Tag Archives: Kang the Conqueror

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!!!

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Spotlight: Some Under-Used Marvel Heroines, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jessica, Danielle, and Luke Cage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cassie and her dad, Scott Lang/Ant-Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

‘Til next time – Avengers Assemble!

Avengers Assemble: Secret Wars – Rescuing the Heroes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avengers – Assemble!

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Season 3 of Avengers Assemble Review

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Last year I did a post called “Avengers Assemble Season Three – How Is It So Far?” That post covered the first eight episodes of the third season. Reading it, you will find that I was most pleased with what I had seen at the time.

Now that the “Ultron Revolution” has run its course and “Secret Wars” – hopefully no relation to the lousy 2015 comic book event – are in our viewing future, you might be asking yourselves: what did I think of the rest of season three?

Let’s find out.

Since I wrote individual posts on the episodes “Inhumans Among Us” and “Captain Marvel,” these stories will not be discussed at length herein. If you wish to know what this writer thought of those episodes, use the search engine to find the posts about “Inhumans Among Us” and “Captain Marvel,” readers.

“The Inhuman Condition” was much better than its predecessor, “Inhumans Among Us,” in my book. There was no angst, no fuss, no muss, just cooperation between the Avengers and Black Bolt. Lockjaw giving Cap a few licks was good, too, since it showed that even a dog can recognize how great Steve is. It was wonderful to watch Hawkeye being his usual confident self instead of a doofus. It was also nice to hear Tony actually ask for help for a change, and watching Thor smash Ultron is always fun. Ah, I love the sound of Mjolnir hitting maniacal robots in the morning, don’t you?

Now “The Kids Are Alright” I had some problems with, and there are friends of mine who have issues with it as well. One, for instance, hated that Khan interrupted Cap when he gave the kids a tour of the Tower. Another friend considers Khan to be nothing more than an annoyance during the episode’s run, since she has no purpose in the narrative of the show. She did not demonstrate any depth of character, either; she is just a fangirl who got lucky and ended up with superpowers.

Image result for avengers assemble ultron revolution The Kids Are Alright

What is this author’s opinion? I am no fan of Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel. To me, she is no more entertaining than her namesake. Also, Khan was not allowed by the writers to make any mistakes in combat during this show. She and Inferno had been using their powers for all of, what, a week? And yet she is a better fighter than he is? I am sorry but no, no, no, and no. Rookies do not do that well on the job in their first weeks; it does not happen unless they are extremely talented and/or lucky. Luck I will admit Khan has, but as for talent, it does not take much to imitate Mr. Fantastic – who should at least be mentioned in this series, by the way!

I thought that Inferno got short shrift here, too, being portrayed as the cocky kid who runs into a situation without thinking. I can handle a callow youth or a hothead, but the fact is that these often unwelcome traits do not necessarily add up to stupidity, which is the direction the Marvel writers appeared to be heading with the character in “The Kids Are All Right.” Inferno can do much better, but it does not seem that the writers want him to do better. They ought to bring Dante into “Secret Wars” as part of the Earth-bound Avengers just to give him a better showing than the one he got in season three.

On the bright side, Cap and Hawkeye did well in this show. Cap was his usual charming and encouraging self while Hawkeye got to prove (again) that although he may not be a super genius, this does not mean he is stupid. The sad thing is that they are the only saving graces in an otherwise politically correct, namby-pamby, wishy-washy, feel-good episode. You can tell I was not “feeling the love” from this show, can’t you, readers?

In contrast, I thought that “The Conqueror” and “Into the Future” were much better installments in the series. Bringing Kang into the story sets up a primary villain for season four, and no one can say that Kang is a fifth rate villain. He is no Dr. Doom (despite his mysterious relation to him), nor is he Magneto, but he probably ranks third behind those two masterminds of evil. Having Tony tweak him and get him angry was a good trick for the first episode, and showing Cap best him in the Jurassic period was the highlight of “Into the Future.”

My one problem with “Into the Future” is that none of the male rebels, aside from Thor, got a speaking part. Layla was a good character, and the hint that the red-headed girl who had tried to improve Tony’s Omega suit could be his great-great-great-great-great granddaughter was nice. The nod to Kate Bishop also did not go unnoticed by yours truly. In fact, the whole idea of a rebellion against Kang’s rule was genius, in my opinion. I wish someone had thought of it years ago!   (For all I know they did, but if so, I never heard about it.)

