Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Ultimates 2 4, originally released February 15th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. […]
Secondly, persuasion may come through the hearers, when the speech stirs their emotions. […]
Thirdly, persuasion is effected through the speech itself when we have proved a truth or an apparent truth by means of the persuasive arguments suitable to the case in question.
Drew: I’ve never studied philosophy, or even public speaking, but even I’ve heard of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos, the three modes of persuasion Aristotle describes in the excerpts above. Obviously, “heard of” is a pretty far cry from understanding, but to my lay mind, Logos — the mode that relies on logic — is often held up as the purest form of persuasion, as it hinges on facts rather than our emotions or faith in whoever is making the argument. But, of course, it’s difficult to truly ignore the impact of Ethos and Pathos — we’re emotional, social beings — so it’s possible for something to feel like Logos when, in fact, it isn’t (a phenomenon we call “truthiness”). Moreover, dubious Logos may shore up its logicalness by being distractingly lacking in Ethos and Pathos (a phenomenon we might call “fuck your feelings”). This is all very messy, and is threatening to turn into an essay on political discourse, but I brought it up to address the appeals characters make to one another in Ultimates 2 4 — all modes are on display, including a “logical” argument built on such shaky ground that its arguer feels compelled to call itself “Logos.”
This issue starts and ends with Logos, who clearly believes in the logic of their actions, but we get plenty of evidence to the contrary. The most notable is probably the dismissal of the Never Queen:
The lettering here makes the sequence somewhat hard to follow (Logos’ departure in that central panel really doesn’t come across), but Logos’ general attitude regarding the Never Queen couldn’t be clearer: he doesn’t need to worry about what might be, because he gets to decide what is. But, as the Never Queen points out, what might be could undo Logos’ plan entirely.
I’m absolutely loving the survey of cosmic, metaphysical-embodiments-of-abstact-idea characters that this volume has become, though I may be particularly partial to the Never Queen. Both volumes of this series has established scale by placing a tiny thing in frame with a gigantic thing, and I think they may have managed something similar with the scope of Logos’ plan, here, dwarfing it with some even larger plan the Never Queen is deploying. It’s exciting, mind-bending stuff, but I mostly can’t fathom where it might be going at this point.
Elsewhere, the interplay between Ethos, Pathos, and Logos is a bit clearer. As a team full of scientists, the Ultimates have always relied on Logos, but as a team also full of iconic heroes, it’s hard to deny the strength of their Ethos, as well. But that leaves Pathos — the mode focused on emotion — largely by the wayside, which is where the Troubleshooters come in. Writer Al Ewing goes to great lengths to emphasize the emotional basis for almost all of that team’s powers:
Ewing lays it on thick (indeed, “Mood Indigo” may be a shade too thick), but it drives the point home: the Troubleshooters are the emotional antithesis of the Ultimates. It’s hard not to read this as an oblique commentary on the state of political discourse, but I’m struck by the thought that Logos may not be entirely reliable, at least not without acknowledging Ethos and Pathos. That is, while the Ultimates are our heroes, they may suffer from the same blind spots (if not necessarily the same dubious motivations) as Logos — that is, the character.
(Boy, naming a character after one of the central themes of an arc sure seems messy, doesn’t it? Maybe I should have cooked up a convention for dealing with that sooner, but here we are.)
Spencer, I spent a lot of time with the themes of this issue, but ignored a lot of the actual events of the story. Did you have any favorite moments from the fight? Or from Logos’ opening scene? Or that ending? Maybe we should talk about that ending.
Spencer: Man Drew, that ending — it’s heartbreaking to see Galactus once again reduced to a devourer of worlds, not only because it undoes the hard work of both the Ultimates and Galactus himself, but because it strips Galactus of any control over his life. That’s actually what strikes me the most about Logos — it seeks complete control over the universe simply because it believes that’s its always in the right, that its word is absolute law, and that it knows better than any other figure in the universe.
That’s scary for a few reasons. That makes it extraordinarily easy for Logos to demonize, or just wipe out completely, anything it doesn’t approve of, but it also creates a world where nothing is capable of changing, evolving, or growing. If Logos’ way is always right, then growth would be going against Logos’ will, its law, and as we see with Galactus, that’s something it has no trouble punishing.
