Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sometimes The Hero's Greatest Challenge Is Themselves

We haven't, as far as I know, seen Vril Dox (second Brainiac, founder of L.E.G.I.O.N. and later R.E.B.E.L.S.) in the new 52 DC. Frankly, given the current low level of support and trust the Green Lantern Corps has among the various advanced species of the universe, it seems like the perfect time for a smart, ruthless person to emerge offering his own brand of security and troubleshooting for people who want some say in how and when they're protected, as well as who does it, rather than it happening at the whim of a bunch of little blue twerps handing out wishing rings to any brain-addled person able to 'overcome fear'.

But that's not what this post is about. I was thinking about why I like Vril Dox. I mean, he's arrogant, pushy, indifferent to other's feelings, a grandstander, entirely too impressed with himself, and pretty callous. It's most of Tony Stark's worst personality traits, save the alcoholism and womanizing.

The key is, Dox behaving that way actually has consequences. Stark can make himself God-Emperor of the Super-Hero community, going around getting Captain America killed, using nanites to take powers away, and while everyone will yell at him and punch him for a time, eventually they all welcome him back into the Avengers, bygones be bygones (conveniently ignoring that Stark has shown no remorse for any of his actions, and is, in fact, still convinced he was completely in the right).

Dox, though, nobody wants to work with Vril Dox. They recognize he is probably the smartest guy in any given room, but also that he'll throw their lives away in a second if he thinks it'll improve his odds of winning. He'll make deals with rulers like Despero or Kanjar Ro because they aren't despots, they're potential customers and powerful allies. Emotional ties are irrelevant, which isn't necessarily a bad approach when an entire galaxy is in danger, but isn't going to win you a lot of friends. So people are reluctant to work with him. When he calls for help, most people hang up the phone, and that's assuming they don't try to kill him because they think he's behind whatever went wrong. He ends up having to plead or bargain for help, make grand speeches everyone pretty much knows are garbage, but have just enough truth in them, people go along with it, or manipulate people by an appeal to their nobler sentiments. Which works in the short-term, but produces more bad feelings (the people doing it to save lives don't like working with despots, the despots fear betrayal because that's what they'd do, etc.), and represents, if not more bridges burned, at least badly damaged.

Vril Dox, by his nature, kind of stacks the deck against himself. Which means half the challenge for him is the hurdles his own difficulty dealing with others causes him. And so we get to watch him think his way out of these problems. If there are people who stick around because they want to keep an eye on him, Dox will use that. See how committed he is to transparency, keeping around people who will question his motives and actions. Ignore the fact Dox would never actually let that person's qualms stop him, but he does have to find a way around it. It's one of the reasons his portrayal as sort of a diplomatic facilitator between the Tamaraneans, Rannians, and Thanagarians worked pretty well. He has a real knack for keeping each side just happy enough they don't walk away. Or kill him.

Ultimately, I enjoy that Dox succeeds (since he's better than the people he's fighting), but the less than stellar way he treats the people he uses actually creates problems for him. It isn't like Thor and Captain America ignoring Stark's latest attempt at imposing his ideas on the world to welcome him into the fold because he gave them his cheesy grin. At a certain point, treating everyone else like tools there for your use ought to have repercussions. With Dox it does, and it's fun to watch him navigate through it, especially with how frustrated he gets with everyone else's inability to see things like he does. Difference being he can't force people to help, so he has to find other ways to save the day.

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