Infinity Crusade #2
Issue(s): Infinity Crusade #2
Later, when one of her follows asks if she's worried that Eternity or the Living Tribunal might interfere with her, the Goddess similarly responds that she serves the "supreme will". Honestly despite having read this series a couple of times, i've never really fully grasped what the Goddess' larger motivations are or given much thought to who she's meant to be working for.
This is the issue where we learn that the Goddess is blanketing the Earth with a transmission that is "affecting all the criminal minds on Earth" (we did see some regular Earth citizens getting happy last issue, but it's here that we learn that she's suppressing crime). I'm reacting badly to the phrase "criminal minds" but i'll push that aside. The bigger issue is that the way this idea or plot thread or whatever you want to call it is handled is really the biggest letdown of the series. This should have been the central idea. But instead it's barely visible in the story. I mean just imagine really exploring the idea that the Goddess has eliminated crime and, we'll learn, war. You could have little vignettes about, for example, someone that walked to school every day in fear in a crime-ridden neighborhood, and how suddenly they're able to walk without fear, and now all this stress is relieved and they can concentrate better at school, etc.. And a story about a war-torn village somewhere, and how now they can start rebuilding and living in peace. In the actual issue, Mr. Fantastic immediately dismisses the effect as being part of the Goddess' "hidden agenda", but why jump to that right away? Let the heroes see the effects and start to wonder if maybe giving up a little free will in return for peace might be worth it. In the actual story, the Goddess' "hidden agenda" involves wiping away the whole universe, but maybe instead the dark side of her offer is that she keeps chipping away at people's free will. First it's crime, but people are still nasty to each other so she subdues their personalities, and there's still inequality and so she forces everyone to be more charitable, etc.., and the heroes have to decide where on this slippery slope they draw the line. And think of the pathos when the heroes do overthrow the Goddess and the lives of these ordinary people turn to tragedy again.
Overall the plot outline could be much the same as it is, but instead of having the heroes standing around scratching their asses for issues on end, we could be exploring these issues, and the tie-ins could explore them in even more depth. And then there's the villains. Aside from a near throwaway scene next issue with the Absorbing Man, there's nothing in this story about how the villains are affected by the Goddess' change. I'd love to see what the Absorbing Man actually does now that he's not going to commit crimes (ok, in the comic he allows himself to be arrested, but say that it's assumed that the Goddess' effect will last forever, in which case there's no reason to imprison anyone). Presumably the Absorbing Man makes a living by robbing banks and the like. What does he do now? There's no crime, so there's no point in him becoming a hero. Maybe he finds a way to use his powers to get a legitimate job. Does he find that he likes it? Hates it? Maybe Boomerang becomes a professional baseball pitcher again. Maybe there are some villains that can't find anything productive to do. Do they just live in misery? What happens to the villains that decide they like their new lives after the heroes finally oust the Goddess? There's a lot of character driven stories to be told here.
I also think it could have helped make the Goddess more distinct. As i noted above, i don't really get the Goddess' motivation. She's basically exactly the same as the Magus when it comes down to it. And i guess that's Starlin's point, but it doesn't feel like a very meaningful one.
To be clear, i'm not trying to be creative here, or write fan fiction. This just seems like the logical way that this set-up would play out. The fact that we don't get anything like this just seems like a sign that something went horribly wrong. Like Starlin started to go in this direction and then said, no no, i'd better follow the format of the last two to the T.
Anway, as for what actually happens in this issue...
Pip, with Drax and Maxam, returns Mr. Fantastic to the heroes that have gathered to try to figure out the disappearance of their friends. Upon seeing Maxam, Rage exclaims, "they've got a brother with them!". Then the Thing jumps to the wrong conclusion, thinking that Pip and company are the bad guys of this story, and soon things devolve into a chaotic fight until Mr. Fantastic breaks it up.
When things settle down, Mr. Fantastic tells them about his discovery of the Goddess.
Meanwhile, the Goddess tells her recruits that they can help her spread her peace and tranquility through all the universe (and not just Earth and the nearby systems) by tapping into universal will. She reveals that she's turned thirty cosmic containment units into a Cosmic Egg (which reminds me of when Thanos combined the Infinity Gems into a single large one in Avengers annual #7).
