A Clash of Heroes

Superheroes, philosophy, ethics, and politics

Marvel’s Legacy and The Legacy of America

***Some spoilers for Marvel Legacy.***

Unsurprisingly, Marvel Legacy is a solid book. It’s pretty to look at, and Jason Aaron is a talented writer. Legacy teases some interesting new directions for Marvel, promising to honor the legacy of the Marvel Universe without undermining the newer characters.

It’s hampered a little by the shadow of DC’s Rebirth one-shot, which delivered more story and more text in a book that was half the price of Legacy. As I read Legacy for the first time, I couldn’t help thinking that it felt a little thinner than Rebirth, that it isn’t just shorter and more expensive than Rebirth, but that it spreads its story more thinly than Rebirth does. (Of course, it might have felt this way to me because I know the history of the Marvel Universe much better than I do the history of the DC Universe. Rebirth feels dense to me in part because it deals with history and a few characters that I don’t know that well.) Continue reading “Marvel’s Legacy and The Legacy of America”


Talk: The Killing Joke and Censorship

***The following post is the text of a talk that I gave at the college where I work. This lecture was part of a series celebrating Banned Books Week.***

Welcome and Introduction

Thank you for coming. I want to preface this by saying that in this talk I’m going to discuss topics and show you images that some people might find disturbing or offensive. Many people have the mistaken impression that comic books are primarily for kids, and they’re often shocked to find that some comics deal with very mature themes. My topic for today certainly does.

The book that I’m going to discuss is a comic book called Batman: The Killing Joke, and its author, Alan Moore, is no stranger to banned books. Moore is most famous for writing a graphic novel called Watchmen, which has been banned more than once. Other books by Moore have been challenged or banned, as well. Continue reading “Talk: The Killing Joke and Censorship”

iPhones and Cosmic Cubes: Building A World Where Reality Can Be Altered By Anybody

Yesterday, Apple introduced their new lineup of iPhones, and while everybody seems to be focusing on poop Animojis, the new iPhone X has more serious implications to think about. (And yes, I’m going to bring this post back around to comics; just give me a minute or two).

Search for “iPhone X” on Twitter and you’ll find a lot of oohs and aahs, but you’ll also find a lot of people making fun of the phone’s new “Animoji” feature, which lets users animate emojis using their own faces. The phone uses its forward-facing camera to read the user’s facial expressions and movements and animate an emoji to mimic those expressions and movements.

It’s a neat feature, but it’s admittedly hard to take poop emojis seriously. After Tim Cook introduced the new phone at their event on Tuesday with Apple’s famous “One More Thing,” it must have felt a little silly and anticlimactic for folks in the audience to watch someone animate a poop emoji with his face. But the silliness of Animojis hides both how revolutionary it is for regular people to be able to own that kind of technology––and also just how frightening the pace of technological advance has become. Continue reading “iPhones and Cosmic Cubes: Building A World Where Reality Can Be Altered By Anybody”

Iron Man & Ironheart: Technology Will Never Perfect Us or the World

I’ve been looking forward to Marvel’s Generations series since it was first teased with the Alex Ross promotional art back in the Spring. Billed as a series of stories that would bring together new generations of heroes with their progenitors, Generations promised a welcome relief from the darkness that has permeated the Marvel Universe for the last year and a half.

So far I’ve only read three of the six Generations issues: The Unworthy Thor & The Mighty Thor; Banner Hulk & The Totally Awesome Hulk; and Iron Man and Ironheart. I was a little disappointed in the Hulk issue, but I enjoyed the Thor issue, which was fun and ended with a pretty big revelation about Odin’s history.

But for my money, Brian Michael Bendis’ entry is the best of the three that I’ve read: it’s a pleasure to read and look at; it provides some fascinating tidbits about the future of the Marvel Universe as well as what’s in store for Tony and Riri; and it provides enough fodder for philosophy nerds like myself to chew on without overwhelming fans who just want a good superhero story.

***Full spoilers for Generations: Ironman & Ironheart follow.*** Continue reading “Iron Man & Ironheart: Technology Will Never Perfect Us or the World”

New Post at . . . And Philosophy on Kingdom Come

I have a new post up at . . . And Philosophy:

“The comic that perhaps best speaks to the problems of today was created over twenty years ago. Though it doesn’t get quite as much popular recognition as books like Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns, Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come is a triumph for the genre, showcasing the artistic sophistication and philosophical depth that comics can achieve. More to the point, the book might be deeply prophetic. It diagnoses the problems of our decade even more effectively than contemporary books that are more deliberately topical and allegorical.”

Read more: How We Remain Free: Why Kingdom Come is More Relevant Than Ever.

Notes From The Secret Empire, Final Thoughts: What We Shouldn’t Overlook

***Spoilers for Secret Empire.***

Yesterday’s Secret Empire #10 finally brought Nick Spencer’s sprawling Captain America epic to its close (mostly; there are still some loose ends to tie up in Generations and in Secret Empire: Omega). Continue reading “Notes From The Secret Empire, Final Thoughts: What We Shouldn’t Overlook”

Luke Cage and Danny Rand: A Lesson in Humility and Empathy

***Some spoilers for The Defenders follow.***

Most of the complaints about Iron Fist had to do with the title character: Marvel should have made Danny Rand Asian to avoid the White Savior trope; Danny comes across as the epitome of “white privilege”; Finn Jones’ acting was stiff and uncomfortable; he’s clearly not as skilled a martial artist as his costars.

Marvel seems to have addressed most of those complaints pretty well in The Defenders (I say that after having seen only the first four episodes). Finn Jones seems much more comfortable in the role. In part I think that this is a result of being part of an ensemble cast. And though there isn’t a whole lot of fighting in the first four episodes, this show makes it easier to believe that Danny is The Living Weapon.

One of the show’s most striking scenes is the episode in which Danny and Luke Cage meet at Colleen Wing’s dojo after having fought in an alley the night before. As you might expect, their first conversation doesn’t go so well. Their personalities naturally clash. Luke is a reluctant hero who just wants to help the people of his neighborhood. Having been wrongfully imprisoned, he is deeply aware of society’s injustice and predisposed to be suspicious of people with power. Danny, on the other hand, comes from a life of privilege. He spent his childhood living in penthouse apartments and flying in jets. And now he uses his vast fortune to travel the world in search of The Hand. Continue reading “Luke Cage and Danny Rand: A Lesson in Humility and Empathy”

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”

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