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A Clash of Heroes

Superheroes, philosophy, ethics, and politics

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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”

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”

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”

I Hope That They See What Makes Her Special

My wife and my daughter saw Wonder Woman on Friday, and my oldest two sons saw it on Saturday. (Our youngest is a toddler, so we can’t go to movies together right now.) Before the boys and I went to the theater, I took my daughter to our local comic shop for some free comics and to have her picture made with a Wonder Woman cosplayer.

After I snapped the pic, the cosplayer smiled at my daughter and told her, “Go protect your family!” It’s what you’d expect a superhero cosplayer to say to a kid, but the admonition struck me as odd and stuck with me for the rest of the day. Continue reading “I Hope That They See What Makes Her Special”

An Unconventional Mother’s Day Post: Alfred Pennyworth and the Dignity of Unsung Work

It’s an odd connection to make, but with Mother’s Day this weekend (and Father’s Day coming up in about a month), I find myself thinking about Alfred Pennyworth and his daughter, Julia. (Hopefully, I’ll make that connection clear by the end of this post.)

One of my favorite scenes in Batman Eternal, the 2014 limited series by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, and others, is the conversation between Alfred and Julia in issue #12. Julia, an agent of the British Special Air Service, was injured in a fight with Shen Fang, and Batman has brought her back to Gotham to convalesce at Wayne Manor. Julia and Alfred haven’t seen each other in years, and Julia has no idea that Bruce is Batman or that her father spends his evenings helping the Dark Knight fight crime. She thinks of her father (who was once a medic in the British Army as well as a celebrated stage actor) is now little more than a manservant to a spoiled billionaire: Continue reading “An Unconventional Mother’s Day Post: Alfred Pennyworth and the Dignity of Unsung Work”

The MCU Has a Language Problem

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a language problem.

Let me preface this by saying two things:

First, if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like to think about movies, if you’re the kind of person says, “But it’s just entertainment!” or “It’s just a movie!” or “You think too much!”––well, this post isn’t directed at you. You might as well move on to the next blog.

Second, this is not in any way an attack on the MCU. I LOVE the MCU. If I’m going to spend my increasingly-rare free time on a movie, nine times out of ten it’s going to be a Marvel movie. I’ve seen every MCU movie opening night since The AvengersI was there for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 opening night in IMAX, and I loved it.

But it’s true: the MCU has a language problem. Continue reading “The MCU Has a Language Problem”

Michael Keaton’s Vulture and “The Forgotten”

It has become a cliche to point out that the rich have most of the political power. It has also become a cliche to say that the recent election in America was the result of forgotten people standing up for themselves against the “establishment” (whatever that means). To a certain extent, this revolt of “the forgotten” against the “establishment” is the story that we’re seeing not only in the U.S., but also around the world. The surprising popularity of Marine le Pen in France’s presidential race is an example of this. While there are more moderate (and some would argue more sensible) candidates on the right and the left, le Pen’s surge in the polls seems to represent a loud statement by “the forgotten” that they’re no longer willing to accept politics as usual.

Though populism has its dangers, one can understand why people who feel forgotten would resent those who have a larger voice in society than they do. Mass media constantly barrage us with new political pontifications from the rich and powerful. Entertainers, businesspeople, technocrats, and others have a voice and influence that the average person could never dream of. Sure, the internet promised to radically level the playing field, giving bloggers (like me) and others an equal shot at being heard, but in many ways it has had the opposite effect. When the average person competes with the rich for a voice, we all know who is most likely to win.  Continue reading “Michael Keaton’s Vulture and “The Forgotten””

The Unworthy Thor: Humility and Worthiness

“I’ll bet the Hulk could lift Thor’s hammer.”

My oldest son said this several years ago when I first introduced him to superheroes. (It’s a fairly common mistake, thinking that Mjolnir is so heavy that only the very strongest can lift it.) I explained to him that no, the Hulk can’t lift Mjolnir because he isn’t worthy of lifting it.

“What makes you worthy?” he asked.
Continue reading at . . . And Philosophy.

Iron Fist and Suffering

It’s an understatement to say that Iron Fist hasn’t done well with critics, and in many ways the critics are right. There are a number of problems with it, most notably a weak lead character and fight-choreography that falls far below the standard established by Daredevil. But the show has several redeeming qualities: a good supporting cast (whose performances are better than Jones’, for the most part); an interesting villain; and some compelling subplots, especially those involving the Meachams. But one of the most interesting things about Iron Fist is the way in which it explores the meaning of suffering—the role that suffering plays in shaping who we are, how we relate to the people around us, and especially how we relate to our home and our environment. Continue reading “Iron Fist and Suffering”

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