Today’s topic is an odd one because normally I don’t read books about the Marvel characters I enjoy. This is due mostly to the fact that there are so few novelizations that don’t relate specifically to the comics. The Marvel Masterworks anthologies contain replicas of the original comic books, not black and white original tales or blow-by-blow accounts from the comics themselves.
Five Decades of the X-Men is a collection of short stories, one of which is almost certainly a translation from the first X-Men comic ever written. Published in 2002, the writing here isn’t very good. I don’t know if Stan Lee himself actually edited it but typos, bad grammar, and similar errors abound throughout the anthology. That doesn’t hurt the stories in any major way but it is annoying.
As the title suggests, each piece within this collection is from a different decade of the X-Men’s extensive history. The first tale is from the 1960s, the second from the ‘70s, and so on until the early 2000s, just before Marvel went really crazy. They were drifting that way in the mid-90s, but everything began truly falling apart around ’05, with the famous/infamous Civil War arc.
That’s a topic for another day, though. Five Decades of the X-Men begins, fittingly enough, with a near-direct translation of the first X-Men comic. Titled “Baptism of Fire, Baptism of Ice,” it is told from Bobby Drake/Iceman’s viewpoint. Jean Grey is introduced to the X-Men just before the team has their first battle with Magneto. In the finale, while on a date with a pretty girl, Iceman ends up in a fight with (possibly) a Frost Giant from Jotunheim.
As a story, this installment is just fine. It demonstrates the problems which Jean (known as Marvel Girl early in her career) had to face joining a team full of curious and flirty teenage boys. Since he was the youngest boy and uninterested in dating her, Bobby caused Jean less trouble on this front than Angel and especially Beast did. Surprisingly, Beast made some pretty blatant, determined passes at the new girl during this tale. Given his later, more mature depictions, I never expected to see this kind of behavior from him.
The end for this story was good, in no small part because it showed Stan Lee’s recognition that not everyone fears mutants on sight. Some actually like them and think they are amazing. Although these normal humans might be surprised by a display of astonishing powers, that doesn’t mean they automatically hate mutants. But on the downside this translation adheres far too closely to the original comic’s perspective. It is clearly a narration of a visual story. It gets a little better toward the end, but not by much.
The original team of X-Men: Marvel Girl, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, and Angel.
Following this tale is “First Commitments.” This piece is much better written than the previous story. Jay Sanford, a normal human, is waiting for a job interview at a company called Genetech. Sitting beside him is Hank McCoy – The Beast. To pass the time the two strike up an amiable discussion. Jay feels far inferior to Hank during their chat, as the latter’s intelligence is evident even in a relaxed conversation. So he isn’t surprised when the X-Man gets the job and he is passed over.
However, he is surprised when Genetech calls a few days later and offers him the job Hank supposedly got.
Jay sets to work with a will, studying mutant cells “donated” to Genetech for research purposes. Unfortunately, what he discovers too late is that the company is a front for an organization called the Secret Empire. As power hungry as HYDRA but a bit more subtle, the Empire has infiltrated almost every government branch, police force, etc. in the U.S. In the comics, they actually managed to frame Captain America for a crime and make him a wanted fugitive – until he defeated them on live television on the White House lawn, that is. 😉
Right now, though, the Secret Empire is still in the clandestine stage. And they have used Jay’s discoveries to turn mutants – specifically a number of captive X-Men – into human batteries. Angry and afraid, Jay cannot report the Empire to the authorities because they have been infiltrated to such a degree. Then he gets an idea. Slipping away from the spies that he knows are watching him, Jay manages to get the X-Mansion. Once there he tells the X-Men what he knows and asks for their help.
This has to be my favorite story in the collection. Jay is presented as a thoroughly decent guy who doesn’t care that mutants are different from normal humans. He only cares about what is right, to the point that he risks his life to help stop the Secret Empire in the only way he can. It’s an excellent tale, and possibly the best in the anthology.
“Up the Hill Backwards” is next. Set in the 1980s, it takes place after a battle in NYC that decimated the Morlocks and left a number of X-Men severely wounded. The Morlock survivors and injured X-Men have been taken to the Muir Island Research Center to recover. Since it is run by friend of the team Moira McTaggert, they know they can convalesce without fear of being attacked. But until the injured team recovers, the X-Men are officially out of commission while the downed members to recover.
