This week’s Secret Wars Journal brings us two nightmares about repetition, and two protagonists doomed to repeat endless, impossible quests. Aaron Alexovich’s “Mill-E: The Model Citizen” is a dystopian farce about PR agony, while the Soska Sisters re-imagine Linda Carter as a heroic but tragic figure trying to heal a rapidly decaying universe.
You’re probably used to seeing the Night Nurse patching up the Marvel Universe’s crimefighters. But, in “Risk of Infection”, first she needs to heal herself.
In our first real look at the Soskas’ Night Nurse, Alec Morgan draws her stitching up her own head wound, blood pouring down her face like a superhero’s mask–some of the cooler comics imagery to come out of SWJ.
She’s a warrior-nurse fighting monsters in the Wastelands, but throughout this story that fight is also taking place on the battlefield of the Nurse’s body. Whether she’s getting wounded or stitching herself back together or strapping vials of medicine to her hips like ammunition, the Nurse’s body is both the weapon and the battleground in the war she’s fighting.
The Night Nurse travels around Battleworld battling outbreaks of disease–when she’s fighting monsters, she’s actually fighting infection. What looks like violence is actually medicine, and what looks like destruction is actually healing. She defeats demons by forgiving them, and cures evil diseases by putting her own body on the line. What looks like an endless, nightmarish crusade against monsters is actually an endless fight to keep the world physically patched together.
The Nurse’s heroic quest is, of course, doomed to fail. Battleworld is too chaotic, there are too many monsters, and she can’t cure every infection. Her doomed heroic quest evokes the cycles and repetitions of chronic illness–episodes or flareups followed by periods of recovery and healing. Moreover, the Night Nurse has flashbacks throughout the story, explicitly linking her struggles to the recycled traumas of PTSD.
While the Night Nurse lives out her tragic fate in the Wastelands, God Doom has given chirpy PR Robot Mill-E an equally impossible assignment: convince dissidents in all of Battleworld’s domains to SUBMIT TO DOOM.
A painfully unflappable optimist, Mill-E does her very, very best… with absolutely no success whatsoever. Fortunately, as a robot, she’s equipped to deal with total failure–whether that means being repeatedly decapitated, or enduring the humiliation of performing dorky pro-Doom raps like an embarrassing youth evangelist.
Of course, even for the most determined salesman in the world, unquestioning obedience to a dictator in a pea-green cape isn’t the easiest sell, and Mill-E finds it basically impossible to find any willing customers to drink her PR
Koolaid lime punch.
Diogo Saito’s Mill-E is an empty, wide-eyed shell of good intentions with a vacant smile, and Alexovich definitely plays her robotic good cheer and utter incompetence for laughs. She’s a total punching bag, but there’s something sympathetic about Mill-E’s pathetic can-do attitude. Her determination to carry out DOOM’S WILL isn’t about subservience or fear, but a stubborn desire to do her job, no matter the setbacks. Mill-E: The Model Citizen is a pretty cute little satire; the real butt of the joke isn’t the hapless robot, but Doom’s total obliviousness to the fact that it’s the product she’s programmed to sell–and not Mill-E herself–that’s unappealing to his customers/subjects.
This is the final issue of Secret Wars Journal, and overall, I’ve really enjoyed this series. The one-shot format was perfect for featuring a cool cross-section of artists and writers, and for exploring the weirder and more wonderful possibilities offered by the Secret Wars event.
In some way, most of the Secret Wars Journals explored the meaning of heroism in situations when the hero can’t possibly win–the value of doing the right thing, even when it doesn’t save the day. In this issue, our two heroes find out that the universe doesn’t end with a bang, or with a whisper, but in a terrible Sisyphean repetition of failure and infection. Mill-E sees her quest not so much as the world’s worst advertising gig, but as an effort to connect with people–even a “teensy, weensy” bit. In Linda Carter, we get a hero trying to heal the whole world–starting with herself.
“Risk of Infection”
Written by Jen & Sylvia Soska
Drawn by Alec Morgan, with inks by Nolan Woodard
Letters by Cory Petit
“Mill-E: the Model Citizen”
Written by Aaron Alexovich
Drawn by Diogo Saito, with inks by Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters by Cory Petit
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Mad Moll Green writes in Los Angeles and Vancouver. She loves horror movies, comic books, and ironic spandex.