Capitalism: The Best Superpower Of All.
Growing up, there were many things I deemed unconditional truths. Friends are forever. American cheese tastes good. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are the best characters in history. Being a grownup is awesome. And many, many more that, given some time and space, challenged themselves from matter-of-facts to “well, maybe”s or downright lies I’m ashamed to admit I ever believed.
However, no matter how much I relied on the “going out of my way to talk about these important issues with other baby-class human beings as myself” method in order to test the consistency of my truths, there was one that seemed to avoid the tag of “relative”. There was one that every single child of every single recess-space of that era held as utterly universal. We came to this conclusion by our own individual accords. And we only needed our own two eyes and the power of our still-in-development brains to figure it out. We had nary a doubt.
Aquaman is a joke.
Can You Legitimize A Joke?
We all saw The Superfriends – more often than not because our options boiled down to either a cheaply made cartoon from the 60’s or doing homework. We all saw him mounting humongous monstrosities that looked like human-sized pink seahorse under the sea when aliens attacked Earth. No one had the gall to see him as anything other than a laughingstock. It was a fact that would forever be etched on our memories. Even Cartoon Network, the channel that made actual money by broadcasting adventures featuring Aquaman, spent time and effort creating a myriad of video gags reminding us how useless he was.
It got so out of hand that some three decades later DC had to fund an entire cinematic universe of questionably-made films auteured by some of the people with less artistic-integrity this side of Neil Breen in order to make us believe Aquaman could, in fact, be taken seriously. And it made money. Boatloads of it – see what I did there? But, as of today, I haven’t met a single human being that could say something other than “yeah, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be” when discussing their feelings about it. This was not the stereotype-shattering fare Warner Brothers needed to in order to validate this superhero’s existence in the eyes of the public.
I, personally, made a point to avoid this film like the plague. First and foremost, because it was freaking Aquaman. I, a non-DC reader, have never found anything interesting on this guy’s lack of ethos or pathos outside of the printed pages internet forums keep telling me are really good. It was also linked to Zack Snyder, a man whose oeuvre I cannot stand to even remember exists without violently shaking from the very inside of my soul and losing a few neurons as a result.
In other words, I could not care less about the character by that point in time. It was too little too late. The Aquaman And Friends Action Hour had been ingrained in my mind for years now. Nevertheless, even if I garnered but a speck of interest in the story of a man that has to choose between being the king of Earth’s vastest kingdom and saving miserable landlubbers because reasons, I would have still skipped this movie for one big reason:
I am tired of superhero stories. I am so very, very tired.
Consulting From A Sea Of Sameness…
Movies. Music. Video games. TV. Comics – obviously. Everything has been consumed by superheroes. You cannot escape them. You are either for superheroes or, basically, a cultural outcast. You have to have a favorite one. No longer will society care what’s the name of your favorite dinosaur, but real adults doing real adult things will fight and bicker over who is the best version of *most popular superhero at the time that you are reading this*.
We live in a time where people, unironically, will answer with Avengers: Endgame when asked what their favorite movie is. We keep throwing money their way as soon as we are promised their name and likeness. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 for the Nintendo Switch was the 4th best-selling title for the console for two entire months – and while not a bad game, that is an above-average adventure at best. But it says “Marvel” on the title, so we need to give them our hard-earned digital credits. They deserve it.
Let me be clear: I do not hat superheroes. I enjoy them, I do. But as much as I like pizza, I would never dare myself to have pizza for every breakfast and dinner, while gulping it down with pizza milkshakes and finishing everything with pizza mousse sprinkled with pizza-flavored cherries. I need varied options. I need to have people without superpowers in the spotlight once again. “A normal world ran by normal people”.
Quality-wise, superheroes are in a rut. They’re on life support – a very expensive life support that we fund out of our good hearts. Three marvel movies a year? Plus original TV shows to catch up with in order to get like three jokes in the new Doctor Strange movie? Yeah. Definitely worth it. And it’s our own fault. We are being drowned by superheroes and, therefore, we rationalize that if so many people love their fare, it must be good. It must be, right?
