Brian Michael Bendis is one of Marvel’s key writers, but in a previous life he may have been a circus juggler. Spider-Man #8 somehow manages to move the title’s plot forward, set the stage for Champions, and seamlessly tie into Civil War II. Technically, Mr. Bendis hits all of his marks. Creatively, however, SM #8 once again shows why many older Marvel fans are fed up with the company.
Here is what you need to know for SM #8:
- Jessica Jones and Luke Cage confront Miles Morales on a rooftop and say they know his secret identity.
- Miles is upset to find out that his grandmother hired Jessica Jones to spy on him, but he is glad to hear that his mother tried to pay the investigator to cancel the contract. He agrees not to say anything to his family after the older heroes tell him to get his act together.
- Miles is summoned to the Triskelion, S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, by Tony Stark. A large group of superheroes are informed by Stark and Captain Marvel that everyone will confront the Hulk about Ulysses’ vision of him killing everyone.
- Bruce Banner is killed by Hawkeye, as previously shown in Civil War II #3.
- Nova, Spider-Man, and Ms. Marvel are stunned by what happens and the two young men publicly state their allegiance to Tony Stark. Ms. Marvel breaks down into tears because her role model set the stage for Banners’s death.
This sounds like a great issue, right? Well, sort of. One’s enjoyment or hatred of SM #8 really hinges on his or her opinions on Civil War II. Bendis — and artist Nico Leon — do an admirable job showing young heroes who struggle to find their place in an “adult” world, but at the same time it all comes at the expense of classic characters.
There is a scene after Banner’s death where the three kids come together to comfort one another that is incredibly poignant, but the feeling disappears the moment one realizes that Captain Marvel and every superhero who sides with her has taken on a goofy position to make Civil War II work.
In short, Mr. Bendis has nicely set up an “us against the world” dynamic for the future “Champions” that will also serve Spider-Man well, but in many ways he is doing so at the expense of icons like the original Spider-Man, Peter Parker.
If you are an older reader, the best way to show your displeasure is to withhold your wallet for any title that engages in character assassination of the heroes that made Marvel what it is today.
In Marvel’s quest to prove how supercrazydiverse (one word) it is, its ‘All-New, All-Different Avengers’ actually has a cringe-inducing vibe. The company is lumping all of its new minority heroes — already derivatives of the classics — onto one team and calling them ‘All-Different.’
After the announcement, Comic Book Resources asked Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso about its obsession with diversity for the sake of diversity:
Albert Ching: Axel, looking at the recently revealed lineup of the “All-New, All-Different Avengers,” you see the female Thor, Sam Wilson as Captain America, Miles Morales, Kamala Khan — it feels like a reflection of the changes and greater diversity that Marvel has seen in the past few years. Was that a motivating factor — or the motivating factor — in putting this lineup together?
Axel Alonso: Waitaminute, is that Miles Morales? Or is that someone else? Someone new? Someone from Spider-Verse? Or maybe it’s Peter? Or maybe it’s someone he recently Googled? [Laughs]
Anyway — that roster! When [editor] Tom Brevoort laid out the cast for the new team, it just felt right — especially the inclusion of Ms. Marvel, Sam Wilson, and the new Thor. It felt like Next Level $#!#.
Got that? Marvel is taking diversity to the next level, baby. Tom “take your medicine” Brevoort has decided that fans are so sick with anti-diversity fever that the only way to cure them is to go Voltron-level diversity and then have Mark don’t-buy-my-comics Waid write the adventures.
- She-Thor (derivative)
- Spider-Man (Miles Morales, derivative)
- Ms. Marvel (derivative)
- Captain America (Sam Wilson is filling in for Steve Rogers)
- Iron Man
Strangely enough, Mr. Alonso hints that it might not be Tony Stark beneath the mask. Perhaps I shouldn’t have joked that Marvel will one day totally lose it and go with Toni Stark, The Invincible Iron Woman.
Alonso: Yeah! You’ve got a healthy mix of characters — a core nucleus of veterans that have proven they can kick ass: Cap, Thor, Iron Man — but is it really Tony inside that armor…? Then you’ve got some newer, younger characters that are still proving themselves: Ms. Marvel and Nova. And then you’ve got some wild cards: the Vision and whoever it is in those black Spider-Man tights. The diversity of the cast is going to allow for very different perspectives on the Avengers-scale problems they’re going to face.
