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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”?

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Avengers Assemble’s Secret Wars – I Am Not Impressed

Forgive the deep sigh, readers, but after Avengers Assemble’s satisfying third season I did not expect to begin tearing into the show’s writers again. I never seem to learn my lesson about these people.

Avengers Assemble is taking a dive into the current comics’ attempt to rewrite reality through its “All New, All-Different” character roster. Now I have absolutely no problem with the addition of Black Panther, Vision, and Ant-Man to season four’s character lineup. I have already stated that I wanted them on the team, so actually having them here is great. But I was surprised and saddened at this series’ depiction of the Wasp. Since I have already listed my issues with the two Marvels elsewhere, I will not go into that here.

The two-part introductory episode “Avengers No More” began well enough. In this installment we had our wonderfully forged team of interesting, fun, beloved heroes trying to rescue Tony Stark from whatever dimension Dr. Strange sent him to last season.

We also got to meet this universe’s Jane Foster, who did quite nicely during her debut. The hint that she and Thor know each other from a prior time, not to mention the romantic spark which passes between them in the first episode, was a nice touch. Hawkeye and Panther trading quips was a great throwback to the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and I had hoped we would get to see them do it more often.

There was only one thing which bothered me in this episode, and that was Thor’s fixation on protecting his teammates. It seemed to be a bit overplayed; the writers looked like they were trying to give him PTSD or something. At the very least, I would say they were a tad too heavy-handed with this aspect of the show.

The second half of “Avengers No More” is where I had A LOT of problems. Panther came through the show with flying colors, naturally, and Vision is always fun to see. I actually rooted for the Enchantress when she tangled with Captain Marvel, but I was not happy with Scott Lang’s reduction to the team joke. I enjoy his quips and his fun-loving attitude, but the man is NOT stupid. He can get touchy-feely from time to time, not to mention be serious when the situation calls for it. The episode “Sneakers” proved this.

But it seems that the writers have decided that if they cannot make Hawkeye the class fool, they will do it to Scott Lang instead. Newsflash, people, we do NOT want our heroes to be fools of any kind. We do not mind it when they make mistakes, or goof up, or when they occasionally pull pranks. They are human and we like to see them behaving like real human beings do.

What is going on here, however, is none of the above. One of the reasons that this overdose of juvenility on Ant-Man’s part does not work is because it is so utterly inhuman (pun intended). No one who is that goofy can last in a position of authority, power, and danger for very long. To make us try to believe that they can will not work because the world will not let it work. Sooner or later, it will beat the truth into us that humor and goofiness has its place – and that place is not in the middle of a firefight.

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Wasp (Hope Van Dyne)

My other problem is with the Wasp. Originally, I looked forward to having her in the series; Janet Van Dyne is one of my favorite Marvel heroines. She has been since EMH. So although this Wasp is her daughter, Hope, I thought she might at least come close to the fun, cheerful character Jan was in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. I had also thought to see her come into the series perfectly synchronized with her partner, Scott Lang.

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Wasp (Janet Van Dyne)

What I got instead was a character with a chip on her shoulder, determined to dominate the man who should be her colleague. As in “Prison Break,” Hope has realized that no one can or is holding her back except herself. However, she still comes across as hard nosed, grim, and anti-social. This prevents her from connecting in any meaningful way to Scott, something I have faint hopes of seeing as the season progresses.

More to the point, readers, this is not the Wasp I enjoy watching. Hope is not her mother, and I respect that difference. But I will not accept a character which is so obviously designed to carry a grudge against the world in general and her teammates in particular. I do not want or need that kind of negativity.

To tell you the truth, I find the difference in her deportment in this series puzzling. From what I saw of Hope in the Ant-Man film, she was not angry with her father because he would not let her use the suit. That was part of it. Most of the reason she was angry at him was because he would not tell her what had actually happened to her mother; he shut her out of his life after Jan’s disappearance, and this is what made her so angry with him.

By this point, Hope should have no reason to carry her anger into Assemble. While she has thrown out some good zingers in the show (not counting the ones at Ant-Man’s expense), the fact is that Wasp was never an “I am Woman, hear me roar!”-type character. Even in the film, there was none of the “Girl Power!” motif to be found in the axe she ground against Hank Pym.

Her dad wanted to keep her safe, both because he loved her and because she was the living link he to the wife he could not protect. Kevin Feige went to the trouble of specifically saying that Hank did not think Hope couldn’t handle the power of the Ant-Man suit. Feige said the reason Hank would not let her use the suit was because he did not want to lose his only daughter as he had his wife. There was no “holding Hope back” in the mission statement; there was only “shield Hope at all costs.”

Is this impractical? Yes, but any mother or father worth her or his salt will have that kind of reaction regarding their child/children. It is how they handle it which may need work or may deserve praise.

Also, my heart hit my shoes when the phrase “All New, All-Different” was used in the second half of “Avengers No More.” In the comics the “All New, All-Different” tagline is shorthand for “let’s make the elites and critics happy and who cares if we alienate our loyal, paying fanbase while we do it.” This has led to Captain America being reworked as a Nazi/Fascist and many other equally destructive “rewrites” to well-beloved heroes and heroines.

Marvel, as I have said elsewhere, is no longer run by people who want to build up the characters and tell good stories with them. It is managed by those who have an unhealthy and destructive agenda which they are now trying to force feed us through the cartoons.

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This must make you wonder why I bothered to watch the next five episodes of season four. Aside from the fact that it is good to know what the other side is doing, I have already invested a lot of ink/pixles in reviewing the series Avengers Assemble for you. If I were to stop now I would fail you, my audience, as well as myself. No one said I have to watch the season or like it, but my duty seems clear to me here: I started reviewing this series and so it behooves me review it to the finish, whatever that may be.

I must admit to disliking most of the episodes which follow “Avengers No More.” Not only do these shows avoid telling us where the original Avengers are, they essentially try to sell us a silk purse made from a sow’s ear. For instance, “The Sleeper Awakens,” wherein the Avengers’ B Team has to face down the Red Skull, is only saved by Vision.

When the newbies move into Black Panther’s ambassadorial mansion, their headquarters for the season, Ant-Man suggests Vision get a pet calculator after the android makes a comment about his large pet ant. Scott comes to regret this proposal when Vision reprograms one of Red Skull’s robots to think for itself and asks if he can keep it for a pet.

The byplay between Vision and “Skully” is the only saving grace for the show. Panther has to pull the rest of the weight for the episode while Scott is allowed some helpful hints. But in the end, the only reason to watch “The Sleeper Awakens” is Vision.

As for “Prison Break,” watching that show was nothing short of pure torture. It started out on a good note, with Wasp promising to take down Captain Marvel in a ping-pong match. While I would still like to see that happen, the rest of the episode was nothing less than “I am Woman, hear me roar!” pandering.

The major battle in this installment takes place in the Vault, a high security supervillain prison built into a mountain. Yelena Belova, now going by the moniker Crimson Widow, attacks and tricks the B Team into taking her to the prison. This is so she can get rich by freeing the villains held there.

Once inside, she takes down her escorts – Danvers and Wasp – before freeing Zarda and Typhoid Mary. Danvers and Wasp come to and then have an insipid heart-to-heart, during which Hope admits she thinks everyone in the universe is trying to hold her back. The only thing which was even mildly entertaining here was watching Zarda throw Danvers around. Why?

During “Prison Break” there was no sense of tangible threat to the heroines. We knew going in that Zarda would get beaten by Danvers; just because the writers and animators let her get kicked around first didn’t change that fact. We also knew that Crimson Widow and Typhoid Mary were going to lose. Danvers was the big stone around the show’s neck, but the second biggest was the chip on Hope’s shoulder.

Her “daddy/Scott/the Avengers held me back” speech was moronic. She is new to the gig, so the Avengers either did not know about her or they wanted her to get some more experience under her belt before they gave her a call, the same way you have to have something on your resume before you send it in to get a high-paying job. Scott could not hold Hope back, up, or down if he tried, and we already discussed the fact that her father was not holding her back from her full potential at the beginning of this post. It was blatantly obvious in “Prison Break” that the only thing holding the Wasp back was Hope Van Dyne.

And I am sorry, but the contest between Captain Marvel and Zarda was not worth getting excited about in any way. They are two macho women who like to punch down people/walls/buildings, and hearing Zarda list Danvers’ myriad false praises to the skies almost made me physically sick.

If the writers had pitted an actual heroine such as Mockingbird, Lady Sif, the Scarlet Witch, Spectrum, Firestar, or even She-Hulk against Zarda, I would have been more interested. But a struggle between equally strong opponents when the outcome can never be in doubt is a boring way to spend an episode.

Some of you are now doubtless shouting at the screen, saying, “How can you say that Zarda and Danvers are equally strong opponents, Mithril?! Zarda’s an immortal from Utopia – she’s even more powerful than Thor! How can you say that Danvers, who only has Kree DNA bonded to her body, is Zarda’s equal?!?”

My response: Oh, give me a Hulk-sized break!!!! First, we do not know if Zarda is more powerful than Thor. Her Sledge of Power operates on a different principle than Mjolnir does. It takes more power to be worthy than to be strong or “powerful,” readers. Zarda will never be able to lift the hammer for the simple reason that all her strength and prowess does not make her worthy. It just makes her a good bully.

Also, remember that Danvers and Zarda are both narcissistic, they both have more muscles in their upper bodies than between their ears, and there is no way in Nick Fury’s underwear drawer that the writers would ever avoid letting Danvers K.O. Zarda. We knew that going in because the big, flashing neon sign screaming “Girl Power!” was melting our eyes from the minute that Wasp and Danvers first clashed with Belova in Panther’s mansion. This told us everything we needed to know about the plot and the outcome of the episode before we were ten minutes into the show.

Now the reason that I say having Sif fight Zarda would have been more interesting is because Sif is not a Femi-Nazi. She made it into Asgard’s warrior corps on her own merit; she is interesting, vulnerable, and fun. And, what is more, she would never have let Zarda throw her around like a ragdoll just so she could look cooler when she finally flattened the Princess of Utopia.

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Spectrum (Monica Rambeau)

Put Spectrum up against Zarda, and you have the potential for a good to great fight. Monica Rambeau can become intangible and fire energy beams from her hands, not to mention turn her own body into a beam of light or energy. She is a former cop and a member of the New Orleans Harbor Patrol. She maintains her own patrol boat for this reason, she has spunk, and she has her weaknesses. Are you telling me she couldn’t handle Zarda? She could take her down without strain or sweat if she wanted to do so!

If you threw the Scarlet Witch at the Princess of Power, she would be dancing to keep up with Wanda’s skillful, smart attacks. Firestar is a mutant capable of flight and generating heat/fire blasts from her hands. You think she couldn’t have handled Zarda in an interesting way and still beaten her? Yeah, right!

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Firestar (Angelica Jones)

Heck, putting Zarda up against She-Hulk would have been more interesting. While Jennifer Walters’ alter-ego barely escapes the Strong Female Character stereotype, the fact is that she is no pushover and she is (rarely) bland. A fight between her and Zarda would have at least been attention worthy; the fight between Danvers and the Princess of Power was so dull that I barely glanced at more than a few scenes of it.

Mockingbird (Bobbi Morse)

But for my money, setting up a match between Mockingbird and Zarda would have been the ultimate catfight. Bobbi Morse has no superpowers (or she should not). A normal woman with extensive hand-to-hand combat and SHIELD training, I would have loved to have seen Mockingbird wipe the floor with Zarda by continually outsmarting her.

But the writers did not go for smart, just as they did not go for classy. And they certainly did not set up a battle between equally deadly foes. “Prison Break” was nothing but a root-for-us-because-we-are-strong-women piece with Marvel-ous window dressing. It was a rigged match from the start that meant absolutely nothing because it had no stakes, which gave the audience zero satisfaction when the conflict finally ended. The chip on Wasp’s shoulder made her defeat of Belova just as tedious.

