Thursday, February 26, 2015

Morales vs Thor: A Study in Contrast

Pardon me while I plug in my waffle iron once again. This really should be the last time that have to bring up female Thor.

In fixing my poor education on the subject of Peter Parker, I've recently read through the last half of his Ultimate Spider-Man run, into the second volume that culminates in the death of Peter Parker and the rebirth of the character of Spider-Man as Miles Morales. It's something that echoes and contrasts nicely the difference in the handling between Miles Morales and the mystery female Thor.

The main contrast between these two situations is the respect in which the handover from seasoned hero to rookie newcomer is handled. In Spider-Man's case, there was an epic six-issue final battle in which Normon Osborn, as a hulked-out Green Goblin, escapes SHIELD custody, springing some of Spidey's biggest and baddest adversaries in the process and begins a hunt that ends at Aunt May's house. Spidey, Human Torch, and Iceman face off against Goblin, Vulture, Electro, Sandman, and Kraven. Parker is particularly heroic, having just survived being shot through the torso taking a bullet that was meant for Captain America, as he webs himself shut and drags himself to the battle, before crushing Goblin with a truck. Aunt May even gets a shining moment of awesome as she shoots Electro down with her own revolver. And in the end, Parker is given a magnificently noble send-off, in which a young boy is standing in the crowd watching as the life slips away from him, and he finally makes peace with being unable to save his Uncle Ben. A young boy named Miles Morales.

Morales's uncle is the Ultimate universe version of The Prowler, a professional burglar (that bears an uncomfortable resemblance to Deadpool) who does a job on Oscorp labs only to unwittingly provide a ride to an enhanced spider that ends up biting his nephew. The first 10 or so issues, as far as I've read, of Morales has him treating Peter Parker's legacy with awe and reverence, and rightly so. He's a young kid, younger even than Parker was, coming from a different background and a different life experience. His Uncle Ben moment comes when, after discovering his powers, he gets to the scene of the final battle too late, and blames himself for Parker dying. His appearances are initially met with hostility, then slow acceptance, particularly with Jessica Drew, Parker's female clone and Spider-Woman of the Marvel Ultimate universe. Morales has a natural and believable amount of self-doubt for someone of his age. A palpable sense of “Who am I to take Spider-Man's place?”

Pictured: The Absorbing Strawman
Pictured: Character Assassination
on a female villain.
The new Thor... does not take this approach.
Contrasting between
Morales and Thor, one subject is treated with a great deal of respect, where the other is not. Where Parker got a hero's death, and a supporting cast that transfers into the new character's life to both keep him grounded and teach him how to be Spider-Man, Thor gets none of these benefits. Where Morales is both well-established and likeable, the new Thor is flippant (in her own mind) and arrogant (in addressing other characters). Morales's book shows minority characters interacting naturally with one another as well as established characters while Thor's book turns a pair of established villains into a strawman anti-feminist critic and a pushover girl-power cheerleader. We get to know Morales as a human being and as a budding hero, where Thor just plops a stranger in front of us and says “We're not going to tell you who this is, but you're going to like her whether you like it or not!”

And finally, Parker is treated with respect. Given a hero's death and a lasting legacy. Thor is turned into a drunken layabout with a deified case of depression. Ultimate Spider-Man is how you go about replacing a hero. Thor is how you go about disrespecting your own property and alienating fans for clickbait attention.  

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