Why do I continue to read comic books? This is a question I have been asking myself lately. Issues stack up and fill my studio. I start to feel pressure to dig in and catch up, which pulls me away from more important reading.
At the beginning of the year I glanced at a story about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's New Year's resolution to read two books per month (actually one book every other week). This, coupled with a general sense that settled in once I hit 50 last year that unless I get busy I'll never even make a dent in the piles of books stacked and packed into my small apartment, motivated me to emulate the social networking guru.
Since my book reading had tailed off the last couple of years, it came as a bit of a surprise to find how much effort it takes to read two books a month (if you work full-time and read the newspaper everyday), particularly if you choose a book over 400 pages with lots of end notes. The fact that football season is over helps. And so far I have been able to read two books a month; sometimes even three. But keeping up with the comic books has suffered.
Running in the gigantic annual Bay to Breakers race recently I was struck by how many women and men dressed up as superheroes. I couldn't pick out any religious-themed costumed runners, but there were plenty of Spider-Men, Wonder Women, Batmen, Robins, Captain Americas and Supermen. Charles Blow recently wrote an opinion piece, "Unaffiliated and Underrepresented," about the political over-representation of Christianity (though he didn't say it, based on the Pew report he presented, he could have also included Judaism) vis-a-vis the unaffiliated, meaning those who do not subscribe to any organized religion:
But the report also found, “Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated — describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular’ — has jumped more than six points, from 16.1 percent to 22.8 percent.” Much of the change comes from younger people. According to the report, “About a third of older millennials (adults currently in their late 20s and early 30s) now say they have no religion, up nine percentage points among this cohort since 2007, when the same group was between ages 18 and 26.”I would like to proffer that the religion of these unaffiliated millennials is by and large to be found
in the superhero comic book. Millennials love comic books, and they love digital technology. During the Bay to Breakers a common occurrence was having to dodge runners stopped dead in the middle of the course snapping selfies.
So reading comic books is meritorious solely on the basis of their importance to the generation that will soon have to manage the collapsing Western neoliberal paradigm. Whether economic, environmental or political, a huge shock is coming; and it is a safe bet that it is going to play out at a time when the millennials will be in charge, in the next 20 to 30 years.
And while the comic books produced by the corporate behemoths Marvel and DC are not overtly political, they are not bland endorsements of the status quo. In some cases, like the titles written by Rick Remender, they are for the most part subversive of the existing order.
The three-issue special Inhuman Error is a fine example of why I continue to read comic books. Spread out over The Amazing Spider-Man Special #1, Inhuman Special #1, All-New Captain American Special #1, Inhuman Error tells the story of Red Raven and his flying island of Bird People, a band of Inhumans who have been adversely affected by Black Bolt's detonation of the Terrigen Bomb.
Jeff Loveness' script is not particularly outstanding, but the artwork of Ryan Lee (Inhuman Special #1) and Alec Morgan (All-New Captain America Special #1) is; as are the colors of Nolan Woodard.
Below are five scans from All-New Captain America Special #1. Sam Wilson, a.k.a., All-New Captain America, battles Red Raven first in his floating island sanctuary and then in the skies above Manhattan. The art is Alec Morgan's. I bet he spent some time at St. John the Divine (first scan).