But the fact remains that some of the guys in Thor’s rebellion should have been allowed to say at least one word. Having Thor as their leader and letting him give the speeches was good; along with the rebellion twist, it made a lot of sense. He is Asgardian and immortal – practically speaking, anyway. Of course he would live into the thirtieth century, where he would start a rebellion against Kang’s tyranny, and of course he would end up bald as Odin. But at least ONE of the male rebels in Thor’s band should have been allowed to talk instead of being used as scenery filler.

This is a minor quibble with an otherwise excellent episode, but it is an important one to make. Marvel is trying to feminize its franchise, from Iron Man to Thor to Hawkeye and beyond. I am tired of it. The company already has great female leads; they do not need a bunch of milksop fems strutting across the screen, attempting to be something they are not. If they want to add new characters to help tell new stories, that is fine. But trying to replace the originals with newbies like Khan does not work; to the best of my knowledge, it never has. And when they try to make all their heroes female, the writers make matters worse. Remember, I like Steve Rogers, Clint Barton, Tony Stark, Thor Odinson, Bruce Banner, Bucky Barnes, Sam Wilson, Vision, Quicksilver, and many of the other male leads in Marvel because they are male. And I am not the only one. I wish that Marvel would get this fact through its thick, corporate head already and let me save my breath on this issue.

Image result for avengers assemble ultron revolution Seeing Double

Now we will go back to business. In “Seeing Double” we watch as Natasha faces off against Black Widow wannabe Yelena Belova. I have read about the character but never seen her, and this episode is a very impressive introduction for her. It fleshed out Natasha’s character in the bargain, and the hint that maybe she did not throw away the thumb drive said to contain her real memories was an unexpected twist. Making the Hulk into a large, green version of the Winter Soldier was something that I did not see coming. My only disappointment is that we never got to see Bucky here or during season three.

Then we have “A Friend in Need,” where Vision is introduced to the team. It was a nice installment, from Thor’s taking him to Asgard and teaching him about friendship to Vision’s nearly permanent sacrifice to save his friends. The three-way training session with Cap, Widow, and Hawkeye was a good bonus point, as was Vision playing video games with Hulk and Thor at the end. Very cute scene!

After this we had “Panther’s Rage,” an episode that presented T’Challa/Black Panther, Wakanda, and the Dora Milaje in an interesting way. Hawkeye’s flirting with Aneka was somewhat irritating, but their resultant friendship had a much better vibe to it. Cap and Thor’s ability to understand Panther and their subsequent friendships with him were believable and fun as well. And watching the pack of them kick Klaue’s fanny was great, as usual. But I am kind of getting tired of T’Challa always showing up on the Avengers’ doorstep angry. How about a little variety next time, Marvel writers?

“Ant-Man Makes It Big” was a fun episode in which Marvel proved that, despite many changes over the years, they still like to poke fun at themselves from time to time. Thor teaching a snobby actor the reality of life was a plus, as was Hawkeye’s easy acceptance of Scott and his new job. Having Widow angry at Scott for leaving the Avengers was an interesting and compelling development. It is nice to see that they have completely separated her from their original Amazonian stereotype and allowed her to be the character she always has been.

After this came “House of Zemo.” This show is one of my favorites and it had many good points, one of these being the redemption of Cap’s father after the debacle where Marvel tried to make the First Avenger a secret operative of HYDRA in the comics last year. In search of a photo he can use to draw a picture of his father, Cap leaves Avengers Tower on his birthday (July 4th), in order to clear his head and jog his memory. Hawkeye, who actually had a lousy father in the comics and apparently in Assemble as well, still palpably empathizes with Cap’s desire to remember and draw his father’s face. The rapport between the two is handled with an artist’s touch here and makes this episode an adventure worth remembering. 😉

Image result for avengers assemble ultron revolution House of Zemo

There was one thing about “House of Zemo,” however, that felt off to me: Helmut Zemo’s “redemption” at the end of the show. It felt forced and tacked on. I agree that he can reform; that is not what bothered me. It is that the writers brought about his change of heart too fast to be believable and satisfactory. They jammed it into an otherwise moving story, as though they thought no one would like an episode where Hawkeye, the fatherless, anchorless Avenger, helped the most grounded member of the team reconnect with his own father.

Maybe they were right, but I doubt it seriously. Of course, perhaps they thought Helmut Zemo could make the leap with ease, since in this series he is in fact a very old man, but he looks and acts young thanks to taking his father’s variant of the Super Soldier Serum. It still feels cheap to me, though, and that is why I make such a fuss about it.

