A Gathering Voices Post by Greg Garrett
Graphic novels interest me because they're often long narratives that allow us to get to know characters better than any other format. Even long-running TV shows don't compare to the longevity of characters like Superman, Batman, Captain America, or Wonder Woman. Superhero comics remain our most popular comics, and these stories also appear in wildly-popular TV, movie, and video game adaptations, so some powerful spiritual and emotional needs must be met by them.
Since the revised edition of Holy Superheroes! came out in 2008, people sometimes ask me what I've enjoyed since. In the spirit and format of the Holy Superheroes! Appendix where I recommended a number of classic and contemporary comics, here are five series I am loving now and some major spiritual and cultural themes you might discover.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season Eight: Joss Whedon executive produced and wrote individual issues of this official (canonical) continuation of the cult TV series about a young Slayer who takes on supernatural evil--and in this season, a new supervillain, the US military, and her own past decisions. Great entertainment--but powerful and poignant stories, as well. Major themes: heroism, justice, power, saviors, the Beast, evil, vigilantes, the American Way, nonviolence.
Dark Reign: This 2008-09 Marvel-wide narrative event is a topical exploration of life in a post-9/11 America. After the almost-catastrophic invasion of the earth by an alien race that could mimic human beings (and thus remain undetected until they attacked--alien terrorist sleepers), fear of future attack elevates a "former" villain, Norman Osborn, to the role of security czar, with the mandate to use whatever means necessary--torture, collusion with outlaws, preemptive attack--to try and preserve the "peace." Major themes: heroism, justice, power, saviors, the Beast, evil, vigilantes, the American Way, nonviolence.
Fantastic Four (now FF): Former indy comics maker Jonathan Hickman has revitalized one of Marvel's flagship superhero comics by investing it with rich new mythology and emotional resonance. What would people with superpowers (or next-generation brains) honestly try to do to make the world better? What might be the costs of those actions? The recent arc in which one of the team's members died a heroic and sacrificial death reminded me of the gospels--and brought tears to my eyes. Major themes: heroism, justice, power, saviors, the Beast, evil.
Umbrella Academy: A postmodern superhero confection written by My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way, simultaneously ridiculous and sublime, like the offspring of Hellboy and Watchmen. These characters could never exist--and yet, you love and feel for them. Perhaps my favorite recent comic. Major themes: heroism, justice, power, saviors, the Beast, evil, vigilantes, the American Way, nonviolence.
The Unwritten: What if J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter had been a real boy? What would all that love, adulation, attention do to him? And what happens to all that energy we give to great stories? This book, about an author's son named Tommy Taylor is literary, philosophical, and--always--surprising. Major themes: heroism, justice, power, saviors, the Apocalypse, the Beast, evil, vigilantes.
Additional Resources from www.TheThoughtfulChristian.com
- Turning Points: Stories of People Who Made a Difference, by Max L. Christensen
- Heroes and Saints: More Stories of People Who Made a Difference, by Max L. Christensen
- "What Make a Hero?" by Gail Monsma (Youth Study)
- "Film: I Am Legend," by Lonna Chang-Ren Lee (Youth Study)