Tag Archives: Hawkeye/Clint Barton

Happy St. Valentine’s Day!!!

Happy St. Valentine’s Day to all those who follow Thoughts on the Edge of Forever!! Here are some clips and photos to make the day a little more romantic…. 😉

First up, the theme music from one of the best romance films ever…!!!

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Wedge and Iella Antilles

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Jagged Fel and his wife, Jaina Solo Fel

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Marriage of Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade

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Jessica and Luke Cage – plus their daughter, Danielle

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And now, the piece de resistance….

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HAPPY ST. VALENTINE’S DAY!!!!

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Spotlight: Some Under-Used Marvel Heroines, Part 2

Yesterday, I posted an article listing the names and histories of several lesser known, unrecognized, and underappreciated Marvel heroines. Too many people now are whining about the “lack” of super heroines in comics and, quite frankly, they are crying over nothing. I can – and have – said this in previous posts, so I will not rehash it here.

But I will say that I am VERY tired of this collective moaning. There are hundreds of super heroines in comics. Marvel – which I prefer over DC, though they also have many heroines in their ranks – does not have a dearth of strong female characters. It has lived too long not to build up a roster of tough women in its universe(s) – whether they have powers or not.

These two articles endeavor to communicate this fact to the outside world. If you are going to see a superhero film in theaters, readers, take the time before or after to look up the source material for the movie. If you can do it for Downtown Abbey, Poirot, Hercules, Robin Hood, King Arthur and his knights, or even Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, then what is stopping you from doing it for Marvel’s films?

But I digress. Without further ado, here is some more comic book information for you to absorb, readers!

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Spectrum/Monica Rambeau: A former policewoman and an active member of the New Orleans Harbor Patrol, Monica Rambeau was exposed to some kind of radiation on one of her missions. This gave her the power to turn her body into a beam of light, along with every known energy wavelength on the electromagnetic spectrum. She can use this ability to travel across the country or around the world at the speed of light, not to mention fly at roughly supersonic speeds in a battle. Her power to generate light energy means she can make impressive holograms of herself as well.

She can also shoot beams of light or energy from her hands, and is intangible when she assumes her energy forms. Monica can be seen when she turns herself into visible light, but when she becomes some other form of energy she is no more visible than air.

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Monica had a hard time with her powers initially. She went to New York to make her name as a super heroine and was lucky enough to meet Spider-Man. He brought her to the Avengers so she could have some official superhero training. While she was there Captain America and the Wasp tutored her in combat and the use of her abilities. (To this day, Jan is one of her best friends.) Monica has also led the Avengers at least twice, maybe three times, in her career. Even now, she is a valued reserve member.

Because of her police training, Monica is a good markswoman, able to use many different kinds of guns. Since she works for the harbor patrol, she is also a strong swimmer, while her time in the police made her a good detective and leader. Cap’s training, combined with the skills she learned from the police and the patrol, make her a great hand-to-hand fighter who is hard to beat.

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One of the heroines who had to go through several codenames before selecting Spectrum, Monica’s first nom de plume was Captain Marvel. But on finding that name already belonged to the Kree hero Captain Mar-Vell, she changed it to Photon. However, this call sign was taken, too, so she changed her nom de guerre again. She later learned this moniker was already in use by someone else, and so on and so forth. In frustration, Monica finally chose Spectrum on the spur-of-the-moment as her codename. It has managed to stick so far.

Like Firestar, Spectrum was relegated to limbo there for a while. Comics published prior to 2015 brought her into a few storylines and fights, but she is definitely one of Marvel’s most underutilized heroines. I do not know why they have not put her in the limelight more often; she is tough, smart, strong, and a good fighter. If I were working for Marvel, I would make her an active member of the Avengers on principle alone.

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X-23/Laura Kinney: I am more familiar with Laura’s X-Men: Evolution history than her comic book backstory. But the general gist is that Laura, a.k.a. X-23, is a genetically modified clone of Wolverine.

Because of his healing factor, Wolvie’s DNA can remain stable enough for successful cloning – that is, his clones won’t up and die after a certain period, or physically destabilize and fall apart when they are killed. Those who attempted to clone Wolverine, however, still failed twenty-two times before they made some genetic modifications in their next attempt, which led to Laura’s birth. And yes, I do mean she was born. She didn’t come out of a test tube or a cloning cylinder, people. Laura had an actual, physical mother. Everything else about her life was messed up, but not that part.

Since she is Wolverine’s clone, Laura has his enhanced senses. She can smell, see, and hear as well as any predator on the planet. She also has a healing factor, just like Wolvie’s, except that hers works faster because she is younger than he is. Unlike Logan, Laura was born with two claws in each forearm and one in each foot, making her twice as deadly and dangerous as Wolverine is in close quarters. These claws were removed during an operation and coated in adamantium, the same metal Logan had forcibly bonded to his skeleton and claws at some point in his life. I think Laura has an adamantium encased skeleton, too, but I am not one hundred percent sure of that.

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Laura’s life prior to meeting and joining her “father” was awful. Trained from infancy to be the perfect weapon, Laura knew next to nothing about social norms, family life and love, or friendship. It made her angry at her captors, at the world in general, and Wolverine in particular.

Once he learned about her, Logan did his best to take care of Laura, eventually bringing her to the X-Men. Having struggled during his career with the team over the same issues which Laura deals with, he has had to teach her about the good side of life from scratch. All of this made the dynamic between the two a lot of fun. But what I did not and do not like is the writers’ attempt to replace Wolverine with Laura in the post-2015 comic book stories.

I think Laura is a great character, readers. She would not be on this list if I hated her. I am all for having her go out on her own adventures, having boyfriend troubles, etc., but I do not want her to replace Wolverine. Logan is one of a kind, and there is no substitute for him. Giving Laura her own place in the Marvel Universe(s), while allowing her to occasionally go home and ask Dad for help (or just to spend some downtime with him), would be great. I am all for that.

But I do not want Marvel’s heroes feminized, and I do not want their heroines turned into men. I want their heroines to stand on their own two feet, to have their own careers (intertwined with the men’s whenever possible), and to kick butt their own way. They cannot do that if they are taking over for the guys, fighting the men’s arch-nemeses on equal terms, and trying to be something they are manifestly not.

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Laura is not Logan, and I wish the writers would stop treating her as though she is. She may be his clone, but that does not diminish her own personality. The sad fact is that this person is someone the writers apparently do not want her to be.

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Black Cat/Felicia Hardy: Technically, Black Cat is a qualified villainness. I did not know this for a long time because my first introduction to the character was the 1990s Spider-Man TV series. In that show, she was a heroine; in the comics, she has wavered back and forth.

Felicia Hardy is the daughter of a rich woman who somehow married a cat burglar. Mr. Hardy managed to keep his nightly work a secret for many years, but when Felicia’s mom finally learned the truth, she divorced him and he went to jail.

In the comics, Felicia loved her father so much she decided to imitate him. She started stealing by night, too, for the thrill of it rather than for the money. She took on the moniker Black Cat in honor of her father, who had been known as the Cat during his thieving days. To emphasize her namesake, Felicia rigged her original heists so that it looked like she could give the authorities bad luck. This is how Spidey met her; he later convinced her to give up her extracurricular activities and she went back to her rich lifestyle.

Unfortunately, somewhere down the line Felicia actually gained the ability to cause people bad luck. She became the Black Cat again and went back to stealing, though her attraction to Spider-Man means she has put herself in harm’s way or done heroine work to help him from time to time.

During the ‘90s cartoon, Felicia did not gain bad luck abilities. Her father was a cat burglar in this series, too, but he was convicted and sent to prison when she was really young. This meant that she did not remember him or his work very well, although she definitely still loved him a great deal.

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What no one knew until the Kingpin got his hands on Mr. Hardy in that series was that Felicia’s father had been a spy while a boy during World War II. Hired to find out about the Nazi’s Super Soldier program, Mr. Hardy memorized the formula for the serum that was used to give Red Skull and Captain America their powers. But to his surprise, the test subject for the project he was spying on was not given the paraphernalia of a Nazi collaborator. He was, instead, given a suit and shield bearing the stars and stripes!

Figuring out that he had been duped, Mr. Hardy ran away from his employers without giving them the information they sought, making Red Skull kind of angry. Years later, he still remembered the serum formula perfectly. The Kingpin wanted the serum, so he sprang Mr. Hardy from jail at the same time he kidnapped Felicia. To make sure he got the real formula, the Kingpin warned Mr. Hardy that the juice would be used on his daughter once it was complete. Unable to harm his daughter, Mr. Hardy complied with the Kingpin and gave him the real Super Soldier Serum.

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Black Cat was thus born. In the series, she went on to become a vampire hunter with Blade and her boyfriend, a near-vampire named Michael Morbius. (She had odd taste in men, what can I say?) Despite this, Felicia still had a thing for Spidey, and he knew he could rely on her if he needed help. I have missed this characterization of her ever since.

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Silver Sable: I do not know a lot about Silver Sable. From what I recall reading about her, she is royalty of some kind and rules a country in Eastern Europe. I think it might be next door to Dr. Doom’s residence, Latveria; she has had diplomatic dealings with him on a couple of occasions.

