As presumably all of us know by now, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. started when The Powers That Be over at Marvel decided that Coulson hadn’t died at the end of The Avengers after all. Instead, he was resurrected through the judicious use of spoilery alien technology and given his own team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to boss around. The Avengers, and the rest of the world, were told that Coulson was definitely dead. As the series has continued, though, more and more people have been finding out that Coulson isn’t dead—even Lady Sif, Thor’s Asgard pal, who was sworn to secrecy about it. But the Marvel universe stubbornly continues to sidestep how the Avengers, and basically everyone in the films, has stayed in the dark for so long—a move that I find to be frustrating at best and fantastically poor writing at worst. It’s gotta be hard to figure out a plotline that spans a TV show and several movies, but surely someone at Marvel understands that not all of Coulson’s associates are going to take his so-called death at face value. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait around to see if Marvel will ever get it together—there’s already a great fanfic that deftly handles the emotional residue from both Coulson’s death and the fallout from his death.
The toxic masculinity at the heart of nerd culture has been exposed—most noisily through Gamergate, but via plenty of other incidents as well. While sexism has been the most obvious motivator for these reactionaries, spillover into racism, homophobia, and transphobia are par for the course. At a fundamental level, this burst of nastiness is a reaction to the first real challenge to the privileged position of white men in nerd culture.
Things have degenerated into something of a civil war in nerd culture, and while it rages on, it is becoming abundantly clear that the good guys are going to win this one. I’m not so optimistic as to say that hatred and oppression will disappear, in nerd culture or anywhere else, but there is at least a growing consensus that those things are wrong, and deserving of criticism.
The doors are open, and white men no can longer dominate. But this change comes only after generations of being told that those stories are universal and vitally important. For years, white men never needed to share the stage, and the tales of others were pushed away. As we finally start to knock down the worldview that so deeply privileges one identity, it becomes imperative to reconstruct whiteness and masculinity as something new. Before, the construction of these identities was deeply rooted in claiming entitlement to a supreme position. Now, we need a construction which both rejects that entitlement and recognizes what enormous privilege remains.
Terrorist organizations, like the Ku Klux Klan, forced Reconstruction to end in the American South before its time, leading to an enormous and destructive backslide for civil rights. White men in nerd culture are now threatening or executing political violence for the same purposes. We need reconstruction to make sure they do not succeed. Comics, so long at the forefront of everything toxic about nerd masculinity and exclusivity, have taken up the call, and are finally white, male characters into new roles which fit in a diverse world. With any luck, these are not just changing stories, they’re going to be changing readers.
Okay, if you’re a comics fan, or a sci-fi/fantasy fan in general, you’re probably pretty comfortable with time being less of a straight line, and more a mixed-up ball of timey-wimey… stuff. That said, it probably threw you a little bit to see All-New Hawkeye launch negative six weeks after the conclusion of its predecessor, Matt Fraction’s beloved Hawkeye. Oh well; Book One’s use of flashbacks helps you take the odd ordering in stride.
In any case, the adventures of Clint & Kate are now in the hands of Jeff Lemire and Ramon Perez, under the editorial guidance of superstar Sana Amanat. Amanat—now Marvel’s Director of Content & Character Development—headed up Fraction’s Hawkeye, and her portfolio includes Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel, Daredevil, and of course, Marvel’s emerging flagship, Ms. Marvel herself, Kamala Khan.
The floorboards are thudding with the vibration when Kate steps into Clint’s hallway. Okay, the floors are vinyl tile, who knows if there are boards under there, Kate doesn’t have a degree in construction, but—poetic license. “If the building’s rocking, don’t come knocking?” she says dubiously as she turns the doorknob.
As soon as she opens the door, booming vocals spill into like hallway like they’re surfing the crest of a pop-punk tsunami. “AND THAT’S ABOUT THE TIME SHE WALKED AWAY FROM ME, NOBODY LIKES YOU WHEN YOU’RE 23—”
Clint Barton is standing in the middle of the living room in his boxers and a t-shirt, half-heartedly moshing while he feeds Lucky a slice of pizza. It’s 11AM, so that’s gotta be cold. Kate sighs and shuts the door behind her. It takes a minute for Clint to notice she’s there, which is exactly how Clint gets his ass 95% killed all of the time. “Hey,” he mouthes under the thudding bass, then does a head-tilt, finger-flick: What’s up?
