Tag Archives: female heroes

How A Female 007 Can Succeed Or Fail

We live in a strange era of popular culture. While trends and tastes are always changing, I can’t recall a time when they’ve changed in such varying ways. Superhero movies went from being a niche genre to the biggest box office draw in history. Beloved children’s movies are becoming live-action remakes. Horror movies are even starting to reinvent themselves.

One trend that has garnered more controversy than most has to do with a certain kind of remake. Specifically, it involves remakes that attempt to swap the gender, race, or some other characteristic of an iconic character. The first major franchise to try this was “Ghostbusters” in 2016 and to say that this was controversial would be like calling a tornado laced with cow shit a light breeze.

Now, I’ve tried to stay out of the discussions involving gender-swapping or race-swapping because it’s rarely productive. I’ve never seen those discussions produce anything other than frothing hatred, regardless of whether it’s online or in person. With the COVID-19 pandemic finally waning and movie theaters opening back up, I’m content to just go into movies with an open mind and hope for the best.

However, I don’t see this trend ending anytime soon. Even though “Ghostbusterstanked at the box office, I suspect Hollywood will keep trying to push the envelope, if only to garner attention and clicks. The prevailing sentiment seems to be that the old ways of crafting characters, villains, and stories just isn’t viable anymore. They need to shake things up and do things differently.

I can already sense certain people banging their heads against the wall or groaning in dismay, lamenting over the idea that Disney may one day make an “Indiana Jones” reboot featuring a black transgender double-amputee woman as the new Dr. Jones. I understand that dread. At the same time, I think there is room for innovation. It’s just a matter of not destroying what makes stories, franchises, and iconic characters great.

One franchise that is poised for a new direction that may either reinvigorate or regress it completely is the James Bond franchise. In terms of franchises in need of a boost, I think Bond needs one more than most. The last entry, “Spectre,” was somewhat of a downgrade compared to the billion-dollar box office that “Skyfall” achieved. On top of that, Daniel Craig has made clear that he wishes to move on from the character.

For a while, the big controversy was the rumor that Idris Elba would take over as the new James Bond. While Elba eventually debunked that rumor, it still ignited a glut of angry debates over the future of the franchise that only got worse when issues of racism entered the conversation. Now, if recent rumors surrounding the development of the next Bond movie, “No Time To Die,” are true, those debates will only intensify.

While the details haven’t been confirmed, the plot of the upcoming movie includes Lashana Lynch playing a black, female agent who may or may not be Bond’s replacement. Not surprisingly, this has generated plenty of uproar and it will only intensify if these details prove accurate. While I don’t have any strong feelings about Ms. Lynch playing 007, I suspect the controversy it garners will extend beyond the movie.

After what happened with “Ghostbusters,” there’s certainly cause for concern. Aside from losing money, that movie damaged both a franchise and a concept. It showed just how badly things can go when a franchise attempts to reinvent itself in a way that panders to political sensibilities while undercutting the very things that made that franchise great.

I don’t think James Bond is in a position to endure that kind of setback. It doesn’t have the same status as “Star Wars” and occupies a genre that is difficult to adapt to a world where internet trolls are a more pressing threat than Russian spies. At the same time, I believe the James Bond franchise is in a better position than “Ghostbusters” or “Star Wars” to succeed in a way others haven’t.

Make no mistake. The odds of the next Bond movie succeeding are stacked against it. If this movie tries too hard to be too progressive, then it won’t just ruin the story. It’ll set the franchise back for years. If it succeeds, however, it could reinvent the franchise in a way that will appeal to a new generation who never had to worry about Soviet sleeper agents.

Without knowing the details of the plot, it’s difficult to know how it will pan out. However, I believe there’s a right way to do a remake that attracts a new audience while not alienating long-time fans. Unfortunately, there are always fewer right ways to do things than wrong ways. What follows is my idea on how this new era of James Bond can succeed and how it may ultimately fail.


How A Female 007 Can Succeed

Female James Bond: 10 Actresses We Think Should Play 007

This is, by far, the most important aspect of the upcoming movie. If 007 is going to be a black woman played by Lashana Lynch, then this part has to work. I understand that’s a tall order. Some may say it’s impossible. I respectfully disagree. I believe that there’s no reason 007 can’t be someone of a different race or gender. It’s just a matter of building that story around that of James Bond.

Please note that I differentiate between 007 and James Bond. While I realize the two titles often go hand-in-hand, I don’t think they’re dependent on one another. James Bond can still be the same womanizing, martini-loving super spy he’s always been without the title of 007. In fact, he’s been disavowed and fired from his role on more than one occasion in more than one movie.

Titles like 007 change hands all the time in the world of James Bond. It wouldn’t completely undermine the spirit of James Bond for someone else to wield that title in some capacity, even if they’re black and female. It’s just a matter of building a proper story around it.

If the plot rumors are to be believed, James Bond is still alive in this movie. However, he has since retired from MI-6. That opens the door for someone else to take on the title of 007 and that’s where Ms. Lynch’s character comes in. Due to this connection, their paths eventually cross and the story evolves from there.

