Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD Season Four Episode One The Ghost recap and predictions

Spoilers for Season Four, Episode one of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD follow – This information may be classified.

Science and magic are usually in opposition to each other, and agents of SHIELD is bringing opposites together for season four. I’m predicting new villains arriving in season four, and artificial intelligence resurgent

Episode one of season four The Ghost has a burned-out and cagey Daisy still running from the organisation that built up her life, brought her new friends, and put her through more than one struggle for her life and family. And now she has a ghost to deal with.

Leo Fitz’s relationship with Jemma might be stronger, and he may now have a new friend he can related to intellectually, but a new secret is stepping into his life again. Life Decoy Models (LMDs) are designed to protect SHIELD’s agents, but is there a shade of something like Ultron within the program?

Regardless, it’s clear Daisy and Fitz seem to be carrying the greatest emotional weight.

Magic and science collide.

Fitz works ebulliently, yet he is heavy-hearted with a new secret to hold onto, which might distance his relationship with Jemma Simmons.

Holden Radcliffe has a new invention. AIDA stands waiting for orders in Radcliffe’s living room. Fitz has to avert his eyes, since Radcliffe has left her naked, and undressed. It’s a shock to have stepped out of his high-tech, ethical lab working with his partner Simmons, and into a “Weird-science” naked robot lady story.

What’s most interesting about this scene, however, is AIDA’s observation skills.

Switched off, she has her eyes downcast to the floor. There is something alert in her gaze, however. Radcliffe aimed to cross the “Uncanny Valley”, and he seems to have done it. There is  a sadness to AIDA, as she waits to have her voice and agency returned. Something about her is very human.

I predict AIDA might have an issue with Radcliffe and Fitz discussing her fate without her opinion.

Daisy has slipped into the rebillious persona “Quake”, and she is deeply impacted and grieving, still working through the anger of her loss from last season. Can her scientific, serial way of thinking handle a ghost?

Daisy’s pathway through life has involved a lot of serial, procedural, and analytical thinking.

She worked as a compute scientist, a hacker, and a video editor.

She learned about the ritual and procedures of the Inhumans. Terrigen has to be applied in a certain way, and metamorphosis follows a strict process. If Inhuman, grant abilities, and if else, reduce to ashes and dust. Definitely a tough and almost machine-like brutal efficiency.

So when faced with an actual shapeshifter in Ghost Rider, will daisy be able to handle this threat? She thinks procedurally, and serially. Ghost rider seems to shift randomly. Is his power motivated by a concept as nebulous as justice? Or as emotional as vengeance?

I predict Daisy might have encountered something she won’t be able to take on with her current methods and state of mind.

A gaseous woman also appears in the opening episode – could this woman be the villain Vapour AKA Ann Darnell?

Trapped in a box, a mysterious woman who seems to manifest in a gaseous state arrives at the end of the episode to menace Agent May, and her strike team of elite SHIELD agents.

Is this Ann Darnell, of the villain team the U-Foes? Based on teaser information from the next episode, It seems unlikely. Particularly since this character might be wrapped into Fantastic Four copyright, and not available to Marvel Studios.

I predict this character might be a reference to the U-foes, at least, with poisonous gas that can cause hallucinations

Do any of these predictions strike a chord with you? Let me know in the comments where you think Season Four of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is going.

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Thor visits Australia! A short mockumentary catching up with the Norse god of thunder.

Previously only available at Comic Con, a short film showing Thor’s trip to Australia (featuring Dr. Bruce Banner ) was released by Marvel Studios.

While the final scenes of Avengers: Age of Ultron sent Thor and the Hulk down a different road, one which left the Asgardian and green goliath absent from the battle at Berlin airport back in late April this year, A new mockumentary by director Taika Waititi catches up with Thor’s new domestic arrangements.