While they are doing this, Storm and Wolverine head out to deal with some…personal matters. This means they can’t train the new X-Men – Rogue, Psylocke, Dazzler, Longshot, and Havok – who will be required to maintain Professor X’s dream of human/mutant coexistence. So Storm asks Sean Cassidy – formerly known as Banshee – to teach the newbies the ropes.
It is not an easy assignment. Psylocke is arrogant and far too sure of herself, while Rogue is still regarded as a potential enemy due to her mishap with Ms. Marvel. Dazzler is withdrawn, nervous, and has a grudge against Rogue due to an entirely different misunderstanding. And Longshot is as naïve as a child because he’s from an entirely different dimension and has no idea what this world is like.
Worst of all is Havok, Scott Summers’ younger brother Alex. Banshee hopes he will lead the team, but Alex doesn’t want to do it. This isn’t just because he is tired of super heroics and desires a normal life. He’s certain that Sean only wants him to lead the team because of his relationship with Scott, the legendary leader of the X-Men.
That’s not Sean’s intent at all, but Alex won’t listen to reason. He doesn’t recognize his own leadership potential, and combined with his distaste for the role, he only succeeds in making things harder for Banshee. Until an exercise with British intelligence goes horribly wrong, the group looks more like a band of squabbling children than a united team of superheroes.
In terms of storytelling, this installment is very good. Unfortunately, it comes with an attached Warning for Younger Readers. There is a fair bit of foul language present in this tale, which surprised me. I was under the impression that sort of thing crept into the comics in either the ‘90s or the 2000s. Apparently that wasn’t the case. There is also quite a bit of gore, but it isn’t particularly graphic. Not by my standards, at least. So “Up the Hill Backwards” is still a good read, but the language and gore may be a serious problem for some young readers.
Now “The Cause” I disliked a fair bit. Set in the ‘90s, this story revolves around the release of one of the X-Men’s enemies from prison. Reverend Striker – no preacher in the X-Men films – is being released on good behavior. But that performance doesn’t extend to mutants in general or the X-Men in particular.
What is more, Striker’s followers are letting them know it. Led by his right hand man Gabriel Merritt, the “Striker Crusade” has been murdering mutants left and right to send the message that they are ready and willing to kill them all regardless of race, sex, or age. They’ve stirred up a hornet’s nest that has started race riots all over the country. Merritt is pleased with these events but he is not so happy with one of his Crusaders.
More than a little crazy, this girl has developed an intense crush on Merritt. She makes her murders or the murders she participates in more gruesome and twisted for that very reason; she is hoping to impress him and make him fall in love with her. So when he gives her the cold shoulder, she’s more than a little upset. And when his attempt to boost the Crusade by having Striker murdered goes awry, “the voices in her head” give her a new target to focus on. (Hint: it isn’t Striker.)
Thinking back, I believe that this story probably qualifies for a Warning for Younger Readers, too. “Cause” starts with the brutal murder of a young mutant making a living as a stage magician, and it’s about as cruel as you can imagine. So this is a story some younger readers may wish to pass over for a few years along with “Up the Hill Backwards.”
Finally, we have “Gifts.” Set in the early 2000s, this tale follows a more mature Rogue, a humbled Psylocke, and Nightcrawler as they race to save people from Laguardia Airport during an apparent earthquake. With Cerebro detecting mutant activity in the area, the X-Men know they are dealing with one of their own. The problem is they don’t know who they are dealing with. The damage has no discernable pattern or purpose, no one claims credit for the wreckage and, luckily, no one is killed. It looks less like their new mutant is trying to make a statement and more like he/she is just having a temper tantrum.
In addition, each of the X-Men experience strange sensations of increased power during their midnight rescues. The source isn’t immediately visible to these mutant combat veterans/ first responders, but it proves to be as amazing as it is dangerous. By the time they get everything sorted out, dawn is coming.
