By Alex Rowland
It’s very difficult to do something new in the superhero genre. We’re seen super-powered people gain and lose their powers; help people and harm people; save the Earth and doom it; and live both average and extraordinary lives. With the demand for superhero comics still being high, what else is there to do? That’s why Gail Simone’s The Movement is such a breath of fresh air. With every other franchise that DC is currently publishing being previously established characters (and no less than 14 of the 52 ongoing franchises being Batman related), Simone brings us a new team of original characters in a completely new location, tackling issues hitherto untouched by comics.
Citing the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011 as inspiration, Simone takes us to Coral City, where the even the best-behaved police are under the thumb of the richest man in town, and the worst attempt to exploit sexual favors from underage girls in exchange for freedom from arrest. The corruption of the Coral City Police Department is handled in a strikingly realistic way. There are a fair number of well-intentioned police officers on the force, but the corruption is protected by a tangled mess of bureaucracy and businessmen that only serves the status quo.
Tired of this, a hacker group called “Channel M” springs up. Channel M, an obvious nod to Anonymous, begins monitoring the police and sending videos of officers in incriminating situations to news channels. The faces of Channel M are The Movement, made up of one of the most eclectic group of superheroes, only one of whom is a straight, white man. However, despite every member of The Movement wanting the same goal of decreased corruption and decreased homelessness, everyone wants to go about it in a different way. In this way, Simone has perfectly captured what it’s like to be part of a social justice group.
Having been a part of several social justice movements, I cannot count the number of times I’ve seen a group fight with itself over what it wants and how to get it. For example, radical feminists saying things like transgender women, or women of color, or women who simply want to stay home and take care of their children, are “holding the whole movement back”. In the comic, this is taken to its logical conclusion, where two members of group come to blows over what to do with two captured police officers. After all, if you had super-powers and believed what the other person was doing went against your morals and who you were as a person, you’d probably take them on.
Much like reality, in The Movement, there are no right answers, and no real villains. Channel M, while having generally positive goals, often goes about it in a bad way, even going to far as almost burning down the local police station. The richest man in town, while controlling the police and beating a captured hero within inches of their life, believes he’s genuinely doing what’s right for the city and for his son. The chief of police, while having to be against our heroes on principle, has the same goals as The Movement and is just as hurt by the corruption as anyone else.
Overall, Gail Simone paints a striking picture of homelessness, corruption, and justice all wrapped up in a book about caped crusaders. As a comic book fan, this series garners my highest praise, and I regularly push it on people who need something to read. As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, this book makes me feel incredibly represented, featuring two queer heroes, and an asexual hero, and with a promise of a crossover with Simone’s other comic, Batgirl, it’s possible that we’ll get some transgender representation as well. The series also boasts characters from various social and economic backgrounds, and races; if you identify as something, you are more than likely represented here. So if you’re tired of reading the same old superhero stories, pick up this little gem. It’s well worth your time.