Iron Fist Episode One Review

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So Iron Fist, the last series before Marvel’s The Defender has finally arrived. Multiple outlets have had a chance to screen half the season for early reviews. The reviews have been extremely negative with a common tread, that tread being boredom. Most if not all outlets have called the series boring and not thrilling in any fashion. Many critics have be harsh on the series for its lead being cast as a white male instead of an Asian American. I’ve been eager to watch the show as I feel Marvel has done a great job of making each installment on their Netflix shows different from the one before it.

Being that I came off of a overnight shift at my job, I was only able to watch one episode. The first episode was a decent introduction to our protagonist, not better than the previous introductions of Marvel/Netflix’s protagonist. We should go into this judging it as its own entity but given that it’s in the same universe, streaming service and company it is incredibly difficult to do. With that said, I believe that as a first episode it wasn’t as strong as what came before it but still a good introduction nonetheless.

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Danny Rand seems just like a 10 year old would act if they were gone from the world for 15 years and thought dead. There’s a sense of ignorance and innocence in Danny, one that a child would have.  As of now, I find that Finn Jones plays a fine Danny, not much to dissect just yet. Jessica Hanwick portrays plays Colleen Wig in the series which is a major role in the Iron Fist mythos, she seems like she will be a fan favorite and a fierce female co-lead.

As of now the villains seem to be either poorly cast or poor written or poorly portrayed, I’ve haven’t decided yet. After a few more episodes I’ll be able to point out the steam of the problem. They seem like bland villains, just dicks for being dicks. I can’t really say it any other way. They are no where near as compelling as Wilson Fisk, Cotton Mouth or Purple Man from DareDevil, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones; respectively. Whenever they were onscreen I wanted the scene to cut to someone else which is a problem, but it is a problem that can be fix with further character development and writing so I will find out in later episodes.

There were a complaints that the fight scenes were too choreographed and looked like dancing more then a fighting. Unfortunately, I would have to agree. The fight scenes felt very choreographed and Danny never seemed in danger even if he is a Kung Fu master. Maybe that was done on purpose since the people Danny was fighting were just regular hired goons. I would like to see what the fight scenes will look like when he fights The Hand or enhanced individuals, again, I will have to wait and see.

So in closing I thought the first episode was just fine, nothing near the garbage that outlets have been painting it to be but not at the high standard the Marvel/Netflix collaboration. Finn Jones has come out and said that the show was made for fans and not for critics, as of now I think I see that. Let’s hope it gets better as the series goes on.

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Diversity in Comic; Divisive?

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Diversity in comics, it has become a topic of conversation and heated debates in recent years. Some see it as a move in the right direction for the comic book industry while others see it as a misstep that will turn away long time fans. I stand with the former rather than the latter, though I do agree that diversifying the medium at times seems forced and could be handled in a better from a story perspective.

Marvel being founded in 1939 and DC before it in 1934 had primarily an all white roster of super heroes and support cast. That remained for many years until the late 60’s and early 70’s when we were introduced to Black Panther and the Falcon at Marvel and Black Lighting at DC. That was a full thirty years before a Black character put on a mask to serve the greater good at either publisher. The same goes for any and all minorities as well; Asian, Hispanic/Latinos, Middle Eastern, etc. Even with the introduction of Black Panther and Black Lighting, super heroes with non-white background were far and in between.

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We fast forward a few decades to the 2000’s, the Civil Rights movement happened thirty years ago, we have had huge leaps in women’s rights and slow but steady progress with Gay rights. Yet with all that progression, when we look at the comic book genre it seems like they’re still behind in the times. The flagship titles for Marvel were X-Men, Avengers and Spider-Man; none with a single minority besides maybe Storm from the X-Men. Flagship titles for DC were Justice League, Batman and Superman. All not having a single minority, including supporting characters. Both companies weren’t mirroring the unique potluck of cultures and ethnicities we have in our country but still mirroring other aspects of it (Society) like our politics, pop culture and overseas conflicts.

