Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ultimate Doomsday - Book Discusion

This being a discussion of Ultimate Doomsday written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Rafa Sandoval, I will SPOIL with the assumption one has read the book. Though I provide barebones details for any to tag along.

After reading Ultimate Doomsday, I found that I deeply related and was sympathetic to young Reed Richards. “Found myself” is accurate because it was surprising. Richards, as anyone familiar or not with comics can vouch, is an unlikeable dork. He’s there to be whiny most of them time, until the writer has him solve all problems with either 1) few key strokes, or 2) stupid looking machine. Apparently, all the character of Richards needs to be of any worth is the addition of motivation to accomplish a goal (he just invents in a wandering sort of way normally) and removal of his childish sense of morality. He’s a villain now. The new Doctor Doom.

Both Richards and I have a problem with the expectations and goal imposed-upon us by society. Worth or value of anything is directly related to monetary value. It’s so ingrained that that last sentence was borderline stupid. Anything and everything a person does must make money. Money is needed to breath. It seems to me that I must look at all my hobbies or interest for some angle, some way to transform them, into a potential career or additional source of revenue. That’s hyperbole for the average day-to-day life but if I were to be of immense success, a personal fully engaged with this world, I’d be making money all day. But I can’t go full into an argument about the role of money else I will be unable to discuss a thing else. The important bit is for the recognition that money is important, perhaps central, to life in this country in this year. Should that premise bother you (you) then what follows will be silly at best. But it’s where I come from when reading Doomsday.

The scene that resonated the most with me had Sue Storm (Richard’s ever love interest) and Richards talking over a picnic. Sue asks where Reed’s head is it as he’s doing his typical “staring off into space, inventing things” pose. Reed bluntly states that he doesn’t much like the present world he lives in. He puts to Sue that they both could leave at any point they wanted to. Full stop there. How indescribably wonderful is it that Reed can act on any and all of his desires? To say, yes all humankind possess freewill, but for all their thoughts and dreams, how many are able (physically) to accomplish them? Who else may make a pleasing thought into reality? (That’s a very interesting superpower: freewill and the ability to use it). Sue brushes Reed off, wondering or not if he is serious outwardly, but Sue’s smart and knows Reed doesn’t (ever) joke, so she’s really stalling as the answer upsets her or she doesn’t have one.

Right there is a beautiful moment. As the perpetually bullied (one could argue even the super villain’s continue the trend) dork announces he has had enough of this entire planet - everyone in it too. To be ready to throw the whole of the Earth, and everything it possess, away? The fundamental makeup of the character has changed. Importantly though, it isn’t a shift toward selfishness. Later one, Reed rails against the “rape” of science. Which is actually true in the Ultimate Universe. Every organization, from the corporation Roxxon to the world police S.H.I.E.L.D. has recklessly pursued scientific advancements purely for money, power, or both. Many of the villains are the botched (or illegal) experiments of one group or other. Reed’s grief is that the entire world is relentlessly trying to degrade itself for petty reasons. And he, as a genius scientist, has only wanted to work quietly on making it better, but is roped into covering up the screw-ups or inventing the extra-dimensional gun. Intentions don’t get more noble than Reed Richards’s. It makes sense (and I’m so happy) that he finally gets angry enough to really alter course. Coming from Reed, this is a condemnation that the Earth can’t be and isn’t worth saving. Reed’s emotions have always been tied into his sense of morality, and coupled with his persona being (essentially) a force of discovery (as opposed to a person who also is a scientist, like Sue Storm) is what makes his anger at everything so powerful. He’s not a pissed off young kid stomping his feet at the existence of injustice. He’s an elemental judge who wanted and expected better from people and has been monumentally let down.

The very best stories are not ones with incredible technical merit but ones that catch the reader at a particular emotional moment in time (not saying vulnerable, saying story matches mood); supplying a full-on discourse of the critical issue. I apologize Greater Society, I don’t wish to contribute economically (it’s the reason you made me after all). I want to write my stories, study where my curiosity is, and not worry about shit else. I think Reed and I are both upset at being thrown into a game we don’t like nor have any ambition to play. I wish his genius characteristic didn’t come and go, so that he would have realized stealing all of science from the world of superheroes with a constructed fodder race was a poor way to kick-off his new life. Then my man, Brian Michael Bendis, wants to hit the reset on profound change with a character who doesn’t even know how his powers work or why (Nova)? That’s insulting. Maybe a cosmic joke but still galling.

Regardless, I’m rooting for Reed Richards. I hope he reengineers physics for the Ultimate Universe so that certain levels of technology become impossible. Just rip the rug out from underneath ‘em all.

All images Copyright Marvel

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