Tag Archives: Iron Man/Tony Stark

Avengers: Infinity War – A Review, Part 2

Avengers: Infinity War (2018) News - MovieWeb

Whoo! Last week this blogger did a quick rundown on the (minor) issues she had with Avengers: Infinity War. Having covered those irritating incidents, we can now dive into what was truly enjoyable about this film. And there is a lot to like (warning – there will be spoilers 😉 ).

On a technical level, the film is pretty close to flawless. It never loses track of its story. It doesn’t wander off into the hinterlands or backtrack into the ancient past; neither does it throw flashy special effects in a viewer’s face, hoping to dazzle them with movie magic. No, the movie is a self-contained story that proceeds in a straight line at break neck pace. Ten years of cinematic storytelling have been building up toward this moment, this ultimate battle of good versus evil. It’s been comparable to water building behind a dam until it reaches capacity and bursts.

While this blogger hates the Mad Titan with more passion than Loki or even Thunderbolt Ross, I have to admit that his disproportionate amount of screen time here was necessary. Until now, we have never seen Thanos in action. We have heard the rumors, the horror stories, and have gained some vague idea of what he is capable of accomplishing.

But it all pales in comparison to the truth. Thanos is the single scariest villain in the MCU to date. He is as charismatic as a snake and has a tongue like honey. Trying to reason with him or tell him that he is wrong is like trying to tell a tidal wave to stop. It doesn’t work due to his arrogant certainty that he is right and the rest of the universe is wrong. He wants to be God, and has convinced himself – more or less – that he is, in fact, a deity.

No where is this better demonstrated than with the portrayal of his chief henchman, Ebony Maw. Maw practically worships Thanos and, by extension, death. The only member of the Black Order to receive decent screen time, Maw exhibits a chilling, slavish reverence for the Mad Titan. His speeches about how those whom he is going to murder on his master’s behalf have now had meaning injected into their previously “pointless” lives highlights the evil he and Thanos are perpetrating on innocents throughout the galaxy. It is a scary nod to what some people in real life who followed Hitler or Stalin believed about them and their bloody aims.

Avengers Infinity War deaths: Did [SPOILER] die or is it ...

Of course, this means that watching Maw get blasted into space was one of the most satisfying moments in the entire film. That was a good scene! I wonder if he found the meaning in his formerly pointless life upon being forcibly ejected into hard vacuum…

Probably not – or at least, not the kind that he was expecting. 😉

Speaking of good scenes, the heroes had plenty of those as well. While the majority did not receive as much screen time as I would have liked, the time they got was used well. This is most true, in my opinion, with regard to Vision and Wanda. They had some of the best scenes in the film. While they play second fiddle to Thanos, their tune is just as impressive (if not moreso) than his was or can ever be.

The trailers didn’t lie; despite the split in the team and the threat of the Accords, Wanda and Vision are dating by Infinity War. Apparently Cap and Tony have been arranging for the two to have some “alone time” in different parts of the world for a few days/weeks for the past two years. Vision turns off his tracking tech and disappears to be with Wanda, giving her a break from being on the run with the rest of the Secret Avengers. At the end of the agreed upon time, he goes back to being an official hero and she returns to being an outlawed heroine.

Their relationship is very, very well presented. Though Paul Bettany has made some joking comments about it (i.e. “I’m an android, [Olsen is] a witch – how does this work…”), that attitude never shows in their performances. They absolutely nailed Vision and Scarlet Witch’s romance in this movie, and they should receive awards for their work. I doubt they will, but they really, really should! 😀

Tony, too, did well in this film. He starts out hemming and hawing over the fact that he was wrong and “broke up the band” in Civil War, but the fact that he deliberately looks the other way when Vision goes to meet Wanda suggests he’s realized that the signing the Accords was a really bad idea. The fact that he also flies off to handle Thanos solo (more or less on purpose) only goes to show that he still hasn’t quite relinquished his irritating tendency to think/say/act like he can “fix” everything with his genius.

3 characters most likely to die in Avengers: Infinity War ...

But as the battle escalates and the true extent of the threat becomes more and more apparent, his arrogance melts away. Faced with the fact that his nightmare is real – and far worse than he thought – Tony rises to true heroism in his personal battle with Thanos. It’s a great moment (and a terrifying one), when the Mad Titan almost kills him. Strange’s bargain almost seems to be a cheat, as it interrupts Tony’s transformation and seeming achievement of the pinnacle of heroism.

