Archive for March, 2007

Don’t look for me cause I’ll be gone …

Off to Toronto and the World Horror Convention 2007. Internets, please pray for me. Not only am I taking my message board mod, Lauren David; artist, Carrie Rapp, and fellow writer, Debbie Kuhn, we’re stopping to pick up Chesya Burke from the Detroit airport.

They may not let us back into the country. For those looking for me at the con, if I’m not in the bar, I actually have a panel this go around.


(I’m on this one with Lucien Soulban!) This panel sounds vaguely familiar. I can only hope the moderator of this panel has a brilliant best friend who can write their questions for them.

Friday – 8:00pm-10:00pm: MASS SIGNING

I ain’t gonna lie: I’m just there to look pretty. I suppose I could sign your copies of Weird Tales, DeathGrip: Exit Laughing, and Dark Dreams II.

BTW, I’ve got no new news, so I thought I’d share some about some friends of mine:

Speaking of Lucien, WHC should feature the release of Horrors Beyond II from Elder Signs Press and his short story “Serenade.” Plus, he’ll showing off his new short story “Songs of the Mother” in the upcoming Dragonlance anthology: Dragons of Time.

Simon Wood just released the mass market paperback edition of his novel “Accidents Waiting to Happen.” Considering that I’ve been running around doing my impression of him, I suppose I ought to let folks know he’s now out and about.

Alice Henderson has been nominated for a Scribe Award for her Buffy novel “Portal Through Time.” Sure, she’s missing Mo*Con II to pick up awards.

Richard Dansky is featured in a new anthology — “Astounding Hero Tales“. John C. Hay just beat me out of an anthology. His story,”Return, My Heart, to the Sea,” is scheduled to appear in Sails & Sorcery: Nautical Tales of Fantasy, published by Fantasist Enterprises. However, since I’m also his first reader, I take full credit for its publication

To tide you over, my Intake column last week addressed “why we should pursue multi-cultural church” and this week I remember my time in the “Center for Leadership Development.”

So see you in a few days. A report sure to follow … assuming we’re allowed back into the country.


If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Prayer of Emergence

Dear God,

Save me from the pride of having things figured out. The arrogance of thinking I’m doing things the right way. That everyone else is wrong and I’m the only one who sees what went wrong. As if I know how to do things correctly; that somehow, I’m smart or insightful enough to be able to ride in on a high horse of judgment. Save me from my vision of religion and spirituality blinding me from loving others.

Save me from the spirit of bitterness against the church. My frustrations at our inability to be the kind of loving community You called us to be. The shoddy treatment I may have experienced at the hands. The let-downs and disappointments – it’s easy to focus on the Church’s shortcomings. Just as it’s easy to forget that the Church is us and You don’t focus on our short-comings. Let me remember all of the wrongs the Church has committed in Your Name, let every experience sear my heart so that they won’t be repeated on my watch. Help me to remember that the Church is Your bride, however numerous her faults, and how you’ve chosen to bring about Your kingdom.

Save me from the spirit of hearing sermons “so and so” should be hearing or reading books “so and so” should read, but help me to realize that I’m the one who should be hearing and reading. Help me to do my part to inflict less damage into the world. Remind me that I am here to love “those people”, too. Remind me that too often I’ve been a part of the problem.

Save me from my own hubris of the rightness of my spiritual journey. Help me as I work out my journey. Reveal Your Word to me in a fresh way so that I may know you better. Let my questions draw me closer to the reality of You. Let my life reflect Your love and healing. Let my actions help bring reconciliation.

Prayerfully, I’d settle for at least being on the right track.

Ever stumbling toward faith,



If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Christus Victor and Tony Dungy

Just a month or so ago, I was struck by how the fans adored Tony Dungy. At the Super Bowl Victory rally, two of the people the crowd wanted to hear most from were the two who least wanted the microphone or attention: Tony Dungy and Marvin Harrison. Coach Dungy, a man who walked in quiet dignity as well as with pride and humility, received more cheers than even Peyton Manning. And the thousands of fans who filled the dome, after seeing him suffer setback after seeming setback, we shared in his final victory. We were united and reveled in the sense of a mission fulfilled.