Things did not improve overmuch in “The Incredible Herc.” I do not know if Marvel’s Hercules has always been this much of a nitwit, but color me unimpressed with his exploits in this chapter. This is a shame because I like the mythical stories about Hercules. I am also a fan of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys with Kevin Sorbo. Show this character (or Sorbo) any disrespect and you sink in my estimation.

Another irritating thing in this episode was watching Captain Marvel and Black Panther vie for leadership of the B Team. It is not that I cannot see this fight occuring; I can totally see Danvers trying to wrest control of the team from Panther. What I cannot see is Panther claiming “male privilege” to secure his position.

This is obviously the point behind his words when he says “I am a king!” during the debate over who should be leader of the Avengers’ B Team. The fact is that Panther is not a better leader than her for the reason that he is a king or due to the fact that he “sees the big picture.” He is the better leader because he is actually capable of analytical thought and all she wants to instinctively do is smash obstacles to pieces while taking all the glory from the battlefield.

My ability to swallow his respect for Captain Marvel, whom the writers have set up in Cap’s place in the series while he is bopping around the multi-verse, is nil. Danvers is a loose cannon, just like Hercules, but with far less charm and value. The writers think they can keep the message they want her to bear and not lose her while doing it.

But the fact is that this will not work. It never has. This is why she was never allowed to “take center stage” before. Danvers melts in the spotlight, demonstrating spectacularly to the audience that the Feminist claims she embodies are nothing more or less than lies.

This is something Marvel’s previous writers knew and which they did not allow to happen. But Marvel’s new writers have bought the lie hook, line, and sinker, leading them to try and amp up the power behind the broadcasting system. So they are surprised that people have continued to tune out the message, leading them to try to increase the power to the circuit so they can get the “necessary” attention.

It will be interesting to see their reaction when the whole thing self-destructs in their collective face.

I managed to miss the first few minutes of “Show Your Work,” readers, but the truth is that there was not much to miss. The episode was nothing less than an attempt to make Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan look good, and you cannot make a token character look good any more than you can make pyrite real gold.

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Not once during this installment did Khan show any real vulnerability to Taskmaster’s supposed charm. Her claim that she saw through his charade from beginning to end also defeated the purpose of the entire subplot between the two of them. Other characters might have pulled it off, but because of her flawed design, Khan is completely incapable of making her emotional reactions look real – even when she geeks out while meeting a new hero/heroine.

Besides, in Ultimate Spider-Man, Taskmaster did not show near this much interest in or respect for any of the kids he encountered. The one-eighty degree turn he does in this episode for Ms. Marvel’s benefit absolutely smacks of politically correct condescension on the part of the writers.

Taskmaster is not a nice guy, readers; he respects nothing and no one. He fights and kills for cash, and he would keep doing it until the Earth blew up underneath him. Whoever he is/was under that skull mask, he is a ruthless murderer bent on getting as much money and pleasure out of his job as he can. Softening him up for Khan’s benefit is nothing short of patronization toward the audience on the part of the show’s writers.

Khan’s statement to Taskmaster that “Reboots are all the rage right now” was another demerit for the show in my book. A reboot, as I understand things, is supposed to revive a television series and its characters in a fresh way for a new generation. They do this by tweaking the original stories and characters, not by fundamentally rewriting them and their universe.

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This means there is nothing fresh or good in the “reboots” Marvel has been feeding us since 2015. If we can have the ancient myths, the Tales of King Arthur, and The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood retold to us over and over and over again with just a few minor changes to the original platform, then what makes Marvel’s writers think we cannot handle the same thing in regard to their heroes?!?!

Vision was the only bright spot in this show, and he did not save it. Duct tape would not have been able to save this episode. Wasp still had a visible chip on her shoulder here, Scott was made to look the fool again, and Panther was not allowed to really flex his leadership muscles. As a result, “Show Your Work” earns one big, long, drawn-out “Booo!” from this viewer.

Now “Sneakers” was actually a good chapter because it played to T’Challa’s strengths and Scott was allowed to be more than the team pratfall. The two had to work together to save Wakanda from Baron Zemo (strange how I knew his redemption in season three would not last).

They did it in an interesting way and, while Scott did not come out of the battle totally free of juvenile “humor,” he did not play the useless waste of skin the writers made him appear in the earlier episodes. Vision also had a cameo or two which lent vigor to the show and the dialogue. All of this made “Sneakers” the only one of the five premier installments for Secret Wars worth watching.

So far, I am more than a little frustrated with Avengers Assemble’s season four. I had a sense it would disappoint – the title Secret Wars was the giveaway. And the retitling of the series’ fifth season (Black Panther’s Quest) does not inspire confidence in the upcoming period, either. How can it be Avengers Assemble if Black Panther is the lead – or possibly the ONLY – character in the series at this point?

None of this is to say that I would not love to see him in season five. T’Challa is one of the best, most well-developed and intriguing characters Marvel has, and I enjoy watching him. But I do NOT want to see more of T’Challa at the expense of Cap, Hawkeye, Hulk, Black Widow, Falcon, Iron Man, and Thor. I want to see him fighting alongside them, learning with them, and integrating into their team. A Black Panther and Avengers team up, or a Black Panther plus his Avenging sidekicks storyline, will not deliver on this.

With the arrival of new villains such as Skurge and the Enchantress, I would also like to know why we cannot have more heroes and heroines added to the Avengers’ roster in this series. I am still waiting for the appearance of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, everybody. And I would like to have Spectrum, Bucky Barnes, Mockingbird, War Machine, Firestar, Lady Sif, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and many others appear here as well. Having Songbird and at least one or two of the Thunderbolts return would be great, too, as would the reappearance of Inferno.

And seriously, why do we not have the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, and other Marvel heroes weaving in and out of this series? Just what is wrong with that idea? No one ever seemed to have a problem doing it before. Why the hesitation now?

The Marvel Universe is – or was – a dynamic and varied place with plenty of amazing characters to enjoy. The fact that the writers will now build stories using only the critically “sanctioned” heroes and heroines (often with a liberal twist) is assinine. It limits them as storytellers; they have gone from “going where no man has gone before” to “going where no one wants to go.”

It is a weak, stupid move, and it is hurting them just as much as it is hurting their audience. But Marvel’s current writers and hierarchy won’t stop doing this – not in short order, anyway – which means we are going to suffer along with our heroes through mile after mile of relativist swampland until the people in charge clean up their act.

This seems like a sour note to end a post with, doesn’t it? I will not end a post on a sour note if I can help it, so here goes with the positivity: things can be repaired. New, good stories can be told using the same great characters. The continual retellings of the ancient myths, the stories about King Arthur and Robin Hood, prove that you do not need to “get with the times” to have relevant heroes, heroines, and stories, readers. A good story, well told, with great characters is all you need to entertain/instruct an audience.

One of these days, someone at Marvel is going to figure this out. Or they will hire someone who knows this. Or they will be bought out by someone who knows it and who will hire people who know it. Eventually, the tide will change, the trash will be swept out, and the house will be refurbished.

We just have to hold out until that happens. We have to hold on to the characters and stories so we can clean up the mansion and put everything to rights again at some point in the future. So, rather than say, “Make mine Marvel no more!” I will say this –

Avengers – ALWAYS!!!

Captain America: Civil War – Clint Barton/Hawkeye

As anyone who has followed this blog knows, I am a huge Hawkeye fan. In the comics, the cartoons, and the movies, I always look forward to seeing him. Captain America/Steve Rogers is also one of my favorite characters, something I have said before as well.

So to FINALLY have my two favorite characters in a Captain America film is UNBELIEVABLY GREAT!!!!!!!!!! 😀 What makes it even better is that Renner and the Russos at last deliver a truly vintage Hawkeye performance. Clint’s snappy patter, skills, and determination are all taken directly from the comics in this movie.

Clint’s part in Civil War is far more limited than I was hoping for. Now, I am not looking a gift horse in the mouth here, people! I am thrilled he got to show up in the movie at all! It is just that my enjoyment factor would have been higher if he had been in the movie longer.

But, yeah, you probably noticed that by now.

Anyway, on to the film! Some people are saying that Clint’s main reason for joining Team Cap was the debt he owes Wanda. Because her brother saved his life, he feels he is indebted to her. He also basically inaugurated her Avenging career in Sokovia, and so he is at least partly responsible for her growth into her role on the team.

True, true, and true…except for the part where these people say these are Clint’s only reasons for siding with Cap. Renner did not help much, saying before the film came out that, “Cap was the first guy who called.”

(*Author slaps forehead and growls in irritation at the general population’s inability to speak or write well.*)

No, Cap did not call Clint first. Tony did – through Natasha. She asked Hawkeye if he would sign the Accords and Clint said, essentially, “No.” Then Cap phoned a couple of days later, whereupon Clint left home, busted Wanda out of the Compound, picked up Ant-Man, and arrived in Germany within hours of the phone ringing.

What was that about Cap calling first again…? I think I missed it.

For those who say that Hawkeye was truly retired at the start of this movie, I have this to answer in response: Clint Barton, Hawkeye, hang up his bow for good? Don’t make me laugh! Being a hero is his job. And when his job needs doing, he will do it.

This is why he refuses to sign the Accords. Steve and Clint are both cut from the same cloth. Did you notice that, in Age of Ultron, Clint has two very large American flags on his property? One is hanging from the side of his house; the other is tacked up in the barn. And oh, yeah, there is a third, somewhat smaller U.S. flag pinned up over the tractor in the barn, too.

Clint seems awfully patriotic. Steve Rogers is, too, or he would not be Captain America. They both recognize the danger in the Accords, which the U.N. wants to force on them and the U.S. They both know that a government or governing body of any type is almost always run by people with agendas. And agendas are dangerous, because the people who have them often place more value on their schemes than on doing what is right.

Clint had to know that to decline signing the Accords while claiming retirement was a holding action at best. He also had to know that the location of his family’s house is now blown. Sooner or later, it will be discovered. If the writers have not had him move, he could be in serious trouble. (Which means that the writers will be in serious trouble with ME!)

If he is half as smart as I know he is, then Clint should have moved his family not long after returning to the farm at the end of Age of Ultron. He would not tell any of the other Avengers about doing this – Tony, Rhodey, Natasha, and Vision have signed the Accords. And Tony has now blabbed about the Barton family on film and video tape. What a typical, unfiltered, big mouth reaction. (*Author rolls eyes.*)

The one Avenger he might tell, if he has moved his family, is Cap. But he would only do that in private, when they were sure no one was listening. Natasha would be able to figure it out, eventually. They have worked together for years and therefore think alike on such matters. Heck, they have probably helped each other come up with contingency plans for this sort of problem!

The point here is that Hawkeye joined Cap’s team because, to borrow and paraphrase Emily VanCamp’s description of her character and Evans’, “They have similar moral compasses.” Clint and Steve both know the difference between right and wrong. When told to move by the world, they will both “plant [themselves] like a tree, look them [those who are telling them what is wrong is right] in the eye, and say, ‘No, YOU move.’”

Natasha knows this. It is why she is alive, as well as Cooper, Lila, and Nathaniel Barton’s “aunt.” She knows Clint’s claim of retirement is baloney and code for, “The U.N. can go bark at the moon. I am not signing away my freedom.” It is this certainty on the part of her two friends which leads her to question the Accords and her own decision to sign them.

This is going to sound like a fan rant, but follow me through please, readers. I loved it when Clint fired three arrows at Iron Man, only for them to get shot down. The basis for this scene is taken straight from the comics. Like many villains, Tony mistakenly believes Clint has finally missed his target…

Clint just smiles smugly and retorts, “Made you look.”

When Hawkeye shoots at you but does not hit you, then he was not aiming for you in the first place. Tony does not know him as well as he thinks he does if he had to learn that fact the hard way. Anyone who has known Clint for any period of time knows that this archer does not miss, whether he is using arrows, bullets, assorted bits of junk, or his own fists. Whatever the tool, Hawkeye’s aim is always true.

