Marvel Rising: Battle of the Bands Is A Fun Distraction


Marvel Rising: Battle of the Bands Is A Fun Distraction

Battle of the Bands Is A Fine Superhero Adventure

Battle of the Bands is basically a standard cartoon episode. After the main antagonist left the planet in Heart of Iron, I suspected things would turn out like this. And, frankly, this is better. I like it a lot more. This style of storytelling works for these characters, for this premise; stuff isn’t as likely to go off the rails. It’s superheroes learning to work as a team, handling random adventures, and dealing with their personal lives. That’s not original, but who cares about superhero stories being original? The execution is what matters.

Now, that doesn’t mean stuff doesn’t go off the rails a little in Battle of the Bands, but it’s not as prevalent. We’ll get to the oddities, but until then, Battle of the Bands keeps the classic “balancing superheroics with real life” plot fresher by mixing it with a mystery. There’s inherent narrative tension in Gwen needing to get back to her band in time and can’t until the crime is solved. Now, the solution to the mystery is obvious, but this media property is intended for younger audiences and is paced well enough that it’s still fun for older superhero fans. It’s written with some skill, too. Gwen wins the day through character growth. The status quo changes in an interesting way. The ending is heartwarming.

Where the writing falls down, though, is in smaller moments. The superhero scenes specifically strain credulity. Nitpicking too much would constitute spoilers, but Battle of the Bands establishes a rule about how loud certain noises are and then ignores that rule. It handwaves a bunch of things, actually. Powers appear out of nowhere. Technology is invented to solve problems in the span of seconds. I’m noticing a pattern that The Secret Warriors are more interesting when they save people, not when they’re fighting villains. We’ll see if that remains consistent going forward.

The other thing of note is characterization, both good and bad. I like that Patriot is learning to loosen up. I think Kamala’s romance with Inferno is adorable, and I like how casually it’s handled. And I’ve already mentioned Gwen’s new arc is well-done. But, by God, can we please let Squirrel Girl not be the comedic foil anymore? She didn’t need to be yelling for multiple scenes. She really didn’t. This version of Squirrel Girl has moments of excellent characterization that balance her skills and her silly superpowers, but they are so rare. Let other characters make jokes. Let the team dynamic be naturally charming. Please.

I want to be clear: I liked Battle of the Bands. It had the pace and energy of a Saturday morning cartoon, with a now-established cast that just gets to do stuff. It’s a little remarkable the series has reached that equilibrium this quickly—especially with this numerous of a central cast. Battle of the Bands may not be excellent or anything, but I don’t regret watching it. I hope what’s left of the series only improves with each installment.

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