Thursday I Won’t Care About You #11: Fear Itself

If you don’t enjoy political commentary when it comes to your comic books, this column is not for you. My bad.

I don’t like ranting, which I think a lot of people will find surprising, so that’s why I haven’t whipped out a column in a while. A lot has been happening in the comic book world, but most of it’s not worth talking about. Yelling, shouting and ranting, yes, but having a legitimate discussion? No, not really. But things have changed, this week at least, and I think certain things need to be said about the state of superhero comics and how that relates to the world we’re living in right now.

When I was a kid I was afraid of a lot of stupid things. I was afraid of the dark. I was afraid of being adducted by aliens. I was afraid of waking up one day and having everyone else in the world be gone. Hell, I’m still
afraid of escalators. Still, like most kids, my fears were both irrational and impossible. And then came the day that most of us would rather forget, a day I’m glad my little sister and cousins will only have to experience through history lessons.

I think that’s what affected me the most, the fact that the world had started to fall apart and I been blissfully unaware of it for two hours, the last two hours I’d ever have to be afraid of silly, impossible things, arguably the last two hours I would ever get to be a kid again.

I had nightmares about planes crashing into places I was for a long time after that. Osama bin Laden became the new bogey man. He became a real life super-villain, basically.

I don’t want to come across as crass – the way I relate to that day is rather pedestrian compared to those people who lost family or those that were there, but something a lot of people seem to forget, something that the media rarely latches on to, is the fact that there are millions of kids my age who for them, that day was a defining moment in their lives, something terrible and illogical we just had to keep reliving and reliving, and I think it’s given my generation, or anyone who wasn’t wholly set in their ways during the last ten years a particular perspective on the way the world has changed ever since.

And that’s why Fear Itself, at least the concept behind it (can’t say much about it’s execution so far other than I’m not impressed) is worth talking about, especially in comparison to some of DC’s recent events and the pretty big gap, marketwise, which has started to become readily apparent between the two companies.

Marvel hit the nail on the head with the initial teasers they released for the series and the text that accompanied them: Do you fear losing control? Do you fear what you’ve become? Do you fear the legacy you’ll leave behind? Do you fear a loss of faith? Do you fear tomorrow?

Those five questions seem, to me at least, to represent the changes that America and it’s people have gone through since 9/11.

Control? We lost it to the hawks who urged us into war and now we’re losing it fear-mongerers who barely manage to mask their racism and elitism.

What we’ve become? A nation where the sensible are the silent and those with the least to say speak the loudest.

Our legacy? Global recession and thousands dead in a war that shouldn’t still be happening.

Our faith? I think the only faith we’ve got left is in God but even that’s been twisted – maybe we’ll see what happens when he makes his appearance May 21st *crosses fingers*

And tomorrow. Well, what about tomorrow?

I think that’s the strongest point reflected by those teasers, mainly in light of recent events. Fear Itself is, to break the story down into it’s base elements, a tale about one crazy evil motherfucker (Sin) stepping in to fill the gap and carry out the mission begun by the crazy evil motherfucker that sired her (The Red Skull) and the world falling into utter panic when she begins her onslaught.

This is just a story in a comic book, but stop, just for a moment, and put different names in those blanks. Replace the Red Skull with Osama bin Laden and Sin with….I don’t know, one of his crazy militant children or some other Al Qaeda goon with a chip on his shoulder and a big set of brass ones and the result is the same.

We’ve become so inured by the illusion of safety they’ve put up all around us that I don’t think anyone has really stopped to think about the disastrous affect a terrorist attack committed in retaliation for Osama’s killing would actually have on American society.

I’m not writing these things to fear-monger or pop off with my political views, I’m saying them to commend Marvel for what they’re doing (in theory, mind you.) Good fiction, good science fiction, is supposed to make a commentary on the world we live in, and Fear Itself is doing just that and what it’s doing right in comparison to what DC’s recent and current events has been doing wrong is actually quite simple.

The issue with Brightest Day, Blackest Night, and especially Final Crisis is the nature of threat the heroes are facing. The threats in those stories have been ideas: death & evil, and despite the over-complicated and convoluted nature of the tales the solution to those problems is simple: life & good.

That’s it. For all the bullshit that went down in Final Crisis in the end all that happens is a good idea defeats a bad one. And there’s something important about that kind of storytelling, something we shouldn’t let slip out of our grasps, but the issue is that it’s just not enough anymore. Not for comics and certainly not for the real world. The strength of Fear Itself and really, the last few Marvel events is the fact that after these things are said and done, the universe changes.

And I know, I know, we comic geeks whine and we bitch about how things always go back to the status quo, and in some ways they do, but when it comes to shaking things up, Marvel’s got the upper-hand because at least they attempt to have the universe react.

What changes in the DCU when the dead rise and feast on the living? What changes in the DCU when space-corps flit around in the skies waging war? What changes in the DCU when the entire planet falls into a singularity caused the corpse of god falls down through reality?

Not shit.

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