I enjoyed this story almost as much as “First Commitments.” “Gifts” is vintage X-Men, following the team of three as they search for a mutant just discovering the power they have. There are no villains here and, aside from the constant trouble with earthquakes, no huge stakes. Best of all, this story is very young reader friendly. No curse words, no gore, and no sex. 😉
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Pick up Five Decades of the X-Men at your earliest convenience, readers. Despite the poor grammar (and “The Cause”), this is one Marvel book anyone would be proud to have on their shelf!
Whoo! Last week this blogger did a quick rundown on the (minor) issues she had with Avengers: Infinity War. Having covered those irritating incidents, we can now dive into what was truly enjoyable about this film. And there is a lot to like (warning – there will be spoilers 😉 ).
On a technical level, the film is pretty close to flawless. It never loses track of its story. It doesn’t wander off into the hinterlands or backtrack into the ancient past; neither does it throw flashy special effects in a viewer’s face, hoping to dazzle them with movie magic. No, the movie is a self-contained story that proceeds in a straight line at break neck pace. Ten years of cinematic storytelling have been building up toward this moment, this ultimate battle of good versus evil. It’s been comparable to water building behind a dam until it reaches capacity and bursts.
While this blogger hates the Mad Titan with more passion than Loki or even Thunderbolt Ross, I have to admit that his disproportionate amount of screen time here was necessary. Until now, we have never seen Thanos in action. We have heard the rumors, the horror stories, and have gained some vague idea of what he is capable of accomplishing.
But it all pales in comparison to the truth. Thanos is the single scariest villain in the MCU to date. He is as charismatic as a snake and has a tongue like honey. Trying to reason with him or tell him that he is wrong is like trying to tell a tidal wave to stop. It doesn’t work due to his arrogant certainty that he is right and the rest of the universe is wrong. He wants to be God, and has convinced himself – more or less – that he is, in fact, a deity.
No where is this better demonstrated than with the portrayal of his chief henchman, Ebony Maw. Maw practically worships Thanos and, by extension, death. The only member of the Black Order to receive decent screen time, Maw exhibits a chilling, slavish reverence for the Mad Titan. His speeches about how those whom he is going to murder on his master’s behalf have now had meaning injected into their previously “pointless” lives highlights the evil he and Thanos are perpetrating on innocents throughout the galaxy. It is a scary nod to what some people in real life who followed Hitler or Stalin believed about them and their bloody aims.
Of course, this means that watching Maw get blasted into space was one of the most satisfying moments in the entire film. That was a good scene! I wonder if he found the meaning in his formerly pointless life upon being forcibly ejected into hard vacuum…
Probably not – or at least, not the kind that he was expecting. 😉
Speaking of good scenes, the heroes had plenty of those as well. While the majority did not receive as much screen time as I would have liked, the time they got was used well. This is most true, in my opinion, with regard to Vision and Wanda. They had some of the best scenes in the film. While they play second fiddle to Thanos, their tune is just as impressive (if not moreso) than his was or can ever be.
The trailers didn’t lie; despite the split in the team and the threat of the Accords, Wanda and Vision are dating by Infinity War. Apparently Cap and Tony have been arranging for the two to have some “alone time” in different parts of the world for a few days/weeks for the past two years. Vision turns off his tracking tech and disappears to be with Wanda, giving her a break from being on the run with the rest of the Secret Avengers. At the end of the agreed upon time, he goes back to being an official hero and she returns to being an outlawed heroine.
Their relationship is very, very well presented. Though Paul Bettany has made some joking comments about it (i.e. “I’m an android, [Olsen is] a witch – how does this work…”), that attitude never shows in their performances. They absolutely nailed Vision and Scarlet Witch’s romance in this movie, and they should receive awards for their work. I doubt they will, but they really, really should! 😀
Tony, too, did well in this film. He starts out hemming and hawing over the fact that he was wrong and “broke up the band” in Civil War, but the fact that he deliberately looks the other way when Vision goes to meet Wanda suggests he’s realized that the signing the Accords was a really bad idea. The fact that he also flies off to handle Thanos solo (more or less on purpose) only goes to show that he still hasn’t quite relinquished his irritating tendency to think/say/act like he can “fix” everything with his genius.