To me, it was a picture of Christus Victor, Christ the Victor, the passion story of God triumphing over the powers of this world and liberating humanity from the bondage of sin, death, and the unseen spiritual forces. That was then, this is now. Here’s a reminder of why Christ couldn’t get elected to political office:

CARMEL, Ind. — Colts coach Tony Dungy said he knows some people would prefer him to steer clear of the gay marriage debate, but he used a speech Tuesday night to clearly stake out his position. Dungy told more than 700 people at the Indiana Family Institute’s banquet that he agrees with that organization’s position supporting a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. “I appreciate the stance they’re taking, and I embrace that stance,” Dungy said.

Well, he certainly stepped into it now, testing the strength of his popularity among his fans. Several debates rage on around this issue, but the one that fascinates me is the idea of whether he is abusing his position by speaking on matters so far astray from why he has risen to celebrity status. We all know he has a right to say whatever he wants, the question is “should he?”

Just because someone becomes famous does that obligate them to stop being who they are? What good is a larger pulpit if you don’t use it? Actors/celebrities do it all the time to bring attention to their pet causes (to quote the great philosopher, Homer Simpson: “Rock stars. Is there anything they don’t know?”). So why should athletes and coaches be above this?

In this era of carefully controlled images and public personas, Tony Dungy is simply being who he is, does what he does, and believes what he believes. We don’t have to agree, but he is staying true to himself, however unpopular his stance may be. This might not be an abuse of his pulpit as much as his higher profile causing him to be under more of a microscope, with his every word and action parsed.

To a degree, the man will be largely bulletproof and this will all blow over. Let’s face it, in our world, a Super Bowl victory adds a bit of a Teflon coating. I’m just happy no one from the team was in the news for breaking the law. This week.


If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Friday Night Date Place – Meeting the Folks

I missed out on the tradition of a dowry. The closest thing to a dowry I got was the assumption of my wife’s debt (I can’t begin to convey to you how much my wife will hate that joke). Ritual and tradition are important parts of relationships. It’s one reason why we celebrate anniversaries. They help ground us in remembrance of a greater story. One of the rites of passage for a relationship is the dreaded meeting of the folks.

In this case, the story that this rite of passage dives us into is that of your significant other’s life. Their story began with their parents and to a great degree, the person they will become is foreshadowed in them. Meeting the parents can be a dreaded rite of passage in many relationships, especially if the child is either close to their parents, seeks their approval/values their opinion, or simply wants everyone to like each other.

[Granted, interracial relationships can sometimes have specific bumps to navigate. My wife is lucky that I even thought about bringing another white woman home to meet my mom. The last one I brought home actually thought the line “I think my family used to own your family” was a good conversation breaker. I’m surprised that my one-day-going-to-be-my-wife didn’t walk out on the spot with people flipping off each other, food being thrown (everything from chicken wings to rolls to ice), people eating from each other’s plate and yelling so loud it couldn’t possibly just be casual conversation.

When I had to meet her family, it was like navigating a Bosnian minefield. She had me over for Easter dinner. Upon my arrival and introduction as “a friend,” her sister went “mmm” and walked out. Her mother, trying to bond with me, spent the afternoon telling me about how I came from “a spiritual people.” The entire time, my one-day-going-to-be-my-wife stared over at me with eyes pleading “please be good. For me.”]

Forgive the generalization, but parents want to know that their children, daughters especially, will be taken care of, provided for, or otherwise will just be happy. The meeting is simply a chance for everyone to know what they are getting into. Though many parents might smile at your antics to be polite, or otherwise try to engage you, you can believe that at their first opportunity, they will start whispering in their daughters ear about whether she knows what she’s getting into.

