This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Way back in August of 1962, Peter Parker learned that with great power must also come great responsibility. It’s an important lesson, though the fact that Peter’s “power” manifests as literal superhuman abilities seems to leave some readers confused about what their own responsibilities are. In the intervening years, our discourse on power has gotten a lot more nuanced than whether someone can or can’t stick to walls, which has in turn changed our expectations of individual responsibility. Of course, the predominantly white, predominantly male world of superheroes might not be the best place to explore the more subtle (but no less powerful) issues of power and responsibility that come along with race and gender, which is exactly what made Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece’s Incognegro so remarkable when it hit stands in 2008. Indeed, the obvious differences between Incognegro and the superhero genre may make the comparison seem absurd — and it may well be — but their prequel series, Incognegro: Renaissance, takes on the familiar (and appropriate) form of the superhero origin story, complete with its own call to action about power and responsibility. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Empire of the Dead 2, originally released February 26th, 2014.
Drew: What is it that makes us human? Is it the capacity for emotion? Reason? Is it the ability to recognize that other people might have perspectives and motivations that are different from our own? These are some of the most fundamental questions of philosophy and psychology– perhaps too big to hope to tackle in a discussion of a horror comic book — but I’d like to suggest that humanity, however we define it, is the detail that separates Zombies and Vampires. Sure, there are the obvious cosmetic differences (illustrated beautifully by Alex Maleev on this month’s cover), but they’re ultimately quite similar: both are undead, both feed on humans, and both have the power to convert their victims into more monsters. The fundamental difference between the two — and what makes each so scary — is the question of their humanity: vampires have all of those qualities I mentioned up front, but zombies don’t at all. Or, at least they usually don’t — Empire of the Dead 2 reveals that its zombies may be more human than it may seem. Continue reading →
Patrick: Marvel and DC are known for their outrageously fun sandboxes. Each publisher has an impossibly large sack of toys to play with, and creators work their entire lives to have access to them. And when they finally get their hands on those toys, the gloves come off, and the story telling gets ambitious, bombastic and spectacular in every sense of that word. Brian Bendis, Brian Wood and Jason Aaron may have been given access to a shallower sandbox, but their gleeful deployment of several versions and generations of the same handful of characters has cast an enormous number of iconic characters into the spotlight. We’ve had the pleasure of watching them wrestle with the emotional result of all of these characters coming together, but Wolverine and the X-Men 37 finally gives us the Battle Royale (of the Atom) we’ve been waiting for. It trips every pleasure-center in my lizard brain, and I’m suddenly 9 years old, playing with my toys in my childhood bedroom. In this way, Battle of the Atom achieves something amazing — not only do I have to confront time traveling X-Men, I have to reconcile my own prepubescent excitement, as it rockets from the past and lands squarely in the present. Continue reading →
Taylor: Mutants share a special connection with one another. Given that they’re discriminated against and face obstacles your average human would never face, it only seems natural that they would find solace in each other’s company. For that reason alone, many a mutant (in particular those who are X-Men) find the idea of mutant fighting mutant to be a violation of an unspoken mutant rule. However, just because mutants are united in their tribulations doesn’t mean they always agree on everything. The classic case of this is the struggle between Magneto and Professor X, who share different ideas of the role mutants should play in the future of humanity. But they aren’t the only two mutants to ever disagree on something and in Uncanny X-Men 13, part of the Battle of the Atom event, we see mutant battling mutant and the anger and sadness it causes.
Isn’t it worth a few bruised children to save the entire future?
Drew: Sacrifice is a funny thing. If helping others requires harming yourself, people will hail you as a hero, but if it requires someone else being hurt — even with the same net result — people hem and haw about ends justifying means. Obviously, the sticking point is free will; it’s perfectly okay to willingly do something yourself, but each of us must be free to make that choice. Of course, that can become a bit of a sticking point in time travel narratives, where there’s a sense that certain things have to happen — Sarah Connor has to survive to give birth John, Marty McFly’s parents have to kiss at the enchantment under the sea dance — in order for the story to even be possible. We tend to focus on the potential paradoxes there, often forgetting that the affected characters have effectively had their free will’s sacrificed by whatever time-travelers happen to be meddling with their pasts. The morality of that act is under scrutiny in Wolverine and the X-Men 36, as Jason Aaron adds new players to both sides of the debate. Continue reading →
Drew: I’ve always loved the hypothetical question: “if your friend/family member/significant other committed a crime, would you hide them from the police?” It pits our relationships against our morals, or, more elegantly, our loyalty to people against our loyalty to ideas. What do you value more? Obviously, there are a number of mitigating factors, including the relationship to the given person, and the severity of the crime in question, but the point of the exercise is to think about where those factors start to matter — is this love truly unconditional, or are there conditions that trump it? Some situations are harder to call than others, but Uncanny X-Men 12 might mark the first narrative I’ve ever read where a man is conflicted with the idea of aiding and abetting himself. Continue reading →
Ethan: If you’ve ever run away from home, or snuck out in the middle of the night to dodge your curfew, or even just stormed off in the middle of a fight, you know the feeling. The conviction that you’d rather be ANYWHERE but where you just left; an undirected need to get away; but the nagging little awareness that your escape is only temporary. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to turn around and confront whatever it is that pushed you away — finish the conversation with your parents, make amends with a friend or significant other — in short, come home. In X-Men #5, we find Jean and Scott on the outbound leg of this sort of journey, and contrary to their fears, they might not have to go home quite as soon as they think.