But as the battle escalates and the true extent of the threat becomes more and more apparent, his arrogance melts away. Faced with the fact that his nightmare is real – and far worse than he thought – Tony rises to true heroism in his personal battle with Thanos. It’s a great moment (and a terrifying one), when the Mad Titan almost kills him. Strange’s bargain almost seems to be a cheat, as it interrupts Tony’s transformation and seeming achievement of the pinnacle of heroism.
It is, however, nothing of the sort. While Tony has reached a great height, his work is not yet done. He’s the resident super genius of the Avengers, which means that they need him to stop Thanos. Strange’s exchanging the Time Stone for his life makes plenty of sense on that level.
On a more personal one, which the good Sorcerer Supreme may have known as well, Tony hasn’t reached the peak of heroism yet. There is still some unfinished business he has to take care of back home before he is ready to face the final test. He has to patch things up with Steve.
As discussed in the posts about Cap and Tony’s character arcs in Civil War, most of the fallout from the final battle in that film lies squarely on Iron Man’s shoulders. He made the decision to sign the Accords; he fell for Thunderbolt Ross’ honeyed promises, and he is the one who forced the confrontation at the airport in Germany. Nothing Cap did was anything more or less than defensive counter maneuvers to block a literal or figurative punch.
Even when Steve avoided telling Tony about Bucky’s involvement in the murder of the senior Starks, while it wasn’t exactly right, it was certainly not comparable to what the younger man tried to do in Siberia. That entire fiasco, the rift between Tony and practically everyone else on the team, is his fault, not Cap’s. And he has to deal with that; he has to face it. Steve is more than ready to do make amends and move on….
…But when Tony had a chance to begin the catharsis and healing during Infinity War, he didn’t take it. His heroism on Titan is admirable (and Downey Jr.’s acting is fantastic), but it is not yet perfect. And although there are other factors leading up to the Avengers’ loss, his choices are a big part of why the team fails to stop the Mad Titan’s ambitions.
For Iron Man to become a true hero, a real modern knight, he has to face that fact. He has to admit he was “wr-r-r-ong,” to quote the Fonz, and he has to do it to Steve’s face. Cap is more than ready to let bygones be bygones, he just needs Tony to man up and say the word, none of which will happen if Tony is dead. And that’s a big part of why Strange gives the Mad Titan the Time Stone in exchange for Iron Man’s life.
Speaking of those left alive at the end of the movie, Chris Hemsworth pulled off a fantastic performance as the grieving, vengeance-hungry King of Asgard. Thor has been through a lot in a short amount of time, and though he bears up pretty well under it all for most of the film, it’s not hard to see him straining. He’s watched his home, his people, his friends, and his remaining family murdered for nothing. And it’s not hard to see how all of this is affecting him.
The really cool thing is how he shows it in small moments. Rubbing at his wrists with impatience when he thinks no one’s looking. Staring out the windows at nothing but the past. Avoiding eye contact or being a bit more terse and regal than he needs to be to make his point. The anger, pain, grief, and desire to avenge his losses at Thanos’ hands – it’s all there in the little gestures and glances he gives. This has to be one of his best performances yet.
And that goes for the rest of the crew as well. Though they don’t get near enough screen time, the rest of the Avengers and Guardians each get their due. Whether it’s Gamora singing along to one of Quill’s songs at the same time he is or watching Bucky lift Rocket in the air so they can turn in a circle and cover all their bases, the heroes each get a moment to show how far they have come in ten years. It’s a beautiful thing to watch ….
…Which leads us to the biggest and best thing about the otherwise heart-wrenching finale for Infinity War. After all their hard work, the heroes are defeated, and more than half their numbers are erased. It is not at all uncommon to hear modern academics speculate lovingly about how we could save the planet if we murdered eighty or ninety percent of the population. There was a professor some years ago who openly hoped that a mutant Ebola virus would wipe out ninety percent of humanity in order to preserve the environment. (And yes, he received a standing ovation. Why do you ask?)
