make perfectly clear to anyone who may be considering creating a film based on Zoids: Chaotic Century.

But before I get to those posts, I thought it best to review what makes Chaotic Century such a powerful series. It is not the music (which is stellar); it is not the artistry (which is appealing), and it is not the English dubbing (which is not perfect but still works quite well).

It is the characters, the zoids, the plot, and the themes of the series that make Zoids: Chaotic Century such a magnificent story worthy of the best efforts of those who paint pictures on the silver screen. There are four main plot points in Chaotic Century that MUST be present in any film based on the show. These are:

Friendship, Love, and Redemption

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I will touch on this more in the character posts, but one of Chaotic Century’s biggest selling points was its character growth. Though the story starts out somewhat slowly, the friendships between the characters develop so well and so thoroughly that you do not notice just how far they have come until the stakes begin to rise. Then you suddenly get jerked into a position that lets you realize that these characters have grown due to their contact and interaction with each other. You realize that they would never have become the people they are in X episode if not for the fact that they fell in with each other earlier and have been traveling together since.

The love aspect is present in the main romance in the series, which lasts from episode one to episode sixty-seven. We never see the end result, but we are left to believe that the main characters do indeed live happily ever after when the credits finally roll. A few side romances are shown as well, and these are all handled with an adroit touch. The main couple only exchanges one kiss, and that was not a smooch of the physical variety. If the writers for the movie will not honor these relationships in any film about the series, I will not be watching that movie.

Redemption is a big part of the series as well. Many of the villains in the story turn over a new leaf during the course of the show, while several remain evil to the bitter end. These redemptions never feel forced, as the one for Helmut Zemo did in Avengers Assemble’s “House of Zemo.” They never feel tacked on, either, as the redemption of Doctor Octopus in Ultimate Spider-Man’s series finale did.

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Best of all, there are no saving twists for the villains, such as we see in Maleficent. The bad guys either reform or they croak. A couple of villains do kind of reform before they die, but that is probably for the best, as their redemption arcs weren’t likely to last beyond that episode.

Redemption in Zoids takes place gradually; it is natural, the result of progressive character growth and discovery. It is not a spoonfed, hamfisted “let’s all sing Kumbaya and admit that our dads were jerks” moment. (Now that I think about it, not one of the fathers in the series was even a mild jerk, let alone a horrible, horrible person. Score another point for Zoids: Chaotic Century!)

A film about this series has to include these elements; it has to build the friendships and the romances smoothly and quietly. It has to be just as soft on the redemption arcs for the villains as well. Any movie about Chaotic Century that does not do this will not do the series justice, and I will NOT pay to see it.

I know these character arcs would not be easy to condense in a film (franchise), which is the other reason I have been leery of the idea of translating the TV show into a film (series). But if a Chaotic Century movie (series) is in the works somewhere, or on someone’s mental backburner, this character growth is going to prove a challenge for them. It will be a worthwhile challenge, but they may not get the necessary thanks they deserve for this work – even from a Chaotic Century fan like me, unfortunately.

Never Give Up Hope – Or the Fight

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Mostly, it is the main character, Van Flyheight, who has the never give up/never lose hope attitude. This attitude is passed on to his friends by him, thereby infusing the entire story and tying it tightly to reality. We have all faced moments when the going gets so tough, so nigh unbearable, that we cannot stand to think of dealing with the pain for another instant.

Zoids: Chaotic Century shows that even Van is not invulnerable to these moments. What makes him different is that, for him, these moments are rare and they do not last. This allows him to inspire others to hold on to hope when it appears that the battle is already lost.

I cannot tell you how valuable this plot point in Chaotic Century has been for me during my life. I am as weak as the next person; there have been moments when I can see the bottom of the pit of despair, when I have thought life would never, ever get better.

Chaotic Century has been, in some ways, a life-saver for me in these moments. Sure, I have had the “it’s-a-cartoon-and-has-nothing-to-do-with-real-life” thoughts about it. But Zoids taught me that you only really lose the fight when you give up hope. Maybe you cannot always feel hope, as Van seems to, but the show taught me that quitting simply is not an option. Through this show you learn that giving up simply cements your loss while holding out in spite of the pain means you might actually be able to turn the tide of the battle.

A film (or series of them) based on this TV show has to reference tenacious hope as often as its progenitor did. Otherwise, it will not be based on Chaotic Century but on the producer/director/writer’s agenda. The only agenda for a movie (series) based on Chaotic Century should be that hope is more powerful than despair, no matter how grave matters appear to be.

Pursue Your Full Potential – As a Pilot and as a Person

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A sub-theme, if we can call it that, in Chaotic Century is that in order to become the best (or at least a competent and good) pilot in the world, the pilot and his zoid have to reach their full potential as a fighting unit. As one wise character in the series told Van’s friend, “Zoids can sense [their pilots’] feelings and emotions and use them to enhance their own capabilities [in battle]. Once [the pilots] recognize that, the possibilities are endless.”