Essentially, that makes Logos a Cosmo-Dictator, a being that thinks its every thought is irrefutable gospel, and has the power to enforce its deluded logic and absolutely no oversight. Hm — who does that remind you of? Drew mentioned how easy it is to read the interaction between the Ultimates and the Troubleshooters as commentary on political discourse, but Logos seems like an even more overt and obvious political allegory, one that practically leapt off the page at me on my first read.
Yet, there’s another allegory you can build around Logos as well.
An issue from the first volume of The Ultimates played the trial of Galactus — and the arguments between Order and Chaos, the Tribune, and even the Molecule Man — as commentary on the nature of superhero comics as a whole. I see some of that with Logos as well, especially when it decrees that in its Multiverse, “dead is dead.” That’s a phrase with special meaning to comic fans, a promise both Marvel and DC have made before that’s never been kept. In that sense, Logos comes across as a new writer/editor/publisher who thinks they have all the answers, and disregards the contributions of those who have come before (as Logos does in the scene above with the Celestials, who, as the in-universe architects of the Marvel universe, clearly represent its real-life architects as well) in order to pursue their own interpretations. The fact that Logos is also fiercely conservative/anti-progress just reminds me of the writers whose ideas of new stories are bringing back characters and concepts we’d long since left behind (Hal Jordan or Barry Allen, for example), but it also again goes to show that Logos’ head isn’t quite screwed on straight — for all its talk of order or law or justice, it’s clearly following a very personal, selfish agenda.
Drew, I really appreciate your analysis of the Ultimates vs. Troubleshooters sequence, especially the way emotion plays into their confrontation. Looking at those scenes myself, it almost looks like Ewing is proclaiming emotion as the enemy (of discussion and debate, if nothing else), no matter which side it comes from. Tensen is the reasonable — and, thus, “good” — member of the Troubleshooters because he keeps his head on straight and wants to talk things out, but it’s Rodstvow’s act of aggression that kicks their entire fight off. Carol and T’Challa, meanwhile, can’t be in the same room for five seconds without resorting to petty sniping, and Carol and America’s indignance towards Tensen only perpetuates a battle he’s eager to end peacefully.
I haven’t been able to draw any concrete conclusions yet, but I can’t help but to think that this might be related to Galactus’ observation that the Troubleshooters don’t fully know what they “may be agents of” — and that sounds like it may be related to the “origin” of Rodstvow.
It’s hard to follow exactly what Rodstvow is trying to say, but if the Ultimates’ world is his utopian parallel, it’s easy to imagine that he came from some sort of uber-dystopia, some horrid, all-corrupting universe. Is he having some sort of influence on the Troubleshooters, or perhaps even on the Ultimates or the Marvel Universe itself? It does seem clear that his ruthless hatred is setting him up as the ultimate foe to Blue Marvel, one of Marvel’s most moral and logical heroes, which is essentially an exaggerated version of the Troubleshooter v Ultimate conflict back home. Perhaps more importantly, it seems clear that Rodstvow’s evil is a direct result of the dystopia he calls home — a dystopia much like what the entire Multiverse could become if Logos reigns on unchallenged. Rodstvow may very well be the final result of the oppressive, retrogressive Multiverse Logos is building.
Man, this is all pretty dark, isn’t it? Let’s end this on a lighter note! Drew, you asked me what my favorite moment of the Ultimates/Troubleshooters fight was: I’d say it has to be America’s teleportation trick.
There’s a lot of clever uses of abilities in this issue, but I love using these portals (and the heightened gravity of an alternate dimension) to pack extra momentum behind a hit. Ultimates has departed a bit from Young Avengers when it comes to America’s portals — in YA we only ever saw her use them to open portals between dimensions, not travel between two points in a single dimension — but I love how Ewing and Foreman have used the portals to expand America’s skills within battle and make her a more essential member of the team. And Ewing and Foreman don’t neglect their multiversal aspect either, using them to open their story up to a bevy of creative new environments. That’s exactly the kind of move a book like The Ultimates should be making.
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