Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A (Very, Very) Quick Look at (One Scene from) Doom 2099

I swear I'll shut up about Marvel 2099 after this.

A completely unscientific poll (two respondents were surveyed; one of them was myself) has verified that the best title in the Marvel 2099 line was Doom 2099. The premise alone is pure gold: Dr. Doom mysteriously reappears in 2099, alive and well, but with some unaccountable memory holes. He resumes control of Latveria and enacts a plan to, in his words, instate himself as the architect of the world's future. And the thing is, the world is such an awful mess at this point that a global hegemony under Doom would almost definitely be an improvement. Doom 2099 casts the hammy megalomaniac as a benevolent dictator and antihero, and it's a blast to read.

At this point, if Doom 2099 is remembered for anything, it's for being the springboard for the career of Warren Ellis, who takes over the book from John F. Moore after issue #26. But Moore does a wonderful job at the helm, which came as a surprise to me, having already seen how problematic and glum his X-Men 2099 shaped up to be. I have to regard the two books as a kind of dialectical pair: X-Men 2099 is about a bunch of hard-to-like good guys (with some flecks of badness) who always lose; Doom 2099 is about a charismatic bad guy (which some flecks of goodness) who always wins.

Rather than review Doom 2099, I'd just like to share one of my favorite scenes. Like any event in a comic serial, some context must needs be supplied.

So Doom and some of his allies and enemies are aboard a space station. Among them are a harbinger and an emissary of an alien race called the Y'Lestja, which is just minutes away from making contact with the assembled Earthlings. The villain of this chapter, Feng Huang, is expecting to enter into some sort of partnership with the Y'Lestja that puts her in control of the world, or otherwise hopes to doublecross them and steal their technology. (Actually, now that I look again, it's not really clear what her plan is.) From the beginning, we have reason to suspect that the Y'Lestja might be bad news. Their emissary effortlessly overpowers both Doom and Feng Huang. The race is regularly referred to as "the collective," which can't but bring to mind the cold rapacity of the Borg (or the Brood or the Phalanx, if we want to keep our comparisons within the Marvel Universe). Once the Y'Lestja arrive, their emissary remarks that none of the individual concerns of the group matter anymore. We're supposed to believe that a hostile co-option is imminent.

So let's see what happens when the Y'Lestja make contact. (Click to enlarge!)

Afterwards, the Y'Lestja vanish, but leave their emissary behind. Feng Huang is annoyed that the aliens didn't give her any world-conquering technology, so she shoots the emissary out of spite and activates the station's self-destruct sequence. The good guys escape, but:

Even if we don't call this ham-fisted, it must be admitted that a bit of a porkish scent clings to it.

In the age of hydrogen bombs, rising oceans, and anthropocene mass extinction, it's not surprising that "we need to get it together and avert our own self-destruction" should recur as a narrative theme throughout pop culture with such frequency as to become a cliche. (Over at The Town Crier, EM Nolan examines its high-profile cameo in the new Mad Max flick.) What might be surprising—depending upon the degree to which your view of human nature is adumbrated— is how all of these exhortations have failed to make much of a perceptible difference at all, and we tend to tune them out as so much more after school special babble. (cf. Alfred N. Whitehead: "It does not matter what men say in words, so long as their activities are controlled by settled instincts. The words may ultimately destroy the instincts. But until this has occurred, words do not count.")

Of course, we now know the world will be saved by a future version of Spider-Man guiding humanity from the helm of a future version of Google.

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