Later, Aurora reverts to her Jean Marie personality. Since that personality is very religious, she tries to go to the Goddess. The heroes initially try to stop her, but then decide that they'll let her go and follow her.
Since the subject of being religious comes up, the Human Torch says that he was raised the same as his sister, and even says that he's always felt that his beliefs were as deep as her's, and now he's doubting his faith. This triggers the Thing to talk about when his aunt died and he raged at God about it.
Note the cross on the aunt's gravestone, since the Thing will eventually turn out to be Jewish (not that one precludes the other).
The Thing concludes that his eight year old tirade against God is probably why he wasn't chosen. I think it's interesting that Mr. Fantastic is dismissing the Goddess' benevolence out of hand while the Human Torch and the Thing both seem to think that they're deficient in some way for not getting mesmerized by the Goddess. Another thread that might have been explored better.
Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, and the Vision go with Aurora on the Quinjet, and she takes them to Paradise Omega on the far side of the sun. Silver Surfer and Firelord are acting as sentries in space, but they let the Quinjet pass. Paradise Omega is actually a technological terror.
Mr. Fantastic and company are met by the Goddess and her brainwashed heroes. Starlin doesn't give us any kind of interaction between Reed and Sue. There's just a dry exchange of threats between the Goddess and Mr. Fantastic, with Mr. Fantastic saying that his instruments detect evidence of brainwashing, and then the heroes are sent back into space with their Quinjet (sans Aurora). Instead of going home they go to visit the Watcher. Note that there's no evidence of the Kree city and that Iron Man seems completely in the dark about all of this.
The Goddess later decides that she needs to withdraw to fulfill the Supreme One's master plan. She leaves Moondragon in charge.
Honestly this is all very mechanical. There are some fun bits when Pip and Drax show up, but for the most part it's all very dry. The Goddess' recruits are obviously brainwashed, and Mr. Fantastic goes around poo-pooing the idea that the Goddess is benevolent (and there's no counterargument made; Reed is just right), so there's no mystery or build up to any of this. You might think the identity of the Supreme One is a mystery, but it's not like that is going to turn out to be someone cool like the Exitar or something.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Just for my own quick reference, here are the official tie-ins for this issue, but this doesn't necessarily help with placement.
Nomad joins the non-brainwashed heroes in this issue.
Crossover: Infinity Crusade
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (7): show
So... who will the Supreme One turn out to be?
Posted by: Piotr W | December 1, 2016 3:45 PM
I don't think it's ever explicitly stated, but it's repeatedly implied that the Supreme One, the One Above All, the Living Tribunal's boss, is God. The Goddess thinks she's doing the Supreme One's will, but it's never confirmed, and I think the point of that Martin Luther quote is that those who claim to be serving God are often actually serving the Devil, or perhaps just themselves.
Posted by: Andrew | December 1, 2016 4:46 PM
@Fnord, those two guys behind Nomad aren't his buddies--I think they are part of the Avengers Mansion security staff (this is back during the days that the Mansion had a staff besides just Jarvis). I don't know if they were intended to actually be established characters or not (one of them *could* be Security Chief Michael O'Brien with miscoloured hair...) or just nameless security guards.
Posted by: Dermie | December 1, 2016 5:58 PM
I agree with Andrew that the Goddess (Warlock's collectivist/equality side) simply wants what ideologues crave: Control of the masses (us).
Yes, her motivation is no different from the Magus. Magus tries to use force. Goddess uses brainwashing. Both are dictators.
Magus as an evil is easier to see and fight. Goddess is a lot tougher because she appeals to "equality" and the "greater good" by sacrificing an individual's free will. This fight is happening in the Western World today. Equality vs Free Will.
Unfortunately I have to agree that Starlin was unable to do this story much justice and the best part of the whole series is the last interaction between Thanos and Mephisto.
Posted by: Grom | December 1, 2016 8:10 PM
I think the Goddess wants to purge the universe of sin by purging it of sinners, i.e., everyone. Warlock Chronicles #5 tries to give insight into her mindset, showing that like pretty much all aspects/incarnations of Adam Warlock, she has severe mental issues that led her to that conclusion. Mind you, that issue has a severe retcon about Warlock that as far as I know has never been explained and just quietly ignored.
