Retrospective analysis: Seven Soldiers by Grant Morrison

We live in interesting times, facing an unprecedented pandemic, or depending on how deep in the conspiracy rabbit hole you are willing to delve into – you are an every-man trapped in an elaborate maelstrom of a conspiracy to topple our way of living, liberty and sovereignty. This post is not about that, although certainly there is consonance between some of the themes explored here. There is a call for collective cooperation without directly controlling or knowing each other, and the collective mitigating effect being intangible.

While ours is a less proactive role in comparison to how this plays out in the stories collected under the Seven Soldiers umbrella, this is a theme that is the primary premise of Seven Soldiers by Grant Morrison. This is a run that ran across 2005-06 in parallel to (in the wake of) DC Comics’ line-wide event Infinite Crisis. A re-reading of this had me feeling the urge to pen my thoughts and highlight the emergent themes from this brilliant collection of stories, and why this story stands head-and-shoulders above regular cape-fare.

The Seven Soldiers, with additional characters of the meta-series, depicted by the brilliant Ryan Sook. Also the wrap around cover art for the hardcover of the Seven Soldiers omnibus.Left bottom: Shining Knight, Zatanna; Klarion the Witchboy. Left Top: Gloria Tenebrae and to her right, Zor and Melmoth; Nebuloh the sentient universe. Center: Manhattan Guardian; Mister Miracle; Frankenstein & Bulleteer. Top left of Frankenstein: Darkseid, the (New) God of Evil

Modular storytelling: Seven Soldiers begins with Seven Soldiers #0, runs through 7, four-issue miniseries, and concludes with Seven Soldiers #1. Each miniseries has our Seven Soldiers playing within their own sand-box, yet in parallel inevitably converging towards their shared concomitant crisis. Each of the parallel runs/storylines are modular in nature – in that they can be read by themselves, but the true reward for this comes with the convergence of these narratives like pieces of a puzzle. The reader itself plays an active role in stringing the threads together. They are a team that never really meets each other, and even in the culmination are not fully aware of each others’ roles and existences in this obscure crisis. I use the word obscure, as our regular pantheon of heroes, with their colorful capes, archetypal and statuesque presences are out of commission, which makes this set of characters all the more interesting – both in isolation and the way they proverbially cross paths.

Each book also has distinct, stylistic art befitting of each character. Shining Knight has a gouache/watercolor style by Simone Bianchi befitting of its Arthurian origins, while Klarion the Witchboy has very somber, stylized, negative-space/shadow-dependent art by Frazer Irving. Similarly, Frankenstein has the intricate, scraggly lines characteristic of the prolific Doug Mahnke that adds a dimensionality to the horror-adventure vibe of the character.

Each issue is stand alone, each miniseries can be read complete and the whole thing assembles like a jigsaw into one huge epic with multiple, criss-crossing storylines, ranging across a swathe of genres and human emotions.” – Grant Morrison

My personal copy of the Seven Soldiers omnibus – a pleasure to own for the oversized artwork, prestige hardcover format and additional material

Timorous heroes each embodying a specific hero archetype: The Seven Soldiers are The Shining Knight, Klarion the Witch Boy, Frankenstein, Bulleteer, The Manhattan Guardian, Mister Miracle, and Zatanna. The Seven Soldiers are not your traditional, enthusiastic superheroes – they are apprehensive heroes, yet at their core out to do good.

For some heroism is their penance (Zatanna, Frankenstein) for others it is a destiny that was otherwise obscured to them amidst their fantastical but shallow lives (Mister Miracle), a second chance at making an impact (Guardian), something they fell into entirely under non-ideal circumstances (Bulleteer) or driven by an unfulfilled call to duty riddled with survivor’s guilt (Shining Knight). Shining Knight, who is arguably the most traditional hero here is a time-displaced individual from the first Arthurian Epoch, 10,000 years ago, somewhere in the 81st century BC. Klarion is barely a hero to begin or end with, with his trickster, impish, self-serving ways. The Witchboy nevertheless plays a pivotal part in the tale and is a testament to the legacy imprint that the Sheeda left with the limbo-town puritans, who are eventually revealed to be half-Sheeda, descended from Melmoth – the former king of the Sheeda. So who are the Sheeda?

Frankenstein realizes he’s up against evil dystopian Fairies from the future. Isn’t that a trip?