Despite her status, Silver Sable has gone into the mercenary business. She leads a team of mercenaries called the Wild Pack. I do not know why she formed the team, nor do I know why she fights for money; all I know is that she does both these things. And she is very, very good at both her mercenary and royal jobs.

While I think the Wild Pack has had a shifting roster over the years, I believe that Sable has almost always been their leader. In addition, it must be mentioned that she has a cold personality. Sable has an emotionless attitude that can only be cracked when a member of her family is threatened. She reacts with wild, uncontrolled fury if someone related to her is harmed or put in jeopardy.

Although a mercenary, she has helped Spider-Man and, I believe, other heroes every now and then. That makes her a heroine.

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Shuri: Shuri is King T’Challa/Black Panther’s younger half-sister. His mother died not long after he was born, and some time later his father remarried. Shuri was born to T’Chaka and his second wife, Ramonda. She has worn the mantle of the Black Panther a couple of times, substituting for her big brother when he could not carry the title himself for some reason.

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Shuri and her big brother, King T’Challa/Black Panther

Beyond this, though, I am afraid that I cannot tell you much about her because Wakanda and its culture are out of my regular Marvel purview. I like T’Challa, but he’s about as far as I go when it comes to Wakanda. Things get confusing when I try to learn more about his country, so I haven’t looked it up thoroughly enough to understand it all. This includes learning more about Shuri – though from what I have read, she has never really had a big part in most of the Marvel Universe, which is a shame. From what I have discovered about her, she sounds really interesting.

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Jessica Jones Cage: People will wonder why Jessica Jones Cage, wife of Luke Cage/Power Man, is on this list. Jessica has a TV series named after her and she features prominently in Netflix’s The Defenders series, so how can she be an under-used heroine?

Well, for a start, the writers for Netflix’s Jessica Jones seem to have completely misunderstood the character and her arc. Jessica was a normal girl who went to the same high school as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. She also had a big crush on him but, in a strange reversal of fortunes, he barely knew she existed. Then Jessica lost her family in a car accident, was adopted by another family, and went on to gain super powers. These included flight, relative invulnerability, and super strength. Ecstatic about her new abilities, she tried to get into the superhero world using the codename Jewel. She was convinced, however, to wait a while before becoming a full-fledged super heroine when her first attempt to save the day nearly backfired spectacularly.

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Then things took a bad turn. Jessica was captured and enslaved by the Purple Man (so named because whatever gave him his powers also turned his skin purple). Purple Man is a telepath and, though he does not have great range, he can control people within a certain radius completely. Only people with very strong wills can refuse his control, and even they occasionally need help from outside sources to fight him off.

Purple Man was able to easily enslave and use Jessica – along with a number of other girls and women – for his “personal pleasure.” Then he found out about her powers and had her use them to his advantage as well. I do not remember if he had her kill someone in the comics like he did in the TV show, but I think that may be what happened.

Jessica was eventually freed from his domination by the X-Men (I think), who took her in to help her deal with the trauma as she realized how she had been abused over the years by Purple Man. Her best friend at the X-Mansion was none other than Jean Grey, who put psychic shields up in the younger woman’s mind to prevent Jessica from being easily controlled or manipulated ever again.

The reason Jean had to do this is because Jessica was one of the people in the Marvel Universe(s) who had no real ability to fight off psychic assault/control on her own. Most of the superhero community either already has enough willpower to eventually free themselves from mental manipulation or they gain this ability through experience over time (one of the notable exceptions to this rule is Carol Danvers, but that’s another story). Jessica was too young and inexperienced to fight telepathic control, which is why she was so vulnerable to Purple Man in the first place.

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Although they helped her get back on her feet, the X-Men were not able to help Jessica heal completely. Gone was the optimistic, bright and bubbly girl who had tried to be the super heroine called Jewel. She was now a hardened, cynical woman who, after trying to be a super heroine known as Knightress, eventually gave up the idea of being a superhero at all. Instead she became an anti-social private detective prone to drinking. I do not remember exactly how they met, but Jessica encountered Luke Cage at some point and they had a brief fling. At least, Jessica considered it brief; Luke was quite smitten with her and came back to ask her for another date.

So it shows a lot about his character when he helped a stone drunk Jessica Jones home from a bar one night, only to learn from her that their fling had resulted in her becoming pregnant. Luke took the news in stride and decided he didn’t want Jessica for a girlfriend. He wanted to marry her.

It took a while for Jessica to come around to the idea. She had been abused, after all, and though she liked Luke well enough (while she was sober) marriage was a big step. But with a baby girl in her arms she had to come to a decision, and she decided to marry Luke Cage.

Of course, Purple Man chose this point to step back into her life, trying to make her his pawn once again by showing her visions of Luke cheating on her with her female friends. But the shields Jean Grey had put in Jessica’s mind helped her realize she was being manipulated and she fought back against his control. This time she won, putting him behind bars so she could finally close that chapter on her life and move on to a better place.

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Jessica, Danielle, and Luke Cage

The Cage wedding went off without a hitch and, at least prior to 2015, Jessica was doing fine. She and Luke were raising their daughter, Danielle (named after Luke’s best friend, Daniel Rand/Iron Fist), and she had maintained her job as a PI. She also helped to counsel other girls who had been assaulted, such as Kate Bishop. She was, in my opinion, one of Marvel’s best poster characters for how to survive and thrive after enduring enormous pain.

The TV show threw this history out the window. In the Netflix series, Jessica is a jerk even before Purple Man takes control of her. From what I have heard, her character has practically no growth at all through the first season of her own show. She only gets to change in The Defenders, which is a real shame. Jessica Jones Cage is not my favorite Marvel heroine by a long mile, but I certainly thought she was interesting and had a compelling story in the comics. New comics and her own TV show, however, have reduced her to a “really dark, really noir” character who does not grow or change at all, but who remains mired in the “oh woe is me, the world sucks” swamp. Jessica deserved far better than that, readers, which is why she makes my under-used heroines list.

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Kate Bishop: Kate Bishop is one of the three “Young Avengers” I actually had an interest in. While I consider the premise behind their team’s appearance in comics more than a little stupid, Kate and her boyfriend, Patriot/Elijah Bradley, were still characters I found interesting. (The third Young Avenger I liked is listed below.)

From what I remember reading about Kate, her mother died when she was young. Her father was very involved in his business dealings (Kate and her family cannot afford fifty private jets, but they are well off), and so he never really got to know his daughters. Kate has an older sister who mothered her while the younger woman was growing up, before marrying and leaving the house. Last time I checked, she and Kate were still on good terms.

Assaulted in Central Park when she was fifteen or a little younger, Kate started taking classes in self-defense and weapons’ training to avoid ever being a victim again. This eventually allowed her to take up Clint Barton’s bow and quiver when the Young Avengers were established. She is also proficient with battle staves like the ones Mockingbird uses, as well as swords and a variety of other arms.

If none of this was enough, it was revealed at some point that Kate has a photographic memory and photographic reflexes like Marvel’s Taskmaster. These reflexes work in the way that her memory does; Kate can watch someone pull off a flip, tumble, punch, etc. and do the same move perfectly herself. This trait, however, does not reach superpower level in her as it does in Taskmaster. On top of all this, she is a skilled cellist.

Kate took to super heroine work like a duck to water. She is feisty and fiery, which meant that it made sense for her and Clint Barton to get along. It did not hurt that she had taken everything but his codename when she joined the Young Avengers, of course. The writers made it blatantly clear that the two would have some kind of relationship in the future.

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Clint did eventually take Kate on as a student, the way most of us thought he would. The two worked together for some time in the comics before going their separate ways in Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye series, although Clint still lets her use the Hawkeye moniker along with him. I am not pleased with how their story arc was finished. Not at all.

See, Clint was the perfect surrogate father for Kate, whose frosty relationship with her real dad left a painful void in her life. She needed a strong man supporting her, especially after being raped in Central Park at the age of fifteen. Her biological father was not filling this role, making this the perfect opportunity for the writers to set Kate and Clint up in a father/daughter relationship like the ones Wolverine had with Kitty, Rogue, Jubilee, and later Laura.

But if my information is correct, the writers wasted their opportunity. They also, typically, have worked to replace Clint with Kate, to which I say no, No, NO, and NO!!!! (For Pete’s sake, to make her reach his level of physical strength, you had to give her Taskmaster’s photographic reflexes, Marvel writers! Do not tell me she is the physical equal of Clint Barton. She is manifestly not his equal when it comes to strength – and I was totally okay with that! You did not need to pull this stunt to make me like her more!)

Pardon that interruption, readers, but it needed to be said. I like Kate as a character; she would not be on this list if I thought she was a horrible addition to the Marvel Universe(s). I loved the idea of Clint fathering her, growing because of his care for and attachment to her as a daughter figure. I loved the idea of Kate becoming a worthy super heroine because of his mentoring, too. But anything outside of that which goes on to have her replace him in the comics does not fly with me – period.