Posted by: Thanos6 | December 1, 2016 8:34 PM
It never made sense to me that the Goddess was Warlock's "good" side. The Magus is a genocidal religious fanatic... and so is the Goddess. The only difference is that the Magus is a hypocrite and the Goddess is sincere. Starlin's rationalization was that the Goddess wanted to destroy life since it was the source of all evil. But that's not how humans comprehend good. We wouldn't consider it "good" to eliminate poverty by killing all poor people. If Warlock's "good" and evil sides were equally cruel, then why wasn't Warlock a sociopath?
Posted by: Michael | December 1, 2016 9:02 PM
Starlin was probably playing on what he thinks some readers might think "good" is.
Humans have always been struggling with what is good. "Good" concepts of equality for everyone as opposed to individualism have been debated forever. Comparing this series to Civil War can produce some interesting insights to character ideologies.
Compare Iron Man, Mr Fantastic and Beast here to their positions in Civil War. They are happy to support the government or Superhuman Registration Act as their "Goddess" in Civil War. Their faith resides in government and are happy to be subordinate to it and sacrifice individual rights. One can argue that they would be more open to the Goddess's brainwashing.
Cap remained consistent and is an agent of free will and individualism. Daredevil and Sue Richards too are interesting as they are brainwashed by the Goddess to believe what they are doing is for the "greater good" but not so in Civil War. I would have thought they would have been in the pro-registration camp in line with their submission to the Goddess.
Posted by: Grom | December 1, 2016 10:30 PM
I think Starlin realized the problem with the Goddess's concept of "eliminate evil by killing everyone," hence his explanation in Chronicles #5 that her mind has been warped.
Posted by: Thanos6 | December 1, 2016 10:32 PM
Am I the only one seeing parallels with "Secret Wars II" #3? Or even "Emperor Doom"? All this potential about a world where (for all intents and purposes) bad guys stop doing bad things. You could get a 500-page graphic novel out of the Absorbing Man or Magneto or Namor, the Kingpin or Captain America living under the Beyonder or Emperor Doom. This just sucks out all the potential of these characters for the sake of spectacle.
Posted by: ChrisW | December 2, 2016 1:03 AM
Funny you mention that. I write original superhero prose, and one of the big storyarcs I have planned involves a guy who basically ends up with Beyonder-level power and takes over the world. He's a benevolent dictator, but naturally there are still massive, massive changes under his rule, and I plan to devote quite a few "issues" to exploring what it's like. And even when he does eventually leave, things don't just revert to how they used to be; the status quo is permanently and irrevocably changed.
Posted by: Thanos6 | December 2, 2016 3:28 AM
Been meaning to post my thoughts on the Magnus. I never thought he was supposed to be a hypocrite exactly, well I mean I tried to look at him in the big picture. Thanos was death and we saw him eventually actually kill half the life in the universe. The Magnus was supposed to be life and wasn't he uniting galaxies to try to fight against Thanos? His method was brutal and cruel. Sure Warlock teamed up with Thanos but basically knowing you were going to be a dictator in the future kind of makes it understandable he'd team up with the then-lesser of two evils. I always took it on just two extremes/you can become corrupt yourself trying to stop something.
Anyway I don't really see that nuance here.
Posted by: davidbanes | December 2, 2016 4:12 AM
Nomad's "two buddies" are Avengers Crew... presumably just guiding him to where the heroes are meeting... I don't know if they're meant to be anyone in particular. Their hair colours don't match the obvious candidates (o'Brien, etc.) but then again their jumpsuits are the wrong colours too.
Posted by: AF | December 2, 2016 4:13 AM
@david- but Magus considered himself beyond good and evil and had a cynical view of religions even while leading a religion. And the version in Infinity War didn't even have Thanos as an excuse for his crimes.
Posted by: Michael | December 2, 2016 8:16 AM
Thanks Dermie & AF regarding the Avengers crew. Made me realize that in Avengers West Coast #96 Spider-Woman is sent to "Four Freedoms Plaza" to be a representative, but the heroes are really gathering at Avengers Mansion.
