Historicizing the Present in Harbinger Wars II 4

by Drew Baumgartner

Harbinger Wars 2 4

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

All those innocent contractors hired to do the job were killed! Casualties of a war they had nothing to do with. All right, look, you’re a roofer, and some juicy government contract comes your way; you got the wife and kids and the two-story in suburbia — this is a government contract, which means all sorts of benefits. All of a sudden these left-wing militants blast you with lasers and wipe out everyone within a three-mile radius. You didn’t ask for that. You have no personal politics. You’re just trying to scrape out a living.

Randal, Clerks

Violence is never a good look. Self-defense may justify it in some cases, but any innocents caught in the crossfire tar even the most noble motives. It turns heroes into villains and obscures the line between good and evil. I’ve had the luxury of thinking of this as a hypothetical question for most of my life, the kind of moral quandry characters might be confronted with in comics, but not exactly an active concern in my day to day life. But in a country facing the rise of white-supremacists, I can’t tell you how many think pieces I’ve read in the past two years debating the morality of punching nazis. More broadly, the questions are about when violence is justifiable, and how much collateral damage we’re willing to accept of said violence. These are exactly the questions everyone is weighing in Harbinger Wars 2 4, though they’re far from the only “ripped from the headlines” commentary in the issue, which paints a startlingly nuanced portrait of our times. Continue reading

Heightening the Conflict in Harbinger Wars II 2

by Drew Baumgartner

Harbinger Wars 2 2

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

What is the collective noun for superheroes? An immodesty of superheroes, perhaps? A bluster, a cluster bomb, a swank? Somebody ought to settle the issue soon, if we’re going to be showered with films like “Avengers: Infinity War.”

Anthony Lane in The New Yorker

That quote comes from my least favorite culture review in recent memory. I’ve heard enough variations of “superheroes are dumb” over the years to keep my eyes rolling all the way to Anthony Lane’s door, but what’s particularly frustrating about his review is that it never bothers to support his dismissive attitude. It’s not a critique so much as a list of characters and events in the movie and the smug assumption that we all agree that that list is too long. To be clear, I think there is plenty to critique about that movie, not the least of which that it almost certainly would ring as paradoxically overstuffed and hollow without at least some familiarity with these characters — if we’re not already invested in Tony Stark’s worst fears or Thor’s grief or Doctor Strange’s sense of duty, they’ll read as pretty thin in the movie. Like most summer crossover events, Infinity War is mostly plot machinations, cashing in on the character work developed in its respective solo series. Such is definitely the case with Harbinger Wars II 2, which heightens the drama of the impending battle, but does relatively little to draw me into that drama. Continue reading

Harbinger Wars 2 1: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Michael DeLaney

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Patrick: Let’s run a hypothetical scenario: you’ve got access to a shared universe, full of superpowered characters, all of whom you’d classify as either heroes or antiheroes. You want to pit them against each other, in a… I don’t want to call it a “Civil War” for litigious Disney-related reasons… we’ll say it’s a “Harbinger War.” How do you establish sides? Pick an ideological divide and let it split up your character base, right? That’s a fun, toothless way to pit all your favorites against each other! With Harbinger Wars 2, writer Matt Kindt is crafting a more direct criticism of structures of power, casting the dutiful soldiers and company-men as stooges. It’s a clash of superheroes with the courage to say “hey, some of these guys are wrong.” Continue reading

Harbinger Wars II Prelude 1: Discussion

By Patrick Ehlers and Ryan Mogge

This article contains SPOILERS for both this issue and Avengers Infinity War. If you haven’t read the issue or seen the movie yet, proceed at your own risk! 

Patrick: Every big superhero event story needs to kick off with some kind of world-altering, morality-testing incident. A kind of “what did you just do?” moment that our characters will spend the next however-many-issues sorting out. Hell, the climax of Avengers Infinity War happened like 15 pages into the first issue of Jim Starlin’s The Infinity Gauntlet. Where writer Eric Heisserer distinguishes his story is in giving that catastrophic action to our hero, and making damn sure we understand why. Continue reading