Although Marvel’s ham-handed and self-congratulatory diversity spiels are embarrassing, perhaps the most laughable aspect of this ‘All Different’ cast is how the rules have changed. Teenagers like Miles Morales and Kamala Khan apparently get the equivalent of a ‘Monopoly’ “Advance to Go — Collect $200” card.
Someone can correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Peter Parker have to put in years of time proving himself before he even became a reserve member? Was the bar lowered for becoming an Avenger? If so, then that’s embarrassing.
Here is the bottom line: All of the heroes mentioned above are just that — heroes —but there is a difference between doing the hard work of building up a character’s reputation and prestige over time, and trying to convince fans that just because a character is a minority that he or she deserves a spot on the world’s most elite team.
Falcon? Sure. No problem. Kamala Khan? Give me a break. Miles Morales? Sure — when he matures like Peter Parker before him.
At some point in time, Marvel ceased to be the “House of Ideas” and morphed into the “House of Race and Gender Politics.” The company is still capable of churning out good stories on occasion, but more often than not it just embarrasses itself with transparent attempts to insert “Next Level $#!#” into its books when all that is called for his good storytelling.
Hat Tip: Colossus of Rhodey
The trade paperback for ‘Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal’ is out, and on the cover a Comics Alliance pitch reads “This may be the most important comic published in 2014.” But is that true? It all depends on how you define “important.”
Here’s what NPR had to say about Ms. Marvel on Oct. 16:
Consider the ways you could misstep in updating a classic comic-book superhero. Now imagine that your protagonist is A) female, B) 16, C) a Pakistani-American and, oh yeah, D) Muslim.
Could there be a tougher assignment? […] How can the timeworn superhero format possibly express the complexity of a modern teenage girl’s experience — all without objectifying her bod?
You can put it in the hands of G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, that’s how. Faced with one of the trickiest problems a creator could imagine — rebooting Marvel Comics’ decades-old heroine Ms. Marvel — Wilson and Alphona rise to it and burst through. …
Wilson and Alphona have written a comic for people who appreciate superheroes as icons, but don’t necessarily feel an ongoing emotional investment in their battles with the forces of evil. As such, the authors risk alienating the traditional fan base to zero in on a narrower demographic. Is it inevitable that an innovative female hero will have to draw her fans from this razor-thin cohort? To find out, stay tuned for our next installment.
Can a superhero comic book really be important if it’s marketed for a “razor-thin cohort” that doesn’t really possess an “emotional investment” in the battle between good and evil? Magic 8 Ball says, “not likely.”
Kamala Khan is actually a very interesting character, and writer G. Willow Wilson does a superb job conveying the trials and tribulations of a first-generation American teenager. Even her shape-shifting ability fits in nicely with the psychological tug-of-war that many teenagers go through, putting on a specific face for their friends and another for family. It is also incredibly moving to witness Kamala’s search for identity after she subconsciously uses her new powers to turn into Captain Marvel — a white woman — instead of Kamala Khan in a Captain Marvel costume.
Likewise, the complexity of Kamala’s family life is well written; her mother, her father, and her brother are all characters that readers will want to know more about. When a family risks everything to come to America to give their children a better life — and then those children frustrate or confuse them — how does that play out behind closed doors? What kind of conversations go on? Ms. Wilson deftly provides answers.
Unfortunately, outside the intimate portrait of what it’s like to grow up as an immigrant in the United States, it’s hard to get excited for the book — especially for readers with limited disposable income — because so little energy is invested in “battles with the forces of evil.” That may change as the series develops, but readers without much cash to spare aren’t interested in third-rate villains from Jersey City — they care about bad guys who threaten to take down New York City. Oddly enough, Dan Slott does a good job highlighting the character’s potential in her team-up with everyone’s favorite wall crawler in issues 7 and 8 of The Amazing Spider-Man. (Perhaps Dan Slott should just stick to writing light and fun Marvel Team-up fare since more substantive stories give him a hard time?)
The title’s other weakness is its lack of nuance when it comes to addressing those with legitimate questions about Islam — even labeling such characters “concern trolls.” Lily-white mean-girl “Zoe” and lily-white meat-head “Josh” generally represent ignorance, intolerance and racism.
They can’t go to the predominantly black area of Jersey City without hand sanitizers.
The two characters are portrayed as jerks for wondering whether adherence to Islam forces Ms. Khan to do things she’s not happy with, and then a few panels later readers see her openly resentful of the fact that women must sit below men and out of sight during prayers at the local mosque. She even sneaks out a back door, saying, “it’s not like they’re going to notice we’re gone.”
