Captain America 1 Addresses the Change We Wish We Didn’t See

by Drew Baumgartner

Captain America 1

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

If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. […] We need not wait to see what others do.

Mahatma Gandhi

You might be more familiar with this quote as it is often paraphrased, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” It’s a (hilariously self-actualized) misquote that kinda sorta captures the sentiment of the original, paring a nuanced sentiment down to something that could fit on a bumper sticker. But we only need to think about the cheery optimism of that bumper sticker for a moment to see the pessimism inherent in it. We can be the solution to the world’s problems, sure, but only because we’re already the cause of them. We need to change because we are what the world is — any problems in it are caused by us (whether by malice, ignorance, or complacency).

It’s a lesson many Americans learned (too late) after Donald Trump was elected. Not because we voted for him, but because we thought not voting for him was enough. We thought we were the solution to the problems we saw in the world, but didn’t appreciate how we were also the problem. We saw the battle over the future of this country as an “us vs. them,” failing to understand that there is only an “us,” that we can only be the solution when we accept that we are the problem. We thought fascism was a thing that happened in other countries, and that America would band together to reject it. We were wrong. Few people understand this (or have articulated it quite as clearly) as Ta-Nehisi Coates, which makes him the ideal writer to tackle Captain America, a series also coming to terms with its own in-universe convulsions of fascism. Continue reading

Reconstructing the Superhero Mythos in Jupiter’s Legacy Volume 2 5

by Drew Baumgartner

Jupiter's Legacy Vol 2 5

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

There have been some truly great deconstructions of the superhero genre. Watchmen set the bar in that particular corner of superherodom, but there have been countless imitators in the decades since. Indeed, there’d be enough to think that the very idea of deconstructing a superhero story has lost all meaning — but of course, in comics, any issue might be someone’s first, so any deconstruction might feel subversive to newcomers, even if the rest of us have seen it a million times. That was more or less my assessment of Jupiter’s Legacy when it started back in 2013; this was an attractive, well-observed series that ultimately felt decidedly familiar. But, of course, that was its starting point, not its raison d’être. The fifth and final issue of volume two clarifies that this series was about taking superhero mythology from that tired deconstructed wasteland and reconstructing its original spirit of optimism. Continue reading

Secret Empire 4: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Ryan Mogge

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

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Patrick: The Secret Empire epic drives on an engine powered by dramatic irony. From the second Steve’s first “Hail Hydra” was uttered, the audience knew more about the threat the Marvel Universe faced better than any of its inhabitants. It is serendipitous (in the worst possible way) that the current political climate in the United States has made readers hyper-aware of this irony, as we’re able to draw obvious parallels between the rise of Hydra and the rise of white nationalism. We don’t need to parse out the rhetorical devices Steve uses to justify his abuses of power — we see them demonstrated by our president every day. Issue 4 doubles down on the practice of illustrating dramatic irony, giving the audience far more information than any of the characters are ever afforded. The result is an unsettling exercise in moral relativism. Continue reading