It is, however, nothing of the sort. While Tony has reached a great height, his work is not yet done. He’s the resident super genius of the Avengers, which means that they need him to stop Thanos. Strange’s exchanging the Time Stone for his life makes plenty of sense on that level.

On a more personal one, which the good Sorcerer Supreme may have known as well, Tony hasn’t reached the peak of heroism yet. There is still some unfinished business he has to take care of back home before he is ready to face the final test. He has to patch things up with Steve.

As discussed in the posts about Cap and Tony’s character arcs in Civil War, most of the fallout from the final battle in that film lies squarely on Iron Man’s shoulders. He made the decision to sign the Accords; he fell for Thunderbolt Ross’ honeyed promises, and he is the one who forced the confrontation at the airport in Germany. Nothing Cap did was anything more or less than defensive counter maneuvers to block a literal or figurative punch.

Even when Steve avoided telling Tony about Bucky’s involvement in the murder of the senior Starks, while it wasn’t exactly right, it was certainly not comparable to what the younger man tried to do in Siberia. That entire fiasco, the rift between Tony and practically everyone else on the team, is his fault, not Cap’s. And he has to deal with that; he has to face it. Steve is more than ready to do make amends and move on….

…But when Tony had a chance to begin the catharsis and healing during Infinity War, he didn’t take it. His heroism on Titan is admirable (and Downey Jr.’s acting is fantastic), but it is not yet perfect. And although there are other factors leading up to the Avengers’ loss, his choices are a big part of why the team fails to stop the Mad Titan’s ambitions.

For Iron Man to become a true hero, a real modern knight, he has to face that fact. He has to admit he was “wr-r-r-ong,” to quote the Fonz, and he has to do it to Steve’s face. Cap is more than ready to let bygones be bygones, he just needs Tony to man up and say the word, none of which will happen if Tony is dead. And that’s a big part of why Strange gives the Mad Titan the Time Stone in exchange for Iron Man’s life.

Speaking of those left alive at the end of the movie, Chris Hemsworth pulled off a fantastic performance as the grieving, vengeance-hungry King of Asgard. Thor has been through a lot in a short amount of time, and though he bears up pretty well under it all for most of the film, it’s not hard to see him straining. He’s watched his home, his people, his friends, and his remaining family murdered for nothing. And it’s not hard to see how all of this is affecting him.

The really cool thing is how he shows it in small moments. Rubbing at his wrists with impatience when he thinks no one’s looking. Staring out the windows at nothing but the past. Avoiding eye contact or being a bit more terse and regal than he needs to be to make his point. The anger, pain, grief, and desire to avenge his losses at Thanos’ hands – it’s all there in the little gestures and glances he gives. This has to be one of his best performances yet.

Avengers 4 May Wrap Filming in January | Screen Rant

And that goes for the rest of the crew as well. Though they don’t get near enough screen time, the rest of the Avengers and Guardians each get their due. Whether it’s Gamora singing along to one of Quill’s songs at the same time he is or watching Bucky lift Rocket in the air so they can turn in a circle and cover all their bases, the heroes each get a moment to show how far they have come in ten years. It’s a beautiful thing to watch ….

…Which leads us to the biggest and best thing about the otherwise heart-wrenching finale for Infinity War. After all their hard work, the heroes are defeated, and more than half their numbers are erased. It is not at all uncommon to hear modern academics speculate lovingly about how we could save the planet if we murdered eighty or ninety percent of the population. There was a professor some years ago who openly hoped that a mutant Ebola virus would wipe out ninety percent of humanity in order to preserve the environment. (And yes, he received a standing ovation. Why do you ask?)

Infinity War takes these academics’ theories out of the classroom or lecture hall and explores them on the big screen with characters audiences everywhere have come to know and love deeply. Thanos has spent years systematically murdering fifty percent of numerous alien populations throughout the galaxy – up to and including the already halved Asgardian people, who have just lost their homeworld (which was apparently more sparsely inhabited than we thought, given the relatively small number of refugees who got loaded onto the Statesman at the end of Ragnarok).

Right out of the gate, Infinity War offers a very clear presentation of what the world would look like if those who desire the eradication of large numbers of human beings had their way. The Asgardians are practically on the verge of extinction; by Thanos’ own stated objectives, they should be safe from his culling.

But they are not. The Mad Titan walks aboard their ship, ostensibly searching for the Space Stone/Tesseract, and slaughters innocent civilians. Men, women, and children – none are spared, not even the (somewhat improbably) redeemed Loki. According to his mission parameters, there should be no reason for him to do this. Yet he wipes them all out without batting an eye anyway.