It’s important to meet the family and observe the dynamic in action. This is the laboratory that your special someone was created in. The dynamic you are involved with because when you date someone, you date their families too. Treat them seriously, because they are a rite of passage for the budding seriousness of your relationship. Like first dates, first impressions count (though, with time, they can be overcome).

Next time, because I made someone a promise, we are “meeting the kids.”


If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Too Little Moral Outrage

Do you ever feel on the verge of articulating something but can’t quite get there? I was reading an interview with Warren Ellis about the premise of his new series, Black Summer, and the idea behind it got me thinking:

It’s been said that morality is defined by perspective, not by a universal moral code that all are meant to follow, with arguments for consequentialism and deontology often present. After all, one can murder in self defense and walk free, while another who murders in the heat of the moment is to be punished — there are certainly societal perspectives that influence how we view seemingly similar actions. With that in mind, how does one define a hero and the limits to which it is acceptable to break the rules for what is “right?”

In our age, we have a greater desire for truthfulness yet we seem to have a greater difficulty discerning truth. We’re asking questions like “what is truth?” and “whose truth?”; distrustful of anything approaching a meta-narrative. Sometimes I wonder if we ought to be asking questions examining a deconstruction of our selfishness. That all of our questioning of God and society’s mores boil down to us simply wanting to rationalize the things we want to do anyway.

Cynicism has clung to the coattails of our post-modern spirit. A “throw your hands up” mentality has infected us. Why bother with being engaged or engaging in anything? There’s nothing you can do about it and nothing’s going to change anyway?

Similarly, we’re losing the idea that we are responsible moral agents. Things are everyone else’s fault: your parents, your co-workers or boss, the government’s, society’s, other races.


Do you know what really started all of this philosophical angst? The news. Last week, a father stood accused of stabbing his 11-month old in the back then tossing him out the car window. This occurred down the road from me. There’s nothing like the horrors of this world to make you contemplate the “why?” questions. The collective conscience of our society is seared and we are appropriately outraged. Yet fewer and fewer things seem to outrage us, until, sadly, only the more heinous acts of brutality stir us to action.

So I can’t help but think that when you lose the idea of truth, you lose the need for redemption and repentance. There’s no need for either when nothing (or very little) defines what is wrong. A consequence of that, however, is that you lose the ability to have moral outrage. Since there is so little that we can all agree on that is “wrong”, we are left with an uninformed societal conscience.

Maybe there is an evolution-driven imperative that says we ought to love one another, but I’m no philosopher. I’m just a guy wondering why we do the things we do and if there is a better way, a moral obligation at the very least, to behave in a better way. I cling to the idea of hope. I’ve been wrestling with the idea of the Problem of Good: In a world of accidents and natural selection, why is there so much laughter, beauty, love, and need to praise? In other words, I’m left asking more questions.


If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Friday Night Date Place – To Date or Not to Date

I had a pair of Sunday School teachers, the unofficial leaders of the Singles Group in a church I used to attend, who were always encouraging us to date and get married. Two things fueled this, I suspect: 1) we had declared ourselves “Bachelors til the Rapture” (thus having a bit too much of a “thou dost protest too much” feel about us – especially since all of us are now married); and 2) they just wanted us to be happy. They liked us, saw all the good things about us, and were concerned that we might prematurely be cutting ourselves off from potential fulfillment. They didn’t want us to miss out.

Be they family, friends, co-workers, or folks at church, singles often have to suffer through the slings and arrows of well-intentioned though insensitive, intrusive commentary that was rarely asked for. To be fair, most of it does spring from concern (mixed with people’s general busy-body nature). It’s a shame that the stance of not dating has to be defended. It’s bad enough that the choice to remain single so often has to be defended from those who put family on an altar. However, I’ve come to realize that fundamentalists come in all stripes and there are those people who can only be described as “dating fundies.”