I had a few observations:

  • Thor’s “What are infinity Stones” chart hints at the power and mind stones, and references Nick Fury, plus Captain America’s indestructible shield.
  • The red reality stone, and it’s connection with Dr. Jane Foster, is also on the chart, along with a green stone next to the label “Time Stone”, confirming that the time stone is green in colour.
  • The yellow sugar sachets visible in the cafe are found across Australia, just in case there was any doubt of where the mockumentary was made.
  • Darryl’s email to Tony Stark as dictated by Thor mentioned Tony Stark creating a “possessed robot”, which is none other than Ultron, who was possessed by the AI built into the crystal shell surrounding the mind stone when it was still attached to Loki’s staff. Convoluted? It’s just like the comics.
  • Darryl’s tie also matches his Bike. Good sartorial and transport choices.

Thor: Ragnarok is currently set for a November 7, 2017 release date, and is distributed by Marvel Studios.

How to draw empowered female characters: 7 steps from artist Renae De Liz

A language and content warning for this post – Warning, this post discusses artistic depictions of the human body, and some swears. Proceed with caution if needed.

Marguerite Bennet sent out this tweet in April this year. It’s already August, soon to be September, but it’s important to stop and take a deep breath.

Equality in story telling will emerge when more stories are published that show equality in their visual design.

Art that captures diverse personality, genders, and body shapes, for instance helps build equality. Representation is important.

Here’s another tweet, this one from artist Renae De Liz

De Liz published a set of neat tweets that explain how to de-objectify and empower female characters in comic artwork. I’m no artist, but these tweets show clear steps toward more equal representations in comics (in Superhero comics specifically):

1 – Distinct facial features promote personality.

A common expression in comics is to have lidded eyes, and a pout. While promoting a sensuous character, the side effect is lessening personality. Place personality and uniqueness first. Consider what your character is thinking about when drawing them in a scene, or in a single image.

2 – Commonly, breasts are drawn to outline and accent their shape, and as fully separated circles. What’s realistic for a hero is major support.

Athletes wear sports bras and apparel designed for support. These often have a specific look. Consider that many super hero profiles list characters as having olympic level fitness. It follows they would dress to match their athletic ability.

3 – Give her muscles! If a Superhero you’re creating or drawing from has super strength, or strength best fits her hero persona, you can depict that in her arms.

Arm length and size differs widely, but heroes who can lift a Renault Van, if they are male, have bicep and tricep measurements of around 19 to 22 cm. Powerlifters who are women are more than capable of matching that arm and strength capacity. It all depends how a person trains, moves, and interacts with their environment, or how their abilities have impacted their lives.

4 – Hands are set in a way to promote strength

Hands set in a softer way can reduce the sense of strenght about a character. Set hands in a way to promote strength and accentuate power.

5 – The “arch and twist” accentuates a “boob and butt perk”. Stick to what can realistically be done, using arches without the sexualised intent

The muscular-skeletal system is flexible, especially when trained to be. Consider a circus performer who practices stretches daily. It’s not realistic to flex the spine in such a wound up twist.

6 – Poses overall should be more functional versus simply being for sex appeal

Fairly straightforward, but a functional superhero pose is a different stance and attitude to posing.

7 – On heels. Modern heels amplify stance, but are not too realistic

There is a scene in the Young Justice animated series where Zatanna transforms her heels into comfortable flats. She couldn’t run across a rooftop in heels.

Consider what your character would choose as footwear. Consider low heels, or no heels.

To wrap up, the intent here is to help those who want to promote change in their work, and not to shame those who choose otherwise in their artwork. And for more about De Liz you can read her website . If you liked this post, or you are an artist who can give some more insight, why not leave a comment below?

Captain Marvel #2 Review and Insights

There is a fair amount to describe here, and some of the insights and points of interests in the art and character conflicts are listed in this review. Spoiler Warning! This review contains some spoilers for Captain Marvel #2 (under the All New, All Different Marvel comics letterhead).

Captain Marvel #2 Cover

  • Astronauts stand to attention, looking to the top right
  • Cover characters are diverse, from all different backgrounds
  • Captain Marvel herself stands closest to the viewer
  • All astronauts salute here, except for the Alpha Flight member holding the flag
  • The flag has half of Captain Marvel’s Hela star, plus an Alpha Flight logo

This cover captures everything readers need to know about Captain Marvel’s new position, and her character. She’s a leader, and she’s a character with close ties to the audience. She’s forward-thinking. Staring off to the right, in the direction of the comic – the direction readers will be reading the story – establishes her as forward thinking.

