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The Approaching Reckoning

they are more confident in their mission than before, mirroring the growth and scale of the main group. If you can call the two groups related, of course. Before, their actions in secret were not too big, not too much. The biggest thing they did was accomplish them in secret. While that is a betrayal, it’s not a damning one. It’s a couple of hurt feelings as we saw. There was discovery and, then, everyone moved on, not really caring about what they learned. Now, though, the actions taken by the group in secret are much larger in scale and call into question their morality. While a lot of comics seem to be taking inspiration from Nextwave: Agents of HATE, this one seems to go back to an earlier influential Ellis work: The Authority. It has struck me lately that those two works have dominated the past decade-and-a-half of superhero comics. First, with widescreen kicksplode violence. Then, with the irreverent-yet-serious reinvention of characters, boiled down to a core few characteristics that lead to hijinks and comedy. The latter is in vogue, but the former is where this comic seems to be. Positing the traditional heroes in a position with heinous villainous actions are the only moral thing to do. What’s difficult to do is to reconcile what happens here and what happens elsewhere. How does one view the characters as the same? Is it possible to be the villain in private and the hero in public so easily for all involved? This issue touches on that through the twisted viewing where we see what truly counts as immorality in their eyes: deviation from the mission. They are not acting to save themselves (though they are), they are acting to save others, like always. But, seeing that she has a different goal that will, ultimately, be at odds with theirs, they are forced to take action again, albeit one familiar to superheroes since forever. They fall back into traditional roles for a brief moment or two… except, again, in a private, dark manner. This is not open and through proper channels, it is secretive and done in private, with no one else to know that it happened. Things continue to slowly escalate even when there is no pressing danger. When there is a crisis, they must take terrible action; when there is no crisis, they must take terrible action in preparation for the next crisis. While not necessarily more subtle than The Authority, the more long approach undertaken allows for a more subtle exploration of what it means to be a villainous hero. With each new line crossed, does the next become easier? Is there a line that won’t be crossed? So far, no. And, while there has been that escalation, there hasn’t been a constant attempt to one-up what came before. It’s not like doing one morally compromising action immediately leads to another. It’s a bit more organic, thankfully. Of course, the real question that I have is how long this will last and if it will end with the usual moralising that tends to accompany these types of stories (though, was thankfully absent from The Authority… for those first 12 issues, at least). There already was an attempt at moralising with this group when they were first exposed and, as I said, it was less about morality than hurt feelings. I wouldn’t mind moralising, except it always seems to masturbatory. “You saved the world… BUT AT WHAT COST???” you can see the cover proclaiming with pointed fingers and sunken heads of shame. Emphasis on the second part of the sentence, ignoring the first part. After all, being a superhero is an exercise in crossing a line of legality – and morality (after all, the choice to use violence at all is a moral violation for some). The lines that pen in so many heroes seem arbitrary. The Authority pushed things to a somewhat logical conclusion: us and them. The team protected “us” from “them.” The “us” in that case was the people of their world. The “them” is the other that means harm. It may be another country, it may be another world, it may be god… if harm will come to “us,” they undertake any action to prevent it. It’s not about morality, it’s about the pure definition of what a superhero does. It’s been fascinating to see the Illuminati come to grips with that reality. Doing anything called for to save the planet, even destroying other planets. After all, both would be destroyed, so why not save their own? Taking the larger view, it’s all meaningless/random except when you make the somewhat arbitrary definition of “us” with everyone else being “them.” It seems that the end point might be the expansion of “us” to include every Earth as they, somehow, overcome the multiverse wide decay that results in the Incursions. There’s a hint of that here when they view the final glimpse of the Black Swan’s past and it seems to be the killing of alternate Reed and Tony that pisses them off. That she doesn’t share their goal is the real sticking point, but the transition from killing alternate Tony to our Stark looking grim, asking what they’re going to do about it. That is the look of a man ready to do anything to protect “us.” With each issue, the doubts seem to recede further into the background and



Up until the end, I thought Chad had accidentally posted “generic superhero comic book review” to the site. ;)

I don’t know if I agree with the “morality vs hurt feelings” bit, but it’s definitely a point worth thinking hard about. Always good to question our assumptions and try to better articulate our own viewpoints.

tom fitzpatrick

March 22, 2014 at 7:47 pm


A bit wordy, even for Chad. (I’m wondering if he’s stoned, or drunk (or both) when he’s writing this?)

Where are the paragraphs?

I simply don’t think that these works of Ellis really deserve that much thought. For like the 24th time now I wish that Chad Nevett would stop spending so much circular thought on these damn overrated comics he liked when he was 18 or whatever. You’re better than this, man. You always had more potential and still do.

Chad please…don’t do this…I-I love you. There, I said it. After all these years. I love you, man.

Did the posting system for the articles screw up?

In a manner of speaking.

There is a good point in there, but this text obviously is not in its final form and was posted by mistake.