The Sheeda as the logical extreme conclusion to humanity’s self-devouring nature: The Sheeda are essentially an inversion of the traditional changeling or fairie mythological trope. A “fairy-harvester” race from one billion years into the future, described as a ransacked, hyper-dystopian planet earth, tumbling on slow, wounded spirals towards a blistering, undead sun – a half-life existence, a claustrophobic imitation of culture at the end of all things. Which is precisely why the Sheeda thrive on travelling to various segments of the earth’s history and feeding on the cultural achievements of past civilizations. It is eventually revealed that the Sheeda are the evolutionary logical end of homo-sapiens, a metaphorical reflection on the self-devouring nature of our species to meet the primordial survival-of-the-fittest criteria to its perverted extreme.

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Sheeda harrowing of Camelot, 10000 BC – depicting their insectoid associations and fairie-like appearance

Civilizational cycles (Non-linear history): Shining Knight (Sir Ystin/Ystina), one of our core characters, is a time-displaced knight who serves as a squire of sorts to Sir Galahad – a name that should be familiar to those familiar with King Arthur’s round table. The narrative eventually reveals she is a young woman posing as a male squire, who rises to the occasion when their era is faced with the Sheeda harrowing (the Fall of Camelot).

However, the more interesting implication here is the cyclical nature of civilizations and non-linear historical timelines. Allusions of multiple Arthurs – a pagan general in Roman Britain, a medieval Christian mystic and the proto-Arthur from Sir Ystin’s era in the 81st Century BC, imply that Arthur is not a singular individual but a man-myth, a recurring archetype. The rise and fall of civilizations being a cyclical occurrence is a mind-tingling prospect – what with our world being six billion years old and our current version of history being only 6000 years old. History is not as linear as we see it, tying into similar concepts across cultures (eg. Yugas in Dharmic theology).

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Gloria Tenebrae and the Wicked Stepmother archetype: The Sheeda are ruled by the Dark King Melmoth, who is usurped by his Queen Gloria Tenebrae, in a proverbially named place known as Summers End, additionally known by other names such as Unwhen, The Otherworld and Land of the Vampire Sun. Gloria Tenebrae is clearly modeled after the Wicked Stepmother from the Snow White fable, even asking a mirror on the wall for information pertaining to the Seven Soldiers (Manhattan Guardian #4). Self-referential statements about being the “Fairest of them all” (Shining Knight #1), and the appearance of the apple motif (Shining Knight #1 & Frankenstein #4) reinforces this. A step-daughter also plays a pivotal role in the story, with Neh-Buh-Loh (a literal sentient universe) ordered to kill her daughter by Melmoth, in Eternity’s dark woods.

Seven: Quite obviously, the number 7 is a recurring motif throughout the story, with Ali Kazoom (The Merlin of the Ghetto) even alluding to it being the mystery thread tying things together. From the oldest point in history (10000 BC) where Seven Score, soldiers are slain during the Fall of Camelot; to the Seven that set the story in motion.; to the seven Time Tailors who stop the renegade time-tailor Zor; to the unwitting “team” of Seven Soldiers – the motif is clear as day to see. Seven Soldiers #0 reflects on the 7 being the count of the days of the week, virtues, sins, seven champions of Christendom, seven spirits at the throne of God, seven sleepers, seven wise masters etc (Seven Soldiers #0) and in line with the aforementioned Snow White/Wicked Mother themes – the 7 dwarves are our 7 Soldiers.

Shilo Norman confronting the human manifestation (Boss Dark Side) and abstract gestalt entity (True Form Darkseid) simultaneously

Simultaneous deconstruction and elevation of Jack Kirby’s New Gods: Jack Kirby’s New Gods are easily the most interesting part of DC cosmology. Morrison simultaneously deconstructs and elevates this part of the DC mythos. The iteration of Mister Miracle here is Shilo Norman – who first appeared as Scott Free’s protege in Kirby’s original early 70s series, has now taken on the mantle of Mister Miracle as a celebrity escapologist, post-his apprenticeship under Scott Free – the original and a God of New Genesis who grew up on Apokolips (see: Jack Kirby’s Fourth World). Through the course of the story, it is revealed that an incomprehensible War in Heaven (the Fourth World) has led to the New Gods manifesting in three-dimensional human forms as a Fall from Heaven of sorts. The manifestation of higher-dimensional Gods in lower planes of existence.

