Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Let’s move on, shall we?
Just like we moved on right about this time last year. There came a time when the shock value of Norman Osborn becoming the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. wore off and we realized the Marvel Universe was in for a Twilight Zone of a year. Evil was media friendly, good was outlawed and there was no way this was going to last. The reader just had to sit tight through Dark Reign and wait for this whole nightmare to be over.
Well, Siege is now officially over, the last issue of the four-part story handed over to us this week. Unofficially, this Event book should have been over in January, when Marvel announced that the dawn of an exciting new era would occur by bringing back the old establishment. Civil War really did change the face of modern Marvel Comics for about three years now, the idea of vigilantism and government restrictions explored in a way that flies in the face of a lot of Silver Age convention. You can’t just put on a mask and run around, there are precautions to take, family to think of, morality to debate. There’s more than just the greater good to think about.
And I think we’ve all had enough time to think about it. Personally, I miss that all important line between good and evil. Spend enough time in the gray area between them and you lose your distinctiveness. Dwell on topics long enough and readers get bored, itchy and unhappy. So the long, drawn out blockade between realism and four-color storytelling is at least coming to an end, the long term battle still not won. Characters are going to be shuffled around, new teams made, some younger ones fostered in and we’re all in it to win it for this new Heroic Age.
Well, everyone but the villains.
(WARNING: No Spoilers. Because really, ‘the bad guys lose’ is a little like Darth Vader being Luke Skywalker’s father- Oop! Ruined that one!)
In the time between Civil War and now, so many villains have come out of the woodwork, into their own factions, gained powers and notoriety that it’s foolish to think that every one of them got caught in Oklahoma and will be sent to jail. The Raft obviously doesn’t work, see the first issues of the New Avengers to see this in action. These men and women have been motivated, given a taste of the good life and then lined up to be taken away by… who exactly? The police? The Initiative? Certainly not H.A.M.M.E.R. as it’s a good guess that will be disbanded and regrouped either into S.H.I.E.L.D. or a new acronym (perhaps the Global Reaction Agency for Mysterious Paranormal Activity, G.R.A.M.P.A.? Sure it doesn’t evoke weaponry or armor, but they’ve been getting the job done in Mighty Avengers). Still, that’s not exactly an overnight job, the Avengers are going to need a few weeks to reassert themselves into all new flavors and colors. No offense to the men and women in uniform, but I’d rather not have them have to face off against the Wrecking Crew and the Mandrill. It’s why we have our superheroes, so that when crime escalates, the common man can look to the skies and have help from the super human.
What’s going to happen to the fallen villains? Do you think we’ll ever hear of them for awhile? The Hood’s gang was a who’s who of petty despots, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men (you get the idea), all working on a street level for their own evil needs. Obviously, some are not going to want to work with another villain ever again as the fall from ‘grace’ is going to smart something fierce. But not everyone is going to feel that way. Some of them are going to enact some prison justice on each other (most notably Madame Masque and the Hood). Leaders will rise up and organization will return. The Masters of Evil used to be some guys who didn’t like the Avengers for busting them all the time, a new incarnation could be a lot worse and hold more of a grudge against society itself than society’s protectors.
Much like the ‘mutant population’ problem that hit its bloom in Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, we have a lot of new and old bad guys that are still going to be around at the end of this big epic storyline and they don’t sweep themselves under the rug so easily. Heck, we’ve just spent years watching the New Avengers hiding from law enforcement and still making an impact on the world. The threat created by Norman’s Reign isn’t over, it just won’t be put on the cover of Time Magazine.
Much like Bendis’ past epic tales of valor and woe (Avengers: Disassembled, House of M, Secret Invasion), this is not an ending but a beginning. Which kind of sucks because I was really hoping for an ending. It’s not too much to ask for a definable threat, an opposing force, a battle that stretches both sides to their limits with one or the other becoming the victor, definably defeating the threat. For Avengers: Disassembled, the threat was chaos until it became the Scarlet Witch who was taken away. In House of M, it was reality until it became the Scarlet Witch who escaped. In Secret Invasion it was the Skrulls until it was Norman Osborn who was untouchable and the Skrulls packed up and left. No one was defeated, they all just sort of got knocked down and slunk off to be a dangling plot thread for another day. Here, a big host of major villains attacked an unreasonable enemy, were defeated and now… they slink off too? They get “trials” and “sent to prison”. What about the people of Broxton, Oklahoma? There’s gotta be like five of them left after the whole affair, where are their picket signs? Stamford, Connecticut gets city blocks destroyed, those people riot! Broxton I think will fade quietly back into folklore or maybe go off to wherever the Skrulls went.
Maybe they’re all hiding out with Wanda. Like purgatory expressed as a big white light explosion where all of Bendis’s plot endings go to wait it out.
As a reader, we can chose to forget all that. Comic book canon is ours to keep, certainly not Marvel editorial’s and that’s why this is Our Universe. Facing front, we can look forward to this all new, all different Heroic Age and the redress that follows, leaving our sorted past behind us.