Infinity War takes these academics’ theories out of the classroom or lecture hall and explores them on the big screen with characters audiences everywhere have come to know and love deeply. Thanos has spent years systematically murdering fifty percent of numerous alien populations throughout the galaxy – up to and including the already halved Asgardian people, who have just lost their homeworld (which was apparently more sparsely inhabited than we thought, given the relatively small number of refugees who got loaded onto the Statesman at the end of Ragnarok).
Right out of the gate, Infinity War offers a very clear presentation of what the world would look like if those who desire the eradication of large numbers of human beings had their way. The Asgardians are practically on the verge of extinction; by Thanos’ own stated objectives, they should be safe from his culling.
But they are not. The Mad Titan walks aboard their ship, ostensibly searching for the Space Stone/Tesseract, and slaughters innocent civilians. Men, women, and children – none are spared, not even the (somewhat improbably) redeemed Loki. According to his mission parameters, there should be no reason for him to do this. Yet he wipes them all out without batting an eye anyway.
His actions put the lie to his rationale that in order to save the environment of the cosmos, he has to bring “balance” to a population that is already teetering on the edge of annihilation. Thanos is no savior, he’s a mass murderer. And those who espouse a similar worldview in real life are no less genocidal than he is.
Most importantly, the final shots for Infinity War and early footage for Endgame show the results of his policy. Panacea is not achieved throughout the universes; instead, chaos reigns. On Earth, planes crash into buildings, raising the death toll even higher as their remaining crews and passengers die in the resultant conflagrations. Uncontrolled vehicles crash into buildings and people, reducing the population again. Governments and infrastructure crumble, leading to anarchy as the rule of civilization dissolves. Food, gas, medicine, and electricity become luxuries as the factories and power plants which supplied them fall out of use, leading to mass starvation and death by disease.
The environment takes a hit with each loss as well. Fires rage from the plane and vehicle crashes; rains erode the carefully maintained terraces on farms and in parks, or lead to floods from dams that overflow with no one to open the channels that will send the water to other areas in a controlled manner. Pets starve when their owners don’t return to feed them, zoo animals die without the care of their handlers, as do animals in farms, labs, and animal shelters worldwide.
“But that’s not what killing eighty or ninety percent of the human race would do!” some cry. They are correct; wiping out more than fifty percent of the global population would make things worse. Entire cities would be fit only for ghosts, and the remaining people would not get to live in mansions with free Wi-Fi, running water, and endless supplies of food. They would have to go out and live in the heat and the cold, hunting and gathering and dying like their ancient ancestors did.
From what we see in both Endgame trailers, this has already happened. Clint is out killing Yakuza who have moved into the power vacuum in a city somewhere, while a refugee camp has been established around the Statue of Liberty, probably by the Avengers. They almost certainly set it up there because it was clean and provided easy access to a food source: fish, crabs, lobsters, and other sea creatures.
Thanos said he would go and watch the sun rise over a grateful universe after he had achieved his goals. But what kind of universe is thankful when half of the people that made it worth living in are turned to ash by a crazy man’s snap? The Titan is truly mad if, in the depths of his soul, he believes the cosmos is actually happy following his deeds. No platitudes of his will make up for the lost children, the vanished spouses, the beloved grandparents, or the acclaimed rulers. If Thanos were to go to New York expecting a warm welcome, he would have to powder more people as they rushed at him in a rage born of grief.
Unlike Loki, however, the Mad Titan has enough of an ego to believe that he can hear the crowds cheering from the fields of his new farm. He does not actually believe the people or the cosmos is appreciative of his actions. If he did, then he would go looking for praise. No, as Gamora said, his only love is for himself and his desires. Being alone on his farm like a“twisted Cincinnatus,” as someone said, is reward enough for his labors.
I, for one, can’t wait to see how the Avengers are going to bring him down. There is the chance that this will be the last hurrah for some of them, and if that is the case, I will be sorry to see them go – especially if they are given a poor send-off. Or if they are replaced with lackluster characters (*cough* Carol Danvers *cough*). For the future of the Marvel Universes and audiences everywhere, I hope Endgame ends better than Infinity War did, with the team back together, the world safe, and Thanos gone for good.
Well, readers, it’s been a fantastic ten years of cinema. And it has to be said that, without them, I would not be here at Thoughts writing to all of you. It’s been a fun ride. I have no idea where things are going to go from here, but I know that everything leading up to this point has been great.
