Heroes are tired
Steranko is an unquestionable
architect of brilliant graphic images, and at the same time a modernizer of the
way heroes appear in comics.
The artist gave a new focusing to the one-dimensional
Marvel universe, crowded with seraphic paladins whose main quandary was trying
to get their dream girls’ attention. He brings the awareness of the loneliness
and unavoidable failure that present-day men go through.
Fury, Agent of Shield’s depiction goes beyond a James Bond hyperbole. Nick Fury lives out his adventures in a United
Sates where the future is today. A Brave
New World, which exhibits with baroque pop images, a landscape full of ornery
citadels colonized by dadaism machinery, lustful apartments, neon mirages, cars
emulous of space-ships, and many different gadgets. But, beyond all this
paraphernalia that seems to proclaim the progress’ success, Nick Fury will uncover the face of assorted
The fascist Hydra faction, immortal and prolific,
invades gigantic splash pages, where the disciples of wrath, yelling Hail to
the iron dream of barbarity, increase to infinity. Evil is an enigma
camouflaged behind a Celtic ghost’s semblance; hideous extra-terrestrial
menaces appear disguised as apollonian archangels; prophets of eugenics bear a
resemblance to both doctors Mengele
and H. G. Wells’ Moreau.
Or as an impenetrable arcane ruled by the signs of the zodiac, we face the
demiurgic assassin Scorpio.
But the most devastating aspect displayed by Steranko
is illustrating Fury unable to save,
nor even to understand, the ignored tragedy of a loser who, victim of fate,
blows up while trying to speak with the ones he loves at a grimy telephone-box.
Being unable to shelter the man in the street, the hero’s mission has no use,
and the idea of leaving the stage prevails. The idea of getting that card Captain America
reads at a fortune teller in a fair of darkness full of nightmares: “Tomorrow you live. Tonight I die”.
This trilogy, where he sketches with iron and sublime
hand the masked titan’s crisis, is one of the best moments in Steranko’s career. He is a virtual
stranger in a foreign land, prisoner of guilt, isolation and solitude. His only
way out, as in an alchemical process, is dying, in order to revive and become,
as Borges’d say, the other, the same. And this is the moral in Steranko’s work, the only way for a
hero to live his life free is abandoning his mission.
As time went by, his graphic novels become portraits
in noir form, Red Tide
and Outland, where we’re
introduced to detectives and futuristic sheriffs who understand their setting
is poisoned by corruption and lies; therefore the only option left is throwing
the badge, and walk from shadow to light.
But, first, they are to fight the final battle against the masks of
iniquity. Their main aim isn’t changing the state of things, but recovering a
quality in disuse today, dignity. The American author gives us a great ethical
lesson that –in these times where almost everybody pacts with infamy– should
make most of us meditate.