Speaking of the internecine fight at the airport, Wanda was right – Clint was pulling his punches with Natasha. He is physically bigger and stronger than she is. Their dance should not have gone the way it was heading. We all remember their duel on the Helicarrier in The Avengers. While I am sure Hawkeye was pulling his punches as best he could in that fight, the thing is that he was holding back even more in Civil War.

Black Widow was not.

It is understandable that Clint would hold back in a fight with Natasha. They are very close friends, almost as close as Steve and Bucky still are. On some level, I think Hawkeye never stopped believing in Natasha after she signed the Accords. He knew she doubted the rightness of what she had done, that she was worried she had made a mistake. He had faith that she would realize she had made the wrong choice and would reverse that decision sooner or later. In the end, he was right. And so he is glad he pulled his punches.

And that Wanda pulled Natasha’s.

Nevertheless, Clint takes Wanda’s admonition on not pulling his punches to heart for the rest of the battle. For Exhibit B to prove that he joined Team Red, White, and Blue out of loyalty to Steve and the belief that Cap was in the right, who held Panther off while Steve and Bucky ran for the quinjet?

Clint did. And while he is not as strong as Panther, Hawkeye put up a great fight. He knew he would not be able to beat T’Challa, or even stalemate him. Not for long, at least. But he was going to go down fighting – hence: “I don’t think we’ve been introduced. I’m Clint.”

The new King of Wakanda is not in the mood for witty banter, let alone name-trading, as he demonstrates with his pithy, angry, “I don’t care!” Clint knows that. But if he cannot get his digs in one way, he will do so by other means. T’Challa can be stronger than Clint all he wants, but he will never outdo the archer in the gallows humor department. Hawkeye will see to that!

To backtrack a bit, our first look at Hawkeye in the film is when he goes to pick up Wanda from the Avengers’ Compound. Wanda senses someone enter the room and, preparing for the possibility that the intruder means her harm, uses her power to grab a butcher knife from the kitchen counter and throw it at the potential cat-burglar.

She must have figured out who her “intruder” was before she hit him, because she stops the blade in the nick of time. Hawkeye stares at the knife as it hovers just in front of his forehead, briefly surprised. Then he smiles faintly. “Guess I should’ve knocked,” he says, calmly pushing the knife away with two fingers.

Wanda lets it drop to the floor and races over to him with a gasp. “Oh, my gosh, what are you doing here?” she asks, horrified. She came that close to killing a friend, and after her inability to fully contain Crossbones’ funeral pyre/revenge plot in Lagos, this near miss is no laughing matter to her.

But Clint brushes it off, apparently unconcerned. It was his fault, as he admitted. Someone sneaking into the room after an explosion draws out the Vision – what was Wanda supposed to think? She was prepared, which was a good thing. If it had not been him, she would have needed to defend herself. As it is, he is still breathing and in one piece, so no harm, no foul. Leaving a temporary Vision-catcher set up to keep the android out of their hair, he grabs Wanda and tries to bolt.

That is when Vision returns. Using his wit and fast mouth, Hawkeye waits until Vision is stuck in the electrical field generated by the arrows he planted for the purpose of holding the android in place. Satisfied that the field will keep Vision trapped for the necessary time to initiate an escape, he goes to leave.

Wanda does not follow him.

This scene was fantastic because it shows Clint’s teacher side. He understood how overwhelmed Wanda was when Novi Grad began to fly, and he understands her hesitation now. Like everyone else, she does not wish to make the same mistake twice – or a worse error. But her fear is crippling her. Never one to lose confidence in himself for more than five seconds, Clint once again restores Wanda’s self-assurance in two or three sentences.

Enough time for Vision to break free of his trap and make a fight out of what otherwise would have been a relatively easy extraction.

This following scene probably harkens back to the original comics from the early sixties, where Hawkeye and Vision had a “debate” over who held Wanda’s affections. However, in Civil War, though the fight is again over the Scarlet Witch, Clint has no romantic inclinations toward her at all. His attachment to her here is entirely different.

She is a kid he convinced to be a heroine, and she is being held under house arrest because she did her best and people died anyway. She did what she could to save as many people as she could, and the media have been tearing her to pieces ever since. She does not deserve that treatment, but the political hacks and media harpies are quite happy to ignore her youth and inexperience so they can further their agendas.

Clint, however, will not ignore these factors. He knows her. He cares about her. In some way, she has to make him think of his own daughter. If it was Lila in Wanda’s situation, Clint would want someone to watch out for her and take care of her. Wanda has no family anymore, and since the rest of the Avengers have either acquiesced to her imprisonment or are not able to get her out themselves, he will stand up for her because they cannot or will not.

Vision, who seems to be as smitten with Wanda in the films as he was in the comics, wants to protect her. Lulled by false rationalism and logic, Vision has decided that he and Wanda are too dangerous to be liked or understood by the public. But in keeping her “housebound,” Vision is not helping Wanda. He is only aiding in the crippling of her belief in herself. He cannot, however, see that…

But Clint can. When Vision breaks out of the trap, Hawkeye knows the android will not let Wanda go without a fight. And while he is not a super genius, it does not take a 190 point IQ (or whatever Tony has), to know that Vision far surpasses him in strength and power. There is no way any of the Avengers, other than Wanda and perhaps Thor or the Hulk, could hope to at least hold their own with the Vision.

So Hawkeye does not put all his chips on beating Vision. He knows he cannot do that. He also knows that Wanda is aware she is being imprisoned, does not like it in the least, and that she wants to help Cap as much as he does. So he fights and, as he knew, is put out of action by Vision. But so what if he cannot beat Vision?

Wanda can.

And she does, showing that Clint’s faith in her is not misplaced. Though they both like Vision and consider him a friend, the stakes are too high to waste time talking. Even if they had the time, Vision will not be swayed easily. So Wanda throws him down a hole to cool off…

Clint takes a moment to look down it, too, probably thinking, Boy, am I glad that’s not ME down there. But if Wanda wanted to defeat or incapacitate him, this is not the way she would do it. (The butcher knife would be more effective and less tiring.) And he knows it. Wanda’s demonstration of her abilities in that moment would have scared most people out of their skins –

It did not scare Clint because he does not see just her powers. He sees Wanda Maximoff, a sweet young girl working at learning how, when, and where to do the right thing with her amazing abilities. She will make mistakes as she learns, just like everybody else, but he has nothing to fear from her. He knows that.

And now, she knows it, too. This crisis of self-assurance over with, wrapped up, and taken care of, Clint tells her they need to make a pick up on the way to meet Steve. This leads us to the meeting in the parking garage outside the German airport, where Clint tells Cap he is “doing [him] a favor” and that he “owe[s] a debt.”

This is where people – including me – got a little confused. Remember when I said there was no way Hawkeye would hang up his bow for good? He loves his family more than words can say, but he still has a job to do out there. As he said when Vision returned from investigating his distraction, he “retired” for “like, five minutes” and the world went to hell in a hand basket. Message received: retirement is not going to work for him.

Some will say this is overconfidence or hubris, and while it carries a bit of the former, Clint told Wanda in Sokovia that saving the world was his job. Hawkeye is a fighter; he always has been. Like Steve, he has been standing up to bullies his whole life. In the original comics, those bullies usually held an authority position over him while he was growing up.

We do not know as much of his MCU back story as I wish we did, but it would not surprise this author if it was very similar to his “mainstream” universe history. Because, in the MCU, as in the original Marvel “mainstream” universe, Clint has no more patience for tyrants – big or small – than Steve Rogers does.

So even when he is happily married and playing with his children, Clint’s hands will occasionally itch to be holding a bow and an arrow, sighting an enemy and taking him down. Targets are great, but they are for practice. Hawkeye’s skills are not meant for the target range alone. He has to be out, just like Steve, actively making a difference. He is not made to sit on his hands. He has to be doing his job, at least some of the time.

He is lucky Laura understands that and supports him when he does it; Pepper should spend some time with her. Maybe then she will stay with Tony instead of marching off in a huff because he is still making suits and Avenging.

This is why Clint says Cap is doing him a favor. A year out of action is long enough for his hands to start getting very itchy for a good fight.

As for the debt, that goes without saying. Hawkeye is indebted to the Scarlet Witch for her brother’s sacrifice, and he is a man who pays his debts. The weight of that obligation is equally balanced, however, by his respect for Wanda and Steve, as well as the knowledge that tyranny is rearing its ugly head again. Despotism casts a long shadow, and Clint does not want that touching the lives of his wife and children. If he was unworried about it, he would not be living off the grid as he is.

Now we go to the last time we see the World’s Greatest Marksman in Civil War. When Tony goes to get information from Falcon in the Raft, Clint is the first one to “greet” the great “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.” Hawkeye is one of those “guys with none of that” who Steve once said were “worth ten of [Tony].”

Clint did not receive the codename Hawkeye simply for his keen eyesight and unerring accuracy. The man sees with his head and his heart as well as with his eyes. Although he may not always possess the vocabulary to express what he knows, the fact is that he knows this: “There’s right and there’s wrong. You gotta do one or the other. You do the one, and you’re living. You do the other, and you may be walking around, but you’re as dead as a beaver hat.” (John Wayne in The Alamo.)

One can accuse Hawkeye of many things, but being “dead as a beaver hat” is not one of them.

Tony tries to wriggle out of the lecture, but Clint will not let him. His own imprisonment, and that of Scott and Sam, is bad enough. They are fighting the good fight and the government, angry that they have remained out of their control for so long, has thrown them in jail ‘til they either sing “Kumbaya” or rot. Fine. That bites, but it was to be expected, and Clint can take a beating when he has to without giving in to his captors.

No, the worst thing about his imprisonment, the part which stings most, is that Wanda is not imprisoned with the men. His family is safe. He made sure of that before he left, I would think, probably guessing that Tony would open his big mouth and mention them when they met face-to-face at last.

But since the fracas at the airport, Clint and the others have no idea where Wanda is or what has happened to her. She is not imprisoned on their level; she is a girl and they are all guys.

That, however, is only half of the equation. The other half is that Wanda is the single enhanced member of Steve’s team besides Cap and Bucky. Ross, the guards at the Raft, and their collective bosses in the U.N., are all terrified of her power. They see her abilities. They do not see the person who uses them.

Steve does, Clint does, and Sam does. Doubtless, Bucky can see past her powers to the girl wielding them. Even Scott Lang sees her as a person. Remember when he is geeking out over meeting Cap? He turns to Wanda after a few seconds, points at Steve, and says, “Wow, Captain America… I know you, too. You’re great!”

No one on Team Cap sees a dangerous weapon when they look at Wanda. Tony, however, needs his eyes checked.

If you add this fear of Clint’s to Tony’s betrayal of the Avengers’ agreed upon leader (Cap), and the fact that he has been incarcerated as a criminal for doing his job, you have a recipe for a big bowl of righteous fury. Clint is quite happy to throw the whole soup of his displeasure in Tony’s face. Cap was right: Tony tore the Avengers apart when he signed the Accords. He has betrayed himself, Steve, Clint, Sam, Vision, Rhodey, Natasha, and – worst of all – Wanda.

The betrayal of Wanda is the worst because, of the Avengers, she is the weakest. Not physically or in terms of power quotients. No, Wanda is weak because she is inexperienced and needs guidance from people she can trust, people who care about her and will protect her. She is a child who needs teaching and attention – not house-arrest, fear, and jeers.

Tony called her a “Walking Weapon of Mass Destruction.” He held her under house arrest in the Compound. Now, the government has taken her and locked her up, adding a straight jacket for extra insurance. (I hear it is not impossible for people to get out of those things. The fact that Wanda did not free herself says a lot about her – and a lot about the people who put it on her in the first place.)

