On -isms: Your Favorite Superhero Sucks Review

By | Thursday, September 15, 2016 Leave a Comment
With a title like Your Favorite Superhero Sucks, you have to expect a deliberately adversarial tone in the writing. And in that respect, certainly, Noah Berlatsky does not disappoint. The book is a collection of essays, originally written for a variety of outlets, that all speak to problems with the superhero genre. He focuses mostly on comics but some of the pieces tear into television and movies. Berlatsky skewers everything from the ridiculous concepts to just plain bad execution.

Now clearly, with such an aggressive title, he's not trying to win any friends among superhero fans. And in reading through the essays, he seems to almost go out of his way to make sure that, whoever your favorite superhero is, he provides several reasons why they suck too. In fact, he's so relentless in his attacks on the genre that you're bound to start thinking, “Dude, if you hate superheroes so much, why do you keep reading superhero comics?”

One approach to a book like this might be to suggest some ways to improve things, or at least include some redeeming virtues that outweigh the problems. He almost does this in his final essay, quoting heavily from Ben Saunders, but ultimately ends on a dour note by saying, “superhero comics suggest not modernity’s possible salvation, but it's depressing limits.” Not only does your favorite superhero suck, but each and every last one of them sucks.

That said, and the reason I'm posting this review under my On -isms title, is that Berlatsky does point out any number of issues surrounding comics’ treatment of women and minorities. Not just in broad terms, but specific cases. “This character is sexist because…” or “This comic is racist because…” And it's in those instances where I find the most value.

Many of his points here might seem glaringly obvious to some, but one thing I've learned is that if you've grown up in a system that accepts (or even encourages) misogyny, racism, etc., it can be impossibly hard to discern even when it's staring you right in the face. I, for one, never caught the original-Hulk-as-a-caricature-of-Black-men idea even after expressly noting to others how the movie version’s “That's my secret, Cap; I'm always angry” line spoke so directly to the Black experience. That's the power these systemic problems have: they inoculate you to seeing them as problems.

As I said, Berlatsky is going to find fault with your favorite superhero here. It’s probably going to upset you at least a little. But he'll probably also get you to think about some of the problems in the industry in a way that you hadn't considered before… and that's not a bad thing.

Your Favorite Superhero Sucks will be available next week digitally for $3.99.
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