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On Liking Things

Before I get started, this has completely unfiltered spoilers for Secret Wars and basically everything I’ve read from Nick Spencer’s run on the Steve Rogers side of Captain America.  I haven’t really read any of his post Secret Wars Sam Wilson stuff, so I don’t know how relevant it is to the discussion.

I’ve been following the whole Hydra Captain America since it all went down with Steve telling a scientist “Hail Hydra” and it’s engendered a lot of discussion.  However, I think a lot of it is misguided and actually offensive in how sort of childish and immature the discussions have been.  Literature is all about emotion, specifically the type of emotion it engenders in its audience.  This emotional reaction is in a lot of ways, the main goal of all types of literature, or if not the main goal, one of the major ones.  Humans, being rational beings, tend to attach themselves to things that they find emotionally appealing and detach themselves from things that they find emotionally repugnant, regardless of how irrational it is.

The discussion about Nick Spencer’s Captain America work, specifically the stuff about “Nazi Steve,” as I like to call him (because I thought it was from a movie), has fallen into this territory and a lot of the discussions around whether or not it should or shouldn’t be done, and whether or not anyone should actually like it have really been, for a lack of better phrasing, stupid as goddamn fuck.  Specifically, it’s a perfectly acceptable to not like the story, find it offensive and think that thanks to the political climate and burgeoning white nationalism in the United States to think the story might be in poor taste.  Seriously, there’s nothing wrong with taking any of these positions, and they’re perfectly rational positions to take, actually.  Social critique is actually a very important element of literary criticism, and while there are people who are taking it to a rather vocal extreme, it’s still a rational side to take on the whole thing.  Taking a work within the context of which it was created is a valid thing to look at when doing literary criticism, so to look at a story where a symbol of liberty, democracy and the ideal of America is corrupted, either in universe or at a meta level (or both), into a far-right authoritarian terrorist owing fealty to alien elder gods during a time of high anxiety about white nationalism and feel like it’s not exactly a good time to write it is perfectly valid.  At the same time, it is equally valid to say that this is exactly the time to write this story, mostly because of that context.  Both sides, of course, are right, because literary discussion doesn’t exactly have “right” answers.

Literary criticism is about looking at something from a specific angle, and no angle is truly more “valid” than any others.  I tend to think post-modernism is stupid bullshit, as an example, but a person who looks at Jack Keroauc’s “On the Road” from a post-modern perspective is no more or less right than if I looked at it from a Marxist or modernist perspective.  Also, what the critic takes away from that is generally pretty valid, provided they can back up what they’re saying with textual evidence, and people who have been arguing they don’t like Captain America being the leader of Hydra because it makes Captain America into a Nazi, the thing he was literally made by two Jewish comic creators to fight, has a lot of textual evidence to back up what they’re saying.  The people arguing against that also have a lot of textual evidence to support their point of view.  I don’t agree with them, but they do have it.

This comes back, however, to the comic itself.  The actual discussion is less about the critique of the story from one literary perspective or the other, and more about people’s emotional response to each other’s arguments.  Many people, on either side, are generally now allowing anyone to really have that discussion, mostly because they’re saying that the other side truly isn’t a valid discussion, and therefore that other side should just shut up.  They will completely disregard the other side’s points, deliberately misinterpret them and throw them back as if they have defeated their argument, when in reality, they’ve just said they didn’t like what they said, so they shouldn’t be allowed to say it.  In something completely unrelated, it pains me when my students don’t listen to me when I try to teach rhetoric.

Look, is it okay to be offended by a piece of work?  Yeah, it totally is.  Especially when the story features a subversion of a work in a way that is extremely off putting.  It doesn’t mean the people who are saying that Steve Rogers should never be a Nazi are right, but it doesn’t make them wrong to say that they don’t want to see this kind of story, either.

As for me, I think it’s a terrible idea for a lot of reasons and Captain America holding goddamn Mjolnir and being considered worthy is pretty high up there.  I’m guilty of not liking it for political reasons (also not liking it because I’ve never liked anything he’s ever written and because the story doesn’t even make sense within itself, and it requires itself to even work, because it doesn’t work without the context), but mostly I just thought it was stupid because the whole “twist” was going to have the dumbest twist so Spencer can put everything back into the toybox when he’s done.  There’s no way that Cap would permanently become a right-wing authoritarian terrorist.  I think what pushed me over the edge was actually seeing Cap holding Thor’s hammer over the broken bodies of his friends.  Sure, it might be a fakeout, but Mjolnir has become something of a symbol to white supremacists everywhere.  It’s hard to want to see that be a thing in the best of times, and not just because Steve has always sort of represented a quasi-leftest, pro-diversity sort of character.

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This New Captain America Stuff is Stupid, and I Like Stupid Comic Book Stuff

I haven’t spoken about comic books on this blog since 2011.  That’s so crazy.  I used to do those “what should they fix” for DC on the lead up to the New 52.  Considering how the New 52 turned out, well, I’m guessing no one at DC comics reads my blog.  That’s insane, because so many things have happened in the world of comic books since then, and I never even got a chance to blog about Secret Wars, which might be my favorite event book ever.  I guess I really only come to this well when I have something to bitch about, and well, Secret Empire #0 has given me a lot to bitch about.

Secret_Empire_0_Cover

Copyright Marvel Comics and Disney

God that makes me so mad.  I guess they’ve made a point of pointing out that Hydra isn’t always a Nazi organization, but Steve Rogers joining, and having always been a part of, a secret, far right authoritarian terrorist organization is not a good look, no matter how much Nazi shit you want to scrape away from it.  I guess Steve is the “good” part of the right wing authoritarian terrorist organization.  Also, he wants to put mutants in camps.  It’s wonderful.