Tony has the good sense to be ashamed for the first half of Clint’s reprimand. Clint knows it will not last, and he makes sure to give Tony both barrels as fast as possible, reloading just as quickly. Tony does not like it, further endangering his friendship with Clint by throwing the matter of his family in the other man’s face and asking why he did not sign the Accords for their sake. The mention of his family in a bugged and camera-filled cell, when they are a secret he revealed to Tony with the utmost confidence as a close friend, makes Clint really mad.

Still, despite it all, there is evidence to support the fact that Clint is not willing to abandon Tony to his mistakes. He warns Tony to “watch his back” with Ross, since the Secretary of State, “might just break it!”

Clint’s warning, following on the heels of Natasha’s similar angry remonstrance at the Avengers’ Compound, has some effect on Tony. He does not tell Ross what Sam confides in him. Later, when Steve goes to break their mutual friends out of the Raft, Tony does nothing to help Ross. He puts the other man on hold, as he had promised.

So Clint is mad at Tony – and he is right to be angry at him. But he has not given up on him, just as Cap has not. That says volumes right there.

While the final scene where we see Steve stepping out of the shadows as Sam smiles at him is charming and applause-worthy, I kind of wish we could have seen Clint and the others’ reactions to Steve’s arrival as well. I love picturing the four trading quips as Steve unlocks the cell doors, then going down (or up) to the level where Wanda is being held so they can break her out. Alas, it can only be imagined. Unless Marvel makes a comic book about their escape, we have no other recourse.

Most likely, Clint will not stay in Wakanda as an ex-patriot. Neither, I think, will Steve. The two will perhaps make trips to visit the country so that they can keep tabs on Bucky’s progress or walk about more freely, but neither of them could stand to be away from the U.S. for very long. And Clint still has a family to take care of, so he would have more reason to go back than anyone else but Scott Lang.

No, I think Clint will return to his family, as Scott will go back to San Francisco to be with Cassie. Steve, Sam, and Wanda may stay in Wakanda for a little while longer, but they will return to U.S. soil as well. Wakanda is a nice country, but America – that is home. And there is no place like home.

The three can easily go off the grid together and visit Clint from time to time when they come back. Because Natasha disobeyed the Accords, there is a chance that she will hook up with them, or that they will find and “recruit” her. From now on, Team Cap will be the “Secret Avengers.” They will do their job without the “oversight” which Tony, Rhodey, and Vision must put up with. This will give them ample time to get stronger and more prepared for Infinity War, Part 1 & 2.

It will also give Tony time to reevaluate his choices, allow Vision a chance to do more calculations, and who knows? Perhaps Rhodey will wake up to reality by the next Avengers’ film.

We can but hope. Until then –

Let’s do this, Secret Avengers!

The Mithril Guardian

Avengers Assemble’s Third Season – How is it so far?

Earth's mightiest heroes — Hawkeye, Black Widow, Captain

Avengers: Ultron Revolution is in full swing now, readers! What do I think of it so far?

It is a definite improvement, in several respects, over the previous seasons. For one, the animation has gotten better. It is a subtle detail, and not one I usually notice. But reviewing some footage from seasons one and two, I realized season three’s animation is smoother and more streamlined. Certainly a plus!

On the subject of pluses, Hawkeye has done better over the first few episodes than he has in the prior two seasons. He is behaving in a less immature manner – although the writers have naturally maintained his penchant for overconfidence – and this has me really excited. Not only that, but Clint’s gotten some serious scenes as well, especially in the episodes Under Siege, Thunderbolts, and Thunderbolts Revealed. Fingers crossed that he only gets more like himself as the series plays on!

Black Widow has also improved. Firing off colorful quips and smiling more genuinely now, she has made a welcome change from her stoic, faux-Amazonian portrayal in previous seasons. More to the point, she and Hawkeye have yet to bicker petulantly as they did in the last two seasons of the series. Her strong friendship with Cap is also given the spotlight in Saving Captain Rogers, the third episode of the season. Let’s hope the writers keep this depiction up in future episodes, leaving the stereotype in the dustbin!

Hulk has done nicely so far this season, too. And we have had two episodes of Ultron Revolution give us a look at the new and improved Dr. Bruce Banner! We have not seen him in any real capacity since Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! and two episodes of Assemble’s previous seasons. Those appearances were brief and left us wondering why we did not see more of him. Hulk is also showing a better balance between “rage-filled” smashing and “thoughtful” smashing. His character arc this time is shaping up to be very interesting.

Falcon’s in college as of Ultimates, and so far we have not gotten to see as much of him as I would like. However, he has proved himself to be even more capable now than he was in season two. It is clear the experiences he has had throughout the series have helped him to grow, and with him studying to be an engineer, Sam can only get harder to beat as the Ultron Revolution proceeds!

Cap’s character is still a little too stiff at times, but all in all he is doing fine. Saving Captain Rogers did not put him in the best light, though. I mean, how easy is it to hypnotize Captain America and keep him under the spell? The important thing is that he broke out of it, and hopefully it will be harder to get control of him in future episodes. 😉

Thor has become more familiar with Earth by this time, too, though he is not fitting in exactly. But watching him go trick-or-treating with a couple of his young fans was priceless! It also shows his softer side, and I like it when the heroes get to be kind to kids. It strengthens their character – and Thor’s moral fiber got a real boost at the end of Into the Dark Dimension!

As of this moment, Tony’s character is balancing on the thin line between “improved” and “about to crash.” This is natural, since there is a Civil War story arc in the series’ future, and the writers want to set up the basis for that conflict as early as possible. Tony feels responsible in the extreme for Ultron’s existence, proved in the first episodes of the new season: Adapting to Change and Ultimates. When he is fighting against the mechanical maniac, he is broody and has a propensity to act rashly, attacking with everything he has and making the safety of himself and his team a low priority.

This was nicely reversed, for a moment, in Saving Captain Rogers. Hearing a scream of pain from further inside Baron Helmut Zemo’s castle, Tony says, “If that’s Cap, I’m going to glue my fist to Zemo’s face!” (It was not Cap, but the sentiment is what counts.) The line reminds us of their friendship in previous shows and the older comics. Call me a nostalgic, but I still prefer that friendship to the “frenemy” status the writers have thrust upon the two these days. For one thing, it makes the stories more hopeful. And in today’s world, hope is a commodity in short supply!

Another great thing about this season was the introduction of the Thunderbolts, first in their criminal identities, later in their superhero “cloaks.” While I am still no fan of Moonstone/Meteorite and remain suspicious of Fixer/Techno, Atlas had a good introduction here. I have to say that I like this version of him better than his comic book counterpart. Mach IV, formerly the Beetle, also had an impressive showing in Ultron Revolution. It would be great to see more of him.

But the character I was most excited to see come on stage was Screaming Mimi/Songbird. Of all the criminals-turned-Thunderbolts who became heroes in the comics, Songbird was the only one who completely turned over a new leaf. Mach IV tagged along after her, not hard to do considering they were in love by that point. Songbird has since become a staunch hero worthy of fans’ admiration, and to see her journey in Avengers: Ultron Revolution was FANTASTIC!

What made it even better was the fact that Hawkeye was her inspiration and informal mentor in the episodes, with some help from Cap in Thunderbolts Revealed. In the comics, Hawkeye was the one who convinced the Thunderbolts to stop pretending heroism and to really take on the mantle. His leadership was a smashing success… at least as long as he was in charge of the team. Sometime after he left, Moonstone went back to her old ways, as did Fixer, though I think he continued to use the Techno alias.

Songbird, however, was the biggest triumph of Hawkeye’s time as leader of the Thunderbolts. So watching her turn into a heroine over the course of Under Siege, Thunderbolts, and Thunderbolts Revealed on his prodding and due to Cap’s faith in her was GREAT!!!! It not only showed Clint’s more serious side, it proved his ability to teach and lead by example. Those are characteristics of his which others often ignore, though they make him a great instructor in the MC2 universe, as well as the Avengers Academy in the old “mainstream” universe.

Speaking of the old “mainstream” universe, we cannot forget how Clint taught Kate Bishop in those comics. Even if she was supposed to be his female replacement somewhere down the line (Kate Bishop, Clint Barton – their names are too similar for this not to have been the writers’ intention), the fact that he decided to mentor her at all demonstrates that he cares. In some ways, Hawkeye is a little like Wolverine. He can be annoying and a jerk, overconfident and insulting… but underneath all that, he has a heart of gold. And if you can get past his prickly outer shell, he is a loyal ally, great friend, and willing teacher. The fact that Avengers: Ultron Revolution is FINALLY ready to show him as such is a welcome change for this fan!

The only thing I really want the writers to do now is hand the reins of the Avengers over to Captain America. If they could also make him less stiff and allow him to relax, then I would be very happy.

The series is doing well, but Cap playing second fiddle to Tony makes the show feel somewhat off balance. After all, Steve is team leader in the films, and he was the leader for the Avengers in the “mainstream” comics for YEARS. Seeing Tony run the Avengers while Cap stands aside feels like watching Batman run the Justice League as Superman sits by and takes orders from him. The JLA’s commander in chief is Superman, and Batman acts as his second, with Wonder Woman supporting the two of them. Putting Bats in charge of the League and having Superman as his “water boy” just feels off.

Cap can, is, and should be the head of the Avengers’ pyramid, with Tony directly on his right as his second in command. This fan/writer would appreciate it if the guys in charge of Marvel recognized and acted on that in Avengers: Ultron Revolution – not to mention the comics!!! (I won’t be holding my breath for that, though.)

The series is still young, of course, and there is time for it to grow. It already has developed a fair bit by this point. I am looking forward to seeing more heroes arrive as this season progresses, as well as the character growth in store for the seven Avengers who formed the team at the start of the series. Once Ultron Revolution is at an end, you may hear from me on this subject yet again, readers. Until that time….

Avengers Assemble!

The Mithril Guardian

Marvel's Avengers: Ultron Revolution

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Thor Odinson

Okay, okay, settle down! There is no need for that much cheering! I know Thor has not been the center of a post on this blog before, and that may lead some to believe he is not well liked by yours truly. It is true that I have never been extremely fascinated with the Prince of Thunder, as others are. Why? Well….I do not really know. Thor just never caught my attention the way that other Marvel characters did. I like him – just not the way many of his fans do.

However, his strength, courtesy, and fierce fighting ability have always impressed me. From the time I saw him in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! to the couple of comics that made their way into my collection which featured him, I have respected Thor Odinson.

This made his first movie in 2011 a bit of a disappointment to me when I initially viewed it. Here is the Prince of Thunder, star of his very own movie, and he is acting like a spoiled child…? All I could think was, “This is not the Thor I have gotten to know. Why did they make him such a petulant baby?”

Kind of a scathing opinion, I know. But you Thor fans should be happy to hear that my attitude toward the first movie starring the Thunderer has softened significantly since that early viewing of the film. First impressions are often wrong, and mine was mistaken.

In contrast to his appearance in Thor, the son of Odin came out swinging (literally!) in Marvel’s The Avengers. THIS portrayal of Thor was much more enjoyable for me. Since The Avengers was on my ‘to watch’ list before Thor, it may explain my disappointment with the prior film. I did not realize how much Thor had had to grow and change before The Avengers.

The Dark World continued his story arc, and while the plot may have been a bit thin in places, it was a genuinely good showing for him. Anyone could have been fooled by Loki’s death scene; though we can rest assured that as soon as he is unmasked, the Trickster will be rubbing Thor’s nose in the fact that he was hoodwinked. Again. (Ouch.)

Regardless, Thor came out of The Dark World stronger than ever. He became a true prince, worthy not only of using Mjolnir but of ruling Asgard. How do I know this? The acid test is that Thor understands by the end of the film that being a king is not all fun and games. He knows now that there is “more to being king than getting [his] way all the time.” (Pardon The Lion King reference, readers, but it was begging to be done!)

And this brings us to Avengers: Age of Ultron.