The episodes “U-Foes,” “Building the Perfect Weapon,” and “World War Hulk” were great installments. The U-Foes, I think, would make viable fifth-rate villains in season four, but I do not like Widow’s taking offense when Red Hulk labeled everyone on the team “men” at the end of “World War Hulk.” No, she is not a man, but his use of the term is normal and hardly material for an affront, unless he is addressing a room full of women. This he definitely did not do within the show. I would think any female Avenger would ignore this unimportant phrase and deal with the bigger issue – the fact that Red Hulk thought he was the team’s leader. Who died and made him king?

Another thing which irritated me in these shows was how Cap acquiesced to Hulk wearing the inhibitor collar. His unabashed appreciation of Red Hulk’s military analysis of situations was equally bothersome. Just because Ross was once a U.S. general with a modicum of talent, it does not make him a great guy. I found it irksome that the writers thought Cap should appreciate Red’s ability to tactically assess a base –especially since he showed that this skill did not stretch nearly far enough. Cap is better than that, people. Stop treating him like a cookie-cutter tin soldier. He is no such thing!

One of the things I did enjoy here is that Hulk got to stay on Earth, instead of being tossed off-world and ending up in a gladiatorial arena. Another beautiful touch to the “World War Hulk” episode was the hint of romance between Big Green and Black Widow. Though they have done it before, in this Hulk-centered episode, it had more than its usual impact for viewers.

The romance the writers have developed between Natasha and Hulk in Avengers Assemble is something I have come to like quite a bit. It fits the narrative and it gives me hope that, should the writers bring Mockingbird and/or Sharon Carter on the scene, they will be able to handle a Romance Reel with them and their guys as well as they have managed Natasha and the Hulk’s duet. It also lets me hope that when Cap and Tony meet Peggy Carter in season four, the writers will be able to portray that romance with the same adroit touch they have used for Natasha and Hulk.

The “Civil War” story arc was truly impressive. For one thing, it was really, really, REALLY nice not to have Tony and Cap trying to kill each other here. The pluses continued to mount when the Mighty Avengers were formed as the antagonistic team, with Princess Sparkle Fists (a.k.a. Captain Marvel) at the head of the group. My only regret is that the writers did not hand her off to the Hulk during the battle. At least he would have actually hit her.

Image result for avengers assemble ultron revolution Civil War hawkeye and songbird

The moment when Hawkeye convinced Songbird to leave the Mighty Avengers for the Avengers was superb. I had hoped to see Songbird before season three’s conclusion as part of the Avengers or as the leader of the Thunderbolts. The writers surpassed my wildest dreams in this regard for her, and they outdid themselves on Hawkeye’s characterization in this moment. His general deportment throughout the “Civil War” conflict was perfect. I am really happy with the fact that they have stopped using him as the team pratfall in every episode. 😀

Ant-Man and Falcon fighting while flying was a great nod to the film franchise, as was Vision’s accidentally injuring Cap with Mjolnir. It was also highly satisfying to watch Little Miss Stretch pull one of Iron Man’s moves from Age of Ultron, hitting Hulk when he was not expecting it. Rookie though he is, even Inferno would have known better than to do that.

But the most surprising moment in the season finale came when Ultron hacked Tony’s suit and arc reactor, thereby taking control of both his mind and body. It was the biggest shock of the event. I did not see that coming, which was the entire point. The Marvel writers truly pulled a rabbit out of their hat when they did it. I only hope the team can purge Ultron from Tony’s system during season four’s “Secret Wars.” Otherwise, I am not going to be a happy camper.

To sum up, there are only a few things I have left to say, and they are about the next season of Avengers Assemble. Season three broke new ground for the team by bringing in new players such as Songbird and the Thunderbolts, along with Inferno, Vision, and Black Panther.

The additions of villains such as Yalena Belova, Kang the Conqueror, the U-Foes, Egghead, and others expanded Assemble’s villain cadre nicely. Not every season has to revolve around Ultron, Thanos, and Red Skull, after all. And the Avengers do not have to fight Dracula or MODOK every day, either. It is nice to see old enemies with new schemes fighting our heroes. They should get to fight some B, C, and D rated villains like Egghead every now and then. Save a city instead of the planet – piece of cake. Although I do miss watching the team as they tangle with Dr. Doom and Magneto. Doom has disappeared from Assemble and since Marvel is not interested in mixing mutants into its Avengers cartoons anymore, any chance to see how the team would slap down the Master of Magnetism has evaporated. Rats. I would have liked to view that.

The upgraded characterizations of our favorite heroes righted the problems I noted in posts about the first and second seasons of the show. They were overdue, but better late than never. These changes have made Assemble much stronger as a series than when it began. I hope that, when it comes time to replace Assemble, I will not have to lecture the writers again on the issues which I pointed out in those prior posts. I will not, however, be holding my breath on that hope.

