Doctor Who is, in many ways, an inherently religious show. At least according to Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor himself, who’s played the Doctor longer than anyone else to date (a grand total of 172 episodes across eight seasons). I agree. In fact, I’d argue one of the many, many reasons Doctor Who has been around for nearly sixty years is because it does what religions often do and we, by nature, are drawn to such stories. By this I mean it addresses the fundamental questions of human existence and invites viewers to dialogue with these questions of meaning, purpose, morality, and the like. It offers hope, even when such stories are out of vogue. Most of all, its central catechesis is to be kind. Religions, when they are operating at their best, call us to do the same as they seek to connect us to the Divine and to each other. However, religion doesn’t always operate at its best and this can lead to confusing conflations of our ideas of “good,” “evil,” and “God.” “The Face of Evil,” the fourth serial of Series Fourteen of Classic Doctor Who, brilliantly explores the dangers of conflating the role of religion with the will of God.
Daredevil’s Violent Vocation: God’s Calling or the Justification of Man?
Sometimes I’m surprised I’ve not written of Daredevil before. I spend a lot of time thinking, talking, and writing about the intersection of comic books and theology and teach theology at a Catholic Mercy school and am a lifelong Catholic. So Matt Murdock/Daredevil feels like a character made for me. A lawyer by day who lost his sight as a child, Matt uses the radar sense he gained, along with his extensive martial arts training, to protect the people of Hell’s Kitchen as Daredevil. As Marvel’s most prominent Catholic character, his faith and his relationship with God influence all areas of his life, superheroing included. He attends Mass. He goes to confession. His parish priest and nuns are trusted natural supports. But I never “got” Daredevil. My brother David loved him but I wasn’t interested. He felt like a bargain basement Spider-Man (when quippy) or bargain basement Batman (when dour). Then I began reading Chip Zdarsky (writer) and Marco Checchetto (main artist on the run)’s Daredevil and OH. MY. GOSH. I get it now! Twenty-seven issues in and I love it! A major story beat is Matt discerning God’s will in his life and, naturally, I was excited to explore this myself. Is Daredevil’s vocation divinely ordained or an example of someone trying to sanctify their all-too-human violence in God’s name?
Easily Empathizing with and Conflictedly Rooting for Poison Ivy
Bill McKibben’s introduction to his 2019 book, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?, begins by reflecting on his 1989 text, “As the title indicates, The End of Nature was not a cheerful book, and sadly its gloom has been vindicated. My basic point was that humans had so altered the planet that not an inch was beyond our reach, an idea that scientists underlined a decade later when they began referring to our era as the Anthropocene. This volume is bleak as well – in some ways bleaker, because more time has passed and we are deeper in the hole…Put simply, between ecological destruction and technological hubris, the human experiment is now in question. The stakes feel very high, and the odds very long, and the trends very ominous.” This is why a part of me can’t help but root, however conflictedly, for Poison Ivy in G. Willow Wilson (writer), Marcio Takara (artist), Arif Prianto (colorist), and Hassan Otsman-Elhaou (letterer)’s new miniseries, Poison Ivy, despite her goal being, you know, the absolute end of the human race. Because maybe we kinda deserve it? At least maybe we don’t not deserve it.
Lessons of Joy, Hope, and Love: The Gift of Wonder Woman 1984
This month marks the 80th Anniversary of Wonder Woman!!! I didn’t read her comics as a kid but Diana of Themyscria is a character who’s come to mean very much to me. As Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman (2017) was my gateway to Diana and her world, it felt apropos to mark this occasion by (finally) posting the piece I wrote after seeing Wonder Woman 1984. I LOVE the movies. Since I got my driver’s license, rarely more than a week went by in between trips to the theatre. However, after a 10:05 pm showing of Brahms: The Boy 2 on 7 March 2020, lockdown hit. So when I saw Wonder Woman 1984, it’d been over TEN MONTHS since I’d went to the movies. I wanted my return to be special and WW84 was the logical choice. I wasn’t disappointed! Wonder Woman 1984 was a worthy successor to the masterpiece that was Wonder Woman. Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot did it again! They captured lightning in a bottle twice…at least as far as I was concerned. I was stunned when I began talking to friends – close friends who often share my opinion of films – and learned not everyone felt the same. Some did, but some didn’t. Granting all art is subjective, I still became curious, wondering what they saw in this film. Many conversations followed and this piece was born of my side of those conversations. This is an exploration of all I see in WW84.
