Where Have All The Good Times Gone?: Graeme gets Silent, 6/27

SILENT WAR #6: I admit, I picked this up in the store the other day by mistake. I’d managed to almost entirely forget that this series existed, having been relatively underwhelmed by the first issue’s story – That Frazer Irving art sure was nice, though – so the fact that this final issue was a relatively taut status-quo changer for the characters (while, in a weird way, protecting the overall status quo for the series; the plot ends as it began, with the Inhumans poised to declare war on humanity, albeit a different kind of war) that made me want to check out the earlier issues to see what I’d missed came as a surprise.

Part of what worked for me about the issue was that it’s easily the most beautiful-looking Marvel book in a long time – Irving’s art is, maybe more than any other artist handling the entire package around these days, made by his intelligent and atmospheric color choices, which manage to make the linework seem more detailed and evocative than it arguably is, and his work in this series manages to entirely convey the alien, off-kilter, claustrophobic tone needed for what turns out to be a political and psychological thriller rather than a rock’em sock’em action book. It’s that tone that piqued by interest in terms of the story of the book; not that I was expecting all out punchin’ hawtness in a book with “Silent” in the title, but there’s an expectation for a book that also contains “War” in its title that was reinforced (for me, at least) by the terrorists-exploding angle of the first issue. It came as a pleasant surprise, in that case, to see that the war in the title really was much quieter than my expectations, and on a much smaller scale – Some more familial and intimate, despite the (these days, almost obligatory) “massive changes” that will inevitably result from it.

Something that stuck with me once I’d finished the issue – and something almost separate to the issue itself, as Good as it was – was the way in which the Marvel Universe these days is all about fear. You could, and I’m sure that Joe Quesada and others will if pressed, argue that that’s almost traditional for the publisher and the characters, but right now, any sense of wonder or awe has been replaced by a sense of terror and threat: We have Atlantis launching sleeper cell terrorist attacks, we have the Inhumans declaring war on humanity and wanting to take over the world, we have mutantkind facing extinction and infighting, America becoming a police state because superheroes might accidentally blow up a school full of kids, and by the way, your best friend or anyone you know might be an alien invader undercover. There’s an incredible and depressing lack of openness to “the other” in Marvel’s books, these days; nothing is seen as new or different or unusual in a good sense, because everything that isn’t “us” is a threat (as opposed to even being a potential threat). Whatever happened to the days of The Impossible Man appearing and aliens being goofy nuisances? Or Spider-Man being misunderstood and really a good guy, not a public menace, you know? There used to be a time where it was awesome (in both senses of the world) that there was a race of superhumans living on the moon, instead of it being another band of people who want to kill us. Yes, there are a few exceptions (Iron Fist and Fantastic Four come to mind), but overall: Is it really post-9/11, post-Afghanistan invasion and post-Iraq civil war insularism informing what the Marvel writers are coming up with, or something else? And, either way, is there any way that optimism and, well, good fun could come back to these characters again?