Disconnecting for a bit
So this won’t be as heavy a post as I usually write.
I haven’t been writing much this week for a lot of reasons. Part of it is sheer exhaustion. Last week was finals week, and since I taught six classes this semester, I had a hell of a lot of grading to do. Another reason is that after I turned in final grades, I decided that I needed to disconnect for a little while. On Sunday, I put my phone on Airplane Mode and turned off my iPad––and I have to tell you, it’s been one of the best things I’ve done in a long time. Forcing myself to fast from electronics in general (and from social media in particular) has allowed me to focus on the important things in my life in a way that I haven’t been able to do in a long time. It’s been wonderful.
One of those important things, of course, has been reading. Earlier this week I finished a Friedrich Hayek book that I began a few weeks ago and just couldn’t find the time to read, and now I’ve moved on to Cicero. I’ve read several good comics this week, too. By the end of the semester, I had fallen behind on both Detective Comics and Batman, so I took a couple of hours earlier this week and caught up. Both Tynion and King continue to amaze me.
And speaking of Tom King, Mister Miracle came out yesterday. It doesn’t matter how busy I am––when that book comes out, I make the time to read it as soon as possible. Like last year’s Vision, Mister Miracle is transcendent.In this week’s issue, Scott Free muses on the thought of one of my favorite philosophers, René Descartes and comes to an interesting conclusion about him. And the end of that issue––holy cow! Jack Kirby fans will be delighted. I’ll say no more than that.
Mark Waid’s Captain America and rediscovering America
But it’s last week’s issue of Mark Waid’s Captain America that got me up early to write about comics this morning. The first two issues of that run have been predictably good and a welcome relief after the long torture (the good kind of torture, but still, torture) that was Secret Empire: the good guys and bad guys are easy to recognize; the colors are bright, and the artwork recalls an older, simpler time; there’s no specter of 2016-2017 politics hanging over the whole affair; and Cap’s classic costume is back for the first time since 2012. Marvel clearly wanted to set things right after the controversy surrounding Nick Spencer’s run.
But that doesn’t mean that the book has nothing to offer political and philosophical nerds like me. Even though Waid clearly wants to write a “plain” superhero story, the main premise of the first story arc is explicitly political: it’s about Steve Rogers traveling the country in order to find out who it is that he represents. In the first two issues, Steve visits small towns in Nebraska and Georgia (trying to remain incognito, of course, but you can guess how well that works out).
It might sound strange to say that a story about a man visiting small towns to see how the people there live is “explicitly political,” but nothing could be more political (in the best sense of the word) than for someone who represents America to try to understand its people.
If Nick Spencer’s Cap books had a flaw, it was that they too often relied on caricatures of various political groups––especially right-wingers, conservatives, and libertarians. Reading CA:SR, CA:SW, or Secret Empire with their nightmare vision of fascism taking over the minds of average citizens, you might have gotten the impression that the creators and editors at Marvel don’t know a single person who voted for Donald Trump, considers themselves Republican, owns guns, lives in a small town, or holds any right-of-center position. You don’t have to be a Trumpkin to know that most of the people who supported him aren’t the raging fascists we witnessed at Charlottesville, but it has felt like the folks at Marvel don’t know it.
So as Cap sets out on his road to find out how all the various “everybodys” live, its easy to see the trip as an opportunity for not only Steve himself, but for Marvel to take the opportunity to see how half the country lives.
In other news
I feel a post brewing about the Marvel/Netflix Punisher series. If you haven’t watched it, do yourself a favor. It’s easily one of Marvel’s best shows, and it is almost shocking to see how balanced an approach it takes to the political issues that it raises. I hope to write a longer post about it next week.