She stands closest to reader, at the front of the astronauts. Together, they evoke the Carol Corp, a team, and a  concept, built up in her recent story arcs. Alpha Flight’s matching uniforms helps convey this close tie. The corp dress in Captain marvel costumes. This comic continues that relationship.

Artwork

  • Light and shadow are prominent
  • Green colours, purple colours, and primary colours set tone
  • Comical body language breaks up tense moments

Captain Marvel and Alpha Flight explore a derelict spaceship, and the darkness of these scenes builds mystery and tension. Purple light, and Green light are signposts. They point out where dangerous alien technology is prominent.

It’s a warning to the characters.

Scenes on the Alpha Flight space station are in full colour. Red, blue, and yellow spark up in these scenes. Safety vs Danger plays out this way. Wendy Kawasaki is a character enthused about exploring. Her shifting, comical body language offsets the super heroes tense posture.

Character Conflict

  • Captain Marvel is very protective of Wendy
  • In another sense, Aurora looks out for Sasquatch
  • Several of these Canadian heroes have a history, and it shows
  • Agent Brand is generally frustrated in Captain Marvel #2

Wendy’s enthusiasm cuts through the tone of this comic. What would have been a more dark wander down spaceship corridors blossoms into an adventure. The science fiction element is subverted when Puck, Aurora, and Sasquatch (who is furry, tall, and in space – Chewbacca) pick up on Wendy’s conversation points. Romance even sparks between two of the Alpha Flight old guard.

Insights

What begins as a crashed-alien-ship exploration story, shouting out to Alien and Deadspace, changes into a mystery set up and launched into space. Some scenes are even reminiscent of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes.

There’s a lot for Captain Marvel to do here. Agent Brand deals with a more tedious interrogation, however. Frustration does not take Brand’s attention away from the health of her new crew. Wendy and Carol specifically, will need her help to escape from new and unexpected dangers.

There is a small Wizard of Oz tie here Puck and Sasquatch become like the Tin Man and Scarecrow when they go in search of the “Heart” and “Brain” of the lost spaceship.

detail

Captain Marvel #2. Published by Marvel Comics.

Batman #49 Review and Insights

There is a lot to describe here, so I’ve selected some insights into the comic’s artwork and character conflicts, and unpacked a few of them. A spoiler warning for anyone not caught up on the latest story arc.

Batman #49 uses interesting visual metaphors of trauma and darkness to depict Bruce’s journey down into the Batcave, and the potential return of the Dark Knight.

Batman #49 Cover Art

  • A stark Batman shadow fills half the cover
  • Bruce Wayne himself is in pain
  • This shadow is the cause of his pain.
  • The shadow used on the right of the cover balances
    the composition.
  • The amber light, like a fire, draws the eye toward Bruce

With one hand touching his head in anguish, and the other grasping at the air like a claw, Bruce is in pain, struggling with the trauma of becoming The Batman again. This trauma plays out during the issue.

Artwork

  • There is significant anguish on the faces of Alfred, Julie, and Bruce throughout
  • Different and unique versions of Gotham appear
  • White and blue colours appear throughout the comic alongside heavily inked shadows
  • The trauma of becoming The Batman is represented by a huge, fiery red beast attacking a clean and ideal city

This issue marks part nine of the Super Heavy story arc.  On multiple other worlds, Batmen are dying. On one of these worlds, Bruce Wayne protects the city alongside the Council of Owls. This cleaned up and reformed Court of Owls uses an army of Talon’s. Bruce himself has employed teams of engineers and custodians to help run an organised and brightly lit Batcave.

Character Conflicts

  • Alfred deeply desires Bruce stay as he is – kind, unsophisticated, partnered, and happy
  • Bruce wants the truth, and to confront his trauma, descending into the Batcave to activate a memory machine
  • Julie Madison realises she must be the one to terminate the bearded Bruce, and return The Batman to life.
  • There is a shocking revelation about Julie’s parents

The large science fiction item of this story is the memory machine. This item has appeared before – a device that ensures The Batman lives on. It sends electrical surges around the Batcave when it activates.