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This is the reason why I wish the writers would give her a codename of her own, instead of leaving her to use the Hawkeye call sign in conjunction with Clint. Kate Bishop is NOT Clint Barton; she deserves to make a name for herself which belongs to her alone, like Atalanta or Diana or something. She deserves to be a heroine in her own right, independent of Clint Barton but with the ability to go to him as a father figure in times of extreme need. The writers have not done that for her or for him, and it bugs me.

Another area where the writers disappointed me is how they handled Kate’s budding romance with Patriot. I thought it was a sweet touch to the two characters and that it meant we would see them go lots of interesting places together. Instead, the writers put the kibosh on this and went on to treat both these new characters like trash. It was poor storytelling all around, and it has only gotten worse with the passage of time.

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Stature/Cassie Lang: For those who do not know Ant-Man/Scott Lang’s history or who have not seen the film bringing him into the MCU, Scott is one of the few Marvel superheroes who got to have a child. He had Cassie before he entered the superhero gig, but even after making Avenging and saving the world his 24/7 job, he managed to block out plenty of time for his daughter.

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Cassie and her dad, Scott Lang/Ant-Man

If anything, his new career choice made Cassie love him ten times more than she already did. In the comics, Cassie was born with a heart condition that would have killed her. Desperate to save her, Scott fell back on his skills as a burglar to get enough money for the surgery necessary to save his daughter’s life, stealing the Ant-Man suit to do the job. This put him on the Avengers’ radar, and not in a good way. But once they learned the reason behind his actions, they cut Scott some slack and offered to teach him how to use the suit – after helping him take care of the bill for Cassie’s surgery, of course.

This put Cassie in touch with the superhero community at large. She was on such good terms with it, in fact, that she could blithely call Iron Man “Uncle Tony” and jump into his arms whenever he dropped in to see her father. When Scott died in the Avengers: Disassembled and House of M storylines, Cassie was determined to take up his mantle in order to honor him.

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Acquiring shrinking and growing tech of her own, she became a founding member of the Young Avengers, using the codename Stature. (See, this is what legacy characters should do; find their own monikers, paths, and suits, while at the same time honoring their predecessors/mentors/fellow heroes and heroines. Why do the writers keep throwing this understanding in the garbage?) Cassie quickly proved to have her father’s mettle, along with the smarts necessary to fight big time and small time crooks. Unlike her dad, she focused less on shrinking and more on growing, making her a tough target to bring down.

During her time with the Young Avengers, Cassie dated a rebuilt Vision and a teen Kang the Conqueror. (Really, Marvel writers? You truly could not find her a boyfriend who did not have a history with another girl or who wasn’t a proto-power mad tyrant? Grrr….) She got on well with her other teammates, too, acting as something of a grounding/peacemaking force in the friction-filled atmosphere among the Young Avengers. After Vision, she was the Young Avenger most qualified to directly jump into full-fledged Avenger status.

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Sadly, Cassie’s career as a super heroine did not end well for her. She got to go back in time to save her father, only to die herself some issues later. To the best of my knowledge, that is where the writers left her. And yes, I think this is totally unfair not only to Cassie, Scott, and the entire Marvel Universe(s), but to us fans as well. We were robbed of a great legacy heroine for no good reason. I wish they would bring Cassie back (not to mention get her a good boyfriend), and let her really stretch her wings with the ACTUAL, adult Avengers.

Unfortunately, I do not see that happening any time soon.

Well, readers, there you have it. This is not a complete or comprehensive list by any means, but I hope I have succeeded in arousing your curiosity about these Marvel heroines. While the writers have mistreated many of them to the same degree they have abused their male compatriots, they are still worth knowing about and discussing.

Before I go, though, I want to pose a question to you: do we really need more heroines in comics? We might want more of them, but wanting is not the same as needing. As I have pointed out before, Marvel has plenty of heroines in their universe(s), several of whom they are not utilizing to the full in their comics. So they – and therefore we, the fans – do not “need” more super heroines in comic books.

What we need right now is for the comic book arm of the franchise to treat the heroines they already have with the respect they deserve. Once they do that, we can have a discussion about adding new characters, male and female, to the roster. Without respect and love for what has gone before, there is no moving forward.

Based on what you have read in these posts, feel free to vote for which under-used heroine you like best and want to see more of in future Marvel stories:

 

Until Marvel learns to respect and love its history, you will probably be hearing more from me on this matter in the future. I wish it was not so, but there seems to be no way around it. I cannot keep my keyboard away from this subject, although I do my best to branch out into other topics. Since there seem to be people willing to read my posts about these things, perhaps I am not as alone as I once believed.

For all the views and votes, I thank you, readers. It is nice to know people are interested.

‘Til next time – Avengers Assemble!

Spotlight: Some Under-Used Marvel Heroines, Part 1

One of the most annoying things that I keep encountering on the web is the call for more heroines in comics and the films based on them. I understand that comic books are not everyone’s forte – before saving a few from the trash, I had been drifting away from them myself.

But if the actors and actresses who play these characters onscreen have to read the comics to prepare for their parts, I wish at least some of the people who review the films and TV shows they make would do an Internet search about the material, too. If they did this, it would go a long way to improving the dialogue swirling around newly released films and shows.

This is one of the reasons why I started Thoughts on the Edge of Forever, readers. I could not stand running across article after article on the ‘Net that either misunderstood something in a Marvel film or which was toeing the “comics need more heroines” line. The overwhelming ignorance/laziness/political agendas of these writers drove me up the walls, and I had to get my two cents out there or burst.

I do not know how good a job I have been doing. All I can say is that I tried my best, first to tell everyone the truth, then to stop the destruction of an entertainment medium I have come to enjoy. Whether or not that has made a difference anywhere is not for me to know.

However, you came here to learn more about under-used Marvel heroines, not to hear me complain! 😉 Today I am listing some Marvel heroines no one talks about in large media circles – even with the debut of the bizarre, dark New Mutants movie and other ongoing projects. While Sue Richards was discussed for some time by the media, since the Fantastic Four movies finished she has sort of been forgotten. Given the fact that she was the first heroine in the Marvel universe, I think she deserves a mention, which is why she is on this list.

Anyway, readers, I hope this two part directory is helpful to you. Marvel has many, many more heroines on its Rolodex. They cannot all fit in a film, which is why we do not see too many of them on the silver screen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But they do exist. If you want to know more about them, Google some of the ladies below and see where the links to their friends and acquaintances take you. You might be surprised and excited by what you find.

Excelsior!

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Mirage/Danielle Moonstar: Danielle Moonstar was introduced in the 1980s as a member of the New Mutants. The New Mutants were a team of mutant tweens and teens being taught regular academics at the X-Mansion, where the X-Men live. In addition, they were trained in the use of their powers, landing them in battles with the baddies from time to time.

A Cheyenne Indian, Dani is an empath with quasi-telepathy. She can scan the minds of those around her and use this scan to project a 3-D image of these people’s worst fears or greatest desires.This is where her codename, Mirage, comes from. She can also use this power to communicate with most any animal on the planet, and I know of one off-world creature she can “speak” to by this method as well. This power allows her to live in the woods undistrubed by wild animals and grants her a Jedi-like “danger sense” as well.

When her powers first manifested, Dani could only project images of people’s or animals’ worst fears. Not knowing how to turn her ability on and off, she ended up alienated from everyone she knew. This was made worse when her parents disappeared, leaving her in the care of neighbors who didn’t like her. Eventually, she ran away to live with her grandfather, who was later killed by a member of the villainous Hellfire Club. It was not a great way to grow up.

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Life at the X-Mansion was not exactly a piece of cake for her, either, in the beginning. Gradually, Dani learned to control her power and use it to generate images of a person – or an animal’s – greatest desire, not just their worst fear. She also went on to make a lifelong friend in a fellow New Mutant from Scotland, one Wolfsbane/Rahne Sinclair. (Rahne rhymes with “rain,” just so you know. ;)) Rahne’s mutant power allowed her to morph into a wolf, or to stop halfway between human and wolf, making her look like a werewolf. Because of her ability to “speak” to animals, Dani could talk to Rahne while the other girl was in either of her alternate forms.

It was painful for her to do this at first. Since Rahne is human, her mind is not like an animal’s, which meant that Dani’s power did not work with her as it did with beasts. After a while, though, “speaking” to Wolfsbane like this stopped being painful, and the two women have been close friends ever since.

Dani is also a Valkyrie. Yes, I do mean Valkyrie, like the one Tessa Thompson plays in Thor: Ragnarok. The only difference is that Dani, while a member of the Valkyrior, is still mortal. And, yes, she’s an American Indian.

Mirage became a Valkyrie after finding one of their winged horses out in the woods. This horse, Brightwind, was more intelligent than any other animal she had met to date, though he is still not a rational creature. Not long after finding him, Dani was surrounded by mounted Valkyries out looking for Brightwind. Learning that she could see both them and the horse, they asked her if she wanted to join their ranks. She said yes.