His actions put the lie to his rationale that in order to save the environment of the cosmos, he has to bring “balance” to a population that is already teetering on the edge of annihilation. Thanos is no savior, he’s a mass murderer. And those who espouse a similar worldview in real life are no less genocidal than he is.

Most importantly, the final shots for Infinity War and early footage for Endgame show the results of his policy. Panacea is not achieved throughout the universes; instead, chaos reigns. On Earth, planes crash into buildings, raising the death toll even higher as their remaining crews and passengers die in the resultant conflagrations. Uncontrolled vehicles crash into buildings and people, reducing the population again. Governments and infrastructure crumble, leading to anarchy as the rule of civilization dissolves. Food, gas, medicine, and electricity become luxuries as the factories and power plants which supplied them fall out of use, leading to mass starvation and death by disease.

The environment takes a hit with each loss as well. Fires rage from the plane and vehicle crashes; rains erode the carefully maintained terraces on farms and in parks, or lead to floods from dams that overflow with no one to open the channels that will send the water to other areas in a controlled manner. Pets starve when their owners don’t return to feed them, zoo animals die without the care of their handlers, as do animals in farms, labs, and animal shelters worldwide.

“But that’s not what killing eighty or ninety percent of the human race would do!” some cry. They are correct; wiping out more than fifty percent of the global population would make things worse. Entire cities would be fit only for ghosts, and the remaining people would not get to live in mansions with free Wi-Fi, running water, and endless supplies of food. They would have to go out and live in the heat and the cold, hunting and gathering and dying like their ancient ancestors did.

From what we see in both Endgame trailers, this has already happened. Clint is out killing Yakuza who have moved into the power vacuum in a city somewhere, while a refugee camp has been established around the Statue of Liberty, probably by the Avengers. They almost certainly set it up there because it was clean and provided easy access to a food source: fish, crabs, lobsters, and other sea creatures.

Thanos said he would go and watch the sun rise over a grateful universe after he had achieved his goals. But what kind of universe is thankful when half of the people that made it worth living in are turned to ash by a crazy man’s snap? The Titan is truly mad if, in the depths of his soul, he believes the cosmos is actually happy following his deeds. No platitudes of his will make up for the lost children, the vanished spouses, the beloved grandparents, or the acclaimed rulers. If Thanos were to go to New York expecting a warm welcome, he would have to powder more people as they rushed at him in a rage born of grief.

Unlike Loki, however, the Mad Titan has enough of an ego to believe that he can hear the crowds cheering from the fields of his new farm. He does not actually believe the people or the cosmos is appreciative of his actions. If he did, then he would go looking for praise. No, as Gamora said, his only love is for himself and his desires. Being alone on his farm like a“twisted Cincinnatus,” as someone said, is reward enough for his labors.

I, for one, can’t wait to see how the Avengers are going to bring him down. There is the chance that this will be the last hurrah for some of them, and if that is the case, I will be sorry to see them go – especially if they are given a poor send-off.  Or if they are replaced with lackluster characters (*cough* Carol Danvers *cough*). For the future of the Marvel Universes and audiences everywhere, I hope Endgame ends better than Infinity War did, with the team back together, the world safe, and Thanos gone for good.

Well, readers, it’s been a fantastic ten years of cinema. And it has to be said that, without them, I would not be here at Thoughts writing to all of you. It’s been a fun ride. I have no idea where things are going to go from here, but I know that everything leading up to this point has been great.

Until next time, readers:

Avengers, Assemble!

Avengers Endgame : la bande-annonce est enfin là, préparez ...

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Remembering Stan “The Man” Lee

Stan Lee Confirms Three Upcoming Marvel Movie Cameos

As many, if not most, of you know by now, Stan Lee died on the morning of November 12, 2018. It was sad news for all the Marvelites who had enjoyed his universe and characters since childhood. We knew that someday Stan would have to go on the Great Adventure all his heroes were preparing us to face in the future, naturally, but we put all thoughts of his departure as far from our minds as possible.

This made it a blow when we got the news that he had passed through the curtain to the Other Side. I hope his wife and his second daughter were waiting for him when he got off the train. But as with my own fate, what has become of him now will remain a mystery until it is my turn to go through the curtain.