In this case, Bruce can use the machine to return The Batman to life through him. There is a cost, however. The trauma, the shadow of the Batman, is powerful, and could kill him. Without Julie Madison’s intervention, it almost does exactly that.

Insights

My understanding of the story here, is that the scenes of an ideal Gotham are what Batman imagines he could be if he merged his current calm outlook with the Batman’s shadows. Unfortunately, they are completely incompatible.

The Batman is far to heavy a weight on the mind to bear. That is clear from the character’s stress, the dark cover, and metaphor in the artwork – the ideal Batman suits up with the Bat crew, and tries to save the white and clean Gotham. A red and black beast destroys this city however. A visual representation of Batman’s darkness and shadows.

An endless series of Batmen cloned from Bruce is a regimented and well-ordered version of Superman’s Bizzaro.

Bringing a monster to life with a machine and surges of electricity ties back to Frankenstein.

The idea that Bruce must terminate his softer civilian persona to return to the super heroic identity also lines up with The Doctor’s experiences in the Doctor Who episodes Human Nature and The Family of Blood.

http://vignette4.wikia.nocookie.net/marvel_dc/images/a/a3/Batman_Vol_2_49.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20160210183552

Published by DC comics

Secret Six #4

Top five insights into Secret Six #4:

  • New diversity in its cast of characters – introducing Porcelain as a non-binary gendered character
  • Dark storytelling, but strong comedy from the Ventriloquist and a veteran, returning character – Ragdoll
  • The return of veteran Secret Six characters Ragdoll, Jeanette, and Scandal Savage
  • Artwork showing an excellent and carefully planned action scene
  • A theme of animal welfare – characters safeguard small animals from harm

Conflict in this issue falls between Mockingbird’s mercenaries, who are three familiar characters, and the Secret Six. Comic relief balances out the darker parts of the conflict

Reintroducing Ragdoll, Jeanette, and Scandal brings to light the role of a character already seen in past issues. A red haired woman, who helped capture Catman back in Secret Six #1, is seen to be working with
Mockingbird – the mastermind who is hunting the Secret Six. Mockingbird wants the Secret Six captured and punished for their past crimes. This mystery mastermind is ruthless, holding a hostage to force Scandal, to work for him.

That’s the key conflict in the story. Half of the original Secret Six combat with the new team. Veteran Secret Six fans will no doubt enjoy seeing Ragdoll’s unusual, comic relief dialogue return to the issue. Ventriloquist has provided excellent comic relief so far in Secret Six. Both Ventriloquist and Ragdoll making clever quips adds to the issues sense of comedy.

Porcelain shows trust in the team, revealing more of her personality. Big Shot is accepting, while Strix collects a Lawn Gnome

Porcelain shows more layers, as she shares her non-binary perspective with her new team. Porcelain identifies as a woman sometimes, and as a man sometimes. She expresses her identity through her
dress choices. Wearing masculine gendered clothing, she tells Catman, Big Shot, Strix, and the ventriloquist about her identity as a non-binary person. Initially, it seems Big Shot has an
issue with her gender fluidity. He gives her a masculine, grey hat to wear. He says: “a fella’s got to look sharp”, showing acceptance.

Strix deciding to adopt a lawn gnome she finds in the front yard, and sampling a cookie rather than joining Catman in a scuffle against Ragdoll also add some great humor to the comic that plays out expertly through the artwork

Several romantic connections build romance as a theme here, while several other characters protect small animals from harm, which adds an animal welfare theme

Romance is important in Secret Six #4. Big Shot is very careful about a vase that his wife made for him. He pauses his battle with Jeanette the banshee to carefully place the vase out of harms way. Jeanette says she thinks it is a romantic gesture. Scandal Savage is working for Mockingbird because the mastermind has captured her partner. While they are not named, she goes to great lengths to rescue them
from Mockingbird.

