Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Monday, February 13, 2017
A friend of mine loaned me his copy of Identity Crisis, and I finished it in one sitting. It is a heartbreaking story about the toll being a superhero can take on your personal life and the lives of those around you. Also, as a friend on Facebook pointed out to me, it was a very intimate story, as worlds were not at stake. It was personal, and yet, the tension was still high, because you cared about the characters enough to want to solve the mystery and resolve the titular "crisis."
I have been a fan of Brad Meltzer, surprisingly enough not from his books, but from his History Channel television series, Brad Meltzer's Decoded and Brad Meltzer's Lost History. The latter program identified artifacts that had been lost, misplaced or plain stolen and asked for viewers to aid in their recovery. The first episode detailed the story of the "911 Flag" that was raised over Ground Zero. Toward the end of that single season, it was reported that someone had come forward and returned the flag. This was followed by several months of testing, and then a follow up standalone program aired on the investigation that led to the recovery, identification and verification of the artifact. His writing and delivery sold me on his skills to tell a story. These skills served him well in making these characters human.
I must confess I was not (and still am not) very familiar with the entirety of the DC pantheon of heroes and villains, but what I knew helped me follow the story. I can completely understand why this is considered a classic.
Of special interest is the article at the end detailing some of the pop figure personalities that the artist used to model his figures of the characters on.
Monday, July 11, 2016
"Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel —because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth."
Thursday, July 7, 2016
I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (Philippians 1:23-24 NIV)
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21 NIV)
Friday, May 27, 2016
So the first issue of Steve Rogers: Captain America, I think the heat from the firestorm raging on the Internet is contributing to the global warming crisis.
While I have not read the comic, there is a pretty big reveal at the end: Steve Rogers has been a Hydra sleeper agent almost his entire life.
I'll let that sink in a little.
Steve Rogers, the sickly. scrawny young man who volunteered for the top-secret Super Soldier program of the US Army, the kid who hates bullies and just wanted to help the war effort, and as Captain America, the only successful recipient of the Super Soldier Serum, he punches out Hitler a full year before the United States enters the war, was actually aiding and abetting the enemy the whole time.
There are plenty of blog Twitter and Facebook posts on this with most on the side of this being a heretical turn and others asking what's the big deal?
One pretty compelling post I saw put the scandal in the historical context of comics in general and Captain America specifically. The discussion pointed out that this reveal invalidates who Steve Rogers is, and treats the Holocaust as nothing more than an attention grabber, "clickbait," to use the author's expression. Again, as I have not read the first issue (and am not certain that I want to), this could well be hyperbole.
But what if it isn't?
And what if the writers and editors were doing something that they may not realize themselves?
In an interview with Entrainment Weekly, writer Nick Spencer says "Captain America is not just one of the most recognizable faces in the Marvel Universe. He’s an inspiring figure, somebody who brings people together. Everybody here obviously gets that. What you hope is that this story, in its own very different way, highlights those things and only continues to elevate the character in importance, and only serves to illustrate how powerful that symbol is."
Mostly, I believe that Captain America is and has been a symbol of what America should be. But what if this darker turn illustrates more what America really is.
Don't get me wrong: I am an American Exceptionalist. I believe in the promise of America, that when its right, there is nothing else like it and it should be a shining beacon of hope to the rest of the world. That is the essence of Captain America's power as a symbol.
But by portraying Cap as a secret Hydra agent, I believe that there may well be a message that Cap is really revealing the hidden parts of the American Dream, the parts we don't show to company, lest they get the "wrong ideas" about us.
But what if, instead of a symbol for the potential of America, this new interpretation of Steve Rogers is as a symbol for how America truly is: Outwardly displaying virtue, loyalty, perseverance, and moral righteousness, but inwardly corrupt, divisive and fearful.
Currently, we are embroiled in one of the most divisive, bitter presidential campaigns in my memory. For the first time, the leading candidates for each party carry an unfavorable rating in the most trusted polls. In other words, neither candidate is looked upon favorably by the voters. On the one hand, we have a corporate-natured tax-evading, misogynistic xenophobe, playing to the deepest most visceral fears humans of all stripes experience. On the other hand, we have the ambitious wife of a former president who routinely plays fast and loose with the rules, is under scrutiny for her use of an unsecured private email server for government business and who is consistently viewed as untrustworthy by a large number of the electorate.