One of my first blogs in the Friday Night Date Place attempted to answer the question “why date?” I’m mean, really, why bother? Why get involved in the game, the silliness, the drama? Why put yourself through the emotional roller coaster over and over again? Why invest or risk so much of your self-esteem, self-image, and personal happiness on the possibility of going out with someone? Why do we end up defining ourselves, our well being, and our worth through the eyes of another?

The short answer then boiled down to us being wired for intimacy. However, just because we are wired for intimacy doesn’t mean that we have to date. For some people, the choice to start dating depends on the answer to a different question: are you ready to get married?

Each person has to answer these questions for themselves. Not everyone is always in a place to date. Sometimes it’s emotionally, not wanting to put themselves through the risk and vulnerability that dating so often requires. Sometimes it’s their place in life. With school, work, ministires/volunteering, and other things going on (especially if they have plenty of friends to sustain their need for intimacy), dating isn’t that much of a priority. Regardless, the key is that they have to answer these questions for themselves. They shouldn’t have to be held to some societal standard that says “you have to date”. It wasn’t that long ago that we did things via arranged marriages and let me tell you, I barely trust my parents to pick out my socks much less a life mate.

“Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.” I Corinthians 7:8

Ah, the singles defense verse. Do you know what I often hear to that verse? “It’s rare that this verse applies to anyone.” Let’s be real: we don’t believe this verse. Many of us don’t think ANYONE is called to be single (or if we do, we believe in these “called” single people like we do any other mythical creature. You know, they may be out there but no one has ever seen one.). If people aren’t dating or show no interest in dating, we don’t think “maybe God has called them to singleness.” We don’t think “maybe they aren’t in a place to be dating now.” What do we think?

There must be something wrong with them.

Well-intentioned concern still can lead to awkward intrusions. However, the risk of having people in your life is the risk of the occasional awkward intrusion. But we really ought to consider what messages we are sending to people with the questions we ask and the “concern” that we show. It’s bad enough that our culture has turned us into “dating fundies”. Even worse that the church has sanctified this to the point that singleness is a condition one needs to be saved from.

It is possible to be a fulfilled single, joining in the mission of Christ, without dating or, *gasp*, being married.

And I don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

An N-Bomb Ban & Other News

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City symbolically banned use of the word nigger on Wednesday, the latest step in a campaign that hopes to expunge the most vile of racial slurs from hip hop music and television.

“Your momma’s teeth so yellow, when she smiles, cars yield.”

The other day I was at my barber shop and I overheard some boys casually telling “your momma” jokes and calling each other nigger. Now, I was never good at playing the dozens–that “your momma” insult game–and my yellow teeth line was pretty much all I kept in reserve. However, as I sat there listening to them go at it, I couldn’t help but think about how quick we are to drop the N-bomb on one another.

The dozens can be traced back to the days of slavery. As the slaves were being sold on the auction block, eventually the slave dealers got to the slaves who didn’t make it through the middle passage so well. Because they had some defect or another, they were sold by “the dozen.” This is the legacy that we’ve not only passed down, but internalized to the point of making a game out of it.

The same can be said of the word “nigger.”

Last week, New York symbolically banned the word as a way of saying “enough’s enough.” The word has become so ubiquitous in our language and music that it is woven into the fabric of who we are as a community. Some people argue that using the word saps it of its power, that by using it we were reclaiming the power of it from those who had used it against us.

It’s gotten to the point where we can call one another a nigger with a familial familiarity, term of endearment and brotherhood on one hand; and then act shocked when we’ve sent a mixed message to the millions of white folks who buy the hip hop CDs and sing along, repeat the routines of their favorite comedians, or who want to hang out with “their boys” in that way.

No, defending the use of that word only rationalizes the internalization of hatred. It perpetuates the legacy of hate, in one powerful word encompassing the history of slave ships to Jim Crow. The word is the penultimate form of dehumanizing, the spit-in-your-face kind of assault to one’s sense of dignity and self-worth.