Care for small animals is also brought up twice. Jeanette and Scandal will not allow Ragdoll to hurt squirrels and other woodland creatures. Catman also claims that Scandal brought him a pet cat while he
was in captivity earlier in his career. He says that this gesture “saved everything”.

Secret Six #4 is published by DC comics July 15 2015. Writer – Gail Simone. Artists – Ken Lashley & Tom Derenick. Colours – Jason Wright. Letters – Travis Lanham. ($2.99 USD).

We are Robin #1 – Comic Review

Duke Thomas and a team of new Robins recruit their skills to help clean Gotham, and bring back some justice in the aftermath of Batman: EndgameWe are Robin #1 offers:

  • Strong lettering and colour choices
  • New and returning characters from Gotham City
  • Themes of clean versus dirty spaces, mortality, and class

Standout colouring and lettering choices are effective in bringing out the voice of We are Robin #1 and creating an immersive Gotham City. The new team of Robins arrive in a dynamic moment.

Lettering and text choices stand out effectively from the background, with black and yellow. The colour choices for the font bring the letters forward. Combined with the short and to-the-point voice of the title character, getting immersed in the comic happens quickly. Gotham City feels tangible and solid in this comic.

Artwork for Gotham’s streets, alleys, fire escapes, and sewers is typically coloured brown and asphalt grey. Bright and selective costume choices stand out from these dreary shades. Colour choices are consistent with the other depictions of Gotham City in other Batman related comic books.

Another strong moment in the artwork has a team of Robin’s arrive to help Duke Thomas – the viewpoint character.

They are ragtag, and are dressed in various street clothes and sports equipment coloured in red, yellow, and green to match the colours of Robin’s costume. Similar to The Movement, also from DC comics, the youth of Gotham with the skills to make a difference take a stand. Dynamic action marks their first appearance here in We are Robin #1.

Duke Thomas and Doctor Leslie Thompkins think about mortality and responsibility. In the aftermath of Batman: Endgame, several new characters form a team of Robins, and consider Duke Thomas for recruitment.

To the characters of We are Robin #1, mortality and responsibility are at the front of their minds. Duke Thomas has a shifting view of mortality. It changes based on the situation. In a fight at school, addiction to the adrenaline, and how close that pushes him to mortal danger is at the front of his mind. Heights are a fear of his. He makes another comment about mortality when faced with jumping down a fire escape. What he fears more is loss of identity, and the threat that his missing parents might forget who they are, and what they value.

Doctor Leslie Thompkins speaks across to Duke. Despite an age difference, she does not talk down to him. Doctor Thompkins asks Duke to take responsibility for himself, and stop alternatively fighting while searching for his parents. Duke regrets going against her plans. Clearly, she inspired some respect by being
forthright with him, and not patronising.

Ultimately, Duke takes responsibility in hunting for his parents. He comments on how The Batman has bailed on Gotham. Another loss from the aftermath of Batman: Endgame was the disappearance of The Batman and Bruce Wayne.

A range of themes are brought up overall: mortality, class, and clean versus dirty spaces. Cleaning up Gotham seems to be a priority for the Robins. If Duke joined them, he would find a way to act on his values and motivations.

The comic addresses mortality through Duke Thompson, and class from the villain of the comic, who arrives later in the story, and talks about how the attacking symbols of Gotham’s opulence. Clean versus dirty spaces and behaviour is also brought up by Duke Thomas: there is some inconsistency to Duke’s character. A gap between the values he wants to live up to, and the actions that support those values. In this instance, he respects his mothers values of clean speaking, eating, and living. Despite this, he refuses to clean a bathroom, and begins to use slang, what he calls imprecise language. It’s something we all strive for – to step up and take action on the values we uphold.

Robin is an identity Duke Thomas can use to take action. The Robins use precise language. Duke would be on his way to living his values if he joined them.

We are Robin #1 is published by DC Entertainment ($3.99 USD) Lee Bermejo (Story). Jorge Corona and Khary Randolph (Art.) Rob Haynes (Breakdowns). Trish Mulvihill and Emilio Lopez (Colours). Jared K Fletcher (Lettering). Cover artwork by Lee Bermejo.