My Unpopular Concern Regarding Captain Marvel

There’s a lot riding on Marvel’s latest installment, Captain Marvel.  With this being the final chapter leading into what we can only believe to be the end of the current iteration of Marvel movies (a journey that’s lasted over ten years), Captain Marvel has to get it just right.  I have three concerns I’d like to discuss with you.  The first two probably won’t be a factor.  The third could very well be a reality.

First and foremost, Marvel needs to prove they can produce a film featuring a female lead.  Captain Marvel is a great character to achieve this goal, though many wonder why Black Widow hasn’t already gotten the call to action.  To me, it’s rather obvious.  Centering a movie around a former Russian assassin sounds like an engaging concept, but not when Disney is your corporate owner focused on creating family-friendly super hero films.  Captain Marvel has the potential to rival Wonder Woman in terms of charisma and broad appeal, but I think she’s fighting an uphill battle because the average person just doesn’t know her.  I personally don’t believe Marvel has a standout female hero at all that the general public is aware of, and this saddens me, but hopefully Captain Marvel will change that.

Secondly, Captain Marvel can’t–simply cannot–act as a deus ex machina that changes everything at the last minute leading into Avengers: Endgame.  I’m already suspicious of Nick Fury only now deciding to “beep” Captain Marvel after failing to do so for an alien invasion, a murderous robot, an angry Norse god, and a rampaging green Goliath, but that’s fine.  Story elements can’t be predicted, especially when creating a ten-year odyssey.  My hope is that they will explain Captain Marvel’s absence, and that they won’t have her execute her own version of the finger snap.  Infinity War needs to have real repercussions.  I’m not so naive as to believe Spider-Man or Black Panther will stay dead, but I feel that if Captain Marvel reverses time or undoes death than the last ten years will have been a sham.  For the record, I don’t believe they will do this in Captain Marvel, but the possibility does concern me.  I think the creators behind the Marvel movies know how to satisfy the audience without cheating their story.

Along those lines, the Skrulls better not pull the kind of shenanigans they do in the comics.  If you’re not familiar with this alien race, they are capable of shape-shifting.  They have literally posed as super heroes in the Marvel Comics Universe for years.  Just read Secret Invasion if you want an infuriating example of this.  This is the scenario that causes me the most apprehension because I think there is a good possibility that they will spring this one on us.  Imagine a story where the Skrulls were so deep undercover that they didn’t even know they weren’t human.  Envision a plot in which the undercover Skrull super hero dies due to Thanos’ snap, but then the real super hero is freed from Skrull detainment to rescue the universe.  It would be a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” kind of situation.  Marvel has done this sort of thing in the comic books, and it made me feel very cheated.  If Captain Marvel is simply a vehicle to lead us into a Skrull invasion that will culminate in Endgame

As it happens, I’m seeing Captain Marvel soon.  You can expect my review immediately thereafter.  I’m excited to see it, but I’m also somewhat leery due to the Skrull element of the film.  We’ll know soon enough!

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE)

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The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen by Hope Nicholson – A Book Review

I got this item for free on Amazon Vine.  When I saw it, I thought it would be perfect for my eight-year-old daughter.  She’s developed a real affinity for super heroes, and I particularly want her to realize there are plenty of strong, intelligent, respectable female super heroes as well.

Initially, I assumed this would be a reference book of our most popular female heroes for her to both enjoy and from which to learn.  That was my mistake.  (That sounds overly dramatic.  This is not a negative review at all.  I’ll explain in a bit …)

As is my habit when I get unknown books for my children, I preview them first.  It became very obvious very quickly that this is not intended for an eight-year-old.

This is not so much a reference book as it is a historical overview of female comic book characters going as far back as the 1930s.  The book is divided into chapters by decade and presents anywhere from five to twelve characters per chapter.  The author tries to choose culturally important characters or characters that influenced the industry, and is sure to include an “Icon Of the Decade” at the end of every chapter.  The characters are incredibly diverse and from a wide range of publishers.

These publishers sometimes include those of the “adult” variety, and so some of the illustrations may be a little more suited for an older audience.  Like I said, I assumed this book was meant for children, and that’s my mistake.  There is a long, sordid history of objectification and exploitation of female characters in comic books, and this book does not shy away from that fact.

