There’s a half-joke I like to say to people who I feel would be comfortable enough to hear it from me that part of the reason I’m an atheist is because the idea of an eternal afterlife scares the hell out of me. Even if there is a heaven, and I get to go there, I think I’d prefer to just stop existing at some point – to sleep, “and by a sleep, to say we end the heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks that Flesh is heir to.” When I’m done, I want to be done. However long I’ll live will have been enough and I’d just want to not. And there have been times in my life when – to put it gently – I have wanted to make that time sooner rather than later.
Amazing Spider-Man #797
After a few filler issues, Dan Slott begins his final arc of Amazing Spider-Man capping off a decade on the series. And he and his art team of Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, and Marte Gracia start it off explosively, with a first-person sequence from the point of view of someone kidnapped by the recently Carnage-infused Norman Osborn, interrogating them about their connection to Spider-Man. It’s a tense sequence, and Osborn comes across as genuinely menacing, especially as Carnage begins to peek through.
This panel, from Black Panther #170 is when I realized Ta-Nehisi Coates was running this arc using Dungeons and Dragons logic, and looking through that lens makes the rest of the issue – and the arc – click into place.
It’s impossible to separate the superhero from its power-fantasy roots. The genre was built on the fantasy of the children of refugees, strangers in strange lands, who wished to have the power to protect those like them and fight against those who forced others out of their homes and under the jackboots of oppression. Over time, that changed to fit the power-fantasies of relatively well-off white male comic readers, who wished to use power to instead demonstrate righteousness they felt was suppressed by a society who didn’t realize their potential.
And then there are the Black superheroes. Marvel’s Luke Cage, a bulletproof black man, couldn’t be brought down by the same means that killed Black leaders like Dr. King, Malcolm X, or Huey Newton. Black Panther’s vibranium suit fills that same purpose; but even more important is his nation of Wakanda. Wakanda is in so many ways the ultimate African “what-if.” What if there was a nation that was spared the parasitic influence of Europe, a nation of Black people free to grow unencumbered by the tragedies of slavery and colonization. What if they took advantage of their god-given talents and resources to become the most powerful and advanced society on the planet?
Quick note before this week’s comic reviews. In an effort to focus more on writing more substantial opinion pieces and features, starting next week, I will no longer be reviewing every comic I read in a week. Instead, I will do more of a “recap” type article, noting and reacting to just the issues or moments in comics that really stick out to me that week. Some comics, mostly end-of-arc issues, event climaxes, or other special, or especially good comics will still get full reviews, but I’ll no longer try to force myself to have a 200-word opinion on every twenty pages of an ongoing story.
Dark Nights: Metal #5
As the teams of heroes close in on the last pieces of Nth metal in the universe, and try to overcome the ambushes that awaited each of them, Batman and Superman delve into the Forge to find one last spark. Meanwhile, the Batman Who Laughs tells Barbatos that the time of their conquest is nearly at hand.
Doomsday Clock #3
The opening to this issue, which recreates some of the first pages of the original Watchmen comic perfectly illustrates the biggest problem I’ve had with this series’ art since issue one: the coloring. This isn’t to say that Anderson is doing bad work, just that the aesthetic he chooses for the Watchmen universe undercuts what Watchmen is, and makes its position relative to the DCU awkward.
The day of Batman and Catwoman’s wedding comes ever closer, but before that, Batman has other commitments to attend to. Most pressingly, Wonder Woman informs him that the Gentle Man, a warrior who spends eternity in another dimension fighting back the manifestations of humanity’s sins, is calling in a favor the two made him last year to give him a day off. They spend a day fighting off the hordes while he comes home to this dimension to reconnect with the humanity he protects. The catch: time moves differently in the other dimension; so while the Gentle Man gets a day off, Batman and Wonder Woman experience decades together. And that’s a long time to be away from one’s wife-to-be, fighting side by side with – canonically – the perfect woman.