The whole thing is stupid comic book shit, and I’m not even going to make a big deal about it being in bad taste because Trump got elected because this was in the can before he got elected, so there was no way to stop it from happening.  Also, I don’t really feel qualified to comment on the real world ramifications of making Steve Rogers a violent, right wing authoritarian.  It doesn’t help that the whole thing will be retconned away at the end of the story, having just been a stupid thing that changes nothing, because mainstream super hero comics will always return to the status quo no matter what.  It is hurtful, in a way, I guess, for a lot of reasons, but that “Hail Hydra” scene really managed to make me rethink comic books

Right from the get go, I knew this was going to be temporary.  If it wasn’t the original plan,  it would be overturned eventually.  There was no way Marvel was going to keep Steve as a member of Hydra for long, and it’s not like they’re going to kill him again, they just did the whole passing of the mantle thing a couple of years ago.  No, I knew it was going to be brainwashing or cosmic cube shenanigans or a Celestial or Franklin Richards going through puberty, or whatever as some sort of explanation and it was just throwing the whole “nothing ever matters in super hero books” right in everyone’s faces.

The full page panel of Steve saying “Hail Hydra” was like a crystallized moment in time.  A moment that said “none of this stupid shit matters” and I almost stopped reading super hero comics right then.  I mean, I knew I wasn’t going to, Al Ewing and G. Willow Wilson are still making great comics and Superman is a lot of fun, but it was the most impermanent “shocking swerve” I’ve ever seen.  I was six when Superman died, and even then, I knew he was going to come back, because that’s what comic book characters did.  I always knew it wasn’t going to be permanent, but there was something about this one in particular that shook things up and made me really want to evaluate my hobbies and what I really enjoyed.

I won’t like, the political implications of it didn’t make me happy, but what really made me sad was seeing a character I like a whole lot get transformed into the opposite of what he was in what was the most lazy way possible.  Consider the alien suit for Spider-Man, which slowly tried to transform him into something different, corrupting him.  It was a slow burn story, and while we all knew Spidey would get the red and blues back, it didn’t matter, the story was about the struggle.  None of that is here.  Steve is just the opposite of what he was, and apparently he always was that.

Then I guess Marvel decided to make it worse.  Today, in Secret Wars #0, we discover that the Nazis really won World War II.  The desperate Allies used the Cosmic Cube to alter reality, thus changing Steve Rogers from Hydra Agent into Captain America.  I mean, obviously, that’s not how the story is going to go.  Obviously, the real twist was that the Nazis altered it, then the Allies altered it back, but it doesn’t stop it from feeling really gross.  Other than how messy on all fronts an Axis victory would actually be (unless they mean the Allied invasion was stopped), it’s just not cool to double down on the Cap is Hydra thing by really doubling down and also declaring the Nazis won World War II.  There’s a lot of cultural baggage to that war, and to say “nah, the only reason the Allies won is because of a magic space cube” is terrible.  Coming back and being all like “oh, but no, it was how we all remembered it” at the end really isn’t going to help much, because we’re still stuck with having to deal with 8 issues of Nazi victories and more Nazi Steve.

Still, one thing I think is especially weird is that Steve wants to put mutants in camps.  Jesus, why?

Summer Events

I’m a little disappointed I can’t be a dwarf mage in Dragon Age.  So far it’s the only real problem I have with the game.

Darkavengers

So, I’ve mentioned before, although apparently not on this site, that I love Dark Avengers and I will buy all of the trades when I get the money to do so.  That might be several months, but it’ll be worth it.  By extension, I’m a pretty big fan of the entire Dark Reign saga, since it does a surprisingly good job of turning the entire Marvel universe on its head, and does it without making the heroes look like morons (House of M and Avengers Disassembled) or like complete dicks (Civil War).  Considering it’s helmed by the guy who wrote two-thirds of the series in those lists, it’s a pretty big surprise.

I’m not opposed to the big events in theory.  Hell, I don’t mind them year after year.  Considering these stories have existed for upwards to sixty years, something needs to shake them up every so often, why not put change up continuity every 18 months or so?  After all, it does a decent job of distracting the readers from the giant continuity snarls damn near every character is involved in (no it doesn’t).

Of course, this is all theoretical.  It’s nice to have huge, epic events all the time, where Superman devastates whatever powerful anti-god he’s fighting with Dethklok blaring while he’s kicking ass.  Unfortunately, this leads to severe amounts of fatigue, and the epic events start to feel like old hat.  Sure, alien invaders, crazy mixed up realities or Darkseid punking every fucker on the planet seems cool the first time, but by the time we get to the fifth one in a row, it’s starting to get old.

I guess that’s why I’m so surprised at how much I enjoy Dark Reign.  It’s…different, I guess.  Instead of a huge epic event, it’s a bit more subtle.  Sure, shit gets blowed up good and all, but the change was different than it was before.  Instead of something exploding, the good guys come back home to find the bad guys in charge.  I guess it’s not different, just a nice change of pace.

It’s also fun to see the heroes legitimately working towards a real threat too.  This is different than, say, Secret Invasion or Final Crisis.  In those, it was a forgone conclusion that the heroes would win.  Oh yeah, there would be losses, sure, but we all knew the bad guys were going to get their asses kicked hardcore.  Now, it’s not so sure.  The villains are the good guys and the heroes are outlaws, and it’s done with a lot more subtlety than Civil War (granted a brick to the face is more subtle than Civil War).  The heroes are desperate, looking for any edge to win, and even though they know Norman Osborne is crazy as shit and likely to melt down soon, that doesn’t mean they can get their world back.  I like it.  It’s fun.

Speaking of summer events and giant crossovers, my buddy Matt found this:

sterling-silver-eight-lanterns-corps-rings

Bad ass, huh?