Shilo, stuck in the Omega Life-Trap, confronts and overcomes various possible false versions of his life and escapes as he is (unbeknownst to him) the manifestation of Scott Free (the original Mister Miracle) – the God of Freedom, granted Godsight by his ordeal(s). Norman trades in his life and frees Aurakles – the original superhero made of splicing Neanderthal and New God DNA. There are many fantastical implications here too, with the red-haired Aurakles being the progenitor of Bulleteer (also red-haired), who was his symbolic secret spear against the Sheeda. Ultimately, despite trading in his life, as the last panel of the story reveals – he escapes this trap still, cementing his significance as the ultimate paragon of perseverant freedom. This interpretation of the New Gods also sets up the mega-epic Final Crisis.

The original Sheeda harrowing as faced by Aurakles (the original superhero), depicted in classic Kirby style by the brilliant J.H Williams III

Underappreciated DC lore: Seven Soldiers is exceptionally literate and full of rich themes at its core. It uses lesser-known pieces of DC lore (original Seven Soldiers, Jack Kirby’s Newsboy Legion etc.) and puts a beyond-fresh twist on them while still referencing the original concepts as being the precursors in the DC meta-timeline. In this sense, the allusions and easter-eggs are clear to see for those who pick up on them, but non-essential and melds into the narrative for fresh readers. This is Morrison’s elaborate homage, a love-letter to influential figures like Len Wein and Jack Kirby.

Meta-textual literary devices: Fiction cannibalism is one of the prominent themes that arises from Seven Soldiers. Static, degenerating creative organizations (i.e comicbook companies) stealing from their own history to infuse a new (albeit disingenuous) life into their creative IPs is one of the implicit themes. One of the eight Time Tailors (who look like a group of bald men, in Morrison’s likeness), charged with keeping the fabric of the universe, named Zor, eventually goes renegade. Zor infects the timestream with the Sheeda virus in Zatanna #4 but is eventually stopped by his fellow Time Tailors who deem him to have gone too far. This occurs outside conventional linear time and even pops out of panels, reinforcing its meta-textual nature, with the author himself in a sense participating in the narrative’s progression, in-panel.

The ultimate jolt to the story’s conclusion is Zatanna’s incantation/command to her universe to wake up for its own self-preservation and asking the seven soldiers to strike (read the dialogue backwards). This is essentially Morrison himself casting a spell on the DC universe, congregating all the narrative threads into the “final battle”, if it can be called that in any conventional sense.

While there is much more to be said about this book, its future-setups (Final Crisis) and sigil-magick, those are topics for another time.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’s Lex Luthor – An analysis on this Lexophile villain

An exploration of the philosophy and motivations of this largely reviled iteration of the iconic Superman antagonist

lexophile (plural lexophiles). Noun

A lover of words, especially in word games, puzzles, anagrams, palindromes, etc.

One of the main points of contention with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice across the greater fandom was Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Lex Luthor. Gone was the strapping, bald, calculating business mogul familiar to most; and most were taken by surprise at the socially awkward, click-laden and fidgety, Silicon valley, tech-billionaire version of the character – not so dissimilar in background to the Zuckerbergs and Jobs of the world. As in all dramatized fan outcry, most viewers asserted that this iteration of the character was an insult to the traditional versions of the character, and that Jesse Eisenberg was just playing himself, or some distorted version of the Riddler or the Joker, due to his surface level mannerisms.

Lex Luthor: Mad Scientist and Master Schemer

But, allow me a few minutes to convince you otherwise. Luthor has not always been the confident, strapping, well-built, calculating businessman archetype that was soldified by John Byrne’s The Man of Steel. The Luthor of the Golden and Silver Age of comic books was a mad-scientist first and foremost in terms of the former, and an obsessive genius in the latter era, tying into the strings of the Golden Age. Our Luthor in Batman v Superman too is a mad scientist, what with his kryptonite exploration and genetic engineering of Doomsday, among other things. We see shades of his ability to be a political maverick of sorts too, attempting to manipulate the Senators in the movie to allow authorization to engineer kryptonite as a planetary defense system – we don’t have to use a silver bullet, but if we forge one, we don’t have to depend on the kindness of monsters either.

Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, as he appears towards the end of the movie post-incarceration

But let’s pause for a moment and just look at him. No, really, just look at him. The cockiness, the surety, the neurotic gaze, those heavy brows and cheekbones and slimy gate – all emanate this almost exaggerated sense of villainy that was so perfectly in contrast to the hulking yet heroic presences of Henry Cavill (Superman) and Ben Affleck (Batman). Eisenberg is the most interesting character in the movie if one sees beyond the quirks – but that in itself is the point. One thing, to note, however, is that the character is bald (pictured) only at the end of the movie during the time of his incarceration. The majority of the movie sees someone more in line with the iteration seen in the flashbacks of Lex in the book Superman: Birthright (by Mark Waid) or Superman: Secret Origin (by Geoff Johns, illustrated by Gary Frank).

Similar? Kind of, at least? In particular, I as a viewer loved the idea that this was someone who had an abusive childhood and yet, due to being from a privileged background concurrently, he also developed this heightened sense of entitlement and a resentment bubbling under the surface, all too reflective of some of us millennials.

Luthor is essentially a resentful atheist, which is why the idea of Superman in itself is abhorrent to his very world-view and an existential disruption tying into his emotional trauma. Especially, because there was no Superman or God to save him from the abusive nature of his father – in line with the running theme in the movie of living up to one’s fabled and romanticized paternal legacy.

I seek to explore the philosophical motivations, references and allusions that forge Lex Luthor from BvS as, in my opinion, one of the most compelling and interesting villains, that has been unfairly maligned for not being a clean-and-cut copy of the archetypal Luthor that was introduced in the mid-1980s. Instead, he is more of an amalagam of the various iterations across the ages, and of course, very much his own character all the same.

Luthor stands out in the sea of generic comic-book villains because he is one of the few, who, in the context of this film, actually wins. Luthor’s entire plan hinges on ensuring not only the meticulous political character assassination of Superman and not allowing him to voice his side of the story (Capitol Bombing), but also ensures a distinct lack of interaction between our two protagonists to heighten the ideological tension between the two. This is genius, as more interaction between Supes and the Bat would in turn would lead to increasing common ground, but we wouldn’t want that would we?

Yes he’s quirky, awkward, slimy and obnoxious. But as I’ve mentioned, that isthe point, and all part of the manipulative act. So, without further ado, let’s get into an in-depth analysis on this Lexophile (see what I did there?) of a character below:

Lex Luthor: The Lexophile

From Superman Unchained #1 (2013)
  1. The story of Icarus is referenced both in the Metropolis Library fundraiser and as he mixes his blood with Zod’s corpse (“You flew too close to the sun”) while genetically engineering Doomsday. Also interesting to note that Lex is subject to the Icarus paradox – he is too smart for his own good. The very intelligence and intellectual prowess that aided him in elevating LexCorp in becoming the industry stalwart it is, also led to his downfall and subsequent incarceration.
  2. Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is referenced during the Lois Lane confrontation on the helipad: “Plane Lo in the morning. Lola in slacks.” Also, this somewhat fits well with the sleazy nature of Luthor viz. the pedophilic undertones of the novel.
  3. French philosopher Michel Foucault’s concept of le savoir-pouvoir or power-knowledge i.e power is based on knowledge and makes use of knowledge; on the other hand, power reproduces knowledge by shaping it in accordance with its anonymous intentions. Power (re-) creates its own fields of exercise through knowledge. A direct parallel to his dialogue “The bittersweet pain among men is having knowledge with no power, because that is paradoxical“.
  4. Late late says the White rabbit” based on Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland(and its various adaptations across media).

Luthor’s Epicurean paradox —

The Epicurean Paradox
  1. Lactantius’s De Ira Dei (On the Anger of God), attributed to Epicurus, parralels Lex’s The problem of evil and his problem with the aspirationally omniscient nature of Superman — “If He wants to and cannot, then he is weak and this does not apply to god. If he can but does not want to, then he is spiteful which is equally foreign to god’’s nature. If he neither wants to nor can, he is both weak and spiteful, and so not a god. If he wants to and can, which is the only thing fitting for a god, where then do bad things come from? Or why does he not eliminate them?
  2. Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779) by Scottish philosopher David Hume in the context of Epicurus — “Epicurus’s old questions are yet unanswered. Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?
  3. I don’t hate the sinner. I hate the sin. And yours, my friend, is existing.” American scholar Victor Brombert’s commentary (Flaubert’s Saint Julien: The Sin of Existing) on Gustav Flaubert’s La Légende de Saint-Julien l’Hospitalier (The Legend of St. Julian the Hospitaller) parallels this notion – one’s pre-destiny to sin, thus being a sin in oneself. In the original legend, pagan witches secretly jinx Julian into predestining killing both his parents at birth. The enemy tricks him into believing that his wife is cheating on him, and mistakes his parents laying on his bed as his wife and another man, and mistakenly murders them.