@Grom, i may be misunderstanding you but Captain America is with the Goddess.
Posted by: fnord12 | December 2, 2016 10:41 AM
Starlin's thing here seems less like "individualism vs. collectivism" and more like "existentialism vs. received, institutional values." After all, the whole plot point of this and Infinity War is that Adam Warlock only truly becomes "free" and capable of wielding great power by casting out both his "good" and "evil" sides and then *defeat them entirely*, leaving behind a being who can create meaning through his choices.
The Magus started out as a version of Warlock who was devoted to "championing life" by imposing a purpose on it -- the worship of himself and his Universal Church -- and Warlock defeated him by literally picking a different path in life, even if it meant his own death. In the 90s stories, the Magus is more like the desire to dominate others by sheer force of will. The Goddess, in turn, represents the idea that one's sense of virtue should be the rule for all living things. Her big rant in the final issue is about how the need to take everything into the "heavenly embrace" means that "all vile life [must] cease." She is a creature of supposedly "divine purpose" much as the Magus, int he older 1970s stories, was.
It's worth remembering his description, in Avengers Annual #7, of the paradisical world inside the soul gem: "We're all here, together...truly together. For our hearts are open books, and this atmosphere breeds understanding rather than ego. Here, we are all one and in this oneness there can only be...love."
Posted by: Omar Karindu | December 3, 2016 8:29 AM
In contrast, it's Thanos who, in the final pages of the miniseries, will repeatedly insist that he will win because he "will never depend on any but himself." His self-serviving individualism is explicitly contrasted with Warlock's self-imposed sense of honor, the negative image of Warlock's "cool intellect" (to use the Goddess's phrase from issue #6).
But it's still more about existentialism vs. something else: Warlock desires to create a sense of purpose and values for himself and live by them. Thanos worships death, tranquility, and non-purpose. Basically, it's the choice between making meaning and morality in the face of a meaningless, amoral universe, or succumbing either to the need to dominate in the name of something artificial (Magus, Goddess) or to nihilistic despair and the desire to extinguish the very fiction of meaning (Thanos).
So Starlin ends up rejecting traditional belief structures, but he also isn't a big fan of self-interestedness. Frankly, he seems to treat pure self-interest as something that invariably *becomes* the drive to dominate -- or eliminate -- others.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | December 3, 2016 8:35 AM
@fnord12 But doesn't Cap "red pill"?
Posted by: Grom | December 4, 2016 7:23 PM
@Omar I admit that I restricted my view to just Infinity Crusade rather than all of Starlin's work up to that point. I think we are both right :) Starlin has the overarching themes through his entire work you say as well as focusing on specific themes in a set series such as Infinity Crusade.
I tend to disagree that Thanos is nihilistic in Infinity wars, Crusade, Abyss and Epiphany. He works with the heroes for the sake of the universe.
Posted by: Grom | December 4, 2016 7:33 PM
The Goddess says "I did gather 30 cosmic containment units from a dozen different realities!"
Now, she, Warlock and the Magus are all aspects of the same being, so this is sort of true in a misleading way, but let's face it, she's lying here and she stole them from the Magus. So the Goddess isn't absolute good as it's generally understood and perhaps more what Warlock considers good, which could be very different. You can throw in giant battle stations and eroding free will on top of that, but I just thought I'd highlight her dishonesty. In any case Warlock has issues.
Posted by: Benway | December 8, 2016 1:53 PM
@Benway: The Magus had only 5 cosmic containment units before the Goddess stole them near the end of Infinity War.
Posted by: D09 | December 8, 2016 2:16 PM
Thanks for setting me straight. The Magus, what a lightweight!
Posted by: Benway | December 8, 2016 2:41 PM
Just pointing out something here: it's in this issue that the gathered heroes learn that it was Pip who stole a Quintjet and the Fantasticar in the early issues of Warlock and the Infinity Watch (though Pip tries to deny it by claiming he has an evil twin brother who has the same fingerprints as himself).
Posted by: D09 | March 3, 2017 10:22 PM
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