To say that Stan Lee and his friends at Marvel impacted this blogger’s life enormously would be an understatement. Without him and his compatriots, most of whom predeceased him, Thoughts on the Edge of Forever would not exist in the form you know it, readers. The first post I wrote here focused on Marvel’s The Avengers, the big box office hit of 2012 that kicked off roughly ten years of cinematic fun. And as long time readers know, most of the criticism on this site has been aimed at Marvel’s current hierarchy precisely because they were dishonoring Stan Lee’s legacy before he had even said his last, “Excelsior!”

None of this is to imply that Stan Lee was perfect. That would be ridiculous; he was a man, a fallen, flawed human being like me and everyone else in this world. I don’t think he was perfect. Perfect isn’t the point. He was a good storyteller and a good friend to all those who loved his and his company’s work, whether they met him in person or not.

Without his heroes – his flawed, human heroes – lots of people would have thrown in the towel on life and limb a long time ago. Captain America, Hawkeye, Spider-Man, Wasp, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, Storm, Cyclops, Rogue, Gambit, Wolverine, Mirage, Black Widow, Falcon, Sunfire, Luke Cage, Namor the Submariner, Hulk, Thor Odinson, Black Panther, Professor X, Silver Sable – they all inspired someone. They all faced evils we could relate to, or could see ourselves encountering some day. They could have turned back from fighting evil lots of times under Stan’s leadership, but they didn’t. They all thought, “I can’t hang on much longer…!” only to come to the conclusion that they had to hang on longer, even if it killed them. Without their strength, many of us would have stopped holding on and fighting years ago.

So I will be forever grateful to Stan Lee for bringing these characters to the world, and for each story he wrote, approved, or spearheaded. Quaint or odd as it may seem, I wouldn’t be the person I am today without his help, distant though it was. Keep on going “ever higher,” Stan. We’ll be rooting for you until it’s our turn to finally glance over our shoulders, give everyone behind us a thumbs up, and say: “’Nuff said.”

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Avengers Assemble – A Long Way from Home

Ahoy, readers! Ar ye ready to sail in uncharted waters? Avast! It is time we be spinning tales of those famed heroes from Earth, the Mightiest of Champions – the Avengers!

You will see why I played around with the pirate lingo when we reach the end of the post. 😉 Normally, piratical speech is not my thing. It is used way too much these days for effect – or as a form of mockery for pirate tales – which means it tends to irritate me. So when one of Avengers Assemble’s episodes played around with the vernacular, I had to grit my teeth from time to time. It was either that or cover my ears, and since I wanted to keep track of the story, I put up with it.

The first episode we will discuss aired before Christmas of 2017. Titled “New Year’s Resolutions,” it starred Tony, Cap, Howard Stark and – at long last – Peggy Carter, voiced by Haley Atwell herself. Yay…!

Mostly. Sorta. Kind of.

Okay, okay, I had major problems with Peggy’s portrayal in the cartoon. The writers had her showing Steve up too much and generally did not let her be the Peggy I saw and enjoyed in Captain America: The First Avenger. I am guessing this has something to do with her depiction in her own series, Agent Carter, which leaned heavy on the Femi-Nazi and light on the story/character.

From what little I know of the series Agent Carter, Peggy came across as an angry, “let-me-prove-I’m-just-as-good-as-the-men” character, something which was certainly not the case in The First Avenger. It was more than a little sad to see her get short shrift in this episode, which I had been looking forward to viewing for some time. Peggy had her moments here, but they were few and far between.

Thankfully, “New Year’s Resolutions” was not all bad news. The interplay between Tony and Howard in this episode almost made up for Peggy’s disappointing deportment. We actually got to see the younger Stark bond with his father WITHOUT being a total brat or jerk about it. It was an unexpectedly sweet touch to what otherwise would have been a depressing, watered-down show.

Speaking of pluses, watching the four beat Kang was pure fun. And Arno Stark got to show up as Tony’s descendant rather than his hidden, younger brother. There was no Arno-should-have-been-Iron-Man stupidity here, for which I am very thankful. Although I must admit, I would have liked to have heard the thirtieth century Stark toss out a zinger or two, just to show the genes had not faded over the millennium between him and Tony.

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All of this is to say that “New Year’s Resolutions” is an episode worth watching, despite its substandard treatment of Peggy Carter. Now if Marvel would just do what I asked and give the Avengers an adventure that took place on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, showing the team celebrating the holiday, I would know we were making some progress here. (No, I am not holding my breath while waiting for them to do that.)

Next we come to “The Eye of Agamotto, Parts 1 & 2.” By a stroke of good fortune, I got to see Doctor Strange before these episodes came out. Strange has never been anywhere near my Favorite Marvel Characters’ list, so the film and his appearance in the shows served more as filler material than anything else for me. But the fact that I got to see the movie meant I was prepared for Strange’s changed look; prior to the movie, he had long hair in Assemble. It is now shorter and much more practical.