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Because she is a Valkyrie, Dani can tell when someone is in danger of death. The person is surrounded by a “deathglow” only she (and other Valkyries) can see. This “deathglow” signals a person’s imminent demise, but it does not mean the person will die. Besides being able to see the threat of impending death, as a Valkyrie Dani has the power to tell Death or death deities – like Asgard’s death goddess, Hela – to buzz off. She can literally defend a person from death, though this does not grant whomever she is protecting immortality. It just means their death date gets moved forward to an unspecified time. Still, this is a pretty cool power to have, don’t you think?

On top of this, Dani is a very athletic woman. She is skilled in hand-to-hand combat and the use of various weapons such as spears, swords, and knives. She is also an excellent archer; she once won some arrows from Hawkeye in a shooting contest. Dani can use a rifle really well, too. She is a good swimmer and horsewoman, a talent she had before she met Brightwind. Danielle Moonstar is one tough cookie, readers – and even with the post-2015 comics, the writers don’t give her nearly enough credit these days.

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Misty Knight: Anyone who has seen Netflix’s Luke Cage, Iron Fist, or Defenders series probably knows something about Misty Knight. Admittedly, I am not an expert on her. What I do know is that Misty is a normal human detective from New York. She was room mates with Jean Grey in college, too.

So in the comics, she came to the aid of the X-Men on occasion, and she did/does work with Heroes for Hire pretty often. Considering Daniel Rand/Iron Fist is her boyfriend, this is not much of a surprise. At some point, I believe she also ran a private detective agency with her friend, Colleen Wing.

While working for the police, Misty lost her right arm. It was replaced with a prosthetic created by Stark Industries, and it hides a number of tricks in it that vary from comic to comic. I think it can cloak itself to look like a flesh and blood arm, too. With this arm, Misty is a lot stronger when she uses that “hand,” but only so long as whatever she’s lifting is not extremely heavy. The arm itself is stronger than she is, so she has to be careful about what she decides to pick up, or whatever it is could squash her. Or break her back. Or have some other unpleasant result that will lay her out flat on the floor.

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Throwing and punching with this arm – well, there’s a little more leeway in that regard, I think. At the very least, I would recommend not offending her to the point that she decides to hit you with her mechanical hand.

In addition to her prosthetic arm, Misty is well trained in the use of firearms, making her a good to excellent markswoman. I believe she also knows some martial arts; I could be wrong but her romantic tie to Iron Fist may have been what led to her training in this area.

Despite her line of work, my impression from the one “encounter” I had with Misty Knight in the comics was that she was a generally positive and friendly character. I do not know if any of that makes it into the Netflix shows or if it has been beaten out of her in the comics. All I can say is that it is a shame if she has lost this balance between work and her own personality over the years. I also think it sad that she sided with Tony Stark in the first Civil War event in Marvel Comics, while Iron Fist sided with Cap. Ouch, that is totally not fair, Marvel writers.

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Firestar/Angelica Jones: Among my favorite TV shows growing up were reruns of the 1980s Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. This series focused on Peter Parker/Spider-Man (naturally), Bobby Drake/Iceman, and Angelica Jones/Firestar. They fought as a team against villains like Magneto, Swarm, the Green Goblin, Red Skull, and several other bad guys every Saturday. I absolutely loved that series.

So it was a surprise when I learned, years later, that Firestar was not original to the Marvel Comics universe(s). As it turns out, she had been created specifically for this TV series and had never graced any page in the books. Luckily, she was so well-received that Marvel decided to add her to the comics in the ‘90s.

In Amazing Friends, Angelica was introduced as a mutant whose powers manifested at an early age. She could generate heat and, later on, blasts of fire from her body, specifically her hands. Eventually, she learned to use her power to fly as well. Due to her mutant power and the fact that her father, who was raising her alone, had little money, Angelica was an outcast among the neighborhood children during her youth.

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But this persecution did not get her too down in the mouth. She had her father, who accepted her strange power, and she experimented with her abilities in order to get them under her control. In the ‘90s comics, she joined the Avengers as a teenager alongside a fellow mutant who used the moniker Justice. Justice was a nice boy with telekinetic powers. He was greener than grass and gung-ho, while Angelica was a little more nervous and reticent.

A good illustration of her character in the comics came when she put on a costume designed for her by Janet Van Dyne/Wasp. The suit resembled the one she wore in Amazing Friends except that it had a deep V down the front, and no face mask. Angelica felt the V in her suit was highly inappropriate, a sentiment Justice did not exactly share. “Fine!” she retorted when he would not stop goggling at her reflection in the mirror. “If you like it so much, you wear it! I’ll wear yours!”

Her sense of modesty eventually won out, and Firestar’s comic book costume came to resemble the one she wore in Amazing Friends, complete with the red mask over her eyes. Unfortunately, the writers have let Angelica fade into the background in both the comics and the cartoons since the mid 2000s. As a fan of this character, I think the writers’ decision to relegate her to limbo is a mistake. She is an underutilized heroine whom I wish the show writers would bring back – pronto.

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She-Hulk/Jennifer Walters: I do not know if Jennifer Walters qualifies as an under-used heroine, readers. I believe she is actually rather popular – though you would not know it, since she has not appeared on television since the end of the Hulk-focused TV series Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. If anything, she deserves a mention for being ignored on the small screen following the cancellation of that show.

The cousin of Bruce Banner, Jennifer Walters was a tomboy who was outgoing and loved sports. She would stand up to the bullies who pushed Bruce around and tried to do the same to her. It is no wonder, therefore, that she grew up to become a lawyer.

Back in the days when Banner was still a hunted fugitive, he dropped by to visit Jennifer for something/some reason. This was actually fortuitous because Jen’s latest court case almost got her killed. She landed up in the hospital after an assassination attempt, and the only way to save her life was with a blood transfusion. As a near relative, Bruce’s blood was a perfect match to hers. So Bruce threw caution to the wind and gave Jen his blood secretly.

At first it did not seem to work. Then the bad guys came to finish the job and Jennifer, angered and frightened by their appearance, Hulked out. Unlike her cousin, she kept her mind and remained able to speak coherently when she did this. She knocked the hit men over and went on to win her case in court.

It was not long after this that she entered the superhero gig, of course, keeping a hand in the legal world at the same time. Much more level-headed and calm than her cousin, Jennifer usually has more control of herself when she becomes the She-Hulk. This meant she could transform at will from the get-go, not to mention speak in complete sentences and “smash” things thoughtfully right from the start. Her new power also brought out her zest for life and fun, meaning she laughed a lot when she got into a fight.

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Jen’s biggest weakness is the fact that her ability to keep her head when she changes means she is nowhere near as powerful as her cousin, the Hulk. Even whipped into a deadly frenzy of rage, one of her other vulnerabilities, she cannot match him in power. That does not mean she cannot kill people in a fury nor do massive amounts of damage to everything around her. It just means that, in a cage match with Big Green, the Hulk would still win the fight.

Her other disadvantage is her susceptibility to mind control. Though not easily defeated in this arena, like Carol Danvers is, Jennifer has a history of being unable to withstand mental assaults/control for extended periods of time. It may be one of the reasons why she has never been on my short list of favorites; she’s okay, but I do not typically get excited when she appears on screen or in the comics.

Stan Lee is fond of her, though, and has compared her to DC’s Wonder Woman. I do not see the likeness, but that is probably because Jen has never been able to truly impress me. However, I will not take issue with Stan “The Man” Lee on this one. If he thinks She-Hulk is Marvel’s equivalent to Wonder Woman, then she is Marvel’s answer to Diana – end of debate.

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The Invisible Woman/Susan Storm Richards: As I said above, Sue was the first Marvel heroine ever. Part of the “founding family” of Marvel Comics, Susan Storm and her younger brother Johnny were members of a space mission gone wrong. Little did they know that the accident during their flight would put them on the path to becoming that famed and fabulous superhero team, the Fantastic Four.

Sue is a great super heroine. She’s one of the few heroines in the Marvel universe(s) who has managed to have and raise children, not to mention be a homemaker, while remaining an active duty super heroine. Jessica Jones Cage has come close to this success, but since the writers lost their minds in 2015 I do not know precisely what has happened to her.

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Sue has been wife, homemaker, and mother while maintaining her super heroine career for a good part of Marvel’s history. She’s made dinner for the FF and put her children to bed after dealing with alien invasions and villainous plots morning, noon, and night. If that does not impress you, readers, I guess nothing will.

One of the most powerful super heroines in Marvel Comics, Sue can bend light to become invisible to the naked eye, and she can create telekinetic shields around herself, her family/friends, or inanimate objects. She can use this same telekinetic power to lift or hold up things. If whatever she is trying to hold up or move is heavy, though, it taxes her strength a fair bit. In this same manner she can “fly” by forming a telekinetic “plate” under her feet and moving it – and therefore herself – through the air.

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Sue and Reed Richards

Her power to shield things or people extends to physical attack and energy based threats, too. For instance, if Reed Richards, her husband, ever needs to reach down a long nuclear shaft to hit the off switch for the device, she can shield his arm the whole way to the console, thereby preventing the radiation from harming him. Sue is typically mild-mannered and polite, but you threaten her or her family at your own risk, readers. When the villains make Sue angry, they get hurt – bad.