WOW. Thor did very well in this movie. Understandably, he is shown to still be unfamiliar with Earth culture here. But Thor’s naturally limited knowledge of Earth and its cultures does not, after a point, interfere with his friendships. To start off, we will discuss the Avengers Thor seems closest to since the team reassembled sometime between The Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron.

First up, Cap. As was discussed at length in the post “Avengers: Age of Ultron – Captain America/Steve Rogers,” Thor and Cap are very good friends. This is especially interesting because of their different backgrounds. Thor and Steve share similar attitudes, it is true. They protect the innocent, fight for truth and justice (though Thor is a little more emphatic on the ‘fight’ part of that clause), they are each loyal to their values and friends, and they are both in positions of authority.

Where they diverge is that Thor, by his birthright, is heir to an entire realm. He could be a complete wimp (which he is NOT!), or a total fathead with an ego to rival Jupiter (which he almost was), and despite these flaws he would still be the rightful heir to the Asgardian throne.

Thor, however, has become humble enough to turn down his birthright, at least until such time as he cannot avoid taking it up. In contrast, Steve is a commoner. His parents were not rich or well-off by any stretch of the imagination, and he lived in very poor conditions – possibly even before the Great Depression.

Now, just for the sake of clarification, let me say that being a soldier is not the same thing as “following orders,” something Whedon had Cap say in The Avengers. A soldier is not a robot or a puppet, and his function is not to simply “follow orders.” If a soldier is stuck behind enemy lines, or is in some other way unable to get in touch with the guys in charge, then how can he “follow orders”?

Good soldiers are not reliant on orders a hundred percent of the time. They are trained to be true to a code of conduct, the center piece of which is usually patriotism (love of country), and the willingness to defend their fellow citizens against outside aggressors or – God forbid – internal threats.

Too many people today see soldiers as mere marionettes or war machines (sorry Rhodey). Not so. Soldiers are men trained to serve and protect at all costs – even that of their own lives. If you train soldiers to be machines that respond to commands instead of individuals with the brains to accomplish their missions when the situations they are in get worse every minute, then you do not have an army, navy, marine corps, etc. You have robots you can sacrifice at will.

Soldiers are human beings. And human beings are NOT robots.

Soldiers are the thin line of defense between regular civilians and the bad guys. They are asked to deal with horrible, terrifying situations no one should have to experience. But they respond to the call anyway, often without realizing that in doing so they are signing up to be expendable.

Even those who do realize they are agreeing to be “pieces in a game” (thanks, Peeta), will still sign up to be soldiers willingly. They sign the contract and agree to defend their otherwise defenseless fellow citizens. This is why soldiers, true soldiers, are loved by their nation. And this is why traitors are hated so bitterly, as much by the country they side with as the one they betray. A traitor is someone whose only interest is themselves and their own well being. Why should others trust and love them, when they trust and love no one except themselves? (Brutus or Benedict Arnold, anyone?)

The point of the discourse, readers, is that Cap and Thor are in reversed positions. Steve is a soldier; Thor is a prince. The age old order would state that Thor ought to be the man in charge. His is the birthright, and therefore the responsibility of leadership. Right?

In the opening sequences of Thor, the son of Odin would have agreed with that sentiment. But he has learned humility since then. Humility is not, as the popular notion would have us believe, a groveling or simpering attitude toward others. Nor is it excessive self-deprecation, i.e., a great chef may say that he is a simple cook to avoid getting a fat head. (And by saying this, the chef is getting a fat head; because he is making himself proud of his self-perceived humility.)

Real humility is what Thor has shown since he first appeared on the silver screen (in a good way) in 2011. He is a prince and a great warrior. But these things do not prevent him from making breakfast for his friends Erik Selvig, Jane Foster, and Darcy. His heritage does not prevent him from falling in love with a mortal woman, or admitting that he does not have all the answers. And his humility allows him to acknowledge that Cap is the better leader of the Avengers.

This all means that Thor, who already knew how to lead, has learned to follow. In the comics, Thor is reported to have said that not only is Steve the only mortal he will take orders from, but he will follow him to the “gates of Hades” if Steve is leading an attack on the place. (Guess who he would side with if he was in Civil War – and yeah, I know Thor’s clone was on Tony’s side in the comic book conflict. That just goes to show he was a FAKE!!!)

Cap and Thor’s friendship is not founded merely on a “you are better than me” mentality. It is based mostly on respect. Thor, along with anyone else who has half a brain, recognizes Cap’s moral authority over him and the rest of the team. For that reason he is quite amenable to Steve’s leadership and willingly defers to him. It is not about who has the better résumé or pedigree – it is about respect.

Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis had similar friendships between Earth humans and alien humans. Jack O’Neill, leader of the four man SG-1 team, commanded the respect of the Jaffa member of the group: Teal’c. That was why Teal’c joined the SG program, let alone followed Jack’s orders. In Stargate: Atlantis, Colonel John Sheppard commanded the respect of the Satedan warrior and former Wraith runner Ronan – who was not known to respect too many people prior to joining the Atlantis crew! And in Ultron, Thor and Cap show the respect they have for each other through dialogue, tag team tactics, and small gestures of mutual esteem.

This brings us back to the hammer lifting competition Hawkeye began, doesn’t it? What does Thor think of Steve since the latter budged his hammer? It gave him a start, for sure! But if Thor could warm to Vision’s ability to lift Mjolnir, I do not see him grudging Steve use of the weapon.

Does this mean he would have been able to accept Steve lifting the hammer during the after party at the Tower? A debatable point …. perhaps. It was a competition, and Thor was being razzed pretty badly by Tony and (to a lesser degree) by Clint. If Steve had lifted the hammer and proved beyond anyone’s doubt that he was also worthy, Tony and the others would never have let Thor hear the end of it. So Thor would have been in a “bit of spot,” as the British like to say, if Cap had lifted the hammer at the party.

This is, as I have said before, the reason that Steve left the hammer on the table. He budged it. Just touching the hammer should have let him know that he could lift it – a slight tingle of power (unbelievable power, at that), racing up his arms, the hammer vibrating with anticipation, the movement as it shifted in response to his slight tug…. He could lift it. Mjolnir let him know he could.

But doing that would allow everyone present, already poking fun at Thor, to howl with triumph as Steve lifted Mjolnir. Poor Thor would be sitting there, stunned, as the jeers and catcalls flew in joyous exultation when it was proved that he was not the sole beneficiary of Mjolnir’s loyalty.

Steve was not going to do that to Thor. As much as Thor respects him, Steve admires the Prince of Asgard in a similar way. So instead of raising the hammer and giving Thor a “there-you-go” smile, Steve just shifted it. Not enough for everyone to see – but enough for Thor to notice, to remind his friend not to get a swelled head. “Being worthy is a neat trick,” Cap essentially said, “but the enchantment says ‘Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall wield the power of Thor.’ It doesn’t say that you alone can wield it. Anyone who is worthy can use it. Even a kid from Brooklyn.” 😉

Then, to prove that he has no interest in using Thor’s toy, Steve lets it go, raises his hands in rejection, and walks away. Galadriel did something similar in The Fellowship of the Ring, except that she had to make a bigger point to Frodo. Anyone, even the mighty Galadriel, was susceptible to the One Ring’s incredible lure. But temptation can always be refused, as the Lady of Lothlorien refused it. In a similar way, Steve Rogers refused the temptation to take the “power of Thor” for himself.

With that subject ‘hammered’ to death, we will continue down the roster. It is interesting, as I noted in previous posts, that Thor would abandon the battle on Baron Strucker’s HYDRA base in Sokovia to bring the injured Clint Barton to the Aveng-jet. The last time we saw the two in The Avengers, they were arguing over who had first dibs on Loki’s carcass. And Thor still enjoys a good scrap, as all Asgardians do, so leaving in the middle of a fight for any reason is a notable decision of his.

In Ultron, Thor offers to take Clint back to the Aveng-jet for preliminary medical treatment. This is probably a nod to Thor’s original, secret alter ego in the first Marvel Comics: Dr. Don Blake. Thor’s secret identity in those stories as the lame American doctor of Scandinavian descent meant that he had extensive knowledge, as Thor or Blake, of medicine and healing. In other words, he was one hell of a doctor – even as the mighty Thor!

This made him invaluable in a life-or-death situation during the early comics, and the Avengers’ inability to reach Blake when Thor wasn’t present on Midgard often left the team scrambling to find a doctor at least half as capable as he was. It was rare that Thor/Blake had no idea how to help an injured Avenger, as shown in “Even Avengers Can Die!” for instance. (See the post on Marvel Masterworks #2: The Avengers for details on that comic book story – unless you hate spoilers, of course!)

You would think, readers, that when Hawkeye starts the hammer lifting competition in the Tower, Thor might have been inclined to verbally batter his irksome teammate. Conversely, Thor says, “Be my guest,” and gestures toward the hammer. This shows that he respects Clint – even when the latter is being something of a jerk – and is quite willing to humor him.

Thor also does not appear to be utterly bowled over by the revelation that Clint has a family. He seems a little surprised, perhaps, but also accepts Clint’s secret with more equanimity than Tony or Bruce. Cap is only a few seconds slower, as the revelation is a bit of a shock for him and hits him in the wounds Wanda reopened in the African boneyard.

Thor’s “easy” acceptance of Clint’s secret family may be due in part to the fact that his mind is primarily occupied with the vision Wanda showed him in South Africa. Although, considering the frown he shot at the billionaire genius when the other said, “This is an agent of some kind,” about Hawkeye’s wife, this may be a wrong assessment. Thor is much more polite and courteous than Tony ever has been in the film franchise. That would be the reason he shot Tony a “don’t be rude” look for smarting off in front of – and about – their mutual friend’s wife.

On a lighter note, it is funny to see Thor step on Lila Barton’s LEGOs, then try to hide the damage under the table. It seems Thor has finally met a girl who is unimpressed with him. Lila is not happy that her dad’s friend just broke her toy, and it is obvious Thor retreats an inch or two when Lila glares up at him. He is a mighty warrior, but how exactly does one apologize to a friend’s young daughter for accidentally breaking a toy one did not see? They do not really cover that in etiquette classes – Asgard’s or Midgard’s etiquette classes – and that makes Thor’s retreat a hundred percent understandable.

From what I know, Thor and Hawkeye have never truly been at odds with each other in the comics. Oh, I am sure they have argued – and if Clint never took verbal potshots at the Thunderer in the comics, then he was either very sick or unconscious. Clint will shoot his mouth off to anyone, friend or foe, no matter how powerful they are!

Despite this, Hawkeye and Thor are shown to have a fairly strong friendship in Ultron. Though he does not understand why Thor would help bring Vision to life in the Tower, Clint seems willing to believe that Thor would not activate the new being just for kicks. He is more dubious of Wanda’s opinions, but she can manipulate minds, as we know. She brought down the whole team, and Clint’s been on the inside of a “mind control thing.” That kind of thing leaves one naturally wary of trusting a person capable of messing with other people’s brains.

Still, this wariness was directed toward the Maximoff girl. If he had had the time, Clint might have asked Thor point blank, his expression somewhat perplexed: “Just what are you doing here, exactly? First you plan to choke the life out of Stark for building Ultron, then you turn around and help bring this new android of his and Ultron’s to life? There really should be a point to all of this.”

And Thor probably would have responded by shrugging in a “yeah, I know, but listen” manner and gone on with the explanation he gave in the film.

Thor and Clint’s friendship is not built on the same kind of respect that is the base of the son of Odin’s allegiance to Cap. Hawkeye and Thor are not peers; they have very little in common with regard to their backgrounds or skills. But Clint does respect the Prince of Asgard – and not because of his rank. He has a high opinion of Thor’s dedication to protecting the Earth, as well as his humility. You have to have some respect for a guy who is willing to abandon a battle midway through for your sake, readers. It is rather ungrateful if you do not, first and foremost; more to the point, it is stupid not to appreciate the gesture.