Now as more people spoke out about needing diversity in comics among other mediums, Marvel and DC took note. In my opinion, Marvel embracing it more then the other. Marvel slowly started to introduce characters from different nationalities, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion for the past ten to fifteen years. Not to say that diverse characters weren’t in comics already but Marvel was pushing them to headline their flagship titles. One of the two Spider-Man titles stared a half Black/half Puerto Rican teenager who is Miles Morales, the protagonist in Thor was now a woman which is Jane Foster, Captain America is a Black man from Harlem named Sam Wilson, Ms. Marvel is a Muslim American by the name of Kamala Khan, The Hulk is an Asian America named Amadeus Cho and the list goes on and on.

DC hasn’t push diversity as much as Marvel in recent years but they have still made progress. In the last few years they have introduced two additions to the Green Lantern Corps, one Simon Baez a Lebanese  American Muslim who was initially framed for a terrorist attack and Jessica Cruz being Latin American and the first female Green Lantern from Earth. They also have Cassandra Cain which is the current Batwoman who is also an open member of the LGBT and is co-staring in Detective Comics along Batman. Detective Comics being one of DC’s flagship titles.

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With the recent steps towards diversity in comics, it doesn’t come without it’s share of backlash and problems. Many have claimed that DC and especially Marvel are just diversifying their super hero community as a publicity stunt and pandering to minorities. Some say that the publishers are messing up the the current super heroes in exchange to make way for the new ones, they would prefer instead to introduce new characters with their own super hero identity. Now while I hear those arguments, I adamantly disagree with them.

To argue that comic book publisher’s attempt at diversity is just a publicity stunt is absurd. Publicity stunts are done to make initial shock and be talked about for five minutes. Marvel and DC’s push for diversity has been a slow build that they have been working at for years. They have invested time and effort into these characters’s story arc, titles and development. Miles Morales who is a perfect example of Marvel’s commitment to new characters that are minorities. Miles was introduced in 2011 as the new Spider-Man for the ultimate universe with stellar writers and artists attached to the title for the entire run. He was once deemed as a stunt as well and yet six years in and he’s now in the main Marvel continuity, a member of the Avengers and the newly formed Champions.

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The reason behind the recent diversity stems from pandering? I think not. Diversity is a natural evolution of the medium.  Studies have shown that the main consumer of comics are white males in the 30’s and 40’s. It just makes sense to borden consumer base. Since DC and Marvel’s initiative sales have gone up for both companies across the board with new buyers of all ages and backgrounds. Some would counter that it could be caused by the boom in super hero movies driving sales but that’s been proven false. Since the MCU, there hasn’t been a jump in sales, movie goers don’t walk into comic book stores after watching The Avengers on the big screen. Women are buying more comics then ever, young adults and minorities have been driving up the sales as well. The top Marvel comics constant of a female Thor, a Muslim American and half Black/half Puerto Rican Spider-Man. People want to see super heroes that look like them, that they can relate to.

The biggest and fairest argument (Even if I don’t agree and see its massive flaws) is that it ruins the current super hero status quo in favor of being replaced by new characters. I think that complaint, for the most part, holds no basis. Let’s take the Thor title for example; the main character of that title, which was Thor Odinson has been replace by Jane Foster (His on again, off again girlfriend) as the title’s protagonist. People were up in arms, saying how preposterous it was for Thor to now be a woman. People were angry to be angry. Thor was still Thor, a man. Jane Foster, a woman, was bestowed with powers of an Asgardian and took on the mantle of Thor. Thor Odinson wasn’t dead or gone from any major books, he actually got a new book called “The Unworthy Thor” and is going by the name Odinson. The Thor you know and love is still there for you to enjoy.

