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 where the shorts from last summer left off. It shines a spotlight on Muslim-American superhero Kamala Khan, also known as Ms. Marvel (Kathreen Khavari). We see her close friendship with the energetic Doreen Green, alias Squirrel Girl (Milana Vayntrub), and meet 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, also known as Ghost Spider (Cameron Dove), her character takes a break from this chapter.
Captain Marvel fans who are already hyped about theshould take note that while this version of Carol Danvers is powered up and ready to fight, she plays a small part in the 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. Her origin story, which sees Chavez's two mothers sacrificing themselves to protect their daughter, remains completely intact and sympathetic. Chavez herself demonstrates herself as a formidable ally, having super strength and the ability to fly. It's a nice start for LGBT representation on the animated side of the Marvel universe for now.
While teamwork and cooperation are definitely themes for Marvel Rising, sometimes the movie makes its point a little too clear. Several battle scenes and montages are backed with empowering anthems. The songs themselves are fine, but their placement feels a little heavy handed since the characters' actions -- fighting off baddies and helping save others -- speak for themselves.
But regardless, this second tale in the Marvel Rising series shines a light further into Marvel's world. It tells stories with characters who feel as varied as the people in our society -- from many different backgrounds and perspectives.
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