Anyone who has ever watched zoids remembers the “awe and excitement” we felt when we first saw these enormous, mechanical “spirit animals” running across the screen. We wanted to be that strong, that fierce, and that able to fight. We wanted to be the heroic pilots of our favorite zoids.

The problem Chaotic Century addresses is that zoid pilots can lose sight of this potential in the thick of battle, and thus they lose sight not only of why they became a pilot, but of who they are as people. This leads them to consider their zoids and everyone else’s to be “ordinary” fighting machines which are only useful as tools, pets, or weapons. They stop seeing zoids for what they truly are and see only what they can get out of them.

The challenge Zoids: Chaotic Century presents to its characters – and thereby to its viewers – is it asks us whether or not we have kept our eyes on the prize. The prize is our “full potential” which, while it can never truly be reached in this life, is the only thing worth striving after. Money, power, luxury – these are distractions, in many cases deadly ones. The true potential of a man (or a woman) cannot and should not – must not – be gauged by these foolish categories. What matters is whether or not you are striving after your full potential. Because it is only by chasing after your full potential in this life that you can actually achieve it in the next.

This theme ties directly into the fourth premise any filmakers who wish to bring Zoids: Chaotic Century to the silver screen must keep in mind….

Wonder

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This theme is so obvious that we fans tend to forget it. Wonder radiates palpably from Chaotic Century; but we viewers become so accustomed to the zoids that, like their pilots, we tend to stop marveling at these magnificent mechanical creatures as we should. We become so used to the vast desert vistas, the high mountains, the plateaus, the hills and plains in the series that we forget how beautiful they are. The music – which still sends tingles along my skin and inspires me to smile like a maniac – becomes so much a part of the background that we hardly notice it.

The way Chaotic Century keeps us on our toes is by having the characters point out the wonder of these things. Time and time again, characters remark on the beauty and splendor of the zoids, reminding us of how special these creatures are. The appreciation that the ordinary village folk in the series show for the countryside they live in reminds us that these vistas are available to us wherever we live. We simply have to actually look out the window and see them as they are. The sacrifices the characters make for each other, the little gestures of friendship and romance sprinkled throughout each episode, call on us to realize how valuable our own friends and families are to us.

Above all, Chaotic Century prompts us to keep our eyes on the prize. It constantly reminds us to strive after hope in hopeless situations, to fight to maintain our urge to discover our true potential. We may not be zoid pilots (no matter how much some of us wish we were!), but we are people who are gifted with different talents, different purposes in this life.

Are we pursuing these vigorously, working to find the “endless possibilities” open to us as we work on these things that we love? Or have we become “jaded” and forgotten what made us want to be a mother, a father, a football player, a Marine, a piano player, a writer, an artist, etc. in the first place? Are we striving for the good, the beautiful, and the best that we can achieve – or have we completely lost our sense of direction?

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Many of the characters in Zoids: Chaotic Century have lost sight of the real reason they became zoid pilots. They have lost sight of the real reason why they wanted to get in the cockpit. As the series progresses, they relearn this – allowing us to learn to look at our own lives with new eyes because we have seen the characters do it.

A film – or a series of them – based on Chaotic Century must have these four qualities. If it (or they) does not, then it has failed to give homage to its progenitor franchise, just as the new TMNT movies and the first three Transformers films did. But a zoids film (franchise) that acknowledges its source material, that shows an appreciation for it, can only be pursuing the series’ full potential on a grander scale.

I leave you to discover Zoids: Chaotic Century for yourselves, readers, as I did in my last post. In addition, I also leave you the longest trailer for Zoids: Field of Rebellion. If they could make this video (which is ABSOLUTELY SPECTACULAR FROM A VISUAL STANDPOINT), then they can make a film out of Chaotic Century!

I do not know if they will do this. I want them to do it, as long as they do not try to rewrite the series when they make the film(s). If they can tell this story, whole and entire on theater screens, I will be in seventh heaven. You will have to tie me to the seat and gag me in order to get through the movie, but I will be happier than a clam if Zoids makes it into theaters.

But that is not my decision to make. I can only watch the TV series and the trailers for Field of Rebellion – and dream. For now, that is enough.

See you on the battlefield, readers!

Why I Hate Halloween – Or, My Hallowe’en Candy Came Early

Normally, I would wait to review the Avengers Assemble episode “Why I Hate Halloween” until more of season four had aired. But given how good an episode it was, and how often I rant and rave against Marvel’s PC posturing, I figure they deserve to know when I think they have done something right.

