She-Hulk: Attorney at Law Saves the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Yes, this title is clickbait.  It’s probably the most clickbait-y thing I’ve ever written.  Given the MCU has earned a not insignificant $15,558,746,560 at the global box office to date[1] (which doesn’t include all the profit it’s generated in merchandise sales and Disney+ subscribers) it’s not like the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in trouble.  It is a cultural juggernaut and like…well, like the Juggernaut, nothing seems to stop it.  It’s not in need of saving per se so it’s not like She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is salvifically sweeping in to salvage a once thriving interconnected cinematic universe flailing on the brink of cultural irrelevance.  But I chose the title to be an eye-catching invitation for readers (those intrigued, those enraged, and those in agreement) to dialogue with what this piece has to say.  Showrunner Jessica Gao’s She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is intelligent, goofy, sassy, funny, and self-aware; it’s everything that made me love She-Hulk more than the Hulk when I was a kid.  It’s also important to the future of the MCU in several key ways and we should talk about it.  So yeah, I said She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is saving the MCU.  Here’s why.

Be aware this piece contains some spoilers for the first two episodes of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.

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Saga and the Revolutionary Power of the Opposite of War

Comic books are a vast medium.  Every genre you can imagine can be found between the covers of one comic or another.  While often seen solely as the setting of superhero stories, there are horror comics, memoir comics, true crime comics, comic adaptations of classic literature, fantasy comics, sci-fi comics, comic adaptations of films, YA comics, comics about history, comics which continue the runs of favorite TV shows, and on and on.  The comic medium truly has something for everyone.  And, as someone who’s loved comic books for nearly forty years, I don’t care about any of those other stories XD.  I’m sorry!  But I don’t!  Bring me my superheroes!  I have novels and movies and TV shows and short story collections and memoirs and nonfiction books for all those other experiences.  When I open a comic book, I want my Marvel heroes, my DC heroes, and nothing else.  Except Saga.  I want Saga.  I want all the SagaSaga is the brilliant, blazing, beautiful exception to my rule!  With sixty issues released and forty-eight still to come, Brian K. Vaughan (writer) and Fiona Staples (artist) have created a masterpiece of love, family, loss, trauma, trial, and healing…while also telling one of the most poignant antiwar stories I’ve ever read.

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Easily Empathizing with and Conflictedly Rooting for Poison Ivy

Bill McKibben’s introduction to his 2019 book, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?, begins by reflecting on his 1989 text, “As the title indicates, The End of Nature was not a cheerful book, and sadly its gloom has been vindicated.  My basic point was that humans had so altered the planet that not an inch was beyond our reach, an idea that scientists underlined a decade later when they began referring to our era as the Anthropocene.  This volume is bleak as well – in some ways bleaker, because more time has passed and we are deeper in the hole…Put simply, between ecological destruction and technological hubris, the human experiment is now in question.  The stakes feel very high, and the odds very long, and the trends very ominous.”[1]  This is why a part of me can’t help but root, however conflictedly, for Poison Ivy in G. Willow Wilson (writer), Marcio Takara (artist), Arif Prianto (colorist), and Hassan Otsman-Elhaou (letterer)’s new miniseries, Poison Ivy, despite her goal being, you know, the absolute end of the human race.  Because maybe we kinda deserve it?  At least maybe we don’t not deserve it. 

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BIG EXCITING NEWS – I WROTE A BOOK!!!!!

That’s right, dear reader, you read that correctly.  I wrote a book!  A year ago I announced I had signed a contract with Claremont Press to write a volume for their Religion and Comics Series.  I promised to update you all with more information when I had it and when I could and…(drum roll please)…that time has come!  Ahhhhhhhh, I wrote a book AND I get to tell you about it.  It’s a super exciting day :D.  So read on, dear reader, and I can tell you all about my upcoming book.  YAY!

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Lessons of Joy, Hope, and Love: The Gift of Wonder Woman 1984

This month marks the 80th Anniversary of Wonder Woman!!!  I didn’t read her comics as a kid but Diana of Themyscria is a character who’s come to mean very much to me.  As Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman (2017) was my gateway to Diana and her world, it felt apropos to mark this occasion by (finally) posting the piece I wrote after seeing Wonder Woman 1984.  I LOVE the movies.  Since I got my driver’s license, rarely more than a week went by in between trips to the theatre.  However, after a 10:05 pm showing of Brahms: The Boy 2 on 7 March 2020, lockdown hit.  So when I saw Wonder Woman 1984, it’d been over TEN MONTHS since I’d went to the movies.  I wanted my return to be special and WW84 was the logical choice.  I wasn’t disappointed!  Wonder Woman 1984 was a worthy successor to the masterpiece that was Wonder Woman.  Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot did it again!  They captured lightning in a bottle twice…at least as far as I was concerned.  I was stunned when I began talking to friends – close friends who often share my opinion of films – and learned not everyone felt the same.  Some did, but some didn’t.  Granting all art is subjective, I still became curious, wondering what they saw in this film.  Many conversations followed and this piece was born of my side of those conversations.  This is an exploration of all I see in WW84.