In the case of Sam Wilson,  Marvel announced in late 2014 that he would be the new Captain America. Again, people were in full rage mode. “How could Captain America be Black? Captain America is white”. Actually, Steve Rogers is white; Captain America is a mantle that could be taken up by anyone no matter race, religion, creed or sexual orientation. Now if you would want to get technical though, the first Captain America was a Black man from Harlem named Isaiah Bradley but I digress. There have been multiple individuals to take up the mantle of Captain America, the most recent before Sam Wilson was Bucky Barnes. Bucky was Captain America’s (Steve Rogers) side kick back in WW II. He had shown up in the preset day and took up the mantle when Steve Rogers was assassinated. When that happened no one was in the streets in protest, even if Bucky was a Russian assassin that murdered dozens of political figures for decades and was now the face of our country. Why is that? Because he was white and it apparently made sense. Sam Wilson was Steve Rogers’s partner for years and a veteran Avenger, it makes sense for him to have the mantle of Captain America passed on to him by Steve Rogers himself because he represents what Captain America stands for as a symbol.

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Just to piss off some closed minded people. Jane Foster and Sam Wilson were a thing.

Now however, I do think Marvel and DC have made taken some missteps when trying to diversify their brand. When you introduce a new character, pass on mantles or shack up the status quo, it should feel organic and natural. I don’t think it has been the case in multiple instances. In 2015 Iceman from the X-Men comics came out as being gay by way of his younger self from the past that was stuck in the present admitted (Comics, I know). That’s all fine, the issue was that when asked about the Iceman from the present, he was straight which doesn’t make any sense. The same person at two different times of their lives can’t have different sexual orientations. When the writer did that he promoted the notion that sexual orientation is a choice rather then something you’re born with. The whole situation was poorly handled and later rectified when they had the present day Iceman admit to being gay all along.

Another instance was on DC’s behalf that I found was a poorly executed attempt at diversity. In 2014 DC introduced us to a new Wally West, being that the DC universe was reconfigured in Flash Point (Again, comics) some characters hand’t shown up in publication, one of those said characters being Wally. When he came to the scene it was meet with some backlash. The Wally that emerged wasn’t the Wally we all knew, the new Wally was a Black teenager. Now, personally the fact that he’s Black wasn’t an issue to me (Though it might have been to some), my issue was that in introducing that specific Wally you essential erased the Wally we all knew for decades out of existence. The new Wally wasn’t taken up a mantle he replaced a preexisting character that had decades of stories, relationships and effects to the DC universe. That was all done away with and rewritten with the introduction of the new Wally. Thankfully, the original interpretation of Wally West, having been the starring character in the Flash titles for many years, was still missed by DC’s fans, and so the company decided to bring the original Wally back into continuity in late 2016. Now both Wallys reside in the DC universe and all is right with the world.

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Regardless of any missteps, diversifying the comic book landscape is a admirable cause and one that we should applauded and welcomed. Comic books are an art and art imitates life, so it makes sense for the heroes to finally look like the rest of us. A reader should be able to pick up a comic book and see themselves when they look at the cover. There is no evil agenda being pushed, the only thing that is being pursued is realism, inclusion, equality and authenticity.

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A new Marvel for a new age

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Meet Kamala Khan; she made her first appearance in Captain Marvel #14 (August 2013) before headlining the Ms. Marvel comic book series in February 2014 Kamala Khan was created by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Scott Hepburn. Kamala is a teenage Pakistani American born in New Jersey after her parents moved from Pakistan. She is a huge fan of superheroes, her favorite being Carol Denvers, the former Ms. Marvel who had recently started going by Captain Marvel.

Although Kamala has the same superhero alias as previously Carol Danvers, her powers are not the same at all. Kamala is a polymorph after being exposed to the Terrigen Mist. This gives her the ability to stretch her body in almost anyway imaginable. Kamala can also increase and decrease her size to both the size of a small building or a toy action figure. She can also selectively increase and decrease the size of any part of her body, although she prefers to increase the size of her fists. But she also uses the ability to increase the length of her legs so that she can travel great distances in a short amount of time. Kamala also has the ability to shape shift. In theory she can look like anyone she wants, but so far she has only changed into Carol Danvers and her own mother. Kamala also has healing abilities since she has been shot in the stomach but was able to heal over the wound when she transformed back to her original form. She cannot transform again until the healing process is complete.