You are embarrassing me, Kate signs back. What is this, your old man music?
Clint rolls his eyes. You want me to put on H-A-N-N-A-H Montana? He does the two-M mountain sign for the state instead of abbreviating to MT. Good thing Kate’s been working on her geography vocabulary.
I don’t know you, Kate says.
Lucky barks. Clint surrenders another slice of cold pizza.
B-W wants to party at noon, Kate says. You got pants for that?
Generally when I turn to fanfiction, I’m looking for my fix of a particular ship. In this case, I was looking for Marvel fanfic of the America Chavez/Kate Bishop variety, and while I found a small hoard of good stories, my personal favorite discovery turned out to only feature the pairing for a paragraph or two.
Pretty much everyone who has read fanfiction has an OTP—a One True Pairing that they ship harder than anything else. But what about the couples that are just awesome buds, and who you like together as friends but not romantically? Well the recently coined term ‘brotp’ is there for you. And since Valentine’s Day puts and unnecessary emphasis on being in a romantic relationship, I figured I’d take this post to give a shout-out to some of the awesomest platonic friendships out there.
We do a lot of complaining about the way women’s roles in action movies are typically that of the romantic interest. And hell, it’s justified. There are far too many films where the lady, however interesting she is, is nothing less than window dressing or the arm candy.
However, on the other side of this coin, it’s important to remember that having a romantic interest does not inherently lessen the worth of a female character. It’s only when her role boils down to ‘my only motivation is my love for my amazing prince charming dudebro’ that it becomes a problem.
Consider The Avengers. Does it matter if Clint Barton and Natasha Romanoff have a thing? I’m not necessarily arguing that they do, but if they did, would it make Nat any less kickass? No. In this case, the Black Widow is a well-rounded, complex character with various motivations, and romantic feelings are just one part of those motivations.
On the other hand, let’s look at Sherlock. Irene Adler is also an arguably badass lady. But over the course of her part in “A Scandal in Belgravia”, all of her actions are motivated by her romantic attachment to Sherlock, and it makes her character unpleasantly two-dimensional.
The problem with boiling women down to just their romantic motivations is that it essentially removes their agency, and forces us to define their characters in relation to their romantic partner. But at the same time it’s important to remember that the basic fact of having a male romantic partner does not immediately make a lady less kickass.
I’ve been teetering on the edge of picking up a current comic book series for a while. I mean, I have Sandman, and Watchmen, and a couple Marvel Essentials I picked up at Comic Con, and I’ve read the first two Runaways, but I didn’t really feel like I had properly gotten my feet wet because I hadn’t read anything with a big-name superhero(ine) in it.
I really wanted to pick up an ongoing series, but I wasn’t sure what to read. I would go into my local comic book store and awkwardly stare at the new release shelves and then buy a collection or an Adventure Time comic instead of just… asking for help.
And then I heard really great reviews of both the current Hawkeye and Captain Marvel books on Tumblr, over and over again, and I thought, “self, this is it. We are going to get these books while they’re in print and read them and open a new path in my road to ultimate geekdom.” So I grabbed my debit card, abducted my roommate to be moral support, and marched into the comic store ready to go. I talked to the guy at the counter! He was very helpful and nice! I was saddened to learn that Hawkeye #1 was out of stock and probably not getting another print run, and that Captain Marvel #1 was similarly out of stock but might be in next week. Undaunted, I put my name on a list, bought Hawkeye #2 and #3, and Captain Marvel #2-5, and marched home with my spoils.
So the friend of anyone who wants to start a series like Hawkeye but is foiled by an out of print #1 is Comixology. This website lets you buy a digital copy of the book you want, downloadable to several mobile devices or readable on the website. They have a really cool guided reading setup that guides you through each page panel by panel rather than making you squint at the entire page on your computer screen. This is where I found Hawkeye #1. And now I get to the actual review part of this post.
The first page of Hawkeye #1 states:
Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye, became the greatest sharpshooter known to man.
He then joined the Avengers.
This is what he does when he’s not being an Avenger.
That”s all you need to know.
This was terrifically reassuring to me as a new reader. I know what a Clint Barton is. I know what a sharpshooter is. I know what an Avenger is. That was all I needed to know to understand this comic. And before I say anything else, let me say this: Go buy it right now.