With regard to the original seven Avengers on the team, I would like to ask the Marvel writers to keep up the good work. Leave the stereotypes in the trash, where they belong, and run the characters according to the tried and true formula which you know actually works.

Secondly, I would like to ask the writers to please, please drop Jane Foster/“Thorette” from the line-up for season four!! She will be a DISASTER, people! Do not shoot yourselves in the foot here!

Three, let Inferno grow and learn from the Avengers. And while I applaud the addition of Black Panther, Songbird, Vision, and soon the Wasp to the series, do not stop there. We want Mockingbird, Spectrum, War Machine, the Winter Soldier, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Power Man, and many of the other heroes from the comics to at least get a mention in season four. If we are going to have more than the four seasons, then by all means, add them to the cast list. Just because they are not part of the films and live action TV shows, this should not prevent the writers from adding them to the cartoon series. And Scarlet Witch is, in fact, part of the film franchise. So why have she and Quicksilver been left out of Assemble?!?!? It makes no sense to leave the twins out, Marvel writers!

Image result for avengers assemble secret wars

Last but most important, I wish to remind the writers that we watch the Avengers because we like good stories with great characters, not because we are looking for a lecture on social justice or the latest cause celeb. If we want any of that junk, we will turn on the news or go to a tabloid stand. Since we are coming to you, it means we want to get away from those things for a little while.

Just tell us some good stories, okay? That is all any of us want out of fiction writers. Good stories, well told, with enduring characters. All right?

Avengers – ASSEMBLE!!!

Book Review: Marvel Masterworks #2: The Avengers

Come on, readers – you knew it had to happen at some point! I am a Marvel fan. Of course I would get around to acquiring a Marvel book!

Actually, I have several. 🙂 The particular book which I am describing here, Marvel Masterworks #2: The Avengers, is one of my favorites. Marvel Masterworks are books which contain a certain number of original comic book stories within them. And in this case when I say original, I mean original! Marvel Masterworks #2: The Avengers contains ten stories – issues 11 through 20 – of the Avengers’ first adventures from 1964-65.

WARNING: MAJOR spoilers ahead!!! Read on at your own risk!

Inside this volume, true believers, you will find – Captain America! The Invincible Armored Iron Man! The Mighty Thor! Ant-Man and the Wasp! All in their original costumes and settings, with the quirky tools and fantastic adventures that could only be dreamed up by Stan Lee and his friends during the early 1960s!

Yeah, I just borrowed Stan Lee’s introductory style of the time. So what? 🙂

Okay, so the first story is issue eleven of the Avengers, or The Avengers #11, December 1964: “The Mighty Avengers Meet Spider-Man!” A sinister enemy watches the team from the far future. Kang the Conqueror, still smarting from his last defeat at the hands of the Avengers, is determined to have his revenge. But how shall he get it?!

Painstakingly, he searches the past for someone – anyone – who would be powerful enough to defeat our heroes. Finding such a person, he makes a robot duplicate and sends it back in time to fight the Avengers who have to deal with the confusing situation of a nefarious duplicate of the good guy they know. Who is the robot a duplicate of, you ask? None other than our friendly neighborhood webslinger, Spider-Man!

The next story is “This Hostage Earth!”, and we see on the first page that Ant-Man is greatly agitated. His ants are telling him that someone below ground is trying to destroy the Earth! However, none of the other Avengers take his warning seriously. He is upset because the ants are telling him something is wrong?! How silly!

Even Wasp and Cap do not listen to Hank. In an angry huff, Ant-Man shrinks down to investigate the matter himself –

And finds Mole Man has a created a machine which will induce tremors on the Earth’s surface. If the governments above do not heed his demands, Mole Man will make the surface world uninhabitable!

Next ish (ish is short for issue, non-comic readers 😉 ), we find our heroes lured into a trap by Count Nefaria. The villainous count is more than a little miffed that the team has been ruining his Maggia operations stateside. As part of the plan, Nefaria frames the Avengers as power-hungry tyrants who want to take control of the world! The team manages to stop him and clear their names but, in the process, Wasp is injured and left on the brink of death!

In “Even Avengers Can Die!”, the team races against time to find the one doctor on Earth who can save their only female teammate. They are truly desperate; even the Mighty Thor. This is because even his mortal alter ego, Dr. Don Blake, magnificent physician that he is, does not have the expertise to save her!

