Monday, November 12, 2012

The Marvel Universe Didn't Need An Active Invisible Hand

{Note: There's a possibility that the last issue of Defenders rendered all this moot, but since I don't know, I might as well post it anyway.}

The thing I didn't like about Defenders #11 was Fraction explaining that the Concordance Engines were created by some group of beings with the idea the Engines would help produce beings who could defend their worlds from the Death Celestials. Not unlike the reveal in those Earth X mini-series, where the Celestials place an egg inside a world, then make sure it has beings that can maybe keep the planet from being eaten by Galactus until the egg hatches.

The difference here is that there's an implication that it wasn't random who got powers, that people were tapped specifically. Things like Peter Parker getting bit by a spider, Stephen Strange's car accident wrecking his hands? Those weren't coincidences, or acts of chance, they were the Engines and these beings taking a hand. I don't know, the Engines keep getting called "wishing machines" so I guess they were carrying out their creators wishes.

I don't know why Fraction felt the need to add this as the explanation for the Marvel Universe. We already had the idea that the Celestials came to Earth long ago and messed around with primitive humans, then zipped back into space. I don't understand the need for a "Death Celestial", either, since the Celestials already did that themselves. They come back, check on the results, and if they don't like what they see, you die. This particular Celestial seems less interested in results and more in eliminating everything, but again, what's the point? Why would the other Celestials let this one run around wrecking all their stuff?

The primary thing I don't like about the whole thing is it smacks of predestination. I hate predestination.  I don't mind the idea that you can choose to do something or not, of that you can decide to do something, and it doesn't make a difference. Peter Parker chose to go to that science demonstration even after his classmates cruel words, rather than go home and cry. So he was there, the spider gets irradiated, he gets bit, he chooses to use his powers for monetary gain, Uncle Ben dies, and here we are.

The idea that was all a planned event, brought about by some high beings carrying out some agenda of their own, that bugs me. That he never had a choice, it was always going to work out that way*. At least with the Celestials, it wasn't hard to argue that they were just messing around to see what would happen, and weren't necessarily aiming for a particular outcome. They might have arranged things so there was a greater chance of superhumans emerging, but who those superhumans would be remained to be seen.

Once you introduce the idea there was a deliberate mind nudging events this way and that, well where does that stop? Is every misfortune someone experiences in the Marvel Universe part of some stupid attempt to make them a 'better hero', like the entire planet was under attack by a bunch of dorky Professor Zoom wannabes? How much control does anyone have over their life? Did these guys make Peter Parker fall for Gwen, then have her die, so he could experience that? Did they make Janet van Dyne and Hank Pym meet so they could go through the whole mess they did?

You could say we have the same possibility in this world, that there's a higher power mucking around with us. But I don't know it for certain, so I'm free to dismiss it if I like (which I do). You introduce it into a fictional universe, and even if the characters don't know, I do, so then I'm left wondering. Which, look, I get these stories aren't real, they're fiction, written and illustrated by people here in the same world as me. I'm not so loopy I don't know that, OK? When a story works for me, I can forget about that, get lost in the work and its world (afterward, I might think about the creators, their goals and style). What it feels like Fraction's done is put a batch of writers in the Marvel Universe, or at least one level closer than we (and he) are**. They're the ones crafting the story while Fraction and everyone else transcribe.

That's not an idea I want intruding on me while I'm reading Captain Marvel, or my Amazing Spider-Man back issues. It hasn't been a big issue thus far, and as long as the books I'm currently reading don't bring it up, it should remain that way. I wasn't a huge fan of the Celestials involvement in human development, either, but as the number of comics I read that mentioned it was small, I could mostly ignore it. With any luck, Fraction's insertion will be relegated to something I'll only recall infrequently, and randomly. I have my doubts, since the current crop of writers seem to love things like this. Everything we knew was wrong, vast conspiracies, invisible hands moving things in the shadows since time immemorial and stuff like that. They may not be able to resist.

* This is why I didn't mind JMS' Spider-Totem stuff initially, because he left it open at the start. Might have been chance, might have been planned, might have been science or magic, or all the above. 

** There are, or maybe were, Marvel comics in the Marvel Universe, with writers and everything, but they were not generally shown to be causing things to happen. They either told the "real adventures" to the public, or made up some of their own, but that didn't mean the Fantastic Four suddenly fought Ultron because the writer of the comic did a story like that.

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