I believe this story can work, but only if both James Bond and Ms. Lynch’s character complement one another. By that, I mean they have to be true equals in terms of skill, grit, and charisma. Ms. Lynch can’t just be another female agent who occasionally clashes with Q and Moneypenny. She has to share Bond’s bravado, recklessness, and cunning.

That gives her and Bond a reason to work together. It also compounds the threats, danger, and volatility of the conflict. They don’t have to be best friends and they don’t have to try to seduce one another. They just have to demonstrate that they need each other. They make each other better at what they do. One need not outshine the other.

How they achieve this depends on the plot. It certainly won’t be easy and I definitely have my doubts that it can be done. I don’t think it’s impossible, though. If those involved find a way, then it could be a bold new direction for the James Bond franchise. There will always be room for James Bond, but having a new 007 in the mix could open up many possibility.


How A Female 007 Can Fail

There are almost too many ways for me to list how this idea can fail. Like I said earlier, making a bold concept work is difficult. Failing spectacularly is easy. For James Bond, it’s just a matter of how that failure plays out. I think the biggest risk may come from this movie not learning the same lessons as the “Ghostbusters” remake.

Chief among those lessons is maintaining the spirit of the original. James Bond is a womanizing, martini-loving embodiment of raw masculinity. Trying to make him something other than that or trying to make him the antagonist will completely derail both the story and long-time fans. Even if Ms. Lynch’s character is done well, it won’t matter whatsoever if James Bond isn’t James Bond.

Even if James Bond’s character remains intact, Ms. Lynch’s character could also derail the movie just as much. If she’s going to wield the title of 007, she can’t just be some flat character with no distinct personality traits. Being black and female, there will be a temptation to make her either too much like Bond or too different.

If she’s too competent, then she could get lumped with the infamous Mary Sue label that plagued Rey in “Star Wars.” If she’s just as reckless and promiscuous as Bond, then she’s not her own character. She’s just a black, female James Bond and nothing more. It may seem like an either/or scenario, but I believe there’s plenty of room to disguinish her. I’m just not convinced that the lessons of “Ghostbusters” have sunk in.

Even if both Ms. Lynch’s character and James Bond are intact, there’s still the matter of the overall story. That could easily get lost in the effort to make Ms. Lynch a convincing 007 that fans will embrace. If the villain or threat is unoriginal or predictable, then even quality characterization won’t help the movie succeed.


Like superhero movies, James Bond movies often succeed on the strength of their villains. Times have changed since the Cold War. The biggest threats of today aren’t what they were in the mid-20th Century when James Bond established himself as the ultimate spy. Recent movies, going back to “Casino Royale,” have noted that Bond is a relic of a bygone era. That doesn’t mean he can’t have a place in the 21st century.

At the moment, if I had to bet money on the success or failure of this movie, I would bet on it failing. I wouldn’t bet everything, but I believe the odds are stacked against it. Between the outrage culture that constantly rages on the internet and the growing cynicism surrounding remakes and reboots, there are so many forces working against this movie besides just making it entertaining.

However, James Bond is one of those rare franchises that has endured for decades. It has found ways of reinventing itself before. If ever there was a franchise that could raise to the challenge, it’s this one. Time will tell, but it’ll take more than gadgets, martinis, and sex appeal beat the odds.

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Filed under gender issues, movies, outrage culture, political correctness, politics, sex in media, sex in society

Black Widow Review: A Bittersweet Conclusion Atop A Marvelous Legacy

The following is a video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It is a full, spoiler-filled review of “Black Widow.” After multiple delays and a global pandemic, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is back. Was it worth the wait? Does it measure up to previous MCU movies? Does it give Natasha Romanov the appropriate send-off she deserves? These are all questions I try to answer in this review. Enjoy!

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My “Wonder Woman 1984” Review: An (Imperfect) Emotionally Charged Wonder

We’re at a point with superhero movies where the bar has been raised to such a degree that we can’t just call them a passing fad anymore. Love them or hate them, superhero movies have evolved. They’ve developed a complexity and nuance that few genres ever gain, regardless of medium.

Plus, they make billions at the box office. Let’s not forget that. It’s why the Bill Mahers of the world won’t stop whining about superhero movies anytime soon.

Forgetting the whiners and petty nit-pickers of the genre, superhero movies have a higher threshold to achieve to be considered successful. It’s not enough anymore than to just put a famous actor or actress in an iconic costume and replay famous scenes from comics. The story, characters, and themes have to be refined and compelling.

That’s a challenge for any movie, but one that felt far more daunting for “Wonder Woman 1984.” After the success of the first “Wonder Woman” movie, which did a masterful job of establishing Diana’s origin and building her superhero persona, this sequel is tasked with building on that foundation.

As someone who loved the first movie and made it a point to watch “Wonder Woman 1984” on HBO Max with my mom on Christmas day, I had high hopes for this movie. I wasn’t expecting “The Dark Knight” level of quality, but I was hoping for a worthy follow-up.

Without giving away too many spoilers, I’ll say without hesitation that it succeeded. This movie was a beautiful, emotionally driven cinematic experience and a worthy successor to the first “Wonder Woman.”

