Friday, September 4, 2015

On The Shelf: Is nothing sacred at Marvel anymore?

In the course of the last year alone, Marvel has repackaged some of their pre-established characters with new faces, mostly in the name of cultural diversity. To wit:

Captain America: Sam Wilson, formerly the Falcon, was promoted, if you will, late in 2014, which in a way marked the 45th anniversary of Wilson's debut, before he even became Falcon.

Thor: Writer Jason Aaron asserted that the name of Thor isn't really a name but a title, which now has been transferred to the Thunder God's long-time mortal love, Jane Foster, who now is a cancer patient.

In both cases, as we've documented, the writers opted to use pre-existing characters known to the fans of each franchise. Of course, out of the two, don't expect Natalie Portman to replace Chris Hemsworth as Thor in the movies. That just ain't gonna happen, effendis.

Spider-Man: In the Ultimate Universe, Miles Morales, a African-American-Latino teen, became the new web-head after that world's Peter Parker perished. Once the current Secret Wars comes to an end, and that's been delayed for no other reason than to milk sales, Morales will exist on the same plane as the Spidey we've known since we were kids. Again, this is all about attracting underserved minority readers.

Ms. Marvel: Carol Danvers has long since graduated to become Captain Marvel, so a Muslim teenager, Kamala Khan adopts the Ms. Marvel role that Carol took on nearly 40 years ago. The big diff? As seen in A-Force, at least in that context, Kamala can stretch like Mr. Fantastic. This and the gender flip with Thor are aimed at attracting female readers who apparently aren't getting enough options.

And, now, prepare for an Asian-American Hulk.

Amadeus Cho, whose first name was inspired by Mozart and a certain Falco song of the 80's, debuted a few years back, created by Korean-American writer Greg Pak. Cho has run with the Hulk (Bruce Banner) and Hercules, and now gets to be a Hulk himself, beginning in December's Totally Awesome Hulk, drawn by Frank Cho (no relation, obviously). So what happens to Banner? You'd have to read & find out.

Now, Marvel has had, in case you wonder, Russian heroes other than Black Widow. They've previously established they had heroes all across the globe, from Israel (Sabra, who debuted in Incredible Hulk in the early 80's, as did the Arabian Knight) to China (The Collective Man) to Ireland (Shamrock). If the current trend keeps up, they'll find some excuse to reboot Daredevil with someone other than Matt Murdock. Just watch.


As part of their Operation SIN event last year, Marvel issued a miniseries that preceded Agent Carter, and, like the show, is set post-WWII. The photo cover of Hayley Atwell, a publicity still used to promote the show, is nice, and is used on the trade paperback volume. Unfortunately, the plot comes across as being a bit weak, and having decent artwork won't save it from being a total dog.

Rating: C.

We all know wrestlers are comics fans, too. CM Punk, in transition from wrestling to MMA, made his comics debut earlier this year, writing a Thor short for Marvel, and a brilliant, twisted ode to his beloved Cubs in Strange Sports Stories. He wraps the year with his first ongoing series, Drax the Destroyer, debuting in November and spun from, of course, Guardians of the Galaxy. Punk's not writing it alone, though, as he'll be joined by a busy scripter in Cullen "Hot Cross" Bunn. This will be a trip. Other than that, a popular book on the independent scene, both in wrestling and comics, is Headlocked, written by Mike Kingston. The storyline follows an aspiring grappler as he makes a career decision to follow his dream, leaving college, amid the fact that his mother won't speak to him. WWE Hall of Famer Jerry Lawler has contributed covers, and current stars such as Christopher Daniels (Ring of Honor) have also lent their aid. If your local shop ain't carrying Headlocked for some reason, they and you are missing out on something special.

The first trade paperback collection gets the story started for new readers. To sum it up, as Ringo Starr famously sang more than 40 years ago, you've got to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues, and you know it don't come easy.

Rating for Headlocked: A.

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