January 18, 2006
Just as I write ...
Wow. I had taken some time to write my "Comics and Politics" post back on Saturday (didn't post it until Monday), but it's been even more time since I was last by my local comics shop. I nabbed the latest issue of The Ultimates, which you may recall is writer Mark Millar's (and artist Bryan Hitch's) reimagining of the Avengers super-team. And wouldn't 'ya just know it? Here's what we're "treated" to in the waning pages of the recent Ultimates 2 #9:
The small dialogue box reads: "This is what happens when your ambitions outstrip your capabilities."
Prior to that we're offered the following from various as-yet unknown (and some known, like the Crimson Dynamo) characters:
- "The world is a safer place now this Roman Empire has been restrained."
- "I mean I know why our Chinese agents did this, We did it to stop more preemptive strikes. Likewise, the Russians, the Arabs and all the North Koreans. Even the [Black] Widow infiltrated these people for free because she feared what America might do next."
- "We told you to stop making super people, America. We told you not to interfere with cultures you can never understand." (This last is followed by the dialogue box accompanying the Statue of Liberty toppling.)
The last page has one "villain/hero" proudly claiming "The Great Satan has just been liberated."
You see, apparently SHIELD and its American and European superheroes had been getting "too big for their britches," so the law enforcement organziation (led by Nick Fury) and the Ultimates had been infiltrated. As a result, the Hulk had been set up and executed. Thor had been ID'd as a psycho and imprisoned. Hawkeye's family was murdered and he thought killed, and Capt. America was set up as his killer. (Hawkeye was actually taken prisoner, and the intel he knew was utilized to administer the coup d'grace against SHIELD et. al.)
The consortium of "heroes" from Russia, China and various rogue states [apparently] are the ones inflicting the destruction on the United States. The panel you see above is just New York. Washington, Chicago and L.A. were also attacked. The US nuclear arsenal has been compromised.
Are you getting Millar's message, folks?
Posted by Hube at January 18, 2006 05:23 PM
Well, Hube, fiction writers who don't exercise the old gray matter get flabby brains.
Then, they find it is hard to develop a believeble and truly fictional, evil nemesis so they resort to what the media and Hollywood has made formulaic- simply demonize America and all it stands for.
Huh, big indestructable robots going wild. Don't they remind you of the big mutant-hunting robots from X-Men/X-Factor? Sentinels, that was it. You know, government-sponsored hunting down of a minority group. Of course it turned out that the head of the project was a mutant himself or something. Then there were the Genoshans, who practiced mutant slavery...looking much like white South Africans. Man, I just geeked out there for a bit. Anyway, back when I read comic books there was something unsettling about these story lines but they always stopped short of what Millar & Co are doing.
Bring back the Invaders, I say! (Captain America and others fighting Nazis, for those of you who grew up with the Smurfs) Al-Zarkawi as the new Red Skull???
Some of Marvel's early writing was spectacular, and I don't mean the early 60s Cold War stereotypes. Steve Englehart's Capt. America had a great Nixon-era tag-along, with a "high gov. official" as leader of the Secret Empire, whom Cap had been tailing. (We're led to believe it was the president.) It was incredibly smartly done, and Cap still represented the American ideal despite what he'd been through. (He gave up Cap for a short time, choosing the "Nomad" character.) In that, there was no doubt about Nixon's crimes, but the story, while clearly tied to Watergate, still had the idealistic optimism.
Englehart also did a great stint on The Avengers shortly thereafter, where the superteam traveled to the Squadron Supreme's world, and had to instruct them on the asininity of allowing corporations to take over the US government (literally). It was done in a way that made you think, ponder, wonder ... (Side note: fans of Kurt Busiek's Marvel work can easily tell that Englehart had a HUGE impact on Kurt's approach.... that, and Busiek has said that Giant Size Avengers #2 is his favorite all-time comic, and he has utilized myriad homages to the Englehart era in his Avengers work.)
Millar's parallel is way-obvious here, but he's taking an issue that is far from clear cut, at least here in the US. If he's writing for the outside-US market, he's right on track. But the Ultimates (Avengers) is a US team, created in the US and marketed by a US company. And unlike Englehart, he doesn't even attempt to temper his in-your-face anti-USisms with the ideal -- like what Englehart (and others, like Mark Gruenwald) always had Capt. America bring up from time to time.
I just see this as lazy storytelling. My biggest problem with this is that I read comics to escape real world issues, not deal with them in an overt manner (Probably why I stopped reading X-Men. That and there are too many X-books.)