I say that knowing that some reviews were quite scathing in their assessment of the film. As is my general rule, I never read reviews before I see a movie. As I saw withNew Mutants,” that can wrongly color your perspective. As was also the case with that movie, I was genuinely surprised by the criticisms levied against “Wonder Woman 1984.”

However, I’m not going to waste my time responding to those criticisms. I’m just going to offer my take on why I thought this movie was a worthy follow-up to the first. Like any sequel, its primary goal was building on what the first movie established. In that sense, this movie did succeed.

The setup for the movie is a dazzling spectacle. Like the first, we get a brief glimpse of Diana’s youth on Themysicra. We see her living and growing amongst her Amazon sisters, showing the kind of power and potential that lies within her. It’s a true sight to behold and one director Patty Jenkins fleshes out meticulously.

Within that setup, though, is an important theme. It highlights the importance of truth and doing things the right way for the right reasons. You cannot and should not take shortcuts to achieve your goal. Doing so will always come at a price and incur consequences. It’s a simple, but necessary lesson that kids and adults alike often learn the hard way.

That leads us directly to the main antagonist of the movie, Maxwell Lord. Played by Pedro Pascal, he comes off as the very antithesis of this lesson. He’s a con-man and a huckster, always looking for a shortcut to get what he wants. That includes tampering with the forces of the gods, which puts him in direct conflict with Diana.

At the same time, this conflict ties closely to another unfolding with Diana’s new friend, Barbara Minerva. Played by Kristen Wiig, she comes off at first as the very antithesis of Diana. She’s a nobody. She has none of Diana’s power, grace, or skill. She’s basically invisible, only ever getting attention from people she doesn’t like.

This is very much in line with the characterization of Barbara Minerva in the comics. She’s Wonder Woman’s chief rival, but she started out as a friend. She’s even sympathetic to some extent. She’s not looking to become a villain, like Maxwell Lord. She just wants a taste of the power and prestige that she sees in Wonder Woman.

She ultimately gets her chance, as does Maxwell Lord. When Barbara stumbles upon the Dreamstone, a relic imbued with the power from Dolos, the god of lies, that can grant wishes to those who wield it. However, like a typical monkey’s paw narrative, every wish comes at a price.

It closely mirrors the lesson young Diana learned in her youth, as depicted in the movie’s opening scenes. Taking any shortcut to get what you desire will come at a price. You can try to avoid the consequences all you want, but it eventually compounds. The more you try, the worse it’ll get.

Maxwell Lord thinks he has a way to avoid this. He thinks he can get everything he wants by simply making the right kind of wish. That ultimately causes a great deal of destruction. I’d go into detail, but I’d rather not reveal too much. All you need to know is that it’s not the kind of destruction Wonder Woman can stop with her fists and her sword.

What happens with Barbara Minerva is even more impactful. Like Maxwell Lord, she’s unwilling to give up any power she gains. Unlike Lord, however, she’s willing to pay any price to keep it. That’s what sends her down a dark path. It’s also what turns her from one of Diana’s friends into a truly tenacious foe.

These conflicts become very personal to Diana because she too is unable to resist the temptation. She may give so much of herself to others, but she also has desires and wishes of her own. That’s where Steve Trevor, played again by Chris Pine, enters the picture.

His death and heroic sacrifice in the first “Wonder Woman” movie was so powerful. That whole movie really sold the love that blossomed between him and Diana. Even as the years go by, his death still burdens Diana. She cannot let go of that love. She wants nothing more than to have it back.

It’s sad, but understandable. If ever someone deserved a consequence-free wish from all her heroic acts, it’s Diana. Unfortunately, there’s no getting around it. She still tries. She gets her chance to be with the love of her life again. As with everything else, though, it comes at a price.

That’s the biggest theme of this movie. Getting what you want by breaking the rules or cheating will always come at a price. Even if you’re willing to pay that price, it does cause damage to yourself and others. It’s a painful lesson and one that gives “Wonder Woman 1984” so many emotional overtones.

It’s because of those overtones that this movie works so well. Wonder Woman, by her nature, is a very emotionally driven character. Her love, compassion, and heart are among her greatest traits. They’re as strong as her fighting spirit. The first movie revealed this and “Wonder Woman 1984” builds on that.

Her greatest struggles always have an emotional weight to them. It’s not just a matter of her beating up the bad guy to save the day. One of those foes was once her friend. Another is someone she can’t defeat simply by beating him up. She has to use that uncanny compassion and heart to win the day. That’s what makes her Wonder Woman.

I would argue that’s the most important aspect of her character and this movie captured it perfectly. I really did feel for Diana as she went through these emotional upheavals throughout the story. It brought out her greatest strengths, as well as her greatest weaknesses.

Now, speaking of weaknesses, this is where I also have to levy some criticisms of my own against “Wonder Woman 1984.” I promise they’re not nearly as petty or overblown as some of the other reviews to this movie. Some have complained about the length and tone of the movie. I honestly think that sort of criticism is misguided.

I’ll still say outright that this movie was not as good as the first “Wonder Woman.” This movie was not as concise and polished, in terms of story. There were a number of “and then this happened” moments that made the story seem a bit jumbled at times. In some cases, it relied too heavily on contrivances and suspension of disbelief to move things along.

