Updated: Sep 4
I've been consuming a lot of media lately as a way to destress as opposed to more active things like playing video games or assembling and painting minis. In that time a few different works have really stuck out in my mind and it wasn't until some further reflection that I figured out the through line. Let me see if you can figure it out, the titles are; Chris Claremont's early X-Men runs, Legend of Korra, Ascender/Descender, Middlewest, The Umbrella Academy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and Jojo Rabbit. Quite a diverse cast of characters in these for sure, but what it the big thing they all have in common? For me it was the way that they handled the idea of family.
Without going into more detail then you care to know, this writer comes from a mixed family, where the majority of us are adopted. Hearing and seeing stories about families being built from what would otherwise be strangers, or even wrestling with the idea of what it means to be family, has always been something close to my heart. In some cases family is the people you grow to love as you weather some of the worst life has to throw at you. Hunt for the Wilderpeople and X-Men are the best examples of this. The journey that Ricky Baker (Played by the incredibly talented Julian Dennison) goes on with his "Uncle Hec" (The classic and highly underrated Sam Neill) teaches us about the strength of bond that only comes with shared experience and resiliency.
Let's not forget the value of the relationships we build with the people whole share our blood. For a movie titled Jojo Rabbit, there is as much depth of character in Rosie (Jojo's mom played by Scarlett Johansson) as there is in Jojo himself (Roman Griffin Davis). Rosie's struggle to connect with her son, who is enthralled by the Nazi propaganda machine, shows the level of heartbreak and love that only a mother can have. It makes the many dramatic scenes (you know the ones I'm talking about) that cut through the comedy that much heavier. On the opposite end of this is Middlewest (A Skottie Young comic), wherein our hero learns about his family's cycle of anger problems and abuse. his coming to terms with how to break that cycle. I will say that all of the media I listed here is worth checking out, but these two especially so. Legend of Korra has so many beats about what family means that it would take another article to tackle.
Then there's the people you come to know as family, such as in the cases of Umbrella Academy and Ascender/Descender. In Descender (written by two of the comic greats Jeff Lemire, and Dustin Nguyen) we come to know a lovable robot boy named Tim-21 as he struggles to find his "brother" and set right a universe torn apart by robots. Without going into too much detail, not only is the series a solid 6/6 series in general, but the exploration it goes into of what "good", "family", and "love" mean are all things I didn't expect from this absolute joy ride of a comic. Likewise, both the comic as well as the Netflix series of Umbrella Academy deal with our favorite umbrella flavored dysfunctional family and their growth both as individuals and as a unit.
All of these different forms of media have made me consider my relationship with my own family and the ways that we've grown closer through our shared name, experiences, or blood. Family is family no matter how or when they became family, and most importantly family is everything! So thank you Infinity Bros Universe for being our family!