It is possible that Thor respects Clint precisely for his penchant for throwing jibes that are aimed as well as his arrows. Clint is a complete mortal – he has none of his teammates’ assets. Yet he still faces everything they fight against without complaining, even when he is injured. It is hard not to admire a guy who will take a pounding and pick himself up afterward to keep on fighting. Clint is not an incautious man. Thor learned that when he found out the archer had a family. But he is a brave man and Thor, like all Asgardians, holds courage in more esteem than any other characteristic.

Plus, it helps to have someone who is willing to say, “You’re getting a fat head, pal,” without showing fear of the possible repercussions. As Thor learned when Cap budged the hammer, Clint was partially right: the enchantment was not a trick, but the prince of Asgard was getting cocky and sliding toward old, bad habits. Clint probably knew deep down that he did not have a prayer of being able to lift or move Mjolnir. But he figured someone on the team did, and whether or not he suspected that person would be Cap, Thor still learned that he was not the only Avenger capable of lifting the hammer.

This was slammed home to him especially when Vision handed him the hammer Steve had so ceremoniously refused to lift a couple of days earlier. Thor is shown talking to the android on the balcony not long after this, while the team is gearing up for the showdown with Ultron.

We have no idea what they are speaking about, but Thor is arguably the one Avenger capable of outmatching Vision’s power. He also knows that Vision has just been “born.” Ultron went berserk after he was “born,” and that was despite J.A.R.V.I.S.’s best efforts to calm him down! Thor does not want Vision to follow the same path, so it would make sense that he would take special care to talk to Vision, making sure he had not just helped Tony Stark compound his first mistake.

Another mark of Thor’s growing friendship with Vision is the chat they have in the church in Novi Grad. Finally, Thor gets to talk about Mjolnir with someone who knows the weapon almost as well as he himself does! Cap, after all, never actually lifted the hammer. He knows it is powerful, but he does not know how “terribly well-balanced” it is or how to “avoid losing power on the swing,” and so on. Thor, not necessarily the most trusting Avenger, shows a great deal of faith in the Vision when he tells Cap and Tony not to worry about the android keeping the Mind Stone. It remains to be seen if he is right not to worry, of course, but it is quite the gesture on Thor’s part.

Thor’s relationship with Natasha and Bruce is not easy to determine right off the bat. Obviously, Widow should not have asked the Thunderer for a report on the Hulk’s job at the Sokovian HYDRA base. (Seriously, what did she expect?!?) Coming from a realm where it is still bad manners not to treat a woman like a lady, Thor certainly seems to hold Natasha in high regard as a friend and fellow warrior, to a lesser extent than he regards Sif. But the fact is that he’s known Sif longer than he has known Natasha. We know that Jane Foster holds his heart, but Thor appears to consider the Black Widow a good friend and capable teammate.

For her part, Natasha shows Thor a great deal of deference. She does not accept the challenge to lift Mjolnir, saying self-deprecatingly, “Oh, no. That’s not a question I need answered.” What she was saying, of course, is that she knew she was not worthy. She had nothing to prove in the competition and nothing to lose by avoiding it. That about sums up her friendship with Thor right there.

As for Bruce, I do not think Thor was very angry at him for helping to build Ultron. Most of his ire was directed at Tony, since he was the mastermind behind the plan. Besides, Bruce admitted that he had been wrong to help build Ultron. Instead of apologizing for building a “murder bot,” Tony defended his actions. Since Tony can talk almost anyone into doing practically anything, for that reason, Thor probably decided to let Bruce slide.

Considering the fact that Thor tried very hard to walk back what he thought was a compliment on the Hulk’s performance at Strucker’s base, it is reasonable to assume he is sympathetic to Bruce’s issues. He makes it clear that he respects the Hulk for the other’s strength. But he also respects Bruce for the strength it takes to control the “Beast.”

Thor’s friendship with Tony is somewhat rocky in this film. It was never the greatest to start with – which is Tony’s fault. Who went and knocked the Prince of Asgard off a cliff again? Oh, yeah: Tony Stark, the self-described “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.” Tony, as a Marvel fan, I have something to tell you. You are brilliant – unequivocally so. But you ain’t that bright!

Now, Tony and Thor actually have a lot in common. They were both “born to the purple,” and – for a certain amount of time – they were both idiots. No, Thor never sank to Tony’s lows, but he was still a monumental egotist.

The point where they diverge is in their separate reactions to their past sins. Tony has reacted by feeling guilty and trying to make up for the wrongs that he committed in the past. This has led to him making successively worse mistakes in his present. Thor, on the other hand, reacted by finding and then walking the straight and narrow road. Where Tony refuses to take correction when he makes a mistake, Thor is quite willing to listen when Cap, Hawkeye, or one of the others says, “Time to make a course correction, big guy. You’re slipping again.”

It might be that this is one of the reasons why Thor is so ticked with Tony for building Ultron. Making up for past mistakes is not possible. You can say, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me,” but then you have to live with the other person’s response and the consequences of your mistake. You cannot get even for the past, as a friend of mine says. “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery,” as Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda said. Tony is too busy feeling the weight of his past while fearing and peering into the future to see beyond the end of his own nose. Thor, on the other hand, knows the next half of Oogway’s admonition, “…today is a gift! That is why it is called the present!” and he therefore lives accordingly.

The reason Thor “doesn’t get” why Earth “needs” Ultron is because he understood that Ultron was not necessary. Earth had him and the Avengers as its champions. And if they fell, others would rise. Thor clearly has a great amount of faith in the human or ‘mortal’ race. Tony does not, and furthermore, he will not admit that. He tried to justify building Ultron, essentially disrespecting himself and all of humanity with the statement that Earth “needed” Ultron for protection from outside aggressors. That really got under Thor’s skin and made him angry.

Now unlike Tony, Thor did get a glimpse of future events when Wanda messed with his mind. He knows that the dancing of dead Asgardians in Hel was probably an illusion – but there was truth mixed in with the fantasy. That is what he goes to find when he searches out Eric Selvig and the “water of sight” after leaving the Barton farm.

But does this mean that Thor’s vision in the dream well changed his attitude toward Iron Man? After all, he helped activate the Vision.

No, I do not think Thor’s faith in humanity has been shaken just yet – if it ever will be. Thor understands that his vision was not a prophecy of destruction but a warning. He knows the future is not written in stone, that these “shadows” need “not remain unaltered.” Somewhere down the line, one simple act of kindness or goodness can upend an evil plan like that. (*Author snaps fingers.*) Thor realizes that his vision was a notice that he and his friends were being used. Through his dream he learned that things are about to get much, much harder. And they are going to get hard very fast.

This again highlights the differences in Thor and Tony’s reactions to past sins. Thor’s response to his vision was different from Tony’s reaction to his hallucination. He did not act in fear; he looked for answers. And when he found those answers, he pursued a specific course of action to prepare for the battle he knows is building somewhere on the horizon.

Thor realizes in the dream well that the Infinity Stones have something to do with the coming storm. Knowing what he does about the Infinity Stones, Thor recognizes that they have to be guarded. Locking them up in the basement on Asgard or the core of a dead, dark world are not good enough precautionary measures. These powerful rocks have an ungraciously bad habit of being discovered by the wrong people and then being used for destruction.

The Stones have to be hidden, yes, but they also have to be kept separate. And they need to be protected. This is why the Tesseract is in Odin’s basement, the Collector was given the Aether, the Nova Corps is keeping the Power Stone… and this is why Thor helped bring Vision to life. The Infinity Stones are powerful enough to wipe out and then remake the universe a number of times over when used together, according to Marvel lore. They cannot be entrusted to just anyone. (This, naturally, makes one wonder why Sif and Volstagg gave the Aether to the Collector. Whatever Loki has up his sleeve, it is going to be nasty.)

Thor saw Vision in his…vision. And he saw him as an ally. Learning about Tony’s latest science project, he recognized the android from his vision and helped bring the creature to life.

This is why he spends so much time with Vision prior to the battle in Sokovia. Thor wants to make sure that this new being understands the universe around him, his place in it, and the very important job Thor is entrusting to him. He is handing Vision the job of watching over his friends while he leaves to take care of other business. Essentially, he is entrusting the keys to his treasure vault (Earth and the Avengers), to a totally new being with zero experience. He does not want to hand that responsibility off to just anybody. Whoever he entrusts the Avengers to has to be of good character and a worthy person. Lifting Mjolnir kind of gave Vision the bulk of the necessary “street cred,” as it were.

But it was not enough. Thor trusts his hammer, but he also wants to interview the candidate. That is what I think he did at the Tower, in the church, and before he left Midgard. His questions, hurried as they may have been, were answered to his satisfaction nonetheless. This is the reason he tells Cap and Tony not to worry about the Vision. “He can lift the hammer, he can wield the Stone. It is safe with the Vision.”

Tony is not willing to do that sort of thing. Instead of relying on his friends, he tries to “control what won’t be,” to quote the Vision. Thor learned long ago that this is stupidity of the highest order. While he eventually mellows toward Tony again – perhaps remembering that, in the past, he was as capable as Tony of making similar, or worse, mistakes – he learned and changed. Maybe, just maybe, Thor hopes, Tony will learn, too.

Then the more impatient part of him adds, He’d better learn it soon, or I AM going to hit him this time around.

Well, readers, this is not the glowing report I was planning to write about Thor’s part in Age of Ultron, wandering off topic as I did. But Thor is not easy for me to write about. I enjoy him, but not as much as other characters. It is hard for me to get inside his head after a point.

Hopefully this article was still illuminating to some degree. I really did like Thor’s portrayal in Age of Ultron, and this post is my first post talking about him. So, without further ado, readers…

For Asgard (and Midgard)!!!

The Mithril Guardian

Fun Videos

Hey, readers! These are some videos of funny things that I simply had to share with you! A short description precedes each video, telling you where it came from, etc. But you do not have to take my word for it if you view them!

Have fun, everybody!

The Mithril Guardian

 

Some fun scenes from the TV series Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! (This series was previously reviewed here in “Three Marvel TV Series.”) Not all of the scenes may be side-splitters, but I cannot get over watching Cap try to teach Tony how to box! Enjoy!

Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – Part 3 – Boxing Scene and LOTR ref.

 

Ever played Angry Birds? This person did. He was also a fan of The A-Team, and so he decided to combine his two favorites. The result is…The Angry Team!

The Angry Team

 

Ever seen Stargate SG-1? MacGyver? No? That’s okay. You can check them out after you take a look at this blooper clip from the behind-the-scenes of an episode of Stargate SG-1!

Stuck On a Glacier with MacGyver

 

If you have never heard of Benedict Cumberbatch before now, then you soon will. He is to play Doctor Strange in Marvel’s upcoming film about the Sorcerer Supreme, and while he may not have the facial hair, he sure has the physique, the face, and very likely the attitude! In this video, though, our new favorite Sherlock needs to enlist the aid of Sesame Street’s the Count to solve a mystery…. See how they do it below!

Cumberbatch and the Count

 

Ever thought that your Dad might be an alien from outer space? This girl is sure he is! Take a look at the advertisement to see why!

Audi ad

 

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And now, from behind the scenes of The Hobbit, I give you – !

Tauriel, Legolas, and Thranduil’s reaction to a fans’ reaction to The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Three Marvel TV Series

When I was small, I had “pokey fingers.” I had to touch practically everything. If a lamp shade had a texture that felt intriguing, I had to keep rubbing it. If a particular toy had a waxy feel to it, I had to keep handling it. I had to keep petting the neighbor’s cat or dog, I had to touch every other toy in the toy aisle at the stores, etcetera ad infinitum.

I have never quite outgrown this urge to keep fingering things that look like they have an interesting texture. Now I can look at many different physical objects without touching most of them most of the time (yay). I have gotten over my “pokiness.” One thing that reminds me of this youthful fascination is my attraction to the realm of stories. I cannot drop a story idea or a character that is interesting; I have to keep turning it over and over in my mental hands, poking and prodding it until even I am fed up with it. But once picked up, an idea or a character is even harder for me to release than that lamp shade or those toys I once handled when I was small.