I get the sense this was done to keep things moving forward from a plot standpoint. I also think there were some difficulties in revealing the ins and outs of godly magic, which is considerably harder to do in a movie when compared to a comic.

None of these shortcomings kept the movie from working overall. Gal Gadot once again carried her role as Wonder Woman with grace and grit. She, Steve Trevor, and Cheetah all had well-developed characters that played their roles well throughout the story. In terms of the most important elements to a good Wonder Woman movie, “Wonder Woman 1984” got them right.

If I had to score this movie, I’d give it a 4 out of 5. It has some noticeable flaws, more so than its predecessor. However, Gal Gadot is still an amazing Wonder Woman, Patty Jenkins is still a great director, and this world they explored together was full of dazzling wonder.

For a year that has been so bleak and dire, it’s just what we needed. For that, I thank “Wonder Woman 1984” and all those who helped make it happen.

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Filed under DC Comics, Movie Reviews, superhero comics, superhero movies, Wonder Woman

Jack’s Comic Gems: The Life Of Captain Marvel

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The following is a video I made for my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It’s the first in what I hope to be a series about the special, often overlooked gems in the world of comics. I plan on making others like it. Let me know what you think. Enjoy!

 

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Report: Rosario Dawson Has Been Cast As Ahsoka Tano For “The Mandalorian” (And The Galaxy Is More Awesome)

At a time when the stream of bad news seems endless and unyielding, you need to embrace the good news as much as you can, no matter what form it takes. Most of the time, you have to focus on the little things. While those can be good, there’s still a place for big, awesome revelations that make the world feel slightly less terrible.

Late yesterday, a uniquely awesome story broke in the world of Star Wars. Say what you will about the movies, but “The Mandalorian” was a perfect manifestation of everything that’s great about Star Wars. It had a little of everything on top of the galactic level of cuteness that is Baby Yoda. It’s hard to imagine this show getting any better.

Well, according to SlashFilm, “The Mandalorian” is about to raise the bar once again. This time, it comes from a familiar source and one that has a special place in my heart. That source is Ahsoka Tano, a character I go out of my way to praise and chrish with every midichlorian in my being. If SlashFilm’s report is true, she’s about to make her live-action debut in the next season of “The Mandalorian,” courtesy of Rosario Dawson.

SlashFilm: ‘The Mandalorian’ Season 2 Casts Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano

We have exclusively learned that Rosario Dawson will appear in The Mandalorian season 2 and are excited to report that she will be playing a fan-favorite character previously only seen in the Star Wars animated productions. Dawson will be playing a live-action version of Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s Jedi padawan apprentice who appeared in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels. This would be the character’s first appearance in live-action.

I cannot put into words how excited I am. I’m already a fan of Rosario Dawson, having grown fond of her character in “Daredevil” and “The Defenders.” She has what it takes to bring Ahsoka to life. While Ashley Eckstein will always be Ahsoka’s true voice, I believe Rosario Dawson can bring her spirit to life.

Ahsoka reflects the best of what Star Wars can be. She embodies the journey, the struggle, and the hardship that comes with doing the right thing when everyone else is doing so much wrong. Her instincts aren’t always right and her attitude isn’t always endearing, but there’s no denying her spirit.

She’s a special soul and one that the world of Star Wars needs right now. I really hope this report turns out to be true. I look forward to seeing Ms. Dawson don her Togruta attire. Between her and Baby Yoda, the future of Star Wars looks both bright and adorable.

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New Comic Book Day January 22, 2020: My Pull List And Pick Of The Week

Life is hard. Some days are harder than others. Unless you’re rich, beautiful, or a combination of both, it’s a never-ending challenge to navigate those hardships. You got to take the good with the bad and make the most of the good. For me, and other life-long comic book fans like me, New Comic Book Day can take something good and make it awesome.

A new glut of fresh comics is like fresh-brewed coffee, a box of donuts, and a massage on a Wednesday morning. For a comic book fan, it’s difficult to make any day much better without getting street drugs involved. No matter how hard life has been for me, a Wednesday built around new comics helps make the past, present, and future better.

Some weeks are more active than others, but when you’ve got tastes as broad as mind, it’s easy to find something to enjoy. This week has an impressive list of new comics, some of which I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time. In the interest of enjoying this day with my fellow comic fans, here’s my pull list and my overall pick of the week. Enjoy!


My Pull List

Batman #87

Batman/Superman #6

Captain Marvel #14

Excalibur #6

Fantastic Four #18

Guardians of the Galaxy #1

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #47

Superman #19

Wonder Woman #750


My Pick of the Week

Is there such a thing as too much Wonder Woman? As someone who saw the “Wonder Woman” movie at least 20 times, I can safely say that’s a trick question. Those who say you can’t have too much of a good thing have obvious never been fans of Wonder Woman and milestone comics like “Wonder Woman #750” perfectly demonstrate why she’s great in any quantity.

These days, any comic that makes it past 50 issues is considered a milestone. The era of comics that go on for dozens of issues at a time is long gone. The many relaunches and retcons, which DC Comics has contributed to in the past, have changed the comic book market to such an extent that it’s just not possible for most titles to sustain that longevity.

However, Wonder Woman is not most titles.