Then, in issue #15, Baron Zemo and his Masters of Evil – the Enchantress, the Executioner, the Melter, and the Black Knight – spring a trap on the team. Kidnapping Rick Jones, Zemo lures Captain America to his South American base while the rest of the Avengers remain behind to fight the Masters. Then, in “The Old Order Changeth!”, Cap and Rick Jones work their way back to the States. In the meantime, Thor goes back to Asgard for a “Trial of the Gods.” After he leaves, Iron Man, Wasp, and Giant-Man realize they are plum tuckered out. They need a break from Avenging or they will be wrecks by the end of the year!

So they call for new heroes to step up and take their places on the team. Many apply but only three are chosen: Hawkeye, a former enemy of Iron Man, is chosen to join the team. Not long after, twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff are accepted as members of the team. Once enemies of the X-Men, the siblings known as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch now seek redemption as part of the Mighty Avengers!

In “Four Against The Minotaur!” Cap and his new teammates head out to the desert to find the Hulk in an attempt to build up their strength. Cap learns some of the limits and characteristics of his new recruits along the way. He has little trouble managing the twins but finds Hawkeye mouthy and as hard to control as an unbroken bronco. Despite this, Cap feels Hawkeye will make a splendid Avenger – once his rough edges are smoothed over! Meanwhile, in a separate part of the desert, Bruce Banner appears to die after a fight with the Leader.

The next ish shows us the fictional communist country of Sin-Cong, which is run by a ruthless Commissar. In a plot to show how strong the Commissar is, the Communists lure the Avengers to Sin-Cong for a “demonstration.” Trying to get a job with SHIELD, Cap is eager to answer the call – as is the ever-belligerent Hawkeye. Soon the Avengers are fighting the Commissar. But all is not as it seems and when the “weakest” Avenger, Wanda Maximoff, goes up against him, the Commissar gets more than he bargained for!

The last two issues in the book introduce us to the Swordsman, Hawkeye’s former mentor. Arriving one day at Tony Stark’s mansion – which is on loan to the Avengers – the Swordsman is greeted, ah, “warmly” by the Maximoff twins. The man escapes after a furious Cap reveals the Swordsman is wanted in a number of countries for theft!

But Cap has something else on his mind, too. He has applied to SHIELD, but Fury has not yet answered his letter, and he does not understand why. What Cap does not know is that his letter is on a desk in a decoy office Fury set up for HYDRA to watch. The director of SHIELD has not even laid his eye on the letter! (How it ended up in the decoy office is another mystery, readers!!!!)

Sadly, the note makes its way to the Swordsman, who uses it to trap Steve. Things get hairy when Cap’s three young friends track the two down, but the New Avengers are equal to the task and the Swordsman’s plot is foiled. Then the Mandarin takes a hand in the matter, and manages to get the thief accepted by the Avengers through some masterful trickery. But the Swordsman is only there to plant a bomb in their headquarters, to be detonated remotely by the Mandarin when Iron Man (the Mandarin’s arch-enemy) returns to the team!

However, the Mandarin eventually decides he is tired of waiting and tells the Swordsman he will be activating the bomb ahead of schedule. The scoundrel has to make a choice: leave the Avengers to die, or save them – even if doing so incurs the wrath of the deadly Mandarin!

I would say that issues 11, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, and 20 are my favorite stories in this book. All the comics in this book are, to those of us born in this late age, rather kooky and silly at first, second, and even third glance.

Perhaps that is not a bad thing, and I do not think I should cast aspersions on the past. If anything, this difference in eras shows not only how far we have come (or fallen, as the case may be), but how much our current storytelling in Marvel Comics has declined. Sure, we can tell great stories without resorting to fancy “image projectors” or suspended animation tricks and such things as we find in these stories…

But the modern stories in Marvel Comics lack the cheerfulness, flair, and optimism which characterize the company’s older stories in copious, startling amounts. The old stories are positive, chipper, and see the future as a bright road leading to a better tomorrow. The new stories – not so much.

As a last note, one of the things about “Even Avengers Can Die!” that I love is on the end page. There, the Watcher comments that many men have prayed for the Wasp’s recovery, adding that “the power of prayer is still the greatest ever known” in the universe. And the end caption for the last panel on the page in this issue adds, “Let us now leave the Avengers! Strong men should not be seen with tears in their eyes! Nor should they be disturbed as they lift their faces heavenward, in solemn, grateful thanksgiving!

I really, REALLY miss those kinds of statements – not only in our modern comics, but in all our current stories. This is what makes “Even Avengers Can Die!” one of my favorite original comics in the book.

Readers, if you someday decide it is worth a look, I hope you enjoy this volume of original comics as much as I do. And if you are totally uninterested not only in this book but in Marvel Comics in general, well, I hope you found at least a little happiness and sunlight in this post. That will satisfy me as much as anything else would.

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian