Sunday, April 21, 2024

I Can’t Find Any Fascism In Nightwing: The New Order

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Seriously, I can’t find a damn thing. Nightwing: The New Order, by Kyle Higgins and Trevor McCarthy, is 100% Fascism Free! Which is super strange, since I’ve been seeing people talk about how it’s basically the same idea as Marvel’s Nazi-tastic Secret Empire since May. We’re two issues (out of six) in at this point, and…guys, there’s nothing here. And I kind of hate that I need to go out of my way to say that, and write this entire article, but after Marvel’s Secret Empire we just can’t afford the benefit of the doubt anymore.

For those who may not be aware, Nightwing: The New Order is an Elseworld (read: non-canon) style mini-series set 20 years into the future of the DCU. The premise is deceptively simple: Replace the pre-crime in Minority Report with superpowers because they became so easy to buy that you could get them, as Doc Brown would put it, “at every corner drugstore”.

During a particularly brutal battle in Metropolis that kills thousands and levels the city, Dick Grayson flips a switch and disables 90% of the world’s superpowers, which includes magic somehow. The remaining 10% need to be on inhibitor medication, as metahuman abilities are eventually rendered illegal in the United States…but a small percentage of them are immune to the meds, so they go into stasis until doctors can figure out how to fix that.

The story is told through the perspective of Dick’s son, Jake, many years later as the “present day” tale is centered around him manifesting superpowers that can’t be blocked by medication. His mom was Starfire, so that’s why that happened.

Rather than being about fascism, the story is actually a rather thinly veiled allegory for gun control, which is the authorial intent. It is kinda muddled, since superpowers often manifest as just who that person is…which, as you can see, the comic is very quick to point out. Not really sure how this is going to be resolved. I mean, maybe the “stasis” thing is actually torture chambers or something. If it is, Dick is clearly unaware of it.

The whole scenario is a rather curious extrapolation of The Legend of Korra’s Equalists. What would happen if you wiped out nearly the entire world’s supernatural abilities, but allowed the depowered to live? There are arguably enough tech-based heroes to pick up the slack, barring an invasion by Darkseid or some other extraterrestrial threat—but that’s not the point of this article.

The point is to show you that there’s no fascism. There’s no police state. There’s no authoritarian rule. People aren’t “out of character”. It’s just… “What If?”

The most important aspect of the narrative is rather simple: this didn’t happen overnight. Okay, yes, Dick’s removal of most superpowers happened inside a few minutes, but the aftermath took years to get to this point. In fact, the opening of issue #2 actually goes out if it’s way to open with explicating that.

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See? Fascism has a way of making things happen faster than anyone can react to them, so if this took years for the President and Congress to scream at each other until they could agree that any superpowers were illegal, well, that makes sense to me. Sure, it’s a stretch, since America’s real Congress is seemingly incapable of doing the same thing with guns no matter how many people get slaughtered, but that’s why we call this fiction.

And it’s just the United States. There are other countries that haven’t banned superpowers, which Alfred points out in issue #2.

Okay, but what about the police state?

Well, it’s, uh, not there. There’s like, a new task force called the Crusaders that Dick heads up, and they track down truant metahumans…except they operate more like the DEA than they do…the SS? There’s like not even a comparison. And they’re mostly non-lethal. That’s it. That’s the source of the “police state” argument. And that’s not what a “police state’ is. The Crusaders would need to basically be playing watch dog over the entire country 24/7 if that were the case.

The last bit is probably the strangest: everyone is “out of character”. Look, I’m not entirely sure of what Dick’s thought process was that day in Metropolis, but it really doesn’t seem that far off to me if superpowers had actually gotten to a point where they constantly do far more harm than good (like guns!).

As for the rest, how is Alfred’s response to all of this nothing but perfectly Alfred? How is Kate leading the Justice League (yes you read that right)…bad? Look, Kate does some stupid shit when she’s drunk but this seems like a natural progression for her. And of course, how exactly is Mister Terrific trying to develop new ways to help people out of character? Is it because he’s older now? I just…what?

This argument just doesn’t have any legs. There’s quite literally nothing there to support it, unless I’m missing something huge and obvious. Wouldn’t be the first time.

Even so, if that’s the case (which I’m pretty sure it isn’t), then why are so many people hating on this story so much? I have two ideas, but the first one is pretty circumstantial.

It’s entirely possible that the initial confusion was a result of the title being rather similar to Wolfenstein: The New Order—which is a personal favorite of mine—but something tells me that it was a little more than that. Honestly, I think this false and frankly absurd equivalency between Secret Empire and Nightwing: The New Order is the result of fascist and nazi symbology being fucking everywhere all the time in their everyday life.

That is: people are looking for ways to see things as nazis as a form of self-preservation. As a Jew, I, uh, can’t exactly argue with the validity of that strategy but there comes a point where it can potentially lead to pulling things out of the air because you don’t like what you’re looking at. Obviously that is most often not the case: if something is nazis, 99% of the time it’s actually nazis. Nightwing: The New Order is a rare example of that 1%.

That’s not to say it’s an amazing story or anything like that. I mean, it’s pretty good and kinda interesting and I do want to see how it plays out. But that’s really all it is: pretty good. Still not seeing why this had to be a Dick Grayson story, though. I guess maybe because Bruce would be too obvious?

Images courtesy of DC

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