Heroes Never Rust #48 by Sean Ironman
War at Home
This morning, I watched the opening battle scene of Saving Private Ryan. My internet was down and I decided to check out what DVDs I had while I ate breakfast. I don’t know why I chose Saving Private Ryan. It’s been years since I’ve seen the film. I only watched the first twenty minutes or so. I left off a couple of minutes after Tom Hanks and his crew make it off the beach and start obliterating Nazis in retreat. I was fourteen when the movie was released and I thought the battle scenes were the best part. Explosions. Limbs blown off. A Nazi throwing his hands up and surrendering just to be gunned down. It was good action and that’s what I was looking for. But I’m old now and tired. Today when I watched the film, it was horrific. Not just because people were dying. Not because I understand that real people had to go through this. Before I turned it off and went to start my work for the day, a few Nazis began to run away. About three of them were in their trenches, not firing, just running. Running to safety. Running home. Running from death. And then, about two dozen U.S. soldiers, who are above the retreaters on solid ground, gun them down. As a kid, I probably cheered when that happened. Take that Nazis! But watching it now, there was something so animalistic about it. I understand these same Nazis were killing American soldiers just a few minutes earlier. But I felt the scene showed what war does to a person, how it changes a person, how it destroys everything.
In the conclusion to volume one of The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, war has come. Professor Moriarty’s airship bombs Limehouse, which is engulfed in flames by page two. In the opening, Moriarty says in regards to the cavorite, “This wonderful, celestial material…It’s given me the sky, this element that I was surely born for. Ah, Sergeant, does your soul thrill as mine does to these seas of cloud, to this God-like perspective? To this God-like power?” Moriarty is an evil son-of-a-bitch. He even comments on the “countless tiny lives” below before commencing the bombing. He must kill thousands this issue. And for what? So he can defeat a rival crime lord? As the neighborhood is burning to the ground, I no longer see Kevin O’Neill’s beautiful artwork. Even though it’s fiction, I think about all those people who were sitting down to dinner, who were getting ready for bed after a long day working construction. They have no stake in what’s happening. And now, they’re dead.
When the Chinese crime lord, The Doctor, sees the destruction, he orders his troops to attack. They fly at Moriarty’s airship with their own personal flying devices. I feel bad for them. What do they get out of this? They fly to their death, and from what we see later, it is a gruesome death. Nemo and Mr. Hyde lay out what looks to be hundreds of men. In the end, when the league wins, and of course they win, men fall to their deaths. And, again, for what? Because two crime lords can’t get along? What’s a crime lord any way, other than an asshole? What’s he a lord of? We’re smart people. How does someone lord over us? Why would anyone follow these mad men? They can’t pay well. The hours must suck. Who’s dream in life is it to work for a crime lord? To kill for someone else? I say if The Doctor and Moriarty can’t get along, then let them fight, but leave everyone else out of it. They can kill each other all they want, but London would be safe. The battle is made worse because people follow the villains. The villains themselves can do barely any damage. It’s the numbers of men, the numbers of bombs. Moriarty didn’t make those bombs, or his airship. He didn’t load those guns, sharpen those swords. He told someone else to do it, and someone else did as they were told. Why?
In the television show Game of Thrones, Varys poses a riddle to Tyrion. I couldn’t find the quote for the show, but riddle in the books is: “In a room sit three great men, a king, a priest, and a rich man with his gold. Between them stands a sellsword, a little man of common birth and no great mind. Each of the great ones bids him slay the other two. ‘Do it,’ says the king, ‘for I am your lawful ruler.’ ‘Do it,’ says the priest, ‘for I command you in the names of the gods.’ ‘Do it,’ says the rich man, ‘and all this gold shall be yours.’ So tell me – who lives and who dies?” The sellsword has the power over the three men. He can kill them all or just walk away. Yet, people go on and pretend the other men have the power, and most people do what others tell them.
At the end of volume one, the league triumphs. Moriarty is beaten. London is saved. But it all seems so anticlimactic. It was all for nothing. And I don’t mean that as a criticism of Moore’s script. That’s just he way things are. A couple of crazy, power-hungry men cause destruction, and then we’re left to clean things up.
Maybe I’m thinking too hard about things. Maybe I should just look at the pretty pictures and be in awe of how the league fights their way through the masses of soldiers to win the battle. I can say that it’s pretty cool, and I enjoy the comic greatly. But maybe I’m just tired. Tired of seeing new mass shootings on the news. Tired of soldiers killing people. Even tired of people who do work they don’t love just because they’re following what other people tell them to do. No one can tell us what to do. I think from time to time about superheroes in our own world. If they would be helpful or not. But we wouldn’t really need them if we just did what we know is right. The league of extraordinary gentlemen would have no purpose. Maybe if the league didn’t have to fight these mindless battles, Mina could fight for equal rights of women. Nemo can fight against England’s treatment of India. But I guess the important things will have to wait. A little orb that makes things float seems to be much more important.
Sean Ironman (Episode 102) is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida, where he also serves as Managing Editor of The Florida Review and as President of the Graduate Writers’ Association. His art has appeared online at River Teeth. His writing can be read in Breakers: An Anthology of Comics and Redivider.