Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors is a sweet superhero tale where yes — a group of younger heroes come together to battle an extremist group. But more importantly than that, it's a superhero tale with diversity oozing out of every animated frame.
The movie, which premieres on the Disney Channel Sunday at 10 p.m. ET and PT in the US, picks up from where the Marvel Rising: Initiation shorts from last summer left off — shining a larger spotlight on Muslim-American superhero Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel (Kathreen Khavari), her close friendship with the energetic Doreen Green aka Squirrel Girl (Milana Vayntrub) and opening the door to introduce viewers to America Chavez (Cierra Ramirez), Dante/Inferno (Tyler Posey) and Captain Marvel (Kim Raver).
Other returning characters from Initiation include Patriot (Kamil McFadden) and Quake (Chloe Bennet). And while the previous Initiation shorts focused on Gwen Stacey/Ghost Spider (Cameron Dove), her character takes a break from this chapter.
Captain Marvel fans hyped about the character's recent MCU trailer should take note that while this version of Carol Danvers is powered up and ready to fight, she is ultimately just a small part of the overall story.
Ms. Marvel, who idolizes Captain Marvel and is inspired by her, instead leads the Secret Warriors movie, showcasing her origin tale, her relationship with her mother and her struggle for acceptance in a culture that is adverse to the creation of the Inhumans — the latter being people who gain superpowers after getting into contact with a gas substance called Terrigen Mists.
What Secret Warriors is doing particularly well is that it isn't shying away from its focus on diversity in any part of its plot. In particular, the storyline aims at a brewing conflict between humans and an extremist group of Inhumans, the latter believing that a war between the two groups is inevitable. Khan ends up stuck in the middle, as an Inhuman herself who doesn't believe the conflict is needed.
Another refreshing carryover from Marvel comics is America Chavez, whose origin story involving her two mothers protecting Chavez by sacrificing themselves to protect their daughter, remains completely intact and sympathetic regardless of the gender of her parents. Chavez herself demonstraters herself as a formidable ally, having super strength and the ability to fly. It's a nice start for LGBT representation for the animated side of the Marvel universe for now, and hopefully as the show continues it will find more smart ways to be inclusive of this.
While teamwork and cooperation are definitely themes for Marvel Rising, sometimes the movie makes their points a little too clear. During several battle scenes and montages, background anthem music kicks in to emphasize the characters' efforts to overcome their challenges. While the songs themselves are fine, their placement feels a little shoehorned since the characters' actions — for instance, fighting off baddies and helping save others — speak for themselves.
But regardless, this second tale in the Marvel Rising series continues to shine a light on the deeper cuts of Marvel's world of superheroes, telling stories with characters who feel as varied as people in our society — from many different backgrounds and perspectives.
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