And I have to tell you, readers, they did “Why I Hate Halloween” just right!!! 😀

For one thing, this episode was entirely lacking in PC appeasement. For another, neither Captain nor Miss Marvel was present. When I saw the title for this show listed on Wikipedia, I thought for sure I would have to sit through another episode featuring Khan and Danvers trotting across the screen, belting out the lyrics to “I am Woman, hear me roar!” for half an hour. I was not looking forward to this episode.

When it started, though, I realized my old friends were back on screen. And it was Hawkeye, one of my top two favorite Avengers, rattling off the introductory details through a series of hilarious zingers.

On top of this, Hulk was smashing down doors and HYDRA goons; Cap was slinging his shield while Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, and Falcon attacked the bad guys as well. I began to smile, feeling my tense anticipation of a lecture dissolve as I did. Far from finding an episode I would I hate, a treasure had been dropped in my lap. So I did not look said gift horse in the mouth but accepted the original Avengers’ reappearance with happy eagerness.

I have to tell you, readers, this show delivered. Bonus points, it is almost entirely centered on Hawkeye, who is tasked with protecting HYDRA scientist Whitney Frost (a.k.a. Madame Masque) from King Dracula and his vampire hordes.

According to Assemble, this is not the first time Drac has had issues with HYDRA. Back in World War II, he formed an alliance with Cap and the West to protect his home turf, Transylvania, from a HYDRA invasion. And no, Cap was not exactly happy to be working side-by-side with the vampire-in-chief. But at the time HYDRA was a bigger threat, so he did his duty and protected Transylvania, fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with the leader of vampires everywhere while he did it.

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” only goes so far, though. In the present day Cap and Drac are far from allies or friends.

And on this particular day – Halloween – things really are not going the Avengers’ way. Having just mopped up Frost’s HYDRA base, they find the genius scientist has been trying to augment HYDRA soldiers using vampire DNA.

Yeah, I know. This is a stupendously brilliant idea. Use vampire DNA to make an army of keen-sighted, super strong, super fast soldiers. On paper, it sounds great and nothing could possibly go wrong with it.

But anyone with a lick of sense knows better than to tick off one vampire, let alone the vampire king. This brainless HYDRA woman has just bought herself a mess of trouble, which she does not realize until vamps start popping up in the HYDRA base to get her. Dead vampires are a whole lot less scary than the ones that can jump on you and turn you into a vamp, readers. Just ask Harry Dresden.

Well, the Avengers being the heroes they are, they defend Frost from this first wave of attacking monsters. But they cannot keep her among them and prevent the vampires from getting to her, or her from running away when their backs are turned. So Cap orders Hawkeye to take Frost to one of the team’s hidden bunkers called “the Beach House.”

What is Hawkeye’s immediate reaction? “What?! No way! C’mon, you know I hate the Beach House!”

I nearly laughed out loud. As it is, I was smiling so hard I’m lucky my face did not crack.

Despite his protest, Hawkeye does as he is told. Using a HYDRA sky cycle, he takes Frost to the Beach House, which is actually in the mountains in Vermont. He sets up the defenses for the place and brings Frost inside to wait out the night.

But things get complicated when HYDRA tries to spring his charge from house arrest. They send Crossbones and Crimson Widow (Yelena Belova) to evac Frost, but the two only succeed in getting caught inside the house when Drac and an army of vamps show up.

The king of the vampires tells them to hand over Frost and he will let them all live. (Yeah, sure…) Again, Hawkeye has the perfect comeback, “Not gonna happen, Tooth Boy!”

Again, I nearly laughed out loud.

Hawkeye points out that vampires cannot enter houses unless invited in, stating he knows the rules about how they operate. Since they need an invitation, Hawkeye can keep them out simply by telling them to take a hike. Drac admits he has a point, but then asks what good that will do if there’s no house in which he and the others can stand. He subsequently orders his minions to start tearing the Beach House down, leaving Hawkeye to take charge of the three HYDRA villains in order to fulfill his duty to protect Frost.

I will do my best to avoid spoiling the rest of the story, readers. If I have succeeded in whetting your appetite, please take the time to find this show and watch it. It is worth the almost thirty minutes of your time that it will take up.

But, you ask, why do I like this show so much – other than the obvious reason that it stars one of my favorite characters? It is not just the fact that “Why I Hate Halloween” focuses on Hawkeye. It is how Hawkeye behaves in this episode which made me like it so much.

Going back in Thoughts on the Edge of Forever’s archives, you will find a number of posts about Avengers Assemble’s first and second seasons. In most of them, you will find I have a big bone to pick with Marvel’s writers. During the show’s first two seasons, they portrayed all the Avengers – but especially Hawkeye – in varying stereotypical, liberal ways. Of the seven, Hawkeye got the shortest end of the stick, and I was NOT pleased with that. (See previous posts to learn why.)

