Wonder Woman Crosses the Fascistic Line

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I know “Kingdom Come” is quite old (published in 1996 by DC comics), but I admit that I haven’t read it until recently.  A friend of mine lent me the trade paperback and the first thing that caught my eye was the amazing artwork by Alex Ross.  As you can probably tell from the image above, the entire comic book is painted in gouache, so the word “amazing” doesn’t do his work justice; it’s a masterpiece!

“Kingdom Come” takes place in DC’s Elseworlds where new superheroes of the future known as metahumans have replaced the old superheroes (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.).  These rogue metahumans show no regard for human life, however, and one of them ends up splitting Captain Atom in half, causing his nuclear energies to release and kill millions of people.  The entire world is thrown into alarm and we learn through the narrator of the book, Norman McCay, that Armageddon is approaching.  In such desperate moments, Wonder Woman finds an exiled and bearded Superman who shows no interest in helping the humans again.  Eventually, Wonder Woman convinces Superman that the world desperately needs a leader who will reestablish truth and justice.

Overall, I’m relatively pleased with Alex Ross’ visual depictions of Wonder Woman.  She’s not drawn out of proportion and isn’t showing off sexy poses as if she’s in a men’s magazine.  There were only one or two unnecessary images where her skirt gets lifted to show her underwear, but it’s not as explicit and noticeable.  I really got the sense that the writer and artist wanted readers to focus more on her character rather than how she looked, and while we can appreciate that, her character’s personality and role in this particular book really bothered me.

What ticked me off was how Superman would constantly hover over her as if she was a reckless child who needed parental guardianship.  He learns that Wonder Woman was exiled from “Paradise Island” (a matriarchal society), because the Amazons believed she failed in her mission to bring peace to the outside world (i.e. the “man’s world”).  Aside from fighting for truth and justice, Wonder Woman struggles with an internal conflict because she is now forced to live in a world that is not even her own.  Let us be reminded that Superman, or Kal-El (his Kryptonian name), is also an outsider, but Earth (i.e. the “man’s world”) never cast him out; instead Superman abandoned his life as a superhero and went into exile.  Wonder Woman, on the other hand, is disposed of by her own people, the Amazons:  women.  She was forced into exile.  It seems that the matriarchal society is harsher than patriarchy.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the book is how Wonder Woman becomes a fascist.  Superman tries to appeal to the metahumans and encourages them to behave as real heroes instead of heartless monsters, but only a few of them join him.  Unsure about how to deal with these rogue metahumans, Superman turns to Wonder Woman who suggests imprisoning those who don’t join!  Superman says to Diana (Wonder Woman), “I’m not used to forcing others to follow my lead.  Now I’m supposed to jail those who won’t?  To act as judge and jury against our own kind?  That’s a fascistic line, Diana!”  Wonder Woman responds, “Then get ready to cross it.  We are at war, Kal… And we will take prisoners.  We will have to.  They’re not our kind.  We’re protectors of humanity.  They are barely human.”  Superman continues to express his concern for her, saying things like,  “you’ve changed” or “this is not the real you speaking,” and yet remarkably, Superman is the same and stable character that we all know him as.  It’s as if the deaths of Lois Lane, Jimmy Olson, and Perry White (murdered by the Joker) didn’t throw his personality off balance.  As mentioned before, he went into self-exile and all it took was Wonder Woman to mend him back into action.  But the same does not apply to Wonder Woman, who is so extremely afflicted by her forced exile that she behaves in contradiction to the moral compass that her character represents.

What starts off as imprisonment turns into Wonder Woman’s call for justice “by any means necessary.”  When she is warrior-clad with her hair tied back, Superman comments like an over-possessive boyfriend, “yet another side of you that I’m not comfortable with.”  She snaps back, “Get used to this one.”  Wonder Woman shows her sword to Superman, who asks if she expects to use it.  “I expect to be a soldier” she says with a stern and deadly look on her face.  When Wonder Woman becomes no better than the rogue metahumans who show no regard for life, Superman shouts, “Why do you undermine my authority!”  Wonder Woman shouts back, “We’re going to confront the prisoners and give them an ultimatum.  They must surrender,” and if they refuse, “then it’s war!”

