Sunday, February 12, 2017

Superhero Media: Captain America - The Chosen

The Chosen is one in a semi-official series of limited series in which iconic Marvel characters face their final challenge; a theoretical "final adventure". Many of these are subtitled "The End", though several, including The Chosen, morphed into stories that were more than a hypothetical bookend for the character. Some of these stories are truly great, like Old Man Logan, and some, like The Chosen are a little odd or lacking in some way. When I eventually get around to Captain America: The New Deal, I'll probably have a long-winded discussion on Cap's relationship with the 9/11 terror attacks and how the character was changed dramatically over the decade following the attacks. For now, understand that The Chosen exists in a "post-9/11" creative space and Cap is, himself, symbolic of America's greatest achievements; being a veteran of WWII, having survived the Great Depression and being a member of the armed forces. 

In The Chosen, the narrative follows Jimmy, a soldier in Afghanistan fighting the War on Terror, his struggle to stay alive for his wife and child, to protect the men around him and to battle the fear that constantly grips him. Jimmy begins to undertake acts of great heroism as he sees Captain America fighting alongside him and is forced to demand more and more of himself as his unit becomes trapped in a cave. This sacrifice culminates with a superhuman effort against fear and pain, guided by Cap, who himself lays dying, astral-projecting with his new psychic powers to find a "replacement". Both Cap and Jimmy put such inhuman demands on themselves, one would expect that Mel Gibson were directing the action; pain, sacrifice and patriotism are presented, not as ideals, but as functions of the American in service of their country. This may have resonated well with an American audience, but for an outsider like myself, it's jarring and does not connect with my experience.

Much like Fantastic Four: The End, The Chosen isn't a bad story, it simply suffers when not being read by the, very specific, audience for which it is intended. The fetishistic portrayal of patriotic sacrifice is typically found in extreme examples of government, Nazi German, Stalinist Russian and American cinema are all rife with examples of this kind of artistic expression, but here in Australia, Gallipoli and Beneath Hill 60 are about the closest we get, though they fall short of glorifying war to the extent that the horror is almost wholly mitigated. I like Captain America, when the character is written as a human being who struggles with the huge burden he carries and the grief that has built on him over decades. What I do not enjoy is Cap written as the personification of the American ideal, as is presented here; not a bad comic by any measure, just not for me. 

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