Ms. Marvel has the potential to be a great book. It also has the potential to be “important,” as Comics Alliance would say. However, at this time it seems a lot like Kamala, trying to find an identity within the Marvel universe. Right now, it’s a well-written book for a niche audience. If it aims for something more, then it’s going to have to make changes. If writer G. Willow Wilson is happy with where it’s at, then that’s fine too — but outlets like Comics Alliance should refrain from overselling the book.
Marvel comics has some interesting priorities. It allowed Dan Slott to kill one of the most popular characters of all time — Peter Parker — and has been dragging its feet on bringing him back ever since. It recently announced an embarrassing new origin for Tony Stark. Tens-of-thousands of long time readers might be livid, but Marvel wants you to know that it’s all going to be okay because this February they’ll be introducing … a Muslim superhero who has the ability to look a lot like “Cock Knocker” from Kevin Smith’s ‘Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back’? Weird.
Marvel announced to the New York Times that G Willow Wilson (writer of the short-lived revival of the Crossgen series Mystic) will be writing a new Ms. Marvel series starring Kamala Khan, a Muslim American teenage girl with the ability to shapeshift. According to the Times, Khan idolizes Carol Danvers and takes up her original codename after discovering her powers.
Okay. Fair enough. Marvel gets to put out a press release and pat itself on the back for being “diverse.” Sure. But questions remain: Is this going to be a book on how all Americans are apparently fearful of Muslims, or will the superhero use her powers to save Muslims like Malala Yousafzai before they’re shot in the face and left for dead by Pakistani Taliban psychopaths? Or, will the book primarily just be about the struggles of a teenage girl?
The New York Times sheds some light on the issues:
Kamala will face struggles outside her own head, including conflicts close to home. “Her brother is extremely conservative,” [Marvel editor] Ms. Amanat said. “Her mom is paranoid that she’s going to touch a boy and get pregnant. Her father wants her to concentrate on her studies and become a doctor.” Next to those challenges, fighting supervillains may be a respite.
The creative team is braced for all possible reactions. “I do expect some negativity,” Ms. Amanat said, “not only from people who are anti-Muslim, but people who are Muslim and might want the character portrayed in a particular light.”
But “this is not evangelism,” Ms. Wilson said. “It was really important for me to portray Kamala as someone who is struggling with her faith.” The series, Ms. Wilson said, would deal with how familial and religious edicts mesh with super-heroics, which can require rules to be broken.
It’s really hard to comment on the book before it’s come out. I want to give Marvel the benefit of the doubt, but how can I? History indicates that they’ll go the politically correct route. Remember when Marvel wanted Spider-Man readers to know that Muslims are safer in Iran than New York? I do.
Let me set the stage. Something is very wrong in New York City. Citizens have been taken with fear, and they’re acting out in irrational ways. Spider-Man is working overtime (what else is new?) to keep the city from tearing itself apart. Cue Naveed Moshtaghi, a taxi driver and Iranian immigrant. Naveed’s vehicle is hit by an angry white guy, who then blames the accident on Naveed: ”He’s one of the terrorists. He wants to kill us all!”, says the aggressor. A mob is swarms around Naveed, swallowing him whole until Spider-Man saves the day.
At this point I’m willing to give writer Chris Yost a break. Maybe the “God of Fear” is really behind it all. I’m even willing to shrug off a narrator who begins, “Naveed Moshtaghi is afraid of the same thing he’s been afraid of for ten years,” (i.e., Americans are just itching for an excuse to bum rush Muslims post-9/11 to infinity and beyond), right before the story unfolds that way.
But then something interesting happens. All alone on a rooftop, Spider-Man tells the man he’s dealing with the crisis very well. Naveed responds: “I’m a second generation Iranian in New York City. Living in fear, that’s what I’m used to. What is happening down there, sometimes I think it was only a matter of time.”
Those darn white guys. Indeed, it was all just a “matter of time.” Maybe they were the same white Christian guys the Pentagon fears these days. Who knows.
Regardless, the point is, Marvel wonders why fans roll their eyes every time there is a new character seemingly invented for the sole purpose of throwing a diversity parade. Usually, those creations have less to do with adding an interesting new personality to the universe and more to do with beating readers over the head with a particular worldview. Don’t believe me? See DC’s Muslim Green Lantern.
Will I check out Ms. Marvel when it hits shelves? Perhaps. Although, quite honestly, it seems as though Marvel should get right with Spider-Man and Iron Man fans before it starts asking readers to fork over cash for teenage shapeshifters.