A Clash of Heroes

Superheroes, philosophy, ethics, and politics

Notes From The Secret Empire (Part 3)

)Secret Empire #1 hit the shelves today. It’s going to be a hard road––for everybody: for the Champions, who are currently hiding in a compound in Arizona; for the American people, who are currently being reeducated in Hydra-improved schools; for Captain America, who is learning the difficulty and loneliness that come with being in power; and it’s going to be a hard road for those of us who are reading.

Division at the heart of everything

If betrayal and the triumph of Hydra were the story of Secret Empire #0, struggle and division are the story of Secret Empire #1. Continue reading “Notes From The Secret Empire (Part 3)”

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Descartes’ Nightmare Scenario

The current story arc in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (AoS) uses a computer-generated artificial environment called The Framework to explore what might have happened if Hydra had succeeded in taking over S.H.I.E.L.D. Besides giving us the opportunity to see some of our favorite heroes at their worst, the story also raises interesting philosophical problems, questions that were anticipated centuries ago by philosophers like René Descartes. Specifically, the Hydra story explores problems associated with epistemology, or the study of what we can know and how we can know it.

Read more here.

So I wrote this book . . .

If you like what I do here at A Clash of Heroes, you might also like the first novel in my fantasy series, Animus: Little Gods. Nobody wears a cape or a mask in Animus, but it is very much inspired by my love for comics and superheroes, and it tells the origin story for a whole world of super-powered heroes, freaks, and villains who will populate the rest of the series.

As self-important as this probably sounds, you might think of Animus as a blending the landscape of The Stand or The Walking Dead with the philosophical tone of Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns––along with the old-fashioned heroism of Marvel and DC heroes. It has telepaths, shape-shifters, demons––as well as a few “normal” people who are far more horrifying than the freaks. Continue reading “So I wrote this book . . .”

Notes from the Secret Empire (Part 2): Hydra Cap and the Imperial Presidency

One of the most striking and powerful pages in Secret Empire #0 comes after the prologue in the opening scene on the Helicarrier. The unnamed narrator of the book describes the events of the issue in retrospect:


I’ve said before that we shouldn’t read Captain America: Steve Rogers or Secret Empire as a direct allegory, but there’s no doubt that Spencer has American politics in mind. So while we can’t say that Hydra Captain America equals Donald Trump or any other particular president, it’s hard not to think of the idea of the imperial presidency during this monologue. Continue reading “Notes from the Secret Empire (Part 2): Hydra Cap and the Imperial Presidency”

Notes from the Secret Empire (Part 1.5)

A couple of days ago I posted about Secret Empire #0 and Captain America: Steve Rogers #16, specifically about the revised history of Captain America that those issues revealed: that he has always been a Hydra agent, and that after WWII, the Allies used a Cosmic Cube to make Steve into the hero that comics readers knew for 75 years.

When I first read the issue, I took it for granted that this history is just a part of the new reality that Kobik created when she altered Cap’s history back during Avengers: Standoff. But several news sites—notably Screen Rant—reported that Secret Empire had now revealed that Cap had Always Been Evil! At first, I thought, “Did I read the same comic? Or did I miss something?” Otherwise, Nick Spencer has given us the Mother of all Retcons, the Retcon to End All Retcons. This would be a retcon to make One More Day look like a minor change to Spider-Man’s history. Continue reading “Notes from the Secret Empire (Part 1.5)”

Notes from the Secret Empire (Part 1): A Huge Twist, But Don’t Draw Any Conclusions (Yet, At Least)

Secret Empire #0 hit the stands yesterday along with Captain America: Steve Rogers #16 (as well as a couple of other Secret Empire-related titles that I have yet to read). Both are excellent books. In fact, Secret Empire #0 is the most exciting event comic that I’ve read since Jonathan Hickman’s Infinity (which is grossly underrated).

Unlike a lot of event comics in recent memory, lots of things actually happen in SE #0 that really do matter. Where most event comics only promise to Change Everything Forever(!), Secret Empire #0 stands poised to deliver on that promise. There are times when I want to make a voodoo doll of Nick Spencer and light it on fire for what he’s done with Cap, but I have to admit: he tells a damn good, damn suspenseful story. It’s been a long time since a comic has felt so high-stakes. Continue reading “Notes from the Secret Empire (Part 1): A Huge Twist, But Don’t Draw Any Conclusions (Yet, At Least)”

Notes from the Secret Empire (Prologue)

For the duration of Marvel’s Secret Empire event (which sort-of launches this week with issue #0), I’ll be writing an ongoing series of posts about the story, which sees the Hydra Captain America succeed in leading a Hydra takeover of America.

Just as Secret Empire will be the culmination of Nick Spencer’s Hydra Cap story, these “Notes from the Secret Empire” will be the culmination of a number of posts that I’ve made about Captain America since last summer. In this series, I plan to review each issue of Secret Empire (as well as the related issues of Captain America: Steve Rogers, Captain America: Sam Wilson, and perhaps other tie-in issues as well), and I will also discuss the political and philosophical implications of the series (both for the Marvel Universe and for the real world). Continue reading “Notes from the Secret Empire (Prologue)”

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.

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