Faithful to her husband through thick and thin, Sue has been the peacemaker in her super family for years now. Well respected by the superhero community, people listen when she speaks or brings a warning, as outlandish as it might seem at first glance. She’s also a great mom to her children, Franklin and Valerie (a recent addition to the family). All of this makes Sue Richards a forgotten Marvel heroine who needs waaaay more time on stage than she has been getting of late.

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Princess Ravonna: I do not know nearly enough about Princess Ravonna’s history in the comics. I only “met” her in the original comics in my Marvel Masterworks # 3 volume and, briefly, in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. She was feisty and fierce in the comics, refusing Kang’s advances from the beginning. That was not hard to do, considering he is the galaxy’s conqueror in her time (the thirtieth century). The only reason he did not take hers and her father’s kingdom earlier is he fell in love with Ravonna on sight.

Well, after conquering her kingdom anyway, Kang ended up freeing her to save his own empire. One of his lieutenants turned traitor, and Kang needed the help of Ravonna’s people to stop him. He couldn’t get that help without freeing her, which he would have done anyway because he really, truly was in love with her. Ravonna nearly died (or maybe she did die?) to protect Kang from said traitor’s bullet at the end of that adventure.

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In contrast, we only see her walking and talking once in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. And here, she was already married to Kang. I do not want to spoil the series, but what happened to Ravonna led Kang to start giving the Avengers trouble in that show. It is a pity the writers have not brought her in to Avengers Assemble. I would like to see some of what she was before she fell for Kang. Maybe he would be less trouble for the team, too, if he fell in love with and married her.

Yeah. Sure.

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Songbird/Melissa Gold: While Songbird got to appear several times in Avengers Assemble’s third season, the fact is the writers did not allow her nearly enough time there. They also did not bring her back for season four, which has me seriously miffed. I have also totally lost track of Songbird in the mess that is the post-2015 Secret Wars comics, so I think she will fit in my under-used heroines’ post rather nicely.

Melissa Gold grew up with an abusive mother. When she was a teenager, she ran away from home and got involved in an illegal women’s wrestling ring made up of supervillain girls like Titania. After a stint with this group, known as the Femizons, I believe, she joined up with a bunch of thieves who had been bionically augmented. Her augmentations were in her throat and vocal chords, which is why she took the codename Screaming Mimi, a play on the phrase and her childhood nickname. These enhancements allowed her to generate a high-pitched, earth-shattering, earsplitting scream. When she cut loose, it would be like having a jet engine passing you at five feet of distance – without ear protection.

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Melissa as Screaming Mimi

Using these enhancements, Melissa could also achieve a variety of effects against opponents by screaming a different note on the music scale. She could induce dizziness, vertigo, panic attacks, nausea, euphoria, stupor, and even blindness in her opponents by hitting different notes. Rapid oscillation between notes allowed her to combine these effects on a target. Naturally, she was immune to the results of her own power, meaning she never had to worry about being blinded or queasy when she screamed.

Her boyfriend in the gang, Angar the Screamer, had similar implants, and so they were able to combine their powers in battle. But he eventually died when one of the band’s heists went wrong. When he died Melissa went into a hysterical fit and screamed her lungs out at the sky – for 43 minutes. This not only burned out her enhancements, it actually liquefied the plant life around her. Her burst of insane screaming formed a large blast crater as well, with her at its center.

She was sent to prison after this, of course, and remained there for some time. Then the Avengers – and most of Marvel’s other heroes – got zapped to another dimension after defeating an über villain known as Onslaught. (Long story, very complicated, I don’t have all the details, and I find that whole event more than a little stupid.) After this, Baron Zemo broke Melissa and a bunch of other villains out of prison. With most of the hero population in Marvel Comics gone, Zemo figured the time was right to take over the world.

Interestingly, he decided he wanted to be subtle about it rather than glaringly obvious. He outfitted himself, Melissa, and the other villains in his crew with new identities, forming a “superhero” team known as the Thunderbolts. The idea was that they would fill the public’s need for heroes and, when everyone least expected it, take over the world. Melissa’s new codename was Songbird, and she was given new technological implants that allowed her screams to manifest as “solid sound,” which she could shape using her will.

But Zemo did not count on the public adulation his new team received going to their heads and hearts. He also did not think the Avengers or any of the other heroes would return. So he got a doubly unpleasant surprise when the heroes came back from the alternate dimension at about the same time his team of supervillains decided to become real superheroes.

Hawkeye was the catalyst, saying that if the Thunderbolts really liked being heroes, they should make the change right there and then. He eventually had to go to prison to buy their pardons from the government because the Thunderbolts were all still, legally, criminals. After this, most of the Thunderbolts went back to being villains. Clint was apparently the only thing holding them back from their prior evil habits. Without his guidance the Thunderbolts fell apart, to be reformed later on by others trying to make villains into heroes. (It hasn’t worked out nearly so well for them as it did for him to date, from what I have heard.)

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Songbird was the only original Thunderbolt to make the transition to heroine and stick with it, no matter the personal price. Due to her time in the wrestling ring, she is a good hand-to-hand combatant and wrestler, and she has been physically enhanced so that she is stronger than a normal woman of her height, weight, and build. Her ability to make constructs out of “solid sound” and to fly means she is a tough opponent in a fight. If you want a demonstration, readers, check out the episodes where she appears in Avengers Assemble’s third season. They presented her well in that series.

Even so I really, really, really wish they would make her a member of the team permanently. Songbird is a great heroine, and she does not get enough time in the limelight today.That is why she qualifies as an under-used heroine and is on this list, readers.

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Mary Jane Watson: Yeah, I know, she is not a super heroine. But MJ is still a cool girl, and she has had a huge impact on Spider-Man/Peter Parker’s life. It is too bad, to me, that the writers split them up. I liked having them married, and I liked the MC2 idea of them settling down to have a family together.

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The Spider/Parker Family

Funny thing, I also did not mind MJ’s interest in being a fashion model. I was rather put out by the writers for Ultimate Spider-Man making her a wannabe reporter, instead of giving Spidey a photography position at the Daily Bugle, a job which he had always held in the past. While I am in no way, shape, or form a fan of fashion models or modeling in general, shoehorning MJ into Parker’s act for Ultimate Spider-Man just bugged me (pun intended).

If they wanted to ditch Mary Jane’s desire for a career as a model, I think the writers could still have kept her character intact by making her an artist, a designer, or something of that ilk. Mary Jane was tough and fierce, but she was also creative, and I missed that about her in Ultimate Spider-Man. A lot. That’s part of the reason why I never wrote any articles about the show here. All I would have done was whine about it. I do enough growling already with Assemble and the comics, so I figured you did not need to hear more of it, readers.

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Anyway, this is why Mary Jane Watson makes my under-used super heroine list. She does not have super powers, but she does have a tremendous heart and a quick mind. That is all any woman really needs to be powerful, readers.

Well, I think this will do for the first half of my Under-Used Marvel Heroines’ list. I will take a break here and finish up tomorrow. Stay tuned to learn about more amazing Marvel heroines, everybody! You do not want to miss who comes next!

Marvel-ous – and Not So Marvelous – Fathers

Not long after it came out, a friend of mine began watching the new Marvel’s Spider-Man television series. I have only watched it under duress, since I find the animation poor and am unhappy with some of the changes to Spider-Man lore within the series. Not to mention the fact that I am a little tired of Marvel beating dead horses to pieces and splattering me with their blood, proclaiming all the while that I should be happy to receive this disgusting shower.

Thank you very much, Marvel, but even vampires do not go this far (from what I know of them, anyway). But my friend insists on cornering me and making me watch it, making me less than eager to discuss the series with said compadre after an episode has aired.

Following the episode introducing – and then killing – Flint Marko/Sandman so he could be replaced by his daughter, my friend had an interesting observation about the show. Mi amigo pointed out that Flint never went after his daughter during the episode’s climactic battle. This friend went on to add that it was interesting when Sandman’s daughter killed him, Flint’s last words were: “I love you.”

“It’s a little like Han Solo and Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens,” my friend said. “Flint won the argument, just like Han did, and their children are worse off than they were before.” Then, in typical fashion for my friend, it was suggested that I write a post about how Flint is/was a better father than Norman Osborn.

When it comes to this friend of mine, I have a hard time saying “no” to any request made of me. I promised to think about the episode, though I added the caveat that my brain had zero suggestions for how to bring up the topic here on Thoughts on the Edge of Forever any time soon. But then something somehow removed this block from my mind and the ideas came rushing in.

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The episode of Marvel’s Spider-Man in question is titled “Sandman.” In this episode, Spidey is relaxing with his fellow science whizz friends at Coney Island. At least, he is relaxing; the rest are still working on their school project (hint, it makes a nifty, living black suit). While they are out a sudden sandstorm erupts and the Arabian Desert, complete with a seeming genie, blasts through the park.

This is Spidey’s first run-in with the Sandman, a.k.a. Flint Marko, in the series. Here, Flint is a lackey for the mobster villain known as Hammerhead. He began working for him in order to provide a better future for his daughter, Keemia. But Flint made too many mistakes on the job, so Hammerhead tried to make an example of him by burying him under several tons of sand mixed with toxic chemicals.