She’s Wonder Woman. She’s the standard by which all female superheroes are measured. She’s one of the most iconic superheroes of all time, regardless of gender. She’s in a special pantheon of iconic characters. Her legacy, which spans back to the dark days of World War II, is one worthy of celebration and admiration.

That’s exactly what “Wonder Woman #750” does. It’s a giant-sized issue that costs a few extra bucks, but rest assured. It’s worth every penny. If you’ve been following the Wonder Woman comics, this book helps cap off a story that brings Diana head-to-head once more with Cheetah while Hera shows up to offer divine complications. However, that’s not all this book offers.

In addition to completing a long-running story, this giant-sized dose of all things Wonder Woman adds in some extra side-stories. They range from events spinning out of the recent comics to cute little stories involving kids, families, and monster hunting. Wonder Woman never misses a chance to kick ass, but she also never misses a chance to offer love, compassion, and hugs.

It’s a testament to her strength, her spirit, and her heart. With multiple writers and multiple artists, many of which are among the comic world’s top talent, there’s something for everyone here. If you want to see Wonder Woman fight gods and monsters, you’ll get plenty of that. If you want to see Wonder Woman offer love and compassion to those who need it, you’ll get that too.

At its core, “Wonder Woman #750” is a perfect reminder of why Wonder Woman is such an iconic character. It’s not just that she can fight villains, gods, and monsters. It’s not just that she can give compassion that few can match. It’s not just that she looks beautiful while doing it, either.

Wonder Woman embodies an ideal and spirit that resonates with everyone. Whether you’re a man, a woman, a god, or an alien, you see her doing all these wonderful things and can’t help but admire her. She’s a special character and one whose strength has resonated for decades and promises to keep resonating for decades more.

If you only pick up one Wonder Woman comic all year, make it “Wonder Woman #750.” It’s a true wonder to behold and one worthy of such an iconic character.

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Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1

Every Wednesday, a new batch of comics enters this chaotic world and makes it a little more tolerable. As someone who has come to appreciate this weekly injection of personal joy, I’ve taken it upon myself to single out one particular comic that helps make that Wednesday extra special in the hearts of comic fans.

This week had more going for it than most because “Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1” came out and for those still bathing in the afterglow of the “Captain Marvel” movie, this is a perfect desert. While it doesn’t feature Carol Danvers, it does focus on Kamala Khan, her biggest fan and the one who has been carrying on her mantle wonderfully since 2014.

I’ve already mentioned Kamala before, having singled her out as a case study in how to do young female superheroes right in an era where gender politics and internet trolls are determined to make everything go horribly wrong. Kamala has grown a great deal over the past several years and, with the success of “Captain Marvel,” seems destined to enter the MCU.

There’s so much about Kamala that makes her lovable, heroic, and compelling. If you need a reminder why, “Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1” is the perfect refresher. This series marks a transition of sorts. The previous writer for Ms. Marvel, G. Willow Wilson, has left the title. As the one who created Kamala Khan and did so much to make her so lovable, she set a very high bar.

Kamala’s new writer, Saladin Ahmed, does plenty to maintain the lovability that comic fans have come to expect from Ms. Marvel. In the earliest parts of the issue, he takes a page right out of Wilson’s creative playbook by focusing heavily on Kamala’s story when she’s not in costume.

It’s a major part of what makes Kamala so relatable. She’s an aspiring superhero, but she’s also a teenage girl with plenty of non-superhero issues to deal with. She has friends, parents, and bus schedules to deal with. Like a young Peter Parker, she has to balance her superhero life with her civilian life. Unlike Peter Parker, though, her life is subject to unique challenges that aren’t contingent upon dead uncles.

While Kamala does spend time in her Ms. Marvel costume fighting a couple villains, the biggest upheavals in “Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1” occur when she’s not in costume. I won’t drop too many spoilers. I’ll just say that her superhero life and her civilian life come at a sudden crossroads.

At first, it seems sudden. There doesn’t appear to be much of a build towards the drama. Then, Ahmed throws in an unexpected twist towards the end that completely changes the situation surrounding that drama. It suddenly becomes a mystery, one that may have greater consequences for Kamala down the road.

Every teenage superhero faces critical moments, at some point, that changes the course of their journey. Peter Parker often dealt with those moments by quitting for a while, but Kamala never gives the impression that she’s going to quit. Despite all the hardship and frustration that being Ms. Marvel brings her, she never uses that as an excuse to walk away. That, in and of itself, puts her ahead of the curve for most aspiring superheroes.

At the same time, it also makes her vulnerable. “Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1” puts her in a position where her life as Ms. Marvel and Kamala Khan undergo a major upheaval. She faces a new kind of threat that isn’t well-defined. However, it quickly establishes that it’s capable of attacking her on a very personal level.

It’s the worst kind of attack for a young hero undergoing heavy personal dramas. She basically has to fight her battles with a wounded spirit, but she still fights. That’s what makes her Ms. Marvel. That’s what makes her so easy to root for, both as a character and as a hero.

For years, G. Willow Wilson told Kamala’s story in a way that made her endearing in her own unique way. So far, Saladin Ahmed is moving that story forward in ways that make you want to root for Kamala even more. “Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1” doesn’t just tell the next phase of Ms. Marvel’s superhero journey. It raises the stakes, promising a new kind of challenge that will either break her heart or make it stronger.

