Recent Comics & Current Events
I usually don’t like it when comic books become overtly political. I realize that’s not a universal opinion. Paul O’Brien of “X-Axis” and “House to Astonish” has chastised X-Men comics for not reflecting current events quickly enough. But, for me, comics are often my escape. I keep up with political events and deal with plenty of real-world issues in my job. I don’t need them in comics. Plus, little things like story and character are often sacrificed for the sake of a political point. For me, politics are usually an unwelcome intrusion.
So, imagine my surprise, when two recent comics tackled current events in ways that are inventive and interesting.
It’s not the first time. X-Men comics have a history of being implicitly political, using mutants as a metaphor for the civil rights movement, anti-Semitism, gay rights and more. Despite my earlier statement, that’s one of the things I’ve always liked about the X-Men. (Do I contradict myself? Then I contradict myself.)
The first comic is Valiant’s Divinity III. In this mini-series, writer Matt Kindt presents an alternate history in which the Soviet Union used World War II as a pretext to conquer all of Europe. In this new reality, the Soviet Union now rules the entire globe- their authority enforced by a cadre of super-powered individuals. Kindt includes real-life Russian leader Vladimir Putin as his alternate reality Soviet premier- a bit of casting that works considering what we know about Putin. Our Putin has claimed that the dissolution of the Soviet Union (and the loss of its territory) was one of the greatest tragedies of history so it makes sense that he would head a continuing and conquering USSR. Our Putin has also meddled in the elections of other nations (the Ukraine and the USA, to mention two) so he works as a timely and topical villain.
I don’t know where this story is heading. We’ve only had one issue and one tie-in to date, after all. But I’m intrigued by what’s been presented so far. And, to my surprise, I appreciate the clever nods to current events. Kudos to Kindt and company!
The second comic is Dark Horse’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 11. The season debut (aka “issue one”) featured an unprovoked magical attack on San Francisco. While Buffy and her gang of Scoobies try to discover the source of the attack in issue 2, the US government initiates a response of their own. The government has determined that all magical beings are potentially dangerous and must be rounded up. The story is intentionally reminiscent of Japanese internment during World War II. If that sounds far-fetched as a plot today, remember that our president elect cited Japanese internment as a positive precedent when suggesting a Muslim registry.
The television show had a history of using metaphors to tackle social issues so it’s actually nice to see the comic book take a similar direction. In this case, it feels consistent with the concept. It may not be exactly innovative, but it’s been engaging to see Christos Gage address the social and civil ramifications of institutionalized prejudice. Issue one had felt a little stale to me. But, after the big twist of issue two, I’m excited about this season of Buffy.
I haven't written a column in a long time due to a big bike trip and a new job but I enjoyed these two comics so much, I had to write about them. I hope you enjoy the column!
Always good to read your stuff, Chris.
I don’t have a hard and fast rule concerning current events being reflected in comics books, other than perhaps I like it when it’s done well. One instance I can think of it being done very well is Captain America: Sam Wilson #17 which shipped just last week. Thanks for the reminder to add it to the “Pick of the Week” thread for last week.