Wow. I knew going in that this film would be intense, but… Whoa…
Yes, I know that I am very late in reviewing this movie. However, this blogger needed to process a lot of what she had seen in order to write a cogent analysis of the film. It’s not much of an excuse for leaving you hanging, readers, but it’s the truth. I had to do a lot of thinking about this film. It’s dense and not for the faint of heart.
This was a great movie. But there were some small items which bothered me while watching the film. These will be discussed today, while the more enjoyable aspects of the movie will be addressed later on.
Because Thanos got most of the screen time here (arrrgh!), I cannot do the characterization posts I enjoyed writing for Age of Ultron and Civil War. He took up too much screen time for more than a couple of the heroes to really stand out. So these reviews are probably going to just be lists of things I enjoyed/noticed in the film which point to the true, the good, and the beautiful.
All right, with that said, now it is time to get down to “tacks of brass” and tell you what I disliked about this movie. Most of these are minor quibbles, really; they do not detract from the film in any major way. But they were kind of annoying.
The first thing I had real trouble buying was Loki’s decision to save Thor after he told Thanos he could kill the King of Thunder. Someone who watched the film with me reminded this blogger that Loki wants to kill his brother himself, and it has to be said that there is some part of the Trickster which may be redeemable. There is good in him – somewhere. Still, although we saw that goodness on display more in Ragnarok than we have in prior installments, I’m not sure this film gave the transition proper justice. They didn’t do badly, but they might have been able to do better.
My next problem came with Pepper. As we see at the beginning of this movie, she is still trying to get Tony to abandon being Iron Man. My response to this is no, No, and NO!!! Good grief, what happened to the Pepper from The Avengers? The one who, like Penelope of old, understood that Tony had a responsibility to protect the Earth, not just himself and her? This selfish twit is a pale shadow of the Pepper Potts we saw in The Avengers and I AM NOT PLEASED WITH HER!!!
What Tony comes to realize here, and what Pepper has forgotten as of this movie, is Spider-Man’s motto: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Tony was not the first superhero, true, but the fact is that after he became Iron Man, he became accountable for more than himself. It is his job to defend America specifically and Earth as a whole from threats foreign and domestic.
If she truly loves Tony, then Pepper will have to learn to love all of him – including his alter ego. Despite what she and he (to a lesser degree) seem to think, the two are not separable; he is both Iron Man and Tony Stark. For him to abandon that responsibility destroys a good part of his identity.
This leads us, neatly enough, to my problem with Hawkeye’s mention in the movie. Believe it or not, I can actually handle the fact that he does not appear in Infinity War. It is disappointing but understandable; with all the other people running around in this film, the odds of him getting decent – if brief – screen time were pretty darn slim. So while I missed him, his lack of presence here was not the problem.
No, my problem was that the writers had him take a deal from the government. What the Sam Hill….? That makes no sense. None. I can see why they would need to do this for Scott Lang, given the plot for Ant-Man and the Wasp, but not for Hawkeye. Knowledge of Scott’s family is a matter of public record. There was no way for him to take Cassie, his ex-wife, and her new husband into hiding. In order to see his daughter in a safe, meaningful way, he would have had to capitulate and take a deal. This is why it makes perfect sense for Scott to be under house arrest in Ant-Man and the Wasp.
It does not make ANY sense for Hawkeye to be under house arrest during Infinity War, which is where Widow says he is. The whole point of Clint’s rebelling against the Accords was to protect his family, to keep them secret. That’s why he smacked the bars on his cell after Tony opened his big fat mouth in the Raft. The absolute last thing he would do would be to sign a deal with the government which kept him under house arrest, since this requires the government to look in him and his family regularly, just as they did with Scott.
Clint made it abundantly clear in Age of Ultron that he wanted knowledge of his family to stay off the record. Even after Tony blabbed about his family, it would have been more sensible (and easier) for Hawkeye and the Secret Avengers to keep his wife and children hidden. All they would have to do was move his family to a new location, either in the U.S. or by seeking asylum in Wakanda. Without a way to track Clint or the Secret Avengers, the government could not use the Barton family as bargaining chips. This would have at least enabled Clint to “retire” with them in relative safety and comfort, if not continue his Avenging career with the rest of the anti-Accords gang every now and then.
For the writers to subvert Clint’s choice like this really bugs me. It also contradicts his previous portrayal and plays directly into the stereotypical trap that Pepper has fallen into. Clint Barton is a father and a husband first and foremost, yes, but if he wants to keep his family’s lives secure, he has avoid letting the government know about them at the least. There are no two ways about this and the writers should have handled it better than they did.
One of my other issues with the film came at the end of the story, when the “Snapture” begins to take a universal effect. Most of the unnamed people who are erased in Wakanda are guys. It appears from the camera shots that almost all of the Dora Milaje – T’Challa’s bodyguard and ceremonial wives’ corps – are left standing. I guess the writers and directors figured they wouldn’t be able to get past the Hollywoond censors if they wiped out half the women warriors in Wakanda.
Personally, I think erasing Okoye rather than T’Challa might have made more sense to the narrative and had more of an impact on audiences. But, heck, what do I know? I’m just a fan.
Another point of contention I have with the film is Thanos’ sacrifice of Gamora to gain the Soul Stone. The idea, as expressed in the film, that this works because he “loves” her is…sticky in one sense but, in another, it works pretty well. As Gamora herself says, what Thanos feels for her is not true love. He loves her as a reflection of his own brilliance and glory, not for herself. Technically, because he does not truly love Gamora, throwing her off a cliff to her death should not “earn” him the Soul Stone.
On the other hand the Stone may not be able to determine the difference between real love and selfish love. It may recognize and respond to either type, or just to the fact that a soul has been offered to it. Any one of these three things could make it acquiesce to being taken by the sacrificer. There is no clarification given in the movie for how this works, though, so viewers don’t know which it is for certain.
My final complaints about the film were the three-on-one fight with Proxima Midnight and the scene where Gamora cries after she thinks she has killed Thanos. In a way, both of these things make sense. But the method in which they were accomplished left something to be desired for this viewer.
We will deal with the cat fight first. It has been shown throughout this film franchise that the male Avengers are naturally chivalrous. They tend to go easy on their female opponents. This is demonstrated best in Civil War when Scott Lang/Ant-Man sheepishly admits that he doesn’t want to hurt Natasha, who promptly does a number on him. Therefore, if you want a no-holds-barred fight with Proxima Midnight, sending the Black Widow, Wanda Maximoff, and Okoye after the leader of the Black Order means there will be no need to tear off the kid gloves.
The quandary comes in the portrayal of Okoye and Natasha’s trading nods like equals. As far as we have seen, here and in previous films, the two have never met or spent much time together. These slight nods that hint at a friendship between the two therefore have no weight, since we never saw them together before this film came out.
More importantly, Natasha and Okoye are not equals. Okoye is a general, a soldier. War is her business and her element, as shown in Black Panther. The woman practically lives for the thrill of battle.
In contrast, Natasha is a super spy. She was raised to be a solo operative who got in and out of areas and scenarios no one else could. Subterfuge is her expertise and her greatest weapon, even now. Fighting alongside the Avengers does not make her a soldier, since as Tony said in The Avengers, they ARE NOT soldiers. They are, rather, para-military commandos. A situation arises, the Avengers ride in, dispatch the bad guys, pull the plug on their evil scheme(s), and go home. That is it.
Even when they end up in situation like that seen at the start of Age of Ultron, the team is operating in the manner that Special Forces units do. The field of combat there may be wider than the one Natasha was accustomed to when working for the KGB and SHIELD, but in form it is not that different. When she is in the field with the Avengers she is doing what she has always done the way that she has always done it.
As we saw in Black Panther, Okoye has very little patience for the arts of subtlety and guile. She can’t keep up a cover identity for more than fifteen or twenty minutes, tops. Unlike the patient Widow spinning a web to ensnare a foe, Okoye is a tigress who hunts in the open because she revels in the fear she inspires in her opponents. The two are nothing alike, and to suggest that they are in any way similar through these minute gestures was a stupid move on the part of the writers. It completely upset the tempo of the otherwise magnificent fight with Proxima.