A lot of these questions are also addressed in the Must there be a Superman? montage in the movie itself.

Civilization on the Wayne, Manors out the window

Lex’s wordplay and wit —

  1. Batman-Belle Reve jail scene: “This is how it all caves in. Civilization on the wane (Wayne), manners (Manor) out the window*” – an obvious reference to the Bruce Wayne alter ego.
  2. American Revolutionary figure Paul Revere, referencing his trip from Boston to Lexington warning everyone along the way of British troops (“redcoats”) approaching by sea – “The redcoats are coming! The redcoats are coming!”, an obvious parallel to “The red capes are coming!”.
  3. Minor/obvious wordplay and wit: Upon seeing the Bat signal — “The knight/night is here”; “Mother of God; would you look at the time?”; obviously a play on Martha Kent, Superman’s adoptive human mother. “Now God is as good as dead.”; a reference to the classic Friedrich Nietzsche quote. “Now the world will see the holes in the holy.”, foreshadowing Superman’s impalement at the hands of Doomsday.
Source: Lex Luthor – Man of Steel (2005)

Full credits and praise to the philosophers, original comicbook artists and authors as credited and featured in the article; including but not limited to Mark Waid, Scott Snyder, Jim Lee, Brian Azzarello, Geoff Johns, Lee Bermejo and Gary Frank.

In praise of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Director’s Cut)

Why this polarizing superhero movie remains profoundly impactful to me amidst a largely homogenized superhero film fabric after 3 years.

1. Ben Affleck’s Batman: The aspect of Batman that Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan failed to evoke, but Zack Snyder and Ben Affleck grabbed by its neck and hit a home run with, is the the fact that Bruce Wayne doesn’t have just a human struggle, and instead it is something more metaphysical and grand, all tying to the never-ending proverbial and literal mission. Comic book fans of the character should be more than aware of the Bat’s obsession with the mission. Affleck just packs a lot more brooding intensity, the existential torment and that testosterone so very essential to Batman, that other cinematic Batmen lacked. And those only describe the surface level traits, and not the nuanced performance he gives in the movie. You can immediately tell that this man has always been on the moral fence, being a violent vigilante, yet his pensive gaze has that heroic wisdom to it that only a man who is at heart a hero would have. Affleck sells that defining mythopoetic Batman torment and vengeance incredibly well. To quote the (in-)famous and prolific Frank Miller:

He is not small, he is not petty, and he is not a whiner: there is not a hint of self-pitying in him. He is smart. He is noble. And most important: he is grand. His passions are grand. Even his woes are: he is not subject to mere depression, but to Wagnerian ruminations and torments.”

Frank Miller

Snyder also showcases his intelligence and adeptness in tid-bits and teases of scenes with him analyzing situations from a scientific perspective. Snyder shows this adequately (though, in my opinion, not enough to satisfy this fan‘s appetite) via the Kryptonite engineering scenes in Batman v Superman, and in smaller moments like his analysis of Barry Allen’s proto-type suit in the little parts that ultimately made into the frankenstein theatrical cut of Justice League. Certainly, enough for a future Batman director to pickup and elaborate on (a lost opportunity, at this juncture). Batfleck‘s more violent/reckless ways mirror stories like A Lonely Place of Dying (by Marv Wolfman) which also happens to be a post-Jason Todd death story where Batman has descended into a self-destructive and self-effacing path with no real end in sight, not unlike the Batman in this movie who has a desecrated Robin costume in the batcave as a morbid reminder of sorts.

The Batman

2. A deconstructed Batman: Affleck’s portrayal is meant to reflect the narrative circumstances he’s placed in – more akin to his state of mind in Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying, as mentioned above. Reckless, brutal, careless and consumed in his self-imposed war to the point of irrationality and clouded judgement. The Bat in the movie has thrown all romanticism out of the window, and sees Superman as merely a future source of trouble – in this attempt at being hyper-rational, he is in turn irrational and romanticizes his own little crusade to the point of a Messianic complex (“This may be the only thing I do that matters“). The Knightmare scene also further reinforces the same, portraying a post-apocalyptic scenario where earth has succumbed to the Anti-Life Equation (see: Darkseid and the Fourth World), with that version of Batman having been captured with three other insurgents – invoking the Biblical penitent thieves imagery.

