Home » Marvel needs to retire this tired character type

Marvel needs to retire this tired character type

This week’s Ms. Marvel has one of the least surprising surprises in history Marvel Cinematic Universe. (In other words: spoilers aheadyou should worry about such a thing.)

Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) has just gained superpowers but does not quite know where they came from. Her origins are fully explained by Najma (played by Nimra Bucha), a warm and kind woman who helped Kamala avoid arrest after a rescue mission went wrong. Najma reveals that Kamala’s magical bracelet serves as a channel for her powers, which is taken from her ancestors – one of whom was a member of an ancient interdimensional race known as Secret.

Najma goes on to describe where the bracelet came from and how Kamala’s great-grandmother found it. With a sweet supportive voice, she urges Kamala to embrace her destiny and use the bracelet to send the banished secrets back to their homes. She lets Kamala return home to decide what to do and to explore her powers more fully.

So overtly about three scenes later, Najma turns out to be pure evil and tries to kill Kamala and her entire family to steal the bracelet.

None of Najma’s actions will shock for a long time Marvel seere. She’s just the latest example of one of Marvel’s stock villain types: the seemingly benevolent mentor who is secretly a power-mad conqueror. At this point, the company has repeated this trope so many times that it has completely lost the ability to start an audience.

It probably does not help that Marvel Studios’ very first villain was a mentor-gone-bad character. It was Iron Man‘s Obadiah Stane, played by Jeff Bridges. Stane was Tony Stark’s father’s partner in Stark Industries; after Tony’s father’s death, Stane kept the company running until Tony was ready to take over the company.

Or so Obadiah Stane would have us believe! In fact, he has secretly hired a terrorist organization known as the Ten Rings to kill Tony so he can control Stark Industries. When that plan fails, he steals Tony’s Iron Man technology and creates his own armor to use against his former friend.

Time and time again, when Marvel does not have a really well-established canonical villain to draw on for a particular movie or show, their default choice is an evil mentor figure. IN Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2they rewrote the backstory of many years of Marvel Comics’ character Ego the Living Planet (played by Kurt Russell) to make him a friendly cosmic creature who spent decades looking for his missing son, Star-Lord.

Or that Ego would have us believe! In fact, Ego wants to steal Star-Lords power for himself.

20. Ego from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Marvel

A handful of movies later, Captain Marvel thinks with amnesia that she works for a peacekeeping group of warriors known as Starforce. Her closest ally is the team leader, Jude Laws Yon-Rogg. He only wanted to help Captain Marvel save the galaxy as a member of Starforce.

Or so Yon-Rogg would have us believe! In fact, Yon-Rogg is responsible for the accident that gave Captain Marvel her powers and erased her memory. He will take that power for himself, and he will kill Captain Marvel to get it.

8. Spider-Man: Far from home
Sony

Two movies after that, Spider-Man gets his own evil mentor in the form of Far from home‘s Mystery. In the film, Mysterio presents itself as a displaced hero from another reality.

Or so Mysterio wants us to believe! In fact, he is an illusionist and special effects wizard who uses advanced drone technology to make it look like he possesses superpowers. He wants the technology that Iron Man bequeathed to Spider-Man before he died, and he uses the list that he is an idiosyncratic soul from across the multiverse to get it.

In the last few years, the secretly evil mentor troop has become even more ubiquitous at Marvel. That Eternal spend most of their movies believing that they are on Earth to protect the people from the evil deviants, only to realize that their heavenly Master Arishem wants to destroy the Earth and that he has lied to them about their true purpose for centuries. Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness opens with an alternative dimension Dr. Strange to try to steal America Chavez’s powers. (“You kill me!” She cries as he washes out her dimension-jumping energy. “I know!” The bad Strange replies.)

Most of the recent Disney + shows have also had some kind of sinister mentor figure. IN Hawkeye, Kate Bishop discovers that her mother works for Kingpin. IN Moon Knights, Marc Spector and Steven Grant learn that the Egyptian god Khonshu may be manipulating them for his own less than noble purposes. And now there is Ms. Marvelwhich barely goes an entire episode before revealing that Najma and the Secrets are not helping Kamala out of the kindness of their heart.

And all of these examples do not even include the more generalized surprise villains in Marvel movies and shows that Laurence Fishburn’s Bill Foster from Ant-Man and the Waspor the less overtly sinister (but still morally ambiguous) mentors like the Old One from the original Doctor Strangewho lies to Strange about where her immorality comes from.

2. If the Old Man knows Dr. Strange wants to be the greatest wizard, why does she not also know that she has to give Bruce Banner the time stone?
Marvel

After 28 movies and half a dozen TV shows, it’s hard not to repeat yourself once in a while. And many of Marvel’s films and comics consciously and deliberately reuse the same basic story elements over and over again: The arrogant fool who discovers the importance of selflessness and responsibility; the team of outsiders who gather to learn the power of friendship and teamwork. For longtime Marvel fans, there is some pleasure in watching these stock beats over and over again.

But where are the general beats mente Be aware, these mentor figures are meant to amaze us. After so many of them in a row, they simply do no more. When a character like Najma shows up in a Marvel movie or series, you know it’s only a matter of time before they break down and reveal their true colors. Marvel would be wise to paint their antagonists with some different shades, at least for a short while.

(Or so I want you to believe).

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