The New Colonialism

Terminator: Salvation: The Final Battle #1
Art by Pete Woods and Matthew Wilson
Writing by J. Michael Straczynski
Published by Dark Horse

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Divorced from his usual Messianic complex, J. Michael Straczynski settles on the simply mercenary. And yet, this distinct change in mode doesn’t render his plotting any more competent or his posturing any less obnoxious. In his use of the Terminator trope of the murder machines taking clothes from random civilians (Cameron’s symbols of the Reagan-era war machine literally robbing the lower class), Straczynski has three Terminators crash a house party–presumably in a drug den, as one man is shown leaving with a bag; when the female Terminator is given a pair of flashy stilettos, she demands for “Real shoes,” a contempt for fashion which is not “respectable” seen in establishment politicians. Straczynski’s sanctimony, depicted with bland coherence by Pete Woods and Matthew Wilson (showing two of the three Terminators as scowling black and Hispanic stock figures, respectively), conflates the pseudo-liberal attitudes of his overwrought Midnight Nation, Superman: Grounded, Amazing Spider-Man, and Fantastic Four comics with neocon disdain for the poor. When he gestures vaguely towards populist sentiment–a cyborg likening Terminator series uber-villain Skynet to “CEO of a major corporation”–it’s done so clumsily it can only be read as a sop. As a result, Woods and Wilson out-merc Straczynski, giving just enough rope for him to hang himself. Their figures put in the barest of emotions: when John Connor hugs his wife during a flash forward to the titular “Final Battle,” yet never betraying anything other than grim determination, their flat affect leaves dialogue like “Just let me love you..just for a while…just for this moment” to come across as ridiculous as it is (Note: the ellipses are from the exact quote, and not the only occurrence of hacky repetition in this issue). If they were working with a parody of a Straczynski script, this might have been brilliant; with the real deal, it’s just sadly funny.

Genus Part 2
Art and Writing by Anuj Shrestha
Published by Study Group

What’s powerful about Genus is the way it flips the sci-fi bigotry theme of narratives like the X-Men. Instead of the weird, powerful, and dangerous being the put-upon Other, threatened by a ‘normal’ majority, Anuj Shrestha makes the sci-fi element, a race of aliens with characteristics of plants and fungal infections, the stand-in for the politically and socially powerful. It’s the artistic equal to the pointed criticisms of Marvel’s mutants given by David Brothers and Daryl Ayo, having the lower-class outcast being both brown and not dangerous (in the sense of being able to level city blocks), doing away with troubling, power-fantasy aspects nerd culture often brings to attempts at social consciousness. The body-morphing infection, which shows Shrestha’s protagonist Samir (a wannabe-company-man just moved to the big city) developing bumps on his neck as he’s drawn into a conspiracy, harkens back to the days of colonialism–where European powers carved up vast chunks of the world for themselves, while America was expanding west. This delineates modern racial attitudes; Genus #2‘s smartest page shows a fungus-parent clutching their child on a subway just from the sight of Samir. His narration about the bumps, “They’re disgusting,” coincides with this to suggest resentment at having to conform to those who see him as a threat (making Genus’ beings far creepier than the similarly-designed Romero-knockoffs of video game The Last of Us).

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Shrestha opens the chapter by juxtaposing images of flesh morphing into plants with text transcribing Generic Job Interview Answers (“I would like a chance. The opportunity to gain new experiences. To grow with the company.”), directly relating corporate culture to colonialist attitudes of spreading civilization. In either, Samir is expected to blend in, be like those in charge (a suit and tie which spurs his metamorphosis), because it’s the nature of oppression. And unlike the X-Men, he can’t punch and kick, slice or shoot those who hate and fear him.

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