Advance Review: ‘The Resistance’ #3 Offers Up The Commercialisation Of Super Heroes In An Unfair World

by Olly MacNamee

Imagine a world in which invulnerability and super strength are deemed ‘generic’. But, that’s exactly the situation new recruit to the Swan, Kirby, Chase Powers Placement Agency, James Struck, finds himself in when he considers signing up with them in The Resistance #3 written and co-created by J Michael Straczynski with art from fellow co-creator, Mike Deodato Jr. Heroes-for-hire, if you have the money, that is. 
As with the previous two issues, The Resistance #3 continues to build up this new world order in which those who survived a crippling global pandemic (I know, I know, but that’s how coincidence works) have gained super powers, with some benefitting more than others. Whereas last issue we had espionage and real-world politics and real-word consequences, here we are given a glimpse at the inevitable commercialisation of super powers. Just like it would in the real world where everything is up for sale for the right price, and to the right kind of customer. Y’know, ones with lots of money.

We are encouraged to walk in James’s footsteps and be guided through the whole process of branding an individual based on their super powers. At one point while rummaging through a warehouse-cum-wardrobe that would put Elton John to shame, there is even talk of matching colors of a costume to the seasons in a symbolic way that easily differentiates the good guys (“spring-summer”) with the bad guys (‘winter-fall”). Seems Marvel’s The Wasp was a head of the game there, what with her constant costume changes. There’s even a bit of fun to be found in this book when James is shown the ‘naming wall’, like some viral meme asking you to create your superhero name by picking a first name and then a last name from an approved list. Humorously, ‘X’ is unavailable.
James continues to act as our eye and ears throughout the issue which depicts the well-oiled commercial machine that helps create, train and deploy super powered folk in world teeming with them. What we learn is – like so much else in our modern materialistic world – that it’s a lot of shine and very little substance, with would-be heroes learning to vogue rather than actual hand-to-hand combat. This issue is as much a satire on modern super heroes as it is a sombre look at the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, with the poorest and most deprived communities having suffered the most.
It’s an ages old story that still worth telling. And so, just as we see with this current Covid-19 pandemic, its the poorer, ethnic minority communities that were hit the hardest, as commented upon by members of those very same communities in this issue. I don’t think you do not need a crystal ball to predict that this is exactly what’s happening with coronavirus too.
It’s this deep story of inequality in society that is the more compelling narrative that Straczynski is really interested in, as it rears it’s head in every issue thus far and isn’t too hard to miss, especially when some of the dialogue espoused by political figures in this book are ripped directly from the mouths of right-wing leaning folk, such as your very own President. When the President – a spitting image of the actor Ed Harris –  of this reality states that, “there are good people on both sides of this,” especially when indirectly aimed at ethnic minorities, no-one reading this comic could be mistaken in the inference by Straczynski.

In a world full of super powered people, it would seem money and the free market is still king and so financial gain is the bigger pull to most than defending a poor community. Walking away from a lucrative contract – as earwigged on by our guide to this issue, James – because of your principles is the truly heroic deed done in this issue and it’s done without landing a single punch. At least some haven’t forgotten what it means to fight for truth, justice and the American way. Whatever the ‘American way’ is these days? The vision we are given here suggests, as in real life, it’s not something to necessarily be proud of if it means a system built on a person’s ability to pay for a service and in which free market Neo-liberal economics continue to create such an unequal world. But, it is the world in which James finds himself. A world in which he needs representation – at 10% commission, of course – and a recognisable brand. And, at the heart of it all is James. A man who wants to simply fight for good. Y’know, like they all used to do, and not for the fame or the money.
The Resistance is a comic book that echoes real world politics and real-world problems, but done with style and with a mask on. The spirit of Action Comics #1 – a superhero fighting for the downtrodden, powerless  working class against a ruthless, merciless free market economy and its bourgeoise owners only too happy to exploit their underpaid workforces – is very much alive and well in this book. Whoever said there’s no room for politics on modern comics hasn’t read this yet.
The Resistance #3 is out now from AWA Upshots

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