Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Year in Commentary

This is usually the time when blogs do one of two things - look forward with lists, or look backward with lists. Being faithful to the blogosphere, it seems I owe the world a list post.

I don't have any "best entries" to look at - half my output was for a primary in an election already decided, and you probably already know what of mine you like. So instead I'm going to point you at two sources for commentary on the year which I think were kind of awesome. Yeah, my list post is a list of two.

1. Ironman
This was certainly The Dark Knights year, in terms of almost everything - it was good, it made a lot of money, it had a good performance by a star who died tragically young. In an election year it had a vigilante, a realist of a public servant, and an idealistic politician all tied up in a mess of a situation, and confounded by maliciousness and chaos. It should have been the narrative to accompany election day.

It wasn't. This year, the best commentary about America as an entity was captured in reviews of Iron Man. Iron Man has no politicians. Iron Man, in fact, is rather minimal - inventor + tragedy = mind change + redemption. And all the while, America is still at war in the background. Tony Stark changes himself in a cave, and he comes back to change not Afghanistan, but to re-orient America. In the comics, Iron Man has become the victorious face of a government that killed Captain America, but in the movie Iron Man is America reborn - this isn't a struggle of identity, this is a coming of age. Captain America is the Greatest Generation - he is an eager and patriotic citizen made exemplary, and in his later years he embodied all the promise America had offered, and was more than a tad upset when it collapsed upon itself in a fit of paranoia and police-state antics. It's a good story, but it's an apocalyptic narrative, not the one of rebirth.

The re-birth narrative is all Iron Man. He literally makes himself over, and thanks to American inventiveness and determination, he sets out to undo all the evil he himself did. This is a narrative captured brilliantly in two separate reviews: one by The Ferret, and one at SciFi blog io9. Read both of them - they are as much about comics and film as they are about where America stands today. And that America doesn't include Gotham.

2. Sinfest
Sinfest is the name of a webcomic. A really, really brilliant webcomic. It's been around for a while, and its well-done art (plus decent humor) had kept me reading it on and off. Then the election got underway, and it is the narrative I will hand my children to explain this year. The humor is spot on, the metaphors used all resonate strongly, and it provides the cartoon narrative with the goofy faces and the cutting insights in a year where much has been made of narrative.

This one - the best attempt at turning Dark Knight into a parable for the US.

These three - the first one is Obama campaigning, the second one is Obama elected, and the third one is Obama taking office. All of them get the narrative of the election done beautifully, and they do it in a few panels.

Here we have Sinfest Uncle Sam, using Star Wars to explain how we got to be where we are. It's beautiful

And here we see the economic collapse, told in a wonderfully self-righteous fashion by the symbols of American wealth we have created for ourselves.

If I haven't fan-boyed enough over this comic, here's the years' end:

Pitch Perfect. Have a good night, everyone.

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