Part 1 one of “The Eye of Agamotto” showed the Avengers – Cap, Hawkeye, Falcon, Black Panther, and Carol Danvers – defending a SHIELD storehouse from HYDRA agents. Well, mostly defending it. The bad guys got away with whatever magical doohicky they wanted, but Cap and Panther succeed in tracking it down.

Unfortunately, said gem is already in the hands of Strange’s arch nemesis, Baron Mordo. (The artists did a good job making him look like his film counterpart.) This is Panther’s first encounter with a bonafide sorcerer, but he handles himself pretty well here. We also see him getting calls from his little sister, Shuri, who has to ring him up for Wakandan business at the most inopportune times. It gets so bad that he shunts her calls to voicemail.

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So when she shows up on his and Cap’s six unannounced, it nearly ends in disaster. Declaring that “no one puts [her] on voicemail,” Shuri insists on tagging along for the adventure, triggering the traps Mordo set up with a bracelet gizmo she designed herself. She has to help T’Challa and Steve best Mordo after the latter uses a spell to steal Cap’s powers.

T’Challa does well in this episode and so does Steve – for the most part. While I enjoyed seeing Shuri at long last, the writers could not resist plugging the “girl power” motif during this adventure. It was not simply annoying, it was Matronizing, and obviously so. I can handle Shuri having a list of degrees which nearly circles the world, but that should not be what makes her interesting. She comes from a culture of warriors, people! For Pete’s sake, her brother’s personal bodyguard corps is made up entirely of women so that peace can be maintained among Wakanda’s tribes. I do not think they have any of our “problems” with “women’s representation.”

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Shuri

In this episode, Shuri is used to pantomime the idea that “brains beat brawn” – especially if they are female brains to men’s brawn. No, Marvel writers. No, no, no, and no. Women are not physically strong enough, as a general rule, to overpower men, yes. Having Shuri outsmart Mordo was great, yes. But if you want her to be T’Challa and Cap’s equal, show her not as a snobby, easily offended young woman looking down her nose at them, but as a young woman who can roll with the punches when she cannot dodge ‘em. The writers did not do that properly here, which rankled. Badly.

Other than this irksome theme, we got a good show which demonstrated the strength of Cap and Panther’s friendship, and which showed Steve being his usual, gracious self. It also put the spotlight, however briefly and dimly, on Shuri, which is great. All in all it was not a bad romp. It could have been better, but it was not bad.

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Part 2 of “The Eye of Agamotto” was very entertaining, and it made up for the lousy element in Part 1. Following their previous adventure, Cap and Panther bring an odd sorcerer back to Avengers’ Compound after he tells them he needs to see Stephen Strange. We only see them doing this after a cute exchange between Hawkeye and the Hulk, as the archer is busy going through receipts for the damage Big Green dealt out – accidentally or on purpose – while doing his job. (I am surprised the piles of receipts were not bigger and taller.)

Strange arrives at the Compound while this is going on, launching an attack against Cap and Panther while they are trying to land. It takes him awhile, but he eventually manages to explain that he was not shooting at them per se. Whatever or whoever is with them has some bad magic which is making the Eye of Agamotto that Strange wears go bonkers.

Turns out, the man Cap and Panther met at the end of the last episode is Agamotto himself. He’s come back to get his eye (guess what the Eye of Agamotto is in Assemble, readers), and casts a spell which knocks down Cap, Panther, Hawkeye, and Kamala Khan. At the same time they get knocked out, evil shadow duplicates of them appear to attack Strange and the Avenger who depowered to avoid getting magicked – Hulk/Bruce Banner.

You will want to see this episode for the ending alone, readers. It is a hoot, a scream. About halfway through I was laughing so hard that it is amazing I could keep up with the dialogue for this show. I mean it – this episode was pure, undiluted fun! Strange and Hulk even became friends by the end of the show. Bonus points!

After these episodes came the first four “Secret Wars” installments which gave the season its name. The first episode here was “Beyond.” At the start of the show, the Avengers arrive in Central Park when a glowing crack appears in the ground. Then they try to fall back as it widens and white light erupts from it. Seconds later (as far as anyone can tell), the team wakes up in a desert at night. Right on cue, Avengers Tower rises out of the sand next to them. Naturally, they go inside to see if this is really their old home, finding it is and that everything inside is in perfect working order.