It’s important to point out that Wonder Woman is the only female protagonist in the book (there are other female characters that we see, but they hardly have any speaking parts), and she’s also the only character of DC’s three iconic heroes (the others being Superman and Batman) who turns reckless and ends up killing a metahuman character named Von Bach.  Yes, Batman doesn’t join Superman earlier in the book and actually teams up with Lex Luthor instead, but he later  undermines Luthor’s plot in mind-controlling Captain Marvel.  In other words, Batman  eventually joins Superman for the climatic battle (it was pretty predictable).  But these three characters — Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman — have always epitomized moral judgment and the ethical principles of truth and justice.  To see one of them detract from what a traditional superhero stands for may be interesting to some, but when it’s a character like Wonder Woman who hardly suffers as much as Superman did in this particular storyline, it just doesn’t make any sense.  After she kills Von Bach, Batman tries to talk some sense into her and says she won’t earn her royal position back by killing.  Wonder Woman shoots Batman a death glare and flies into a rage, shouting “You aristocratic bastard!  How dare you condemn me!”

As the both of them do battle in the sky, Batman (on his flight-enhanced suit)  remains on the defensive and tries to reason with Wonder Woman (sort of like how Luke Skywalker tries to reason with Darth Vader at the end of “Return of the Jedi”).  Wonder Woman finally returns to her senses when she sees stealth bombers perparing to drop nukes on the superheros and metahumans.  While this is happening, Superman brings the brain-washed Captain Marvel back to his senses so that he can stop the nuclear bomb.  Notice how Captain Marvel is violent because of mind-control, while Wonder Woman is full of rage because of her personal struggles and ego.  It’s as if the male superheroes can’t lose themselves in face of their own challenges.

At the end of the book, Wonder Woman goes back to normal and enjoys a nice lunch with Superman and Batman.  We also learn that she ends up pregnant with Superman’s baby, but the focus rests on Superman and Batman who have a nice embrace of friendship, as if they were violently fighting each other throughout the book.  If anything, the real moment of forgiveness should have been between Wonder Woman and Superman and Batman.  I don’t like either ending, to be honest, because they reduce Wonder Woman to an inferior.  She was unable to keep her head on straight amidst the turbulent and changing times, while her male counterparts held their composure.  The fact that the ending hardly focused on Wonder Woman, aside from her being pregnant,  shows how much of an insignificant character she was.  If anything, she was an obstacle to Superman and Batman.  It wasn’t Superman or Batman who wound up killing, it was Wonder Woman who did.  She turned to the “dark side” and made the situation worse.

As I closed the book, I reflected on how I would have enjoyed it more if Wonder Woman was portrayed better.  Then I thought about how many comic book readers may overlook the sexism and praise it for being an amazing story with beautiful artwork.  Beautiful artwork, indeed, but an amazing story?  I think male readers are more privileged to say that.

~Broken Mystic~

Why Are You Silent?

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It is in this direction you refuse to look
As if doing so would alter your faith in “hope” and “change”
As if standing up for the oppressed is something as simple as “choosing sides”
As if speaking up for the murdered would threaten your “political outlook”

It is here, amidst these ruins of dead children
You dare to even shed a tear
As if mourning for Arab blood were forbidden
As if flags could dictate what hearts should feel

It is here, where blood is on the inside and outside
You sit at your desks and dinner tables
Arguing and debating like a bunch of fools and cowards
Over the meaning of “genocide.”

It is here, where Palestine is crying and bleeding
She asks: What have my children done to you
To cause this reclusive silence?
How much louder do they need to keep screaming?

What did they do to you to make you shut your mouth?!
What did they do to you to make you close your eyes?!
What did they do to you to make you cover your ears?!
What did they do to you to make you ignore their desperate cries?!

What did they do to you to make you get so offended
When all someone did was beg you to speak for them?!
What did they do to you to make you so blind
From realizing this atrocity needs to be condemned?!

Yes, with all this blood and death
I see you look the other way
With all this murder and madness
I see you turn and walk away

Not your concern, not your child
Carry on with your everyday life
Someone else’s problem, someone else’s job
Not your war, not your strife

Yes, with all this terror, all this wailing
All you can say is “I’m not educated enough”
Or “I don’t know the history”
As if that had anything to do with human empathy

Yes, with all this bloodshed and slaughter
You remain oblivious to how many lives it took
With all this horror and mayhem
It is in this direction you refuse to look

~Broken Mystic~

Sky Garden

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SEEKER LOOKED out her window
Only to see the world crumbling around her
Watching those luminous colors drain to monochrome
And those joy-filled smiles fade into the shadows

Tears rolling down your heavenly-crafted faces
As sweet memories are torn away
Like history altered by a tainted pen
We cannot hear the music begging for that old kingdom to stay

Rage and madness pounding in your head
Screaming so loud that the earth shatters
And yet drowned out by the hate-bombs falling
Only apathy blackens the heart when it sees blood splatter

O’ Palestine, we hear you
You are not alone
O’ Palestine, we mourn with you
With your Soul’s endless cry for home

Seeker shut her windows and wept
Feeling so weak and powerless; forgetting how to smile
A mystic in black robes knocks at the door
He says, “Friend, retreat from the world for a while.”

