An Unsurprisingly Insensitive Superhero Fight, Domestic Violence-Style

Apologies to the world for my spotty posting as of late. My non-internet life has been pretty busy recently with various things, not least of which is my sister’s conversion to Islam, decision to wear hijab, and the inevitable fragmentation of my family as a result. (Other events include: a planned vacation, an attempt to rid myself of internet addiction, an upcoming concert, the first week of classes, video games, and being really poor all the time.)

My return post is, surprise surprise, about Storm and Black Panther. Specifically, Why It Makes Me Feel Skeevy That Storm and Black Panther Are Going to Fisticuffs.

For those of you who aren’t following the Avengers vs. X-Men, Marvel’s giant summer money-making scheme tie-in event, Black Panther and Storm broke up. By that I mean, BP acted like a jerk and annulled the marriage behind Storm’s back. So now, in the tie-in to the tie-in, Vs., a limited series that showcases plotless superhero fights, BP and Storm are hashing it out.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the underlying reason why this makes me uncomfortable: they’re a recently-divorced couple who are physically fighting each other to deal with their marital issues.

Seriously, Marvel?

I’m not going to say that there’s no way that a comic could use what is essentially domestic violence in a way that is meaningful, insightful, and interesting. But this is AvsX: VS, and that was just never going to happen.

The first thing that could have made this less skeevy-feeling is not allowing Black Panther to prevent Storm from using her weather powers. Without those powers, they’re forced to go to actual fisticuffs, rather than allowing the melee/ranged difference between the character’s fighting styles as a buffer to prevent it from devolving into a husband/wife fistfight disguised as emotional depth.

Another mistake: making it about their marriage rather than about the big superhero war that enabled the divorce.


When Storm says, “this is about you and me,” this issue abandons any hope of not making me feel skeevy.  At that point, we really are watching a husband and wife beat each other up over their relationship. What’s worse, that last panel just looks like Marvel isn’t taking this very seriously. Maybe it’s the art, but to me that punch looks a lot like a punchline, or at the very least an invitation to snicker, or to enthusiastically take a side. I don’t want to cheer on either of these fighters. The whole fight just makes me sad.

Later we get a thought from Storm: “If we’d only had children, maybe things would’ve been different.” Really? Really? This is how the writers are exploring the emotional depths of a woman who just got her marriage annulled behind her back and is now fighting her ex-husband?

And then there’s this page:

I hate how Wakandans show up, just so they can make Storm feel guilty for leaving. As if Storm didn’t look enough like a bully in this issue.

At the very least, there is no winner in this fight. (Vs. normally declares a winner after every fight.) Still, Marvel screwed up an opportunity with a lot of potential to show that it prints writing that actually has emotional depth and sensitivity.

The only way to make this worse is to bring them back together at the end of AvsX. I don’t want two people to get together after they felt the need to go to physical violence to properly end their marriage. That is an unhealthy relationship. So unhealthy that if Marvel glosses over this, should they choose to bring them back together, I will be very upset. If we’re supposed to celebrate their getting back together, expect an angry rant to appear on the blog.

Also, I think it needs to be said that Marvel needs to be careful what stereotypes about black people it reinforces with things like this. Again, not something you need to be a genius to understand. Or, at least, you only need to have a modicum of emotional sensibility to understand.

So, this final death knell for Storm and Black Panther’s relationship hammered the last nail in the coffin for my interest in this series. Fuck this noise, Marvel. Seriously.

-Joanna

 

Completely Unsolicited Advice to Storm

Hey Storm,

You might remember me from that last letter I wrote to you a while back. You didn’t respond, but that’s ok. I’m sure you were really busy.

Anyway, I found out about what happened between you and Black Panther. I just wanted to say that I’m really sorry. T’Challa really should have talked to you about it before going ahead and having the marriage annulled. I know you guys were in couples therapy, but that kind of lack of communication is pretty low, in my opinion. I get that being on different sides of a superhero war can really strain a relationship. But I think that T’Challa is just hiding behind this conflict. I don’t think he gave you the respect you deserve, and the way he behaved about this is an indication of that.