During their investigation, they also find an uninvited guest. Having spread a feast on the table for them, he invites them to sit and chow down while he explains everything. No one sits down, of course, or starts eating. They just demand to know who this guy is and what the Sam Hill he has done to them.

For those new to the Marvel universe(s), this unwelcome guest is the Beyonder. He is far different from the Beyonder I met in the 1990s. That Beyonder was not a sick, twisted megalomaniac – at least, I did not think he was. I do not know what he is/was like in the comics, so I cannot say how true his appearance in either series is to the original material, but the Beyonder in the ‘90s was a sight nicer than this guy. Another difference here, aside from his personality, is that this version of the Beyonder uses advanced technology for his little experiment. In the ‘90s he was some cosmic magician who could snap his fingers and do almost anything he wanted.

You are probably getting the idea that I was expecting to see the Beyonder this season. I certainly had a suspicion he would appear; the ‘90s “Secret Wars” arc of the Spider-Man TV series was one of my favorites. Like the original Star Trek episode The Savage Curtain, the animated ‘90s “Secret Wars” saw the Beyonder send Spider-Man to an alien world that had never known evil. The Beyonder introduced some of the worst villains from Earth to this world, then dispatched Spidey to choose a team of superheroes to stop the bad guys, proving once and for all whether good was really stronger than evil.

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Secret Wars – ’90s Style!

Spidey and his team won, of course, but it was this storyline which made me expect to see the Beyonder in Assemble. I was looking forward to seeing him again, though in light of the 2015 sham “Secret Wars,” I was worried about what would become of our heroes in the cartoon. Now I see that I should have been worried about the Beyonder, too. But maybe he was originally an evil super genius bent on satisfying his curiosity at all costs, making this portrayal of him a return to the norm. I don’t know which it is, though, so I will leave this subject alone now.

Anyway, after pinning our heroes to the walls with his tech, the Beyonder explains that he has taken pieces from different worlds and dimensions to create a new planet he calls Battleworld. (Battleworld comes from the 2015 “Secret Wars” and, from what little I know of that travesty to comicdom, Beyonder’s description here sounds about right for that Battleworld as well.) Like in the ‘90s, he is apparently trying to determine here whether good or evil is stronger.

The big problem with his plan in Assemble – aside from the fact that he took everyone from Earth, Asgard, and every where else without a by-your-leave – is that the longer the separated chunks are away from their homeworlds/dimensions/what-have-you, the more unstable those realms become. So, if the pieces are not returned to their proper places (and fast), the whole universe/multi-verse is going to explode and die. Not a pretty picture for our heroes, to be sure.

“Beyond” sees the team spread out to learn the layout of Battleworld and begin finding a way to put everything back together again. The particular part of Battleworld where Avengers’ Tower is situated is called Egyptia. Why it is called this I do not know, unless there is another realm/dimension/thing out there called Egypt. So far, Egyptia just seems to be a distorted Egypt from Earth.

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Back to the show; Cap and Widow are the ones reconnoitering Egyptia. Finding a pyramid in the middle of the dunes, they go to investigate and run into a bunch of sand mummies/zombies. Things look grim for the home team but, luckily, the wandering super genius known as Iron Man drops in to save the day. The Beyonder took part of the dimension he was trapped in for his Battleworld. That part of the “planet” is called No-Tech Land, presumably because most modern machinery does not work there. This allows Tony to reunite with his friends, and the high jinks and battles ensue before he, Cap, and Widow rejoin the rest of the team at the Tower.

“Underworld” is the follow-up episode, and it begins with Loki raining on the reunion by declaring he wants to join the Avengers because the Beyonder wrecked Asgard for his little experiment. Predictably, the answer to Loki’s request is a lot of lightning bolts, repulsor blasts, arrows, and punches – none of which land, sadly. “Capturing” him, Thor, Tony, and Hulk learn that Loki is the one who told the Beyonder Earth’s location, giving them more reason to be angry at him. But since parts of Asgard are now mushed into Battleworld, and because Loki has personal knowledge of the Beyonder, Tony states that they need him and the four head out to New York City.

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The reason this episode is called “Underworld” is because NYC is under a rock – literally. When Beyonder ripped it off of Earth, he put the city underground. And beneath New York, he put a bunch of Asgardian rock trolls. So when the Avengers show up, they have to defend the New Yorkers who were transported along with their city from the rock giants.

