A Clash of Heroes

Superheroes, philosophy, ethics, and politics



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”

Daredevil #17: Getting the Problem of Evil Wrong

Daredevil was already one of the most interesting superheroes Marvel had created by the time Frank Miller took over his book in the 1980s. A blind vigilante with no superpowers except that the chemical that blinded him also rendered his other senses so acute that he can “see” without his eyes? The Man Without Fear is certainly one of Stan Lee’s more brilliant creations. But when Frank Miller wrote Born Again and The Man Without Fear, he left an indelible mark on Daredevil—and one of his most important contributions to the character is Matt Murdock’s Catholicism.

So when Daredevil #16 hit the stands last month, I was pleased to see that Charles Soule’s very good post-Secret Wars iteration of Daredevil would finally explore Matt’s faith (or perhaps “doubt” is a better word). That issue ends with Matt going to a church to meet with a priest, Father Jordan, to discuss the problem that drove him away from church in his earlier life: the problem of evil. Continue reading “Daredevil #17: Getting the Problem of Evil Wrong”

Alzheimer’s, Superheroes, and God Country

***Full spoilers for God Country #1 follow.***

If the first issue is a good indication, God Country by Donny Cates (with art by Geoff Shaw, Jason Wordie, and John J. Hill) might be one of the most extraordinary superhero comics published in a long time. Continue reading “Alzheimer’s, Superheroes, and God Country”

Review: Doctor Strange

One exception (some would argue two) aside, 2016 has been a great year for superhero movies. Deadpool was a massive financial success (though I admit that I have no interest in seeing it), Civil War was probably the best superhero movie to date, and I am thrilled to see that Marvel has closed out the year with Doctor Strange, a movie that in many ways turns their universe on its head (both literally and figuratively). Continue reading “Review: Doctor Strange”

Bulletproof Black Man

This is how you do politics in a superhero story.

Luke Cage isn’t a perfect show. As some critics have pointed out, the show’s main villain, Diamondback, is weak compared to Cottonmouth, who is the primary antagonist in the first half of the season (and, along with Wilson Fisk from Daredevil, one of Marvel’s two best villains). It probably isn’t as good as the first season of Daredevil (though it’s close in my opinion), but it is worlds better than Jessica Jones in the ways that count.

Continue reading “Bulletproof Black Man”

Nick Spencer’s Captain America: Looking Forward (With Dread)

It doesn’t matter who your preferred candidate is or what your political opinions are—it should be hard for anyone to look at the state of American politics without the sneaking suspicion that something or someone has hijacked our society. Like the Red Skull altering Steve Rogers’ memories in order to make him into a Hydra sleeper agent, something seems to have changed the very makeup of what it means to be an American. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a progressive, a conservative, or a libertarian; it’s damn hard not to look at the country without coming to the conclusion that something fundamental has gone wrong.

In his run on both of the Captain America books, Nick Spencer certainly has tapped into the unease, distrust, and rage that have characterized the politics of 2015 and 2016. In Captain America: Sam Wilson, he’s been exploring the explosive tension that has erupted between police and black communities since the Michael Brown killing, and in Captain America: Steve Rogers, he’s taken the fear and despair that many of us feel about the state of America and channeled it into Steve Rogers, who has been turned into a Hydra agent by the Red Skull using the power of a cosmic cube. And in the process, he’s breaking the hearts of everyone who loves Captain America. Continue reading “Nick Spencer’s Captain America: Looking Forward (With Dread)”

Superman: Father And Son

Parents are often essential to the stories of superheroes. Batman’s story in many ways centers on Bruce Wayne’s dead parents, for example. They’re the motivation that drives everything that he does. People often overlook, however, how important fatherhood and motherhood are to the story of Superman.

Kal El/Clark Kent’s story is just as much a story of his mothers and fathers as it is the story of an alien living among us. What kind of love does it take for parents to willingly send their infant son out into the universe with almost no knowledge of what kind of man he will grow up to be without their guidance and care or what kind of life he will have to live among a race that they know almost nothing about?

Continue reading “Superman: Father And Son”

Amazing Spider-Man (Civil War II Miniseries): Predicting Behavior and Influencing It

***Warning: Spoilers for Civil War II and Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man follow.***

Marvel’s original Civil War was an important moment in comics because it was one of the first times in which a mainstream comic took up serious political questions––government regulation; post-9/11 counter-terrorism; even gun control, to an extent––and presented a balanced and nuanced view of them. What made the book so powerful was that instead of putting one set of political ideas into the mouths of supervillains (so that readers will know that those ideas are Very Bad), it presented a political conflict by having good people take opposing sides. (Some current comic book writers ought to take notes.)

Civil War is good because it’s ultimately about us; it’s about decent, reasonable people who want to do the right thing but who disagree about what the right thing is. It’s a hard act to follow, and yet, Marvel seems to be doing it again with Civil War II by Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez. Continue reading “Amazing Spider-Man (Civil War II Miniseries): Predicting Behavior and Influencing It”

Tom King’s The Vision: A Revelation

If you have not read The Vision by Tom King (with artists Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire), do yourself a favor and get a hold of it in trade paperback or find back issues where you can. It isn’t just good comics; it’s a revelation about what superhero comics can be. Continue reading “Tom King’s The Vision: A Revelation”

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