The American Exceptionalism I adhere to will proclaim that America is the best possible place, and then use that as a promise, not a boast, to the rest of the world. We make this promise, and then use it to critically examine ourselves and judge how we measure up, not against any other nation but our own ideals, and founding documents. Where we fail it is not because of our ideals, but because we have failed to hold ourselves accountable to those ideals.
This version of Captain America exposes the ugly side of America. I hope he goes away soon, and the Cap that I and millions of others look up to comes back. Not because I want to hide our failings, but because I, and I presume others as well want a symbol that will inspire us to be and do our best.
So, the big reveal is that when Kobik, the living embodiment of an infinity stone restored Steve Rogers and he once again assumed the mantle of Captain America, his reality was "reshaped" by Kobik, thereby making it possible for him to be a Hydra deep sleeper agent. I still think that the wrtiers are playing a dangerous game by even considering this a possibility, but I do apologize if this post seemed reactionary.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Another exchange, this time between Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch and the Vision also seems to resonate with Paul's message in his letter to the Romans:
Where Wanda and Vision differ, of course, is their desire to fully understand and eventually control the parts of themselves that make them different and potentially dangerous. Paul, on the other hand, realizes that not only can he not control his inward nature, he will never fully understand it. He laments this failure in that 24th verse: "who will rescue me?"
Bucky seems to realize this as well, and gets that he is not in control. His solution? To lock himself away from anyone who could exploit him and his abilities.
If we had read on into the very next sentence in Paul's letter to the Romans, which leads into Chapter 8, we read Paul's solution lies outside of himself and his ability to understand and mastery: only by being surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ can one hope to escape. He does not have to submit to cryogenic stasis to be freed; freedom comes from the sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection of Jesus.
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (8:1) There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (2) For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Romans 7:25-8:2 ESV)
The villain, Helmut Zemo, recognizes this weakness and does all he can to exploit it. His reasoning follows thusly:
This is an echo of what Jesus said to people who claimed He was possessed by Satan:
Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. (Matthew 12:25 ESV)
This quote has appeared many times in our history, including speeches by Abraham Lincoln on his determination to preserve the Union during the American Civil War. Even now, 150 years later, we are still dealing with the mistakes of this great national tragedy. The phrase "United we stand, divided we fall" even forms one of the taglines for the film we are discussing.
I think its important to note here that unity in this case does not necessarily mean uniformity of presentation or thought; it means that we have a common purpose and we work together to accomplish a common vision. Much like the Avengers, the Church is a collection of people who have gifts, talents and abilities to be used for a common purpose. None of us look alike, and we certainly all don't think alike, but when we put these gifts and talents to use, working together, amazing things happen. Too often, though, the Church descends into petty squabbles based on our differences, and we end up with our own Civil War, in miniature. The problem, though is that our Civil War potentially has eternal consequences.
T'Challa: Is this all you wanted? To see them rip each other apart?
Vengeance is a fire that consumes everything. In this case, it has consumed Zemo and his actions in search of retribution have led to many others dying and/or being hurt in the process. Those seeking to avenge themselves often are careless with regard to the collateral damage they cause. They only want to hurt the object of their vengeance, and if anyone else gets in the way, too bad.
The problem is that vengeance often breed more vengeance. You hurt me, I get back at you, which drives you to get back at me, and so on and so on, ad nauseum. Again, Paul discusses this in his letter to the Romans:
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." (20) To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." (21) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21 ESV)
One might object that Paul was not thinking about the loss of family and the pain that would cause someone which then might lead them to seek vengeance. But I believe that Paul believed precisely this to be the case. He was writing to Christians in Rome, who were being persecuted for their faith. Family members and loved ones could well have been killed as part of this. Only T'Challa gets that vengeance is something that we do for ourselves, and rather than making us feel better, it only consumes us more. He rejects the notion of vengeance for something else: justice. Justice is the equitable assignment of responsibility and penalty for wrongdoing. T'Challa understands that Zemo, in his careless pursuit of vengeance must account to the survivors and those he has hurt. The living require an accounting of Zemo for the pain he has caused.
If vengeance is such a bad thing, then why does the Scripture teach that God will execute "vengeance?" Only God is unbiased and righteous enough to execute vengeance on our behalf without it consuming Him; this is true Justice. Those who seek reckless vengeance must answer to those who are left in their wake.
Many would scoff at superhero movies in general and Marvel superhero movies specifically as eye-candy and fluff. But to my eye, there is much in this film to ponder over and to consider in light of personal responsibility, unity, and vengeance and justice.