Namor destroyed half of Wakanda, you didn’t. You didn’t even know that Namor was going to, because only Emma Frost did. You don’t even know anything the Phoenix Five are doing, because they don’t tell any other X-Men what’s going on. Maybe T’Challa doesn’t know that. But he should have given you the benefit of the doubt. He should have trusted you. You came back to Wakanda because you wanted to help after Namor destroyed Wakanda. That shows you care about your people, and you care about him. You did the right thing.

I also wanted to say that I think you can do better than T’Challa. Maybe that sounds harsh. You guys did only get divorced like yesterday. But I mean it. You deserve someone who will believe that you didn’t know Namor was planning anything. You deserve someone who will communicate with you, let you know that he’s going to give up on therapy instead of getting an annulment behind your back. You deserve someone who will stick with you through this superhero war.

So here’s my advice, Storm: Forget about him. Not completely. The time you two spent together probably affected you deeply, so you can’t just wave the magic wand and ignore that part of your life. Relationships are complicated. Even ones that involved retconning origin stories in order to seem real. But I think you should try not to think about him for a while. You need to do things to take your mind off him, and, most importantly, you need to socialize.

Call up your girls. Have some fun. Talk about relationships, or don’t. I’m sure Rogue’s got a thing or two she could say about Gambit. And don’t get me started on Sue and Rick. Yeesh. But if you’d rather just hang out, drinking Cape Cods and talking about last’s week’s Project Runway or the future of Downton Abbey, that’s fine too.

Don’t let this rule your life. You are better than this behind-your-back-annulment. You are better than the man who did it. Always remember it’s not your fault. He failed to communicate with you, and that is his fault. There was nothing you could do to prevent either Namor’s destruction of Wakanda, or T’Challa’s misunderstanding your role in all this.

Keep on fighting for what you know is right, Storm. You’re powerful, intelligent, and brave. Remember to always be true to your heart, because that’s when the heavens will part, and someone will actually understand the Mulan reference I’m making here.

I know you’ll find someone better, someone who will respect you for being the strong, indomitable force of nature that you are. But if you don’t find anyone else? No problem. You’ll always have the X-Men, and friendship can be just as meaningful as romantic relationships. So don’t stress out about finding a new man.

In short, Storm, don’t get too down about T’Challa. It might hurt to hear now, but he’ll never be half as badass as you, and he couldn’t handle that.

Lots of love and admiration,

Joanna xoxo

Comic-Con Round-Up

First, a reminder: Captain Marvel #1 is released tomorrow. Buy it. I mean it. This is the only solo female series Marvel has right now, and with Kelly Sue DeConnick as its writer, has a woman at its helm. I do not want this cancelled. So buy it. Buy every issue.

Now, stuff that caught my interest over the Comic-Con weekend:

-I’m super pumped about the new Sandman serialized story that will feature art by the perfect-for-this-task J.H. William III. I just wish I knew how long a series it will be.

-You may have read my post about the necessity of the rumored Black Panther movie. Needless to say, I’m pretty disappointed that it wasn’t announced at Comic-Con, but Ant Man and Guardians of the Galaxy were. And, like a lot of people on the internet, I’m irritated about Louis D’Esposito’s response to why they aren’t making a Black Panther movie right now:

He [The Black Panther] has a lot of the same characteristics of a Captain America: great character, good values… But it’s a little more difficult, maybe, creating [a world like Wakanda]. It’s always easier basing it here. For instance, ‘Iron Man 3′ is rooted right here in Los Angeles and New York. When you bring in other worlds, you’re always faced with those difficulties.

Last time I checked, Black Panther is more rooted in reality than, say Guardians of the Galaxy, which features a tree person and a raccoon, along with humanoid aliens. In fact, I think Marvel’s taking a huge risk with Guardians of the Galaxy for a number of reasons, and it frustrates me even more that they think alien raccoons and trees are more relatable than black people.

Maybe Phase Three of Marvel’s film plans will include a Black Panther solo film. Hopefully by then, non-comics readers won’t be sick of superhero movies.

- Marjorie Liu apparently pitched a team comprised of Black Widow, Mystique, Elektra, and X-23. Mike Perkins was on board to draw. And Marvel said no. It wouldn’t sell. Yes, Marvel. I’m sure it wouldn’t have sold. Because Birds of Prey doesn’t sell or anything. (Not to mention that I think Marjorie Liu is one of the best mainstream comics writers right now.)

