What do Ghost-Spider, Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, Quake and Patriot have in common? Why, they’re the stars of Marvel’s new animated series Marvel Rising: Initiation, of course! Comprised of six four-minute shorts, Initiation will bring many of these characters together for the first time ever. Packed full of charm and spunk, the fledgling series is sure to win the hearts of Marvel Comics fans.
At its core, Marvel Rising: Initiation is a Ghost-Spider story. The shorts are broken down into smaller arcs — a Gwen Stacy solo story, a Ms. Marvel/Squirrel Girl team-up, and a S.H.I.E.L.D. pursuit — but Ghost-Spider is the common denominator that threads them all together. Although Ghost-Spider takes point, this tried-and-true narrative structure benefits all of the characters, some of whom are better known to audiences than others. After Gwen Stacy’s character is established in the first two shorts, the other leads have someone to bounce off of; Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, Patriot and Quake are fleshed out in comparison and contrast to Gwen’s personality and how they react to her circumstance. This provides some valuable insight into the other characters, all while opening them up to some fun gags and amusing interactions.
Of course, these characters would be nothing without a talented voice cast. Although this isn’t Descendants star Dove Cameron’s first crack at Ghost-Spider, she brings a certain verve to this version of the character that was missing from her previous Marvel roles. Thanks to the writing, Cameron gets to play with Gwen Stacy just a little more. Initiation‘s Ghost-Spider has just a touch more spunk than the one that appeared in Ultimate Spider-Man. Gwen — and perhaps Cameron herself, by extension — sounds more sure of herself, which helps to ground the character. That’s absolutely essential to the series, because Ghost-Spider serves as an anchor for everyone else, and Cameron pulls it off with aplomb.
Likewise, Milana Vayntrub’s turn as Squirrel Girl feels effortless. Vayntrub had the particularly difficult job of conveying Squirrel Girl’s boundless optimism in a genuine, non-condescending way. She does this and more, instilling the character with a sense of honesty and positivity. What’s more, while Squirrel Girl is allowed some goofy moments, the overall character doesn’t come off as a one-off gag. Her optimism is an asset, not a joke, which quickly becomes clear in her first superhero throw-down. Between the writing and the voice acting, Squirrel Girl is sure to become a fast fan-favorite. Vayntrub’s Marvel Rising performance also bodes well for her live-action debut as Squirrel Girl in New Warriors, should the series be picked up by a network.
Kathreen Kavari, who has voiced Ms. Marvel since 2016, returns as the character in Initiation. As per usual, Kavari churns out a rock solid performance. She gives Ms. Marvel her trademark earnestness, without the character coming off as naive or self-serious. Ms. Marvel serves as a kind of medium between Ghost-Spider’s sarcastic wisecracking and Squirrel Girl’s boundless zeal. In order to pull this off, Kavari needed chemistry with both Cameron and Vayntrub, and she has that in spades.
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