I cannot say exactly why I have such a hard time letting go of these stories and characters. Perhaps it is because somewhere in my mind I am still a small child who looks on stories as elaborate Russian dolls – open the first doll and you find another one inside, and then you repeat the process until you reach the last doll.

Only, some characters do not seem to have a final hidden doll. Some stories always seem to have an extra surprise buried in them that I never saw before. No matter which way I slice it, there is always something new to be found in a previously explored good story. So I spend more time on them looking for the final doll than I probably should, until I get tired, distracted, or interested in something else entirely.

Today’s Russian doll – or rather, dolls – are three different Marvel TV series. I do not suppose many people would be interested in this subject (unless they have children), but as I said, once I get hold of a story or a character (or, worse, a set of characters) I have a very hard time letting them go. So I am sorry, readers, if you find this subject beyond dead boring. I do not – not as things stand now. Eventually, I think I will go as deep as I can into Marvel’s characters and then, finally, let them go. But so far, every time I think I have reached that point, something always brings me back.

It appears that I am stalling. Well, readers, here I go. You may follow me, or not, as you wish. This is going to be a long post.

Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes

Avengers Earth's Mightiest Heroes!

Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes was a children’s show that ran from about 2010 to late 2012. It wrapped up sometime after Marvel’s The Avengers was six or eight months old. The animation was not top-notch, but in comparison to some other shows I have seen advertised, it was a definite improvement over the norm.

As a story, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes was fairly strong, from my perspective. Heroes followed the comics as closely as it could, using the “mainstream” Marvel Comics as the series’ backbone while adding some frills from more recent comics (Tony’s attitude and personality, Hawkeye and Widow’s S.H.I.E.L.D partnership and her betrayal of him, as well as the Skrull invasion).

So as a story, the series had a lot to work with in terms of plot. In terms of character, it excelled in several key points. For starters, Tony and Cap were much more respectful of each other in this series. Tony could mouth off and behave like a good-natured jerk, but he never “dissed” Cap in front of the other Avengers or in private. Why the writers have made him so much snarkier and disrespectful of Cap I do not know. It was nice in this series to see Iron Man defer to Cap’s greater experience and knowledge with good humor, the way he used to in the original “mainstream” comics; something that subsequent cartoon versions of Tony Stark have not done – not on a regular basis, at least.

Another plus to this series was Wasp. Portrayed in this series as feisty and as ready with a quip as Hawkeye, Wasp added a fun, generous, and feminine grace to the team that no other female member of the Avengers in the series seemed to achieve. Her woman’s instinct and ability to become serious was perfectly balanced by an easy laugh and a good sense of humor (which could become hilariously funny when she was fighting the bad guys).

Four other good characterizations in the series’ favor were Cap, Black Panther, Thor, and Vision. Although portrayed as somewhat quiet and distant at first, Cap grew to be the same sort of person he has been in the comics for the last seventy-odd years. Having Cap behave in his usual reserved but simultaneously kind and approachable manner was a “good mark” for the story, even when he was ‘replaced’ by a Skrull in the first season of this series and who posed as him for a good chunk of the second season.

Panther and Thor added the dignity of royalty to the series, along with some witty dialogue from time to time. Thor very rarely allowed himself a joke and had the weightier grandeur, while Panther’s kingly decorum was softened by his barb-infused friendship with Hawkeye and Tony Stark. Where Thor was the counterweight to Tony’s bouts of silliness, Panther stood in the middle of the scales of humor and gravity, proving that one actually can be dignified while making a joke or poking fun at someone.

Vision only arrived in the second season of the series, but he still had time to more than make an impression on this member of the audience. Vision possessed Panther’s gravity without the benefit of the other’s experience. Built by Ultron, Vision was a fully-formed adult who lacked the experience a human acquires growing to adulthood. Cap and the Avengers were instrumental in teaching him that humanity is a gift more than it is a flaw, and watching Vision trying to puzzle out his enemies – later his teammates – like an odd math equation was great. If Whedon and Bettany can imbue Vision with that same sense of childlike wonder and incomprehension mixed with adult power, I will be not only very impressed but extremely pleased.

The final star on Heroes’ record is the friendship that sprang up between the Hulk/Bruce Banner and Hawkeye. In Heroes, Hawkeye is practically taken straight from the early comics. He is an irascible jerk who usually speaks before he thinks, in part because he’s so overconfident, in part because past betrayals have made him wary of trusting anyone who shows up and says they just want to help him out. It takes some work, and he does not lose his propensity for either being testy or overconfident, but eventually Hawkeye does prove he has the fiber to be an Avenger, and a darn good one at that.

Similarly, the Hulk and Banner are very like their original counterparts in the comics. Banner does not like his alter ego initially; the Hulk feels vulnerable while Banner is in control, and Banner feels he cannot keep command of a situation when the Hulk is running the show.

How do these three temperamental people (Hulk/Bruce Banner and Hawkeye) become friends? In Gamma World, Part 2, Hawkeye has to go in search of Banner to stop the Leader from taking over the world. He and the Hulk trade temper tantrums, which convinces the Hulk to let Banner have control, as Hawkeye had hoped it would.

From there, the three move on to become great friends. Hawkeye gets along better with both the Hulk and Banner in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes than he does with almost everyone else in the series.

Two marks of Hawkeye’s friendship with the Hulk and Banner show through in later episodes. When Cap tries to teach Tony to box without his armor in the first season of the series, Hawkeye and Hulk sit in the rafters over the gym to eagerly watch the billionaire leader of the Avengers get his clock cleaned by Steve, who is being as easy on Tony as he feels he can be. In the second season of Heroes, just before the Skrull invasion becomes public knowledge, Hawkeye is on Banner-watching duty when the latter gets his once-a-month reprieve from being the Hulk.

The setting is not to Hawkeye’s tastes, since Banner’s idea of a day off is fishing on a quiet lake, whereas Hawkeye would probably rather be practicing his shooting or blowing something up. Later in the episode, Banner is jabbed with a serum that prevents him from releasing the Hulk. The Avengers must then work to protect him from the new Red Hulk, who is seeking a fight with Ol’ Green. For once Banner is not able to transform into the Hulk when he really has to. But Red Hulk is determined to fight the Hulk, so he picks Hawkeye up by his right arm – his shooting arm in this series – and starts squeezing. That does the trick, and Red Hulk gets more than he bargained for once Banner releases the Hulk in a fit of rage to save his friend.

Since Hawkeye is my favorite Avenger, this was the biggest selling point of the series to me. I am all too sorry that this friendship has not carried over into subsequent series very well, but you cannot have everything in life. Where would you put it?

Still, I am hoping someone can set this friendship up again in some future series. Hawkeye and Hulk seemed to get along so well in Heroes because of their shared quick-tempers, and Banner put up with Hawkeye’s temper better than most everyone else, probably because he knew it was often more bluster than real rage. Either that or someone who is “always angry” understands someone else who is seemingly constantly irritable better than people who are not endlessly touchy.

All these digressions aside, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes was a pretty darn good series. I was sad to see it end; mostly because I had a feeling that whatever followed it was going to fall short of the high water (or high character) mark which Heroes had set. Still, the fact that it was made at all indicates there is hope. If they did such a good job on this series, then a subsequent series has the potential to come close to equaling Heroes’ at some point in the future. The only hard part about that is waiting for such a series to be written!

Avengers Assemble

Marvel's Avengers Assemble!

The second Marvel TV series I thought I would make mention of is Avengers Assemble. If you have followed my blog from the beginning, then you probably know that I wrote a post about the first eight episodes of this series when it first aired waaay back in 2013. I cannot say that all my questions about the series have been answered, or that it has satisfied all my wishes for the characters it presents, but I am getting ahead of myself.

Assemble is the series Marvel designed to take over for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. At the same time, this new series was meant to capitalize on the success of Marvel’s 2012 blockbuster The Avengers. Because of this, the Avengers’ roster in Assemble is dramatically shrunk from the one seen in Heroes. The team’s lineup is the same as in The Avengers with the exception of Falcon being part of the cartoon team. This is not, however, the same Falcon we saw and enjoyed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This Falcon is instead a greenhorn seventeen year-old who occasionally brings his mother’s oatmeal raisin cookies to the Avengers’ Tower. (And yes, the whole team salivates over those cookies and is quite willing to fight over who gets how many.)

I do not enjoy Assemble as much as I liked Heroes, though it is not a terrible series. In fact, Assemble has had several stellar episodes. I will not list too many of the episodes here, but I think episodes like Hulk’s Day Out, Planet Doom, The Ambassador, All-Father’s Day, Crime and Circuses, Valhalla Can Wait, Ghosts of the Past, Nighthawk, and most recently, The Age of Tony Stark, are pretty good installments in the series. Most of these are stand-alone stories and bear no relation to the overall plot arcs of Assemble’s separate seasons, which is actually part of what makes them so wonderful for me.

This is not to diminish the general plot arcs of the series; I simply prefer these episodes because they are good character episodes which show the heroes at their best, in the moments when they are growing. A strong overarching plot is great, but once a writer sacrifices the characters’ growth just to keep up with the plot, they are in big trouble. By doing this they kill the very thing the audience is interested in: how the characters evolve and grow as people.

This leads me to the facts about Assemble which I am unhappy about. As I said, Heroes was a winning series for its characters and the way they interacted with each other. Assemble has these as well, and some of its moments are truly fantastic, especially in episodes like Planet Doom and The Age of Tony Stark. But sometimes it is hard to find that positive aspect in Assemble because the characters are suffering from an overdose of juvenile humor.

Now, I know that Assemble is for young children, and that children respond well to humor. I also know that I probably should expect nothing less than this humor in Assemble. In fact, as I said above, I did expect it. I could not have anticipated exactly what it would look like, but I sensed it was coming. And as for Assemble being geared toward a young audience, the fact is that Heroes was also aimed at youngsters of generally the same age as those who watch Assemble. I cannot understand why one series treated children intelligently but the subsequent series treats them juvenilely and relies heavily on infantile jokes, almost to the point that the characters and story are buried underneath an avalanche of laughter. All I know is that it happened.

My biggest problems with Assemble’s giving the heroes an immature sense of humor is not focused on Cap (who has kept his integrity through worse storms), Tony Stark, Thor, the Hulk, or even Falcon. Every last one of these, aside from Cap, has bouts of infantile humor which are either easily explained or part of the way the characters are currently designed.

It makes perfect sense that Falcon, being a seventeen year-old genius, retains a youthful sense of humor. Thor and the Hulk’s constant competition for the title of the strongest would, of course, lead them into embarrassing scrapes that they would (eventually) laugh about. Tony has been revamped as a playboy with a snarky and, at times, childish sense of humor. Cap has a sense of humor, too, of course. He just does not let it control him.

My biggest problem with the series, however, is the treatment of the Avengers’ two super spies: Hawkeye and Black Widow. The writers may have given Hawkeye an almost fraternity boy sense of humor in order to make him appear more likeable to younger children, perhaps afraid that his original, prickly personality might turn youngsters “off” of him. Nevertheless, I find the fact that they usually make Hawkeye the focus of a joke, the center of foolishness, or a complete prankster very annoying.

The archer has always had a sense of humor and a quip to lighten almost any tense moment, but he has never been a joke. Turning him into one rubs me the wrong way and dampens my enjoyment of an Assemble episode even before it starts. So far his most serious moments have been in Planet Doom, Crime and Circuses and Beneath the Surface. The first of these three episodes showcases a changed world where the Avengers were never formed, and where Hawkeye is a battle-weary resistance fighter with little reason to be anything but serious. Crime and Circuses shows Hawkeye’s painful Assemble back story (his history was full of bruises and betrayals even in the original comics), which is of course a sobering trial for any character. The third episode which shows him finally demonstrating the more serious side to his personality is Beneath the Surface.

