Monday, January 16, 2017

Secret Avengers #15

When I want to give my legs a rest from road running I go to an artificial turf soccer field in my neighborhood and jog square laps. It is a particularly nice winter location because early in the morning on the weekend no one is there. Freezing temperatures keep everyone, besides an occasional dog walker, away.

A couple Sundays back I noticed spray-painted on a concrete utility outbuilding next to the soccer pitch the slogan "GIRLS RULE!"

Since I had just finished reading the final issue of Secret Avengers #15, a title Marvel cancelled the spring of 2015, I thought it very auspicious.

The Secret Avengers are a black ops group of Avengers (sort of a superhero SEAL Team 6) put together by Steve Rogers, a.k.a., Captain America, to handle certain unsavory jobs, i.e., extraordinary renditions. Heroes enlisted, like Hawkeye, even undergo memory wipes, a la Jason Bourne. This shows how commonly accepted all murderous and illegal aspects of the Deep State have become. They appear only thinly veiled in a Marvel comic book.

Thematically what Secret Avengers provided Marvel was a way to continue Dark Avengers -- super-villains masquerading with official imprimatur as Avengers -- into the sunny Age of Obama. Dark Avengers was Brian Michael Bendis' superb commentary on the darkness of the Bush years, Norman Osborn as a stand-in for W. Darkness mainstreamed in the body politic.

Secret Avengers was Marvel's way of saying that this darkness would not be banished under Obama. And of course it wasn't. The title's cancellation in early 2015, soon after the disastrous 2014 midterms, is an acknowledgement that this darkness is not a strand of government, an aberrant strain, a subplot; it is the very essence of government, the Deep State itself.

Ales Kot, the writer on the final run of the series, put Maria Hill -- the butch, belligerent head of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Marvel's all-important equivalent of the U.S. national security apparatus) -- at the heart of the narrative, a heady story about a sentient bomb, communal mindspace, love and extinction.

Maria Hill is necessary because men -- white men at least -- can no longer front an almost universally discredited plutocratic warfare state.  We need women or minorities to act the shill; Obama did ably for most of his two terms, despite presiding over enormous losses for the Democratic Party.

These losses, which likely confirm Zach Galifianakis' quip about Obama being the last black president, could be obscured -- such was the hope -- by nominating a woman to preside over the wealthiest, most militarily powerful nation on the planet, indeed, in the history of the world.

It didn't work out that way. And more than any other single factor (and Democrat evasions about Russian hacking and interference from the FBI) it didn't work out that way because women did not vote for a sister in numbers greater than when only men were the nominees of the duopoly. Hillary reaped no record female gender gap; in fact, she only improved upon Obama's 2012 total by a single percentage point.

The ace Clinton held in the sleeve of her paintsuit right up to the exit polls on election day turned out to be a regular pip card. Trump won 53% of white women. Partisan identity "trumped" gender identity.

To put a positive spin on this result one could say that voters saw through the sham of the Democratic Party's identity politics. Hillary, like Maria Hill, is fronting the Deep State, and Clinton had about as much to offer feminism as Margaret Thatcher or Angela Merkel. In other words, nothing. Worse than nothing -- a thin lacquered feminine veneer on the old bloodthirsty divine right of kings, a truly devastating subversion of feminism.

True feminism has to be part of a radically egalitarian order, glimpses of which can be seen in areas where the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is in power. (See Rod Nordland's "Crackdown in Turkey Threatens a Haven of Gender Equality Built by Kurds.")

Late stage capitalism has been highly successful in integrating women into the workforce, so much so that the gender pay gap might not be as wide as commonly reported. But late stage capitalism is also peak neoliberalism, a savage celebration of elitism and competition. Women, even those that enjoy the benefit of paid maternity leave, think twice before exiting the rat race, and this translates into the problem of low birthrates, a problem that recently reached the headlines. (See "South Korea’s Plan to Rank Towns by Fertility Rate Backfires" by Choe Sang-Hun.) Francis Fukuyama has identified low birthrates as part of a "Great Disruption" that is concomitant with the rise of the Information Society, another name for late stage capitalism or peak neoliberalism.

Helene Cooper's story about the little Cameroonian boy crushed by Samantha Power's speeding motorcade (see "The Boy, the Ambassador and the Deadly Encounter on the Road" and her crucial followup "I Was in the Motorcade That Struck and Killed 6-Year-Old Toussaint Birwe") says it all about the slogan "GIRLS RULE!"

Yes, girls rule. But according to the all the old rules.

Below, from the final issue of Secret Avengers, Maria recounts the time from her childhood when she happened upon a shark in the void. The art is Michael Walsh's.

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