On Marvel’s Outlawed


Subscribers to the WWAC Patreon get a new article today: my look at Marvel’s Outlawed event from 2020, covering all of the main titles invovled with the storyline. Here’s a short preview:

The superhero comic convention of the “event” story can be divided into two main categories. The first consists of cosmic-scale storylines like Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinity War, where worlds and realities are threatened by godlike beings and universe-destroying menaces. The second, meanwhile, includes the likes of Civil War and Identity Crisis, where the conflict is framed as moral or ideological rather than existential. Typically, the latter story type will kick off with one or more heroes stepping out of bounds, and the superpowered community as a whole being faced with a question: is it time to be reined in, or perhaps even abandon their capes altogether?

Of the two varieties, it is the second that poses the greatest threat to the lives of the spandex class. Saving planets from destruction is the sort of thing that superheroes are expected to do on a regular basis without breaking a sweat; but once the reader is specifically invited to question the social assumptions behind the genre – well, that is when the entire fantasyland is in danger. When done well, it can result in a thoughtful deconstruction, sometimes followed by a reconstruction; when done poorly, however, it becomes merely self-defeating.

Marvel’s 2020 storyline, Outlawed, belongs very much to the Civil War variety of comic event. Its premise is based on a question that has haunted the genre since 1988 when the Joker killed Jason Todd in the universe next door: is it justifiable to have teenage superheroes out on the streets, putting themselves and bystanders in danger to fight their foes? Or can the authorities be trusted to step in and protect these costumed youngsters from themselves? This was a story that played out across four separate titles with three different authors, each of whom had a different attitude towards the clash between superhero fantasy and real-world concerns.

If you would like to read the hwole thing, head to the WWAC Patreon…https://www.patreon.com/posts/youth-in-crisis-63790074

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