Sunday, November 8, 2015

Karnak #1

The superhero comic-book medium derives its name from an inept English translation and popularization of Nietzsche's "Übermensch." From Thus Spoke ZarathustraÜbermensch means not so much Superman, as Over-Man or Beyond-Man; a man who has left Man behind, overcome him, surpassed him, in a constant act of self-overcoming, not a physically intimidating, athletically superior cop on the beat.

Despite the mistranslation, the fact that the superhero comic-book medium derives its name from the work of the father of philosophical nihilism is something we must always keep in mind. The superhero is a nihilist construct -- Man's attempt to project beyond himself; hence, a rejection of Man itself.

Today the preeminent writer of philosophically articulate yet hard-boiled comic books is Warren Ellis. He has his finger on the pulse of the nihilism that pumps through superheroism. In Karnak #1 he works with the tremendous Argentinian artist Jorge Zaffino to tell the story of the risen-from-the-dead Inhuman Karnak. Karnak is working with S.H.I.E.L.D. to reclaim NuHumans who have been abducted for nefarious purposes by A.I.M., Advanced Idea Mechanics.

In the first two scans Karnak promises to return an abducted son, who has metamorphosed into a NuHuman after exposure to the Terrigen Mists, to his distraught parents. But Karnak's price for such a service is that the parents let go of their attachment to the son. S.H.I.E.L.D. Special Agent Phil Coulson pulls Karnak out of the room in order to dress him down for his insensitivity, but ends up getting an earful of nihilism from Karnak instead:
Coulson: Why did you do that? 
Karnak: A lesson. I am teacher. 
Coulson: And what's the lesson you are teaching by hurting and humiliating those people? 
Karnak: That humans are no more important than objects, and that both humans and objects are meaningless. They may lose their son. They may lose their favorite object. They will still be alive tomorrow. Neither thing matters to the universe. 
Never forget who I am. 
I am Karnak of the Inhumans. I am Magister of the Tower of Wisdom.
Love is for the less disciplined minds that need to believe in a softer world.
In the scans that follow the first two, Karnak takes out an A.I.M. double-agent. Zaffino shows off his chops.

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