Friday, July 3, 2009

The Forever People 5: It’s We Who Live

Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Walk beside me and just be my friend. – Albert Camus

Thus far, The Forever People has shown a community fighting a conforming oppressor, with the opponents on both sides using similar tactics. This issue goes even further, yet it also defines how different each side is.

The opening narration of this story gives us a very clear picture of the very cloudy existence of Sonny Sumo, a paid pugilist who discovered Mother Box in his dressing room at the end of issue 4. He is a "noble warrior," adrift in the modern commercial marketplace, clinging to set of values, philosophies, and spiritual practices which the rest of the world chooses to ignore. At this moment, he is about to utilize a series of rare, arcane techniques to beat up a ten-foot-tall robot designed for a sideshow wrestling act.

Sagutai, the robot whose head vaguely resembles a samurai’s helmet, is a walking, talking example of high-tech, state of the art gadgetry. And in his single-minded devotion to his programming, and in the extreme waste of potential he symbolizes as an oversized, overpriced, thinking punching bag, he is meant to remind the readers of the conformity that Darkseid hopes to bring to the world.

Though not an actual Japanese word as far as I (and google) can tell, Sagutai may be a combination of Saguru – To Search For – and Tai – Substance or Reality. Since the robot claims to be Death, his name may refer to his challengers who are searching for a heightened reality that can only be attained by cheating death. However, as another blogger pointed out, it may just be that the name sounded Japanese to Kirby.

Sonny is able to both withstand pain and heal wounds, but only while he can concentrate on the fight. When he gets back to his dressing room, the burns inflicted in the battle reappear and he drops to his knees in pain. Mother Box is able to heal him, and she starts him on a journey that will not only fulfil his desire to be a noble warrior (Sonny calls it "A mission worthy of a samurai!!"), but that will also satisfy his underlying need to undergo a transformation from life as a loner, lost in a commercial wilderness to being an Individual within a community.

Next, Kirby is able to perfectly imagine the horrors of a forced conformity when Desaad hooks his Happyland/ Kingdom of the Damned prisoners, including the Forever People, to his "Fear Siphon". Images of the tortured prisoners are spun and twisted together, forming a green wad of terror for Desaad to delight in. A particular shot shows the Forever People combined, their faces running together, almost as a perverse mockery of their inability to combine as Infinity Man.

Most of the action of this issue depicts Sonny Sumo rescuing the Forever People from their various Happyland traps. Sonny is not only brought to the communalism of the teens through his communication with Mother Box, but in fact the community of the teens has been strengthened by their imprisonment. With Mother Box guiding them, they’re able to find and help each other. In counterpoint to this, the insect-like Happyland guards work in unison to stop them.

Finally, the Forever People and Sonny stand together against the mob of guards, and Sonny uses Mother Box (or Mother Box uses Sonny) to put them to sleep. This is a use of the Anti-Life Equation, which Darkseid’s been searching for. It’s here that the opposition between Darkseid and New Genisis is clearly defined…When Sonny voices concern about holding such an immoral power, Mark Moonrider tells him that "the Anti-Life Equation is one of many" other equations which are "almost as awesome!" The scene then shifts to Darkseid, who’s seen the Equation in action, and states that he wants to kill the Forever People to get Sonny away from them so he can have the Equation. It is this single-minded, robotic mentality to go to such lengths to achieve a goal (that ends up being not particularly important) that separates the Protagonists from the Villains, even though both sides use very similar tactics (uniformity of action, Illusion, violence, and removing free will) to get what they want.

My Zimbio
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