Friday, December 26, 2008

Nova says: Don't be a Phalanx DICK

So I just read the first twelve issues of the new Nova ongoing by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. I ordered that nifty new hardcover that just came out - Nova: Annihilation. And boy is it good.

But rather than just tell you why I think it's good, which you don't care about, I thought I'd tell you about how it got me thinking about comic book mythology. Which you REALLY don't care about. So here goes.

Comic books are myths, folks. Perhaps the purest form of the myth we have left. Don't be afraid of that, by the way. It's an honored and important tradition.

As long as there have been people there have been people telling stories. Mythology may be the oldest human institution running, and for good reason. Myths serve a variety of functions, but to me they all boil down to two main functions:

1) Myths take complex and abstract ideas and bring them down to a level that makes them intellectually palatable.

2) Myths take uncomfortable and personally objectionable ideas and makes them psychologically palatable.

Look, life is tough - it takes a spoonful of mythology to make the medicine go down. We need a bridge to connect us to the great big world about us. So we have our gods teach us things about the universe and ourselves in ways we can absorb. With lots of punching and sex.

So round about issue # 7, Richard Rider gets wholly infected with the transmode virus, and becomes one of the Phalanx. These folks are a more advanced evolutionary version of Warlock from the New Mutants. (Warlock actually makes some unlikely but very poignant appearances in issues # 11-12)

At any rate, it's a lot like being taken over by the Borg. You become a member of the Phalanx and are bound to their communal goals. Now Nova is made a "Select", and so he has a certain amount of free will.

He still feels like Richard Rider, and maintains most of his personality. But he is completely unable to defy the collective goals of the Phalanx, and in that way, he is still a puppet.

I swear to you I'm getting to a point. I wanted to share that with you to help you understand a piece of dialogue that DnA throw at you as Nova explains his new revelations about being a member of the Phalanx:

I like that bit for two reasons. Firstly, it reminds us that nobody considers themselves "the bad guy". All of the people you hate? They are the heroes of their own story. They feel exactly as you do - a beacon of hope and a keeper of righteousness in a world gone mad.

It's important to remember that.

The second reason I love that excerpt is because of how bloody subversive it is. Because in those phrases, we see the enemy, and the enemy is US.

Now, I don't want to make this an attack leveled strictly at the United States - it's an attack on the concept of "empire" itself. Abnett and Lanning being British, they have a little empire and colonization in their culture as well. But if the shoe fits...

The United States of America runs around stomping balls in the name of Freedom. Whenever we decide that we need some resource or some swath of land, we start spreading "gifts" of civilization and freedom to the Heathens.

Thank God all those plantation owners chained up those pesky Africans, they would have never known what to do with themselves otherwise. Same goes for those backwoods savages who were here before we were. March them the hell away from that gold and hand them a Bible for Christ's sake, they're worshipping dirt like a pack of idiots!

And before you go thinking how much cooler you are then those idiots who killed Indians and enslaved Africans, understand this: we're still mucking up other people's lives for their stuff.

Only difference is, we need oil more than gold now. And we're more in the Freedom business than the God business these days. However you slice it, we are the goddamn Phalanx. And that's in this comic book.

Now, not one reader in one hundred will know they just learned that. But they did. The Phalanx are the good guys, giving "gifts" to their victims? No way. As Richard Rider says to himself through the transmode propoganda: why aren't you screaming?

Nova # 7 is a little mythological pill slipping past the cultural programming and reminding us of dark things we need to know. Things we don't want to hear about ourselves. We might be the good guys in our own story, but to Iraq we're just the Phalanx.

Why aren't we screaming?

Again, I want to emphasize that this is not an Anti-American jag. I thought of Iraq because I'm an American. We're acting like a bunch of Phalanx dicks. We just are.

But the metaphor fits more perfectly with a Communist regime. North Korea, I'm looking at you. It works just as well religiously as it does politically. Muslim extremism? I'm looking at you, now.

Whoever you are, if you're awake at all you'll be looking at yourself and your world and wondering about what you're foisting on other people for their "own good". The Phalanx think they're helping, too. They're the biggest cocks in the galaxy. Don't be a D-Bag Phalanx. It's so deliciously subversive.

And that is why I love comics. Keeping the Promethean flame alive, my friend. With really big boobs and explosions in space.

- Ryan

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