Is it possible to do convincingly write up a review for Marvel’s Secret Empire that requires references to C.S. Lewis’ Surprised by Joy, Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, and Elie Wiesel’s Night? Excellent question! Your friendly neighborhood blogger gives it a try in the YouTube review below.

Be sure to check out my analysis of writer Nick Spencer’s monument to post-modernism, and then let me know what you think in the comments section below.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

7 comments

  1. Excellent analysis.

    I’ll admit I don’t read much philosophy, my none fiction tends to be military, political, or comedy. However my favor fiction horror writer is HP Lovecraft whose writing is pretty much nihilism given form, which works perfectly in horror. Honestly what is more scary then the idea of the inescapable nothing.

    With that knowledge it strikes me as a bit odd that one would write a fictional superhero story, which are generally meant to be uplifting, based on nihilism. I can’t image what will be left of the Marvel universe that is worth reading once this is over. I’ve been told the ending to this, so I know what will happen from the other heroes point of view (I was not given specifics on Steve). Honestly I am not sure what the editors at Marvel think about their universe and the “heroes” that inhabit it.

    1. “With that knowledge it strikes me as a bit odd that one would write a fictional superhero story, which are generally meant to be uplifting, based on nihilism.”

      Agreed. That’s always been my take. Oddly enough, there’s a dude in the comments section of my video who made the case that he prefers a nihilistic Marvel universe. I’ve talked to him a few times off the grid and he’s generally a cool guy, so I wasn’t going to push back too hard. I just don’t see why I should root for a superhero in a universe that I’m told is meaningless…

    2. I had a discussion recently with someone who told me that MacBeth was a tragic hero. This after I corrected another person in their interpretation of the famous solilique (they were trying to use it to mean that most people know nothing of what they speak as opposed to the true meaning, that life is meaningless).

      I was trying to understand what I was supposed to find heroic about a guy who committed murder for nothing other than naked selfish ambition. Not only that but MacBeth doesn’t even die repentant. Gets a bunch of other Scots killed all because he couldn’t grasp what his true faults were, which apparently the moral relativistic people can’t either.

    3. Per copperagecommentary’s last response below about MacBeth and the heroics of unprincipled ambition, you could also make the case that today’s moral relativists and nihilists would’ve supported Alexander the Great, the ultimate power-mad prince. Of all the details about him in history, I find him to be a rather disturbing individual more akin to Doctor Doom with a warrior mentality than the triumphant hero he was initially made out to be. To be a hero in today’s Marvel universe, one needs to be a complete rebel and traitor who overthrows the respected traditional order, instead of supporting it where it works for the good of society, and working to change what isn’t for the better.

      Alexander was said to have had a hand in the assassination of his father, King Phillip. But absolute monarchies being what they were in pre-Christian Macedonia, no one could question this brash young man already known for having an inflated opinion of himself. Nor could they. Before any more could raise the questions, he was off on his conquests of a neighboring civilized empire, dragging along veterans of his father’s wars of hegemony amongst the Hellenic Greek city-states, Greek mercenaries serving at his pleasure, and mercenaries from a handful of Thracian and Illyrian tribes brought under his control. I could see the eventual winners of the contest in the Marvel universe having to do much the same, designating yet another group of dissidents as the enemy to be crushed ruthlessly in the name of “social justice” before embarking on a Quixotic crusade to distract people from the fact that their freedoms had finally been stolen from them.

  2. Hey I’m working!

    I watched Capn Cummings take, and I agree with him. It’s about the execution. I think the real problem with this story is that it can’t be what Spencer wants it to be, a challenging tale of a hero’s growth and overcoming an overwhelming situation. There’s so much wrong with the premise of the story, that it can’t salvage anything without being contrived. His conversion is a hyper fantasy within a fantasy…cosmic cube?! At least Red Son postulated a Superman raised in an environment. Cap is just zapped.

    Also, since Captain America would never willingly become a Nazi, his character becomes unrecognizable. Could this story be done right in better hands? Maybe, but it seems you would have to change the character of the country itself to be plausible. If we are going to break Cap down, at least we should do it right…a personal story of Cap losing his faith, his loyalty and his connection to the things that make him whole would be a good one (I could relate to that…hell, I could probably write it). But I don’t think Marvel’s writers know…or more likely, LIKE the things that make him Captain America…not enough to make these things a terrible loss for him worth regaining.

    A lot of people do not seem to understand the meaning of Nihilism, such as the guy I replied to on youtube. It would actually be a (potentially) decent story for Cap to be as the writer of ‘Night’ it would be better than Spencer’s cheap replacement of meaning with another. It’s only my personal opinion, but as a former post-modernist…Nihilism was a state where I disavowed the why of my morals, while making excuses for having them. (there was the old Nomad storyline…but that cistume was rather…unfortunate)

    Having said all that however, I’ve been reading Comics off and on for a long time…since the mid ’80’s. This period of post-modernist deconstruction is very, very old…and people are pretty sick to death of it. It would be nice…really nice for Cap’s writers to start telling stories where Cap is the hero, and his villains and people who need his help are suffering from nihilism, only for a symbol to give them hope.

    But Hope is Mary Sue Iron Girl with a ‘tude and we are worse off for it.

    1. “If we are going to break Cap down, at least we should do it right…a personal story of Cap losing his faith, his loyalty and his connection to the things that make him whole would be a good one (I could relate to that…hell, I could probably write it). But I don’t think Marvel’s writers know…or more likely, LIKE the things that make him Captain America…not enough to make these things a terrible loss for him worth regaining.”

      Boom. That about sums it up, Chuck. I totally agree.

  3. Was Viktor Frankel the man who said that man’ last great freedom is the choice to choose between good and evil?

    I do think that you missed another possible point, Anne Frank, who wrote that she believed that people are basically good. Which is a fact that I have always found to give perspective in life.

    To shift to the comic points…

    One thing that I always liked about stories like Kraven’s Last Hunt or Daredevil Born Again, is that the heroes were put through the wringer, and kicked in the teeth, but it wasn’t defeat. It was swimming upstream.

    Hellish times should define what is right with a character, not make a writer feel superior.

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