Loki does his whining “why-do-we-have-to-save-the-humans” routine, but turns into a big help when the Enchantress shows up. He almost sacrifices himself to fix the Bifrost, which is underground with New York, but Thor stops him and they escape. Then the Beyonder shows up and Hulk jumps at him to do his smashing gig –

…Only for the Beyonder to split the Hulk and Banner personalities into two people with his tech. Did not see that coming, and I have to say, it worries me. Bruce came out the worse for wear either before or after 2015’s “Secret Wars.” I am pretty sure he went nuts, and I know who “killed” him (you are in so much trouble for that, by the way, Marvel writers), so I worry that we will see something similar in Assemble. If what I think may happen does occur, then the “writers” running Marvel are in even BIGGER trouble with me.

Aside from this one worrying point, this show was a hoot. Hulk had the most fun here at Loki’s expense, and the only thing I want more than to see Hawkeye finally give the Trickster what he deserves is to watch Hulk pick on him. As for Loki turning “hero,” I predict that that will not last long. There may be a little good in Loki, but the problem with that is it is too darn small a piece of good. The bad outweighs the good, and while the Trickster of Asgard may be an open and shut case of “hope over experience,” I believe the Avengers should temper hope with sense by keeping their hands close to their weapons.

Next we have “The Immortal Weapon.” This episode was good, clean fun, and it actually gave me something I have been begging the writers for since the series started: a new hero. Iron Fist at last makes his debut in Avengers Assemble here. Though he is voiced by the same actor from Ultimate Spider-Man, Iron Fist is unquestionably an adult in Assemble. It was nice to see him again; he got short shrift from season three of Ultimate Spider-Man onward, and it is good to have him back in the spotlight no matter how briefly he appears.

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Anyway, among the many things the Beyonder stole from Earth was K’un-Lun. But unlike New York, K’un-Lun is above ground and it is peaceful. Everyone is going about their daily business as if nothing has changed, puzzling Falcon and Black Panther, who have been sent here to pick up an item to repair the destroyed Bifrost. Things get even more confusing when the two explain to Iron Fist that they need Heimdall’s sword to help rebuild the Bifrost and set everything right. For no apparent reason, Danny attacks the two, stating emphatically that they cannot take the sword.

Neither Avenger listens when Iron Fist repeatedly states that taking the sword will unleash a great evil. So both are surprised when Falcon retrieves the weapon and Dracula pops out of the stone where it was embedded. (Nice sword in the stone reference, Marvel jerkfaces.) Turns out, Danny could not explain why the sword had to stay put because Dracula cursed him so that he could not say his name, period, in relation to anything. If anyone had asked Iron Fist about Bram Stoker’s novel, it is likely that Danny would not have been able to name the book because of the curse.

But Falcon and Panther, who have been having the “I’m-not-a-kid-anymore/I’m-a-king” argument from the start of the show, did not stop to put two and two together. Danny gets a really good scene when this argument starts back up again, putting one hand to his face and shaking his head, before telling the two to knock it off and get their act together. Tension is added to the show when the three learn of a familiar alien substance that has bonded to Dracula to make him immune to sunlight. The vampire king plans to find more of these familiar substances to make an army of daywalker vampires, but our heroes put the kibosh on the plan.

Really, this episode was nigh flawless. I had no real reservations while watching it or after it ended. It was a fun caper with no dark portents for the future of the series, and it gave all three heroes a chance to shine brightly for a change. This one earns a big, wholehearted “YAY!” from this viewer.

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Finally, we have “The Vibranium Coast.” This is the show which gave vent to the piratical turns of phrase you encountered at the beginning of this post, readers. Ant-Man and Kamala Khan are headed to the Vibranium Coast – the one part of Battleworld, so far, which does not appear to be related to Earth at all – to pick up the Vibranium Tony and Loki need to rebuild the Bifrost and fix everything.

Scott is nervous about the job, feeling the pressure of not messing the mission up royally, while Khan continues to be her annoying, useless self. She misidentifies a pirate ship as Atlantis or another place, and the first misidentification should not have popped out of her mouth. For Pete’s sake, even on Battleworld, Atlantis would have to be under water. Most Atlanteans cannot breathe air or stay on land for long periods of time, and so far, the Beyonder has not demonstrated a desire to wipe out the populations of the places he steals all in one go. If they die over time, he will shrug it off, but the fact that NYC and K’un-Lun still have inhabitants shows he wants live specimens for his “experiment,” not cities full of dead bodies.

