A Clash of Heroes

Superheroes, philosophy, ethics, and politics

Notes from the Secret Empire Part 9

***Major spoilers for Captain America #25 and Secret Empire #8***

This has been a big week for the Secret Empire. Major characters have returned, wars have been fought and lost, alliances have formed, and fragments of the Cosmic Cube have been found.


At the end of #8, several things happen almost simultaneously in what will probably strike a lot of readers as an enormous coincidence, and those events finally deliver the hope that the heroes need: after spending several issues searching in vain for the Cosmic Cube fragments, Tony and company discover an Inhuman whose power can help them recover one of the fragments; Quasar awakens from the coma that has put her out of commission since the beginning of the series, and she brings down the planetary defense shield that has kept Captain Marvel and the other heavy-hitters off of Earth; Maria Hill finds and kills Blackout, whose power is keeping New York in the Darkhold dimension; Namor arrives in New York with the promise of a plan to defeat Hydra; and the Steve Rogers who seems to be trapped in a dream-like world (what some people suspect is the Vanishing Point) discovers Kobik in the forest with him. In other words, suddenly everything starts to go right for the good guys. Continue reading “Notes from the Secret Empire Part 9”

Notes from the Secret Empire Part 8: Fate, Freedom, and a Payoff (Sort Of) for Civil War II

***Major spoilers for Secret Empire #7 ahead.***

In some ways Secret Empire is the final part of a three-act story that began last year with Standoff. The second act of that story, Civil War II, set up one of the biggest moments in Secret Empire when Ulysses showed the Avengers and Inhumans a vision of Miles Morales killing Steve Rogers on the steps of the U.S. capitol:

Though the gathered heroes didn’t understand at the time, readers knew that the vision had everything to do with Steve being transformed into a Hydra agent. What we didn’t know was whether or not the vision would come true, and if so, what events would lead Miles and Steve to that particular moment in time. Secret Empire #7 finally answers those questions. Continue reading “Notes from the Secret Empire Part 8: Fate, Freedom, and a Payoff (Sort Of) for Civil War II”

Outriders in Avengers: Infinity War?

File this under More Reason to Think That Hickman’s Infinity Will Influence Avengers: Infinity War:

Marvel screened some amazing footage from Avengers: Infinity War at D23 and at SDCC last weekend. I’ve seen a leaked version of the footage (I won’t link to it here, but you can find it pretty easily on Twitter), and I was excited to see what looked like a familiar critter at around the 2:30 mark of the trailer. Continue reading “Outriders in Avengers: Infinity War?”

Jonathan Hickman’s Infinity: Why It’s One of Marvel’s Best Events

The Cull Obsidian and Avengers: Infinity War

Last weekend at the Disney Expo, Marvel revealed that the Cull Obsidian will appear in Avengers: Infinity War (they’re also called The Black Order; apparently in the movie they’re going to be called the Children of Thanos). We also got our first glimpse of the Order, and it’s exciting to see that the Russos have nailed the look of the characters. Continue reading “Jonathan Hickman’s Infinity: Why It’s One of Marvel’s Best Events”

Notes from The Secret Empire Part 7: A Little Moral Clarity

The moral world of the Hydra Cap story has been murky from the beginning. Since CA:SR #1, I’ve found myself in the uncomfortable position of rooting for the “bad guy.” In part this is because Steve Rogers has always been my favorite Marvel hero, and I want to believe that he can be restored to his true self soon. And in part it’s been because whatever evil he’s done, his intentions have seemed (for the most part) to be good. He wants to restore order and security to the Marvel world after a decade or more of its heroes acting like something less than heroes. That’s not too far from the Cap we’ve all known and loved. What changed was that he’s gone from being the guy who refuses to compromise his principles (even when it means he has to suffer for it) to being an ends-justify-the-means kind of guy. Continue reading “Notes from The Secret Empire Part 7: A Little Moral Clarity”

Batman #24: The Freedom to Do What We Have to Do

***Spoilers for Batman #24 follow.***

No doubt the most shocking thing to happen in Batman #24 is what happens on the last page. Well, “shocking” probably isn’t the right word. King has clearly been leading up to this moment for most of his run. Anyway, the last page certainly marks a change in Batman’s story. But it’s the philosophical ideas in the issue that interest me most. Continue reading “Batman #24: The Freedom to Do What We Have to Do”

Notes from the Secret Empire Part 6.5: Moral Relativism?

Over at Retcon Punch there’s a thoughtful discussion of Secret Empire #4 where Patrick Ehlers makes interesting connections between Secret Empire with real-world politics.

In his analysis of the ethical disagreement between Black Widow and the Defenders over torturing the Hydra goon, Ehlers uses the term “moral relativism,” but I wonder if that’s quite the right term for what’s happening in SE #4. Continue reading “Notes from the Secret Empire Part 6.5: Moral Relativism?”

Wonder Woman #23 and the Meaning of Love

We all have a bad habit of tossing around important words without thinking about what those words really mean. One of the most carelessly used words in English (and probably in a lot of other languages, too) is “love.” We inject “love” into our conversations—personal, religious, political, whatever—and speak of it with vague reverence, but what we seem to mean is something like “nice feelings.” This kind of “love” is offered up as the silver bullet for ending war, hatred, prejudice, sexism, and any number of other evils in the world. But we’re fools if we think that nice feelings could stop ISIS or hatred or human trafficking.

In other conversations “love” seems to mean just sexual attraction, as if wanting to sleep with someone badly enough means that we love that person.

Kindness, good feelings, romantic attraction—they’re are all good things, but love has to be more. When we talk about love in a way that treats it as mere kindness or sexual attraction, we cheapen it, turning it into something that happens to us instead of something that we choose, something that we do. Continue reading “Wonder Woman #23 and the Meaning of Love”

Notes from the Secret Empire Part 6

Yesterday a man named James Hodgkinson opened fire on a congressman and four others at a baseball practice, and the apparent motive for the attack was political.

I hate to sound cynical, especially when there are real people suffering, but violence and tragedy have become so commonplace that it’s hard to work up the kind of emotional response that we ought to have about these sorts of things. Maybe it’s because these days, the Outrage Machine runs on high-output twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty five days a year. Maybe it’s because every day there’s some new cause demanding my full emotional investment flooding my social media feed and the news cycle. But whatever the reason, increasingly I find myself feeling shame more than anything else when bad things happen. Things like the Alexandria shooting ought to shock me, but I’m ashamed to say that they don’t. I don’t have the energy to be shocked anymore.

I bring this up because Secret Empire #4 landed on shelves yesterday, and I can’t help noticing how (sadly) relevant the book is to where we are right now––but not (necessarily) in the way that Spencer intends. Continue reading “Notes from the Secret Empire Part 6”

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