A careful and elegant game of brinkmanship plays out not only on the page, but in my mind. DCU Presents #5 is the very worst kind of game in the world, the one I win, by losing something. And beyond even that, DCU Presents #5 is a glowing map of the geopolitical powerscape just about to come.
It really is the worst kind of game. The kind where I end up pitting two cherished beliefs against each other. And only one belief makes it out alive. With DCU Presents, writer Paul Jenkins has got me on tilt, and playing against myself. On the one hand there’s the salient mettle of Paul Auster’s words. Spoken while being interviewed by John Reed, Auster points to the need for stories to never escape the orbit of the personal. The grandiose is fine if readers can realize the metaphor for themselves. But being bludgeoned into seeing it really does nobody any good. What Auster was saying was the epic poem of The Odyssey is fine, but real literature, the kind that moves people, is walking the streets of Dublin and the pages of Ulysses reenacting that mythic pattern. It is the accessible minutiae that animates the mythic.
On the other hand, it’s hard dismiss Anonymous. The very weight that Derek Jacobi brings as narrator resonates throughout the film. And there’s that singular motif that crescendoes right at the very end of the movie. That words will win where swords will not. That Shakespeare’s plays, the true Shakespeare (as is the conceit of the film), had a deeply political element—that they were written to move people to action. That they were written to be the catalyst for social reform.
So which notion would flourish, and which would need to be cast aside? Auster and the resilience of the small, human nature of things? Or Anonymous and the idea of literature as the epicenter of social change? Or is there some perspective, from a senior humanity, that would somehow allow me to maintain both?
It’s a choice I dare not make.
As deeply involved as I am in Boston Brand’s Deadman finally facing off against Rama (DCU Presents really has singled itself out as the Breaking Bad of comics, this is Walter White against Gus Fring), I realize there is a deeper game Paul is playing here. This face off now, in issue five, is just the middle phase of a deeper game that will end in alliance rather than contention.
It all started as service, it plays out through brinkmanship, but it can only end in a phase of “sharing common interest but not common values”, as Paddy Ashdown so elegantly put it. Deadman “versus” Rama isn’t a “versus” at all. It’s a prelude to the end of the game. It’s a metaphor for a world with an ascended China, and an ascended India, where rather than regional powers, they’ve become superpowers of their own.
So which idea do you discard? The heroism of the personal, or the epic sweep of metaphor?
Decide for yourself as you read PopMatters exclusive preview of DCU Presents #5.
DCU Presents #5 goes on sale next Wednesday 1/18.