Radiation is a pretty common basis for superpowers in comic books. The Hulk, Fantastic Four, and Spider-Man are popular examples, but what about the negative effects? People wear hazmat suits in order to protect themselves from external radiation, but this month’s D-Lister wears one to keep hazardous emissions in.
Jennifer Takeda is a young superhuman who can create and forcefully project radiation and electromagnetic energy. Sadly, her body constantly emits deadly radiation, and as a result, Jennifer has been forced to wear a containment suit for most of her tenure within Marvel Comics. The D-List is going nuclear this month as we welcome Hazmat.
Jennifer Takeda first appeared in Avengers Academy vol. 1 #1 published in 2010. Created by Christos Gage and Mike McKone, Takeda was an intelligent high school student from California, excited to go to college and in love with her boyfriend. Unfortunately, as the two teens were getting cozy in her room, the boy began foaming at the mouth and then passed out (take note, kids – sex kills). Doctors determined he had radiation poisoning and confirmed that Jennifer was the source. Norman Osborne, who was in charge of national security at the time, discovered Jennifer, and with the promise of a cure, Takeda allowed Osborne to experiment on her. Unfortunately, as a result, the radiation she emitted increased, and Takeda was forced to wear a containment suit at all times. Along with several other teenagers, Hank Pym recruited Jenny into the Avengers Academy.
Jennifer was a very angry young woman who often lashed out at her peers, teachers, and even devised an ultimately unsuccessful plan to kill Osborne (that Brillo-Pad hair is like body armor). Jennifer’s entire life drastically changed in a short period of time, and the bright future she once had all but vanished, so her rage was understandable. Tigra actually remanded Hazmat to anger management because of her outbursts and destructive behavior. Hank Pym, however, decided to try a different approach.
Per Hank’s request, the superpower-draining mutant, Leech, agreed to spend time with Jenny, effectively negating the radiation she produced, so Takeda visited her parents. Not only were they disappointed that she wasn’t cured, but they insulted Leech, so she left, crying. Later, Jenny was unable to help in battle because her powers had not recharged from Leech’s abilities. Hazmat hated feeling too helpless to fight, so while she was appreciative of Leech’s help, she ultimately decided to return to her suit. Regardless of the constant isolation she experienced, she was very brave. She volunteered to fight Absorbing Man and Titania when they attacked the academy and helped battle Nazis in mecha suits.
Although Hazmat and her laidback teammate, Mettle, frequently clashed, Reptil pointed out that the two were perfect for each other. Mettle had no skin, couldn’t feel physical sensations, and was immune to the radiation Jenny emitted, so she wouldn’t have to wear a containment suit around him. Although they had very different personalities, she and Ken decided to date. Both understood what it was like to feel isolated from the rest of the world, and the relationship seemed to reduce much of Jenny’s anger (she was radiating with joy).
It was obvious that Hazmat’s relationship with Mettle was good for her, and it was wonderful to see her truly begin to care for someone else. Jenny had shown nearly nothing but anger until this point, but whenever Mettle had a problem, she was supportive of him, and would even seek help from others in order to comfort him. Unfortunately, Jenny was about to experience another life-changing hardship.
Hazmat, Mettle, and other young heroes were teleported onto a remote island and completely incapacitated. Arcade had kidnapped the teenagers, explained that they would have to compete to survive, and only one of them would remain alive at the end of 30 days (…but what about the million dollars?!). As soon as she could move, Hazmat attacked the villain, but Arcade used technology to grant himself powers. The villain telekinetically lifted Hazmat, but Mettle shouted at Arcade. Mettle offered to sacrifice himself to save Jenny, and Hazmat began to sob when Arcade caused the young man to explode.
This was not only an extremely sad moment because of Mettle’s endearing nature, but it was wonderful to watch his relationship with Hazmat develop. Mettle was a much happier person with Jenny, and Jenny was much less angry and aggressive. Sadly, Hazmat began to immediately retreat back into isolation and anger in order to cope with Mettle’s death (sounds like very hazardous behavior). This was extremely sad to watch.
Eventually, Hazmat and Reptil found a safe zone on the island. Although some of the other teens were fighting both the terrain and each other, Hazmat stopped caring about the situation and decided to sit on the beach and not participate (she was not very active outside of radioactive). Hazmat was angry at first, but eventually stopped talking and sat alone outside of her suit. After days of her inconsolable behavior, Reptil yelled at Jenny, demanding that she come to her senses and asserted that Mettle deserved better. She then agreed to join the rest of the teenagers and try to defeat Arcade.
Unfortunately, Jenny began to emit a large and uncontrollable amount of radiation. Reptil grabbed her and took her into the ocean so she wouldn’t harm everyone on the island (forget saving the whales – Reptil tried to nuke the whales). When Jenny stepped back on land, she now had complete control of her powers and emissions. The Avengers were alerted to the teenagers’ whereabouts and rescued them, but Arcade had escaped. However, the villain recorded everything that occurred on the island – all of the teenagers’ suffering, squabbles, and battles were released via the internet, and the videos went viral. Jenny, as angry as ever, overheard a group of teenagers criticizing her actions on the island, so she melted the table at which they were sitting.
Jennifer Takeda had just experienced one of the most difficult experiences in her life, and Arcade revealed it all to the public. Jenny didn’t even have the chance to celebrate the fact that she no longer had to be isolated in her suit – something that should’ve been a cause for joy. Instead, she and the other survivors were likely suffering from PTSD and had trouble reacclimating to their lives. Although there had been plenty of wonderful and natural character development for Hazmat, it was nonetheless sad to see her in such constant emotional pain. However, understandably, Jenny and the other surviving teenagers from the island wanted revenge and found Arcade in the nation of Bagalia, run by the Masters if Evil.
The teenagers took turns hitting Arcade until Jenny burned the skin from his body (well that’s one way to beat an Arcade). Baron Zemo invited the teens to accompany the Masters of Evil on missions, but Jenny decided to alert Hank Pym to the villains’ whereabouts instead. Jenny was even able to yell “Avengers Assemble” when the heroes arrived to battle Zemo’s minions. This was roughly 4 years ago and Hazmat has not appeared since.
Jennifer Takeda was a very angry young woman but all her reactions to the unfortunate situations she experienced were completely understandable and writers did a very good job progressing her character. However, Hazmat was primarily featured in only 3 series that were released sequentially, but rarely ever appeared elsewhere in the Marvel Universe. Furthermore, the Arcade that Jenny killed was actually a clone, so it would be interesting to see how Hazmat would react to the confirmation that he’s still alive. Regardless, I believe that there is still plenty of potential for Hazmat to continue growing as a character, and become a regularly featured heavy hitter in Marvel Comics.
Outside of Marvel Comics, Hazmat was an unlockable character in the LEGO Marvel’s Avengers video game. To my knowledge, that is her only appearance outside of Marvel Comics, and she has never appeared outside of the Marvel 616 Universe. However, Marvel writer Kelly Thompson has confirmed that Hazmat will appear in an upcoming issue of Captain Marvel! It’s the perfect time to jump on that hazardous bandwagon, folks! I hope this return is for more than just a single issue, however, because Hazmat deserves to radiate her beauty throughout the Marvel Universe regularly.