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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Marvel Rising: Initiation is a series of animated shorts that give background into Ghost-Spider's (known in comics as Spider-Gwen) evolution and her alter ego, Gwen Stacy. The story centers on the murder of Gwen's best friend, for which Ghost-Spider is presumed guilty, and one scene shows her holding his lifeless body. Other violence includes ray guns, shockwaves, and some hand-to-hand fighting. Most of the heroes introduced in this story are females, and the diversity that's evident in their personalities and physical appearances challenges the concept that TV superheroes must look and sound alike (i.e., be thin and shapely and fight crime in skimpy outfits). This intriguing addition to the Marvel universe is a precursor to the film Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors, due in fall 2018.
What's the story?
MARVEL RISING: INITIATION tells the origin story of Ghost-Spider, aka Gwen Stacy (voiced by Dove Cameron), a shadowy superhero who patrols the New York streets to protect citizens from danger. When Ghost-Spider is discovered at the scene of the murder of Gwen's best friend, Kevin, the entire city presumes her guilt and the NYPD's Captain Stacy (Gwen's father, voiced by Steven Weber) calls in reinforcements from S.H.I.E.L.D. -- Patriot (Kamil McFadden) and Quake (Chloe Bennet) -- to apprehend her. As the chase evolves, Ghost-Spider finds new friends in Ms. Marvel (Kathleen Khavari) and Squirrel Girl (Milana Vayntrub), as well as another unlikely ally who may hold the key to proving her innocence.
Is it any good?
This exciting story is told in four-minute episodes that hook you just before they leave you hanging and wanting more. It's exceedingly efficient at introducing a cast of new characters and establishing relationships among them and, in some cases, to the biggies like Captain America, all the while adding pieces to the very engaging puzzle of Ghost-Spider. In that regard, it certainly does its job as the prologue to a slated continuation of the story to come.
Marvel Rising: Initiation's most appealing quality is its strong female contingent of superheroes. Given a genre of traditionally male-dominated alliances, Ghost-Spider's new allies are a breath of fresh air, not just because of their gender but also because some of them challenge the stereotypes of female heroes who came before. Gone are the days when the girl supers had to be curvy, scantily clad, and deferential; enter a new breed of Marvel types with pudgier frames, prominent facial features, and voices that demand to be heard, but with the same sense of duty to serve and protect.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Marvel Rising: Initiation's female-dominated character pool. In what ways does this superhero group encourage viewers to think differently about what makes someone courageous and strong? Is this a welcome change to the Marvel franchise? In what ways do the characters we see on the screen influence how we feel about ourselves?
In addition to violence, how do the characters elude capture and protect themselves? What intellectual gifts do the superheroes possess? Do these serve them better than physical strength when they face adversaries who are bigger or stronger?
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