Know that God does not burden you beyond your means
Travel — Deep within yourself where secrets await
Discover — You are a Flower plucked out from His Garden
Be — The Gift that you are in this world, sent from the Unseen

She shook her head in doubt and uncertainty
She looked at the children she gave refuge to
Sitting in her house; helpless and hungry
“I’m not doing enough” she says

The mystic replies, “Darkness has overwhelmed you”
“And blinded you from seeing all the Love that you share”
“The helpless need you to be strong for them”
“They cannot see you fall into the abyss of despair”

Come to where the Romantics gather
Where the Lovers leap off the highest mountain
And spread their multi-colored wings
To journey into their Elysium sky

Come to where magic is Real
Where children run through the fields
And paint Om Shanti in the clouds
Where beautiful stallions emerge from the Sun
And ride us all to His Jerusalem

Come to where Beauty is heard
Where you can hear recitation of the Qur’an
The Psalms of the Torah, the chant of Christian monks
Spiritual voices from every nation of the world

Come to where revolution marches onward
Never lose hope, even in the heart of a hurricane
Defy the storm of division, your destiny is unity
When you sail on His ship, there is no fear, no pain

Come to where secrets no longer wish to remain hidden
You are a planet kept in balance
By a Sun that will never let you go
Your orbit is your Way to Divine Radiance

Come to where thorns will become roses
Mourning will soon become joyous laughter
The dead will be raised again and carried into His arms
Recite the Great Name and witness wonders

O’ Seeker of Truth
Heavens says: Hand me your tears
And I will show you what Ocean they belong to

Unchain yourself from these worries and fears

O’ Seeker, as you gaze upon those helpless faces
Know that your contributions are never without meaning
You are their House, you are their Sky Garden
You are their Immortal Flame, burning through the darkness

Embrace the wind, breathe in the fragrance of Divine Romance
Throw yourself at the Beloved’s feet — the Friend of the Heart
Become wrapped in this painted cloak of Love
Turning and ascending, the Way of Beauty’s eternal dance

Turning and ascending…
To where my heart calls me…

~Broken Mystic~

Tears for Gaza, Tears for Husayn

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The free world turns a blind eye
The modern-day Yazids laugh in their palaces
The Holy Land bleeds and weeps
When the sons and daughters of Abraham die

Selfish kings are drunk with their riches
Cowards flee at every opportunity to protect
The everyman worries about his daily bread
Peace plans of so-called democracies are in reject

Only those who listen to their inner calling
Will rise for the defenseless and oppressed
Only those learned in the ways of Peace and Love
Can bring Unity to this world so terrifying

Jews, Christians, and Muslims
Are we not of the same family?
O humankind, are we not all human?
Is it so hard to see this truth and beauty?

Remember those black banners in Kerbala
Those blood-soaked flags of dearest Husayn
The endless teardrops in the sand
The Earth that mourned for the Beloved’s name

Ya Husayn, Mountain of Forbearance
Shadow of the Divine, Pearl of Radiance
In the footsteps of the Prophet
You stood boldly in the face of a thousand spears

Ya Husayn, Garden of Truth
Master of the Spirit, Beautiful Friend of God
O’ how your blood was massacred across the lonely hills
Within your immortal sacrifice streams the fountain of youth

Ya Husayn, Martyr of Elysium
Illumination of Mystics, Second Petal of Fatima’s Rose
You forgot about self and bled for union
Fearless you became, a secret blossom for those who reflect

I weep for you, Husayn
I mourn for you, Gaza
In this cruel world that we live in
Your faces will never be forgotten

Remember how Husayn left Medina
In pursuit of uniting the Ummah
He left that material world behind
And entered the abode of selflessness

Free yourself from the chains that bind you
Emerge, peacemakers
Like a new being blooming into color
And like Husayn, say:

“I HAVE RISEN
As I seek to reform
The community of my grandfather
I wish to enjoin the good
And forbid the evil”

~Broken Mystic~

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