Nicholson has written a well-researched historical guide of influential female characters throughout the medium’s evolution.  She also provides nice insight and a funny sense of humor.  As my daughter ages, I will be more than happy to let her look through this book in order to understand the journey of the female comic book character as well as the growth of the industry.  In regards to females, comic books have come a long, long way, though there is still room to grow.

I am heartened that the final chapter, the 2010s, showcase some outstanding characters who are self-reliant, intelligent, strong, full of story, and largely free of being sexualized.  As a father of two little girls, I pray this is indicative of a change in societal views as well.

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Mighty Thor: Thunder In Her Veins by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman – A Book Review

This new approach to Thor is both refreshing and inspired.  As you can see from the cover, Thor is no longer the Thor with whom you’ve grown familiar.  Thor is now, well, a woman.  A masked woman, in fact.  By the time this volume rolls around, it’s already established that the new Thor is actually Jane Foster, a long time supporting character in the Marvel Universe and one-time love interest to the previous Thunder God.

There are several reasons the Jane Foster Thor has completely won me over.  The first reason is that the entire Marvel version of Norse mythology is being reintroduced to the reader as she gets to know it on a very personal level.  As Thor, she’s more exposed to the gods than ever before, and it’s fun to see each Norse deity broken down to his or her most basic, and potent, element.  Consequently, I recently read Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, and Jason Aaron, author of Mighty Thor, is actually staying true to quite a bit of the source material.  Marvel has never claimed to exactly represent the Norse gods as they appeared in legend, if they did Thor would have been a lot different indeed, but Jason Aaron does accurately reference some rather significant moments from the myths of old.

Another reason I’m captivated by Jane Foster as Thor is that she is always the underdog.  She’s always having to prove herself, whether it be in debate, strategy, or battle.  I imagine this could be considered representative of women in virtually all aspects of life, but in the case of this comic book, it’s a captivating recurring plot device.  We are accustomed to the old Thor handling everything that comes his way.  We know basically how he’s going to prove victorious and how he’s going to sound doing it.  With Jane, though, everything old is literally new again.

Finally, Aaron has upped the stakes significantly by killing Jane Foster every time she transforms into Thor.  Jane is fighting cancer, but the cosmic power of Thor counteracts her chemotherapy which results in Jane getting worse and worse every time she wields Mjolnir.  Foster is the epitome of valor as she chooses to help others while killing herself in doing so.  This contradiction is fascinating, especially because Jane Foster is a charismatic character.  I want her to be Thor, yet I also want her to survive.  This dichotomy is incredibly captivating.

Obviously, I love Jason Aaron’s writing.  Not only does he seamlessly blend authentic Norse mythology into his Thor stories, but he also understands what makes dynamic characters, pacing, and plot.  Best of all, he writes fluid, believable dialogue.  In the comic book industry, it’s rare for a writer to do all of these things well.

Also, Russell Dauterman, the artist, is fantastic.  Like Aaron, he utilizes an amazing ability to make the Norse gods look like the gods of myth, yet he’s also made them modern and even, in most cases, futuristic.  It’s a beautiful combination of myth, fantasy, and science fiction.  Most importantly, though, he creates dynamic panels that push both the reader and the action forward.  His drawings are detailed, well proportioned, well arranged, and his Thor is somehow the perfect combination of power and femininity.  On that same note, he also manages to make Jane Foster physically frail while still retaining a power and fire within her eyes and body language.

Honestly, I typically try to find something to critique in my reviews in order to offer some sort of objectivity, but with Mighty Thor I have no complaints.  For me, this is a perfect volume, through and through.  I can’t wait to read the next installment.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Han Solo by Majorie Liu and Mark Brooks – A Book Review

As you know, Disney bought Marvel some time ago, and then Disney bought the Star Wars franchise as well, so it only makes sense that Marvel would return to publishing Star Wars comics.  I have to be honest, I’ve been pleased with virtually every title Marvel has released belonging to the Star Wars universe, and Han Solo is no exception.

This limited series takes place soon after the first destruction of the Death Star.  The premise is rather simple – Han takes on a mission given to him by Leia, whom he seemingly can’t refuse.  He is to rescue some embedded Rebel spies posing as Imperial loyalists.  A famous space race is due to occur near the very planets he is to rescue Leia’s agents, and so Han will use the race as a cover for his real mission.  There’s only one problem – one of those supposed Alliance members is actually a traitor, but they don’t know which one!

Han Solo offers no backstory concerning the icon.  It does not touch upon the origin of his friendship with Chewbacca.  In other words, it steers very clear of any meaty topics the impending movie will likely address.

However, that’s not to say the book is a failure or boring.  Quite the opposite!  In fact, I think this book does a wonderful job establishing an important shift in Han.

I just watched Episodes IV, V, and VI with my young daughters, and I noticed that Han went from being a snarky, selfish pirate to a loyal, selfless hero rather quickly.  Of course, those are movies and have to operate by a different standard of pacing, but when watched in succession it’s a bit jolting.

This series showcases the struggle taking place within Han Solo.  He grapples throughout the book not only with doing the right thing, but also with introspection concerning why he’s doing the right thing at all.  Best of all?  Like Huck Finn, Han has a habit of acting heroically when he doesn’t have time to think.  There is a heart of gold under all that scruffiness, and this book makes a point to shine a spotlight upon it.

Furthermore, we hear a lot in the movies about what a great pilot Han is.  This book takes that to heart while illustrating Han’s skill on multiple occasions.  The race, called the Dragon Void, is designed to disable, even injure, the participants, and so Han must outrace, out think, and outmaneuver his opponents, all while dealing with the Empire as well as a potential traitor on his own ship.

But he does this with his usual swagger, charm, and aloofness.  Han Solo will never stand up front and center and declare himself a hero; he will typically do the right thing while self-deprecating and playing up an aspect of reluctance.  Because of this, the book helps bridge the gap between Han Solo of Star Wars and Han Solo of The Empire Strikes Back.  It hints at the good man into which Han will evolve.

It also works to establish a bit more of Han and Leia’s relationship.  Neither of these two individuals are likely to throw themselves at someone, yet, honestly, the movies progress their relationship along at a pretty fast pace.  The book does an excellent job of inching their romance along, slowly, awkwardly, even confrontationally.  But, by story’s end, there is a spark, an acknowledgement that an epic love story is about to begin.

The art, by the way, is very good.  Mark Brooks has truly captured the characters’ likenesses from film without making them appear too rigid.  His spacecraft are fun while appearing consistent with established mythology and his aliens are varied and interesting.  Best of all, he conveys motion well, especially in regards to the race.  It’s very important that comic book artists are able to literally move a story along from panel to panel, and Brooks manages to service Liu’s pacing well.

If you’re a Star Wars or Han Solo fan, this book will not disappoint.  I know on the surface it seems a little superficial with the clichéd race plot, but Liu offers some deeply interesting characterization and motivation for Han Solo that only enriches the character and grounds his actions in the films.

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Star Wars: Rebel Jail (Volume 3) – A Book Review

Marvel Comics’ Star Wars continues to thrill with the third installment entitled Rebel Jail.  The premise is that Princess Leia and Han Solo’s former flame, Sana Starros, must deliver Dr. Aphra to a secret prison run by the Rebels.  If you’re unfamiliar with Dr. Aprha, she is a breakout character from the Darth Vader series and a fan favorite.  However, while at the prison, an assassin arrives with his own killer droid unit.  He’s not there to break anyone out, though.  Quite the opposite.

This volume is very interesting because it begins with a standalone story featuring a Rebel spy deeply embedded within the Empire who comes face-to-face with the Emperor himself.  The core of the book then features Leia and Sana, who must team up with Dr. Aphra as they deal with the crisis at the Rebel prison.  A subplot also exists featuring Han and Luke that finally reveals why Leia likes to refer to Han as a “nerf herder.”  Finally, the last component stars the always-charming Obi-Wan Kenobi during his time on Tatooine while looking over a young Luke.  

This volume is incredibly fast-paced with on-the-spot characterization and a great mix of humor, action, and epic fantasy.  Dr. Aphra and Sana Starros are perfect additions to the Star Wars mythology, and this book offers them a real opportunity to shine along Princess Leia’s side.

You can’t miss with this series and the current volume continues a masterful standard.

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Star Wars: Darth Vader (Volume 1) by Gillen and Larroca – A Book Review

Recently released by Marvel Comics, this first collected volume of the Darth Vader comic book series is everything a Star Wars fan desires.

Focusing solely on Darth Vader following the events of A New Hope, the dark lord must learn who destroyed the Death Star even as the Emperor seemingly seeks to replace him.  Vader must build his own army separate from the Empire as a safety net, but how does a villain of even his caliber go about doing so?

This volume introduces new, interesting characters while utilizing favorites like Boba Fett and Jabba the Hutt.  It references previous movies and may even offer hints to The Force Awakens.  It will satisfy even the most devout of Star Wars fans.

The art is fantastic.  Pay no attention to the fact you can’t see Vader’s face, Salvador Larroca masterfully conveys Vader’s every emotion through a tilt of the head or the power of a stance.  Salvador delivers visually the Vader we all love — regal, menacing, and powerful.

The author, Kieron Gillen, clearly understands Darth Vader, and he clearly understands why we are drawn to the villain.  Vader says little in this volume, because he doesn’t have to say much at all for both the other characters and the audience to perfectly understand his position on matters.  The story itself is captivating and important in that it informs us as to how Vader discovered Luke Skywalker’s identity.  It establishes the tension between the Emperor and Vader, and it even offers glimpses into the man trapped inside the machine.

This is the Darth Vader you’ve always wanted.  This is the Darth Vader with whom you fell in love.  This series gets everything right.

My Knee-Jerk Reaction To the New Thor

Today we learned there will be a new Thor, and this Thor is female.  My first reaction to this news is, “Thank goodness they are not calling her ‘Lady Thor’ or ‘Thorette.'”  I also thought, “Hey, she’s fully dressed – good!”

I had these initial reactions because these are two issues that bother me to no end.  I have two very young daughters, and we love super heroes.  But it irritates me that most of our super hero toys are male – Superman, Batman, Iron Man, etc.  In fact, my oldest daughter asked me when she was four if there were female super heroes besides Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Batgirl.  Of course there are, we all know there are, but I started coming up with names like Spider-Woman, Batwoman, She-Hulk, and something dawned on me.  By and large, most of our female super heroes are derivatives of a male counterpart.  Those who are original, such as Wonder Woman or Black Canary, tend to wear little clothing or fish-net stockings.  I think this is a bad message to my daughters.

I want my daughters to know that they can and should rely on themselves.  I want them to be original, innovative, and free-thinkers.  I don’t want them assuming that they should only take an existing idea and alter it.  They need to always strive to break the mold, to do things their own way, and to avoid letting gender come into the issue at all.

Marvel Comics is a corporate entity.  I’m thrilled that they’ve allowed Black Widow to shine in their cinematic universe, but in the comic book universe, there is much room for improvement.  But, because they are a corporate entity, oftentimes their books are determined by the bottom line – profit.  Why not give this new “Thor” her own identity and let her float?  Because there is a good chance she would sink.  Don’t get me wrong, I would constantly take chances on new, original characters – both male and female.  Unfortunately, I’m not in charge of Marvel, and if I was, I’d probably drive them out of business pretty quickly (or take them to soaring new heights).

You take a female character, put a very well-known brand title on her (Thor), and she will make money.  From Marvel’s perspective, they are doing something initially perceived as risky and progressive, but there’s really no risk at all.  Comic books are largely a male dominated field on both the production side of things as well as in regards to the readership.  Plus, we all know the male Thor will be back before Avengers 2 comes out.

I’m the first to admit this is all speculation.  We don’t know much of anything about the new Thor.  It’s a knee-jerk reaction and I addressed that fact in the title of this article.

But I wish I didn’t have to settle.  I wish I didn’t only feel good about the fact that they aren’t calling her “Lady Thor” and that she’s fully clothed.  I wish my daughters had heroes that matched their imagination and independence.

 

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