O Say Can You See: The Greatest Patriotic Super Heroes of All-Time
We don’t know what happened to Earth 2 yet. The word ‘refugee’ has been thrown around and we know that there is no contact with that parallel world anymore. Is the path between universes simply blocked? Is the world dead? Destroyed? If so, who destroyed it? The Justice League? Superman? Darkseid? Was its destruction malicious? Self-sacrifice? Pure survival on the part of the Nu52DCU Earth? Are there really heroes in Futures End? DC has always been oddly comfortable with killing worlds, whether their heroes were complicit in the act or not. “Worlds will live, worlds will die” was the tagline after all (more like “A world will live, all other worlds will die” by the end, eh?). It wouldn’t surprise me to know that Earth 2 is in fact destroyed and that it was already revealed in Futures End in such an offhand manner that I didn’t notice enough to remember.
Three weeks ago, the Illuminati destroyed the DC Earth in an act of self-preservation. Namor pulled the trigger, but the entire group was complicit right up until that final step, including a massive fight with the Justice League analogue that protected that world. They left ‘Superman’ broken and barely alive, preferring to die with his world than live on theirs. And, then, one by one, they all refused to trigger the bomb that would destroy that world and save theirs. Their inaction would result in both worlds dying in their collision were it not for Namor. As a result, they expelled him and seemed resigned to die.
I don’t pay a lot of attention to what people say about comics online. I never did, but, since I stepped back a bit, I’ve paid even less attention. So maybe the few comments about New Avengers ‘ruining’ the members of the Illuminati are all there are, but… I doubt it? It’s not like those comments are wrong, either. I read the most recent issue and couldn’t help but feel contempt for the fallen ‘heroes’ inside, all preferring self-pity and clinging to false nobility in the face of assured destruction than to save the world. The build-up to this issue has been long and well done. Each step took this group closer to actively killing worlds to save their own and it’s almost disappointing to see all save one back down at that final moment. It’s not just that doing nothing means killing two worlds instead of one, it’s that sense that they had deluded themselves this entire time into thinking that they had sunk low enough to be heroes. That they were prepared to sacrifice – truly sacrifice – themselves in a far more meaningful way than simply dying. Dying is easy; killing to protect everything (literally, everything) is hard.
There’s been talk along the way about how each of them has fallen and will keep falling, and that is the true sacrifice of the hero. To do what is necessary no matter what. No matter if you have no soul left. No matter if everyone you love hates you. No matter if you are perceived as the villain. No matter if you hate yourself and long to die, but don’t kill yourself only because that would mean no one is there to save everything. It seemed like we were finally getting a true heroic narrative out of superhero comics that would move past the simplistic “If I kill the bad guy, then I’m no better than him” bullshit they’ve continued to shovel out year after year after year. And it has, albeit in limited ways that have to crouch themselves in the ‘good’ exiling the ‘bad’ and, only after he saves them yet again, realising that he won’t stop. Because being ‘good’ has nothing to do with being a hero. Maybe those with too much to lose aren’t capable of the sacrifices necessary.
New Avengers #23 answers the question of what being a hero means by showing a group of pathetic failures that call themselves the ‘good guys’ usually, followed by a group of ‘bad guys’ that save the world no matter the consequences. Because here I thought the point of a superhero was to save the world.
“Rise, the Cabal.” The new Avengers.
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