Marvel Superhero Girls

Giving Chloe Bennet something to do in the off-season.

Marvel's YouTube Channel has launched the Marvel Rising shorts (22 minute compilation link here, annoyingly they're not even visible on the main Marvel YT channel), related to the Ms. Marvel/Squirrel Girl miniseries of all #1's.  "Initiation" is basically the first episode, stitched together from six 4-minute shorts with a few minutes' worth of credits and title sequence edited out.  "Secret Warriors" does not have a release date yet, but will continue the story and add in more characters (other than Captain Stacy and a few cops, pretty much everyone with lines is shown in the image above).  Presumably it'll air on Disney Channel or Disney XD (although Disney XD seems to be getting smothered with a pillow lately).

I've heard this described as Marvel's answer to DC Superhero Girls, and that's not an unfair comparison.  Unlike DCSHG, this isn't a high school Alternate Universe, but it is its own continuity (i.e. "Ghost Spider" Gwen's dead friend who she's accused of killing isn't Peter Parker, Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel are both newbies at the same time).  And like DCSHG it's starting with shorts, although the shorts are more clearly intended to be stitched into a traditional for-air episode.  The focus is definitely on young female heroes of high school age (more or less) with a few token guys, and it's Kamala Khan's first real use in non-comics media. 

"Um, the party can't meet in the tavern, we're underage."
The animation style is fairly generic, although at least the CG elements don't clash too blatantly with the foreground figures.  The voice acting is...mostly passable.  Chloe Bennet voices her Agents of SHIELD character Daisy "Quake" Johnson adequately, if a bit flatly.  A few of the other voice actors are linked to their characters in rumors or Development Hell, but none of them really stood out to me.  At least they made some effort to not whitewash the voice cast, with Kamala voiced by Kathreen Khavari (Iranian descent, so at least in the right general vicinity) and Patriot voiced by Kamil McFadden (who hopefully will get the hang of the role, his delivery is kinda clich├ęd and broad, beyond the needs of the role).

The general feeling I get from the production values is that the budget was very limited.  On top of the generic animation and so-so voice acting, there was the "empty world" problem.  While not quite as bad as Transformers: Robots In Disguise in terms of always taking place in deserted locations like deserts and empty factories, there was a distinct lack of background people in most scenes.  This is New York City, there should be crowds of people at the least running away from every fight scene, but the streets feel as empty as small town Nebraska at 9PM on a Sunday.  Granted, putting a lot of the fights on rooftops and in alleys helps justify the lack of people, but in some ways that just made it more obvious that they were trying to avoid background characters because of budget reasons.

Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Film
As for the plot, it runs like the first session of a tabletop game, with players unfamiliar with the rules.  Like, "Okay, Ghost Spider, we'll start with your Hunted by the Police disad kicking in, so let's have a quick fight against some cops who are trying to capture you.  We'll figure out why you were there later.  Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, what are you doing?"  "Um, we're gonna go on patrol?"  "I brought cupcakes!"  "In character, or for real?"  That sort of thing.  To their credit, they don't try to cram in all the protagonists at once, leaving Dante (Inferno) and America Chavez for later.

Still, in this age of online streaming of entire seasons, releasing just one episode's worth of material feels lacking.  I think they should have gotten at least two episodes ready to go all at once, for the two-parter pilot sort of deal.  That would let them get the whole team together reasonably well in the first batch, even if we then got to wait a while for the next episode.

I don't really have more to say, there's not much to work with yet.  A lot of the character bits that have me pondering are hard to evaluate on just a few minutes on screen, but Doreen does seem to be rolled back to the beginning of her career, and maybe Kamala has too?  We do know that Ghost Spider has been active for a long time, thanks to a flashback, so maybe she totally replaces Spider-Man in this universe.  Other stuff is clearly neither Earth-616 nor MCU, though.

This is basically a teaser, which puts a lot of weight on Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors to bring the substance.  In RPG terms, Initiation was the "learn the system" session for the newbs, and some experienced players will be joining in the next session for the real campaign to start.

Dvandom, aka Dave Van Domelen, is an Assistant Professor of Physical Science at Amarillo College, maintainer of one of the two longest-running Transformers fansites in existence (neither he nor Ben Yee is entirely sure who was first), long time online reviewer of comics, is hopefully ready for Fall semester to start, is an occasional science advisor in fiction, and part of the development team for the upcoming City of Titans MMO.
Marvel Superhero Girls Marvel Superhero Girls Reviewed by Dvandom on Friday, August 17, 2018 Rating: 5
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