Of course, this did not kill Flint. It turned him into a living being made of sand. He intends to go after Hammerhead to rescue his daughter, whom the thug has somehow taken into his home. Spidey, touched by Sandman’s devotion to protecting his little girl, joins Flint in storming the castle to rescue the fair damsel.

But Keemia does not want to be rescued. Like any normal girl, she followed Flint into the warehouse when being left in the car creeped her out. So when Hammerhead tried to kill him, she was exposed to the same toxic sand that her father swallowed. Unlike normal girls, she detests and blames her father for her own natural instinct to avoid being alone. She goes on to repeatedly state that she hated the work he did for Hammerhead and planned to better her own future by studying science. Now that she is made of sand, which has replaced her right eye, she accuses Flint of being the source of her misfortune and lashes out at him.

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Keemia Marko (Sandgirl)

Not once during the battle which follows does Flint respond to Keemia’s attacks. He tries several times to hurt Hammerhead, but Keemia protects the mobster as she continues to assail the man who really wants to keep her safe. Like Han in The Force Awakens, Flint allows Keemia to (apparently) kill him, offering her no resistance whatsoever. Spidey, naturally, is very upset by this, though I do not think anyone is going to take the time to explain why. I hope to do so myself, but I have a few other things I want to expound upon here as well, and that may get lost in the shuffle.

The first thing to address here is that this is quite clearly another case of political correctness run amok in Marvel. Sandman was always a sympathetic villain; Spidey and other Marvel heroes tried several times to bring him to the light. He was even an Avenger there for a little while. Marko never was a very strong personality, which is what made us fans feel some measure of compassion for him.

As with Kylo Ren, there is nothing to make us feel kindly disposed toward Keemia Marko. Blinded by the modern Sturm und Drang, she lays all her troubles on her father. In doing so she does not see Hammerhead manipulating her to hurt Flint, but seals her fate as the mobster’s secret weapon by killing her dad.

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Harry and Norman Osborn

How, you ask, does this make Flint a better father in this scene than Norman Osborn has ever been, period? In this series Norman is focused on being top dog in the scientific Tech Pack on Earth. Norman treats Harry more like a tool here than a son. Marvel’s Spider-Man portrays him as a greedy, grasping rich man who sees his boy as a means to an end – nothing more, nothing less.

Marko never used his daughter to make life easier for himself, and he probably could have. While I do not like her and consider her a nuisance best dumped at the earliest opportunity, the fact is that Marvel has illustrated a truth in Sandman’s first and final episode here which must be addressed.

The entire reason Flint went to work for Hammerhead was to provide for Keemia. He did not like working for a mobster any better than she did, but because he was a single father trying to make ends meet, he did the best he could with what he could get. It was not what he wanted for either of them, but he did not have the capacity to search for a job that would give them more satisfaction.

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Keemia, a product of the modern school system and the popular mindset, did not see what a sacrifice her father was making for her. He compromised his sacred honor and his own hope to be a good man in order to protect, feed, and clothe her. If he could have found another way to support them, he would have. A stronger man might have managed that, or at least managed to convey his distaste for his illegal work to Keemia. Flint could do neither of these things and that is, perhaps, one of the reasons why his daughter blamed him for her condition.

It is also important to mention that Flint is a single father here. This means he had to work a lot to make ends meet, so he was not as present in Keemia’s life as he would have been if her mother were alive and present in the home. (I do not know what happened to Sandman’s wife/girlfriend.)

Now Sandman’s lack of presence in his daughter’s life is not his fault – not in this TV series, anyway. The case in the show is blatantly transparent: Flint could not support the two of them and be with his daughter a hundred percent of the time. This is all too true of many families where only the father or mother is alive or caring for the children. These single fathers and mothers cannot feed, clothe, and shelter their children and still have enough time leftover to play, help with homework, or discuss problems in most cases.

This is why Flint did not see the extent to which Keemia was taught to despise him. She was taught this by our modern society, which either treats fatherhood like a joke or holds it in reproach (more on that below). Her disgust with Flint’s line of work is quite understandable, but it was used and manipulated, first by society and then by Hammerhead. Neither society nor Hammerhead explained that Flint was sacrificing a lot to take care of her by doing the only work he could find, and this left Keemia open to the Dark Side.

Flint did not see any of this until it was too late to do something about it. But that did not make him love his daughter any less. Spidey, I think, sensed how much Flint had sacrificed on behalf of his daughter by working for Hammerhead. The fact that Sandman showed such devotion to her, to the bitter end, affected him deeply because Keemia threw away what he lost years ago. Although Peter Parker loves his aunt and uncle, they were not his parents and they never could be. He did not know his father, but seeing Flint’s love for his daughter probably made him yearn for what could have been if his own had not been lost. (Ha! I got his reasons for being upset at Flint’s “demise” in here after all!)

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Norman, as we have seen, does not care to this degree about Harry. He has Harry make all sorts of sacrifices to please him. As yet we have not seen the future Green Goblin going out of his way to do something nice for his son. Even his founding of Osborn Academy is questionable: is it truly for Harry’s good, or is it so Norman has access to some of the brightest intellects in New York City – legal and illegal?

Thinking about this subject, I was put in mind of other Marvel characters who have less-than-stellar fathers. One of the reasons society these days makes a mockery of or abuses fatherhood is the mistaken opinion of many that bad fathers make bad people. This is a fallacy, insofar as it is portrayed as a widespread occurrence; it can certainly happen, but I very much doubt it transpires with the frequency portrayed in film, television, and books. Not all bad people become bad because of evil fathers – or evil mothers. All who become evil choose to be evil.

One can easily prove this by comparing Keemia Marko’s story to the history of the Avenger Hawkeye/Clint Barton. Hawkeye had a physically abusive father; Mr. Barton Senior liked his liquor, not to mention beating both his sons and his wife. When his sons were still young he died a drunkard’s death after he crashed his car. In the process he killed his wife and left the boys orphans.

Yet, if you look at Hawkeye now, you would have to be told all this about his past to know that it had happened – especially in the films. He was scarred by the experiences of his childhood, to be sure; Clint has never been able to fully trust those in influential or command positions. This is because the man who should have taught him to respect authority instead gave him every reason to distrust it.

However, Clint did not follow the Dark Path to the point that it could dominate his destiny. Yes, in the original comics, he worked with the Black Widow when she was a pawn of the Soviets. But he did not do this because he agreed with the Communists or because he liked being a bad guy. He did it out of misguided sentiment and love for Natasha Romanoff. This eventually redeemed the two of them and led to their joining the Avengers, “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” and we fans/readers/viewers are the better for this.

Unlike modern writers, Stan Lee and Don Heck knew that it is possible to choose a better path than the one your parents did. So they showed Clint Barton choosing to turn away from the darkness and toward the light. Time and again, until the most recent comics, Clint did his best to avoid following in the footsteps of the men who raised him. He chose to be a better man than his father. He also chose to be a better man than his mentors, the Swordsman and the original Trick Shot. He chose to be a hero rather than a villain.

If you dig a little into the histories of many Marvel heroes and heroines, you will find several others with similar pasts. Both Rogue and Nightcrawler were rejected by their fathers and continue to be abused by their mother. The Maximoff twins are still dealing with the aftermath of having Magneto as a dad. Peter Quill had a lackluster father, as did Gamora. Yet they and other Marvel characters with similar backgrounds still became heroes and heroines rather than villains.

This is something modern pop psychology says is a denial of the inner self; a rejection of the monster inside, to borrow from Mr. Whedon. Yet Mr. Lee and Mr. Heck made this choice for Hawkeye and the other heroes I listed above. And you know something? It worked.

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Unlike these heroes, Keemia has chosen the Dark Side. And she has done so without using the “father abused me and that’s why I am what I am” excuse. In some cases, real and fictional, I do not doubt that ill-treatment can convince a child to turn into a monster of the same type as the one heaping pain on him/her. But that, as I just said, is an excuse. Being evil or being good is a choice. One choice takes a lot more work than the other, and believe me, it is not evil.

Keemia has no excuse for her choice to become evil. She has no excuse for killing her own father. She cannot hide behind the pop psychology argument that her father was terrible and so she is terrible, which is what I think the writers were trying to have her say. I think they wanted us to sympathize with her, suggesting that she turned into the monster “Sand-Girl” because of her father through her long, moronic speeches charging him with high crimes and misdemeanors against her.

That claim does not float. There are many Marvel heroes and heroines who endured far worse from their fathers and mothers than Keemia ever did at the hands of Sandman. They are not evil. She is. And it is because of the choices she made, NOT because of her father’s (or mother’s) choices.

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Barons Heinrich and Helmut Zemo (Avengers Assemble)

This is the reason why I did not like the writers’ attempt to pin Helmut Zemo’s decision to be evil on his father in the Avengers Assemble episode “House of Zemo.” This is why I do not like what the company’s writers have done to Tony Stark’s father. And this is why I blew up when I learned what Marvel did in its Secret Empire comics to Cap’s father in order to make him a Nazi.