I think of the word like I do Confederate flags: don’t ban them – they should be treated like museum pieces: remembered, studied, preserved, but put away.


Also in the “too black, too strong” department, a recent post by my brother from another mother, Wrath James White. Sellin’ Watermelon.

Quote of the Day:

“The way they are playing now, it doesn’t matter who comes back,” said Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, obviously upset. “Jesus Christ could come back and we still wouldn’t have a chance because we’ve ruined the mix by not playing together.”

No word yet on whether Buddha and Muhammad will be filling out the triangle.

Mo*Con II: The Intersection of Faith, Race, and Art (Updated 4/5/07)

Yes, I’m doing it again.

Featuring Guests of Honor:
Wrath James White
Brian Keene
Gary Braunbeck & Lucy Snyder

with a very special guest appearance by Chesya Burke.
(seriously, she makes me do this sort of stuff)

The mission statement of the Dwelling Place states that we exist to help people resist empty ways of life by becoming fully human in the way of Jesus. We desire to be a refuge or sanctuary, a place of rest and freedom for people to be themselves, where we connect with God and one another by joining Jesus’ mission to bless the world. To that end, we believe art is an important part of who we are and should be valued.

Just as each one of us is a masterpiece in progress and creation is continuing in us, so we desire to keep generating new creative possibilities. We long to be students awakened to the process of learning to create in the way of the Master Artist, Jesus, who saw lilies, children, mustard sees, plowing, vineyards, and housework as indicators of a wider truth. Art is never for its own sake, but people’s sake. We believe that art should be engaged with and in its own way explores truth – and we shouldn’t be afraid of truth. Another thing we want to be is a safe place for folks to work our their spirituality and ask questions.

About continuing conversations. Which brings me to Wrath James White and Brian Keene and our continuing mission to test the boundaries of what we say we’re about.

Regular readers of my blog may be familiar with Wrath James White. He has guest blogged for me, I have reviewed him, and have interviewed him (part I and part II). His blog has opened up a new audience for him. And folks who know us or are aware of our blogs, style, politics, and personalities are stunned that the two of us are friends. I explain it to them in one word: respect. We don’t try to convert each other and we don’t have the arrogance of certainty about our positions. In a nutshell, we believe what we believe, we can argue why we believe, but we’re open to the possibility that we may not be right and are willing and able to listen and learn from each other.

Adding to the conversation will be Gary A. Braunbeck and Lucy A. Snyder. Those familiar with their backgrounds will know exactly why I want them added to the conversation (and note that I used the word conversation: Gary and I know better than to argue with Wrath and Lucy).

Keene’s determined to see us all go down in flames, serving as Moderator and general provocateur.

The overall weekend will look something like this:

Saturday, July 28th
The Dwelling Place
7440 N. Michigan Road
Indianapolis, IN 46268
Starts at 10:00 a.m.

Will feature discussions on faith perspectives, writers discussing their craft, and a book launch party for Dark Dreams III (that, coincidently, Wrath, Chesya, Lawana, and myself are in). Lunch will be hosted by the Indiana Horror Writers and (due to the amount of trash talk done at the 2007 World Horror Convention) will feature a chili cookoff between myself, Wrath, and John C. Hay. Dinner will feature authentic Jamaican cuisine.

10:30 am – Dwelling Place Service
Will feature “sermons” by Brian Keene and Gary A. Braunbeck, followed by a Guest Farewell Luncheon.

Cost: Nothing. Donations appreciated.