People see this as vanilla paranoia and irrationality, accusing it to be uncharacteristic of Batman, when it is in fact very much in line with Batman’s canonical modus-operandi, which is to nip a problem in the bud and have contingencies for it otherwise (Grant Morrison and Mark Waid’s JLA: Tower of Babel being perhaps the most iconic example). Despite the character deconstruction and the manslaughter the character finds himself guilty of, at its core, this radical character treatment of the Bat still resonates with and invokes the canon.

3. Non-action and contemplative scenes: The best example for this is the respective heroes’ prelude to the fight. This is beautifully approached, as Snyder shows us the contrast between our heroes. First, with the Superman mountain top scene, where he attempts a self-imposed exile and penance of sorts after failing to stop the Capitol Bombing, and has an interaction with his father in a dream sequence of sorts, reaching the ultimate conclusion that while he can’t save everyone, he can certainly do his part and hold onto the emotional fulcrums that ultimately solidify his humanity. This scene is immediately followed up with Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth in a dilapidated Wayne manor – very much an allegory of Bruce’s state of mind. Yet another conversation is had between the Son and the Father figure, with a more grim conclusion that ending Superman’s existence might be the only valid legacy he leaves behind – in line with the fact that the first generation of Wayne’s traded in pelts and skins – They Were Hunters.

Thus, we see the contrast bare itself to the viewer – the former, who has had the guidance of his father in his pivotal years and thus turned out more balanced, and the latter – who lost his father so early that he has to rely on the dark romanticization of the tales of his paternal family’s legacy as a justification for his misguided hubris. The former is contemplative – but ultimately results in hopefulness and a moral reinforcement, while the other simply solidifies his descent into self consuming darkness.

4. Philosophical, mythic and archetypal allusions: The sheer existential and emotional weight of this movie is life-changing, from a personal perspective, and the life crises and the characters’ individual, distinct hubris that culminates into one epic arc, affecting all the players is profound. The various characters all have something to takeaway from an introspective perspective – call it a Socratean gaze inwards, if you will. A search for self-knowledge, revealing their individual misguidance. Personally speaking, this movie helped me deal with my own mental demons and made me a better, loving human striving for constant self improvement. The Batman in this movie itself is notably a marvelous manifestation of the Nietzchean concept of Will to Power. Additionally, Superman is very much an Arthurian archetype, Batman is Lancelot-esque in the sense that he is initially an anti-hero of sorts that ultimately bands with our primary protagonist, with Lois Lane serving as an analogue for the Lady of the Lake as well as Mary Magdalene in a Biblical context – especially in the third act of the movie. The manner in which Superman and Doomsday (our Mordred, for all intents and purposes) impale each other also mirrors the manner in which Arthur and Mordred’s battle pans out in Excalibur (1981).

5. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor: Welp, burn me at the stake for this, eh? Hear me out. Jesse Eisenberg’s cockiness, the surety, the neurotic gaze, those heavy brows and cheekbones and slimy gate – all emanate this almost exaggerated sense of villainy that was so perfectly in contrast to the hulking, heroic presences of Cavill (Superman) and Affleck (Batman). Eisenberg is the most interesting character in the movie if one sees beyond the quirks but that in itself is the point – I loved the idea that this was someone who had an abusive childhood and yet, due to being from a privileged background concurrently also developed this heightened sense of entitlement and a resentment bubbling under the surface, all too reflective of us millennials. One must also appreciate that this Lex was more of a techy billionaire and had a Silver Age mad-scientist edge to him as opposed to being the strapping, bald businessman type archetype introduced by John Byrne. More on this interesting, quirky Lexophile of a character below, for those interested in an in-depth analysis:

Lex Luthor – An analysis on this Lexophile villain

6. Organic continuity of Man of Steel and a logical shared universe: In a sense BvS was a very natural extension of the events of Man of Steel and to that extent is a bridging gap without the need for tedious solo movies of established character(s). Zack Snyder has mentioned that this Batman essentially had the equivalent of the collective history and experience of the previous Batmen we’ve seen in mainstream media. Shared universes do not need to be in tandem with the need for solo sequels, so a hypothetical Man of Steel 2 followed by a rather mechanical reaction by this universe’s Batman to this existential and literal threat after his own solo movie would seem unnatural and forced. It would be silly for him to react a whole movie later and instead what we get here is something more organic, in my humble opinion.

