Monday, December 31, 2007

Fantasy Heroism, 2007

Happy New Year!

Here’s a rundown of some of 2007’s different faces of heroism, from comic books, TV shows and movies. Well, they’re actually a few of my favorites, and this year, I had a bunch. The fantasy hero has had many incarnations in recent years, and it’s interesting to discover different deviations, or altogether new versions that don’t follow the Spider-Man, Buffy, Frodo and Luke Skywalker templates. Here’s heroism in some of the year’s prominent mythologies:

Renee Montoya- Her journey was fraught with all sorts of peril, but her gradual transformation--from depressed alcoholic to focused crimefighter in 52--was compelling. She’s a welcome addition to Gotham City’s protectors.

Beowulf- Half the time, he’s a teller of tall tales. But Beowulf the philandering warrior-king nevertheless saved lives and got rid of some destructive terrors.

Captain America- In the unevenly executed Civil War series, he surrendered and was subsequently assassinated. But before all that, he fought valiantly for superhumans’ civil liberties.

Hiro Nakamura- His heroic evolution was quick; he soon became an Obi-Wan-esque mentor to a future mythic warrior. But Hiro is still learning and makes a few mistakes that inevitably turn his student against him.

Lyra- Keeper of the last Golden Compass and destined for greater things, the plucky girl rebel helps trigger a war between the free thinkers and the controlling authority.

Harry Potter- Hogwarts’ most controversial pupil has evolved to take on a more active combatant role, and leads a secret faction of student mystics against corrupt practitioners.

Remy- Culinary artist and independent rodent Remy proved that dreams can come true in Ratatouille. He guides a bumbling human to achieve them, and inspires others to strive for something better.

Faith- The prodigal Slayer, a reformed villainess, is still unique among hundreds of activated Vampire Slayers. In Buffy Season 8, she’s given a special mission, one that requires getting her hands dirty.

Leonidas- The Spartan king and his defiant horde face insurmountable odds in 300. Their final, legendary battle ultimately inspires the gathering of more defenders of freedom.

Veronica Mars- The former victim-turned-girl detective has solved dozens of cases, and she’d no doubt provide answers to more baffling crime puzzles had her series continued.

Kyle Trager- The adoptive son of the loving Tragers has solved many major family quandaries, and has displayed various mental abilities that he selflessly uses for their--and his friends’--benefit.

Cloud 9- She only wanted to fly, but because of the Superhuman Registration Act, she had no choice but to train as a super-soldier. The reluctant hero has yet to be comfortable with her new path, but she’s one of the Initiative’s most promising recruits.

Bumblebee- The live-action version got corny with the “temporarily mute so he speaks in songs” thing, but he’s still one dedicated Autobot soldier. He’s loyal and friendly to the humans he’s assigned to defend, unlike that other mean-sounding Autobot with a serious personality glitch.

Cyclops- He finally embraces his leadership role in Astonishing X-Men, thanks to Emma Frost. He pulls off a very risky plan during the team’s Breakworld mission, and confidently shows everyone who’s boss, at long last.

Nightwatcher- Secretly Raphael of the Ninja Turtles, the hero goes proactive and fights crime as a masked vigilante.

Homer Simpson- The village idiot who causes major problems for its denizens becomes its ultimate savior, in the Simpsons’ first big screen adventure.

Cherry Darling- The girl with the custom-made gun leg’s got dozens of “useless talents,” but she gets to put some of them to good use in the campy, zombie-infested Planet Terror.

Flash- Poor Bart Allen’s stint as the premier super-speedster was cut short. Formerly one of the most fun DC characters, Impulse grew up really quick and is now, sadly, really dead.

Shawn Spencer- He dupes everyone with his fake psychic readings and premonitions, but deep down, the guy who’s actually just really observant wants to help put bad guys in jail.

Black Canary- What a year for Miss Lance: She trained under Lady Shiva’s old teacher, became an adoptive mother and wife, fought alongside the Birds of Prey, and currently leads the new Justice League.

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