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Boys, Toys, Electric Irons, and TVs 15: Futures End #16 and New Avengers #23

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.

4 Comments

Hey Chad, have you noticed that time is passing weirdly in Futures End? Or at least, it is if all the plots are running concurrently. They’ve dropped comments like “Green Arrow’s funeral was thirteen weeks ago” in issue #14, suggesting that each issue takes place over or in a given week. However, I have trouble believing that some of the plots–particularly Frankensten & co. in space–are only progressing one week at a time.

I take it as a given that if Earth-2 isn’t dead, it’s heavily damaged. It lost a load of people in the first Apokolips war (Rio de Janiero, Rome, Metropolis, Gotham, and something else I forget are gone), an implied lot more during Grundy’s attack, and the latest attack with Bizarro Superman was also pretty bad. And that’s all prelude to whatever’s coming in World’s End. I don’t think they ever gave numbers, but we know it’s pretty bad.

‘“Worlds will live, worlds will die” was the tagline after all’

of which event? I can’t keep track any more :)

Interesting think piece.

Do you think that Multiversity plays into/will play into what you’re talking about (or will you bring that in to this conversation as it comes up, particularly if Multiversity and Futures End end up colliding into a “Crisis” type event)?

I commented before on…something you wrote holding the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special as a counter example to what you’re talking about — the heroes originally think they must kill everyone to save everyone, but

***SPOILERY BIT****

they end up being able to save everyone by thinking out a different, non-genocidal solution.

And to me, that’s the heroism I believe in. I get your “true heroes must be willing to kill if necessary”, and perhaps New Avengers is showing that there is no other solution but to kill or be killed, but there’s something off about that to me, that there’s got to be a better solution or else heroism is…something dirtied, I suppose.

Probably just my Pollyanna tendencies coming through ;)

I think Futures End is following a weekly structure ala 52 — or, more accurately, when it says “Five years from now,” they literally mean five years every single time. Not four years and 49 weeks or anything like that. It’s not a structure that I’m a fan of… and should probably write about that at some point.

I considered mentioning Multiversity, but I didn’t want to fold that into this. The Avengers stuff has been planned to be folded in for a while.

Thank you!

I think that the moral attitude the heroes display is profoundly narcissistic. They are essentially saying that what matters isn’t that people are dying. What matters is whether or not they’re dying because you killed them. When the other heroes were unable to blow up that alternate Earth, what they were saying that it was totally okay for people to die, as long as they personally weren’t responsible for killing them. Namor was being the real hero. He recognized that saving people was more important than his own ego.

I recognize that there are practical reasons, in the normal day to day world, to recognize a distinction between “killing” and “letting die.” But I cannot endorse such a distinction in principle. And I certainly cannot endorse it in massive high-stakes scenarios like the one from New Avengers.

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