Tag Archives: Hulk/Bruce Banner

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!

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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”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, I nearly laughed out loud.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avengers assemble!

Avengers Assemble’s Secret Wars – I Am Not Impressed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wasp (Hope Van Dyne)

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

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Wasp (Janet Van Dyne)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Spectrum (Monica Rambeau)

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

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

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Firestar (Angelica Jones)

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

Mockingbird (Bobbi Morse)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avengers – ALWAYS!!!

Spotlight: Avengers – The Incredible Hulk

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“Hulk SMASH!!!”

I am not Big Green’s biggest fan. I like him, but he has never been my favorite superhero. Most everyone who likes the Hulk recognizes the words I have used to open this post. Hulk is best known for his smashing, after all.

For some time now a friend and I have been catching reruns of Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno’s The Incredible Hulk television series. While I have read about the series before, I have never seen it. My friend had even less exposure to the series than I did – until recently, of course.

After watching a few of these episodes, my friend commented that the stories within each show were good, and I agreed. Though the special effects are hardly that special today, that was not what my friend and I meant when we concurred that the series was good.

What we meant was that the stories themselves were good. Usually, The Incredible Hulk could be counted on to turn out a good story. There have been a few episodes that I would say fell flat, but that has more to do with the story itself than with the actors or the special effects. On the whole, however, The Incredible Hulk was reliable entertainment for its time and, I daresay, for ours.

This conversation with my friend led me to mention what I had always found likable about the Hulk while I was growing up. It was never his size, strength, or unparalleled ability to “smash” that made me an appreciator of the Hulk. I liked the Hulk because, despite his rage and general tendency to break stuff, he was still a gentle giant to the innocent and/or the helpless.

This is something that later stories in the comics have largely abandoned. In the original comics, The Incredible Hulk television series, and the 1990’s Hulk cartoon, Big Green would never hurt an innocent person. Not on purpose, at least. Someone may have been standing in the wrong place at the wrong time when the Hulk got into a fight and was therefore hurt, but Big Green never deliberately injured someone who was not a threat to him or who was a good person.

For instance, the Hulk always had a soft spot for kids in the shows I saw and in The Incredible Hulk. I can remember a cartoon episode or two where Bruce Banner befriended a young child, only for the Hulk to later manifest himself in order to protect said child. Hulk would also avoid hurting someone who had befriended Banner or who had demonstrated that they were a nice, good, and kind person.

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And in the Bixby/Ferrigno series the Hulk had a knack, as he did in the comics and cartoons, for ending up in the right place at the right time to help people in bad situations. Cursed with a power and alternate personality he did not want, forced to wander the world as an outcast, Banner would lament that he could not have a “normal” life. I sympathized – and still do – with that, but I also think his focus on the negative meant that he did not often see what a great gift he had also been given.

Originally weak and unable to help others, the emergence of the Hulk gave Banner the ability to play the knight errant. No, he could never have a so-called “normal” life, and that could be annoying and sad. But how many people would have been harmed or might even have died if Bruce Banner did not have the Hulk residing within him?

This is a plot and character device which the comic book writers have gravitated away from since the House of M storyline. Those earlier stories hinted at a provident Will behind the Hulk’s appearance and his subsequent, well-placed position in the lives of others where he invariably helped make those he encountered safer, happier people.

As a young viewer I sensed this about the Hulk. Misunderstood by Thunderbolt Ross, the general public, and even Banner, the Hulk was nevertheless a force for good in the world and not a monster of destruction, as he has often been described. Yes, he broke a lot of stuff more often than not. But he never did it just for the heck of it; he did it to protect others or stop the bad guys. I can accept destruction when its main aim is to protect good people and stop bad people. Buildings can be replaced and the land is always shifting. Individual humans are utterly irreplaceable.

Though the comic book writers have fallen away from this understanding of the Hulk, the cartoon and film writers seem to have begun to re-explore this side of the character. Oddly enough it was Joss Whedon, the proclaimed atheist, who led the charge for this change. This is made plainest in The Avengers, where the famous director/writer has Tony Stark point out that the Hulk may have saved Banner’s life in the Gamma explosion for a purpose.

Marvel’s writers have subsequently shifted their portrayal of the Hulk in the cartoons to show him as a thinking and usually coherent character, instead of a rage monster with the vocabulary and intellect of a four year old child having a righteous temper tantrum. This is a nice change but it takes away, for me, a little of the gentle prodding we had in earlier stories about the Hulk. The idea that Providence intervened to save Banner’s life and granted him the power to back up his will to help others is what made me fond of the Hulk. I think this is one of the reasons why I drifted away from the character as I grew up – my own inclination toward precision in place of wholesale attack notwithstanding.

This providential element in stories about Big Green is the reason why I enjoy watching the reruns of The Incredible Hulk on El Rey when I can. These stories, as Bill Bixby said, were made for adults but “children can watch them, too.” He was reportedly very upset when the show was described as mere children’s entertainment.

I have to agree with him on that. The Incredible Hulk and other, older Marvel fare was made for adults and children alike. Both could read it and learn lessons about life from the stories the company told. This is one of many things that Marvel lost after House of M, sadly, and one of the things I wish they would work to rediscover. They will tell better stories if they are only ready to relearn what will make a great story.

If you can, readers, try to catch a few episodes of The Incredible Hulk on El Rey. They are “retro” and dated, and this is not a television series which modern special effects fans will take very seriously. But if you like a good story, The Incredible Hulk can be counted on to deliver nine times out of ten. That is all any of us can and should ask of a storyteller; a good story, well-told, and appreciable to a wide audience.

Have fun smashing with the Incredible Hulk, readers!

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