These changes are the signature attacks of people who despise fatherhood and want to destroy it; either the authors or their bosses want to continue this harmful stereotype in order to continue to excuse “the evil that men do.” They are trying to convince fathers to rescind their proper place as role models in society, role models who will teach and love their children like no one else in the world can or should, which means the children born to these fathers will be left without one of their best defenses against the darkness in this world.

This modern fictional trope hurts real people, readers. It hurts those who do – or did – have lousy fathers and who want a better life. If they are continually told that they have no chance whatsoever to be a better man/woman than their fathers or mothers, they will destroy themselves. I do not mean they will kill themselves, although that is a distinct possibilty. I mean they will make wrong choices using the excuse, “My daddy/mommy did this to me, and so psychologically I have no choice but to carry on this abuse.” Ask Dean Koontz about it. He had an abusive father himself.

Evil is a choice, readers. It is a real, palpable choice with genuine, hard, ugly results, for us and those around us. We are all confronted with it, every day, in small or great ways. And because we are weak humans we can excuse or rationalize away the evil that we do because it will make us feel better about “getting what we want” out of life, family, etc.

Bad or evil fathers do not make bad men and women. Men and women make choices to be bad or to be good. If they choose evil, then they choose it of their own free will. They will make excuses to allow them to continue doing their evil deeds with untroubled consciences, but the fact is that they have chosen the Dark Path freely.

Pop psychology does not recognize those heroes who had bad parents and yet have gone on to become good men and women. It does not recognize them because they do not fit the pattern which produces the desired result. There are many good men and women who had or have bad fathers/mothers, but who have gone on to become great fathers/mothers themselves because they chose to be better than those who raised them.

This is the real difference between heroes and villains, readers. Heroes choose the Light, while villains choose the Dark. Modern society wants you to be confused about this distinction, but the fact is that there is an objective good, and an objective evil. You just have to keep your eyes open to see it.

Avengers Assemble!

An Avengers: Infinity War Trailer Breakdown – Sorta

Finally – FINALLY!!! The trailer for Marvel’s third Avengers film has been released! The first major teaser trailer for Avengers: Infinity War appeared on the Internet yesterday, readers. And it is a doozy!

You can find another breakdown of the trailer here, which I enjoyed reading immensely. But while I was watching (and rewatching, and rewatching….) the trailer myself the other day, I noticed a few things which Mr. Finn did not mention. Being the Avengers’ fan that I am, it seemed reasonable for me to do a trailer breakdown myself. I need some way to burn off my excitement and trepidation, after all, and this appears like a good way to do it.

Why the trepidation? Well, for a start, this is Infinity War. This is the battle between Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the Mad Titan, Thanos, wannabe paramour of death’s female incarnation himself. The way he plans to woo her is by uniting all six Infinity Stones to wipe out most of the universal population. (Hence the title Infinity War, Mr. Pine; it isn’t about ‘infinite war’ but six mega-powerful rocks which can reshape the universe from the ground up at the whim of whoever holds them. They’re so powerful the energy they produce is incalculable, i.e. infinite.)

At least, in the comics, Thanos’ aim is to make Death fall in love with him. In the movies he might just be a galactic overpopulation nutjob worried that the universe is becoming too crowded, which means everything has to be put in ‘balance’ again. (Translation, a lot of people “have” to die – fast.) And since he is the best and brightest guy who noticed the rising population in the first place, it makes total sense for him to be the bringer of that balance to the cosmos. Yeah, sure; please insert scoffing raspberry here, readers.

Of course, this means that all our heroes are on the chopping block. We can be sure that a few will survive to be in more movies, but for others, there is no guarantee. Nada. Zip. Zilch. This brings me to my first observation about this trailer….

WHERE THE SAM HILL IS HAWKEYE?!?!?!?! (And Ant-Man, can’t forget about him….)

Two whole minutes of trailer, and my favorite archer does not even get a cameo?!?!?! Are you kidding me?!?! Where is Clint Barton? Why isn’t he in this trailer, at least as a voice? I thought we established waaay back in Age of Ultron and Civil War just how important Hawkeye is to the team. But he doesn’t show up AT ALL in this trailer. Neither does Ant-Man, who would be a BIG help when our guys run into hordes, multitudes, and fireteams of alien monsters.

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Where are these two?

Okay, now that I got the big problem out of the way, we can delve into the trailer.

The first picture we see is of a storm-tossed desert planet, followed by a shot of Tony sitting down somewhere. He is rocking back and forth on his heels, apparently trying not to cry. From later shots, it looks like this is a world where he and Spider-Man get trapped after they first face Thanos.

I’m guessing Peter gets seriously hurt here. I say hurt and not killed because Tom Holland still has two or three Spider-Man films in his contract. These films are set between the Avengers’ movies, so they cannot afford to knock off Peter Parker here. Not yet, anyway, or at least not permanently. We also have a voice over throwback to The Avengers where Fury explains the Initiative to Steve on the Helicarrier. But it is Fury’s only line in the trailer as Tony, Vision, Thor, and then Natasha finish his speech for him.

The next scene shows Dr. Strange and his buddy Wong looking down at a confused and shirtless Bruce Banner, who has literally dropped into the Sanctum Sanctorum from above. Aside from the fact that this is another nice nod to The Avengers, it apparently has something to do with the end credits for Thor: Ragnarok. I am guessing, since I have not yet seen the film, that Hulk somehow got blown off of Asgard when it went BOOM and has landed, as Banner, in Dr. Strange’s house. I thought he left Asgard with Thor, but apparently he decided to take the quick way home. Probably for the best, considering what we see later on….

Next image we have shows Paul Bettany, sans Vision makeup, throwing curtains open on a rainy day/evening/dawn. Now if you watch this clip and do not stop it, you will miss an important thing. You will miss the fact that Wanda is in this room as well. Look to the left of the frozen image and you will see her in a bed. THIS IS A BEDROOM, PEOPLE!! AND SHE IS SHARING IT WITH A HUMAN VISION!!!!

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Holy cow, I did not see this coming, although I did see the romance part coming. (Spoiler alert, they married in the comics. It was fine for a while, but then the writers abused them, so it got weird.) Looking at this still shot, it appears that Viz woke up and went to look out the window at something, waking Wanda up in the process. But why is he human? And when did they start rooming together (or did they actually get married in the films after all)?

Unfortunately for Wanda and/or Vision, I am pretty sure this is a hallucination. Or someone is poking around in their head(s), looking at their desires/dreams, taunting them by using these fantasties. (Vision cannot ever be physically human, readers; that is why I say this is a fantasy.)

One of the reasons I think this may be a hallucination is because the Black Order, five or six alien warriors who follow Thanos and who want to bring death to everyone everywhere, are said to be a part of this film. Given that the next scene shows the Mind Stone still in Vision’s forehead, I am thinking Ebony Maw or Supergiant, two telepathic/psychic members of the Black Order, are playing around with either his fantasies or Wanda’s. If it is Wanda they are messing with, I hope the Scarlet Witch pastes them. If it is Vision, the Black Order might have captured him, meaning that they may be trying to interrogate him.

Another theory I have for this scene is that this is Wanda’s fantasy, and Vision is working to snap her out of it. Or Vision has found a way to disguise himself so that he looks human, which means that he and Wanda are actually living together here. This might explain a later scene which makes it appear that the Scarlet Witch hasn’t been hanging out much with Team Cap. If she’s been living with Vision, then the guys on Team Red, White, and Blue knew she was safe and happy, so they let her go with Viz to live off of the U.N.’s radar while they kept Avenging.

Our next throwback scene shows Thor looking out of what appears to be the Milano’s viewports. How he ended up with Quill and the gang when he was supposed to be taking care of the Asgardians he saved in Ragnarok is anybody’s guess at this point. I think those who have seen the film probably have better theories about the how than I do, so let me finish by saying why this is a throwback scene. Anybody remember Fury standing in a similar position aboard the Helicarrier in The Avengers? I sure do!

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Next we have Bruce, in full attire, standing beside a Hulkbuster fist in what is apparently Wakanda. He is sharing a smile with a blonde Natasha Romanoff. (Really? Blonde? She originally had black hair in the comics, what was wrong with that color…?) I do not know if they will be picking up their relationship where they left off in Age of Ultron. I kind of hope they do; it was so unexpectedly sweet and suited them so well that I would really like to see them get back together. But we may get a Natasha/Bucky romance during Infinity War and its sequel instead. I would be happy with that, too, mind you, but the romantic in me still wants Bruce and Natasha to start dating again.

Up next we have scenes of Tony, Bruce, Strange, and Wong in the Sanctum, with a voice over by Thanos. We follow this up with Peter Parker’s arm hairs rising. This could be a sign of his Spider sense activating, or it could be that the massive alien teleportation ring we see hovering over New York is generating enormous amounts of energy. Static electricity, after all, makes hair stand up straight. The energy the ring is producing may not be powerful enough to make long hair stand up, but it could make arm hairs raise. Just saying.  🙂

Then we have Tony, Bruce, and our two sorcerers standing out in the street staring at the big Ferris wheel in the sky. At least Strange and Wong are powered up and prepared to fight. Even Bruce is standing in ready position. Tony’s the only one doing the “Oh, bleep!” blind staring act here.