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Higher, Further, Faster, And Fun: A (Spoiler-Free) Review Of “Captain Marvel”

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Soaring to new heights, venturing into uncharted territory, and achieving greater things always requires a great deal of risk. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll only get what you’ve always gotten and that’s just not enough for some people. For Marvel Studios, the gold standard by which all other movie studios are measured, it has to take those risks in order to expand its dominance into another decade.

A movie as big as “Avengers: Infinity War” or as diverse as “Black Panther” had high stakes on top of higher aspirations. They had to keep raising the bar that Marvel Studios had already raised to unprecedented heights. Those movies both succeeded and raked in record profits, but even those movies never faced challenges like the ones faced by “Captain Marvel.”

Without a doubt, this movie will go down as one of the riskiest movies Marvel Studios has ever made, which is saying something for the same studio that made an “Ant Man” movie. It’s not just because “Captain Marvel” is Marvel’s first female-led superhero movie, nor is it because DC set a pretty high bar with “Wonder Woman.”

Captain Marvel” arrives with more baggage than any other superhero movie not associated with Joel Shumacher. In some respects, it’s coming out at the worst possible time. This is an era where gender politics are on a hair-trigger and features an actress who has been outspoken on where her political affiliations lie. It’s like bringing a tank of gasoline to a growing wildfire.

The context of this movie and its politics are already well-documented and I’ve made my opinions on it known. Beyond the politics, the heated gender debates, and coordinated efforts to tank this movie, there’s still one critical question that overrides all the baggage and burdens.

Is “Captain Marvel” a good movie?

Having seen it at a midnight showing in which the theater was quite packed, I can say in my humble opinion that yes. It is a good, entertaining movie. It doesn’t deviate too far from the Marvel Studios tradition of making superhero movies that are fun, entertaining, and heartfelt. However, “Captain Marvel” ends up achieving much more than that.

Before I go any further, I want to make a few comments about the heated politics surrounding this movie. I’m not going to focus too much on them, but I’m not going to avoid them, either. I get that some people will go into this movie with certain expectations and look for any excuse to justify those expectations. This is my response to those specific individuals.

No, this movie is not laced with radical feminist undertones.

No, this movie does not denigrate men or a specific race of men.

No, this movie does not make overtly political statements.

No, Carol Danvers is not a Mary Sue who is never allowed to fail or be wrong.

Yes, the movie is entertaining and fun in the tradition of good superhero movies.

Yes, the movie is respectful of the history and personality of the character.

Having said all that, I understand that there are a number of people who may disagree with every one of those statements. However, after seeing the movie and having time to digest all its high-flying details, I believe that doing so requires a level of outright pettiness that obscures just how good this movie is.

 

This movie does not have the luxury of expanding on a character who was previously introduced. Unlike Black Panther, Carol has nothing to build on when the movie starts. However, things move quickly once the action gets going. We find out early on that Carol is in a difficult situation, but tenuous situation. In addition, that situation helps further the world-building that is so distinct of the MCU.

We learn more about the Kree in the first 20 minutes of this movie than we have in any other Marvel movie, to date. They’ve been mentioned before in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but who they are and what they’re like is firmly established in “Captain Marvel.” Their iconic rivals, the Skrulls, are also introduced and it’s here where the movie really shines.

If you’re not familiar with the history of comics, it’s hard to overstate how critical the Kree/Skrull war is to the cosmic side of the Marvel universe. This massive war is something that Carol finds herself in the middle of and her role in it evolves over the course of the movie. Without getting too heavy into spoiler territory, it’s safe to say that this evolution is what helps make her Captain Marvel.

Carol’s story isn’t just about her seeking to fly higher, further, and faster. Through both flashbacks to her past and struggles in the present, her journey from being a loyal Kree warrior to Captain Marvel feels personal, even as it moves the story forward. At first, it feels like the story is on a predictable path. However, that changes, thanks largely to Carol’s the supporting cast.

This is where Samuel L. Jackson’s role as Nick Fury and Ben Mendelson’s role as Talos really complements the story. Their choices and their actions put Carol in a situation where she comes to some difficult realizations and has to make difficult decisions. In doing so, she becomes the hero that she needs to be, both for this movie and for the MCU.

It’s not unlike the evolution that other characters like Tony Stark and Thor have undergone. They start off with one particular outlook on their world. Then, they find themselves in a situation that undermines and even shatters what they thought was right and true. Rather than avoid the unpleasant implications, they confront them. That’s what heroes do and that’s what Carol Danvers does.

By the end of “Captain Marvel,” it’s easy to root for Carol. As she realizes her true power, she becomes the kind of hero that fits right in with the Avengers. The source of that power is not something she inherits or pursues. True to her comic book origins, her high-flying aspirations lead to an accident that comes close to destroying her. Also like the comics, it renders her vulnerable in unexpected ways.

Throughout the movie, Carol is guided and often frustrated by her limits. Some of those limits are things she puts on herself. Some are limits that others impose on her. Overcoming such limits, be they her own emotions or the actions of others, is the true strength of her character. It’s a strength that anyone, regardless of race, gender, or anything of the sort, can respect.