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Kamala isn’t the first Muslim character in Marvel’s history but she is the first Muslim character to headline her own book. G. Willow Wilson which is Ms. Marvel’s lead writer, has made us fall in love with our new favorite heroine who isn’t just another superhero, she’s a minority and she’s a nerd. In her first issue, we’re shown a young woman who is altogether aware of superhero culture. When we first see Kamala at home, it’s at her computer, writing Avengers fan-fiction. This is important, not because it builds a relationship between reader and protagonist, but because it builds a solid foundation where the reader and the protagonist feel one in the same.

All that within the first few pages of her comic and we haven’t even reached what has given her the most attention, she is a teenage girl coming from a Muslim family.  She lives in a majority non-Muslim community, she doesn’t wear a hijab all the time, as neither do a lot of inner city young women of Muslim families. Kamala attempts to balance her need for her own identity with not disappointing her parents and acknowledging their love for her.

Marvel’s treatment of Kamala seems to be the exact opposite of some critics which thought it was a political move to create controversy to drive up sales. They have brought a respected writer, penciler and inker to her title and have been slowing integrating her into the bigger Marvel universe. She’s has also become an active member of the Avengers team for several months now which is their premier title, along side Iron Man, Captain America and Thor. She will also be headlining a new comic called “Champions” which will consist of younger heroes that want to be activist/super heroes rather then just caped do-gooders that punches bad guys. Kamala is going to be a main stay at Marvel and she seems like she’ll be breaking new ground during that time. Check out Ms. Marvel at a local comic store or online.

 

Marvel’s push for diversity.

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Marvel recently released their fall lineup and again the company is showing that they are pushing diversity among their superhero ranks. It’s obvious now after so many years and characters being introduced that this isn’t just a a fad or poor attempt to get cool points. These characters are written with depth and drawn by some of the industry’s best. It’s become apparent that said characters aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, they are becoming more ingrained in the bigger Marvel universe and it seems Marvel is in no rush to switch those characters out for the ones they replaced in the first place. In the next couple of days I will be posting here on my blog about these characters, giving a brief bio about them and a publication history. Stay tuned!

Our first Captain America wasn’t who you think…

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Isaiah Bradley is a fictional character in the Marvel Comics universe, an early product of the United States’ Super-Soldier program (codenamed Project: Rebirth) during World War II. Producing the world’s first Captain America.

In World War II Super Soldier program operated by “Reinstein” used African American test subjects to create the formula that will turn Steve Rogers from a skinny, but patriotic, army reject into Captain America.

Project: Rebirth begins as a collaboration between US, British and German eugenicists led by Dr. “Josef Reinstein” and Dr. Koch. Reinstein’s early attempts to refine the formula are tested on African-Americans. Three hundred of these soldiers are taken from Camp Cathcart and subjected to potentially fatal experiments at an undisclosed location. Only five subjects survive the original trials. In the name of secrecy, US soldiers execute the camp’s commander and hundreds of black soldiers left behind at Camp Cathcart. The government tells the families of the three hundred subjects that their loved ones had died in battle.

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Due to field missions in Europe and internal strife, Bradley emerges the sole survivor of his test group. He steals a spare costume and a shield intended for Captain America before he engages in a suicide mission to destroy the Super-Soldier efforts of the Nazis at the Schwarzebitte concentration camp. There, he is able to assassinate Koch, but the mission ends when the Germans capture Bradley. Bradley is later rescued by German insurgents, only to be court-martialed and imprisoned at Leavenworth around 1943. In 1960, Bradley is pardoned by President Eisenhower and released.

Considered to be the “Black Captain America”, Isaiah Bradley is depicted as an underground legend among much of the African-American community in the Marvel Universe. A number of the most noted Africans and African-Americans of the twentieth century’s last four decades visit Bradley as a sign of respect and, in many cases, hero worship. He receives fictional visits from Malcolm X, Richard Pryor, Muhammad Ali, Angela Davis, Alex Haley, Nelson Mandela, and Colin Powell. Outside the Black community, however, he remains largely unknown. When he arrives as a special guest at the wedding of Storm and the Black Panther, several African-American heroes are awestruck, including Luke Cage (who describes him as “the first me”), Goliath (Bill Foster), Monica Rambeau, Triathlon, and the Falcon. However, the Canadian-born Wolverine is totally unaware of the man’s identity or importance.