Hotel Information
Here’s the deal: I tried to schedule Mo*Con around the other major cons going on (sorry those going to the San Diego Comic Con instead). Unfortunately, I paid no attention to events going on in my own city, namely, the Brickyard 400. So hotels in the area are filling up fast. We however are using

Hampton Inn
7220 Woodland Drive
Indianapolis, IN 46278
(317) 290-1212 (or 1-800-HAMPTON)

Mention The Dwelling Place or Mo*Con when you book your room. Right now the rates are $199 + tax per night (two night minimum) full deposit required at time of booking (non-refundable after 5/28/07). If enough rooms are booked, the room rate will be discounted. We will also have a few spaces available at Chez Broaddus plus some members of our congregation are opening up their homes for some folks to stay at. They are going on a first come, first serve basis. If you have any questions, or need to be picked up from the airport, write your host at Maurice [at]

Other confirmed guests include:
Wayne Allen Sallee, Steve Shrewsbury, Jason Sizemore, Debbie Kuhn, John C. Hay, Lawana Holland-Moore, Taylor Kent, Gary and Nancy Frank, Lauren David, Carrie Rapp, Tracy Jones, Steve Savile and Alethea Kontis. You can let me know if you are coming by leaving a note here.

Hosted by The Dwelling Place and the Indiana Horror Writers.

This page will be updated as more guests and details are confirmed.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

“That’s My King!”

Something to stir your heart first thing in the morning. The late Dr. S. M. Lockeridge, a pastor from San Diego, California said these words in a sermon in Detroit in 1976 (which can be heard via, of course, youtube):

My King was born King. The Bible says He’s a Seven Way King. He’s the King of the Jews – that’s an Ethnic King. He’s the King of Israel – that’s a National King. He’s the King of righteousness. He’s the King of the ages. He’s the King of Heaven. He’s the King of glory. He’s the King of kings and He is the Lord of lords. Now that’s my King.

Well, I wonder if you know Him. Do you know Him? Don’t try to mislead me. Do you know my King? David said the Heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork. My King is the only one of whom there are no means of measure that can define His limitless love. No far seeing telescope can bring into visibility the coastline of the shore of His supplies. No barriers can hinder Him from pouring out His blessing.

He’s enduringly strong. He’s entirely sincere. He’s eternally steadfast. He’s immortally graceful. He’s imperially powerful. He’s impartially merciful. That’s my King. He’s God’s Son. He’s the sinner’s savior. He’s the centerpiece of civilization. He stands alone in Himself. He’s honest. He’s unique. He’s unparalleled. He’s unprecedented. He’s supreme. He’s pre-eminent. He’s the grandest idea in literature. He’s the highest personality in philosophy. He’s the supreme problem in higher criticism. He’s the fundamental doctrine of historic theology. He’s the carnal necessity of spiritual religion. That’s my King.

He’s the miracle of the age. He’s the superlative of everything good that you choose to call Him. He’s the only one able to supply all our needs simultaneously. He supplies strength for the weak. He’s available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and He saves. He’s the Almighty God who guides and keeps all his people. He heals the sick. He cleanses the lepers. He forgives sinners. He discharged debtors. He delivers the captives. He defends the feeble. He blesses the young. He serves the unfortunate. He regards the aged. He rewards the diligent and He beautifies the meek. That’s my King.

Do you know Him? Well, my King is a King of knowledge. He’s the wellspring of wisdom. He’s the doorway of deliverance. He’s the pathway of peace. He’s the roadway of righteousness. He’s the highway of holiness. He’s the gateway of glory. He’s the master of the mighty. He’s the captain of the conquerors. He’s the head of the heroes. He’s the leader of the legislatures. He’s the overseer of the overcomers. He’s the governor of governors. He’s the prince of princes. He’s the King of kings and He’s the Lord of lords. That’s my King.

His office is manifold. His promise is sure. His light is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His Word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I wish I could describe Him to you . . . but He’s indescribable. That’s my King. He’s incomprehensible, He’s invincible, and He is irresistible.