I don’t understand this place anymore.

okay did the system at cbr go nuts when chad posted this article . or did he wind up accidently posting the first original draft of his article about some of warren ellis great comic work like the authority and next wave.

Because Chad won’t ever spell it out, and in fact is probably laughing evilly AND gleefully (at the SAME TIME!) up in Canadia over the comments here, I’ll let y’all know that he’s discussing Hickman’s New Avengers, wherein the Illuminati are allied with the “Black Swan” character to prevent the destruction of 616 Earth due to something in the multiverse causing “incursions”, where two Earths start to occupy the same place and after about 8 hours one must be destroyed or they both die. The heroes have to do whatever they can to prevent Earth 616 from being destroyed, which is partly why I dropped the book after issue 6 — they mind wiped Cap because he DIDN’T want to “cross the line”, and they’ve done other morally questionable things.

Oh, SPOILERY STUFF, just in case you need it.

It’s a fascinating topic, how far is too far/what is the definition of a superhero/what moral lines are ok to cross. In real life terms, it’s sort of analogous to what’s happening in the war on terror, where things like waterboarding and other “torture” (depending on your point of view of certain actions) have been used, or the NSA metadata collection. The people in charge (or the superheroes) can point to these things that we “had to do” to protect America and our allies, but you can’t prove this negative — just because we haven’t seen another 9/11 in the US doesn’t necessarily follow BECAUSE of the torture/data collection/what have you is being done. (And there are things we find where torture didn’t give us the info we wanted and perhaps took us down the wrong path. Or things like the article in the NY Times mag about how Pakistan was apparently well aware that bin Laden was RIGHT THERE and let him continue living. ok, getting off topic…)

So yeah, we can’t know if the results would be the same if we had gone down a different path, but any time we ok something that is morally questionable BECAUSE TERRORISM! means that it’s that much harder to go back and say, let’s do it this way instead.

And that seemed to be Cap’s argument in the early issues — the Illuminati would do a quick and dirty and “easy” solution to the immediate problem of an incursion, and while one can probably morally justify this “kill or be killed” scenario in the first few incursions, just due to the time constraint, once they started figuring these out and were able to pinpoint when the next ones were, they should have looked for a different, non-lethal solution (if possible, and remember, these are some of the smartest people in the Marvel U — if it’s possible, they should be able to do it). Cap was saying that they would keep going to the easy solution because it was easy, not because it was right. And that’s a view I agree with and would rather my superheroes hold to.

More SPOILERY BITS, this time the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special!

So my probably idealistic/optimistic/pollyanna viewpoint is that the heroes should do the best they possibly can in order to save the most lives while doing the least damage. And I therefore point you to the Doctor Who 50th special, wherein we meet with the War Doctor and find he’s gotten to the end of his rope, and is going to destroy Gallifrey in order to end the Time War between his people and the Daleks, which he doesn’t see as having a non-lethal end. (When new Who started with Eccleston, we discovered the Doctor had killed “all” the Gallifreyans and Daleks, and was haunted by it.) He uses a sentient weapon, the Moment, and weighs his decision before “detonating” it. The Moment takes on Rose/Bad Wolf’s form, and scoops up Doctors 10 and 11 to show the War Doctor who (Who!) he’ll become if he commits this mass genocide. In the end, the Moment brings the 3 Doctors together, and using their combined brain power, think up a way to protect Gallifrey without killing everyone (but the Doctors before 11 won’t remember this because of crossed time streams, so it will still APPEAR that everyone died). An amazing retcon which doesn’t destroy the emotional impact of previous stories, but shows that the Doctor’s greatest mistake was never actually made.

Of course, the Daleks were massively destroyed, but fuck them, they’re robots. Or cyborgs, or whatever.

So yeah, I likes my heroes to go for the solution that saves the most people and does the least harm, and I think less of heroes (especially supposed geniuses, like in the Marvel U) who don’t or can’t or won’t struggle to do better and not go for the apparently easier way out.

However, all that said, I found the one moment in one of the early issues of Hickman’s New Avengers (4 or 5 or 6, can’t remember) absolutely hilarious — the Illuminati travel to the world that’s starting to meld with ours, and they find that that world’s Galactus has landed there and is ready to drain it dry (which would destroy it and therefore save 616 Earth). Reed points to Galactus and says “hey, it’s Galactus, we must stop him!” and the rest of the Illuminati just look at him. “Oh. Yeah. Right.” Yeah, it wasn’t really played for laughs, but I found that funny.

No mention of Squadron Supreme or Identity Crisis? Okay……

Squadron Supreme, while presenting related ideas, is too rooted in traditional superhero story execution to take much notice of beyond noting that it raised those ideas before other works and, then, quickly moving on.

Shawn Starr and I said all that needed to be said on the subject of Identity Crisis previously:

a fascinating (hypo)thesis so far then

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