Marvel Rising is a brand-new, multi-platform animated franchise with a focus on inclusivity, empowerment, and relatability for a tween audience. And to introduce this new series, Disney XD is launching Marvel Rising: Initiation, a compilation of six animated shorts that will premiere on August 13th at 7:30pm ET/PT. The story follows a young, new group of predominantly female superheroes as they come into their own and eventually form a super-powered team. And we were lucky enough to get an early look at it!
Written by Mairghread Scott, and with supervising director Alfred Gimeno, Marvel Rising: Initiation serves up a fast-paced narrative that introduces the series’ scope and style, while teasing the story that surrounds the mysterious Ghost-Spider, her enemies, and her allies. Dove Cameron stars in the shorts as Ghost-Spider, with Chloe Bennet as Quake, Kamil McFadden as Patriot, Milana Vayntrub as Squirrel Girl, Kathreen Khavari as Ms. Marvel, Dee Bradley Baker as Tippy Toe, Skai Jackson as Gloria Grant, and Steven Weber as Captain George Stacy.
I’ll get into my review below, but first, we have a brand-new Marvel Rising: Initiation featurette to share in which Cameron goes behind-the-scenes of her recording process and answers the question – Who is Ghost-Spider?
Meet Ghost Spider in this new featurette with commentary from Cameron:
Teenage superhero Gwen Stacy, AKA Ghost-Spider, is used to spending her time fighting for justice and playing drums in her band. But when she finds herself accused of being on the wrong side of the law — chased by her police captain father, as well as a host of young heroes including Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, Quake and Patriot — Ghost-Spider must go on the run to prove her innocence.
I have a confession to make: I’m pretty much a novice when it comes to Marvel Comics’ heroes Ghost-Spider and Squirrel Girl; I’ve got a passing familiarity with Ms. Marvel from other animated fare like Avengers Assemble and the like, as well as Quake, thanks to Chloe Bennet‘s excellent arc as the character on ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. So Marvel Rising: Initiation was more or less the perfect introduction to this new (to me) cast of characters who will be leading the charge in this ambitious new project.
I don’t know how these characters will be received by more hardcore fans, but here’s how Marvel Rising: Initiation portrays them: Ghost-Spider (a.k.a. Gwen Stacy) has the smarts and sarcasm of one Peter Parker but also has a punk styling to her that gives her character more of an edge. She’s instantly likable, stylish, not afraid to tussle, and is hurt most by the fact that her friends and loved ones think she’s responsible for a heinous crime. That makes Ghost-Spider a relatable character for just about anyone, even if you don’t happen to have super-spider powers.
Captain Stacy wants this menace off of his city’s streets. Tasked with bringing the vigilante Ghost-Spider in for questioning are S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Quake and Patriot, though it isn’t long before superheroes-in-training Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel get into the mix. Quake gets the least screen time here, but Bennet’s earlier character work does the heavy lifting for her; she is, however, the most capable leader of all the heroes. Patriot is a go-getter who’s quite proud of his training under Captain America, even if his ambition outpaces his ability to execute at the moment. The pairing of Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel is a fun one that promises lots of laugh-packed adventures in the episodes ahead; the animators clearly have a lot of fun with Squirrel Girl’s animal pal and her sometimes fourth-wall-breaking humor, as well as Ms. Marvel’s size-changing abilities.
As far as alter egos go, only Gwen Stacy gets to act out of costume a bit. She plays in a band with her friends Mary Jane and Gloria, and their garage band stylings feel like they’re an homage to either JEM or any other bubblegum pop-punk band of the last 30 years. Not a lot of time is spent here, but it does humanize Gwen a bit more, as does the tragic story of the death of her best friend, a death that her costumed counterpart Ghost-Spider is unfairly blamed for.
Without revealing how it all turns out in the end, it’s safe to say that all of these characters will eventually come together in surprising ways. If you haven’t been watching animated series like Guardians of the Galaxy or Marvel’s Spider-Man, the animation style may take a little getting used to, but it seems like that house style is here to stay for the time being. That aside, Marvel Rising: Initiation is a solid set-up that introduces compelling characters, complicated relationships, and an intriguing mystery that also reveals new, super-shady (and super-powered) villains. (There are a few Marvel Easter eggs here and there for you to enjoy, too.) It’s a promising start for Marvel Rising and I’m excited to see how Secret Warriors picks up from here later this year.
Keep an eye out for Marvel Rising: Initiation on Disney XD on Monday, August 13th at 7:30pm ET/PT, followed by Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors on Disney Channel this fall.
Marvel Rising: Initiation and Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors are executive produced by Joe Quesada, Dan Buckley, Cort Lane, and Eric Radomski; co-executive produced by Stan Lee, Sana Amanat, and Marsha Griffin.