Does he have another arc reactor in his chest? It is hard to see, since Tony’s jacket is almost zipped closed, but I think there is actually another arc reactor powering his heart here. How did that happen? I thought it was removed in Iron Man 3. Did he have it taken out, or just replaced? If the latter, why haven’t we seen it in the other films? Or is this a new, fancy Iron Man suit that he can hide under normal clothes, like some of the ones he has in the comics?

Well, we’ll find out one way or the other. After this we see someone stepping over the bodies of a lot of dead people, followed by a shot of Loki holding the Tesseract out to Thanos. (Big surprise there – that rotten little weasel would get away from a dying Asgard with the Infinity Stone he promised to deliver to Thanos way back in The Avengers….grrrr.) From the looks of the backdrop and the apparel on the dead bodies, I would say this scene occurs in Knowhere.

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Loki, you @#%*$!!!

This is very bad, since this could be where Thanos goes to pick up the Aether/Reality Stone from the Collector. Not to mention it seems he killed a whole lot of people here for no good reason…. But then, he wants to kill everyone for no good reason. So this scene isn’t really a surprise at all.

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And Spidey got an Iron Spider suit. Shiny – and it is good at grabbing the rotating innards of that portal gizmo. Nice. Does it come with missiles and extra legs, too? Those would be helpful right about now…

Whoops, looks like Thor is standing in the center ring of an even bigger portal doohicky. And he is trying to tear it apart. Or is he trying to activate it? Those look like the controls for the Milano in his hands, but that big bubble-wand is not Peter Quill’s ship. So what are we looking at here, exactly? And what is Thor trying to do?

All right, quick, stop that next scene!!! Did you see that?!?!?

No? Try again, as many times as you have to. We know who catches the glowing blue trident, but did you see who threw it?!?!

If you missed her despite your best efforts, don’t worry, I did, too. A lot. But then I managed to catch a glimpse of her. That, my dear readers, is Proxima Midnight – one of the leaders of the Black Order and a nasty, nasty lady. Did I say she was nasty? She gives nasty a bad name. That trident is her signature weapon.

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Proxima Midnight

It is hard for me to say just where she is standing. Looks like it could be an airport or a subway tunnel; maybe a factory or a gas station. Either way, it is dark, so someone cut the power here, or this scene happens at night. Proxima Midnight – Near Midnight. Ha-ha, very clever, Marvel.

The person she threw the trident at is none other than Captain America. (Seriously, let the man shave already!!! Beards are not meant for combat – they’re too easy for an opponent to grab and hold. Evans may get away with a beard, but Cap does not!!!) He is still shieldless but just as clearly still on the job.

I say this last because of the next scene where we see Steve. After Proxima tries to shish-kabob Cap, we see him step out of the shadows, looking like Star Wars RebelsAgent Kallus. Nevertheless, Wanda appears to be very happy to see him. To me, she almost seems ready to cry at the sight of him. Judging by the stuff in the background and the fact that her hands are glowing, it looks like Wanda engaged Proxima first, which means Steve came to back her up.

But if she is about to cry on seeing him, that might mean she was not expecting him to show up. This concerns me; Steve may not be using his Captain America moniker for the beginning of Infinity War, but he is not the kind of man who will sit back and let evil have its day. The fact that he shows up fully suited and combat ready, if a little scruffy, suggests he has been maintaining his superhero status since the end of Civil War.

I thought the rest of the anti-Accords Avengers would be with him. But if Wanda is so near tears when she sees him stop Proxima’s trident, plus the fact that she is wearing civvies and looks like she showed up to the fight underdressed, does that mean Cap disbanded his team and went solo? That doesn’t add up. They’re stronger and safer together, at least in pairs. I also don’t see the guys letting Wanda run around on her own, not after Ross locked her up in solitary on the Raft in Civil War. That is not like them.

Of course, maybe she didn’t give them a choice. Maybe she left of her own volition and has been staying off the radar her own way. If I were the guys, I still wouldn’t be willing to let her go off alone. The fact that no one kept an eye on Wanda in the early ‘90s after she had suffered a serious string of bad luck was one of the factors which led to her going crazy in the Avengers: Disassembled and House of M comics. If the writers are planning to go in this unhealthy direction in the films, I will not be happy. But if this is the result of the fact that she has married, or is living with, Vision – that I will accept.

Yes, I know I skipped T’Challa’s speech. But the part here with Wanda was really important. T’Challa’s words are totally in keeping with his character, and they do him immense credit, so I do no think I have to really dwell on them. Though I will say that I went a little squeaky when T’Challa said, “And get this man a shield.” Eeeek! Way to go, Panther! Make sure it is colored right, please! Yay!!!!! Captain America forever!!!!

Okay, next we see a new and improved (we hope) Hulkbuster in Wakanda, followed by Natasha jabbing someone in the midsection with a staff. Judging by the scenery behind Widow, I would say this is the same fight where Cap shows up to help Wanda battle Proxima Midnight. (Please let Natasha be stabbing Proxima Midnight, please let Natasha be stabbing Proxima Midnight, please, please, please…!)

Then we have Dr. Strange relaxing/freaking out (?) after doing a little magic (I mean, super-duper fast quantum calculations). Then we have a giant black pyramid thing – one of several – landing in what appears to be Wakanda. I am with Mr. Finn; if the Soul Stone is not in Wakanda’s basement treasury, I will be surprised and disappointed. There is no way Thanos and his aliens are after the vibranium – not when they can get better, stronger material in space. They have to be after something else here.

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After this we see Cap (without a shield), Panther, and a lot of Wakandans mixing it up with four-armed, big-toothed aliens. Then we see Spidey get slammed into the dirt by Thanos, followed by a shot of a distressed, unsuited Tony Stark. Next we see someone standing on Vision’s chest while stabbing the Mind Stone in his head, using a staff shaped like the one Loki had in The Avengers. This begs the question of whether or not Loki is the one doing the stabbing; looking at the shape of the stabber’s feet, I am inclined to say it is actually Ebony Maw or Corvus Glave, but I could be wrong.

I was actually much happier to see Bucky than I expected to be. That is a really nice gun, there, Buck. And you have a shiny new arm! (Please tell me it is made of vibranium; please tell me it is made of vibranium…!) Then we see T’Challa turning to look at the screen. If you freeze the shot, you will notice that Natasha is standing next to him. Her hair is in the lower right corner.

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Go get ’em, guys!

This is followed by assorted scenes of combat, as a horde of aliens tries to invade Wakanda. The only Avengers we can confirm are present in this battle so far are Cap, Widow, Bucky, Hulk, Panther, Falcon, and War Machine (I guess they fixed his back). Finally, we get a glimpse of Thor asking who in the Sam Hill the Guardians of the Galaxy are.

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The Guardians of what again?

You can just see the air go out of Quill’s tires when he says that. Four years on the job as Guardians and yet the Prince – now King – of Asgard has not heard of him and his crew? Come on, man!

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The Guardians of the Galaxy

This is going to be a rip-roaring ride. I cannot tell who may or may not die. Personally, I hope Thanos and the Black Order all get obliterated from the universe during this film, or during Avengers 4. And if bad stuff does happen to our heroes – and I do not see how they can escape scars, bruises, etc. here – I hope that six of ‘em each get a hand on an Infinity Stone and use the rocks’ combined power to set things right.

Some will say that is cheating, and maybe it is. But as I have said elsewhere, I do not go to these movies for the villains. I do not go to them to be told, “Lie down and die.” If I wanted that message, I would go to a DC film or to see the latest installment in the X-Men franchise.

I go to the Avengers films because they tell good stories, using heroes I love, and they give me hope. That last is in VERY short supply in most of the fare we receive from Hollywood these days. Only the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies gave me the same sort of satisfaction as the Avengers have, with Star Trek a close runner up. I would not even be going to cinemas now if it were not for the Avengers cinematic saga.

So whether anyone likes it or not, I am not raffling off any of the heroes for death in this movie or its sequel. If the writers kill them, I am stuck; if the actors who play them have quit and necessitated the killing, I am stuck. I will not complain if they are sent off with honors. However, whether they live or die, I will not desire their deaths or the deaths of any other heroes in the films.

I do not worship death, as some of the people who follow these movies seem to do. I worship God, Whose hand I have seen in most of these stories. If the film writers turn away from Him, then they can kiss my cash goodbye. It has been a great ride, and I hope they end it well. If they do not, it will be a tragedy; but I have trusted God to steer them right so far. I trust Him to do it again. After Avengers 4, I will be able to either peacefully enjoy what comes next, or disengage from the franchise with a fond farewell. What shall be is not yet determined. It is out of my hands; I can only wait and see.

Ha, haha. For once, waiting does not seem quite as hard for me now as it has been in the past.

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Avengers – Assemble!

Avengers Assemble: Secret Wars – Rescuing the Heroes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avengers – Assemble!

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A Review of Marvel’s Avengers: DISK Wars

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Marvel’s Avengers: DISK Wars

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

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

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New Future Avengers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got the answer yet?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avengers, Assemble!…

…Or should that be “D-Smash”?