I’m coming to tell you this, that the heavens of heavens can’t contain Him, let alone some man explain Him. You can’t get Him out of your mind. You can’t get Him off of your hands. You can’t outlive Him and you can’t live without Him. The Pharisees couldn’t stand Him, but they found out they couldn’t stop Him. Pilate couldn’t find any fault in Him. The witnesses couldn’t get their testimonies to agree about Him. Herod couldn’t kill Him. Death couldn’t handle Him and the grave couldn’t hold Him. That’s my King.

He always has been and He always will be. I’m talking about the fact that He had no predecessor and He’ll have no successor. There’s nobody before Him and there’ll be nobody after Him. You can’t impeach Him and He’s not going to resign. That’s my King! That’s my King!

Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory. Well, all the power belongs to my King. We’re around here talking about black power and white power and green power, but in the end all that matters is God’s power. Thine is the power. Yeah. And the glory. We try to get prestige and honor and glory for ourselves, but the glory is all His. Yes. Thine is the Kingdom and the power and glory, forever and ever and ever and ever. How long is that? Forever and ever and ever and ever. . . And when you get through with all of the ever’s, then . . .Amen!

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Ultimate Powers – A Review

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Greg Land
Published by Marvel Comics

THE STORY: The Fantastic Four’s leader, Reed Richards, has accidentally punched a hole into an adjacent universe in a desperate bid to gain the knowledge he needs to cure his friend Ben Grimm—The Thing. But something has come through the aperture from a realm known as the Supremeverse: The Squadron Supreme! They are angry and here to arrest young Reed for high crimes against their world.

I’m not going to pretend that this isn’t little more than an excuse for another Ultimate crossover event that doesn’t want to use the title “Secret Wars” or “Contest of Champions”. Assembled for our entertainment is the Ultimate Fantastic Four, the Ultimates, Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men all versus Squadron Supreme.

In other words, it’s a battle of alternate reality heroes (since the Ultimate version of the Marvel superhero universe is free from the constraints of the 40+ years of continuity baggage and the Squadron Supreme storyline takes place in its own “real” universe). Nothing that happens here has any consequence for the main Marvel Universe, so let the havoc begin.

Once again, such a spectacle is brought to us by “he who seems to be writing every Marvel event title” (Civil War, House of M), Brian Michael Bendis. What makes Bendis so great is his dialogue (Powers is one of my personal favorites), so the critics of his “talking heads” style won’t be completely silenced here. However, this book does seem to want to show that he can write the great super-hero conflagration scenario: “Hey! I don’t know you, but you’re here in spandex and seem threatening–I’m sure having nothing to do with the ego of being used to being the head power in charge–so rather than stop and ask questions, allow us to punch first.”

That being said, who doesn’t love reading super heroes fight each other? How often do our conversations discuss what super-hero could beat what super-villain? Never, because the heroes always beat the villains, that’s their raison d’etre. No, our discussions are “Thing vs. Hulk” or “Captain America vs. Batman”. And the Ultimates vs the Squadron Supreme basically allows them to have a Marvel (home of Spider-Man, Hulk, and Captain America) vs. DC (home of Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman) fight (since the Squadron Supreme are basically Marvel analogues of DC characters) without the legal entanglements.

If there was a spiritual touchpoint with this comic, it would be unintended consequences of our actions. Reed Richards was unaware of the repercussions of his on-going research. In fact, they were fueled by good intentions, as he was trying to find a cure for his friend, Ben Grimm (the Thing). Unfortunately, ignorance doesn’t excuse the actions, and though it may mitigate them, there is still a price to be paid.

Is there any artistic merit to Ultimate Powers? No. Is there some great moral theme or story being explored? No. Is Brian Michael Bendis going to take too long to tell this story? Yes. Was this contrived more as a marketing idea rather than compelling narrative? Yes (another lesson learned from Secret Wars). Are we going to buy it? Of course – it’s fan favorites vs. fan favorites. Who cares what the set up is as long as we get to the fighting. It’s the equivalent of a popcorn movie – enjoy it for what it is.

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