But we digress. Scott and Khan’s jet is shot out of the sky by the ship and the two are picked up by Typhoid Mary, who lays on the pirate act and lingo real thick. I have to say, my first introduction to Typhoid Mary did not make me like her. She reminds me too much of Harley Quinn, the Joker’s sidekick from DC Comics. Whether that is the intention of the writers or not, the fact is that her resemblance to the Joker’s apprentice wins her no favors with me.

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Despite this, Typhoid Mary actually made this zany episode palatable for me. Having Red Skull and Crossbones playing pirates makes them seem silly, until you are faced with the even crazier Typhoid Mary. After her, anything else out of the ordinary looks mild. Her part in the story took the edge off the foolishness of seeing Red Skull be called “Dred Skull,” the master of the “Dred Skull Sea.” 😉

Ant-Man did not do badly in this show, which was a real improvement over his first four episodes this season. He got to be smart, manly, and funny without compromising his character or his masculinity. That alone would make this episode worth watching, but with Typhoid Mary’s craziness thrown in the mix, I suggest you check out the show for the laughs, too. There is also a GREAT scene at the end which had me in fits because it was so perfect. You should definitely watch this episode, readers. It is FUN!

However, despite this glowing review, I must admit that I had my usual problems with Khan here. The writers are working overtime to make her appeal to viewers, and it is not helping. Aside from a few verbal mistakes, Khan does not trip or fall flat on her face the way a normal rookie would in this show. Scott’s and the other Avengers’ care for and kindness to her are great for them, but it does nothing to make Khan more appealing or enhance her part in the series.

If you put Inferno or Firestar or Spectrum in her place in “The Vibranium Coast” as the new rookie on the team (no matter their age), it would work better because the writers would not be bending over backwards to make the audience love them the way they are for Khan. Seriously, everything they do for Khan is pure political pandering, and it shows. Somehow, in this episode, she is the only Avenger present who knows how to use swords, all because her parents let her take fencing lessons?!?

That does not fit with what little I remember reading about the concept behind Khan’s creation. There it was stated that her parents are terrified of letting her anywhere near a boy her own age, forget an adult man. So why would they suddenly let her take fencing lessons? In fact, why is she even allowed out of the house in normal clothes? Shouldn’t she be wearing something more traditional? And why not let her use her powers or natural skills to duck and dodge swordstrokes? If she is so great, then why do the writers have to give her the simple, Feminista out of, “And she can fence, too!”?

The more the writers set her up to be an uber woman settling into her place in the Avengers, the less interesting she becomes, just like her namesake. Khan adds nothing to the Marvel universe(s) or Assemble.

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Dust

Dust was more interesting because she was actually allowed to make mistakes, worry about her traditional upbringing and her career as an X-Man, and learn to stretch her wings. Khan is not allowed to even voice such fears or problems in the show; she has no vulnerabilities – other than a penchant for geeking out when she meets a famous hero/villain – and it makes her dull as dishwater. She is useless, plain and simple, and she is getting on my nerves.

I do not expect the Marvel writers to change Khan and make her more interesting, readers. I expect them to double down on her portrayal with a vengeance. They cannot be wrong, while we peons are always wrong and should hate ourselves for it. (Bah.) If they want to think that way and try to financially survive while they are doing it, then they can knock themselves out. Nothing anyone says to the contrary will stop them.

This leads to my final points. For the most part, as is obvious from this article, I enjoyed these episodes. However, the higher you fly, the farther you can fall. It is quite possible that whatever comes next will be an absolute disaster for fans of the true, the good, and the beautiful who love not only Assemble, but Marvel in general. We could end up with a serious mess on ours hands when the next installment of Avengers Assemble: Secret Wars rolls around.

We could just as easily rise to new heights with only little pinpricks of annoyance (and irritating, politically correct sham characters) to bother us from here on out. While I hope for that, I intend to try and follow my own advice to the Avengers about Loki: be prepared for experience to trump hope again. When it comes to mortal man, experience is something to be remembered, even when hope begs for “just one more chance” to get things right.

I have my keyboard ready, Marvel. I am still watching you. Mess up, and expect to see me say something about it. Because if you play “the heroes and heroines are actually villains and the villains are heroes” card too much more, you will go out of business. I do not want that for you, but you are sure acting like that is what you want. Do not think I will avoid speaking my piece about it. You should know me better than that by now. 😉

‘Til next time, readers – Avengers Assemble!!!

Spotlight: Some Under-Used Marvel Heroines, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jessica, Danielle, and Luke Cage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cassie and her dad, Scott Lang/Ant-Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

‘Til next time – Avengers Assemble!

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 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 to 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!!!