That’s not to say there aren’t flaws in that journey, along the way. In terms of a superhero origin movie, I would not put “Captain Marvel” above the ranks of “Batman Begins” or “Iron Man.” The movie does feel somewhat congested in several areas and the pacing, especially in the early parts of the movie, are a bit erratic.

There’s also an issue with villains in this movie, to the extent that they’re vague. Both the Skrulls and Jude Law’s, Yon-Rogg, aren’t going to give Thanos or Erik Killmonger a run for their money. Even the presence of a young Ronan the Accuser feels like a missed opportunity. While Carol has plenty of fights to pick in this movie, the lack of a major villain is somewhat glaring.

Let’s face it. Nobody was going to top THIS guy.

However, this doesn’t keep “Captain Marvel” from succeeding in the ways we’ve come to expect from Marvel Studios. The distinct bits of humor and tone are definitely there. The use of 90s nostalgia, from grunge rock to Blockbuster, works at every turn. The choice of music is spot on for every scene. Like “Captain America” and “Wonder Woman,” the time and place fits perfectly with the story.

By nearly every measure, “Captain Marvel” checks all the right boxes, in terms of a quality product from Marvel Studios. Again, it is possible for someone to single out certain scenes as proof that the movie is trying to make a political statement. However, I would argue that you could find similar scenes in movies like “Wonder Woman” and even “Deadpool.”

At the end of the day, if you’re really determined to hate this movie and label it as some sort of hit piece against a particular race or gender, you’ll find multiple excuses. However, it still requires a level of pettiness that requires someone to actively look for a reason to be offended and there’s already too much of that in this world.

If you watch “Captain Marvel” with the sole desire to be entertained and see the MCU evolve before your eyes, this movie will deliver in all the right ways. If I had to score this movie, I would give it a 4 out of 5. It’s a fun ride with a few bumps along the way, but is ultimately satisfying by the end. On top of that, the post-credits scene help further build the excitement for “Avengers: Endgame.”

Also, no matter your politics, the Stan Lee tribute at the beginning of the movie is beautiful.

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Jack Fisher’s Weekly Comic Quick Pick: Ms. Marvel #38

Fridays may be everyone else’s favorite non-weekend day of the week, but ask most comic book fans and they’ll say Wednesday holds a special place in their hearts. It’s that magical day when a new batch of comics enters the world and our souls are nourished by their awesome. I don’t care what kind of a week I’m having. When new comics come out on Wednesday, I find a reason to smile.

This week, with Valentine’s Day coming up and me being single, I needed more reasons than usual. Thankfully, this week brought us Ms. Marvel #38 and I’m already feeling the love. It also happens to be the five-year anniversary since her landmark debut. Given all the awards and accolades she received in that time, this definitely qualifies as a milestone worth celebrating.

I’ve gone out of my way to praise Kamala Khan before, citing her as a prime example of how to do female superheroes right in this crazy era. She’s young, lovable, determined, and idealistic. She’s also relatable, dealing with the same problems that most stressed out teenagers from Jersey City often deal with. If the past five years of comics haven’t convinced you of that, then Ms. Marvel #38 should help make that point.

This milestone issue is a one-shot, self-contained story that starts off with Kamala being in a miserable mood. Then, after a brief, but colorful adventure with her friends, she remembers that being pissed off all day is a waste of a perfectly good day. It’s simple. Writer G. Willow Wilson doesn’t try to reinvent Kamala here. She just affirms why she has come as far as she has in five years.

A big part of that process involves highlighting the parts of Kamala’s life that don’t involve costumed villains, superpowers, and dealing with Deadpool’s dirty jokes. Wilson takes the time to show Kamala dealing with parents, siblings, and just getting to school on a day when she feels like crap. It may seem mundane, but Wilson uses it to humanize Kamala at every turn.

In the same tradition of Peter Parker’s Spider-Man, Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel is a teenage girl first and a superhero on the side. She doesn’t have the luxury of mixing her personal life with that of her superhero life. Both affect the other and rarely in a good way. She wants to be a superhero, but she doesn’t want to stop being Kamala Khan. That’s not just a challenge. It’s overwhelming.

The stress really gets to her in this Ms. Marvel #38. Even without some major villain attacking, she’s doubting herself and her ability to manage everything. Then, she finds herself plucked into a strange new dimension where the most cheesy tropes of old RPG games come to life. If it sounds random, that’s because it is, but that’s exactly why it works.

Like a double shot of espresso and a slap upside the head, Kamala has to stop moping and be Ms. Marvel. At the same time, she has to help her friends who get sucked into this world as well. Nakia, Zoe, and Bruno do not have superpowers. However, they still end up helping Kamala every bit as much as her powers.

It’s one of the most common, but powerful themes of Ms. Marvel comics. Whereas supporting characters often end up being complications and liabilities for many heroes, Kamala’s supporting cast often supplement her heroics rather than hinder them. Sure, they still have to be rescued every now and then, but it never feels like anyone is a damsel.

