Coup d’État: Sleeper
DC Comics / Wildstorm — Ed Brubaker (w); Jim Lee (a)Internet, prepare your flamethrowers.
Here we go:
This is one of the single dumbest comics I’ve ever read.
And apparently I’m the only one who thinks so (at least in reference to internet comics reviewing community).
First off, let’s just summarize what happens in the issue. That’s in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past several months, because Wildstorm has hyped the hell out of this event.
Tao, the criminal mastermind antagonist from Ed Brubaker’s outstanding series Sleeper, orchestrates a plan whereby the U.S. government (or, more accurately, a super-secret faction within the U.S. government) gains control of an alien engine. That engine allows the craft that it powers to breach the barrier between dimensions and enter The Bleed, the dimension-between-dimensions that is one of the calling cards of the Wildstorm Universe. However, Tao’s engine is powered by a miniature black hole … and booby-trapped. Once the ship attached to it enters The Bleed, the black hole quickly becomes unstable and tears the probe craft apart. It also tears a rift in The Bleed, leaving it open to our dimension in multiple locations. Lastly, and most importantly, as collateral damage, it brings down an enormous shiftship, crewed by an alien race known as the Vigil (an as-subtle-as-a-sledgehammer reference to the Watchers, from Fantastic Four).
So the end result of this, from our perspective (as Earthlings), is that the wreckage of an outlandishly large machine begins to rain down from the sky on cities across the world, beginning with Tampa, Florida. The Authority, however, fears reprisals from the powerful Vigil.
So The Authority takes this disaster as a sign that the entire United States government is corrupt and incompetent (because they had warned the government to leave The Bleed alone, y’see) and declares themselves the rulers of our country.
‘Cause, y’know, that makes perfect sense.
OK, so there are problems here.
In the first place, personally, I think injecting real world politics of any kind into a story with superheroes is just a bad idea. Joe Kelly recently wrote an issue of Action Comics where Superman basically condemned the recent Iraq war. Which, if you ask me, is stupid, since a world where Superman is real would never have had any need for U.N. weapons inspectors, since the Man of Tomorrow could just do a flyover with his x-ray vision and tell everyone what’s what. Superman’s alien vision would have either completely justified the Bush administration’s assertions or shot them full of holes.
And don’t think I don’t know how stupid that paragraph sounds, talking about x-ray vision in the same sentence with U.N. weapons inspectors. That’s pretty much my point: keep your politics (and I don’t give a damn which way they lean) out of superhero comics. You’re just going to end up looking like a dumbass. The story just sounds stupid when you see it in print and lots of the things governments do in the real world would be unnecessary if superheroes existed.
Another problem is that I’m not exactly sure what made The Authority feel that this incident was worth taking control of an entire country over. I mean, this is basically like blaming the Bush administration for the Columbia disaster. One is not directly responsible for the other and, even if it were, I’m not sure it’d be enough reason to completely dismiss an entire system of governing.
The biggest problem though is that this arc is being talked about as though it’s this massive condemnation of the Bush administration, this damning account of all the Republican misdeeds. But (and I’m a Republican, so my view is sort of suspect here), I can’t really see it. There’s no real world parallel for the events that set The Authority off. And the story goes out of its way to point out that the disaster itself is the fault of a small, almost entirely invisible, splinter group within the government.
If anything, a case can be made that The Authority themselves stand in rather well for the current White House regime. In this arc, they’re an angry band of militants who overthrow an entire country’s government without waiting to make sure that all the facts were in first. I mean, I like Bush and I can (grudgingly) see the parallel there.
If that were what the arc was shooting for, I’d applaud it. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with it (and, again, I’d still think mixing politics and superheroes was a bad idea), but I could respect that point of view and sort of see where the writers were coming from.
But they aren’t. The impression that I get from the event thus far (and, admittedly, this is only the first part) is that someone in Wildstorm editorial has an axe to grind with the Republican administration and just tossed in a barest shred of a plot to justify a far-left wet dream, wherein liberal superheroes swoop out of the sky and save us all from the evil conservatives.
In the end, it’s a muddy narrative that’s sole redeeming grace is that Brubaker’s plot (and I question how much of this was written by Brubaker and how much was simply him scripting a predetermined plot) is tailor-made for someone like Jim Lee (or Bryan Hitch): full of action, with few talking head sequences and those backdropped by out of this world scenery (read “eye-candy”). It’s a rather pretty book if you’re a fan of Jim Lee’s style.
But if you’re looking for a story that’s a reasonably well thought-out commentary on modern politics, or one that’s more than tangentially connected to the titular characters, you’re going to have to look elsewhere, I’m afraid.