Monthly Archives: February 2015

If They Be Worthy…

I have commented on the “new” female Thor on this blog a few months ago, but know it appears that last week’s Thor #5 hit a raw nerve with the fanbase. The long and short of it was that Thor scribe, Jason Aaron, used Crusher Creel (AKA the Absorbing Man) as the mouthpiece for skeptical fans that questioned why this particular woman was worthy to wield Mjolnir. He used “feminism ruins everything” as loaded phrase that was a thinly veiled accusation of misogyny. However, I already brought of the point that placing Mjolnir in the hands or the outright (temporary) replacement of any hero with another, particularly with a visible minority, is a tired cliché. After reading the pages in question I have come to a conclusion.

 

Lady Thor is not a character. Rather, she serves as an ideological mouthpiece bereft of any identifying characteristics. Her worthiness to wield Mjolnir is an informed attribute that violates the old axiom of “Show, don’t tell” and is a telltale sign of sloppy writing. It also particularly egregious when there are other Asgardian women who are capable warriors in their own right like Lady Sif and Valkyrie and both are fairly prominent in the Thor mythos and the Marvel universe in general. It is essentially an admission that Marvel has no faith in the character outside of briefly bumping up sales.

 

Speaking of which, compare the case of Lady Thor to the new Ms. Marvel AKA Kamala Khan, who received considerable promotion by Marvel and the mainstream press. While I have not been able to pick up Ms. Marvel, but I have glanced through the tale on my intermittent trips to the comic shop so see what she is about. Kamala Khan is a character with her own distinct characteristics; yes, Marvel heavily publicized her Muslim identity but she is more than the sum her parts. One quote from Ms. Marvel scribe, G. Willow Wilson, resonates with me.

 

“She’s very much the kind of girl who grew up staring wistfully at Manhattan, thinking ‘If only I could make it to the big city.’ Jersey City is not just the backdrop of the series, but very much a part of Kamala’s own journey.”

 

The operative word here is “journey” where Kamala is supposed to grow as a character and form her own identity as an individual. Her wish of making “it” in the big city makes her a sympathetic character, not just Muslims and young girls, but also anyone who dreams of becoming more than what they are.

 

Kamala’s idol, Carol Danvers also experienced growth as a character that culminated in her taking the mantle of Captain Marvel, having “began” life as a supporting character for Mar-Vell. Immortus manipulated and raped her; Rogue stole her powers and her memories; and she struggled with alcoholism but came out of those experiences a confident and stronger heroine. If I could equate one Marvel character to Wonder Woman, it would Carol Danvers, or rather Captain Marvel. Granted, given that she attained the rank of colonel with the USAF, referring to her as “captain” sounds like a demotion.

 

But I digress.

 

Heroes must undergo their own crucibles and struggles. However, I see no such struggle Lady Thor, she simply lifted Mjolnir without so much as a demonstration of her worthiness and appropriated the name. The fact that Marvel has concealed her identity has to the hollowness of the character and the revelation of her identity will be disservice to women in comics because either her creation was an ideological means to an end, or Marvel stripped an existing character of her identity in the name of “girl power.” Some like Ben Kuchera of Polygon praise this ham-fisted approach, but the fact of the matter that people of his mindset do not see women as people. They see women and other minorities as tools to further their own agenda and will deny the very existence of minorities that have the audacity to question their narrative.

 

How people decide to spend their money is none of my business. However, the events of Thor #5 confirm my fears for the (non) character and affirm my decision not to sink my money into another cynical attempt to temporarily increase sales. Such sloppy storytelling ultimately shows that Mr. Aaron and Marvel do not see women as characters, just other soundbox for their regressive values. Perhaps the bigger sin here is that Lady Thor diverts attention from worthier titles like the Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel titles.

Platypus Musings: Mega Man #45

Warning: There be spoilers.

Circumstances forced me to be more selective of which comic books I buy since moving to Calgary last November. My most important prerequisite for a title is that it cannot be cynical in any way. I view comic books as a diversion from an increasingly pessimistic world wracked with strife, hence my appreciation for the Silver Age of Comics. Out all the titles I have read in the past few years, Mega Man is one of the few comic books that captures the optimism of the jet/space age and balances it with character depth and even delves into philosophical issues regarding artificial intelligence. While the latter is noticeably absent from Mega Man #45, the emotional impact of the issue is some of Ian Flynn’s finest writing to date.

Those familiar with the Mega Man series should know the basic plot of Mega Man 3: Dr. Wily seemingly “reformed” after the events of the previous game and works with Dr. Light on the peacekeeping robot, Gamma. Eight robot masters went berserk and stole the eight energy elements used to power Gamma and the Doctors dispatch Mega Man to retrieve them. Once Mega Man retrieves the elements, Dr. Wily betrays Dr. Light and steal Gamma for yet another world domination scheme (of course!) As such, Wily’s betrayal was always going to be inevitable in the comic adaptation of the game.

While the march to Mega Man 3 was a long one with the Worlds Collide and a de facto Super Adventure Rockman adaptation, Mr. Flynn did not scrimp on characterization. Forgiveness was the prevailing theme for the past year of the title, particularly how Dr. Light and Mega Man unconditionally forgave Dr. Wily for his past crimes. Being and idealist, Dr. Light was willing to give Wily the benefit of the doubt and defend him when Dr. Cossack expressed his (rightful) suspicions over Wily’s “reformation.” Wily’s second thoughts about his plan in Mega Man #36 demonstrated some surprising depth to his character. That despite being an egomaniac, Wily still had some capacity for sympathy, which gave his personal crossing of the Rubicon an element of tragedy. Though Wily could have redeemed himself, subsequent installments in the video game series ordained that he would not. Factor in a slow burn over nine issues and the impact of Wily’s betrayal hits harder than any weapon could use against the Blue Bomber.

Dr. Light’s breakdown is especially heart wrenching and is one of the few instances where a comic moved me on such a visceral level. The only other time a comic did that was Aunt May’s death in Amazing Spider-Man #400 (which Marvel undid a few years later) and I commend Mr. Flynn for the delivery of a calculated tug at the heart strings. One of life’s harsh lessons is that even if you treat others the way you want to be treated, there is no guarantee the other party will reciprocate that sentiment. Ultimately, Wily’s ego and jealousy stood in the way of any chance for redemption, which made the central conflict personal. In previous story arcs, “stop Wily’s nefarious scheme of the week” was the thrust of each conflict now there is an emotional stake in Mega Man’s next confrontation with the madman, which gives me a vested interest in the story’s conclusion.

If there were one flaw with the issue, it would be Ryan Odagawa’s pencils. While passable for most part, it deviates from the art styles of previous artists enough to appear jarring. I have some issues with Gamma’s proportions but the layouts are solid. Evan Stanley’s moodier colors are also a departure from Matt Herms’ more vibrant hues, but it appropriate considering the overall atmosphere of the issue.

That said, I consider Mega Man #45 the penultimate issue of the series so far. While it definitely darker than previous issues, it illustrates an important aspect of the superhero genre: tragedy is a common motivator for the hero’s actions. Bruce Wayne would not become Batman without the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Peter Parker would not be fighting crime without the death of Uncle Ben. Wily’s betrayal shows Mega Man that he has no moral scruples and that Mega Man must stop him to prevent Wily from hurting others as he did Dr. Light. It will be interesting to see if the events of this issue will set the tone for the rest of the series. If you are not reading Mega Man then you are missing one of the most underappreciated titles in the industry.