-And, to begin and end with Neil Gaiman, someone who doesn’t cause me angst, look at these super cool shirts on Threadless.

-Joanna

Why We Need a Black Panther Movie

I’m anxiously awaiting actual information about this proposed Black Panther movie. I only know two things for sure: 1) that Stan Lee has said he would like Black Panther to be a part of the Avengers sequel (which would rock) and 2) that Romeo Miller (or Lil’ Romeo, as I will always know him) said he was approached about the role (which makes no sense to me).

In any case, I definitely want him to get his own movie before he gets thrown into The Avengers 2, and I will be disappointed if it gets cancelled. (And with all the Marvel movie rumors swirling, I think they’ll have to cancel some of them, unless Marvel is ok with biting off more than it can chew.) Without his own movie to star in, he’ll just be a supporting character lost in the background with all the other new Avengers. (Which reminds me: I’d also like Marvel to decide and announce who will actually be in the sequel. There are more proposed characters than even Joss Whedon could handle in one cast.)

It’s not just that I like T’Challa and Wakanda and think he could easily carry his own movie. It’s that we, as a culture, need a Black Panther movie.

The first reason is probably pretty obvious: the world needs a black superhero movie, and the world needs it now. Yes, the colorblind casting of Heimdall in Thor (despite the racist backlash), War Machine, and Nick Fury (who is infinitely more likeable as Samuel L. Jackson) are steps in the right direction. But they’re itty-bitty steps. We need a black hero, not just a black character, no matter how important or likeable or complex.

Not only would Black Panther be a hero, he and his movie would subvert typical American notions of civilization, Africa, Western superiority, as well as typical movie executives’ notions about whether or not moviegoers would be interested in seeing a black superhero on the big screen.

I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while, but I was spurred into action by an article by Costa Avgoustinos called “Black Panther: The Progressive African Avenger.” In it, Avgoustinos analyzes the BET-produced Black Panther TV show (which is excellent, streaming on Netflix, and you should watch it), and how it criticizes the way the West sees the world. As Avgoustinos writes,

“the series asks a big “what if?”: What if there was a country in Africa untouched by Western intervention? What could it look like today? Black Panther presents Wakanda as the (exaggerated for comic book purposes) utopian answer—a thriving technologically/medically/culturally/economically advanced African nation which gained such prosperity, not only from following a strict protectionist policy but by rejecting any imperialist impulses of their own that come with power.”

Wakanda is an (admittedly fictional) African nation that is highly insular as well as extremely advanced. Ever self-sufficient, Wakanda creates and perpetuates its own knowledge and power, not simply relying on paternalistic Western imperialists. America tends to pity Africa, thinking of those poor Third Worlders with their backwards, failing everythings. But, if Wakanda and the United States were to get into a fight to prove who is the most advanced, the United States would get its ass kicked.

T’Challa typifies his country well: he is intelligent, well-spoken, regal, as well as endowed with super-abilities. He would be an excellent fictional ambassador from fictional (though plausible) Africa, an ambassador who might make people re-consider what they think they know about Africa.

However, Wakanda is still semi-tribal. On the outside, Wakanda and its people look like the kind of Africa that the West sees as backwards and uncivilized. The Black Panther is the name for the ruler of Wakanda, who wins his (or her!) title through a physical fight. They’re well-acquainted with magic, and refuse to trade with foreigners. For all their civilization, they still cling to notions that Western culture deems uncivilized.

This mixture of civilized and tribal is what makes the progressivism and independence of Wakanda so inspiring. Wakanda does not teach us that we must abandon the qualities that make the West see itself as civilized. Instead, when both the “civilized” and “barbaric” are joined, a country can be wealthy, happy, and strong.

Because Hollywood tends to depict Africa in a highly negative way, it would be as wonderful and progressive as Wakanda to see a vision of Africa (even fictionalized) that is strong, admirable, and not beholden to Western ideals. A Black Panther movie could help to remove the stigma attached to (black) African men in film, who are usually seen as the angry, violent stereotypes this video points out:

 

Maybe a successful Black Panther movie could change the way we Westerners simultaneously victimize and vilify black Africans. Or maybe I’m getting a little carried away about a superhero movie, as usual. In any case, I hope Marvel gives us the opportunity to find out.

-Joanna