Finally, we come to Gamora crying over Thanos. While it is true that she hates Thanos for everything he did to her and everything he made her become, the fact is that she does share a relationship with him. In a twisted, dark way she owes him her life. There is no way for Gamora to really escape that fact, even though she wishes she could. This scene also makes it clear that she sincerely pities the Mad Titan for his blindness to real love and beauty. It makes total sense that she would start crying after “killing” him.
What does not make sense is that she didn’t see through his Reality Stone ruse. Nor does it make sense for her to break down so completely in this moment. And as an assassin, she ought to know that it is better to mourn in private, after she has made sure her target is really dead. The fact that she falls apart here shows she is letting her feelings rule her.
This is a weakness she cannot afford in this war, but which she gives into anyway. While it is understandable and excusable from our point of view, it is neither within the context of the story. Her breakdown here was more than a little annoying for that reason. The universe is at stake and yet she stops to fall on her knees and cry over Thanos? Doesn’t it make more sense to do that in her room AFTER she is sure that the universe is safe and daddy’s not coming back to kill half the cosmic population? *Sigh….*
These are, as I noted above, very small nitpicks with this film. On the whole, this movie is fantastic!!! And with Avengers: Endgame set to be released in April/May of this year, we won’t have that much longer to wait until we know how it all ends. Here’s hoping it is one of those finales where, as Samwise Gamgee’s gaffer would say, “…all’s well as ends better!”
As many, if not most, of you know by now, Stan Lee died on the morning of November 12, 2018. It was sad news for all the Marvelites who had enjoyed his universe and characters since childhood. We knew that someday Stan would have to go on the Great Adventure all his heroes were preparing us to face in the future, naturally, but we put all thoughts of his departure as far from our minds as possible.
This made it a blow when we got the news that he had passed through the curtain to the Other Side. I hope his wife and his second daughter were waiting for him when he got off the train. But as with my own fate, what has become of him now will remain a mystery until it is my turn to go through the curtain.
To say that Stan Lee and his friends at Marvel impacted this blogger’s life enormously would be an understatement. Without him and his compatriots, most of whom predeceased him, Thoughts on the Edge of Forever would not exist in the form you know it, readers. The first post I wrote here focused on Marvel’s The Avengers, the big box office hit of 2012 that kicked off roughly ten years of cinematic fun. And as long time readers know, most of the criticism on this site has been aimed at Marvel’s current hierarchy precisely because they were dishonoring Stan Lee’s legacy before he had even said his last, “Excelsior!”
None of this is to imply that Stan Lee was perfect. That would be ridiculous; he was a man, a fallen, flawed human being like me and everyone else in this world. I don’t think he was perfect. Perfect isn’t the point. He was a good storyteller and a good friend to all those who loved his and his company’s work, whether they met him in person or not.
Without his heroes – his flawed, human heroes – lots of people would have thrown in the towel on life and limb a long time ago. Captain America, Hawkeye, Spider-Man, Wasp, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, Storm, Cyclops, Rogue, Gambit, Wolverine, Mirage, Black Widow, Falcon, Sunfire, Luke Cage, Namor the Submariner, Hulk, Thor Odinson, Black Panther, Professor X, Silver Sable – they all inspired someone. They all faced evils we could relate to, or could see ourselves encountering some day. They could have turned back from fighting evil lots of times under Stan’s leadership, but they didn’t. They all thought, “I can’t hang on much longer…!” only to come to the conclusion that they had to hang on longer, even if it killed them. Without their strength, many of us would have stopped holding on and fighting years ago.
So I will be forever grateful to Stan Lee for bringing these characters to the world, and for each story he wrote, approved, or spearheaded. Quaint or odd as it may seem, I wouldn’t be the person I am today without his help, distant though it was. Keep on going “ever higher,” Stan. We’ll be rooting for you until it’s our turn to finally glance over our shoulders, give everyone behind us a thumbs up, and say: “’Nuff said.”
I don’t know if this is a new trailer, exactly; it seems to be a conglomeration of several TV spots and trailers. But it does give us more of a look at the film and how the danger has been dialed up to twenty this go around.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 😉
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.