This is the point of the text where I remind you that The Phantom Menace was once one of the ten highest-grossing films of all time.
But it’s a never-ending Moebius strip. Many a person who now has the power to decide what we like and when grew up reading the adventures and misadventures of *insert-any-given-noun-or-adjective-here*-Man or Woman. They love what those characters represent – “capitalism”, basically. They essentially owe their lives to these doodled characters whose life moves at a 24-pages a month pace. They will not let them die. They will reinvigorate them. Breathe them new life.
Just let us have a rest, people. Please!
Oh, I’m real. Real enough to defeat *you*!
And, despite the supposed edginess and innovation of every young author out there that believes they can reinvigorate the superhero genre with their genius idea, they all follow the exact same formula. Expectations might be subverted here and there, but it’s always the same. Someone is an exaggeratedly good person or an exaggeratedly evil person. Conflict arises.
In all of the variations of the Hercules mythos updated for modern sensibilities, humankind will always end up being sandwiched in the middle of a battle of powers or egos or genetic supremacy or geographic lines or politics or whatever other hashtag is trending at the moment. The fight will take place outside of the JC Penny these supers just destroyed, then the world will inevitably explode, followed by a convoluted plan to bring the planet back from the death, so that it can be exploded once again in less than a year. Rinse and repeat. Always the same.
But what if there was a chance to get rid of superheroes once and for all? What if someone whose brain is chockfull of every superhero trope out there could use this internet-based knowhow to destroy all of them? And what if the reason World War III begins is because Aquaman actually does what his job descriptions ask him to do?
Welcome to volume 2 of The Consultant. One of the best comic books I’ve read in ages, despite not liking how the art style, sometimes, makes male faces look eerily similar and forces me to re-read the last five pages because “wasn’t that guy on the other side of the world? Oh, right, it’s the other white guy that looks like this white guy. My bad.”
This volume is focused entirely on eradicating superheroes from the world in order to have normal people take center stage once again. Ergo, I couldn’t help but fork out an imaginary wad of money onto the creator’s faces. I didn’t because 1) I read from a review copy and 2) I am not presently in the same geographic location as the authors. But, let it be known that, if it weren’t for the fact that capitalism has ruined the value of money, I would have loved to use my own cash to enact the scene I just described.
Action Lab’s The Consultant Vol. 2 is all about glorifying the dastardly deeds of a very evil man that wants to kill all superheroes in his universe; eradicate the virus they represent. It’s basically The Incredibles’s Syndrome but with blood and gore – and a less sympathetic villain. And, for once, thanks to the cultural landscape offered to us in 2019, I can’t help but root for the man that would rather have half of Paris destroyed before seeing another cape crusader flying through the skies of Wisconsin.
Now that’s a mood I never thought I’d have.
And I’ll do it without your precious gifts, your oh-so-special powers.
This TBP collects four issues of The Consultant, inside which you will find dozens of witty dialogue you will want to quote in daily life situation but will never find a way to cram into real world conversations, a handful of cringe-worthy lines that I am sure the writer felt oh so proud of, unnecessary cultural references that will date the piece in six months or less, someone murdering Matt Damon in cold blood, a villain with Gambit-esque powers that looks oddly identical to Brian May during his peak, a couple of plot contrivances, some PG-13 sex scenes, and an Aquaman stand-in with internet Batman’s personality that is literally called Shark.
It’s trashy. But it’s the good kind of trashy.
And, while that’s all well and good, nothing, and I mean, nothing will ever come close to the feeling of knowing that, at least in some distant and made up universe that looks almost like ours, there is a chance they will finally get rid of superheroes. Casualties shmasualties.
IT’S ALL FOR THE GREATER GOOD! (the greater good)
One can only dream.
How did we rate The Consultant: Quid Pro Quo?
And you’ll smile until one big realization comes to mind. If superheroes potentially die… the world will now be drowned in “tribute pieces” to the fallen heroes. And that would be rubbish.
Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Born (unwittingly) on the same day that the original Back To The Future takes place, Taylor has always been marked by storytelling tropes and popular culture. Wether the relationship is one-sided or not is up for debate.