Comics

No Stranger to Fiction: “Now I Believe in This”, or Why My God Has a Hammer

Kevin M. Brettauer
My God, A Hammer!: The Avengers stand together again, long after being Disassembled, to hear the truth of the role they played in the Secret Invasion.

How could it have come to this? Are we living in an age of infinite war that draws upon the West/East tensions of the past? Are the summer megaevents of the Big 2 comics companies a parody? Or reportage?

“I have not come to you except for the purpose of restoring your rights from the hands of the oppressors…”

- Napoleon Bonaparte, 1798, justifying invading Egypt

“I have never been a quitter.”

- Richard M. Nixon, resigning to the Union, 8/8/1974

Understandably, most war-based discussion in the news of late has been focused on the tense situation in Israel’s Gaza Strip. And it is not hard to see human fiction stretching out its withered hand and evoke comparisons with the so-called “Gideon Massacre” from the second season of Battlestar Galactica. And even now there is the possibility of viewing this as a worldwide damage inflicted traditionally by one mad superhuman, in comics like Black Summer, Supergod, Watchmen, Irredeemable and the classic Powers storyline “Supergroup”.

While I don’t wish to trivialize the occurrences in Gaza in any way, shape or form, I think it’s also worth noting that just recently, the United States of America’s war in Afghanistan recently surpassed its involvement in the infamous Vietnam conflict. In previous posts, I have gone out of my way to discuss my personal belief that most major wars of the last several hundred years are merely an outgrowth of conflicts such as the Crusades or the Spanish Inquisition; that is to say, these conflicts are born when Western Christianity and Eastern Islam somehow find each other in their own peripheral vision and cannot escape the natural anathema that society has pushed each culture to have for one another. Five days after the September 11th attacks, George W. Bush used a word with a certain stigma attached to it to describe, for one of the first times, his new initiative: “This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while.”

Well, it has indeed taken a while. And yes, it is indeed a crusade, just as so many wars before it were, if, indeed, they are separate wars, and not merely the same war resumed after intermittent pauses. And as disturbing as that is, even modern comics creators have noticed this and have made it a recurring theme in the form of Marvel’s modern company-wide crossovers. And what a tangled web they weave; it’s almost impossible to trace the genesis of one storyline without getting tangled up in another saga.

The decades-old “Kree/Skrull War” eventually begat the revelation of the formation of the Illuminati, as well as tales like Annihilation, “Planet Hulk” World War Hulk and Secret Invasion. Annihilation led to Annihilation: Conquest, and, with a little help from various X-Men and Inhumans stories, War of Kings, Realm of Kings and The Thanos Imperative.

“Avengers Disassembled”, meanwhile, paved the way for House of M (which itself led into the X-Men’s “Messiah” trilogy”), Civil War, Secret Invasion, the Dark Reign of Norman Osborn and, finally, Siege and the birth of the Heroic Age.

It goes on and on like this. And while these tales are all thematically linked and more or less planned out from the very start, the same, sadly, cannot be said of the continued incursion of Westerners into the Middle East, the birthplace of the three Abrahamic religions. There is no real link beyond ancient grudges no one knows the cause of, and certainly no plan as to how things will turn out. It says something about humans as a species that the birthplace of three of the largest religions in the world--three religions that are all linked to one another like the colors of a flag or the members of the Beatles--is not just constantly in the midst of completely avoidable conflict, but frequently the number one geographical area of apocalyptic concern for the rest of the world.

“He gathered them together into the place which is called in Hebrew, Megiddo.”

I’ve ranted in the past that these heroes of ours, these Avengers and X-Men and Defenders and Outsiders and Titans and what-have-you, are fictional, and to that extent will always, in some way, flaunt their seeming immortality in our faces by narrowly escaping death almost every time. But don’t worry, if they die, they’ll come back! Any day now, Nightcrawler, Ares and Black Bolt will come back, arm-in-arm with their “across the street” pals Bruce Wayne and Ryan Choi, and all will be well.

Try telling that to the six million Jews who perished in Hitler’s camps.

Try telling that to the 135,000 who died in the Inquisiton.

Tell that to the Afghani civilians dying every day in their home country.

While it’s undeniable that connections exist between the East/West conflict and ongoing interlinked “event” comics, it’s not like it’s necessarily a conscious choice. If anything, it’s the subconscious of the creators trying to make sense of something that has been just outside the realm of human understanding for so long.

Vietnam has long been viewed as a colossal failure of the American war machine. Many still debate if the country should have even been involved at all. Many have long wondered exactly what Vietnam’s legacy will be.

It’s not Secret Invasion. It’s not House of M. It’s not even Born on the Fourth of July or Full Metal Jacket.

Vietnam’s legacy was its longevity, and now it has been usurped.

To think that so recent a conflict has a legacy that actually predates said conflict is almost difficult to fathom, but if comicbook fans can accept Bobbi Morse being kidnapped by aliens and her participation in the Legion of the Unliving being a dirty magic trick, it shouldn’t be too much to ask.

With the way things are going in Afghanistan--with the way things are going in Gaza--who knows how long it’ll be before we’ll just have to accept that another one’s gone off somewhere.

Comicbook fans complain about event fatigue. Next time I feel the urge to rant about how the Blackest Night led to the Brightest Day, which will no doubt lead to something else, I will remember that there are three peoples who have been embroiled in the same struggle, the same blackest of nights, for so very long. The players and faces have changed, the weapons have been upgraded, the tactics ever so slightly altered, but the goals are the same, and who knows when a brighter day, a new world, will dawn for them?

"Shantih shantih shantih".

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

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It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

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​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

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Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

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There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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