Hawkeye seems to be presenting Marvel with a huge dilemma these days. Originally a testy, brash jerk, Marvel made him taciturn and suicidal in its Ultimates comic line. Now, in the “mainstream” comics and Assemble, they have gone from making him a laconic tough guy or a prickly pear to portraying him as the supreme April Fool’s day prankster.

I like neither extreme of the character; Hawkeye is not a blond version of the Punisher, nor is he a fraternity fool. If Marvel wanted to soften his thorny personality, there were better ways to do it. Until they can find a way to balance his humor with his serious side, it appears Marvel’s portrayals of Hawkeye are going to leave me disgruntled for a long time.

Assemble’s portrayal of Black Widow is also in need of some work. While Widow is not a bubbly or giggly woman by any stretch of the imagination, Assemble tends to make her appear overly serious and unwilling to even smile. Black Widow is certainly cynical and solemn, but she is also as ready with a wisecrack as her old partner, Hawkeye. And she certainly does not lack the capacity to smile at a joke.

On top of that, instead of showing Hawkeye and Widow as partners who respect and value each other, Assemble treats them like siblings who cannot make peace, even in the deadliest of situations. Widow almost constantly rides Hawkeye like a big sister trying to control an unruly younger brother; in the comics and other stories the two have had their differences, but they never reached this scale of immaturity (to my knowledge). Also, in episodes Molecule Kid and Beneath the Surface, where the two have to work almost exclusively on their own, they behave like a long-suffering married couple. Throughout these episodes they are constantly arguing, with Widow almost endlessly reprimanding Hawkeye for his immature behavior.

What is so annoying about this is that Widow actually has a sense of humor, one she is rarely allowed to exhibit in Assemble. Though more formal than even Cap in certain respects and tending to be pessimistic, Widow is not the coldly superior older sister she is portrayed in Assemble. The writers for the series are so busy trying to make her superior to the men on the team that they fail to show her for what she is: her male teammates’ equal. Instead of obviously standing over her teammates like an Amazon queen, which the writers doubtless hope she will, in Assemble Widow comes across as the petulant older sister more concerned with getting everything picture perfect and controlling her rowdy brothers rather than in doing what she has to do with her own style and flair.

This is grossly unfair to the character, not to mention to women, but it does not appear that anyone else has really taken notice of it. Widow is a great character, but in Assemble her ability has been diminished to fit a stereotype, the same way that Hawkeye has been reduced to the Avengers’ version of the class clown.

More than the foolish bouts between Thor and the Hulk, more than Tony’s irritating repartee, more than Falcon’s youthful humor or Cap’s supposed stoicism; the reduction of Widow and Hawkeye to mere tropes and stereotypes absolutely grinds my gears. Assemble has proven it can give the characters a good showing, despite its heavy reliance on childish humor. I wish that the writers would wake up and realize what they are doing to the series but, unfortunately, I do not think I could make them see this. To change course at this point would also upset the whole applecart and very likely ruin the series. So, no matter how aggravating Assemble becomes, this is what I have to live with at the moment.

No, it is not the worst thing in the world – to be sure it is not! But I do hope Marvel’s next Avengers series actually treats the characters with real respect and not with an aura of intelligentsia-slimed derision. After all, the success of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes proves children are not stupid. They like character illustrations just as much as adults do. That Marvel treats Assemble in this manner is not just insulting to its characters; it is also highly insulting to their target audience. Alas, audiences today are regularly insulted. It is too bad that the audience of children must suffer as the adult audience does.

Marvel DISK Wars: The Avengers

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1m0ku5_disk-wars-avengers-opening-hd_shortfilms

Lest you think, readers, that I am totally despondent over Marvel’s current treatment of its characters, I can assure you I am not. I am very frustrated, but that is not the same thing as despondent. Frustration means one is dissatisfied with what one has, while despondent means one has given up all hope of ever gaining a thing. I am not satisfied with Avengers Assemble as it stands; I think it could have been done better. But I have not despaired and given up hope that Marvel can tell good stories.

Part of the reason for this is that I have found a third Avengers series which does satisfy my tastes for good storytelling on several levels. It has good characterization and strong plots. That series is Marvel DISK Wars: The Avengers.

DISK Wars is a series focusing on Marvel’s Avengers that is written, directed, and animated in Japan (when I watch it, I have to rely on episodes with English subtitles). Marvel has been teaming up with artists in Japan for the past few years, and in this way has made at least two animated films and three or four different animated television series. These last formats focused on the vampire hunter Blade, the X-Men, Iron Man, and Wolverine. DISK Wars is targeted at Japanese children of roughly the same age group as those for whom Assemble’s writers aim to please, but DISK Wars treats the characters and its audience with more respect than Assemble does.

My past experiences with animated Japanese TV series, namely the original Speed Racer and Zoids: Chaotic Century, led me to the supposition that this Avengers series might not be too bad. Japanese authors in these previous series had not disappointed me and, while I certainly cannot vouch for all animated TV series from Japan, I had a feeling DISK Wars could turn out about as well as Speed Racer or Zoids had. So far I have not been disappointed, though I am wary of committing myself totally to this series because, as I have said, so far it has not disappointed. I do not want to give full support to a thing only to find out later that what I thought was unobjectionable needed a second – or a hundredth – opinion confirming or disproving my own. Time reveals all things, so I shall only share what I have observed so far.

The name DISK Wars comes from a particular device Tony Stark and a Japanese scientist, Dr. Nozumo Akatsuki, developed to contain super villains. These devices are triangular containers about the size of a wristwatch’s face called Digital Identity Securement Kits – or DISKs for short. By pointing a DISK at a villain – or a hero – and saying “D-Secure,” one can digitally capture a villain or hero in digital suspended animation. To release a villain or hero, one has to raise the DISK above their head, call out the name of the villain or hero in the DISK, and throw the DISK to the ground with the command “D-Smash!”

It sounds a little odd to us here in the West, I suppose, but I do not think it is a terrible idea. A friend of mine likes to refer to this series as “Avengers: Pokémon Style,” and I suppose that friend is not wrong in naming it so.

DISK Wars begins with Tony Stark inviting Dr. Akatsuki’s two sons, Hikaru and Akira, to a party/presentation revealing the DISKs to the world. As with any carefully laid plan in history, this one goes down the drainpipe fast. In the middle of the celebration, Loki crashes the party and uses villains captured in DISKs against the heroes. Then, holding Pepper hostage to force the heroes to submit, Loki captures every hero present – Avengers and other heroes as well – in DISKs. Only Spider-Man avoids being “D-Secured.”

Loki’s plans, however, also have a monkey wrench thrown into them. Actually, make that five monkey wrenches. Hikaru and Akira, along with three other kids who won tickets to the party, end up with five of the Avengers’ DISKs. Akira gains Iron Man’s DISK while Hikaru receives Thor’s. The other three children – Edward Grant, Chris Taylor, and Jessica Shannon – each receive Hulk’s, Captain America’s, and Wasp’s DISKs respectively. Since the heroes are trapped in the DISKs, they have to partner with these five children in order to battle Loki and other villains throughout the series.

There are more particulars to the story, but if I have whetted your curiosity with this cursory explanation, readers, I will avoid spoiling the fun you will have hunting down the details on this series yourselves. Suffice it to say that DISK Wars has impressed me fairly well for two reasons.

One, the Avengers’ characterizations in DISK Wars are all spot on, or close enough to it. As someone I know pointed out, the Japanese are experts at writing comics, so it is unlikely that they would mangle a TV show based on someone else’s comic book stories. All true, but this tells you what a bad state our writers have reached. Our comic book writers are often quite willing to turn the characters they are supposed to preserve and strengthen inside out. Seeing Cap, Wasp, Hulk, Thor, and Tony reacting to a situation or a person as they should due to their respective past characterizations is almost bitterly refreshing for me. The characterization of Spider-Man, Black Widow, and several other heroes is also nailed almost perfectly, though Hawkeye is once again just a little too serious.

Second, I enjoy the way the DISK Wars’ writers show how the characters mature throughout the series. The kids bonded to the Avengers are naturally forced to grow up and become complete persons in the course of their adventures. But an interesting aspect to this is how the Avengers are forced to mature through their partnerships with these children.

Being bonded to Akira, Tony has to take responsibility for the headstrong youngster, something that seemingly softens his attitude toward children – if not towards fathers and fatherhood. (Marvel loves to give their characters daddy issues so much that is has become aggravating.) Thor is forced to keep his eagerness for battle and glory in check; otherwise he will land Hikaru in trouble. The fact that the two each have a younger brother who is a pain (Loki more so than Akira) also helps Thor to grow up and realize he is not alone. Cap is forced once again to mentor a youth, though Chris proves to be a harder man to mold than Bucky because of his stubborn determination to be his own man, not dominated by others.

Similarly, Hulk has to learn to keep his temper in check with Edward “Ed” Grant. Ed is the youngest and smallest of the children, and therefore the one most likely to be paired with the Hulk just to satisfy everyone’s desire for poetic irony. While learning to go easy on Ed, the Hulk comes to understand that he does not necessarily have to be hard on everyone to be a tough guy – as Ed points out through his actions rather than through any of his direct statements. Everyone knows the Hulk is not to be messed with.

Wasp matures less noticeably than some of the other Avengers, since she is already a well-balanced character. Partnered with the self-centered rich girl, Jessica, Wasp more often acts as a teacher/older-sister/mother-figure for her partner. Still, lest others think me grasping at straws to describe what is not present, allow me a moment to point out that this is also growth. It is no mean feat to fill three roles at once (!), and on occasion Jessica’s behavior has demanded Wasp be teacher, sister, and mother all in the same instant. And, on some occasions, Jessica gets to turn the tables and repeat one of Wasp’s lessons in such a way that Wasp also learns something.

Other Marvel heroes in the series are also forced to stretch themselves beyond their comfort zones in dealing with the Avengers’ partners. Spider-Man, who is arguably one of the Marvel heroes most at ease with children, becomes something of an older brother figure for all five kids in the early episodes. Meanwhile Hawkeye, who is a staunch S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in DISK Wars, stays out of the team’s hair for the most part.

Regarding Ed and Hikaru, however, he makes special drop-in visits or speeches to boost the two boys’ confidence (probably because his own confidence has rarely – if ever – flagged, and he knows that confidence is essential in doing anything well, especially when one is fighting the good fight). The almost paternal friendship he forms with Ed is especially enjoyable (for me, anyway). While they do not appear to be as attached to him as they are to Spider-Man, all five children still come to rely on Hawkeye throughout the course of the series. It is a reliance he neither scorns nor complains about, he just accepts it and stays as faithful to the kids as he can.

Black Widow also gets introduced to the children. Where the others recognize the children as smart individuals, Widow at first sees them only as kids. When their unshakeable faith in their friends later proves correct, she is forced to realize (without saying as much) that childlike faith really can move mountains – or even remove “Venom-ous” symbiotes! Heck, even the Guardians of the Galaxy take to the children and grow because of that affection.

It is a pity Marvel’s other writers have not tried exploring these kinds of stories over the past few years, readers. After all, if there is one thing I have learned lately, it is that human beings are happiest when they are growing and developing – not just physically but mentally and in spirit. Therefore, the stories that make us happiest are the stories where the hero grows, where he or she learns just what they are capable of, just how much they can give. The process of becoming a complete person is hard, for them and for us. But, as the saying goes, “No pain, no gain.”

The growth of Marvel’s characters was very apparent in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but it is much hampered in Avengers Assemble. DISK Wars is, so far, the only current Avengers series where real growth, no matter how slow it may seem, is actually allowed. Maybe, someday, our writers on this side of the Pacific will remember how to let their characters mature and become strong. Then the stories they write will become really interesting, readers!

Until next time!

The Mithril Guardian