There’s also more to this little dive into the world of overdone video game themes than just giving Kamala an adventure to go on. In between the colorful visuals that artist Nico Leon provides every step of the way, there are a few powerful moments in which Kamala and her friends realize how much they’ve grown and how much they haven’t.

It’s a fitting testament to how far Kamala Khan has come in the past five years. On some levels, she’s the same insecure girl she was before she got her powers. On others, she’s grown a lot since then. Having watched her grow since her debut issue, I found Ms. Marvel #38 to be a satisfying testament to the kind of hero she has become.

For that reason and plenty others, Ms. Marvel #38 is an easy choice for my weekly quick pick. Even if you haven’t been following Kamala Khan’s story too closely at this point, this wonderfully-crafted, self-contained story will help reveal why she has become such a big deal in comics in the past five years. Hopefully, the next five years are just as enjoyable, especially if she ever finds her way into the MCU.

Beyond being a teenager, a girl, and a fan of superheroes and video games, Kamala Khan’s journey is one that’s easy to follow and even easier to root for. She starts off having a bad day and you can’t help but want to see her turn it around. We’ve all had bad days. Some are so bad that even superpowers can’t cheer us up. However, Ms. Marvel finds a way because she’s just that special.

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Jack Fisher’s Weekly Comic Quick Pick: Ms. Marvel #37

Every Wednesday is a holiday for comic book fans. That’s the day when a fresh batch of comics from companies we love to complain about give us a fresh dose of ink-laden awesome. Within each batch of books are plenty of comics to brighten your week and make the world a little more magical. I try to single one particular comic out from that pack that I feel has more magic than most.

This week’s comic quick pick was tricky. There were some quality books this week from the likes of X-men, Justice League, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man. However, one book found a way to stand out in the most adorable way possible. That book is “Ms. Marvel #37” and if you have a low tolerance for cuteness, this book may be too much for you.

I’ve sang the praises of Kamala Khan in the past. I’ll likely find new ways to praise her in the future, especially if she ends up joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She’s one of the most likable characters in all of superhero comics. It helps that she hasn’t been around long enough to do something awful, but it also helps when her personal struggles and her superhero struggles blend together perfectly.

That’s the primary theme in “Ms. Marvel #37.” There isn’t a villain to fight, for once. There is a disaster, but it’s not caused by a 100-foot monster or a mad scientist with access to too much plutonium. It’s caused by some a mix of bad luck and poor infrastructure, something that just happens to be a growing issue in the real world.

It’s not nearly as preachy as it sounds. It’s the kind of issue that the Avengers and other superhero teams don’t get to do often enough, help innocent people dealing with a disaster. Kamala gets to be a different kind of hero, one who does more than just punch villains. It helps reinforce that she’s not just a hero for the sake of wearing a fancy costume. She’s a hero because she genuinely wants to do the right thing.

What a concept, right? Kamala is someone who just does the right thing because it’s the right thing. Superman doesn’t have to be the only one with those kinds of values. Unlike Superman, though, Kamala has to do the right thing while babysitting. No, I’m not referring to having an annoying side-kick. I’m talking about a real, actual, diaper-wearing baby.

That baby belongs to her brother, Aamir. He entrusted Kamala and his wife’s brother, Gabe, to watch him. It started going wrong before people needed rescuing, albeit in a hilariously endearing way. Kamala has dealt with some pretty major threats since becoming Ms. Marvel. However, she’s never dealt with a baby and that overwhelms her than her last team-up with Carol Danvers.

It’s as hilarious as it is fitting. It shows that Kamala is still a teenage girl. She’s still young and easily overwhelmed by things she isn’t familiar with. She ends up having to rely on friends and supporting cast to help her, of which she has many. They all have a knack for showing Kamala that things don’t have to be as dire as she thinks. Experience will help you cope, regardless of whether you’re a superhero.

It’s a good message that’s a lot more useful than old PSA’s about eating vegetables and saying no to drugs. “Ms. Marvel #37” continues Kamala’s tradition of making a positive statement through superhero comics, something that seems corny on paper, but works beautifully through her.

It’s part of what makes Kamala so endearing. It’s also what makes her such an effective superhero as Ms. Marvel. She doesn’t just save the day. She inspires others and is, in turn, inspired by them. When things get rough, she reacts in a way that feels distinctly human. In the Marvel universe, which is populated by gods, demigods, and Squirrel Girl, it’s nothing short of refreshing.

To say Kamala has a rough, but enlightening day in “Ms. Marvel #37” would be accurate. It’s just as accurate to say that she has a few low points where she lets the stresses of babysitting and superhero work get to her. That only makes how she handles it that much more fitting.

Ms. Marvel #37” is not part of a larger story arc, nor is it tied to some ongoing event. It’s a simple, self-contained comic that G. Willow Wilson and Nico Leon use to remind us why Kamala Khan is so lovable. In that sense, it works. In another, the final page provides an ominous hint that Kamala and her family are about to endure a major upheaval in the best possible way.

There are a lot of events going on in the world of superheroes. It’s tough, if not frustrating, to keep up with all of them. That’s exactly what makes “Ms. Marvel #37” so enjoyable. It’s one comic with one story about one lovable hero. You get you’re money’s worth, both in terms of satisfaction and feels. What more could you want?

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