Batman v Superman: God v Man: Day v (K)night

7. Martha!: Burn me at the stake again! The Martha moment or resolution, if you will, perhaps the most reviled scene in the movie isn’t exactly meant to be a logical, rational conflict resolution at all. That is the whole point of it – a 180 turn for a man (Bruce Wayne) dealing with his own instability, consumed by cynicism a nd paranoia, as well as tragic events defining his life to the point of being hyper-rational: his argument of there being a 1% chance of being their enemy and taking it as an absolute certainty simply further accentuates this. This line of thinking is what defines the politics of fear.

This resonates in some sense with the with the right-wing political sentiment that universally prefers security over civil liberties (which Clark Kent incidentally addresses in the movie with regards to the Bat’s activities in Gotham). This coupled with Bruce’s inherent paranoia and need to form a contingency plan cements the need for a more emotional resolution rather than a logical, rational and dialectical conclusion based on exposition and character interaction.

Luthor’s entire plan ensures the lack of interaction between our two protagonists as more interaction in turn would lead to increasing common ground. Bruce needed this emotional shock to overcome this abyss of negativity he’s been falling into. It is so much more than “Batman deciding Superman is good because his mother’s name is Martha“. It is a man coming to terms with his own demons, his own guilt projected onto this God-like being that he considers an existential threat, the little boy in Crime alley finally coming to terms with the fact that while he can’t save his own mother, he can do right by Supes and save his. Superman instills that maturity in him – he can’t control everything, but he can do his part. It is a purposely dramatized and emotional conflict resolution to be sure, something us millennials are completely out of touch with and thus deem “idiotic”. It isn’t, and was never meant to be logical in its intent.

8. Chris Terrio’s writing: Chris Terrio of Argo fame (and now Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker) approaches the writing with a highly stylized, thespian quality, that really elevates the exchanges between characters to a mythic level. A welcome change amidst the vanilla, casual conversational littered with quippy one-liners and sarcastic dialogue. The dry humor, from characters like Alfred Pennyworth, is instead the what the film largely adopts for levity.

An Ideal to strive towards – Ushering in a new era of Heroes

9. Superman: This is perhaps more of a Man of Steel and BvS collective praise – the otherworldly, alien nature of Kryptonian society and technology was definitely one of the standout aspects, as well as the allusions to sustainability and self-destruction. This, combined with the compelling emotional journey and struggle of the Clark Kent character in itself humanized Superman a bit more beyond the caricatured, simplistic dichotomy of the the clumsy Clark Kent and the ubermensch, everyman Superman of Christopher Reeve.

Perhaps this opinion varies based on country and cultural background, and it is mostly North Americans who, if anybody, strongly dislike this interpretation of Superman since it deviates from the Silver and Golden Age version of the character, with his limitless powers and jingoistic undertones. Man of Steel and BvS‘s Superman on the other hand goes far beyond the American archetype of truth, justice and the American way and resonates on a level that transcends these American ideals and tropes, making him a world hero, not merely an American icon. Sure, in some senses Supes’ characterization in BvS is a step backwards in comparison to MoS, but third world folks like yours truly appreciate that Snyder injected the modicum of gravitas needed to appreciate the layered nature of a character like Superman/Kal-El and did away with the subtle flag-waving tropes associated with him historically. Instead, he chose to tell a (not-so-)classic Immigrant Tale.

10. Visuals/Cinematography: The sets, costumes, cinematography, action scenes – really not much to be said in this regard that hasn’t already been said – even among detractors and aficionados alike. This video says enough on my part – the references and parallels to the literature and art of yore is aplenty.

In conclusion, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice only continues to gain relevance and significance in the face of a largely homogenized Disney-driven film-making monoculture, where anything left-field is immediately reviled, lest it be devoid of the passive-aggressive irony and non-self serious standard forged by the said empire’s media properties. Characters are vehicles for often meaningless levity rather than conveying distinct archetypes – forming a greater mythic tapestry. This movie was too auteurist for its own good, and few films come close to the way it balances emotional poignancy, fantastical drama, political commentary and bombastic superhero action. Praise and hail!

All featured art by the author (Achintya Venkatesh).

Instagram: @achintya.venkatesh; Facebook: @achintyavenkateshillustration