If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
– If, Rudyard Kipling.
One of the things I really love about science fiction and fantasy is the way they can take subtexts of everyday life and make them text. And superheroes to this possibly better than anyone, people’s abilities, actions and desires magnified through the genre.
Reading the five new Marvel NOW! books out today, All-New X-Men (again), Thor God Of Thunder, Fantastic Four, X-Men Legacy and Avengers Assemble, I was struck rather by a common theme. The half full vs the half empty. The pessimist vs the optimist. Sometimes within the same character, sometimes split. Damaged characters, physically and mentally, often by their superpowers, against those who relish their abilities into overconfidence.
Avengers Assemble #9 by Kelly Sue DeConnick sets this up most openly, by having Bruce Banner and Tony Stark’s view of the world, and the role of technology in it, so blatantly contradicting each other, and then set a challenge to see whose vision is the correct one. What subtext there is has been transformed into text. Arguably it tackles some of the relationships set up in the Avengers movie more successfully than the previous run on the book, by going to the core of the characters’ different perspectives.
Also some speech balloons deserve to be read out loud.
All New X-Men uses the Cyclops vs Wolverine divide to portray Cyclops’ pessimistic view against Professor Xavier’s optimistic legacy that he once embodied, but uses time travel as a way to emphasise that divide… the same person divided, not internally, but across time. It’s said that we always betray our younger ideals as we grow older. Confrontation of this sort can often occur from parent to child, time travel allows us to do the same with ourselves literally father than figuratively.
X-Men Legacy is all about the internal. The title becomes all the more literal, this book sees the multiple-personalitied Legion after the death of Xavier. Damage that was contained, that had been transformed into triumph in some cases, is suddenly allowed to reign free, unfettered. Those around Legion are those most optimistic, though those inside Legion can see the cracks….
Oh and he has a decent Scottish speech pattern at last. Thor, God Of Thunder embodies both, again in different time periods. The absolute joy of being an unfettered god,in the past, contrasted with a Thor who has just gone through Hel, and find himself called by prayer to an atheist planet.
Its very existence gets under his skin in a very creepy fashion. It must be hard to be an atheist in the Marvel Universe, it goes against nature, and that is what Thor discovers here.
There is still the all-out joyful Thor, but the truth of what happened to this planet disturbs him to the core. Triumph and disaster simultaneously.
In Fantastic Four, the damage is literal and figurative. Something is very wrong with Mr Fantastic. Very wrong indeed, so he gives himself a Herculean task to put things right. The idea of triumph to overcome disaster… even if he keeps the nature of that to himself. Because there is damage in the family and he is using an attempt to heal that to deal with his own frailty.
These kind of things are hardly new themes, but reading them all so close together, it’s almost as if there is a real crossover going on, just thematically. And where continuity isn’t an issue…
Ahead of her appearance at this year’s Malta Comic-Con in December, Orbital is proud to host a brief retrospective of Emma Rios‘ work. Featuring some of her very favourite pieces, there will be pages from Osborn, Cloak & Dagger, Amazing Spider-man, Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange Season One, Prophet & more. This very special exhibition is on from November 21 to December 4, so hurry down and admire Emma’s gorgeous work in person.