Meanwhile, the long-term effects of the test serum severely damage Isaiah Bradley’s mind and body, similar in part to the effects of various steroids and Alzheimer’s. In 2003, Steve Rogers (Captain America) learns the truth behind the Super-Soldier program and attempts a reconciliation with the now-childlike Isaiah Bradley. However, Captain America never discovers that the true mastermind behind the Super-Soldier program is the clandestine organization Weapon Plus and that Bradley is only one in a long line of Weapons, including Wolverine and Fantomex.

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Isaiah’s grandson, Elijah, became the costumed hero “The Patriot” and carries on his legacy. He was the leader of the Young Avengers and they have helped save the world on numerous occasions before disbanding.

 

Marvel introduces their new Iron Man.

Let’s welcome Riri Williams to the Marvel universe!

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Riri Williams is 15 year old, African American, MIT student who decided to challenge herself and make a Iron Man suit with scraps from around campus. After showing a classmate what she accomplished, campus security was called and forced Riri to don the suit. She flew off and eventually stumbled upon a couple of inmates escaping from the New Mexico State Penitentiary. She managed to stop the speeding truck they were using as a escape vehicle, but at the cost of her armor’s integrity.

She was introduced in Invincible Iron Man #6 and was created by Brian Michael Bendis; the same person who created Miles Morales, the Ultimate Universe’s Spider Man which is also African American and half Puerto Rican. Marvel has been pushing for diversity in their super heroes to reflect society and I think they’re doing a fantastic job. She will be making her debut as Iron Man after the events of Civil War II which ends in the next few months.

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Aquaman; The King

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Many people don’t know much about Aquaman except how the media portrays him; the joke of the superhero community. I, on the other hand know better.

Aquaman is a superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. Created by Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger, the character debuted in More Fun Comics #73 (November 1941). Initially a backup feature in DC’s anthology titles, Aquaman later starred in several volumes of a solo title. During the late 1950s and 1960s superhero-revival period known as the Silver Age, he was a founding member of the Justice League of America. In the 1990s Modern Age, Aquaman’s character became more serious than in most previous interpretations, with storylines depicting the weight of his role as king of Atlantis

Aquaman (Arther Curry) is one of DC’s greatest superheroes. He is the King of Atlantis,  founding member of the Justice League and the third most powerful member of the league in terms of strength; falling behind only Superman and Wonder Woman.

Aquaman has superhuman strength, near invulnerability, he can see in pure darkness, he can swim over 1,000 knots per hour, he could compel the actions of any sea life, he has superhuman speed and reflexes and of course could breath under water.

His current run is Aquaman Vol. 7 and it is probably his best series yet.

Doubt his bad ass-ness? Check the image below.

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Green Lantern; The Emerald Knight

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Hal Jordan, known as Green Lantern, is a superhero appearing in comic books published by DC Comics. The character was created in 1959 by writer John Broome and artist Gil Kane. Hal Jordan is a science fiction reinvention of a pre-existing character called Green Lantern that had appeared in 1940s comic books (Alan Scott).

Hal Jordan is a member of an intergalactic police force called the Green Lantern Corps that was created by beings called “The Guardians” which were present at the birth of the universe. The are hundreds of corps members, spanning the universe and all having dedicated sectors to patrol.

Hal was the first human being to be inducted into the corps but he wouldn’t be the last. As of right now, there are four humans currently in the corps.

Hal wields a power ring which is considered to be the most powerful weapon in the universe. It can create anything the bearer could imagine. The only limitations the ring has falls on the imagination and willpower of the bearer.

The Green Lantern Corps Oath is as stated…

“In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil’s might
Beware my power–Green Lantern’s light!”

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