I hate “retread” heroes. I hate “legacy” heroes. I hate “reflexive” heroes. The pending version of the New Warriors, has all three.
As a comic reader and a fan of the original New Warriors, I had a bit of a problem when I saw these characters. I know Marvel and comic companies in general are trying out new things, hoping to connect to new audiences and bolster their flagging readerships. Just putting the truth on the table. There is a reason for these efforts.
But the solution to the problem isn’t this. Making characters who aren’t new. Aren’t inherently interesting and who are little more than playing a round of “stereotype bingo” is not a recipe for a winning superhero team.
The first New Warriors were a problematic lot from the perspective of a minority reader if we are being honest, and we are. I am a minority comic reader and have found the treatment of minority characters in the Big Two to be less than stellar.
Night Thrasher, however cool his appearance and swagger might have made him did not hide the fact that he was just one more Black man with no super-powers. A later addition to the New Warriors, Rage, was the stereotypical representation of Black Men as seen by white men: Filled with rage and presumably metahuman, hence the cries by every policeman everywhere – “I feared for my life so I had to shoot him.”
Nope. I did not enjoy either representation though some writers managed to salvage Night Thrasher somewhat as a character with a bit of that Black Panther/Batman vibe. Rage still sucks. Yes, I said it. From his costume to his characterization, he never jelled or made me sympathetic in any way.
The rest of the New Warriors were a mixture of retread, legacy or “we don’t know where to put this character.” The only original one of the lineup, Speedball is ultimately turned into a dour sad sack after the Warriors were scapegoated for killing an entire town. (See: Civil War #1)
Okay, baggage out of the way, let’s look at what they want to pass off as the New Warriors with the Old Warriors now considered established and no longer the new kids on the block.
Stereotypes in Training
Screentime: Asian Otaku with the power to access information outside of himself. Not a genius, just able to access the unreliable Internet. Ugh. I bet he knows kung-fu. Not necessarily a bad thing but it reeks of stereotyping in the worst way. He is still the least offensive of the entire list. Internet gas? I have worked with computers for thirty years, I have never heard of such a thing and can’t imagine how it would work? Were nanites not available?
Snowflake and Safespace: Bad names. Worse powers. Don’t believe me? The power to throw icy snowflake shuriken should remind you of someone. No? Can we say Dagger? Since we’re on the subject, their brother (they are non-binary) Safespace can create defensive barriers, but only for other people (Can you say Cloak? Sure you can.)
Let’s go one step further for Safespace and Snowflake, there is nothing original about these powers or these limitations. Does anyone else think his powers remind you too much of Steven Universe? I’m just saying… (Not a dig against Steven Universe. I LOVE that show.) Making a Black hero who can’t use their powers to save themselves (or are dependent upon a condition being met, hence my phrasing “reflexive powers”) are almost a tradition for Black heroes in Marvel comics.
No? Unfair you say? Shall I make you a list? Let’s. Here are just three. I could make a much longer list but they shall make my point adequately. Not including Cloak who was tied to Dagger such that he grew out of control without the supportive interaction of Dagger’s light powers. Ugh.
Let’s do this:
Bishop of X-men fame. Power: Energy redirection. He can take an energy blast from someone else and absorb it and redirect it. He cannot, however, make an energy blast of his own. Sucks to be him. Not the worst of the reflexive mutant crowd, at least he had martial talents (and oversized firearms) to offset his lame-ass mutant ability.
Everett Thomas, known by his X-name of Synch, had a “bio-energetic aura” which allowed him to imitate the mutant powers of anyone who was near him. He could adapt that power intuitively and use it better than the person he was imitating. Alas, if there were no mutants around he had no powers. He would be killed in an explosion due to a lack of nearby mutants to sync with. Ugh.
Armando Muñoz, Code-name: Darwin, whose mutant ability is metahuman adaptation. Darwin is a mutant with an extremely malleable physiology, including the ability to Instantaneous adapt to any condition. Darwin’s powers of self-protection offers continuous circumstantial evolution. Darwin is able to adapt to any situation assuming he survives the initial contact. In the comics that has rarely been a problem. This means he has to be exposed to a condition in which his current abilities or lack thereof are insufficient to the task BEFORE he can “adapt” to them and overcome the challenge.
While in the comics, this hasn’t been the worst power you could have, it didn’t save the mutant’s life in the movie version of our merry mutants in First Class where he was forced to swallow another mutant’s power that killed him BEFORE he could adapt to it. When I say it like that it sounds like a rape metaphor, doesn’t it? Sigh.
Why is this a piss-me-off? Because no one ever seems to have a problem with giving incredible power to white characters as soon as they are created. See: X-Man – future telepath, and powerful telekinetic, Hope of X-men fame capable of imitating any mutant power she has ever seen, Rogue, able to absorb any mutant power she is exposed to and now can recall any mutant power she has ever held. Do I need to mention Franklin Richards? No. Good.
Suffice it to say, Black heroes having powers which cannot be used to defend themselves or have to wait until they’re acted upon is just another way of saying get to the back of the superpower bus and wait your turn. I am not going to even bother with the non-binary part of this equation, because it is just one more insult after their completely ridiculous names under the pretense of reclaiming hurtful words. Only a white writer would think this is the path anyone should take.
Retreading from the seventies just in time for him to make a modern appearance in the movies is Morbius the Living Vampire. I won’t hate on Morbius because he is the traditional tragic character who becomes problematically empowered by experimenting on himself (presumably to save his life) and then has to justify being a monster and hurting people in order to do good in the world to compensate for his actions. Complicated and problematic but its a good pathos.
B-Negative: Gets a transfusion of Morbius blood in a hospital (WTF?) and takes on the issues of a living vampire. This is a bald retread, barely roadworthy and sure to fly off your car as soon as it hits the road. In fact, this character is DOA because he has NO REASON for existing except for medical incompetence. He isn’t self-made. He isn’t tortured by his efforts, he is a wanna-be goth who probably enjoys his vampiric state. Okay, enjoying it might be a new twist but, yawn. Been there. Done that.
Last but not least, Trailblazer. What the hell was anyone thinking? Don’t we already have at least one Native American reaching into a pouch and pulling out whatever he needs? Yes, we do. Michael Twoyoungmen a former member of Alpha Flight named Shaman, who was mystically trained to be able to connect to a magical realm and pull objects from a medicine bag he carried with him.
Trailblazer is untrained, not a superhero and can only randomly pull objects from the bag that MIGHT be useful. Sigh. A character retread with effectively no superhuman ability or training. No good can come from that. In fact, in many narratives, this is the sacrificial lamb which galvanizes the team into greater efforts.
This is a Losing Proposition
Look Marvel: You want, no NEED, to make new heroes, I get it. How about you hire some writers who possess a shred of originality. Or creativity. Or, I don’t know, color, who might make something that doesn’t look, sound and act like pre-chewed gum with about as much flavor.
The anime series, My Hero Academia, has done more for creating new superheroes in the few years it has been around than both Marvel and DC have in the last twenty. Ironically without creating any new powers, just creatively playing with powers in ways which seem to escape the Big Two. Or worse, just adapting heroes you already know and doing something really different with them. The lack of originality, creativity, as well as the social/cultural insensitivity makes this an all-around epic fail.
No, I have not read a single page. I don’t need to. Just thinking about my extensive knowledge of the history of Marvel Comics tells me no one there is doing the same with an eye toward sensitivity and social awareness.
Could this be salvaged? Maybe. If we’re being honest, this is not a good start and I am certain I am not the only person who thinks so. I just wanted you to understand why this fails on all four cylinders.
Yes. I could do better. Ask me how. But it will cost you.
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.