The Matrix: Resurrections – A Trailer and some Familiar Philosophical Feelings
Ok, so first, AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! Second, so there’s a trailer for the new Matrix movie. I’ll be honest, I got a little nostalgic and a whole helluva lot excited when I watched it. After Jeff messaged me about it, I may’ve spent my entire lunch break watching it about fifteen times. Who can say for sure? But was my lunch break even real in the first place?? That seems like the bigger question we should focus on before we judge how I used the time. ANYWAY, as I like to do when a trailer drops which a) I’m particularly excited about, b) generates some serious feels – good, bad, or indifferent – in me, or c) both, I figured I’d write about it. Should I do the obligatory line about taking the red or blue pill as you decide if you want to read this? I don’t know…it feels lazy. It’s classic, yes, but also maybe too easy? Hmm. Ok, let’s skip the low hanging fruit and just dive in!
The Fantastic Four and the Science of Soul Mates
Perhaps the most oft repeated observation about the Fantastic Four is they are a family first, superheroes second. This piece of their identity has been their cornerstone since Stan Lee ushered in the “Marvel Age of Comics” with their creation in 1961. With the FF poised to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Dan Slott was given the reins of “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine” in 2018. Understanding the nature of the FF – a family of explorers and travelers who save the day when needed – he uses it to examine a captivating concept which seems uniquely suited to the Fantastic Four. When their explorations take them to the planet Spyre, Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic, Sue Storm/the Invisible Woman, Johnny Storm/the Human Torch, and Ben Grimm/the Thing meet the Overseer, the leader of the Spyricans, a people who have technology they claim will show you your Soul Mate with absolute certainty. Families are born in the bonds of love and there’s no love like a Soul Mate…should such a thing exist. What better place to drop explorers defined by their family than the questions raised at the intersection of loving communion and a technology that can predict the mystical movements of the heart?!!?
As readers we can’t help but take this journey with the Fantastic Four and wonder are Soul Mates real? And if they are, would we want to know?
BIG EXCITING NEWS – I’M WRITING A BOOK!!!
That’s right, dear reader, you’ve read that correctly. I’m writing a book! I’ve officially signed a contract with Claremont Press to write a book for their Religion & Comics series! The volume will explore the prophetic dimension of modern superhero comic books. Ahhhhhh, I’m SO EXCITED about this project and I can’t wait to share it with everyone!
Thor the God of the Unworthy – Reframing the God of Thunder
Jason Aaron’s time writing Thor – from Thor: God of Thunder to Thor to The Mighty Thor to Thor (again) to War of the Realms to King Thor – produced the defining version of the character. No one, at least in my humble opinion, has ever done more with Thor nor understood the character, their world, and its theological fertility more than Jason Aaron. Jane Foster lifting Mjölnir to become Thor herself was the heart of Aaron’s run. But for that to happen, Thor Odinson had to find himself unable to lift the hammer. This idea – the idea of Thor being unworthy – ties together much of what Aaron did. Its seeds were sown in his very first arc, as Thor faced the brutality of Gorr the God Butcher. Its actualization would lead to Jane lifting Mjölnir and becoming the mightiest Thor and the greatest of all the gods. Its effects would culminate in Thor Odinson’s climactic battle with Malekith the Accursed during the War of the Realms and it would shape the sort of king Thor would become.
Jane Foster: Valkyrie – Glimpsing Transcendence in Death
The centerpiece of Jason Aaron’s epic seven year run writing Thor: God of Thunder/The Mighty Thor/Thor was Jane Foster lifting Mjölnir when the Odinson found himself unworthy to do so. She became Thor, the Goddess of Thunder, and the stories that followed were the best Thor comics I’ve ever read. It may be the best executed single story arc I’ve ever ready in any comic ever. When the Odinson eventually reclaimed his title as the God of Thunder, Jane returned her focus to her civilian life, medical career, and – most importantly – fighting the cancer raging inside her. However, her superhero career was far from over and the stories Jane Foster now finds herself in (written first by Jason Aaron and Al Ewing and now by Jason Aaron and Torunn Grønbekk) dance along the mysterious, wonderous, frightening, sacred threshold that is the dividing line between life and death. Continue reading
I Don’t Know What To Do With All This Love – A Fleabag Reflection
Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag is one of those shows where I wonder how I lived without it. My first time through the series (I watch it often), I watched all of Season One in a day and Season Two the following day. My pause between them was only to allow myself time to try and process all the feelings the first season left me with. The show is hysterical while also being one of the most moving shows I’ve ever seen. It’s wildly intelligent and the emotional journey it takes you on is unforgettable. Returning to this was one of the first things I did when quarantine hit – it’s a thoughtful comfort show, making me laugh, think, and feel in equally strong waves. As I watched it, I realized I’d never written about my love for this series, something I want to do now with this reflection on a remarkable juxtaposition done in the fourth episode of the second season.
Note, there will obviously be spoilers (but not beyond S2,E4). I’ll be as general as I can be with the plot but if you haven’t seen this show maybe watch it now? I don’t wanna be bossy but it’s brilliant. Every. Single. Moment. Continue reading