Season three of the series changed tack, allowing the heroes to act more like themselves than they had in the prior arcs. This gave Hawkeye a chance to shine, and I duly admitted my contentment with this change. Accordingly, I also expressed my displeasure with the first few episodes of season four when he and the others were forcibly removed and replaced with two PC characters (Danvers and Khan) and one with a liberal chip on her shoulder (Wasp).

This episode showed the World’s Greatest Marksman doing everything I had ever wanted the writers allow him to do in one half hour package. During this installment Clint got to show his resourcefulness, his compassion, his skills, his sense of humor, and his confidence to the utmost. The writers finally let him prove that he is very intelligent, not to mention quite capable of thinking on his feet when others could be or are panicking. From start to finish, the writers let Clint Barton be Clint Barton. They let him be the mature, confident marksman with the snappy patter and heart of gold which he has been for years in the comics. (High falutin’ time they did this, too!)

They also let the HYDRA jerks pick on him and call him the weakest Avenger, an old jibe which has never failed to get under his skin and make him wonder whether or not he actually belongs on the team comprised of “Earth’s Mitghtiest Heroes.” Hearing it delivered in varying ways throughout the show would have made me angry if Clint had not managed to hide how much the taunts actually bothered him. Only at the end did he admit that the sneers had started to undermine his confidence. Seeing him vulnerable, for just a minute there, made up for the mistreatment the writers heaped on him in the first two seasons.

In turn, the writers also let him teach Frost a lesson or three. A proud woman who is supposedly a genius, I have to say, she came off as dense for most of the episode. Which, actually, is true to life; joining the Dark Side does not make you smarter, readers. If anything, it makes you stupid. Case in point would be this dame’s decision to subject vampires to scientific tests to augment living humans’ natural abilities. Vampires – seriously?! How harebrained is that?! Do you WANT to die?!?

But the most important point here is that the writers for this chapter at long last did justice to their character and his environment. They made a compelling standalone show of great value which restores Clint’s dignity as a character, a superhero, and an Avenger. I am not kidding when I say my Hallowe’en candy came early with this episode. It did, and it was long overdue, readers!

By this I mean that I finally got to see one of my favorite Marvel heroes being everything I knew he was and could be. At the end of this show, I was cheering with delight – even when the writers resorted to the old gag of getting Clint in trouble with the Hulk. Since this time it was the result of an honest mistake on his and Big Green’s part, I can let this one joke slide. It seemed to round out the episode nicely – although why Hulk would think to wear that particular costume after a night fighting vampires is beyond me!

Speaking of the not-so-jolly Green Giant, Hulk came through this show with flying colors, too. So did Cap. Neither of them had huge amounts of screen time, for transparent reasons, but what time they did have was used well and artistically. They also behaved according to pattern, and Cap actually got to tell a joke without looking stiff or uncomfortable doing it. I mean, the only thing the writers did not do with this episode was gift wrap it. It was practically a present to Marvel fans – and Cap, Hawkeye, and Hulk fans in particular. It was almost like a thank-you letter straight from the writers’ desk to the fans.

Of course, some may wonder if this is a sign that things are looking up in the Marvel Universe(s). I rather doubt that. This episode was wonderful, stupendous, and utterly amazing – and it could very well have been a one off. Marvel has a new series of “Legacy” comics out now which I do not like the look of at all. Sam is still using Cap’s suit and shield (and still spewing anti-American claptrap); Jane Foster is still prancing around as Thor, and Ironheart has replaced Tony, who has somehow vanished. This is after he had been in a coma since Civil War II. Apparently, they had him using a holographic interface to communicate with the outside world before he pulled a Houdini (putting the lie to the myth that comas equal permanent vegetative states or brain death when they did this).

It also turns out that HYDRA Cap was some kind of clone or something, not the real Steve Rogers. This means that the Real Cap is dealing with the fallout his dopplegänger caused while he was elsewhere. It seems that HYDRA Cap took over half the world and put a lot of people in front of firing squads or some such thing. Naturally, this totally ruined Real Cap’s reputation now that he has returned from the Nevernever – or whatever Marvel equivalent there might be – to clean up the mess.

You know, maybe they should rename it “Awful Comics” instead of Marvel Comics. There is not much marvelous in these new stories; just a lot of depressing horse pills which leave a lousy taste in readers’ brains.

So no, I do not think “Why I Hate Halloween” marks the beginning of a trend. At least, I do not believe that right now. Considering the pleasant surprise the writers handed me this week, I could be in for more. While such a hope is faint, “hope springs eternal in the human breast,” and I am not going to lose hope that Marvel can right their ship. I am just not going to hold my breath while I hope for it to happen. I like living too much to try the opposite.

Anyway, readers, take the time to look up “Why I Hate Halloween.” This is good Marvel fare, believe me. If you are a Hawkeye hater, you can at least enjoy it for Cap and Hulk. Or the explosions. Or the vampires. And if none of that will win you over… (Author shrugs.) Oh, well. I tried.

Avengers assemble!