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Captain America and the Redemption of the America Dream

Four years ago I wrote a piece titled, “Captain America and the Defense of the American Dream.”  I posted it on Inauguration Day and it considered how we, as a nation, should respond to Trump’s election, using Captain America as the frame for analysis.  It examined Captain America as a character, his history, and what lessons he could offer when the world we thought we knew was turned so completely upside down.  Now, four years later, Joe Biden is about to be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States alongside Kamala Harris – the first woman, first Woman of Color, first Indian America, and the first Asian American to hold the office of Vice President.  I find myself looking to Captain America once again, to the brilliant narrative Ta-Nehisi Coates’ has been telling in Captain America since July 2018, as I try to process the last four years and consider my roll in the future.

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Considering Peter Parker, EDITH, and Spider-Man: Far From Home

All the creatives and stars of Avengers: Endgame joined in a massive social media campaign asking everyone to be decent human beings and #DontSpoilTheEndgame…for two weeks until Marvel Studios used MASSIVE spoilers for Endgame in their trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home.  It was clear they were seeking to use all the emotions flowing in the wake of Endgame to motivate advanced ticket sales for Far From Home.  Marvel Studios was very direct about how Spider-Man: Far From Home served as the epilogue to Avengers: Endgame.  I enjoyed the film but was – and remain – frustrated by a plot point with seriously troubling implications.

Note, this has spoilers for both Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home (obvs.). Continue reading

Ghost Rider – A Vision of the Spirit of Vengeance in 2020

As a character, the Ghost Rider fascinates me.  But, with the exception of the ‘90s Spirits of Vengeance title that teamed the Dan Ketch-possessed-Ghost Rider with his (then) demon-free first host Johnny Blaze, I’ve read very few of his comics.  Looking back, outside of movies like Ghostbusters 2 (which scared the $#!T out of me), Spirits of Vengeance was really my first foray into horror.  Well, horror-lite.  Well, horror-lite for a comic book.  Well, after I’ve come to enjoy things like Penny Dreadful, It Follows, and The Shining and have had to endure horrors like Hereditary (WORST THING EVER), I wouldn’t really call Spirits of Vengeance “horror” anymore.  It’s more a supernatural thriller.  But for young me, it was the first time I willingly and intentionally entered the (Ghostbusters-free) world of demons, possessions, and fiery hellscapes.  Lately, I’ve found myself thinking of the Ghost Rider.  A lot.  I can’t stop imagining what shape this Spirit of Vengeance would take if it flamed into being in 2020. Continue reading

The Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Problem of Fat Shaming

In a recent post about the first teaser trailer for Black Widow, I discussed my excitement for the film while pointing out the criticism Marvel received almost as soon as the trailer premiered for fat shaming again.  In addition to all the (fair and deserving) praise Avengers: Endgame received, it also received some (fair and deserving) criticism for fat shaming in their presentation of Thor.  The trailer for Black Widow does the same with the character of Red Guardian.  A comment left on that post led to the idea for this one.  While putting together my reply, I decided it warranted its own post.  I write often of the intersection of comic books and social justice issues on this site so it’s not just natural but important I address this because fat shaming, or weightism, is a justice issue.  It’s also one, sadly, many people in our culture don’t understand or, worse, don’t even acknowledge as an issue at all.  Thankfully that’s starting to change and now seems like an opportune time to add my voice to that chorus. Continue reading

Goodbye Squirrel Girl, Thank You for Everything

Once upon a time, Mom bought li’l three-year-old me a copy of Web Of Spider-Man #12 at the grocery store.  So began a lifelong love affair with the character Spider-Man, the medium of comic books, and the world of superheroes.  When I turned sixteen my comic budget turned towards gas money.  But then, four years ago, I decided to return to my local comic shop and something magical happened.  I rediscovered an old love and found something I never expected in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.  This month Ryan North (writer), Derek Charm (artist), Rico Renzi (colorist), Travis Lanham (letter), and Wil Moss (editor) – with a surprise dash of Erica Henderson (artist) – have brought this remarkable title to an end.  That leaves me with a lot on my mind.  How do I say goodbye to something that’s come to mean so much to me?

There will be no significant spoilers for the final issue/arc here, just lots of feelings :). Continue reading